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The Fixes

Every Monday, we fire off a 50-Second Fix on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and then we aggregate them all here. We take some of the most common "problems" that our students, colleagues, and others bring us, and then give you about 100 words -- 50 seconds -- on what you might do to start fixing the problem.  It's not a total solution, but it's a start.

Follow us and you'll get one a week automatically. And if you have a problem that you'd like us to address -- or a fix that you'd like to share -- sign in below with your Google ID and add your problem or fix to the "Comments."


1. "I don't know how to be clear and concise."

2. "How can I be more interesting?"

3. "How can I listen better?"

4. “How can I structure my speaking to be better understood?”

5. "How can I better connect with my audience?"

6. "How can I make meetings more effective?

7(a). "How can I disagree?"

7(b). "How can I disagree?"

1. Try this, and not just because it’s part of our name: think “PIN.” The “P” stands for “Person:” who are you talking to? What’s their background or interest in the subject? That will help you better figure out the “I,” which stands for “Information:” what are the essential (not just important; essential) points that this person must know? The “N” stands for “Next:” what’s next? What action must you do or they do to move things ahead? Get into the habit of thinking “PIN,” when you’re about to have a quick communication, and it will become a habit underpinning all of your communication.

2. Jim Collins, author of the business classic “Good to Great” followed that work up with the monograph, “Good to Great for the Social Sectors.” Though not really his intent, he nonetheless answers the question, “how can I be more interesting” in his first four sentences. On the Stanford faculty and looking for guidance on how to become a better teacher, he relates how he sought out emeritus professor John Gardner who “stung me with a comment that changed my life.” “It occurs to me Jim,” said Gardner, “that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time in being interested?”  There is no better advice.

3. The most important (and difficult) part to being a good listener? You know it already: you have to make the commitment to listen. Even when you don’t like the speaker. Or don’t have time. Or disagree with the speaker. Or feel defensive. Or have a better story. Or any of a million other reasons to focus on what you want to say, instead of what someone else is saying. So try to focus on what’s being said. Without looking for all the reasons that the speaker is wrong. Or why your point, idea or story is better. Just try it. More to come.

4. Thanks to former student (and now awesome consultant) Veni Singh for this one. Your audience knows what he, she, or they need to hear. Your job is to make sure that they hear it. Try the SBAR technique to help organize and structure your thoughts and then concisely share them with your audience: (S)ituation: what’s going on right now that we need to pay attention to? (B)ackground: how did we get here? (A)ssessment: your evaluation of the situation. (R)ecommendation: what needs to happen & when? Think SBAR before you speak. Your audience will thank you.

5. To make a strong connection with your audience, think about how others make a strong connection with you. It was right in that last word, there: “You.” While there’s some disputed research that points to an oft-cited yet unfindable (at least by us) Yale study that says that “you” is the most influential word in the English language, the point does come up in a good bit of anecdotal evidence: people like hearing their names, and like the second person. Using the word “you” means that you’re talking about me. And we all like that.

6. First, remember that the whole point of having a meeting is to see what others think. So your job when leading a meeting is to do everything possible to help people participate. Be clear about your purpose, and what you want to walk out of the meeting with. Have a solid agenda. Invite the right people. Get people's input on the agenda before the meeting. Lead the meeting by asking good, probing questions. Watch your time. Have someone take good “official” meeting minutes. And hold your comments until last. The more that you “serve” the meeting, the more the meeting will serve its purpose.

7(a). Whether you hate confrontation or love it, the time will come when you'll need to respectfully disagree with someone (even if you don't respect them). You can be productive or unproductive: give in to your urge to call them a big fat idiot, or see disagreement as a way to identify potential roadblocks, solve them and move ahead. Six guidelines will help you. Here are the first three: First, don't make it personal; keep this focused on the issue, not the person. Second, stay on point; don't allow yourself to be pulled into ancillary discussions. Third, have vetted facts; it's not impossible for someone to argue against evidence, but your having objective, proven data makes it hard. More to come.

7(b). Fourth, respect the other person's opinion as valid within their context; you need to see why this makes sense in their world in order to understand it. Once you understand it, you can agree or disagree with intelligence, rather than by simple reaction.

Fifth, Remember the three meanings of "consideration:" In trying to build an argument, this is really what you're trying to do: just get the other person to consider for a moment that you may have a point. First meaning: thoughtful evaluation; second: thinking of others; third: payment

Sixth: Explore ways to move forward.