It’s Not About the Nail….

Whether in the military, the corporate world, or in our day-to-day lives, effective communications have always been important. This is particularly true for leaders.

Having a clear understanding of HOW your audience will best receive your message BEFORE you transmit is a skill that can be taught.

We can communicate the same message to a 6 or 60 year old; male or female; Private or General; American or foreigner; liberal or conservative; CEO or blue collar worker. It doesn’t matter WHO they are. What matters is “connecting” with THEM in ways that resonate. 

Let’s look at an example using a profession some love to make fun of: lawyers. (Note: my dad was a lawyer).

 “The party of the first part in the above entitled matter shall execute the attached stipulation and return it forthwith to the party of the second part upon which time the aforementioned stipulation shall be filed to dismiss the case at bar. The party of the first part shall cease and desist from any actions that negatively affect the rights of the party of the second part as agreed in the stipulation in the instant case. The masculine shall include the feminine, the singular shall include the plural, and the present tense shall include the past and future tense…”

Would there be less need for lawyers if it was said like this?

“Please sign and return the document to me at which time I will file it and dismiss the pending lawsuit. Don’t do anything that violates our agreement. If the document is grammatically incorrect, please read it as if typed correctly.”

Mort Crimm once said “It’s NOT what we SAY that matters… it’s what the other person HEARS.”

When I speak to a new group… and preparation time allows… I study them.

As a Senior Mentor for a Department of Defense course called “Executive Leader Development Program” I travel with this group of 60 highly motivated, smart, and ambitious Department of Defense civilians and military members every year. I spend a week with them in far flung locations “mentoring and advising” both in small groups and with individuals. 

At the beginning of the week, I present my “Thoughts on Leadership and Other Stuff” pitch but, before I do, I try to find the six-degrees-of-separation between myself and the students. I place a half dozen names on random slides and ask them to stand when they see their name so I can tell them what connects us. I announce this up front. 

This accomplishes two things: it keeps them awake during my presentation (not knowing who might be called on) but it also allows me to “connect” with them in a more personal way and then communicate in terms they best understand.

The video below, makes the point how easily two people can talk past each other. 

Watch it and you too will see that “It’s Not About the Nail….”

Retired Major General Craig B. Whelden

Major General Craig Whelden,
U.S. Army (Retired)

Served 30 years in the Army followed by another nine as a member of the Senior Executive Service for the Marine Corps.

He is a global Fortune 500 speaker and the author of a three-time award-winning, #1 international best-selling book, LEADERSHIP: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best.  He now resides in Bluffton, South Carolina.