I grew up with a military father. There were no mincing words with him. He was very direct and you knew where you stood with him. When it came time to ask for things from my dad I had to be very creative and calculating with how I asked. Once, I remember wanting something so bad that I blurted out the item that I wanted from some store, and then those haunting words came out, “Son, it’s all in the delivery.” I have come to know and understand that phrase and how it can affect a person in their personal and professional life.
Another thing about me is that I’m somewhat of a nostalgic. I love to watch old movies and old tv shows and listen to old slapstick humor. There is a skit done by Abbott & Costello called “Who’s on First?” The skit starts with Bud Abbott talking about baseball and the peculiar names baseball players are given. First, Lou Costello asks about the game and the players. Then Abbott proceeds to tell him. Here is a small excerpt:
Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names.
Costello: Funny names?
Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third–
Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.
Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third–
Costello: You know the fellows’ names?
Costello: Well, then who’s playing first?
Costello: I mean the fellow’s name on first base.
Costello: The fellow playin’ first base.
Costello: The guy on first base.
Abbott: Who is on first.
Costello: Well, what are you askin’ me for?
Abbott: I’m not asking you–I’m telling you. Who is on first.
Costello: I’m asking you–who’s on first?
Abbott: That’s the man’s name.
Costello: That’s who’s name?
Firstly, the humor in this is brilliant! Secondly, there is also, I believe, a great principle that can be drawn from this and placed in a business/management context. When we are dispensing information to an individual/team, are we both on the same page? Do they understand what we are asking? What we expect? Are we asking in a “Taskmaster’ish” way? The absence of adequate communication can lead to frustration and a lowering of morale. When aims, goals, and targets are not properly communicated, there can be a decrease in productivity in a company, and confusion and unrest can intensify greatly. Lack of communication can negatively affect workplace relations. Here are a few suggestions that have helped me develop a better sense of delivery:
1. Be interested in other people, ask questions that are genuine and listen to their answers.
To me, this is so key to morale and professional relationships. People know when you are interested in what they are saying. Remember that we work with people who have emotions, challenges in their lives. They are not robots.
2. Be positive and decisive.
This can be difficult because we all have different difficulties in life. But being able to look at the cup half full in life is what determines your mindset. The great basketball player Michael Jordan once stated, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
3. Look at people when you are speaking to them.
“When you keep eye contact with the person you are talking to it indicates that you are focused and paying attention. It means that you are actually listening to what the person has to say.” (Source)
4. Keep a sense of humor.
It’s ok to laugh and laugh at yourself. It shows that you are easy going and approachable. Nobody wants to deal with a standoffish person. President Eisenhower said the following, “A sense of humor can be a great help—particularly a sense of humor about (oneself). William Howard Taft joked about his own corpulence and people loved it; took nothing from his inherent dignity. Lincoln eased tense moments with bawdy stories, and often poked fun at himself—and history honors him for this human quality. A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”
5. Use body language.
Don’t be a stiff! Nothing says monotone or boring more then if you just stand there and speak with no movement. Use your hands, your body to express yourself.
6. Watch your intonation.
“Hey Lillie, can you get that task taken care of by the end of the day, please?” Versus “HEY! LILLIE! CAN YOU GET THAT TAKEN CARE OF BY THE END OF THE DAY….PLEASE!” How you say it and the tone of your voice can be the difference between leading or dictatorship.
7. Be clear, concise, and use plain English. No need to use fancy wording.
While the above is not new in any sense, they are tried and true. We all have the opportunity to practice these skills daily. Don’t miss out on a chance to improve! “Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”— Gilbert Amelio President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp.