The 2013 CASE Summit, which wrapped up last Tuesday, was by all accounts a success. Record attendance, great presentations and presenters, positive comments all around, packed rooms for nearly every session and a new format modeled on TEDx that people seemed to appreciate.
I gleaned a lot of good ideas and inspiration from the event. Here are the top takeaways in terms of leadership, management and communication.
1. In our communications, we assume too much. According to one of our speakers (Frank Flynn, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford), managers tend to assume that the people we are sharing information with know what we do.
If something is obvious to us, we assume it’s obvious to them. That isn’t so. We tend to undercommunicate, Flynn says. He cited research showing that on 360 evaluations, managers are 10 times more likely to be perceived as undercommunicating than overcommunicating. And as Flynn also noted, communication is typically seen as the most critical skill a manager can have but is also the one on which we are judged most harshly.
The takeaway: Don’t assume people know what I know, and work on being a better communicator.
2. Routine matters. In higher education, when we want to attract attention, we usually devise something that will make a big splash. (That’s also true in other fields.) We launch marketing campaigns and capital campaigns. We introduce a new “brand,” complete with a new logo and graphic identity. The trouble is, if these big splashes don’t translate into routine behavior, then we are not as likely to have our messages stick. People notice the regular, not the irregular. (This again comes from Frank Flynn’s talk.)
The takeaway: If I want to get a message to stick, I must communicate it in a routine fashion and develop consistency in my behavior.
3. Default to “yes.” In Guy Kawasaki‘s presentation on “Enchantment,” he outlined the 10 steps anyone can follow to enchant their stakeholders. (Here’s a good summary of that list.) Many of those tactics resonated with me. But the one that I found most challenging was the idea of making “yes” my default response in any situation.
I worry about over-committing to people, projects, etc. I’m a classic “underpromise and overdeliver” kind of guy. But Kawasaki’s point is that “yes” opens the door to further discussion, while “no” slams the door shut.
Kawasaki posted something about this recently on LinkedIn: Do You Have A Yes Attitude? “A ‘yes’ buys time, enables you to see more options, and builds rapport,” he writes.
The takeaway: Learn to say “yes” more. Or at least, “not yet.”
4. Stories trump data. Andy Goodman‘s entertaining talk on the power of storytelling reminded us all that “numbers numb and jargon jars, but stories get stored” in our memories. Just as we tend to over-rely on the big splash for our communications, so we also assume that bludgeoning our audiences with data and facts will persuade them to support our cause. But data and facts serve us best when they are woven into our stories of real people.
The takeaway: Rely more on stories than data to communicate to audiences, but don’t be afraid to use data to support those stories.
5. We over-rely on broadcast messaging. Sending out mass email messages is not a very effective way of getting people to do something. One-on-one communications is far more effective. We all know this, of course. But what I didn’t know before hearing Frank Flynn talk about this is that broadcast messaging “diffuses responsibility,” sometimes to the point where none of the recipients feels any compulsion to act. When we get a mass email or other broadcast message, we think, “It’s not just me” they’re asking, so surely someone else will help. But when the message is customized and targeted to individuals, the individual thinks, “Oh, crap, they’re talking to me directly,” and feels compelled to act.
The takeaway: Rely less on broadcasting, focus more on personal communication.