Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How Do You Adjust Your Style to Your Audience?



Today I'm in Oklahoma City, and spent the day in a dog food factory.
No joke.  My client is a giant producer of dog food, and I was working with the factory workers teaching them how to be more innovative in their jobs.
I spent the good part of an hour taking a tour of the plant.  To see this operation in full swing is a marvel in modern manufacturing.  Working in shifts round the clock, 300 people produce 72,000 pallets of dog food every month.    That's a lot of chow.
Making dog food is tough stuff.  These folks work for a living.  The plant environment is dimly lit, loud and reeks of slurry (a stew like smell of fish and meat).   
In the last two weeks, I worked with bank executives, project managers at a high-tech firm, and oil and gas engineers.  Collectively, you could call them "knowledge workers".  Most are highly educated in a traditional sense.
These guys today make pet food.  Most didn't plan on ending up in these jobs, but they're there.  Some have been doing this for more than 30 years. 
They are a different audience.   They don't spend a lot of time in meetings and in training. 
When I spoke to them, I made sure to change my style:
  • Keep it simple.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Be more direct.
In "keeping it simple", I didn't treat them like they were stupid.   A good rule of leadership:  never talk down to people.  They choose to follow you out of respect, not threat.   It's just as important to connect with these folks as anyone else.
These guys (I say guys because 95% were men) are not stupid.   You should see the complexity of their operation.  
It's just different.  The key to succeed is to adjust to the differences, and build rapport.  Find the connections, the common ground, and to speak their language.
I had a great time with them.
Today, the differences from my "usual" audiences were vivid. 
What different audiences do you address?  How do you adjust your style?

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