In the comedy movie Bellboy, Jerry Lewis is in a double role. In one role, he plays himself, and in the other role, he plays Stanley, a bellboy, who runs into trouble by making mistakes. While Stanley is causing trouble, you don't see him talking to anyone. We find out why at the end.
At the end of the movie, the hotel manager, Mr. Novak, barges into a meeting that the bellboys are having to discuss what action to take against some hotel policy they are not happy with.
Mr. Novak confronts Stanley since he was standing, and about to say something. Mr. Novak assumes that Stanley is the ring leader and starts yelling at him for being a screw-up. Stanley denies it by violently shaking his head. Mr. Novak has had enough of Stanley's shenanigans and asks, "What's a matter with you? Can't you talk?"
Stanley, after a brief pause, calmly replies, "Certainly I can talk. I suspect I can talk as well as any other man, Mr. Novak."
The manager is surprised and asks Stanley, "In that case, how is it that we have never heard you talk before?"
Stanley replies, "Because no one ever asked me." And he leaves the meeting whistling, and the movie comes to an end. The message is clear that we can all look very silly when we don't ask. (You can view the video of that scene on YouTube.)
In the movie, Stanley did not see the need to talk since no one ever asked. Now the movie Bellboy is a comedy, and we can have a good laugh since we know this can only happen in movies.
Are you sure about that?
This often happens in life and business. We are all guilty of it. And we look silly when it happens to us.
I will give you one example from business that David Cote, former CEO of Honeywell, writes about in his excellent book, "Winning Now, Winning Later." He cites a story of not asking when he was working at GE.
GE had developed Advantium ovens that combined the capabilities of a microwave oven and heat lamps of a conventional oven. But the question is how to make it work in the same size as a microwave oven. The marketing people came up with a way to do it with two doors, but it would have been clumsy for users.
Cote, who was running GE's appliance business, asked a technology guy if it was possible to have one cavity in the oven that could emit both microwaves and heat lamps using a switch? After thinking briefly, the technology guy said, "Yeah, we can do that."
The marketing guy was taken back and asked the technology guy, "Why the hell didn't you tell us months ago when we were first concepting this product?" The technology guy said, "You never asked." Cote gives this example to make a point that many companies struggle with communication between marketing and technology.
So we are all like people who interacted with Stanley in the movie, Bellboy. They just assumed he could not talk. They were wrong. They never asked.
The first rule of communication is to: Just Ask, Don't Assume.
Jay Oza is an author, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on higstakes stage whether it's for a job interview, a sales presentation or a high-stakes speech. He is the author of a practical book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. You can get this book on Amazon for 99 cents for limited time. Please download the free speech checklist that you can use to help you create a winning speech for any situation.
Please contact him if you would like to have a two 75 minute coaching session on job interviewing or high-stakes speaking. If you are interested in inviting him to give a talk on job Interviewing or high-stakes speaking. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.