If I’m being honest, sometimes I feel like I can’t get it right. I’m ashamed about not having a college degree. I’m afraid I can’t take care of myself. I have a lot of fears about what I think I can’t do, and the proverbial roof on top is that I’m harder on myself than anyone could ever be. It’s difficult to find confidence under such lofty standards.
The crazy part is that I create these unobtainable ideals, and therefore the punishment for not rising to the occasion is worse. I run this wheel like an anxious rodent scrambling to get out when all I see is what’s in front of me. The image I project is the tail (yes tail, not tale) of perfectionism, one I’ll never achieve. The only way to stop the dizziness-sickness of will-is by recreating my focal point.
How do I do recreate my experience? I do it by acknowledging the good inside, and by loving and nurturing myself. I change my present by admitting and accepting the things about me that are exceptional.
I’m wilted but not destroyed. I claw my way up, and out of the grave in which I buried myself. I grasp at the mica in the dirt, and notice the vast and limitless sky despite my envisioned darkness. I find greatness in nothingness.
I can congratulate myself and share with you a private moment of gratitude.
I will gloat if only for a moment by telling you about my success: The content may be bland, however my heart is bleeding with gladness at my first successful speech. I wrote and was compensated for writing a speech for someone. This wasn’t an easy task. It twisted my brain like ropes, it hurt my head like screaming children. Writing it was taxing and uncomfortable, but it forced me to grow.
I received feedback from my client today, after receiving feedback from his client. The Director of H.R. said, “I’m Speechless.” She was blown away. And that makes me feel….um… accomplished. You have no idea what that means to me. Writing is difficult because there’s no set measure for the work. There’s no right or wrong with creativity. Yes, my grammar is often amiss, but that doesn’t mean 1-1=0, it means 1-1= whatever the subjective view deems appropriate. My point is this: I fucking did it, and I did right, and I did it well. My client said, “You did a great job. You should be proud of yourself.” I was and I am, but even better, I was proud of my work before anyone else could make a judgment. And that was a pivotal moment for me because I liked what I wrote, and I gave someone what I thought would be something worth reading.
I’ve attached a copy of the speech below if you’re interested in reading about communication. I did however fictionalize the name of the company, and people involved to protect their privacy.
So here it is, my voice as a ghost writer: XO, SJK
I’ve always said the intellectual capacity at Steel Construction and Mining is not the issue. Thankfully for me it’s the social graces that need some work.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m B.P. I’ve been working closely with Steel for almost seven years, and have worked with every district, in different training capacities. I’ve also had the privilege to work closely with your executive management team, and leaders. I have a strong grasp of the culture at Steel. Even though I’m not an actual employee, I bleed yellow and blue.
The programs and coaching I do focus primarily on communication, presenting, and people skills. It was an honor when your district approached me and asked me to speak about communication.
Let’s be clear about something. I don’t have the intellectual capacity as all of you, and fortunately, I’m not here to teach you how to build anything. (Are you kidding me? That wouldn’t be the Quality you’re looking for.) As some of you may be aware, Steel has asked some of the leaders and future leaders of the company to take a ”Strength finder survey from Gallup,” to better understand their strengths and behaviors. It wouldn’t surprise you to know that some the strengths of Steel employees are “Analytical mind” and “Strategic thinker”. The good news is that “Communication” and “Maximizer” are mine. When communication is a strength of yours (like it is for me) that means you are bombarded by information, but very little of it survives. I want my information whether an idea, an event or a lesson to survive. Maximizer means I can take something good and make it superb, excellence, not average, is the measure.
Everything we do at Steel is excellent. Is it really?
One of the things we might perceive as average is how we communicate.
Since I am a “Communicator” and “Maximizer” I can provide you with some guidance on how you can take your communication skills to the next level. You’re experts at putting things together, but in order for things to run accordingly, you have to be able to talk things out, and reason with one another.
So hang on a minute, before we go into what some of you may perceive as eye glossing, and mind numbing. I want to tell you a story about why communicating is so important.
I know for some of the theme of communication is as foreign to you, as engineering is to me. If you can learn to increase your awareness about how you communicate with your co-workers, you may just be able to improve your work environment.
Some of your palms may be sweating already at just the thought of having to communicate effectively with others. This may not be one of your strengths. However, I urge you all to remain calm, and grab your graph paper.
You’re trapped with me for the next 30 minutes, like food-poisoned passengers on board with Captain Striker- from the 1980’s movie, “Airplane.” This may not be your idea of a fun landing, but this thing is going down, and like it or not, you’re on board.
Sometime ago I was flying from West, to the East Coast to present a training seminar. My view from coach was less than ideal. I was crammed so tight in my seat that my knees were up to my mouth. I was trying to tune out the pitfalls of airplane humanity going on around me. It’s just unnatural for 200 plus people to be airborne together in a floating germ capsule. I just don’t get it! Come on. In any event, I look out the window and see an airplane coming right for us. So I look to the passenger next to me, and say, “Does it look like that plane is about to hit us?” The person says, “It appears that way.” So my knee jerk reaction was to “Ring the Bell,” so I look to the front and I see the flight attendant slowly walking to my row. So I quickly gesture, she says, “Can I help you?” I say, ”I hope so!” So I take my two fingers and I point to the window and say, “In your professional opinion does it look like that plane is coming towards us?” She says, “It does.” I say, “I need you to go down to the cockpit and tell the pilot there’s a plane heading right for us”. So, as she runs down the isle… I shut the shade. I can’t look at this anymore. I’m rocking in my chair, breathing hard, like I’m in labor. I have to look out again, I can’t turn away, and as I lift up the shade, (all kidding aside,) I see the belly of a 737 fly directly above us. And just as that happens, the flight attendant comes back. She says, “The captain wants to thank you for being the eyes and ears of the airplane.”
Are you kidding me? “Thank you for being the eyes and ears of the airplane.” It wasn’t my job to be the eyes and ears. I don’t want to be air traffic control of the airplane, but in that moment, when my life depended on it, I spoke up. I communicated what I didn’t understand, and what made me uncomfortable. I didn’t consider how uneducated my questions made me seem when I asked about the location of the encroaching 737. Even MY ego isn’t big enough to get me killed. (How many of you would have just sat there and hoped the other plane wouldn’t have hit you?) That’s what I’m talking about. You need to speak up and ask questions when you’re uncertain.
I needed to know more about the precarious location of the oncoming aircraft. It was headed straight towards us. My peace of mind, and physical, wellbeing depended on my ability to understand what was happening. I had to communicate to get the answer.
This is not a dramatic stretch, but follow me. My point is this: If you don’t communicate and ask questions to better understand you’re just guessing, and guessing leads to problems.
For example, before leaving his work area for the night, (will call him,) “Danny,” the grading foreman, gathered the equipment he would need the next day and got it in place for a successful start. Due to poor communication, another grading foreman, (we will call him,) “ Anthony” thought that he was supposed to have the 950 Loader and he took it first thing in the morning. When Danny came to work, his loader was missing and he wasted an hour trying to track down where it was on the job site. Who’s fault was it that an hour was wasted? Who was responsible for the miscommunication? Both of them were, neither one communicated well. Danny didn’t notify anyone his intentions to use the loader, and Anthony didn’t ask if anyone else was using it. It was up to both of them to communicate their thoughts and actions; instead, they assumed everyone was reading each other’s minds.
Guy’s, you have to be willing to speak up and ask questions. We can’t read minds. I mean come on. Even at the risk of sounding less informed. If you’re not willing to get the information you need, you end up with waste. It’s also up to you to keep people informed of your plan. You can’t go around expecting people to know what you’re thinking.
When a welder working on fusing the joint on a 60″ pipe gets frustrated when his welds aren’t holding, and throws a tantrum, instead of communicating. He can’t expect the foreman to know that his “childish display” of hard-hat throwing, and storming off the job site actually meant his welds weren’t holding. How was the foreman supposed to read those cues? Now what? More wasted time and energy. The welder only added more stress to the situation by not talking out his problem with the foreman in order to find a solution.
Look, we are all responsible for our own experiences. That includes our attitudes, and what we give to and take away from any situation. It is up to US, as individuals to fully comprehend every given moment and task, and we do this through initiative. Initiative means to be accountable for your work. If you hold yourself accountable and something goes wrong, you only have yourself to blame. If an engineer has a plan of action, he or she should communicate that to the foreman from the start. If an engineer and foreman each have their own game plan, they should reenter a discussion about the direction of the project. Everyone needs to know the end result before figuring out how to get there. Does everyone know the end result of a desired job? If not, make it happen. If you’re in the dark, illuminate yourself by speaking up. If you have all the answers, grace us with your ideas. We’re all in this together.
When you consider what it means, you’ll find it gives you as much control over your environment as possible. You know you linear types like to know what’s coming next? Well that’s how it’s done, by taking responsibility of Your situation. Ask questions about what you need and why you’re doing something. You need to have all the right information before you can start any project.
And again, if you know something, or everything, don’t just assume everybody else knows it as well. Talk to people to make sure everyone is working towards the same goal, and be respectful about how you do it.
The captain of the plane in my story was very gracious towards me given the circumstances. He probably thought I was an idiot for not knowing flight patterns, but he didn’t let on to it, he was respectful and empathetic. He didn’t have the flight attendant tell me, “Wipe your sweat and be quiet. I’m a professional pilot, and this is my bird, not yours. Don’t you know anything, Son?” He took into consideration that I was a unknowing passenger at the mercy of his skills. He was empathic to my questions. He was aware that seeing another plane barreling towards the window might be frightening to a pedestrian. I on the other hand was also respectful to him by simply asking if he knew what was happening and by not Assuming anything.
You guy’s need to work on this sort of communication too when dealing with each other. You wiser, more distinguished crowd out there need to lace up your old school converse when talking to the younger, eager folks. You were once like them, full of energy and great ideas. They just want to be heard the way you once did. Have a little more compassion huh? And to the fresh minds out there, you all need to consider how much experience the wiser group has. Put yourself in their converse and give them the same respect you’ll want in a decade or two. What I’m asking for all of you to do is to be a little more empathic with each other. In your mind try to reverse roles with whomever you’re dealing with before you open your mouth. Think before you speak so that you’re not just spewing. Words can be costly. We need everybody to stay motivated.
Anthony Robbins, American Advisor to Leaders said,
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and we must use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”
Think about that for a minute. He’s basically saying that to communicate effectively, we must first become the other person.
Did you know the definition of communicate
states the following: to give to another?
What does that mean?
That means communication is more about giving than receiving.
You need to give all the information to your co-workers, and you can only do this by asking questions in the first place.
The origin of the word is Latin. It means to impart, or make common. It comes from the root, “Commune.”
The opposite is to withhold, or conceal.
The worst-case scenario of failure to communicate happened on the housing project, when two workers were electrocuted, and hospitalized by a transmission line they thought was grounded. Earlier it had been removed, but they didn’t know and nobody told them. They weren’t “given the information.” They were not part of the “common.”
Let’s all do our job to keep everyone at Steel safe by being a part of a commune, well not really, but seriously people, the most important factor in keeping people safe is proper communication.
If management tells a crew to halt a job that isn’t safe, those words should be taken very seriously. If the crew is anxious because the said manager is then complaining about meeting a deadline, then one of the crew members should speak up. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you feel like you’re receiving conflicting signals, just ask, it’s that easy.
When we’re asking, receiving, understanding and empathetic we’re communicating. We must reveal ourselves honestly, and give according to what we know about others, in order to effectively communicate with them.
(Easy enough, right? Everyone got that covered?)
What I’m saying is we’re the solution to most of the problems we find in our communications. This is true for both home and work. Humans, in relation to each other, and events have three points of reference: yours, the truth and mine. Of course we all think our experiences in situations represent the absolute truth, and they do on some level. What our vantage point does is convey our feelings, (Yes, I said feelings, but don’t panic, just like a casino, oxygen is being pumped through the vents.)
Personal frame of reference isn’t right or wrong because it isn’t a fact. And that’s the problem with communication; we’re all coming from our individual perspectives, which include, our experiences, and our limitations. In order to do move closer to the objective truth, (You all probably like this term, and relate to it better, right?) The Objective truth comes from us. It requires us to stand on the opposite side of the conversation. It starts with us by changing how we interact with others. It’s both futile and unjust to assume someone else is supposed to expand to fill the problem-mold, the problem mold meaning, how someone else communicates. It’s not their problem; it’s your problem.
Look I’m being objective here, I know for the most part none of you take on the mishaps of communications as your own. Most of you consider it to be the role of the other person to communicate better, but what I’m telling you today is that it’s up to you! You have to take the initiative by making the necessary changes.
You knew it was only a matter of time: this is about “Emotional Intelligence.” Before you start showing me the whites of your eyes, I need you to listen. “Emotional Intelligence” may not be the type of intellect that re-builds the Throgsneck Bridge, however, bridge building is the foundation behind it. Emotional intelligence is the ability to connect with others through empathetic construction. Emotional intelligence is being able to stand in the other person’s shoes. (What does that mean? I’ll tell you what that means.) It means working together in this manner will improve employee morale, and reduce attrition. The expansion of emotional intelligence in the workplace is the groundwork for overall employee satisfaction. A happier and more fulfilled employee equals a thriving company. Which as a stakeholder, or stockholder, you care about. Think of it in selfish terms if you’d like. I need to become more emotionally intelligent so that Steel’s pockets will bust at the seams, and by doing so, I’ll earn more money.
This certainly holds true for the leaders and management of the company as well. You guys are held especially accountable to “improving your EI test scores.”
According to leadershipIQ,
“Fortune 500, as well as small business, CEOs are more likely to get fired for communication breakdowns than for poor financial or sales performance. Effective communication is the backbone of executive leadership success, from team supervisors to CEOs. Unfortunately, while 93% of leaders think they’re effective speakers and communicators, only 11% of their employees think these leaders communicate well.”
Come on people, you can do this. It’s time to stretch and flex the right brain.
When you communicate, try to be honest in your approach, as well as compassionate.
Honest, and compassionate communication is the symbiotic relationship between sender and receiver. The surveys you filled out represent your commonality. Ironically, you all, every generation of employee, to every level of employee, from craft to foreman, to super, to site manager, to engineer, to project manager, to area manager and district manager, you all want the same thing. Your “common” struggle is also your precursor for change. Basically, you all want the same thing, according to the survey. You all want to communicate better with one another in hopes of creating a better work environment.
Do remember earlier when I went over the definition, and Latin root of “Communicate?” The root means to “make common.” It’s up to you, the individual, to provide the solution to your common workplace problem of communication.
Each and every one of you must do his or her part to help solve your problem. You all have the answer, and that is your ability to communicate better by making the effort. The change starts with you.
If you’re feeling sick with contempt from my right-brained matter: strap in, I’ve got an “airsick bag” for you. I’m going to break this down like rows of seats on a plane. By now you may be feeling the turbulence, and other crap hitting the fan.)
All I need you to do walk out of here with 3 salient points:
1. Keep your communications simple and consistent.
2. Drop your ego’s enough to reason things out.
3. Take responsibility for what you know and don’t know.
4. Treat each other with empathy and compassion.
If you do these things, or even one of them, you will enhance the communication skills of your district, which will help the overall morale of the entire company. Having a good company morale helps to retain great people. Great people will help the company grow and make you all filthy-dirty, rich.
It’s up to you now. You can help build a strong company, a wealthy empire; and get this, your own happiness just by becoming a better communicator.
Wow! I’d want those things if I were you. It’s too easy, you better get started now because folk’s, we have landed.
Take what you need, don’t leave anything behind.