I am just old enough to have worked in a company where one addressed one’s bosses with the formality of Mr or Mrs or Ms.  Communication was extremely formal and apart from anger or frustration, it was unusual to use any emotion in a business environment conversation.

Apart from the ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ part, sadly, far too little has changed in our communication styles. Business leaders still tend to be too stiff and facts based. Because of this they are unable to truly inspire the kind of commitment from their staff that they would deeply like.

I imagine this will change in time, maybe when the present leadership layer has either retired or been replaced. However, the trouble is that in some organizations the level below the leaders (N minus 1, 2 and even 3) are still tending to mimic their bosses’ communication style.

Most Saturday mornings on BBC Radio 4, there is a five-minute program called ‘inheritance tracks’. Each week a guest selects one song from their past (something that reminds them of their childhood or student days) and another that they would like to pass on to the next generation.  Some of the guests are able to weave extremely moving stories around their chosen tracks. They invoke powerful images of what life was like in their world and then, in an instant, switch to what song they would want to leave for the next generation and why.

This week I ran an ‘inheritance tracks’ workshop as part of a three-day transitional leadership training.  The results were staggering. Not only did it bring the participants (who hitherto hardly knew one another) much closer together as a group of people, it also demonstrated just how tough emotionally they found the exercise.

Over the three days we worked inheritance tracks into our learnings. We studied powerful speakers and we studied each other, observing when things worked and when they didn’t. We prepared, we practiced and in just three days every one of the group had reached a significantly higher level. After all, how can you possibly take people somewhere other than where they are headed if you cannot convince them with an authentic and inspiring speech?  Logic and graphs and threats never won campaigns or delivered sustainability.

Have a good week,