Seth Godin's post - The Talking Pad - highlights a practice that I've been using for years.
Zig Ziglar taught me about the most powerful way to use a yellow legal pad. He calls it a "talking pad."
When you're in a small meeting (you and one or two other people) it's awkward to use a laptop or Powerpoint, because it destroys the intimacy of the discussion. Basically, it says, "I'm going to talk to the screen and you can watch, okay?"
The alternative is to use a thick pen or marker and a legal pad.
This is how my Impact Leadership Guides were created.
Drawing on a notepad like this is a visualization process. It does two things. First, it provides people a process of idea development that promotes growing awareness. Second, it provides a visual reference point for people to remember later.
A "talking pad" or a conversation guide provides a way to visualize change. When people view the Transition guide, they can visualize the gap that exists between where they are and where they see themselves being in the future. Once they see it, then they can begin to act on it.
Almost everyone I meet, I take a couple minutes to introduce them to these conversation guides. Why do I do this? More than anything is that it makes for a better conversation. After a quick, 90 second overview, I ask,
"What is the most daunting situation you are facing right now?"
They tell me a story, and I ask,
"Is this a Idea, Relationship or Structure issue?"
They identify one of them, and then we talk through how each of the Three Dimensions actually can contribute to a solution. I'm constantly amazed at how often this sequence can take place in five short minutes.
I'm not a professional artist. Far from it.
But by learning to think like one I am learning how to communicate better with people.
You can too.
Helping people visualize solutions is the first step in helping them bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be.
One alternative to the "talking pad" is to use a small white board with dry-erase markers.
A couple years ago, I went on a trip with my daughter to tour areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Before the trip, I learned that one of the women on the trip was deaf. So, I packed my little white board and markers in my computer bag to help us communicate better. It made a huge difference because I didn't know sign language, and we both new how to write and draw. The "talking white board" broke down the communication barrier that existed between us. It also help to include the rest of the group in our communication with her.
I found over time that I was repeating images and connections on my "talking pad' so regularly that a patterns of meaning had emerged. From that awareness came the desire to formalize the diagrams into conversation guides. I use Microsoft Visio to create the diagrams that I use to visualize complex ideas.
Creating visualization tools is a very good way of learning to think clearly.
Diagramming the relation of ideas is a challenge. Instead of having to think only in the typical left to right, top to bottom manner that writing sentences require, treat the communication of your ideas as a work of art, illustrating connections between them. If you can learn to do this, you will also learn to think more quickly because the connections present in real life situations become much more obvious.
I've had a lot of fun learning how to think in this manner. And learning to communicate with people by drawing pictures and diagrams opens up avenues of awareness that simply talking does not do. I encourage you get your "talking pad" or white board out and start drawing. You'll find that it will transform your ability to think, to communicate and to relate to people more effectively.
Morning Update: After writing the above last night, I woke this morning to part two of Seth's notepad chronicles. This is also a very good idea. I works well with the Impact Leadership Guides. That's the point, in conversation you write on them. It captures the essence of the conversation. Write on them, when you describe each transition point, identify the how each leadership dimension contributes to the desired impact, and answer each of the Five Questions. And if you are giving the charts to the other person, take a picture of what you've written down so you too have a visual reference of the conversation.
Read both of Seth's posts and then start doing it.
White Board p[hoto credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/collinanderson/2886338586/