How your language as a leader can help you develop a culture of excellence.
Welcome to episode 19 of the Enterprise Excellence podcast. Today I am speaking with Mr Kevin Eyre, the founder and director of SoundWave Global. Kevin has had an extensive career in the field of Enterprise Excellence, leading and consulting in change management within some of our largest manufactures, finance institutions and supply chains. Kevin talks to us about the power of leadership language in transformation programs.
Let's get into the episode.
Kevin's keen interest in learning and language did not begin with early schooling, as he did not perform well within that setting. At that time, institutional and social expectations seemed to groom students for a career in an industrial environment, i.e., a factory. This cycle was hard for many students to change. Learning for Kevin improved significantly later on in his life, and when he showed more of an interest in academia, his teachers responded. He observed fellow students and those who seemed to benefit socially from education. How is it that some people enjoy and benefit from education, and some don't? And how does this impact future career choices? This change in teachers' behaviour and content changed the trajectory of Kevin's life.
Kevin's higher education focused on politics and social economics. Kevin quickly realized that a love of language and the meaning of words and prose inspired him. He became interested in how we construct meaning during conversations with each other. Working life began with very academic, and gentile consulting fostering his love of language conventions.
A baptism of fire followed when Keven moved to a male-dominated, large aerospace business. The use of expletives during conversations was a part of the culture. Managers would give employees an aggressive dressing-down every week. What were the negative workforce behaviours as a result of this? This environment provided Kevin with many opportunities to reflect on his learning and language philosophy.
It was quite a difficult transition for Kevin, but he realized that his placement coincided with a broader narrative looking at the sustainability of the business. The historical reliance upon aggressive behaviours and heavy government subsidization was changing. A new type of leader and purpose was slowly emerging. Three bold change programs were run, with unrealistic expectations of rapid success. Human beings only have control over small changes, and this idea was absent. Any successful change cannot happen overnight: it takes time to plan, run small rapid cycles of experimentations, check, reflect, adjust and plan again.
Soundwave began as Kevin reflected on his personal history of involvement with organizations. The trigger point was seeing a similar scenario play out within a Lean context with two different consequences. In the first scenario, an operator made a mistake, and the leader berated the operator. Criticism and punishment wrapped up with the idea that I (the leader) know that I should be helping you here. It just didn't land.
In the second scenario, the team leader approaches team member, but instead of criticizing, quietly reassures and shows interest in the understanding the root cause of the problem by using questions. The team member relaxes and starts talking. The critical point of difference was the conversation, not the behaviour.
The Soundwave program is built on the fundamental belief that language is a precision instrument. The way that we use the tool of language can have highly predictable results. This knowledge alone does not override people's natural habits and tendencies, however. People often continue to speak ineffectively if they do not have options available that make them think, what could I say instead?
Soundwave helps people raise their consciousness as they begin to look at and hear how they talk. It teaches people to look at their language's effect on others and look at themselves differently. The program also encourages people to develop a broader range of language and fluidity.
Kevin provides us with a practical example of a particular leader who did evolve his language style and how he went about this. Humorousness played an important role here. Although humour currently sits outside of Soundwave, Kevin would like to explore its relevance to the workplace and relationships in general.
Kevin is also exploring how to bring Soundwave concepts to the broader community to improve relationships and build a healthier society.
We can access the Soundwave website for some products to help personally with that. Kevin would also like to look at the education sector and create more inspired kids to make good choices in their development with inspired teachers' conversations. But also, to level the experiences of state and independent students.
I guess that we can finish this conversation with Kevin by asking: How can we get better at our God-given conversational ability?
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Book that Kevin mentioned during the episode?
02:10min Inside an organization, what's helping or hindering performance and what's the relationship between performance and learning? And you don't have to be around it very long before you see that, at an intuitive level there are quite strong connections. Where learning is poor, performance seems to be poor. Where learning is good, performance seems to be better.
19:49min Trying to shift a large organization to become something different is never going to happen in a very short space of time. And it might require lots of different types of experimentation to find out actually what is going to work and what is not going to work.
24:47min constantly be encouraging them, for themselves, if it's just a sort of one on one learning process, well, what are you going to do and what's your experiment? What are you going to test out?
29:16min behaviour is too broad a concept. Actually, what goes on inside behaviour is interaction. What goes on inside interaction is talk, is conversation. And when you understand the dynamics of the conversation, then the behaviour that you are seeking to achieve becomes replicable. But without it, you know what you need to do, but not quite how to do it.
31:02min language is a precision instrument.
33.02min if we got 100 people in a room, and somebody is presenting. Their presentation should ordinarily take about 5 minutes. But actually, the person is continuing to drone on after 20 minutes. In technical Soundwave terms, we say this persons moved from the voice of articulation to the voice of verbosity. Ok? Waffling on, droning on. The question is, what's the effect on the 100 people in the room?
49:41min we don't have to change who we are. We just have to become even more skilful inside a capability that we all already have. Nobody came into the planet with the inability to ask questions.
53:30min what would be a better outcome for you and for the individual? uh, oh you know they do things for themselves; they have ... Ok. So, what's going to drive that? What, not giving them the answer? Precisely. What can you do instead?
56:20min but language skilfully used will bring those things together. And it becomes possible for an individual to feel that they're really acknowledged whilst they're really stretched. That's the perfect combination.
It really sounds like the Soundwave model from Kevin can help with that. I've been through this myself in the past and have found it of great use.
A key tactic to help is to explore your language for a day. Take that moment to think about each conversation you have, and how you could have done that differently to get a different outcome. It can be difficult to do, especially in the high pace and pressure of day to day work, but it can create amazing results. If you can find those one or two things that really help you adjust your language, and through that, create better outcomes. Kevin for an encouraging and practical conversation. We wish you all the best for your expansion of Soundwave into the greater community.
I hope that you all gained something from that episode.
Bye for now.