Trust = courage x curiosity + possibility plus plus

Be courageous. Courage is critical in your role because it helps build trust. Your leaders need to know that you will not shy away from conversations that they need to have, because you’re afraid. If you need to build your courage, start small. Do something today that’s just a little bit courageous.

Be curious. Curiosity is important because you can’t give good advice if you don’t completely understand the issue, the perspectives or the obstacles. You need to come from the perspective that your leaders are creative and resourceful and already have the answers. Your job is to be curious. Make sure your questions are open-ended, not a yes or no answer. Make sure you don’t lead. Ask 3 questions before giving an opinion. You’ll have more influence if you’re the person who helps people come up with the best answers they can stand behind.

Point out the possibilities. You must try to be the instigator of what’s possible. This can be accomplished by having an open mind, consistently asking what else? And wondering if there wasn’t anything in the way, what would be possible? Possibility is not a skill, it’s a choice.

Be knowledgeable. You may know most of what there is to know about communication, and that’s great. But if you can’t apply those skills to the business, you won’t be influential. You need to know what the corporate objectives are and how communication can help reach them. Easy ways to build your knowledge include knowing your gaps and making a list to fill them, reading what the boss is reading, getting curious and listening better.

Listen. We have an amazing capacity for taking in information faster than it’s tossed at us, yet most people are terrible listeners. Many people are thinking about how they’re going to respond to what’s being said and never hear what’s being said. You can’t advise effectively if you don’t listen. Some pointers for increasing your listening are to clarify what you think you’ve heard by bottom-lining it or putting it “in a nutshell”.

I've had a terrible vision…

…it started when I was digesting the latest communication about the latest round of musical chairs where a few more chairs have been removed and the rest re-arranged in a neat “get a draw away from home” formation.

It had to do with shrinking pools – and the vision that flashed up was one I had seen on television in one of those fascinating nature programmes that both amaze and worry you.

There was a drought coming – the waters were receding, and in the deeper pools the shallower channels that connected them to the main flow were approaching dangerously low levels – effectively cutting them off.

Some of the cleverer little fish spotted what was happening, put on their metaphoric pumps and with a deft flick of their tails “legged” it across the channel in the style of Indiana Jones. They made it to a deeper pool and eventually out to the main stream – scary, but surprisingly invigorating!

The older, more “experienced” fish expected to “sit” it out in their old pond despite the diminishing amount of water (and therefore oxygen) and determined to carry on regardless. They accepted that it was good for those upstarts to leave and make more room for the serious boys in the good old pond.

The upstarts would never make it out there, if we lie still and don’t breathe too heavily we can stay here until it gets better and the new water comes in again and then we can carry on from where we were.

Guess what – the water levels continued to drop, the channels to the rest of the world dried up completely cutting them off, and the big fish got into more and more difficulty. They could no longer get out, nor could they all fit into the reducing water and had to fight it out amongst themselves to see who could get to the bottom of the pond fastest (and stay there) and therefore, literally, survive. The ones who couldn’t get to the bottom and stay there keeping their heads down out of sight, away from the sun’s heat, were slowly enduring an agonising death as they suffocated, which in turn was poisoning the pool and affecting everything in it, even those hiding out at the bottom.

Do we need to put our pumps on and get our little feet out there in the main stream and leave the overcrowded, big, but shrinking, pond?

Are we being poisoned by the stagnation in the big pond?

Perhaps I need to stop eating cheese just before I go to bed…