How I found my voice or what is that awful screeching sound?!

by guest blogger Ramon Padillo Jr.

findyourvoiceI am writing to you today because someone was kind enough to say that my communications style was “effective and distinctive.” I am taking that as a compliment but now that I re-read that –hmm? In any case, I would like to share with you why my communications come across as they do and why they tend to work for me – both of which are a product of training and experience.

Back in the Stone Age (1987), I was a fresh young MBA student at the University of Louisville straight out of my undergraduate studies in a class called “Leadership” taught by T. Ballard Morton. Mr. Morton has been an Executive in Residence at the College of Business and Public Administration of the University of Louisville since 1983. He is a retired high-powered business executive and chairman of several boards and a graduate of Yale. Teaching the class on leadership was his way of giving back. I mention all of this because of the impression he made on me.

In his class, we read a management book a week (How to Get your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, A Whack on the Side of the Head, and other management best sellers at the time). We had to write a one-page memo to him for each book as if he was the CEO and we were management, explaining to him why we wasted our time reading the book and why he should too. He was quite the taskmaster and my memos often bled red. That said, he drove home the points: 1) Your audience is busy, 2) Grab their attention and make it personal, 3) Say what you need your audience to do –right away!

I took his teachings to heart and entered the business world. Fast forward a couple of years and I end up teaching classes as an adjunct professor at U of L and writing for the publication Tech Republic. I quickly learned that his admonitions for writing worked the same for speaking and also discovered that the best way for me to grab a reader’s attention was through humor.

My classes enjoyed the fact that my lectures were less structured than most and they felt that I was addressing each person individually. I did the same with my blogs for Tech Republic. I knew that if I could grab my audience quickly and then make them feel personally engaged, I would hold their attention throughout the article. “Flip your writing on its head to communicate more effectively” is an article I wrote in 2007 that still gets reads today.

Lastly, unless I need to use the power of my position, like when I am complaining to a vendor, I write and speak as a regular Joe. Stodgy and stuffy writing will usually get you thrown in the trash–unless it’s a subpoena–and who wants one of those!

I hope this little jaunt through my memory has been useful for you. I will add that my communication style may also be a little bit innate. I can remember distinctly in high school giving a speech on parent’s day and leading off at the podium with “Do you have VD?” I had everyone’s rapt attention.

Ramon Padillo Jr. is the Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. MnSCU ITS collaborates with campus staff, faculty, presidents and the system office to meet their information needs and the needs of external customers and stakeholders by providing quality, timely, reliable information technology services. Ramon and his communication insights were highlighted in an earlier post by Dee Anne. You can follow Ramon at @R_Padilla_Jr

Todd Thorsgaard


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