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We can always learn from the best.

I was distressed to learn of the death on Feb. 27 of William F. Buckley Jr. He was one of my favorite writers. They claim he has written over 5,000 columns and more than 50 books, many of which I have enjoyed. He also had a long-running TV show, "Firing Line."

Whether you agreed with him or not, you had to admit he had one of the finest minds in the country and what a command of the language. Quite often, I would have to look some of his words up in the dictionary, and there aren't many writers who cause me to do that.

Coincidentally, I've been working with colleagues in Canada to improve performance at a company in California. When I shared a critical e-mail with my team for their input before sending it to the client, one guy told me it was too wordy!

Interestingly, he writes only a few cryptic lines, and they're usually loaded with spelling and grammatical errors. Even worse, I often have to call to see what he's trying to say; he's not very good at articulating his messages clearly.

He's a program manager with responsibility for several products across several companies in several countries. I can't imagine how he can be effective without better writing skills.

He's not great over the phone either, and the time zones really create a problem, if you have to do everything over the phone.

Now, I'm no Buckley, so I wouldn't expect him to emulate me, but why wouldn't he try to emulate dear old Bill or some other great writer? Everybody wants to throw a football like Tom Brady or swing a golf club like Tiger Woods. Why don't we look to the very best in whatever we're trying to do, and see what we can learn from them?

In every organization, communication (and the lack thereof) seems to he the single biggest problem. Being able to express yourself verbally and in writing are critical skills, yet so many people, who are deficient in this area, don't even realize they have a problem. They want to bring everyone else down to their level. Why wouldn't they pick one of the greats in that specialty and emulate him or her?

In golf, football and other sports, we expect the very best. Mediocrity just doesn't breed success in sports or in our competitive business environment, and I'm amazed so many discriminating sports enthusiasts are so willing to settle for such poor performances with many of their business skills. Why don't they see the correlation?

We can even learn from people we don't like. For instance, I think very little of Bill Clinton, but I have to admire his charisma. He has a real talent for public speaking and making people feel important; few can warm up a group as well as he.

I imagine if I were to speak to my friend about his writing problem, I'd hear something like, "Well, I'm an engineer, not an English major," or some such thing.

The very best engineer in the world can't do much without involving other people. The very best ideas and the most ingenuous solutions can seldom be implemented alone. When we have to involve other people, it's difficult to get their agreement and support if we can't communicate what we're trying to do effectively.

The larger the group we have to reach, the tougher it gets. I've done a fair amount of troubleshooting, and I have found the root cause of many problems to be simply a miscommunication of some sort. It starts as a simple misunderstanding that someone does something with. In turn, someone else takes it to the next level and so on. The first think you know, the small miscommunication has compounded itself into a major problem.

Physics, calculus, chemistry and other engineering disciplines are all important, but their value is limited without good communication.

Farewell Bill! You've been accused of many things; I doubt being a poor communicator was ever one of them. I

Ronald J. Bourque is a consultant and speaker from Windham. He has had engagements throughout the United States and in 12 countries in Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871; fax, 603-894-6539,e-mail,
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Title Annotation:IMPROVING PERFORMANCE; Obituary
Author:Bourque, Ron
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 25, 2008
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