Here’s another potpourri blog for you all:

Speaking for San Diego’s Project Management Institute

I just landed a video speaking engagement for the San Diego chapter of the Project Management Institute. My chosen topic is Five Top Communication Tips for Project Managers.

I have written about the downsides of videoconferencing, although it is, at present, safer than in-person meetings. The upside is that I can speak to groups anywhere in the world, and this is one example. While speaking about communication skills, I will also use my skills to keep the audience engaged, not losing interest, as so often happens in video conferences. Specifically, I will interrupt my talk about every 10-15 minutes and give the audience some type of participative activity. For example, I might ask them to think of a time when they tried to tell somebody something over and over, but the other person didn’t get it. I will invite them to share, and I will demonstrate how to alter what they tried to say in that past event so that the other person might better understand.

Looking for Options

Here’s an amazing story of survival that came about through the efforts of a person in a desperate situation and the coincidence of a man with a very unusual hobby.

Rene Compean became hopelessly lost while hiking off trail in mountains. The day was waning, the temperature dropping, the winds whipping. He really believed he was going to die, but he kept thinking, casting about for anything he might do to help himself. He periodically climbed higher when he could summon the strength, to more visible from the air, using a charred stick from a campfire to write SOS on rocks along the way.

He only had 10% battery life left on his phone. He took two pictures and texted them to a friend. Only one of the pictures got through, the less helpful one, a close shot of his legs beside some rocks. The friend send the picture to the LA County Sheriffs Dept., which in turn, tweeted, asking if local hikers could identify the location.

Amazingly, Ben Kuo, who received the tweet, loved looking for where photos were taken. After narrowing his search to the area near where Compean’s car was spotted, he used satellite images to find the type of rocks in the photo, and so, the approximate location of the lost hiker. From there, a rescue helicopter was able to spot and retrieve Compean.

Compean’s actions might seem far afield from persuasion, consensus building, and related communication skills. In fact, however, the two have a common mindset or approach to problems. In my interactional skill set, we begin with interests, what people ultimately want to achieve. The hiker’s main interest was survival. Thus, a key second interest was getting found.

When our first idea for achieving an interest won’t work for another party, or their first idea for achieving their interest won’t work for us, we look for other options. Compean looked for survival options. Before using up a precious bit of battery life, he looked for other means of communication and found the charred stick. He took time to think about how to use his 10% phone battery life.

Of course, a seemingly miraculous chain of events also happened. Kuo happened to see the sheriff’s tweet, to live so near that he recognized the type of rock, and to have special location-finding skills. But Compean’s text set them in motion. He could use up his remaining battery life, or get prepared to die. So why not try what he could? We see unbelievably awful things happening in the news, why not unbelievably good things, miracles?

Fortunately, you neither must nor should wait until you’re staring death in the face to begin practicing this problem-solving mindset and approach. Begin practicing on small problems, and you will find yourself building more mutually satisfactory consensuses in major consensus seeking endeavors.

Bert the Palm Tree (and his siblings)

Are you wondering about the image for this post? In the great Texas freeze in February, all the big palm tree fronds froze and eventually had to be removed. But, even then, new green growth was shooting up from the centers of the tops of the trees. The result reminded me of Bert the Muppet with his narrow forehead and little tuft of hair sticking up. And if you look carefully, in the bulbous part of the tree, you will see more new fronds already coming out where the old ones were cut. They look like little green hands with more than five fingers.

Another miracle, the miracle of renewal and regrowth.

When have you used problem-solving skills in an unusual way?