For the want of pink socks...

Two recent events…

A bad morning. I woke up late to cranky kids who couldn't even decide on a flavor of pop-tarts when I had given in to my convenience over their health. The whole get-to-school system got completely fubar when I had to shave and dress with the cell in my ear to deal with some work crisis that I never really understood. Finally, after clothes and shoes fly back and forth from the top of the stairs to the foyer and back, I focused an inappropriate level of my anxiety on Emma finally getting her coat on so we can get in the car. I helped the boys, grabbed some coffee. No coat on the girl. I ask again. Get the boys in the car, buckled, back inside… No. Coat. On. The. Girl. I lose it more than I should, “Why didn’t you put your coat on yet!?!?”

And she stands toe-to-toe, gathering all of the righteous anger a 5 going on 6 going on 15 year old girl can muster and screams, “BECAUSE. YOU. DIDN’T. GET. ME. MY. PINK. SOCKS!”

I fall back on my butt on the steps behind me, open my arms, and give her a huge hug as she starts to cry. Dammit, she is right. Dammit, I am an ass.

A good afternoon. We are pushing hard at work. We are a Dairy Queen swirl of internal and external needs for change and everyone on my team wears the goofy paper hats I remember the soft serve folks wearing at the DQ next to Pennington Field back in the day. Not everyone around us, however, is down with the change. After a few months of a Godzilla vs. Rodan struggle of old versus new, a much needed infusion of cooler heads stepped up with a surprisingly effective and energizing half day session on managing change.

I am generally a pretty cold skeptic toward what often seem like scripted and overt business-psychology ruses, but in this case, breakthroughs were made. The key moment for me came later in the day when we were discussing how hard it was to get folks to buy into key messages when the resident guru stopped the conversation with an old saw. What you say and how you say it are way, way low on the priority list when crafting strong, effective communications. Start first with what you want the audience to know, feel, and do.

Know. Feel. Do.

Until you have that clear in your own head, you will stumble over what you say and how you say it. As soon as you get that set…gold. KNOW. FEEL. DO.


The one thing I am most trained and purportedly experienced in is communication, on many levels. The one thing, however, that I most consistently screw up and suffer grievous metaphorical head wounds from getting wrong is also…(wait for it)…communication. Home work family friends north south living zombies rocks trees and emerging life forms…I am either on or off when it comes to the words. I don’t do gray here. And I am a poor predictor of when I will actually get it right.


So back to Emma. In the negotiating of that day’s wardrobe, I had bartered approval of her wearing the outfit I had chosen if I would let her swap for the pink socks she had grown to love in the 8 seconds she had been considering her affections for such things. Now, the whole morning ritual includes kids getting dressed and then ceremonially gathering at the bottom of the stairs to put their socks on…together. Then their shoes…together. THEN…their coats. In the tumult of the morning, I had made it known to Emma what I expected. I had even gotten her all worked up about the importance of this grand and mighty task. But, in failing to deliver the pink socks…I had left her unable to do what she knew she needed to do, something she felt she wanted to do. I left her…frustrated. (heh.) Good on her for telling me about it.

Now back to work. Most of us are very good at relaying information. Fact known Here is transferred to the appropriate There…via email or voicemail, or (archaically) memo, or (even more rarely, in person). We deliver facts and dry knowledge with the pompous certainty that the implications are self-evident, that the desires and drives that this little factotum inherently…means…are somehow energizing from the moment they are uttered. That somehow knowing something implies caring about it, that facts imply feelings.

Even in those instances where we get all jazzed about what we are saying, and we get those around us fired up to do something about today’s bit of insight, the whole scene falls flat if there is no sense of what anyone can do about it, whether it is because the path to success is not clear or the value in making the effort just does not seem…worth it. Either way, we flatline.

So, you told someone, but do they give a shit? If they give a shit, do they know what to do about it? If they know what to do about it, do they give enough of a shit to do what needs to be done? And even if they have all that…NOW…do they have what it needs to be done?

Know. Feel. Do. If you are going to say something, anything…what do you want your listeners to know, feel, and do? And have you done what you need to ensure that the next time you say something people will care enough to do it? So you said it, do they give a shit? If they do, have you done your share to get it done?

Even if it is just getting the pink socks you promised out of the dryer…

1 comment:

  1. i was torn between "interesting" and "amusing" so i went with "amusing" because this was written in such a way that i could make a movie out of it in my brain. i've never met you or your kids, but you & emma played leading roles, and you both won oscars.

    the message was great. i needed this this morning. and FWIW, i think you're probably awesome at what you do and that includes being a dad whether you realize it or not.