leadership dot #2531: curator

Think of the influence that the person has who determines what stories show up on the newsfeed of your smartphone. There are usually only five or six articles that make the list and somewhere there is a human that either makes the selections or programmed the algorithm to do so. Such power they hold.

So many decisions go into what makes it onto the feed: which stories, whether they are serious news or novel, which source to use for the story, etc. You may have some choice in which topics you check as preferences, but someone else is still curating the content and shaping the views of millions. In the U.S. alone there are over 90 million iPhones – quite the audience for Apple News.

Whether we consciously read all of the selections or just unconsciously absorb the headlines, the content from this feed serves to populate our brain and perspectives. Don’t rely on a stranger’s limited actions as the only source of your information. Pick at least one source of journalism to read deeper and make your own choice about what is relevant.

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 #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 #2518: double entendre

I am repeatedly reminded of the complexity of our language when I search for pictures to include with these dots. When I type in “train” I get pictures of both locomotives and weight lifters. “Fall” gives me autumn leaves and a person tripping on the sidewalk. “Print” accesses images of typewriters and plaid patterned materials.

I often don’t even think of all the meanings of one word, for example, “coach” that elicits pictures of a sports coach, executive coach/mentor, motorcoach bus and even Cinderella’s pumpkin coach. “Race” is visually represented by ethnicity, race cars, human runners and racing against the clock.

Using a photo search application is a good reminder of how important clarity is in communication. If typing in one simple noun generates so many different directions, think of the many ways a complex change process or new instructions may be interpreted by the listener – even if the recipient is a native English speaker.

You may think you said what you meant, but you may have also said something that means other things as well. Reinforcing your message with repetition, visuals, two-way feedback and context will go a long way in providing the understanding you can bank on (bank as in “count on/depend”, not a financial institution or shores along a river)!


leadership dot #2511: thingamajig

My mom used to say that “everybody lives somewhere” and the corollary to that is that everything is called something. It may not be the official name or even a proper descriptor but for our communication to function efficiently, things acquire labels.

The excitement about the scientific discovery of an actual black hole was quickly followed by a litany of names to call it. If there is one black hole, there is likely another so astronomers distinguish them and describe the differences – through a name. The first black hole has already been called M87* (with a silent asterisk – it’s official name) and Powehi (its Hawaiian name) but an official designation may still be forthcoming.

It is not just public objects that require labels – we do it in our homes and organizations all the time. That space under the roofline becomes “the nook”, the office work area becomes “the cave”, the sheet with the strategic plan timing/funding matrix becomes “the colored sheet” and the still undeveloped property purchased long ago is referred to as “the snake lot”. I name my car noise “a clunk” because I don’t have the language of the service advisor to refer to it as a suspension system differential.

As a leader or brand ambassador, it becomes your job to name things or others will. You need to give a name to the shopping center you’re trying to develop or it will only be known as “the old K-mart”. Campus activities staff need to lead an effort to designate the common area that borders the University Center, Library and AuDitorium as the UCLIAD so it may be scheduled and referred to in promotion of events. Association leaders should strive for consistency in whether their organization is known by its acronym or the phonetic version of the word the abbreviation forms.

Whether you call it a doohickey, thingamajig, thingamabob or something else, we call everything something. Be proactive and intentional about giving labels to things you care about or others will name them for you.

leadership dot #2495: cogent

Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw was asked about her role as an advocate for women’s sports. Without hesitation, she gave a powerful reply that was passionate, fact-filled and powerfully made her point. (You can watch/read it here.)

Whether or not you agree with her stance, you have to admire the way she delivered her answer. McGraw has been an advocate for women in sports for many years and she certainly has her “elevator speech” well-honed.

Think about what you would say if posed a similar question by a reporter. Could you eloquently communicate – complete with facts and examples – the essence of your position on the topic that is relevant to your work? Do you have a cogent response to the challenges your organization faces that you could deliver without notes, on the spot?

If not, use McGraw as a role model to see how it’s done. Make it your mission today to gather those key points and supporting evidence and start rehearsing aloud!

leadership dot #2459: lunk

In the Planet Fitness gyms, there is a prominent Lunk Alarm that others can set off if a lunk is spotted in the facility. A lunk, as they define it, is one who grunts, drops weights or judges. It is a good-humored attempt to keep the atmosphere light and maintain “a judgment free zone” for all the participants.

Wouldn’t it be nice if offices, stores and other establishments had an equivalent “lunk alarm” to ward off those who may be condescending or judgmental toward others? Instead of letting insidious behavior go unchecked there would be a public way to proclaim that it was unwelcome.

Without putting a giant alarm bell on your wall, think about what you can do to establish norms of respect in your setting. Can you develop a shared language that allows you to call someone out without drama? Is there a ritual or motion you can easily perform that sends the same message? How clear are you about expectations when you onboard or review employees?

I doubt the lunk alarm is sounded often – mostly because it is there in the first place. Be proactive in communicating your expectations before they cause the warning bells to ring.