Monday, October 26, 2009

American Idol - About the distinctions

This post is a continuation of the post on 10/21 about music and triathlon:

When you work with a good coach they are there with you observing and providing feedback as you do your workout. They report back on your speed, form, heart rate etc. They shout encouragement as you round the track. "Relax your shoulders and keep your head up! Lean forward Dan, let gravity work for you". It's the same thing in music when you are doing scales or practicing a song. Your vocal coach is listening, working with you each step of the way. Coaches observe the details and can help you make minor corrections in the smallest movement or sound which can make a big difference in the overall performance. In order to do that, they need to be totally grounded and have expertise as it relates to the distinctions of the sport or musical discipline.

American Idol is a great example of what I'm talking about. After each performance the four judges offer feedback and for me, as a trained vocalist, the feedback is not very good or useful. Given the lack of rigor with the distinctions by the judges I think it's safe for me to state that the perfomers are left in a confused state much of the time. Rarely are the judges saying the same thing. And maybe it's all for show... however it points to what this post is all about.

The problem with coaching in the domain of communication (sales, customer service, management and leadership) is that up till now, the distinctions have been a bit fuzzy. In other words, if you were to ask 100 sales people what constitutes a great sales effort, you're certain to get many different answers. And herein lays the problem.

Until you can get your entire company on the same page, operating with the same set of distinctions in the domain of communications, all you have is a bunch of independent cowboys riding the range doing their own thing. However, once you can harness the power of the team, by adopting a model (shared language, shared practices and shared distinctions), then you've got something very powerful.

Your company begins to operate like a finely tuned orchestra or like a Super Bowl winning football team... because everyone is on the same page.

Is this possible you ask, in the domain of sales, customer service, leadership and management? The answer is a resounding YES! Here's how it works.

Do you know that in the english language there are now one million words! This is more than any other language and is part of the problem. Without distinctions in how to use language it's easy to get lost in the words, in the detail, in the data of communication.

The good news is this... there are in FACT only six linguistic moves or acts that are responsible for everything on the planet. That's right, one million words can be broken down into six moves in language. Understanding and being competent and even masterful at these six moves makes it possible and in fact, easy to learn. Additionally, it makes coaching more powerful and it makes measurement possible.

During the next blog, I'll get into it in some more detail.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What do music and triathlon have to do with sales, leadership and language?

I began my singing career at the age of 41 when I woke up one day and simply declared to myself and the rest of the world, "I want to learn how to sing". And I did! I hired a vocal coach in NYC and began to practice scales and began to learn. I was a total novice with not one music lesson of any kind in my 41 year old bones. After about three years of practice and relentless singing in karaoke bars around the NYC area, I was ready and so my girlfriend Doreen (my wife now) and I started a band called Strange Brew. (Cool name right!) We did an Eric Clapton Tribute because people thought I was Slowhand. At the time, if I was in a blues club in NYC, people would be tugging on Doreen's arm, asking her if I was in fact, EC. It was bizzare and it was fun. The important piece here is this, when we advertised an Eric Clapton tribute, the band had to deliver and I had to deliver vocally. And we did. Here's a video, which surfaced on YouTube from a rehersal in 1994:

We played all over the NYC doing about 100 shows from 1994-1998. The last show I did as a front man for a rock cover band was in 2000 with the band being called The Strange Brew Rock-n-Roll Review. There was a new line-up, new songs and new look, here's a poster from this version of the band.

As my consulting business began to grow I needed another creative outlet and so I decided to take on the sport of triathlon by following the same path I chose for music. That is, I declared that I wanted to become a triathlete to myself and to others and then began the process by learning. Again, I was a total novice in a new world, so I enrolled in a triathlon training camp in Florida in the spring of 2007. And so began a quest that I'm still very much engaged in. To the right is a photo from the camp in Florida; to the left, a photo from the Philadelphia Triathlon which I came in first place (age group) this past year.

What does all this have to do with sales, customer service, management and leadership?

In music as with sports a good coach will break down what you need to learn into bite size activities which you need to practice over and over and over and over... until you have embedded the new skill into your nervous system and it is now literally part of you. You own it. Musically, when it's show time, there is no time to think about the song, you need to 'be the song'. It's much the same in triathlon and other sports. When the race starts, it's too late to be practicing because it's show time. All your moves, swimming, running and biking as well as the two transitions, need to be totally programmed into your body and your nervous system.

One of the main reasons I started Molloy BDG in 2001 was because it became very clear to me after having worked with some amazing vocal coaches and athletic trainers that in the world of business, sales people, CSRs, managers and leaders, simply don't know what to practice. I mean where do you begin to practice leadership skills or how to handle 'inbound' sales calls or 'irate' customers?

Stay tuned and I'm going to get into the way we break down each of these disciplines into bite sized linguistic 'acts' or 'moves' which make learning possible in a new and exciting way.

See you next week!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Knowing that you are blind... is a start

We know what we know and we don't know what we don't know. And sometimes we know that we don't know but we pretend to know.

In my blog today I want to put forth the proposition that coming to grips with the fact that we don't know an awful lot is liberating and potentially very powerful for learning. The fact that I'm blogging is a great example.

So here's my story about learning, language and learning to blog.

Blogging has been around for years however I've been missing the point. I've been blind to the possibility of what blogging could be. I would hear about all the people blogging everywhere and I was really jealous. I felt that I was missing a big part of communication, or so it seemed. So I made a decision to find out what all the fuss was about. Why are people into blogging, what's the big deal? What's it all about?

How blind was I about blogging. I was totally clueless about it. I just didn't resonate in any way with the practice. It made absolutely no sense to me and at the same time, since everyone was into it, I began to allow my curiosity to get the better of me.

So how did I get into blogging... finally? I declared (linguistic act) that I was blind about it. I admitted it to myself and my writing team. I started having conversations with others because since everyone was doing it, I felt something was there and I needed to learn what it was.

I spoke at length with Deidra Lookingbill, our very smart director of communications and she was very useful and supportive. I looked at blogs on line and discovered that I wasn't interested in blogs from companies. I came to this conclusion because I wasn't interested in what companies thought about... I mean, companies don't even think. Companies consist of a network of people and it's the people I'm interested in. Then I had my conversation with my running friend Meghan who simple said that she writes about her passions in life. At that point it went clunk for me. Was it really as simple as writing about what I'm passionate about?

First I am interested in people and what their passions were. I think it's why some of the social networking web sites are so popular. At least my experience with Facebook, which I maintain for my family and my hobbies, would confirm this. When you look at my Facebook page, it's about family, music and athletics... my passions and my social network is built around

Having achieved a breakthrough about blogging was the result of admitting I didn't know and about having conversations with people who already got it.

While all this is great and I'm happy I've learned and begun to blog, there's a bigger picture. A much bigger picture which I'll explain like this. Blogging is a simple example of me being blind to something. However the practice of blogging is mainstream, it's out there in public view and it was certainly all around me. In my face so to speak.

What do we do about the things that we don't know we don't know? Now that's an interesting question.

In a way we are back to the beginning again. We know what we know and there is a much bigger world we don't know and we don't even know that we don't know. What do we do with that?

Because things are changing so much in the world these days, I've dedicated this coming year to education. That is, I've declared myself open to new ideas, new relationships and new ways of thinking. What does all this mean for me;

1. I've hired a personal coach to work with me for the next six months, beginning on Oct 14th.
2. I've been elected to a cabinet position of a group call the ODC (Ontological Design Group). I will be the Education Chairman for the next couple of years.
3. I'm hiring a professional triathlon coach for this coming season.
4. I'm reading more every week.
5. I've declared myself open to Learning in general.

In closing, being open to being open is a good way to sum it up.

Till next time.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blindness - You don't know what you don't know

It's official, I'm a blogger!

I've resisted and was confused about the nature and purpose of blogging until I met with a fellow runner at a social event in NYC about three weeks ago. Now I'm a blogger and am clear about what I'm doing and why.

Here's what I learned while out having some fun with my fellow runners and the simplicity of my breakthrough makes me laugh.

Here it is folks, are you sitting down? My friend Meghan told me that she writes about her passions in life, running and cooking. And so I started reading her blog and I was immediately transformed and I could see what I needed to write about. It was an ah ha moment!

I'm passionate about the fact that we live in language and we forget about it all the time. I'm also passionate about fitness and health. So those are the two things I'll be writing about as I turn into a serious blogger.

Of course there are sub-topics galore and I'll be getting into that on a regular basis, but for now, for this first blog, I'm content to declare that I'm no longer blind in the domain of blogging and I'm excited about what the future has in store for me in this area.

Tomorrow's topic... a continued discussion about other areas of blindness and opportunities for learning.