After 15 years of anchoring or managing the news in one form or another in Upstate NY, I made the bold decision in May to move to Atlanta where – in a nutshell – I now teach engineers how to communicate. It’s a great professional marriage. They’re critical and analytical, and I’m creative and chatty. Not overly, annoyingly, overbearingly, fluffy chatty — just a conversational-I-like-people-places-and-things kinda chatty.
I like talking. But, I also like listening.
Sometimes I really should listen to myself talk.
Which I wished I’d done during a recent 35-minute presentation I gave to a roomful of engineers where I explained how good communication is good business, and that the current business model is moving from a passive Information Age to an active Communication Age; that the days of pushing out tons of information to employees, customers, and stakeholders via one-way conversation/materials/brochures is an ineffective form of communication costing companies billions.
Hospitals lose $12 billion annually.
The electronics industry, nearly $14 billion.
Even mid-sized companies lose hundreds of thousands of dollars annually because one-way conversations are closed and subject to interpretation, causing employee and customer misunderstandings, errors and omissions, poor documentation, and long, unproductive meetings. I supported my point with a football analogy explaining that even the best quarterback, throwing the best physics-precision pass, to the best receiver WON’T MATTER – if the receiver doesn’t catch the pass and take it all the way to the end zone. Just like in communication. If something trips up your message, the receiver doesn’t get it — your message is lost.
Things were going well and I had their attention.
I then had the ‘bright’ idea to personalize my monologue with a story, by using my recent decision to get implants. I told the unassuming group – of 20 men, 3 women, and two bosses – how it took me nearly 10 years to finally decide implants were the right choice for me. I’d used the Information Age to gather all my information to realize implants would improve my quality of life, my self-confidence and would be a solid personal investment. I said I needed four: two in the front and two in the back. On the down side, the implant industry hadn’t yet moved into the Communication Age, resulting in conflicting information about cost, procedure, recovery, and outcome. OH! And the really bad news, implants are considered optional cosmetic surgery and are not covered by insurance.
Their perplexed faces assured me the group couldn’t believe it either. They were genuinely interested in learning more…some glancing at each other across the room, heads tilted in disbelief, eyebrows scrunched, as if they couldn’t believe what I was saying. Or what they were hearing. I’m still not sure.
Some, even texted each other so as not to disturb my presentation. How sweet. I knew this… because as one would text, the recipient across the room would smile.
A few more, scribbled on paper – quietly sharing their scribble with their neighbor – just like I remember in Catholic grammar school when passing a secret.
I continued……noticing that even the small group of slighted females were obviously put off that an insurance company wouldn’t justify the need for my necessary implants. The men were especially impressed, that if positioned just right as I explained, my implants would last a lifetime.
I ended my presentation knowing my personal touch was a hit!!!
In fact, many in the group thanked me for another home run about the value of effective communication and that they’d learned things they never knew. The compliments continued Tuesday and Wednesday. Some, were so concerned, they asked when I was getting my implants. People smiled at me in the halls, gave me high fives, and completely supported my decision to … implant.
Turns out, I was right. My presentation was a sensation.
I found that out three days later as I was leaving at the end of a long day when a boss stopped me to inquire if I was heading home for the holidays. The conversation went something like this:
Boss: “Are you here tomorrow?”
Me: Oh, yes. I don’t leave until Saturday morning. Heading to West Palm to see my brother and kids. It’s been close to a year since we’ve all been together.
Boss: “I hope you have a great holiday.”
Me: “Thanks. I’d have a better holiday if I didn’t have to spend $20K on implants.”
Boss: “Ummm, yeah…..about that. You really kinda put yourself out there Monday in your presentation. Implants…hmmm….I’m like, WOW! I mean I know you’re from NY, but, um….wow.”
Me: Yeah, I was just trying to make it personal.
Boss: I just don’t get why you need… four.”
Using my hands, I proceeded to explain how my sinus bone was deteriorating and that I needed the implants so my bite wouldn’t be off, and my teeth wouldn’t shift…blah blah blah.
Slowly, a sheepish yet puzzled grin exposed the ugly truth…which hit like a ton of bricks.
Me: OMG! I was talking about DENTAL implants. Didn’t everybody KNOW that??????
Boss: Uhhh. NO. I…really don’t…think…so.
Being the quality communicator in which I pride myself, I excused myself immediately and went straight to my computer where I sent out a mass email that said,
Subject Line: To Clarify
In response to some of your recent inquiries, I was referring to DENTAL implants in Monday’s PM meeting.
As in… teeth.
I hope y’all sleep better tonight.
Like I always tell my kids, two ears, one mouth.
Listen more than you speak. That includes to yourself.