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Finding the Why-Intersect

Can it really be 15 years ago I fired up Typepad for the first time and shot off my first blog post? Sigh. The passing of time. I asked a very simple question back then: Why Carpe Factum? Why would someone want to seize an accomplishment? For my first post, I gave an adequate enough answer. I now have 15 years of looking back on my career. And after recently listening to the audiobook of Simon Sinek's "Start With Why," I now have a more nuanced answer.

For starters, I realize I have more than one why. My values and priorities have evolved over the past 15 years. Some (family, faith, a sense of accomplishment) are solid; others have evolved. Things I viewed as more black-and-white back in my late 30's and early 40's and softened into, not only shades of gray, but also high definition color. People whom I once viewed as important thought leaders have exited stage-left as time marches on; they have been replaced with others whose values align with my current journey. My definition of community has migrated as well. Now that I'm sewing seed in the "back 40" of my career, I'm more careful and deliberate about the recipients of those seeds. 

Finally, I am more introspective. I look at all my why's and I think about where they intersect with each other. I view that Venn Diagram through a new lens. The passing of friends and relatives has provided me with a sense of urgency in ensuring my legacy is one of leaving a positive mark. That was one of the reasons I chose to launch my Udemy courses: my students provided me with a valid "why" in stating they wished their bosses, significant others, friends, and coworkers could hear a particular lesson. I recognize not everyone is destined to earn an MBA; that doesn't mean they should be precluded from learning.

Where do we go from here? Well, the accomplishment I care about now is leaving the world a better place. That may take on new faces and new accomplishments. But as I said in my first blog post, "the journey is so much more enriching than the mere destination."

DISCLAIMER: I know the mathematically correct term is Y-INTERCEPT. Play on words. Mathematicians are SO LITERAL. :-)


You Gotta Know When To Fold In

Congratulations to Catherine O'Hara on her Golden Globes win for her role as Moira on Schitts Creek. I've been a fan since her movie career peaked in the 80's and 90's, and I will still watch any Christopher Guest mockumentary where she and Eugene Levy are playing opposite each other. One particular scene from SC demonstrated why I love her performance on this show so much, as she's trying to demonstrate a recipe to her son, David.

Hilarious, right? I've worked with a Moira before, although mine didn't suffer from a case of incompetence; just the opposite, my Moira was very analytically and mathematically smart. The problem was that my Moira couldn't translate that intelligence into meaningful communication. It was a classic case of the curse of knowledge; my Moira assumed that everyone around them knew as much as they did and quickly shut down communication (instead of ramping it up) when that assumption was violated. When I would ask questions to gain understanding, my Moira would shut things down further by saying, "Well, you should know that by now" or "You obviously don't understand our business." After multiple attempts to coach my Moira into better communication, I pulled a David and we parted company. I never bothered to follow up on how the project went for Moira, but I'm guessing their communication skills never improved.

In our attempts to communicate, we often take for granted simple phrases that can be interpreted multiple ways. As a communicator, it's helpful to put yourself into the mindset of the receiver of the communication. Ask yourself, "How MIGHT this be interpreted?" or better yet, "How MIGHT this be MISinterpreted?" Following a class lecture on this vein, one of my students sent me the following video on misinterpreting instructions: 

Equally hilarious, it really drives home how easily our simple messages can be misinterpreted. Of course, it takes a level of humility to admit we may not be communicating clearly and a level of curiosity to ask our communication receivers where the breakdowns are and where we might improve. As an instructor, I go over each semester at the end and look at where students ask the most questions for clarity; those lectures become my highest priority for upgrades the following semester. As a project manager, I look at where my team and I may not be on the same page, and I make inquiries to determine how we might make it better.

How is your communication? Where are you finding people misunderstanding you? Where are you getting frustrated? Now, how can you step back, break down your message into its simplest components, hone the clarifying points, and "fold them into" your conversations? By doing so, you can better brand your messaging (and yourself).

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