In my early days in the military, outdoor survival was the most memorable training experience for me. In the harsh Australian bush, it becomes clear very quickly that preparation is key, and as Greek poet Archilochus observed; “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” For me that meant that the initially unfamiliar tasks I learned needed to become second nature quickly.
One of the very first things we learned was how to use a two-way radio. Like many great principles of communication, the radio was simple; press button to speak, release button to listen. And like many simple principles, the execution requires understanding and discipline!
When there’s a whole bunch of young cadets out in the bush, inevitably someone would commit the rookie error of leaving their finger on the button. It’s called being “stuck on send”, and it means that the radio is unable to receive any sound or information.
I’m sure you know someone who is stuck on send. Every time you speak to them they’ve been there, done that, and tell you all about it. They only speak and rarely listen. They‘re so invested in their broadcast, that they miss vital clues and information from their team and the world around them. Like the radio, they are unable to receive information. As a result they are closed to learning, closed to continuous improvement, and closed to collaboration. And like the green cadet, they don’t even realise the button is stuck.
The difference between broadcasting and sending.
The radio is a crucial piece of kit in the forces, because it allows us to communicate and collaborate with our teams over distance and over obstacles and challenging terrain. It provides flexibility and mobility to a team who can gain perspectives from different vantage points, insights from a more experienced person, or ask for help if they need it. The value of the radio, however, is only realised if it is used correctly.
A broadcast occurs when information, ideas, and opinions are expressed with no space for reflection, or response, or contribution from others. This is a one way communication only. Sending occurs when a distinct unit of information is transmitted, AND then the sender switches into receive mode. This type of communication is (at least) two-way, and open to multiple inputs.
It got me thinking about communication in a broader sense, about the difference between true engagement vs continuous broadcast. I’ve been observing the responses and results that occur from an engaged discussion, as well as from broadcast only. I see it in many varied contexts; from social media, to LinkedIn, to Agile ceremonies and boardroom negotiations.
How to send effectively & efficiently- Top 5 Tips
As an Agile facilitator, I have been delighted to notice the way these skills map into the disciplines of communication!
Here are my top 5 tips for applying 2-way etiquette to Agile ceremonies:
- Use Different Channels for Different Purposes
The purpose of using different channels is to minimise the likelihood of having multiple participants speaking at cross purposes over a single frequency. In the Agile world, that means that you must select the appropriate context to discuss your content.
An example of this is to understand the purpose of each ceremony; a standup is to provide a brief update of progress, and provide/receive help. Retrospectives are to reflect as a team on how you are working together so you can improve.
Best practice is to state the purpose (even when you’re sure people know) – e.g. the purpose of getting together today is to reflect on how we have been working together and how we can do it better. This ensures everyone is centred, focused and has a clear criteria for what is/not relevant.
- Be Clear
As a radio user, we were taught to be really clear, there cannot be room for confusion. The importance of being clear is magnified on a radio, and there are standard phrases to acknowledge, start, and finish.
What that means is that you must know the purpose of your communication before you begin to speak! What is the specific outcome that you want to achieve as a result of sending your message? Speak to that one thing, and only that one thing. When your send button is stuck, you end up talking for so long that the listener loses the thread of what is being said, they start to tune out, and the critical points get lost in the noise.
- Ask: What Would Be Just Enough?
In Agile we seek to do just enough to get the outcome we desire. To map that to the radio, that would mean each burst of communication is just enough to stimulate response, conversation, or participation, and then take your finger off the button!
People who aren’t used to working in this way don’t know how to be brief. Instead of raising the point and opening a broader discussion; they labour the point (their finger stuck firmly on send), believing that all of this extra content and context are important *rolls eyes*
- One item per post it note
- Get to the point quickly
- Back up what you say with how you feel
- Ask: Is This Relevant?
Is it helpful? Is it timely? What might be the action associated with this? Or: what action do I want to trigger?
For example, I have been in the middle of a meeting when a participant interrupted the dialogue to inform the room that there was cake in the kitchen… Helpful? I guess, if you’re into cake (CAKE!), but not so much to achieve the meeting outcomes for the rest of the room. Timely? Poor timing. What might be the action associated with this? People left the room. I kid you not. Were they looking to achieve this? Hopefully not.
These questions are super helpful in determining whether what you are dying to say actually adds value.
- Take Your Finger off Send
Congratulations! You have briefly communicated valuable & relevant information in an appropriate context. NOW is where the value kicks in;
It’s a conscious choice, to remove your finger from send. Decide to be open, and curious. To wonder “what could I learn here?” and “how is this perspective new and helpful to me?” Decide to believe that there is always something to learn, and another perspective is welcome.
- Invite others to contribute to a conversation
- Wait your turn to speak
- Pause while sharing to allow others to ask questions or add to the dialog
- Ask Questions – in your head, on paper, and of others
- Give yourself feedback – Post communication, ask “What did I learn”
Roger, Over and Out.
The most powerful thought leaders I follow are not just sharing articles but creating discussion by asking questions and, and openly and transparently collaborating with others. They are not stuck on send but lifting their finger to hear and acknowledge others.
And so I will publish this blog, and take my finger off the button; I’m ready to receive your feedback, insights and experience! I’d love to hear how this has landed for you, whether it resonates, and what you would add to improve it.
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