The Lesson of the Spelling Bee
By Mark Inboden
I recently attended my son’s elementary school spelling bee.* First off, all of the kids standing in front of all their classmates, teachers and parents in the auditorium took a lot of bravery. Then, add the pressure of spelling! Second, I think it really teaches some great life skills such as public speaking and thinking on your feet.
What really struck me as I watched each participant was the way they asked for additional information when they received a word to spell. Each time a word was given, they asked for the definition of the word, the word's origin, any alternate pronunciations, the use of the word in a sentence, and then they requested that the word be pronounced again. The students exhausted all the facts that they were allowed to use to help them successfully spell that word.
What if we treated our communications more like an “ongoing” spelling bee? In business, we could solve a lot of problems by just asking for more information. I think we feel we already “know” the “word” (in this case, the problem, request for information, project status, etc.), and don’t ask for the “word” to be repeated, used in a sentence, or if there is another definition. Try asking your customers or employees for more facts the next time they ask you to spell a “word." You might end up spelling a lot better!
* Full disclosure: My son took fourth place of which his family is really proud.
Mark is President and CEO of UCEC.