Archive | June, 2010

Cardoza on “Power Communication”

22 Jun

Understanding the Importance of Communication Savvy

Perhaps the two most important aspects of most information-laden professions and leadership in general are (1) becoming a strong writer and (2) becoming a strong speaker.  This is because of the importance and priority of communication and its central role in leadership and life.

Today I want to share what a power communicator must have.  There was a resource offered a number of years ago that referenced this concept, but I’d like to unpack these ideas a little more here.

Those of us who put food on the table through our teaching/preaching/speaking think a lot about communication.  And as an educator, I spend time considering how to help undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral pastoral and ministry students become the best communicators they can possibly be.  I want to bring balance to the issue by highlighting three enormously important issues for communicators and those who train them.

Three Components of Power Communicators

To become a power communicator capable of shaking the earth, three power principles must be mastered:

1. Substance

2. Soul

3. Sizzle

1. Substance

There are those who sometimes teach or speak who are entertaining to hear, but who fail to deliver the goods.  When life (or people, time, resources, business, money, influence, whatever your thing) is on the line, the one thing you must do is put the cookies on the bottom shelf.  Meaning, you MUST bring home the bacon; you MUST ring the bell; you must shuck the corn.  Whatever analogy you want to employ, it’s crucial that if you’re going to speak, you have something to say.  Some people don’t.  Others think they do, but can’t produce.  Content is an enormous priority for the speaker– in many ways THE priority.   Don’t neglect the content.  Don’t abuse the message.  It’s the only reason you’re really speaking in the first place.

In addition to WHAT one says, however, is HOW one says it.  A really common and unfortunate mistake that many ineffective communicators make is to assume that CONTENT (substance) is all that really matters in speaking.  This could be a painful statement, but the people who make that false assumption are generally poor communicators.  Any strong communicator knows that connecting with an audience is by no means restricted to the substance of the talk.

2. Soul

So, in addition to substance is SOUL.  “Soul” has to do with the communicator’s inner man.  His or her inner self.  The best communicators are able to transcend the limits of language and place their very hearts on display.  They reveal primal emotions, potent convictions, and powerful attitudes.  They can release the best of their personhood and vitality in the moment of truth.  They have such a command of their ‘selfhood’ and security in their identity that they are able to project whatever their subject calls for: authority, passion, motivation, intimacy, compassion, angst, inspiration, humor, gratitude– whatever it may be, to their listeners– making them feel and think and want to do the same thing.  Without soul, we’re only talking heads.  Without soul, we have no heart.   Without soul, we’re old news– we’re just another tired talker, but not a power communicator.  Release the fullness of your best self when you step onto the platform or when you stand in that sacred desk.

3. Sizzle

Substance is a must.  Soul is indispensable.  But your speech must also sizzle.  After you’ve done the hard work of study, reflection, hermeneutics, exegesis, research, thought, meditation and speaking prep, if you are incapable of bringing the heat, you will likely lose many of your listeners.  So it’s not only what you say, but how you say it.  It’s not just being an effective speaker and having a handle on grammar and syntax.  It’s also making sure that you have a powerful command on vocabulary that you can draw from at a moment’s notice in order to paint a masterpiece to your audience or the congregation.

Can you make it “SING?”  Can you allow the Spirit of God to breathe life into that dry manuscript and make the bones live?  When you speak, does it pop?  Does it happen? Does it thrill and excite and stimulate the learner.  Does it force the listener to think, feel, and act?  The best speakers have a near hypnotic command of their audience in such a way that the person loses all track of time and, as you speak, their hearts burn within them.  Though, in Christian speaking, the power of God sometimes falls on a situation, to be sure– but do not confuse that supernatural act with the need for personal effort in selling what you say with a little sizzle.


Leadership Lesson: Beware the “Happy Talk”

18 Jun

I love thinking about leadership.

Much of leadership is exciting and positive, but there are also things that are threatening and negative.  As one who has been in tough decision-making situations where people have lost their jobs, there’s something I’ve learned that it might help you to know.  This is something that I think is true generally, but it’s also very much true in church ministry positions. It’s the Leadership “Happy Talk.”

Let’s cut to the chase.  Beware the Happy Talk. At all costs.

The “Happy Talk”  comes in two primary brands, but the intent and result are one and the same.  And they’re not good. The two questions commonly asked are one of the following:

  1. “Are You Happy?”
  2. “How Do You Think Things Are Going?”

Not What It Seems

The thing is– these aren’t really questions the supervisor is usually asking “for information.”  They are actually TELLING you something, not ASKING you something.   Let’s look at those again:

Question 1

  • Are YOU Happy?

The issue here APPEARS to be YOU and YOUR happiness, but that’s not really it.  It’s actually THE LEADER and His/Her Happiness WITH YOU.  In other words, the “right answer” to the Happy Question is always “No.”  As in, “No, I’m NOT happy.”  Even if I THOUGHT I was, apparently I’m NOT. And the reason I’m not happy is because YOU (my supervisor) are not happy.

This is a technique that some leaders use in order to pass on pink slips (OR to let you know that a pink slip is imminent if performance does not improve quickly).

Question 2

  • How do YOU think things are going?

Again, like the Happy Question, everything isn’t what it seems.  The question isn’t REALLY how YOU think things are going– but how THEY think things are going– and they’re apparently not going well.

So the answer to this second question is, “Not so great.”  At least that’s what is implied.  They are trying to tell the person, without telling the person, that they’re not pleased with the individual’s performance.  The problem could be a myriad of issues: poor attendance, disengagement, poor social skills, bad work ethic, inability to play well with others, lack of decorum, or about a million other things.

What Not To Think

If you’re put in a situation where these questions are asked– though there is always the chance the leader asking you *might not* be poised to can you, you need to make sure.  The worst thing to do is to assume that this is just a friendly chat.

My Advice

So if you’re ever in a situation when one or both of these questions are raised, brace yourself in a five-point seatbelt and respond to their question WITH a question.  I’d say something like this: “You know, that’s a good question (boss).  I think this is an amazing place to work and I count it a privilege and not an entitlement.  So more important to me isn’t so much how “I” think things are going but, instead, how YOU think things are going.”  I want you to know that I want to do everything within my power to be the best leader/minister/employee/staff person I can be, and would be happy to begin to make any changes you’d like to suggest if there are “blind spots” that I have and haven’t seen.  How do you think things are going, and how can I improve to the point where you feel I’m a great contributor and not a liability to our organization?”

If you do that, it might spare your head from rolling– unless you’ve already missed way too many hints.  It costs a lot of time and effort to hire someone and organizations (churches too) often lose lots of momentum when staff changes occur.  So organizations have good reasons to keep you on if they can.  Taking the right approach during the Happy Talk might just save you some pain, salvage your career or ministry, and help you move to the next level of leadership.

In times of recession like these, job security is more important than ever.