Best Practice of a Bad Listener

It was August 2008. Hot like “pizza oven” hot in Vegas.

Inside my cramped, windowless office, tucked away in a far corner of the corporate center, I had a tiny space heater running because the office thermostat read 67 degrees. I remember staring at my computer screen, fingers frozen by the air temperature, my mind frozen by frustration and self-loathing.

The Powerpoint deck that I nurtured from outline to what I considered a masterpiece-!- was a former shell of itself. Now known simply as “version 13,” it had lost its soul many versions ago.

Here’s what happened: I asked for feedback and my co-collaborators ran with it…the once slim 10-page deck for a 20-minute presentation to front line supervisors and managers now topped out at 50 slides, heavy with jargon, bullets used like confetti and more pictures than a Vegas family vacation photo album.

The message for the front line leaders, a simple call to action on a very complex and somewhat controversial topic, was nowhere to be found. It had been replaced by what I would describe as defensive posturing.

I was reminded of my “version 13” moment recently. Faced with pressing deadines and pressure from the C-suite, at times we can cave to that pressure and resign ourselves to pick our battles. Yet that’s so wrong on so many levels.

In no particular order, watch for these warning signs:

  • Senior leaders are writing for themselves and not their followers/listeners/audience
  • They attempt to mimic the style of someone they saw on a TED Talk- they prefer “sameness” rather than original thought or authentic expression
  • They are unrelatable, speaking from ego and their own center of experience
  • Communication is a ‘check that box’ activity

Respect the “hero” and reap the rewards

I didn’t win the battle of the slide deck that day in 2008. We all did our share of damage in that presentation.

I did resolve to be more assertive in calling out tone-deaf communication. I am a champion for more dialogue with our stakeholders, for investing in apps and platforms that encourage audiences to directly engage-shout out to Chuck Gose and the Social Chorus team for having one of the best tools out there.

Nancy Duarte, a creative designer and author of Resonate, introduced me to the intricacies of storytelling and how to honor the “hero” – your audience- by learning deeply what they care about- I highly recommend it!

I believe that the most inspirational communication, the kind that leads to change, is the result of inclusivity.

What are your strategies for defending your audience? I would love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.