As with many small businesses, mine has periods of heavy activity and others with time spent selling and preparing for future work. Last week was a heavy one. Monday, I drove to Dayton for a three-day session with a group of very intelligent folks who were candidates for future leadership positions in their organization. Most of the participants were engineers.
One day one we talked about the vision and expectations of leaders along with a number of leadership theories. After an initial teambuilding exercise, Day 2 involved discussions about leadership and change including attitudes about and approaches to change, types of resistance to change, and a model for creating adoption to change.
The final day focused on the leader's communication.
The agenda points were why we communicate differently, the importance of nonverbal meaning to shared understanding, how to communicate non-defensively, and the identification of and ideas for resolving the barriers participants may have to implementing the learnings from all three days.
Thursday afternoon at 4:30 after gathering my flipcharts and putting the room back together, I headed east for a conference presentation in Washington, D.C., an eight-hour drive. I arrived in my room at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel around 1 a.m. Friday, I arose and gathered my materials for an hour and a half concurrent session on "Acing the Interview: How to Interview Successfully.". This is a topic I originally taught as an academic class at Ohio University and have since taught numerous times for various clients. Ninety people crowded into the room and we went over how to research and prepare prior to the interview, design and deliver behavioral statements about experiences and successes during the interview, and follow-up prior to the interview.
Every time I do a presentation - and I have done thousands of them - I learn something about how to do the presentation better. I believe that dialogue about content, humorous stories, and action-oriented breakout exercises help people internalize and adopt the behaviors being taught. Today, my younger participants want a faster paced movement through the material and illustrations that fit their unique leadership challenges.
In my first program, the participants responded in a way I had never experienced to a character in one of my videos. Each session I teach is truly a learning opportunity. The diversity of reaction to the same stimuli by different people is always amazing. These different interpretations are exactly why communication is so difficult between any two people.
We look at each bit of data from our novel field of experience and attach a unique meaning to it.
While writing this article, I received an e-mail from a client, which seemed unnecessarily sharp. I know the writer well and have interacted with him several times face-to-face. He is a very respectful guy. Therefore, I tried to read the e-mail from his field of experience. By reading it from his side, I was able to mediate the tone and focus on his message. Connecting with respect is difficult even between two well-intentioned adults.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.