leadership dot #2530: frames

When people think about how to get their message across to others, they often solely concentrate on the words that will be used to convey their meaning. A recent webinar by the FrameWorks Institute encouraged communicators to expand their planning to encompass the entire frame of the message.

According to FrameWorks, framing is about what to say, what to emphasize and what not to say in order to shape people’s understanding of an issue. To achieve this, the communicator can intentionally craft components in twelve different areas including tone, messenger, numbers, the order of messaging, examples, context, visuals and explanatory metaphors. It’s not just what you say, but how you combine all the components of the entire messaging process in order to maximize its effectiveness.

The next time you need to communicate something of importance, take the time to consider not just the words, but the frame of the whole picture that you are trying to convey. The subtle choices you make beforehand will determine the overall impact of what you share.

FrameWorks framing choices

leadership dot #2529: testing

Retailers and service providers make many efforts to get their product in the hands of the consumer: taste testing in the grocery store, free samples, trial size packaging and liberal return policies that reduce the risk of a purchase.

The goal of all these is to allow people to see what the product is really like – something that’s easy to do with a bite-size sample or by trying on clothes. One area that has been challenging is household paint: how can you tell from a 2×2 chip of paper what the color will look like on your wall? Retailers have tried offering small bottles of paint, but in order to try them you need to commit to repainting – like it or not – or you’ll have a swath of different colors streaking your room.

A new solution comes from Magnolia (Joanna Gaines) that offers peel ‘n stick options for multiple colors. You can place a large piece on your wall, assess it in the existing light, and then make a decision as to whether to proceed with painting. Either way, the color sample peels right off and allows you a substantially-sized color chip to take with you for accessory or furniture shopping.

Time is the most precious currency in this hectic world. If you can find a way to save someone time (in this case, by providing ways to evaluate options without any paint involved), people will pay you to save them moments. Think about how you can peel away barriers in your testing process easier and make it stick with your clientele.

leadership dot #2528: mistakes

I went into the Dollar Store and was astonished at the number of balloons that were lodged in their ceiling. This picture just shows a fraction of the waste; in reality, there were dozens more.

In a similar situation, on my previous excursions to Land’s End clearance sales and outlets I have seen bins of stockings, backpacks and totes that were incorrectly monogrammed – and thus accumulating unsold even at the bargain price of a dollar.

It’s one thing to make a mistake once, but another to make the same type of error over and over again. Gains in speed are offset by the losses from carelessness, not to mention the environmental impact of that which ends up being tossed before use.

Take a moment to assess your mistake rates. How much food ends up in the compost pile because it was incorrectly prepared? How many reams of paper head straight to the recycle bin because of errors in printing? How much paint is wasted because of improper color matching?

We generate enough waste from things that are done correctly. Don’t add to the problem by adding a host of mistakes to the landfill.

leadership dot #2527: assemble

Oftentimes, people procrastinate about writing a speech or proposal or delay their efforts to design a workshop or presentation. These things seem so big that they become daunting and in the absence of a clear starting point it becomes easier to avoid the task as long as possible.

I smiled when I read Adam Grant’s Originals and he talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. “assembling” his speeches rather than writing them outright. He had key points he wanted to make (much like yesterday’s dot) and would craft whole speeches by rearranging components to fit the need and audience.

A similar technique that has served me well is compiling notes over time – written with just one concept per piece of scratch paper or index card. If I’m working on an article or educational session, I begin with a pile of paper and brainstorm all the ideas that come to me about the topic, writing only one idea per sheet. Then I keep the pile handy for a few days (or weeks) and just add to it as another idea comes to me. When my incubation time has ended and it’s time to get serious about creating the final piece, I sort them all on my counter or floor and, presto, I have an instant outline.

In the picture below, I used this method to develop a six-session nonprofit training program – I had a big pile of ideas, then sorted them into logical delineations for the six workshops. The little sheets are easy to group together, rearrange, add to and remove. Once you get the piles organized in a way that makes sense, you can type them up into an outline and fill in content, or just leave them in an ordered pile and work from that.

It’s intimidating to start from a blank page or to figure out where to begin on a big project – so don’t. Start with one idea on an index card, and then another, and then another. Soon you’ll be well on your way to assembling your masterpiece.


leadership dot #2526: on point

In a crisis management session, presenter Mike Cyze cautioned us that we can’t prevent bad things from happening in our organization, rather we should focus on the goal of quickly addressing the issue and reducing potential long-term negative impact to your organization. In the age of social media, time is never on your side to do this, so it is prudent to put some information out there immediately as a way to initially get as much accurate information out as possible, then add information as you know it.

A key in media relations, especially in crisis situations, is setting the context for the events that occurred. For that to happen most effectively, it is recommended that you write out the two or three key points that you wish to make about the situation – and then always pivot back to them – regardless of exactly what question is asked. Be sure that these points are always true to your organization’s values and mission.

A brilliant example to illustrate this concept is an interview between Matt Lauer and then-CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally. In this clip, you can see that Mulally provides the answers he wants to deliver and doesn’t always respond directly to Lauer’s question. Mulally is the one who directs the interview and doesn’t get trapped into going into a direction that veers from his key points. It’s worth your four minutes to watch here.

Sharing context helps audience members to at least consider your perspective and may diffuse some of the emotional response that occurs when only one side of the story is known. “Stakeholders + emotion without context = a spark; smoke and fire are sure to follow,” said Cyze.

While you can’t anticipate every crisis that will occur, you can take steps now to build relationships with members of the media, and to practice developing key points and delivering them regardless (perhaps in a meeting or pitching a proposal). The time to dig a well isn’t when you’re thirsty!


leadership dot #2525: three letters

I developed an icebreaker where participants received a quarter-page piece of paper with one letter printed on it. They then had to form three-letter words and the triad was given a topic to discuss.

The exercise only contained the letters A, E, O, N, R, S, T, W yet there were dozens (or more) words that the groups could form. Examples include too, now, not, toe, tow, tan, ran, own, was, war, won, saw, wet.

I used the icebreaker to open a nonprofit training on finance and related the lessons of the exercise to the session: that not all letters/data need to be included (as we talked about consolidation of the chart of accounts and how to simplify the data shared with boards) and the fact that some letters (i.e. vowels) had more impact than others – and the same was true of data where not all indicators are created equal.

It was a fun way to mix up the groups and was a memorable illustration of some of the key concepts of the session. You could adapt it to a creativity workshop (how many words can you make in X minutes) or make it more difficult by requiring four-letter words or challenging groups to form the longest word they can, or make the case that data points (like letters) don’t have meaning until you combine them to tell a story.

How do you spell success? In this interactive exercise, it’s W-O-W.

Download the letter template here.


leadership dot #2524: all are welcome

Following the 2016 national election, Jamie Chismar wanted to stand in solidarity with her neighbors and do something to show them that not everyone shared the same view as the newly-elected national leadership. So she designed a simple yard sign that reads “All Are Welcome Here” and placed it on her front lawn.

The mantra grew in popularity and soon appeared at many homes and businesses in her Twin Cities home. The message is now reproduced in multiple languages, with designs of different states, on t-shirts, stickers and buttons. Merchandise has been shipped to all 50 states. It still isn’t her full-time job, but her welcoming message has been shared by thousands.

After an election, policy change or any action that disappoints us we often think of good works that we could do but Jamie had the initiative to actually act on her ideas. How can you use her as a role model to improve a situation rather than expending energy in a social media-based rant that just perpetuates the problem? All are also welcome to make their neighborhoods just a little bit better by their actions.