Friday, January 16, 2009

A disturbing analogy

It occurred to me during one of my recent daily walks — while listening to the excellent audio book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (available at Amazon or downloadable at the iTunes store) by Seth Godin — that my primary rant about communication has direct application in our personal lives as well as in business. That rant, in case you've somehow missed it, is that communication — both internal and external — demands that you actually BE what you SAY you are.

Here's an example that may seem painfully familiar to many of my readers: online dating. How many of us have developed an online relationship with someone whose description of either their physical attributes or other characteristics turned out, after meeting them in person or even simply talking on the telephone, turned out to be shockingly misleading?

I'd guess that nearly anyone who's single and tech-savvy in the 21st century has had this experience — and I'm also guessing that you didn't like it. You felt disappointed at the very least and possibly even betrayed, angry, vengeful. Countless folks who perpetrated such false identities have been flamed across the internet in the past decade, demonstrating the power of the reaction felt by those who have been misled.

Even if it hasn't happened to you, I'm certain you're familiar with and can empathize with the experience.

So it shouldn't require a tremendous leap of imagination to transfer this illustration to the business environment. Does your organization promise more than it delivers? Once your customers have actually worked with you, would they still agree with the glowing phrases you used to characterized your organization while building the initial relationship? Does your website present you in one way while the reality is different in ways that would distress a prospective customer? Do you profess values you do not live?

This is the crux of my core belief: If you're painting yourself as handsome, tall, fit, 40, successful and interesting, but you show up at the first date disheveled, inarticulate, humorless, egocentric, unclean, and woefully out of shape and out of touch, will you get a second chance? What about your business image? Does it match reality?

If not, I earnestly suggest it's time to bring them into harmony. Why? Only by truly being what you say you are can you ever hope to succeed, either personally or professionally.

Thanks for participating.

Jan Thomas
The Communication Heretic

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