In this month’s blog, I’ll be examining communication habits – both my own and those I see in others – and unfolding what I find and understand as best practices. The title that came to me this month is Are You Speakin’ My Language, and I’m going to hone in especially on:
I started writing this month’s blog on the morning of my Honey Bear’s birthday – which also happens to be her sister’s birthday – they are twins, you see, and I’ve written before about the special bond that twin-ship often brings. June is the month of the horoscope Gemini, more or less, and the notion for this writing goes back to a networking meeting that opened my mind to a previously-unknown topic.
One Business Connection is a networking organization founded in Colorado, that has dozens of chapters around the state – and many more virtual events. (Shameless plug – listen to my LoCo Experience podcast conversation with 1BC Founder, Greg Petri on Episode #51). If you’re a member of 1BC, you can visit any of these chapters, and as it goes I visited a group down in Windsor that I’d not attended before. We all went around the room and introduced ourselves as normal, and among the number were a pair of twins – Jessica and Melissa – partners in a local real estate business.
And here comes the part where I stick my foot in my mouth…. After the introductions concluded, I asked the twins from what exotic location their accent was from – in my perception English was likely their first language – but likely from New Zealand, or South Africa, or some such locale. They shared with me that actually, they grew up in the American west, but that they were homeschooled for much of their childhood, and had developed twinspeak, or twin language as it may better be called, which might be understood as a dialect or invented language that only a matched pair of twins can understand! The sisters had been homeschooled for most of their early childhood, and only began interacting with other children in earnest during high school.
I’m sure this was a struggle in the early years, children can be cruel, but it was obvious even in our short interaction that both these ladies had developed into smart and confident women, with excellent communication ability. Moreover, their willingness to share this authentic story with me, then yet a stranger, convinced me that they would represent well their client interests, and I noted that either would bring a lot of value to a LoCo chapter, and put them on my prospect list. 🙂 (neither is a member, yet, but I remain optimistic)
I tell this story mostly to make you smile, and also to make you think - who are the teammates, family members, friends & acquaintances with whom you struggle to communicate? And why is it that you struggle? And what can be done about it?
As I reflect on this question, I can’t help but think of the political divide rolling at a slow boil in recent years in our country, recently highlighted by the abortion rights conversation. Impressive protest march up College Ave on Saturday, BTW, maybe 1,000 people?. To read most of the protest signs, news articles, and political statements by business leaders, music singers, and Hollywood stars, the reversal of Roe V. Wade is an intentional and direct attack on women’s natural rights by misogynistic white men. It’s hard to reconcile that notion with the fact that men make up only a slight majority in the pro-life movement (and so there are tens of millions of anti-women’s rights women?), and that men represent almost none of the leadership of said movement, and that they seem focused on messaging of expansion of rights - of the unborn babies. (or the fetuses if you’d rather) But I do understand the notion - and in fact I was strongly pro-choice until my early 30’s, and remain conflicted as to what might be the ideal policy - it seems impossible to find an appealing compromise on this issue.
What’s particularly striking to me about this issue, is that it is a reversal of roles in many ways, for the collectivists and the individualists. When it comes to Covid lockdowns and vaccinations, or universal health care, or basic income, or climate change, the progressive wing of the nation - and the world - is all about taking it for the team, and suppression of individual rights. But when it comes to abortion, they are for greater liberties. Conversely, the individualistic wing that pushes against those grand and global measures, in this area act more like collectivists - in addition to protecting unborn babies, most of them are seeking a change that calls for increased self-control and responsibility in pursuit of a stronger and better society.
The thing is, free love isn’t free, and it isn’t really love, because it doesn’t produce loving families that raise children in decades-long covenant partnerships - the kinds of families that send their kids to college, and help them start new businesses, and support them when times get tough. Unfortunately, and God bless them and love them, the single moms of our nation raise the poorest and most criminalized children, and their baby-daddies are often prolific in everything but fatherhood and education and clean living.
And so you want to end abortion?!, leaving even more moms with children that they’re not prepared for?!
No, actually - I’m pleased with the outcome of Roe V. Wade, because I see it as a state’s rights topic - “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Roe V. Wade should never have become law, according to many constitutional scholars - and the court. We are a Republic of States, and it seems to me good and proper that different regions of a diverse nation might have different laws and expectations of what their state might do or not do for them. I dream of a hold-loosely kind of republic because it seems to me the tight grip of Washington DC does little to enhance human thriving, except for the insiders in DC. Let the states be different, that’s the way this nation was designed, and let’s look at the outcomes and see where people are flourishing more - and emulate those places!
And, I would like to see those would-be baby-daddies be responsible enough not to have relations with women who they are not prepared to marry and raise a child with, and for the women of the world to recognize their very special power - and responsibility - and find yourself a man with whom you’d like to raise children and stay with. And protect yourself from pregnancy until you’re confident about it - in whatever fashion you choose. And, I’d like a unicorn to ride a rainbow to my house and deliver a pot-o-gold! Yes, I know humans be humans, but I do think taking more responsibility for our intimate relationships would be better for human thriving overall, it’s an individual sacrifice, for the greater good of the collective. It’s a hard question - one of the hardest - and if you don’t think so you’re not paying very close attention to the nuances of the topic and conversation.
So there’s the answer to my first question - to ensure clear understanding both parties have to try to understand the other! That means listening to understand, asking questions, speaking truly and freely - all of these things are necessary for clear understanding, and often absent from our political hot topics. My challenge to you is this - whether you fall in the “abortions in the 3rd trimester” camp, or the “life begins at conception” camp, (or, the “somewhere in between” camp like 75% of Americans) - find someone you know that disagrees with you, and have an open and respectful conversation, and make sure you understand and can explain why they feel as they do - even if/as you remain in disagreement.
Anyway, I’ll move on - I’m a man and so I have no right to have an opinion on this topic anyway.
Let’s talk about my own communication habits, I’m an expert there!
I have 255 unread emails at present moment, down from a crest of 305 yesterday, so I’m making some progress. I run the “Inbox Zero” system (exceedingly poorly), so this is an anxiety-producing circumstance, and I’m committed to getting it back to zero on my road trip to ND later this week to see my mom.
We’re celebrating her 70th birthday with a picnic in the park - close to where she played fast-pitch softball for many years. My mom founded my little league baseball team - have I told you that before? She took our little Pingree-Buchanan Elementary school, with maybe 15 eligible students, and launched an 8-9 year olds team that played in the Jamestown city league, and then stayed alongside us as we aged to be 10-11 and then 12-13 year olds playing fast pitch. She taught me - and dozens of other young boys (and a few girls) how to throw a ball, and how to stay down on a grounder, and the rules and etiquette of the game. She is very organized, my mother, a place for everything and everything in its place, and I treasure my weekly conversations with her, and all the more the visits. This paragraph has little to do with my topic, I just wanted to share a little bit about my ma. 🙂
Unlike my mother, I am not very organized, and to some extent, my brain flourishes in bringing order out of chaos. Despite all those unread emails, I’ve pulled out most of the important ones and done something with them; and even though I seldom look at the task list that my team helps me build and maintain - most of the tasks still get done. But some never do, and if I’ve missed following up with you in some way, or paying the office rent (as I did this month until the 14th! - but I paid July rent early to make up for it!), or sending you that recipe that you asked for - you better ask again because it slipped off my list! But I can crush at Boggle, my mind can pull words out of jumbles faster than almost anyone, and I believe my ability to make complex topics easier to understand is stronger than the average Bear, and I’m blessed to find joy in my work and love in my home…but those emails though!
I’ve written before about Alma - she’s the Digital Experience Coordinator here at LoCo HQ. My style of living would drive Alma crazy - she could not abide it! She enjoys planning things out, and setting up processes, and when we have team meetings she’s always ready with a recap afterwards. Alma fills my gaps in wonderful ways, and we have what I’d describe as a trusted and committed working relationship. Alma moved up to full-time and salary recently, and that move was the source of a recent breakdown in communication between us.
The week before, I made an offhand comment to Alma, that we should probably take Monday off, to celebrate Juneteenth. To set the context, we’ve pretty much always worked on what I’d call the “minor holidays” - Presidents Day, MLK, Valentines Day, Halloween, Veterans Day - and take off the big ones - Christmas, New Year, Memorial, and Labor Day, and Independence Day. Having no special relationship to the Juneteenth holiday, and a long list of projects and tasks, she would normally have worked all day. Alma is smart as a whip though, and quickly understood that she would be paid the same for the month of June whether or not she worked that Monday, and so she took me up on the offer and had a fun day off - well, not that much fun, her family and boyfriend were all working! - but she got some things done she’d been meaning to.
Meanwhile, I’m working by myself, kinda lonely and feeling dumb for making that comment, and for not having the guts to share that it wasn’t really an offer, but more of an observation that there’s a new federal holiday. I felt like she increased the risk of her projects not getting done on time, and took advantage of her new salary position, and…but when I thought of things from Alma’s perspective - or what I’d have done in the same situation…I could not fault her. I’d have done the same thing!
Later last week we talked about it, and about how she felt awkward at home like she’d really rather have been working on projects at the office, and we made a clear agreement about what the expectations are for salaried employees at LoCo Think Tank. We talked about the various holidays, and we clarified what the time off policy was going to be, and about my goals and timeline to further increase her pay and invest in her learning, and I think it was a great conversation that left us both with increased peace and understanding.
My sources tell me there’s a lot of chaos going on lately in the job market. Employees leaving with no notice, interview candidates no-call, no-showing, and a whole lot of poaching of talent among organizations. It’s hard to grow a business when you’re constantly hiring replacement workers and training new employees, and there seems to be a growing lack of commitment among the labor force. Probably some of this is deserved - here in Northern Colorado, and especially in Fort Collins, we’ve had an under-employed labor force for years, and our pay rates lagged well behind metro markets like Denver. But now we’re competing for employees again, and I think a good foundation to build commitment with new and longtime employees is to have clear agreements. This can be done with two easy steps:
Who will do what by when?
Agreement to renegotiate before the deadline if necessary.
Clear job descriptions. HR policy manuals that are current and relevant. Regular staff meetings and team meetings, with clear accountability and timelines. Easy to understand contracts with clients and partners. Follow-up and follow-through. Mission, Vision, Values. All of these are elements of clear agreements. As business leaders, we are best when we remove the obstacles to success from our teams, and that starts with clarity. Clarity of purpose, clarity of role, clarity of expectations. Clear agreement on what we are here for, who will do what, and by when, and the expectation of accountability and agreement to renegotiate before deadlines.
We all have different thinking styles and communication habits, but if we remember to always try to understand, provide clarity and make clear agreements, we’ll avoid much of the drama and chaos that plague individual and enterprises in any economic or political climate.
Thanks for reading or listening, and if you’re listening, please make sure to subscribe to the LoCo Experience Podcast on your favorite listening platform. 🙂