The views and opinions expressed are those of the author personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
Not an App for That
While listening to the radio recently, I heard about a new app called the Super Pac App (as far as I can tell, it is only available for Apple products, go figure.) It got me thinking about how I wish I had this ability in all areas of my life.
The app provides information relating to political ads. It is, of course, an election year, and ads are flying around in both traditional and social media. The app will tell you the following: the validity of the ad, the funding source, who it benefits, and what the ad wants you to believe. Simply stated from their website, "The Super PAC App is a simple way for you, the voter, to bring transparency to the 2012 presidential campaign."
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could apply this app to all areas of our life? What is my wife really trying to say when she casually mentions that there are still coffee grounds in the coffee maker? Why doesn’t she just say that she feels it is my responsibility to empty the coffee maker since I am the one who makes it in the morning? I would like to use this app like Siri: “Super Pac App, what does my boss mean by that statement?" That would be awesome!
Unfortunately, there are no magic apps we can download to help change the effectiveness of our communication forever. There is a reason why communication is very challenging and whole are fields dedicated to the study of it.
In our IS department, we try to tie our core values to everything, especially communications. Our core values are honesty, transparency, unity, and integrity. Every time I walk away from a conversation (especially a group discussion), I think about the impact of that discussion and whether or not our core values were on display. Sometimes it is an intentional thought. Mostly, it is that gut feeling or instinct a lot of us rely upon. That gut instinct in this case is rooted in our core values.
As I was writing this, the red car syndrome hit me. You know how when you buy a red car, suddenly you see a lot of them on the road? The increase in red cars is not accurate, of course. Because of your focus, you are more aware of them.
The red car syndrome has delivered a lot of communication-related articles to me, most of them spot on and with several small, important steps an individual or group can take to increase effectiveness. None of them, however, addressed authentic communication, as I like to call it. When you walk away from a conversation or a presentation, you generally know if the presenter or other person was honest and trustworthy.
If two people in the same day delivered the same news or information to you but you knew one of them was shady and the other was honest and trustworthy, who you would go to for follow up questions or comments? Easy answer, right? That’s the point.
Now here is a hard statement. If that is true for you, then it is true about you as well.
Uh-oh, I’ve crossed the line, gotten into your space, stirred you to look inside. Sorry about that, but you need to know that others are looking inside every time you talk to them, regardless of the circumstance.
I am kind of glad this transitioned into a conversation about you and me, because that is where all change begins. I have worked for several organizations by now, as most post-industrial age professionals do. In most of them, I have had issues with management and decisions made. I have made a commitment however — a commitment to making myself better regardless of where I might find myself.
The good thing about that commitment is that it works everywhere. Let’s bring that back to communication. If I think that people around me are not communicating effectively or are not very trustworthy or honest, I can either complain about the situation or dedicate myself to being trustworthy and honest and using my influence to bring positive change (that’s right, no matter where you are in an organization, you have influence.) When communicating, communicate with others the way you would like to be communicated with. The power of positive influence is strong. Sometimes slow, but always strong.
In my last post, I mentioned the frantic change in healthcare IT today. Research shows that one of the keys to successful change management is communication. If communication is key, then the last thing this industry needs is for people to walk away from conversations second guessing what has just said because they are questioning someone’s character.
I could easily parrot other published articles here and give you five quick points to help your PowerPoint presentation. That would be fun and provide value. The harder road leads to the core of the matter and recognizes that your character, above everything else, impacts the effectiveness of your communication.
This may not make me many friends, but that is not the reward I am going for. I am striving for something greater. I am determined to effect change in an industry that is in the middle of historic transition and needs great leadership.
The higher up you go in an organization, the more circles you may be exposed to, but sometimes I find the best impact and the biggest influence usually happens around a coffee cup. You don’t need to be high up to have influence and effect positive change. You just need a coffee cup and a few minutes. Sprinkle it with honesty and trust and your message becomes clearer.
It is no different in a group setting. If you are presenting in a group, a lot of people will be "looking in." If that group even senses dishonesty or lack of integrity, the message is blown regardless of how important it is. The core of communication is not what you say — it is how you say it. What you are saying may be critically important, but what people walk away with is always the “how.”
Some people are master communicators, but if you do not trust them and you feel there is an angle, how effective are they, really? I would rather be bored to PowerPoint death by an honest, trustworthy person who desperately needs Toastmasters than to be wowed by someone with an angle and a personal agenda.
Keep it real. Keep seeking improvement. Commit to making yourself better regardless of circumstance and you will find yourself experiencing positive change in your communication skills and beyond. Character delivers much more than any app ever will.
Bill Rieger is chief information officer at Flagler Hospital of St. Augustine, FL.