It’s true. My last CEO did a great job of making me sure I wanted to leave.
He officially joined the company in January of 2008, but I personally never saw him being active until the middle of February. In those first 6 weeks, he went around the rest of the world on a very expensive road-trip, visiting every branch of the company, talking with as many people as he could to find out who they were, what they wanted, how they operated and what was important to them.
When he finally arrived in Belgium, he did the same thing with most of our staff, including me. His approach, it seems, was always the same: He would ask a few questions, listen a lot and then say what he had to say. When he spoke, everything made sense. With me, it even made me decide to leave.
What he did was the finest form of active empathy and it allowed him to better understand his people and better communicate with them. When listening to me, he got an idea of who I was, what I was trying to achieve, my career aspirations, turn-ons and turn-offs. Listening attentively, he picked up on what really got me buzzing. And he quickly understood that what he wanted to achieve was not in-line with what I wanted to achieve. In no uncertain terms and in a way that made perfect sense to me, he outlined his strategy and what would be the place for my function. I understood I wouldn’t fit in and together we looked for ways to help me move on. Perfect!
Communicating in this way is an art and if it is done well, it is not a bad thing when other people who understand you decide to get off the train. It is a much better result that staying on the wrong train thanks to manipulative or bad communication.
If you want to align with other people, you need to do the same as my last CEO:
- Listen first. Ask lots of questions and drill down for more information.
- Try to get a sense of the situation, values and needs of the other person.
- Speak to people on their terms, using words they understand and align to their needs wherever possible.
- Don’t bullshit. Get to the point and speak clearly.
- Answer the only 3 questions that count.
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This blog post explains the basics of FAB communication. FAB is a simple acronym to help you remember what people want to hear and what they don’t. Talk FAB and you have more chance of being heard. Talk FAB and you have more chance of getting what you need from your communication.
In training with IT consultants, I ask them to create a short personal CV for a potential client. I ask them for qualities that would be interesting for their clients.
I tend to get a lot of answers like:
- Organisational Skills
- Degree in Engineering
- Bilingual French and German
F = Features …and basically: No-one cares
For me, the types of answer noted above are simply features of the consultant. Things they are or things they do. Most people don’t care about features because they simply aren’t interesting.
A = Advantages …which are already much better
An advantage is defined as what makes it better to have “F” than not have “F”. So I ask the consultants to translate their features into advantages.
This is what I get (respectively, for the aforementioned “F” answers):
- Able to efficiently organise workload and ensure that priority work is finished on time
- Able to understand complex ideas and translate them into models and processes
- Can talk to Swiss customers
Already much better!! …but….
B = Benefits …and this is what people care about
In fact, let me slow down a bit. What DO people care about? Do I care about you? No! I care about me… and despite my wife and mother telling me to be less egoistic, I WILL ALWAYS CARE ABOUT ME.
Just like the procurement people looking for IT consultants care about themselves and their companies. So: We need to show the benefits of our advantageous feature. This means tuning in the advantage the situation, values and needs of the other person.
3 more examples:
- Ensure on-time delivery of new IT projects
- Help your people to implement new processes by defining clear and easy to follow steps
- Increase sales in Switzerland by streamlining customer communication
(…notice how the 2nd and 3rd benefit statements include a clear reference to the “A” statement) Now that’s more like it!!
Translating your features in to advantages that are beneficial for the other person is key to getting them to listen, care and act …and the applications go a lot further than selling IT consultants.
Here are a few examples of moments when FAB communication would be good:
Convincing your partner to take a different route to your holiday destination
- F = road name
- A = what makes that road better
- B = why your partner should care
A strong WIIFM statement in a presentation introduction
- F = “I will tell you about 1, 2, 3”
- A = Why 1, 2, 3 is good
- B = What you will get out of listening to me
The opening paragraph of this blog-post:
- F = “FAB is a simple acronym to help you remember what people want to hear and what they don’t”
- A = “Talk FAB and you have more chance of being heard”
- B = “Talk FAB and you have more chance of getting what you need from your communication”
I hope you liked this post and I hope you are ready to be FAB.
Feel free to leave a comment..