Results Every Time You Talk

The “Delta” Model

Interview with Dan Sapp by Brad Collins, Brand Strategist from Group C in New Haven, CT

Brad: You’ve told me that the “Delta” model is about deepening relationships and that communication can’t simply be about conveying information, because that in and of itself doesn’t deepen a relationship. Can you say more about that?

Dan: The fundamental premise behind the “Delta” communication model is that the only reason we share ideas in business at all is because there are other people we need to engage in some process. That’s why I keep talking about this idea of “the other.” As leaders, we have to remember that we are talking to and for somebody else. We’re not talking to or for ourselves, or at least we shouldn’t be. If we’re going to have impact, and we have to if we’re leading, then we have to get “others” to be different in a useful way when we are through. I love the word “leadership.” It really means getting people to follow you. Leading isn’t telling others what to do. It’s connecting with others in a way that encourages them to follow. I have this image of real leaders as people who walk down a road and trust that when they look back, folks will still be right behind them.

We get others to follow by creating connections that feel valuable to them. You can have a one-person business where the only person you have to convince is yourself, but these tend to be pretty short conversations. But, when there are other people who have to take action, and take the right action, then those people have to act in a way that reflects the values of the organization, the company, the brand, etc. I mean, it’s not OK for folks to go out and just take random action. They have to take action that creates value for the company if leadership is doing its job. So, as soon as you’re in a relationship where you have to influence other people’s behavior and values, then you’re “doing” leadership. And, that’s all about communicating with those other people and connecting on purpose.

I’m more and more convinced that people follow those they feel connected to. We crave these connections. For many, using this framework for evaluating business communication is a big paradigm shift. I’m trying to get people to recognize and own that, as leaders, we’re trying to influence other people when we talk to them. It’s never enough to simply exchange information. As leaders, who we are, and what we say, has to have impact and make something happen. From a strategic perspective, we don’t gather people together to simply exchange data. And to me, that’s why it is such a crime against good business to bring people together and create these opportunities to connect, and then turn out the lights and read notes that narrate a “presentation.”

Look, there are times when it’s completely valid for a human being to simply want to talk and have other people tend to their needs and listen. Sometimes we crave that so badly we pay for it. But that’s not what we’re talking about in a business situation. So, the “Delta” model is a way of thinking about the result you want, the action you want taken, and the change you’re after through other people and teams, and throughout organizations. Part of the power of the “Delta” model is in recognizing just how significant it is to start your planning process with identifying the change you’re after in other people. Then, you choose ideas that connect with them. Like in mathematics, the triangular delta symbol reflects the result of some chemical, physical, or mathematical process. And, this is not unlike what’s happening in business, where we make intellectual and physical connections to make things change in useful ways.

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