Remember, It Was Once Someone’s Good IdeaMany, if not most good ideas are not good forever. Over time they lose the luster they once had. They become irrelevant and ineffective.
The universal danger we all face, is that we get so comfortable with what we do that never recognize that moment when it no longer serves the why. So it is good to periodically take a look at why we do what we do. But it is important to remember that they were once good ideas. Someone once fought to get the idea implemented that you are now trying to change.
When we want to change the status quo, we need to approach it from the knowledge that someone had a good reason to make the decision they made. We should honor that. If we approach it in a way that is adversarial, judgmental or dismissive, we diminish and dishonor ourselves and others.
When advocating a change, we need to be sure we are informed with the thinking behind the decisions of those that have come before us. When we do, we demonstrate that we are:
Reasonable. We see the value in taking advantage of the experience of others.
Rational. We are not seeking change for change sake.
Respectful. We value the opinions of others. It’s not just about us.
People are more likely to look at your vision if they know that you have first taken the time to understand theirs. It promotes trust and creates a connection from which to lead.
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5 Things Smart Risk Takers Do WellTaking Smart Risks, isn’t really about making your next risky decision smarter or safer; it’s about pushing all of your choices to be riskier, but smarter on a daily basis.
We tend to view our choices as risky or safe. Safe is good while risky is well, risky. You’re taking a chance with a risky choice; it could lead to ruin. Sundheim says that view doesn’t capture the essence of what taking a risk is all about. Taking a risk is “exposing oneself to the possibility of loss or injury in the hopes of achieving a gain or reward.” It’s really the reason we would consider taking a risk rather than just playing it safe. It’s not an either/or proposition—safe or risky. But because we perceive it that way, we tend to do all we can to avoid risk and stay in our comfort zone.
Sundheim lists five common dangers of playing it safe for too long:
• You don’t win.
• You don’t grow.
• You don’t create.
• You lose confidence.
• You don’t feel alive.
Are you caught in the comfort zone? Here’s a thought we can all relate to:
Being caught in the comfort zone doesn’t mean that you’re sitting around doing nothing. It’s more nuanced than that. You could be making progress, but not quickly enough. You could be taking chances, but not boldly enough. You could be going out on a limb, but not far enough, and the extra push is what will make a difference.What Sundheim is advocating is a change in our mindset regarding risk. Rather than perceiving risk as negative (“Things may not be perfect now, but they’re not all that bad. If I make a move, things could end up worse. I’d better not risk it.”), we should view it as a balanced focus on both the downside of taking risks and not taking risks (“I’ll regret it if I don’t pursue this thing. I’ve got to find some smart ways to take risks to move it forward.”). A limiting mindset versus a liberating mindset.
The shift from limiting to liberating is “a move from needing total security before moving forward to understanding that you can’t have total security before moving forward.” Between safe and risky is the smart-risk zone.
Smart risk takers consistently do five things well to disrisk whatever they’re up to:
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The Secret to Leadership GrowthThe number one way leaders grow is by listening.
Leadership feels like a talking role, but it is predominately a listening role. That can be hard to accept. It feels counterintuitive. A leadership role often makes us feel like we should be talking all the time; like we’re the most important person in the room. We’re not.
Listening takes us outside our own heads. It gives us a chance to see things from a different perspective. It creates options. It creates the space for serendipity.
Listening takes us beyond our egos. Without it we begin to miss very elementary things. When we miss elementary things we crash and burn in a self-made morass of complexity. Listening clarifies.
Listening renews and refreshes. Without it we get stuck and tedious.
When we help others grow, we grow. Leaders guide people and then listen. Listening is the best way to turn someone from a victim (of your talk) to a supporter of your idea. Listening gives others the chance to take ownership.
Listening is the catalyst for making individuals a community.
Listening creates the space for leadership.
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In This World, You Can’t NOT Communicate!
This is a guest post by David Grossman, author of You Can’t NOT Communicate. Grossman says that there are very few things in this world that are neutral. Everything you do, and everything you say, communicates something. And, importantly, everything you don’t do, and everything you don’t say, communicates, too.
In our world – and in the world of business – virtually nothing is neutral. Sharks swim to stay alive – even while resting or sleeping. A carefully wrapped present says something quite different than a present that’s not wrapped so nicely.
Similarly, everything you do or don’t do, and everything you say or don’t say, communicates something to those around you.
As a leader this is vital because all eyes are on you – all the time.
People read into your comments and actions. Who gets recognized in a meeting regularly? Did it look like your mind was wandering during that conversation? Is your door often closed? Do you smile? Everyone creates perceptions of you based on your actions and their experiences and biases.
The reality is – You can’t not communicate.
If that’s the case, you might as well get better at it.
Communicating in business
Effective leaders recognize their ability to achieve results from their direct reports – to generate engagement, to motivate, to get their team headed in the right direction – often succeeds or fails based on their ability to communicate.
Their business results, and their ability to move people to action, are achieved by communicating strategically and doing it well; they are Leader-Communicators.
In business, communication that has meaning is a difference maker. It can be used to build understanding, and make teams and individuals more efficient. It can be used to recognize good work and reinforce critical behaviors. It can be used to coach or mentor one person, or lead organizational change. It can share a vision, inspire confidence, strengthen a business and build a legacy.
Real communication is a differentiator that can make you a business superhero.
Become a “superhero”
It’s not that difficult to be a communication superhero. And when you consider the strengths it offers you as a leader, I’d say it’s relatively easy.
It might not feel that way all the time. In fact, sometimes it feels easier to just say nothing and keep going – but remember by not communicating you actually are communicating.
What does it take to communicate well? Just like any learned skill, practice – simple, consistent practice.
Here are a few tips to practice:
Learn the skill; understand the fundamentals, practice, practice, practice.
You too can be a communication superhero!
Now that you know you can’t not communicate, what are you actually communicating today?
David Grossman, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, is one of America’s foremost authorities on communication and leadership, and a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A two-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group (www.yourthoughtpartner.com), an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy; clients include: Accor, AOL, GlaxoSmithKline, HTC, and McDonald’s.
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Renegades Write the Rules@AmyJoMartin) has written a book about connecting. About being human. Renegades Write the Rules is about how to connect with other people using the medium of social media. But you’ll find you can apply the principles in many other ways too.
She stresses the importance of just being you. Especially when it comes to exposing yourself using social media, that can be an uncomfortable place. “We all have the tendency toward the creation of a veneered version of our brands that we think is more acceptable, more compelling, more marketable to our audience. … Ultimately it makes you less human.”
You begin by using social media to listen; to find out what matters to your audience. And then consistently deliver it.
Importantly she notes, “Being excellent still earns an audience these days, but to keep them and attract more requires giving them something more personal….Without the ability to nurture loyalty through human connection, your brand’s value relies solely on performance.” Let that sink in. People don’t buy your what, they buy your why.
Martin takes you through 8 essential renegade rules using good examples from her own experience and the organizations and people she has worked with like Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock), Shaq (@shaq), and Tony Hsieh (@TonyHsieh). Her philosophy is that “Renegades experiment and fail early so when everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, their best practices are being polished while others’ are just starting to fail. Sometimes it’s not about being the best or smartest; it’s about being the first to try and the first to learn from failure.”
I found all of the chapters helpful, but one of my favorite sections came in the appendix. Martin shares fifteen lessons she wishes she had known from the beginning. Here are eight of them:
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Leading Apple With Steve JobsLeading Apple with Steve Jobs, he writes that “Isaacson’s Steve is not the Steve I knew.” He believes that there has been too much focus on the negative aspects of how Jobs dealt with people and not enough on the positive. “I think,” he writes, “most people who worked for him, including me, would say they did the best work of their lives for him and don’t regret the experience a bit.” While his stories regarding his time with Jobs don’t do much to polish his image, he does bring out aspects of his thinking that undoubtedly have given people the opportunity to feel that in spite of the negative aspects of Jobs' behavior, Apple is where they wanted to be.
When analyzing anything, it always a challenge to pull out the important lesson and learn how to integrate the good without the bad. We are all a complex mix of motivations and behaviors and everything we do seems like an indispensable part of achieving our success (or not). But we can always improve—diminish the negative and emphasize the positive.
It is not unusual for any of us to find ourselves in a position where our intention is admirable but we lack the skill to implement it in the most beneficial way. Frequently, we can find ourselves stuck without alternatives to our own patterns of behavior. As leaders we have to constantly be learning—by reflection and reading about the lives of others—to discover where we could expand our thinking and therefore our options.
Not only does Elliot help us understand why Jobs was the way he was, he does a good job of explaining the development of and reasoning behind much of the Apple mystic that is worth implementing.
Jobs said that “It’s not my job to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways to get resources for the key projects. It’s my job to push the team and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.” Jobs believed that accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, and secrecy, would sustain innovative leadership at Apple.
Getting the right people was as important to Jobs as creating a new product. “When you’re in a startup, the first ten people will determine whether the company succeeds or not.” Elliot says that he learned from Jobs the value of “knowing your own values so well that you can instinctively recognize someone who shares those values.” It would be good to reflect on our own values from this standpoint. Another way of thinking about this would be to consider: if you don’t know why you do what you do, why would anyone want to follow you?
The right people make the difference. “A leader in the Steve Jobs model needs to have a set of lieutenants who can translate his goals and vision into detailed action plans. The success of Apple through the years has largely been due to Steve’s talent for surrounding himself with people who could bear the heat when he wasn’t satisfied, were strong enough to stand up to him when he was wrong, and were able to relay not just his instructions but his commitment, drive, and vision to the crew.”
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Leadership by ChoiceLeadership by Choice, author Eric Papp says it means “making a conscious choice to positively influence those around you by managing yourself and leading others in four areas: communication, leading teams, productivity, and personal development.”
Communication — How well do you listen, ask questions, and speak with influence? How many of our problems are caused by lack of listening?
We listen better to people we like, but we can learn to listen with liking to anyone. What prevents us from doing so is preconceived ideas and ideas that we have about someone. “Sometimes while listening to someone, thoughts flood your mind – “can this person do anything for me?” “I probably won’t like this person,” or “Who likes them anyway?” – influencing how you listen.” Listen with liking.
Leading Teams – How well do you establish trust, healthy conflict, and achieve results with others?
A culture of blame teaches people that they can avert their own responsibility by blaming others. “When you breed and teach a culture of no accountability, it’s very hard to reach anything above mediocrity.” Without accountability you can’t lead. Papp suggests five ways to hold yourself accountable: 1. Don’t overextend yourself; 2. Take action before you speak. Actions speak louder than words; 3. Have an accountability partner; 4. Chart your progress. Write down daily or weekly actions that chart your continual growth; 5. Aim for consistency, not perfection.
Productivity – How well do you spend your time and how focused are you?
You are responsible for being productive. Know where your time is going, plan the day before, focus on high-payoff items, and delegate for results and not the process. (Forcing someone to do things your way is not delegating for results. It makes for a very stressful environment and is also counterproductive.)
Personal Development – What are you doing to develop yourself?
Where do leaders find their inspiration? “When we retreat to silence, we tap into the inner calm that allows us to search for answers.” Lead with silence.
We must learn to deal with stress. Papp suggests that we enjoy silence, create a gratitude list, get your sleep and take naps, allow for mistakes, help someone (giving is a great stress reducer), and make a decision to enjoy life.
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5 Leadership Lessons: EntreLeadership
Dave Ramsey defines EntreLeadership as “the process of leading to cause a venture to grow and prosper.” Entreleaders know how to blend their entrepreneurial passion with servant-like leadership that motivates employees through persuasion instead of intimidation. EntreLeadership is a book about how business works from a practitioner. His advice, on nearly every facet of running a business, is based on solid principles. Here are just a few of his thoughts on leadership:
The very things you want from a leader are the very things the people you are leading expect from you. You must intentionally become more of each of these every day to grow yourself and your business. And to the extent you’re not doing that, you’re failing as a leader.
You want to know what is holding back your dreams from becoming a reality? Go look in your mirror. The good news is, if you’re the problem, you’re also the solution.
How do you begin to foster and live out this spirit of serving your team with strength? Avoid executive perks and ivory towers. Eat lunch with your team in the company lunchroom every day. Get your own coffee sometimes. No reserved parking spots. Look for the little actions you can take that say to your team that while you are in charge, and while you lead from strength, you are all in this together.
While persuasional leadership takes longer and takes more restraint at the time, it is much more efficient over the long haul. Positional leadership doesn’t take as long in the exchange, but you have to do it over and over and over and over.
Too many people in business have abandoned sight of the fact that their team members are humans, they are people. Too many people in business have become so shallow that they are merely transactional, not relational. The people on your payroll are not units of production, they are people. They have dreams, goals, hurts, and crises. If you trample them or don’t bother to engage them relationally you will forever struggle in your operations.
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The 3 Core Elements of Delegation
Without delegation no organization can function effectively. Yet, lack of courage to delegate properly, and the knowledge of how to do it, is one of the most general causes of failure in organizations.
Authority Can Be Delegated
As a leader, you can transfer pieces of your formal authority to another teammate when assigning a task to that person. In essence, you can deputize your teammate to take action on your behalf within the boundaries of the delegated (transferred) authority.
Authority chiefly comes from the power of position. The more authority you have, the greater your ability to delegate higher-level, more meaningful and challenging tasks to others to help them learn, develop, and grow.
Responsibility Cannot Be Delegated, but It Can Be Assigned
As a leader, you can assign responsibility to another teammate in terms of the results that need to be achieved. However, you need to keep in mind that you only assigned responsibility to your teammate.
If your teammate “fouls up the thing royally,” your manager will censure you, not your teammate. In short, you can never fully hand off any of your responsibilities to someone else. Assigned responsibility should be made in terms of the goals or results to be accomplished, not the detailed specifics for doing the job.
Accountability Means Obligation
Accountability is the moral compulsion felt by a teammate to meet the goals and objectives of an assigned task. As a result of accepting a task assignment, your teammate in effect gives you a promise—either expressed or implied—to do her best in carrying out the activities associated with it. Having taken on the task, your teammate is obligated to complete it, and thus is held accountable by you for the results produced.
Adapted from Building Team Power: How to Unleash the Collaborative Genius of Teams for Increased Engagement, Productivity, and Results by Thomas A. Kayser
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Advocacy: How to Champion Ideas and Influence OthersEven a great idea can be stopped.
An idea is like play. It needs a good producer and a good promoter even if it’s a masterpiece. Otherwise the play may never open; or it may open but, for lack of an audience, close after a week.
Daly defines advocacy as “persuading people who matter to care about your issue. It’s about getting listened to, being at the table when decisions are made, being heard by people who make decisions. It’s about facing and overcoming resistance. It is about speaking and writing in compelling ways that make decision makers want to adopt your ideas.”
Advocacy by John Daly, is a comprehensive handbook on influence. He covers the complex factors involved in selling an idea, supported by examples and current research in the fields of persuasion, power relations, and behavior change. Here are some of the ideas he shares:
Communicate Your Idea With Impact: Decide what you want to communicate before you ever start talking. Restate key aspects in alternative ways. Don’t get defensive or humiliate those who ask questions. Alan Greenspan’s advice: “Make every member of Congress look like a genius for asking a particular question, even when the question is truly idiotic.”
Frame Your Message: Successful advocates communicate their ideas in ways that fit decision makers’ schemas. When pitching proposals, wise proponents seek agreement on the problem before discussing possible solutions. Encourage people to buy into the problem the way you want it defined.
Build Your Reputation, Create a Brand: Regardless of how good your idea is, if it doesn’t fit your brand name, people aren’t likely to buy it.
Form Alliances: Understand people’s basic needs—inclusion, control, efficacy, and affection. People want to matter. Let others feel indispensable to the success of the idea. Be proud of what you tout; how you talk and act about your idea shape show others respond.
Your Idea Is Only as Good as Its Story: Influential narratives are short, fresh, easily understood, and engaging, and they arouse curiosity. If you can’t craft a good story around your idea, interesting and relevant factoids are the next best thing.
Network!: It’s not who you know that matters, it’s who knows you. Put yourself in the place of most potential. Befriend those without friends. Lyndon Johnson: “Remember, your opponent today may well have to be your ally tomorrow. Never burn personal bridges.”
Timing Is Everything: The answer to “why now?” is your persuasive case. Problems have four features—magnitude, predictability, complexity, and affected parties. Address these. Random—not regular or cyclical—problems get the decisions maker’s immediate attention.
Make the Idea Matter: Inexperienced advocates often spend too much time trying to sell the features of their ideas before pitching their benefits.
Demonstrate Confidence: Shorter words are remembered better than longer ones. Avoid hedges, disclaimers, disfluencies, and tag questions.
Even the most experienced advocate will be able to refine their skills and increase their influence by incorporating the advice found in this handbook.
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Relationship Trouble? Try Another PerspectivePeriods of crisis and testing are helpful for what they bring to our attention. When things are going well it is all too easy to ignore the hard issues we would be better served by addressing. Times of testing show who we really are.
The Elephant in the Room: relationships. “No longer,” Smith writes, “can we count on slow markets or sloppy competition to make up for the inefficiencies poor relationships create. We face a crisis not only of leadership but of relationship.”
When faced with a relationship problem, there are two ways we can look at it:
Individual Perspective: Based on the assumptions that there is one right answer, people either get it or they don’t get it, and when they don’t, their dispositions are largely to blame.
Relational Perspective: Based on the assumptions that different people will see different things, that solid common ground can only be found after exploring basic differences, and that the strength of a relationship will determine how well and how quickly people can put their differences to work.
“The assumption that ‘you alone are responsible’ and ‘you are either mad or bad’ lead people to locate the cause of problems in individuals and outside their own influence.” The relational perspective actually puts you in the frame of mind to take responsibility for any part you may have in the difficulty. Reflecting on the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt she observes that “they looked to the other’s circumstances, not his character, to find out why” they did what they did.
Karl Popper wrote in Conjectures and Refutations, “While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.” Smith says that understanding this “leads people to assume that we all see things others miss, that disagreements are inevitable and valuable, that those disagreements will at times cause frustration, and that people will be better off if they help each other build relationships that can handle those differences well, especially under pressure.
While it makes sense to take the relational perspective, it can be hard to do especially when we are in the heat of the moment. One reason for this is that it is hard to step out of the moment and reflect on and reframe the situation in a productive way. And when we do reflect it’s easy to get sucked into what Smith calls “armchair reflection.” This is reflection that is really nothing more than gossip, blaming, imputing motives and conclusions like, “He just doesn’t get it.” It doesn’t lead to understanding and a forum for the other person to fill in what is missing from the picture.
Not all relationships are created equal and Smith offers techniques to sort those out too. But when we want to improve a relationship, if we are waiting for the other person to change, she says we’re in for a long wait. “To improve a relationship, you need to focus on changing the relationship, not just yourself or the other person.” Smith offers tools and practices to do this.
Before you even begin to work on a relationship, there is an interesting paradox to think about: “They know each other so well, they no longer know each other at all. All they see are the caricatures in their heads—he’s so sensitive, she’s so competitive.” Smith adds that despite the “very efficiency these caricatures give, they also take away because they make a person’s underlying complexity—sure to emerge under stress—harder to handle or to understand. That’s why, early on, the single most important thing people can do is slow down and take a closer look at each other and how their relationship works.
Your effectiveness as a leader depends on your relationships. The Elephant in the Room highlights a better perspective to take than the standard individual perspective we usually employ in dealing with our relationships. A relationship is a system of behaviors that can be analyzed and understood. Smith’s insights will help you to productively influence them.
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Have a Nice Conflict!Reading Have a Nice Conflict was like listening to my Dad again. He first met “Doc” Porter in the early seventies and they clicked almost immediately. Elias Porter’s Relationship Awareness Theory, on which the book is based, resonated with my Dad.
Behaviors are the tools we choose and use to support our self-worth.Have a Nice Conflict is the story of sales manager John Doyle who has been passed over for what he believes is a well-deserved promotion. He has lost some of his top performers because he rubbed them the wrong way. When he turns up at an old friend and client’s office to explain yet another change in sales reps, he puts him on to Dr. Mac to help him improve his people skills at both work and home.
Dr. Mac explains to John that there are many ways of interacting with others. We have default ways of behaving and when in conflict we often shift into other behaviors to maintain our self-worth. While we are trying to do the “right thing” to maintain our self-worth, conflict can happen when our “right thing” appears to be the “wrong thing” to another person. Conflict can be prevented by seeing contentious behavior as merely a different style instead of a direct challenge or threat aimed at annoying you or derailing you.
He introduces him to the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) which is a tool to help you understand the motivations behind your own behaviors and to better discern the motivations of others. By giving you a framework it helps you to understand what you and others are feeling and then helps you be better able to respond.
Having a nice conflict is about taking personal responsibility for the interaction. To create movement toward resolution, we need to show the other person the path back to self-worth—where they feel good about themselves. That path may be different than yours. The SDI helps you understand those paths. “When we’re stuck in a place of protecting our self-worth, it’s much harder to help others protect or restore what’s important to them. And that’s the primary mission of managing conflict. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions that empower others to manage themselves out of their emotional state of conflict. To effectively manage conflict, we have to begin with ourselves. If we’re pulled into conflict ourselves, we’re usually not in a great position to help others.”
The concept should be taught in schools, however the thought process is essential for leaders. The book alone offers valuable insights into the process and methodology, but coupled with the SDI you’ll have greater success. The authors offer a discount on the SDI to readers of the book.
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Information Overload and What You Can Do About It
Knowledge workers think for a living to varying extents, depending on the job and situation, but there is little time for thought and reflection in the course of a typical day. Instead, information—often in the form of e-mail messages, reports, news, Web sites, RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, instant messages, text messages, Twitter, and video conferencing walls—bombards and dulls our senses.Consider this: A 30-second interruption can result in as much as 5 minutes of recovery time. In total, interruptions plus recovery time consume as much as 28% of the knowledge worker’s day.
Basex, a research firm focusing on issues companies face in the knowledge economy, explains in Overload! why we are in the state we are in and what steps we can begin to take to better manage it.
Even as dry as information tends to be, this is an absorbing book. Spira claims that the changes in how we use and view information that will happen over the next 50 years will not only reshape the globe but turn it inside out. Today, information overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation.
To manage successfully in the knowledge economy, we must recognize key differences in how knowledge workers work. Their tasks can be categorized into six overarching tasks: searching, creating content (sometimes re-creating), thought and reflection, sharing knowledge, and networking. Interestingly, a 2010 Basex study found that of these tasks, knowledge workers only spend only 5% of the day engaged in thought and reflection. The one task that is essential for all the rest we spend so little time performing. We must allow [require] workers more time for thought and reflection if they are to be more productive, efficient, and effective.
Too much information without reflection can stall our productivity. It affects our ability to manage thoughts and ideas, contemplate and even to reason and think. We develop a state of what has been termed, continuous partial attention; to give only partial attention continuously. Science writer Steven Johnson described it this way:
It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish.Researcher Linda Stone adds this:
It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment….It is an always on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always on high alert when we pay continuous partial attention.
Although there are tens of thousands of things we could do says Spiria, he offers ten tips that, when observed, will help lower information overload for everyone:
Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization
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Civility is the Precondition to Democratic Dialogue
In his outstanding book on Civility, Yale law professor Stephen Carter makes the case that civility is the precondition to democratic dialogue. It is, in fact, the precondition of any meaningful and productive relationship.
When you see the lack of civility, characterized by harsh words, yelling, finger-pointing and name-calling, it most often serves to describe the mind of the antagonist than the object of their wrath. We call the world the way we see it—that is, the way we see ourselves. As Anaïs Nin is said to have written, “We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Unfortunately the antagonist will go on to tell story after story of how they have been victimized and will never find peace until they take responsibility for their own mind. Only then will their story change and only then can there be real dialogue. Carter writes:
Democracy demands dialogue, and dialogue flows from disagreement. But we can, and maybe must, be relentlessly partisan without being actively uncivil. Indeed, the more passionate our certainty that we are right, the more urgent our need to practice the art of civility—otherwise, we make dialogue impossible, and the possibility of dialogue is the reason democracy values disagreement in the first place.
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Transforming an Ordinary Moment into a TouchPoint
TouchPoints, by Doug Conant and Mette Norgaard, describes a new way of thinking about the work of leadership. TouchPoints are those moments in the day when you have the opportunity to touch the lives of other people. Each has the potential to become a high point or a low point in someone’s day. “Each is an opportunity to establish high performance expectations, to infuse the agenda with greater clarity and more energy, and to influence the course of events.”
Every TouchPoint is spring-loaded with possibilities. Each one can build—or break—a relationship. Even a brief interaction can change the way people think about themselves, their leaders, and their future.TouchPoints exposes the extreme responsibility that leadership is. A responsibility that in our overloaded age, we often overlook.
To make the most of your TouchPoints, they have created the TouchPoint Triad: listen, frame, advance. In any moment you begin by asking, “How can I help?” Then you listen intently. This prepares you and helps you find out what is really going on. Be curious and keep listening for the real issue. Next, you frame the issue to be sure that everyone in the TouchPoint is on the same page. Third, you advance the agenda. People come to you because they want results. Once you know what is needed, do what you can in that moment to advance the agenda; decide on what the next step is and who is responsible to do it. After the TouchPoint is over, make a point to check-in and see how well the action plan is going by asking something like, “How did it go?” or “Is there anything else you need from me?” It’s a reminder that you care and lets you know if you were genuinely helpful.
A TouchPoint is about really connecting with others and improving results. It’s about engaging in a way that is alert, abundant, authentic, and adaptable:
You need to be alert to the real issues. “When you are fully present, you can see the gaps in someone’s line of logic and pick up bits of information that provide clues to what is going on.”
You need to be abundant in your thinking; rejecting the either/or scarcity mindset.
To be authentic is to embrace the work of the leader and “live by a very clear code that provides an underlying clarity and consistency in every TouchPoint.”
“The secret to being adaptable is to develop a broad range of skills, so that you can adjust and adapt in the moment.”
Throughout TouchPoints, you will find many nuggets of relationship wisdom to help you, as they put it, “work with, not against, the nature of things.”
The authors insist that you clarify your own leadership model so that you can apply it consistently. To that end, they suggest that you answer two vital questions: What makes people give the very best of themselves? What makes for ever-stronger performance in an ever changing world? Your answers will help you to define how you see yourself, other people, and the world around you.
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5 Leadership Lessons: Redesigning Leadership
John Maeda is the president of the Rhode Island School of Design. In Redesigning Leadership, he—with co-author Becky Bermont—pulls the leadership lessons from the ups and downs of his time there. In his transition from MIT to RISD he found that the two words “free pizza” were a powerful motivator to convene large numbers of students. “Making people work together can be fairly challenging, but getting them to eat together is somehow vastly easier. A meal is often a catalyst for a conversation that can lead to a collaboration, and a meal is a natural happening to signify closure when the collaboration has been completed.”
Leadership is never easy and it is made more difficult by what I perceive is a growing sense of entitlement we all feel in our culture. It’s not all good or bad, but it is something to deal with. Redesigning Leadership is a slim book, but it is full of great thoughts like these:
Learning something new means finding not just a new way to see the world, but often a new way to change the world. Artists constantly seek to find new and improved means to transform ideas into reality.
Artists rely on their intuition much more than those who are analytically trained. Analytical people tend to take a complex problem and reduce it to its component parts in an effort to solve it step by step. Artists, however, attempt to make giant leaps to a solution, seeming to ignore all constraints. By making those leaps, they sometimes miss the solution completely. But they are not afraid to miss the target.
Ironically, with all the communication technologies at our disposal today, it’s still difficult to get a message across to the person sitting right next to you in a reliable fashion. The shortest communication path between two people is a straight talk.
In forming any team, the most basic challenge: getting folks to take the big step away from just being themselves (the thing we all know best) and joining something larger (the thing we fear may let us down).
Whether brought by duty or desire, once people are in the same room, they’ve assumed the basic stance of being a team—which is to be together. Preconceived negative opinions don’t evaporate, but at least negativity can mix with positivity in the room, which by electrical principles results in the neutralizing of the respective +/- charges. I now consider this the most basic concept to leading a team.
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Got Drama?You can’t stop The Drama. There will always be drama.
Stop Workplace Drama. “The amount of time you stay in the drama—and the effort you put toward it—is the problem. Complaints, excuses, and regrets only serve to keep the drama alive.” Your drama—what you add to The Drama—is the problem.
Chism defines drama as “any obstacle to your peace and prosperity.” Drama is the result of not recognizing or taking care of the little signs of bigger problems when they first presented themselves. At the core of drama you will find one of three common elements (if not all three): a lack of clarity, a relationship issue, and/or resistance. So, says Chism, when you experience drama you need to ask yourself three questions:
1. Where am I unclear?
2. What is my relationship issue?
3. What am I resisting?
Chism presents eight principles for dealing with drama, but “lack of clarity” struck me as the most common and excuse-laden trap there is. Too often this is where we get stuck.
When we first set a goal we’re clear. In her terms, “we see the island.” But between here and there the process become difficult and someone on your team becomes unhappy, and, “instead of focusing on the island we are trying to reach, we’re now concentrating on pleasing the one person who is upset. Our focus has shifted because we became confused about our number one priority.” And the fog rolls in.
“Any type of discord, abuse, confusion, or game-playing always boils down to a lack of clarity.” A loss of focus.
Sometimes we create drama because we want something on our terms. We imagine that we can’t do something because we can’t do it the way we think it should be done—our way. Chism relates a clarifying example of this with the recently divorced Joe who is having visitation issues with his ex-wife Patty. She’s not letting him do what he wants in the way that he wants.
Many people get stuck in the drama of what should or shouldn’t be. Yes, you can fight that battle, if winning a battle is what you want. But again, in order to clear the fog and help Joe get clarity, I asked, “If there are two islands you can go to, and one means winning a battle with your wife and the other island is getting to see your kids and be a father to them—then which island would you choose?”This kind of dynamic plays out every day in our business and personal lives. When we are not clear about what we want, what our values are, what we are committed to, it is easy to lose our focus, to drift off course.
Solution: Clear the fog.
Chism has written a good-natured and practical book that will change your thinking and in the process help you to control the drama in both your personal and professional life. As leaders, we have the responsibility to be very clear with ourselves and our team so that we don’t get pulled into negativity, gossip, power plays, resistance and … drama. Chism suggests asking the following questions:
What are my top 10 principle-based values?
What areas of my life or business are in the fog?
What are some of the distractions that take me off course?
Where do I get stuck?
Where can I improve as a leader?
What drama do I see on a daily basis in the workplace?
What drama do I see in my personal life?
Where am I avoiding or procrastinating?
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5 Mistakes People Make When Reading Your Body LanguageWhen we communicate there are two conversations going on. Verbal and nonverbal.
Our brains are hardwired to respond to nonverbal signals. Unfortunately we often don’t even know how we are reacting to them or how others are reacting to us and therefore are unable to use them to our advantage. This becomes very apparent when we are reacting to nonverbal communication from people from different cultures. Thus what might seem right in one culture may be ineffective or offensive in another.
The Silent Language of Leaders to help us become more aware of the messages we are sending and to better read the signals of others. When there is a disconnect between your verbal and your nonverbal communication, you don’t make sense. People will tend to disregard what you say and focus on what you don’t say.
My mother always told me, “It doesn’t matter if what you say is right, if your tone is wrong, then it’s wrong.” Goman would add: “How can sometimes be more revealing of your true meaning than the what contained in the words. Leaders must therefore keep in mind that when they speak, their listeners won’t only be evaluating their words; they will also be automatically ‘reading’ their voices for clues to possible hidden agendas, concealed meanings, disguised emotions, unexpected surprises—anything, in short, that will help determine whether or not they can rely on what they're being told.”
Goman defines our nonverbal communication—body language—as the management of time, space, appearance, posture, gesture, vocal prosody, touch, smell, facial expression, and eye contact.
Goman says that people look for leaders to project two sets of nonverbal signals—power and authority and warmth and empathy—and it’s important to employ the right signals at the right time. Which means that the body language signals that work so well when announcing a new business strategy are not helpful (and in fact may sabotage your efforts) when building collaborative teams.
Successful leaders don’t memorize “the right” physical gestures and facial expressions to display at appropriate times as though they were some kind of preprogrammed robot. But they are aware that their body language dramatically impacts colleagues, clients and staff. They understand that for a variety of reasons, even the most well-meaning behaviors will sometimes be misinterpreted, and they are ever alert to finding authentic ways to align their nonverbal communication with the messages they want to deliver.Reading nonverbal communication can be tricky for a number of reasons. Here are five mistakes people make when reading body language:
When it comes to building collaboration, even the seating arrangement in your office makes a difference. “Seating people directly across from your desk places them in an adversarial position. Instead, place the visitor’s chair at the side of your desk, or create a conversation area (chairs of equal size set around a small table—or at right angles to each other) and send signals of informality, equality, and partnership.”
Gorman has made available on her web site, videos and articles to reinforce the material presented in her book. Interestingly, Goman predicts that because of new visual technologies, body language skills will become even more crucial than they are today. Video communication exposes a leader’s body language to evaluation to a greater degree. She also predicts that with the emphasis now on more collaborative structures, a leader’s body language will have to project trust, inclusion and rapport.
Look for more Body Language Notes on the LeadershipNow Facebook page.
From Values to ActionFrom Values to Action. He presents four interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:
Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”
Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”
Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.
True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”
After describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction (You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution (“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).
Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”
From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.
Of Related Interest:
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization
Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:13 PM
Leadership is about Creating ConversationsPoet and Fortune 500 consultant David Whyte said that “The core act of leadership must be the act of making conversations real.” Conversations—sometimes difficult conversations—are what build relationships. Conversations that provide the opportunity for possibility. Conversations about choice.
Leaders create the opportunity for conversation. By bringing people together for conversation they increase engagement, commitment and accountability. Leaders ask people to share their own genius and assume personal leadership. At that point the ability to listen becomes paramount.
Accountability isn’t only at the top. It lies with all of us. All of us are responsible. Possible futures are not the work of one person. They are made possible by the conversations and resulting accountability of a community of leaders.
Leadership is about creating conversations.
5 Leadership Lessons: The Velocity Manifesto
In today’s high-velocity environment, Scott Klososky believes you need to understand how to guide your organization in the implementation and usage of technology—in short, how your organization “does” technology.
[As a leader], you—not the IT department, nor the VP of IT, nor the chief information officer (CIO)—must understand, drive and be accountable for how technology is structured in order to reach the strategic goals of the operation….Technology enables velocity—the speed of getting products to market, the speed of delivery, the speed of analytics, and the list goes on. Speed is our friend in almost every case. An organization’s digital plumbing is what facilitates this speed, and it has become the single most important variable for success in many organizations.The Velocity Manifesto details key actions you must take to gain an advantage in the digital age. He covers three areas: Digital Plumbing (technology infrastructure), High-Beam Strategy (trendspotting), and creating a High-Velocity Culture (integrating different types of skills and lifestyles). Here are five insights from Klososky’s Manifesto:
We have an amazing ability as a species to solve problems and make improvements. One way to enhance your vision precision is to understand that we will solve the issues in all industries. We will find efficiencies and knock out things that don’t work the way we would like them to. So all you have to do is look at the industry you are in and identify all the things that are wrong with it….Next, you must begin to study how the solution to that problem will impact you, and find out whether you have any ability to solve it on your own.
The thing you want to be these days is a “fast follower.” The concept here is that you have a better chance of making a good investment in a trend or idea if you are not the very first—but also not the fifth, sixth, or seventh—into the market. Instead, you want to quickly follow the first movers who are trying to capitalize on a blossoming trend.
In order to play a high-speed game, you need team members who can work at a fast pace—and you also need a team that can work without friction. … Your job as a leader is to create a culture that generates as little friction as possible by leveraging your employee’s strengths and minimizing their differences.
We have four very different generations in the workforce right now, and another on the way. We have leaders from one generation who can’t relate to the technology sophisticated younger generations, and young people who have a somewhat warped view of what the organization owes them….Younger generations will not operate like the current generation of leaders….If you want to hire and retain A players, you will have to provide a vibrant culture for Generation Y and the rest of the generations to come.
Our inventory of technologies is more like a palette of art supplies—it must be formed into technological systems by true artists….By viewing technology construction as an artistic endeavor rather than a mechanical one, we are freed to not only build applications that have a stronger ROI, but also to do a better job of managing IT people. Software engineers, developers, and programmers must be viewed as the artists of this generation.
Socrates on CommunicationBettany Hughes, author of The Hemlock Cup—a fascinating portrait of Socrates and Athenian society—says that “He reminds us to keep debating the meaning of life, to keep questioning, to keep speaking to one another, to keep looking for answers. However you value him, you cannot argue with the central tenet of his philosophy. Because he beseeches mankind not to be thought-less.”
A proponent of open dialogue, Socrates would undoubtedly encourage face-to-face communication as the best way to build community, consensus, and trust. While technology has increased the speed and frequency of our communication, it is no substitute for face-to-face communication to convey meaning. In this passage, Hughes shares Socrates' concern over the potential for miscommunication without the give-and-take of face-to-face contact:
Socrates was wary of the written word. His anxiety was that it could neither account for itself nor answer back. Words were everywhere in Athena’s city, but Socrates, unusually, did not set his own down on papyrus with an inky flourish. In a city filled with authors of every kind, he was anxious about the impact of writing without the accountability of face-to-face contact. “I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life, and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence.”Socrates was living through his own information revolution. He shares with us the same concerns.
The Power of Meeting People Where They AreIn Split-Second Persuasion, Cambridge psychologist Kevin Dutton asks why some of us are better at the art of persuasion than others. He recounts a story about Winston Churchill’s encounter with war hero James Allen Ward that illustrates the power of meeting people where they are:
The Power of Framing“Language becomes a key issue not just in our own sensemaking, but in how effectively we impact the sensemaking of others” writes Gail Fairhurst. As leaders, we recognize that we cannot accomplish our objectives on our own, so this becomes important when we are trying to align the interests of others with our own.
The Power of Framing by Gail Fairhurst is about understanding the meaning—the shared reality—created in our communication. Paraphrasing Michel Foucault, she writes, “people know what they say, and they usually know why they say what they say. What they do not understand is what what they say does. The Power of Framing is an essential leadership book that will help us to understand the context-shaping features of our language so that we can then better manage the meaning of our communication. Recently, we have seen many examples of leaders creating unintended “realities” from the content of their communications alone that only served to make a big problem, bigger.
People with the skills to communicate reality in a meaningful way often emerge as leaders, she observes. What we often fail to consider, is that when communicating, we are not just reacting to the environment; we actually shape or create it by how we interpret and talk about it. Being conscious of our framing then, becomes critical. Self-awareness plays a major role in framing our communication to have the impact we intend. She begins by presenting six guiding rules for constructing reality:
Rule 1: Control the Context. Leaders often cannot control events, but they can control the context under which events are seen if they recognize a framing opportunity.
Rule 2: Define the Situation. At its most basic level, framing reality means defining “the situation here and now” in ways that connect with others.
Rule 3: Apply Ethics. “Reality” is often contested. Framing a subject is an act of persuasion by leaders, and imbued with ethical choices.
Rule 4: Interpret Uncertainty. It is the uncertainty, confusion, and undecidability of “the situation here and now” that opens it up for interpretation and provides an opportunity for the more verbally skilled among us to emerge as leaders.
Rule 5: Design the Response. Ultimately, leadership is a design problem. Leaders must figure out what leadership is in the context of what they do and, through framing and actions, persuade themselves and other people that they are doing it.
Rule 6: Control Spontaneity. Effective framing requires that leaders be able to control their own spontaneous communications.
With these rules in mind, Fairhurst explores framing as a skill that leaders must master to communicate vision and set priorities, a science that shows leaders how to think on their feet and frame on the spot, an art form that leaders must hone like a craft with story, metaphor, argument, and visual images as their primary tools, a set of emotions that leaders must deploy to complement their message and as an ethical response in order for leaders to achieve and maintain believability.
As a science she explains the concept of priming for spontaneity. It’s more than just thinking through what you want to say in a given situation. It involves thinking through your mental models. She writes, “If you take the time to consciously and periodically think through your mental models as a leader, you are priming your unconscious to select and interpret new information using the models as a reference point.” What we say reflects our thinking and view of the world.
Emotions are a part of leadership and emotional intelligence is required for framing. When emotions are running high you have an opportunity for framing. “Emotional regulation is a part of emotional intelligence, and two framing concepts play a role in this regard,” says Fairhurst. “Priming for spontaneity can assist in controlling one’s emotions in advance of a situation if one envisions a wide range of responses are likely to occur. Also, framing after the fact, or reframing, allows leaders to correct the emotionally charged messages they wish to modify.”
In regards to ethics, she reminds us that “how we frame is a window into our ethics whenever we act in a leadership capacity.” This is closely tied to the concept of priming. We reflect and communicate our mental models in all that we do.
To use in conjunction with this book, Fairhurst has created some valuable downloadable framing tools. There are links to additional resources for specific topics raised in each chapter, including films, documentaries, news clips and PowerPoint teaching slides.
The Laws of Charisma
Even though charisma is thought of as something intrinsic to the individual, a person cannot reveal this quality in isolation. It is only evident in interaction with those who are affected by it. Charisma is, above all, a relationship, a mutual mingling of the inner selves of leader and follower.
The Laws of Charisma, it “is a trait that can be taught and mastered.”
Charisma is about connecting with others. Mortensen defines it as “the ability to easily build rapport, effectively influence others to your way of thinking, inspire them to achieve more, and in the process make an ally for life.” Like leadership, it can be used positively or negatively. It depends on where the emphasis is: self or others. For example he lists some of the differences between ethical and unethical uses of charisma:
Ultimately, charisma will only take you so far. Without character and competence, it is fleeting.
Our greatest roadblock to developing charisma, Mortensen points out, is that we lie to ourselves. We think we are better than we are. We think our weaknesses aren’t that noticeable and it gives us a false sense of security and no starting place from which to begin to make the improvements we need to make.
Mortensen has created a self-assessment for 30 attributes that define a charismatic individual. Chapter by chapter, he takes you through each of these describing them, showing how they are applied with real world examples and what the counterfeit version of each looks like. For instance, passion is not hype or bouncing off the walls. It’s more like conviction that radiates from within. You may think you’re coming across as confident, but you could be perceived as either arrogant, cocky, or condescending. Arrogance is about self and confidence is about others. Control is not power. It creates short-term compliance even as it drains the life out of people and creates long-term resentment.
The attributes are organized into four areas:
The elements of presence—how to radiate charisma through passion, confidence, congruence, optimism, positive power, energy and balance, and humor and happiness.
Tapping into and developing the core inner qualities of charisma: self-discipline, competence, intuition, purpose, integrity, courage, creativity, and focus.
Delivery and communication—how to use presentation skills, people skills, influence, storytelling, eye contact, listening, and rapport to speak with conviction and get heard.
Empowering others through inspiration, esteem, credibility, motivation, goodwill, vision, empathy, and respect—the components of contagious cooperation.
Other things to consider are how you communicate (both verbally and non-verbally), how you look, and your feelings and moods.
Each chapter is well thought out as he looks at each attribute from different angles. Each attribute is just a piece of the total charisma picture. The more you develop, the better you will be able to connect with others. While some of these attributes will come naturally to you, some will take a concerted effort. Taken as a whole, these thirty attributes are overwhelming. Take them one at a time. It’s a lifelong process.
Seven Charisma KillersIn The Laws of Charisma, Kurt Mortensen lists a number of things we do that repel people. He writes, “These mistakes are silent charisma killers. Most people will never say anything to you that will alert you to the fact that they are being repelled. They are more comfortable lying to you so that they don’t hurt your feelings. They walk away and simply never deal with you again.” Here are seven of the most common charisma killers adapted from Mortensen’s list that you may not even know you are doing:
5 Leadership Lessons: Scott Berkun on Public Speaking
Even if you don’t speak professionally, you will find Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker, helpful in navigating any speaking situation. Berkun is refreshingly candid about his own mistakes and successes. It is an entertaining and practical behind-the-scenes look at the speaking profession; the good and the bad. He shares what has worked and what hasn’t in getting over the fear of speaking, creating a talk that people want to hear, and what to do when things go wrong.
Most people listening to presentations around the world right now are hoping their speakers will end soon. That’s all they want. They’re not judging as much as you think, because they don’t care as much as you think. Knowing this helps enormously. …The things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. And most of all, they want you to do well. Many mistakes you can make while performing do not prevent those things from happening. It’s the mistakes you make before you even say a word that matters more. These include the mistakes of not having an interesting opinion, of not thinking clearly about your point, and of not planning ways to make those points relevant to your audience. Those are the ones that make the difference.
No matter how much you hate or love this book, you’re unlikely to be a good public speaker. The marketing for this book likely promised you’d be a better speaker for reading it. I think that’s true on one condition: you practice (which I know most of you won’t do). Most people are lazy. I’m lazy. I expect you’re lazy, too. There will always be a shortage of good public speakers in the world, no matter how many great books there are on the subject. It’s a performance skill, and performance means practice.
The easiest way to be interesting is to be honest. People rarely say what they truly feel, yet this is what audiences admire most. If you can speak a truth most people are afraid to say, you’re a hero.
All good public speaking is based on good private thinking. …This means the difference between you and JFK and Martin Luther King has less to do with your ability to speak—a skill all of us use hundreds of times every day—than it does the ability to think and refine rough ideas into clear ones.
Avoiding Boredom. A speaker must set the pace for the audience if he wants to keep their attention. … Think of your opening minute as a movie preview: fill it with drama, excitement, and highlights for why people should keep listening. Be confident in what you say and do. If your talk consists of several problems important to the audience, and you promise to release the tension created by those problems by solving each one, you’ll score big.
More Scott Berkun on Twitter / Web
Maxwell Connect: 7 Things You Can Do to Become More Interesting
If you want friends, show yourself friendly. If you want to connect with others, become the kind of person others want to connect with. Be the kind of communicator that you would like to hear. “Connectors,” says John Maxwell, “create an experience everyone enjoys.”
A big part of being an interesting person, is being interested in other people; making them feel interesting. You’ll be amazed how interesting you become to them.
In Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, Maxwell recommends seven things to make yourself more interesting. They were presented in the context of speaking to audiences, but as you will see, they have application to one-on-one communication as well.
"There's different ways that you can measure people's greatness. And the way I like to measure greatness is: How many people do you affect? In your time on earth, how many people can you affect? How many people can you make want to be better? Or how many people can you inspire to want to do what you do?"
—Will Smith, Vanity Fair, July 1999
John Maxwell asks, “In the end, what good is our communication if its impact ends the moment we stop speaking?”
Maxwell Connect: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect
Maxwell Connect: 4 Barriers to Finding Common Ground
Maxwell Connect: 4 Barriers to Finding Common Ground
The first rule of connecting is to find common ground. Again, this requires an other-focus. In Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell writes, “It is difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you are focused on is yourself!” We can’t find common ground if we are trying to make other people into a version of ourselves.
Each of us sees the world from our own unique perspective. Terry Felber, author of Am I Making Myself Clear? wrote, “If you can learn to pinpoint how those around you experience the world, and really try to experience the same world they do, you’ll be amazed at how effective your communication will become.” The secret to finding common ground is the willingness to see things from others’ point of view.
There are many reasons people neglect to find common ground, Maxwell says, but here are the top four:
If we want to find common ground, Maxwell recommends we step back and ask:
Maxwell Connect: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect
Maxwell Connect: 7 Things You Can Do to Become More Interesting
Maxwell Connect: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect
George Bernard Shaw said, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”
How true. One of the biggest reasons leaders fail is their inability to communicate. Most of the time, we unconsciously leave it to chance. Just because we say something, doesn’t mean we have communicated it. As John Baldoni observed, “The ability to speak is not the same thing as the ability to communicate….The capacity to construct a message, address it to another, listen for feedback, process that feedback, and continue to communicate in ways that are understood is one of the hardest things a leader will have to do.” But it can be done if we are willing to make the conscious choice to connect with others.
John Maxwell has written a clear and well organized book (with his writing partner Charlie Wetzel) about connecting with others one-on-one, in groups and before an audience. It’s a practical book about bridging the gap between you and the people you are trying to connect with. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect is oriented towards leaders, which is to say, any of us that decide to make a choice to intentionally influence others.
Connecting is basic to human relations. Maxwell puts it simply: “If you want to succeed, you must learn how to connect with others.” He asks, “Have you ever heard of someone who is said to have a charmed life? Usually those are people who have learned how to connect. When you connect with others, you position yourself to make the most of your skills and talents.”
How does connecting happen? Not surprisingly, it all begins with your attitude. “The ability to connect with others begins with understanding the value of people.” As with leadership in general, connecting is about other people. In a word, selflessness. It is about asking yourself, “Am I going to make this about them or me?” Maxwell points out that “understanding that your focus must be on others is often the greatest hurdle people face in connecting with others.” It’s all too easy to get caught up in what we are doing to the point where we place it and ourselves at the center of the universe.
Maxwell writes, “Good teachers, leaders, and speakers don’t see themselves as experts with passive audiences they need to impress. Nor do they view their interests as most important. Instead they see themselves as guides and focus on helping others learn.” He tells a story from when he began his career as a minister. He felt frustrated and unfulfilled. He kept asking himself questions like, “Why aren’t people listening to me? Why aren’t people helping me? Why aren’t people following me?” He writes, “Notice my questions centered on me because my focus was on me….I was self-absorbed, and as a result, I failed to connect with people….I realized that I was trying to get ahead by correcting others when I should have been trying to connect with others.” It is all too easy to focus on our needs instead of the needs of others.
There are three questions people are always asking about you: “Do you care for me?” “Can you help me?” and “Can I trust you?”Connecting begins when the other person feels valued. We need to have the attitude and approach of “What can I do to increase my value of others?”
The ideas he presents are not new nor should we expect them to be. While technology has changed some of our tools of communication, it has not changed the principles of connecting. Ironically, technology has not made it any easier or better. Today's technology won’t communicate a selfless attitude any better than using smoke signals, if it is not the foundation of the communication in the first place. Forming connections with each other has not changed over time. We must always be reminded of the principles behind it.
Maxwell Connect: 4 Barriers to Finding Common Ground
Maxwell Connect: 7 Things You Can Do to Become More Interesting
Share Your Ideas Liberally
Making Ideas Happen for sharing your ideas with others. To make it part of the corporate culture you may even have to “move people around and literally share people to share ideas.” Former Belsky colleague Steve Kerr, even went so far as to say that “’hording information is an integrity violation,’” making the case that failing to share a best practice with your team or department was essentially akin to stealing from the company.” Belsky explains the rationale for sharing ideas liberally:
The notion of “sharing ideas liberally” defines the natural instinct to keep your ideas a secret. Yet, among the hundreds of successful creatives I’ve interviewed, a fearless approach to sharing ideas is one of the most common attributes. Why? Because having the idea is just one tiny step along the road to making that idea happen. During the journey, communal forces are instrumental in refining the very substance of the idea, holding us accountable for making it happen, building a network that will push us to go above and beyond, providing us with valuable material and emotional support, and spreading the word to attract resources and publicity. By sharing your idea, you take the first step in creating the community that will act as a catalyst to making it happen.
He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening mine. That ideas should spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been particularly and benevolently designed by nature.
Adapted from Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality by Scott Belsky.
Leading Views: The Leader as CommunicatorClarence B. Randall (1891-1967) was chairman of Inland Steel Co. of East Chicago, Indiana. A celebrated corporate chieftain, author, and civic leader, he held various government posts, including special consultant to President Eisenhower on foreign economic policy. In The Executive in Transition (1967), he shares his views on the need for developing communication skills:
Speech is a part of manners, and the able businessman must learn to express himself in English which is clear as well as colloquial.
There are too many talkers who have never learned to listen. They broadcast but do not receive. The only time they stop the flow of words is when they are out of breath. Their minds are choked by what they want to say and closed to what the other person wishes to offer in reply.
If I were to name the one skill most important to the young man or woman leaving college hopeful of achieving executive status in industry, I would say without a moment’s hesitation that it is the capacity to speak and write the English language with clarity and force. No idea, however brilliant, has value for society unless it can be communicated to others.
5 Leadership Lessons: Colonel Bob Stewart on Leading Under Pressure
Leadership Under Pressure is a book of lessons learned and shared in personal stories by Colonel Bob Stewart. He was the first British United Nations Commander in Bosnia. On return from Bosnia Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for “cool courage and inspirational leadership.”
Stewart believes that leadership is universal and is not confined to a few special people. “It is universal, normal and quite ordinary too…. Leading in its basic form is the ability to show the way and guide others to achieve something.” Here are just several of the lessons he presents:
Leaders make things happen. The reason why people are placed in charge is so that they can make choices that work and make circumstances better. If officers or business executives were to simple follow orders without question and execute a plan according to a set formula, the job could be done by anyone who passes by. What separates officers from soldiers, and business executives from other employees is the fact that both groups are deliberately positioned to determine strategy and then lead others.
In Bosnia I considered briefing and communication to all members of my battalion to be even more vital than for conventional operations. I put great emphasis on each soldier being able to make his or her own decisions when it was necessary. Repeatedly I told everyone that they were all leaders because whatever they did mattered and would have consequences. Obviously if soldiers are so empowered, they must know exactly what is planned and their part in it.
There is nothing better than personally gained knowledge of what is happening. In both military and commercial life visits are probably the best way of getting up to speed on the reality of what is happening.
“Look downwards before you look upwards” my father had advised when I arrived at Sandhurst in 1967. His meaning was clear. Care about those who work for you before you concern yourself with pleasing superiors.
I find it interesting when organizations opt for anonymous surveys. That worries me a little, even though I understand the good reasons for it. I think my worry is why company leaders feel they will not get the truth without this condition. Surely if company employees feel valued and secure they will also believe that any constructive comments they make will not be misinterpreted and possibly threaten their positions or jobs?
How Fascinating is Your Message?Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Everyone lives by selling something.” Leaders are always selling something—an idea, change, themselves or even their example. It’s influence.
While we know a clear consistent message is necessary it is often hampered or even marginalized by competing messages and issues. Sally Hogshead is an expert at delivering messages and changing people’s minds. In her book Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, she writes, “A competitive environment demands a more captivating message.” A more captivating message is a more fascinating one. Fascination is the connection we make with others that causes them to change their mind and behave differently. “People won’t change a preference, start a thought process, form a bond, or make a behavioral shift unless they’re provoked to change their opinions or actions.” Fascination provides the provocation.
A fascinating message steps outside the norms in one or more of the following ways: provokes strong and immediate emotional reactions (love it or hate it), creates advocates, becomes “cultural shorthand” for a specific set of actions or values (people identify with it), incites conversation, forces competitors to realign around it, and/or triggers social revolutions (forces us to think differently).
The key to mastering fascination is learning to effectively activate the seven triggers:
In an interesting example concerning teenage drinking and driving she notes that a graphic photo of a car wreck doesn’t seem to effectively dissuade teenage drivers. For teens, fear isn’t necessarily a reason to avoid something. How do you provide a fascinating message for this group?
Luke Sullivan, a legendary advertising writer, solved the problem. Luke knew that teems don’t fear death in the same way as adults. He also figured out what does create alarm among these drivers: Losing their license. Armed with that fact, he threatened teens with the ultimate dire consequence.How could you change your message to make it more fascinating and thus more effective for your audience?
Throughout the book she blends art and science to demonstrate what fascinates people and why. You might be surprised to find out which fascinations are driving your own behavior. Her writing style and examples are very entertaining. (If you get on her web site download a couple of her Hog-isms.)
“Whether we realize it or not—whether you intend to or not—you’re already using the seven triggers,” she writes. “The question is, are you using the right triggers, in the right way, to get your desired result? By mastering the triggers, your ideas become more memorable, your conversations more persuasive, and your relationships more lasting.”
How do you try to change people’s minds? Could you make your message more fascinating?
Lift: How to Be a Positive Force in Any SituationTo overcome the force of gravity—that which pulls us down—we have to generate an opposing force greater than gravity. That force is lift. Any opposition to lift is called drag.
In the same way that we use the laws of physical science to lift a plane off the ground, we can use social science to lift “ourselves and others up to greater heights of achievement, integrity, learning, and love,” thereby becoming a positive force in any situation. It’s the pressures of daily living that drag us down. Instead of experiencing lift we fall back into our comfort zones, become reactive, self-centered and fatalistic.
To intentionally experience lift and to be a positive influence for others, we have to make a conscious choice.
Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation, authors Ryan and Robert Quinn present this fitting metaphor, to explain how we can intentionally experience lift, to rise above the constraints of everyday life and lift the people around us. “All of us have a choice: we can choose to be the kind of people who drag others down or to be the kind of people who lift…. We are relational beings. Who we are at any time depends on who the people around us are, and who they are depends on who we are.” That last sentence can’t be overemphasized. It carries with it a great deal of responsibility, especially for us as leaders.
The authors describe lift as “a psychological state in which a person is purpose-centered, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open.” What exactly are these four characteristics of lift? In a very relatable and revealing example—the parenting of a young son, Mason—the authors show how this plays out in real life. I can’t reproduce the example here, but I think from the inferences you will get the idea the authors are trying to convey. The following is paraphrased from their work:
Purpose-centered is the opposite of being comfort-centered. The desire to stay comfortable is a characteristic of a normal psychological state. My son Mason’s behaviors were comfortable for me. In my desire for comfort, what had not occurred to me was the possibility that perhaps Mason was behaving differently because of the changes that had happened recently in his life. We need to ask, “Are the results I am trying to create about me and what I am comfortable with or are they about what is best for the other person?”
Internally directed is when people experience the dignity and integrity that comes with exercising the self-control necessary to live up to the values that they expect of others. External direction, on the other hand, is a characteristic of a normal psychological state.
If Mason was building with his Legos or playing a game when I asked him to do something, I expected him to put those things aside and do it. Yet, if I was involved in an activity and Mason interrupted me, I would expect him to wait until I was done with my activity before I did what he asked. I expected him to show respect to me, but I was not doing the same for him....When people are externally directed, they let circumstances (such as the need to get Mason to clean up or go to bed) drive their behavior instead of their values (such as respect for others’ time and activities).Other-focused is to be open to other people’s feelings and needs. We then empathize with them and feel impulses to be compassionate. When we are self-focused, we are concerned only with our own needs, feelings, and wants. We see other people as objects that either help us or impede us in our goals. In my case, Mason was an object that was preventing me from my goal of showing that I was a good father.
Externally open is openness to external cues. When we are open we learn, grow and adapt ourselves to the situation unfolding before us. When we are internally closed, we ignore and deny feedback. We ignore or deny feedback out of fear that the feedback says something about our worth as human beings. So as a result, we tend to get angry. Again with Mason, I was not showing him the respect that I wanted him to show me. As I opened myself to the possibility that I might be wrong, I also opened myself up to what Mason was feeling, and to what his needs might be and became other-focused.
Using scientific research to provide “insight into why lift is important, what the characteristics of lift are, and how our psychological states influence others,” they formulated four questions that capture the nuances required to intentionally move ourselves from a normal state into lift.
When a new situation disrupts our previous expectations, though, it is more productive to change our expectations than to try to make the world conform to our old expectations.The book is full of great examples and scientific evidence to back their perspective. The scientific evidence is really just icing on the cake. The relational principles at work here are sound, but they require much thought and self-examination. This is a book that needs to be read and re-read. Inertia is our biggest enemy. Inertia will keep us from benefiting from this book and becoming a positive force; the kind of leaders that provide lift in our own lives and those we influence.
Is Your Story Winning Hearts and Minds?Leadership is part of a story. Leaders answer the why; they tell the story. Leadership is paradoxical because while leaders must manage the realities, they lead in the ideal. In The Visionary’s Handbook, Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor advise leaders to have the right story—a simple, consistent story that connects the past, present and future. But it needs something more:
It should have some melodrama; some action; climax and resolution; a plot that turns toward the good at the end on the strength of a key virtue; a beginning, middle, and end—all the things that were taught in Literature 101 because in the last analysis a great story must be just that: a great story.Negative capability is an interesting concept. It was coined by John Keats in a letter to his brothers (George and Tom), dated December 21, 1817. He wrote:
I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge.Keats thought, that one of the qualities of great people is their ability to sublimate their own individual assumptions and persona—that is, to make themselves a negative—and thereby contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems. This requires being a good listener and the ability to say, “I don’t know.”
Of Related Interest:
Out of Context: You’re Biggest Competitor is Your Own View of Your Future
Gratitude: The Habit of Noticing
Gratitude is a way of investing ourselves in others. A particularly overlooked aspect of the art of gratitude is the habit of noticing. When we notice others and show our appreciation, it pays huge dividends. Additionally, by noticing others we become more attuned to life’s vitality, intensity and diversity.
I related the following story from the book Growing the Distance, a few years ago, but it bears repeating:
Arden Barker had planted a 50-acre field of wheat that was now golden-brown, very full, and ready for harvest. It was a sight to touch the heart of any farmer. When his Uncle Harry came to visit, Arden proudly took him out to look at the field of wheat. Harry looked around, put his hand over his eyes to peer into the distance, and fixed his gaze on a boulder that had been too large to move in the middle of the field. “Is that a stone on the hill?” he asked. He said nothing about the field of wheat. Arden was crushed by his lack of enthusiasm.Too often leaders, managers and parents think that it is crucial to their role to point out where people could improve—to be critical. Certainly, there is a time for that, but it happens all too often. Effective leaders will look for the positive and show gratitude and appreciation for it. People often look to others for direction and support and if it is not forthcoming it can kill the spirit and impede growth.
Taking Control of the Story: Four Helpful Questions to AskWhen emotions run high we tend to throw everything we know out the window. Staying in dialogue and in control of the stories we create about the events in our life isn’t always easy, but it is possible.
It begins by taking control of and responsibility for the emotions you have created for yourself. As the authors state in Crucial Conversations, “Emotions don’t settle on you like a fog. Others don’t make you mad. You make you mad.” With that understanding you can decide to control them or be controlled by them.
When you experience something, there are the facts of the situation and then there is your story about it; your conclusions, your interpretations, your judgments, and your spin on it. The most common trap is to assume that our emotions are the only valid response. Consequently, we charge ahead justified that our story is accurate and we make no attempt to change or even question it. It’s our stories that can get us into trouble and cause us to behave in ways that we know we shouldn’t.
Again in Crucial Conversations they stress that we need to separate stories from facts. “When you generate stories in the blink of an eye, you can get so caught up in the moment that you begin to believe your stories are facts. They feel like facts. You confuse subjective conclusions with steel-hard data points …. ‘He’s a male chauvinist pig’ is not a fact. It’s the story Maria created to give meaning to the facts. The facts could mean just about anything.” We create stories to justify our behavior.
They suggest we ask ourselves four helpful questions to get ourselves into constructive dialogue:
Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?
Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?
What do I really want?
What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?
We must always remember that there are more stories than the one we have created. “As we tell the rest of the story, we free ourselves from the poisoning effects of unhealthy emotions. Best of all, as we regain control and move back to dialogue, we become masters of our own emotions rather than hostages.” And we free ourselves from unnecessary regret.
Crucial Conversations is an indispensable guide to learning to handle your most difficult conversations and improve the quality of your life and those you lead. Make sure everyone on your team has one.
Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the WayLead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way by Ron Karr provides more evidence that leadership isn’t just about a few titled people at the top. It is a choice to think differently. Leadership is a choice to think differently about anything you do. Selling is no exception and is closely linked to the functions of a leader. Leadership is not always about people we “lead” in the conventional sense, but is frequently about people we must influence. Karr writes, “Whether you sell a product, a service, or an idea, you must be able to influence other people as leaders do.”
It begins with being able to and understanding the need to engage others in continuous strategic conversations as part of the normal way of doing things—a process Karr has termed Integrated Dialogue. Integrated dialogue is a conversation of shared purpose that draws people out “to create a powerful relationship, one that identifies whole new zones of mutual opportunity, addresses far-ranging issues, and positions you as an invaluable resource: a leader.”
As with all leaders, sales people too will succeed when they fully appreciate the many relationships inherent in their success. Sales leaders lead a whole cast of people in their own organizations from the customer service, tech people to accounting and senior management. In addition they lead not only their customer or end user but also many points of contact in their customer’s organization that are likely to have some input on the buying decision like operations, accounting, purchasing and senior management. Gone are the days where everything filters through the salesperson. “Your success as a salesperson depends on your ability to build and sustain coalitions both inside and outside your organization. You must create and lead the coalition, no matter what you are selling.” This will resonate with any leader:
Your job is to manage multiple constituencies and alliances, and to use those alliances to identify new and better ways of generating the desired results. Your job is to do what most salespeople don’t do: lead the conversation with your prospects and customers about the results they need, the problems they have, and the obstacles they face.
To make this happen you must possess and develop the belief that you have everything you need and can build on that, the belief that you can improve any area of your life, everything is possible, preparation maximizes your potential, and your customers—the people you need to influence—come first.
After laying the groundwork, Karr defines and explains the seven traits that great sales leaders share:
Your Acknowledgment ListI want to draw your attention to two closely related posts by Rick Smith. They address important issues. The need to get good, solid support and feedback and the importance of appreciation. Here are some of the key points:
"Earlier in my career I was an executive recruiter, and what always struck me is just how lonely these men and women were. Not Tom Hanks on a desert island lonely – these people were surrounded by people clamoring for their attention. Rather, they were lonely in the sense that they rarely if ever could find a safe place to collaborate with peers around real problems. Their superiors were always looking for the answers, their subordinates were looking for direction. When they were able to interact with those outside of their companies, it was almost always at functions for their industry (i.e. their competitors). Everywhere these executives go, that have to present themselves as if they know the answers, as if they are supremely confident. But guess what? Even the most heralded execs share the same uncertainties as the rest of us. They just aren’t allowed to show it.
"Peer support is critical to any career. But the higher you go in a leadership role, the fewer opportunities you have to lean on peers for deliberation and problem solving. For any leader (yes, including the president), maintaining a trusted support network of true peers is critical.
"To address this issue, I started World 50, Inc. in 2004, initially bringing together the world’s top 50 marketing executives (in a group called Marketing 50). For this small group of executives, it was as if a light was suddenly turned on. These people were STARVED for a safe environment. Their insecurities and frustrations came spilling out as if from a pressure cooker. They immediately jumped in a started to help solve each other’s problems. As one member commented, “It was as if I was talking to myself a year from now. How valuable is that!” Our firm quickly launched similar peer groups for nearly every office in the executive suite, with each group addressing this same, basic need.
"The days of “buying” people’s time, effort and attention are over. We are all volunteers. We actively choose who we will work for, and how hard we will work for them. We choose who our clients and partners will be. We choose whom to let into our inner circle of friends, those whom we will offer unconstrained support. And we choose our “weak ties,” those outside of our day-to-day whom we will offer a new idea or perspective, and occasionally our direct assistance.
"To be successful, you need to earn every relationship. Leadership in the 21st century is based almost entirely on one’s ability to recruit and inspire others toward the future you are trying to create.
"This thought became very clear to me this week, as I sat down to write the acknowledgments section for my next book, The Leap: How Simple Changes Can Propel Your Career from Good to Great (September 2009). Within an hour, I had cited nearly 100 people who had made a material contribution to my life’s successes in just the last few years.
"Take a moment to write down your Acknowledgment list. Have you taken time to let them know you are grateful for their contributions? Would you show up on their acknowledgments list? How many volunteers do you have working for you?"
Newswire: What the French Revolution Can Teach America
Strategic Presence: The Power that Fuels LeadershipTony Jeary, author of Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life, is a coach to some of the world's top CEOs. In his book he brings together practical ideas to help you get out of your own way. A critical aspect of getting things done through others is presence – your presence. To influence others you need to know how they perceive you and adjust your communication with them accordingly. Here, Tony discusses what he calls strategic presence:
The goal of leadership is to produce superior results on purpose and that makes leadership a results contest. The challenge of leadership is to persuade and motivate those they lead to produce the results they want. When people voluntarily and enthusiastically do what their leaders ask them to do and the desired results are achieved, leaders are considered to be effective and successful! The question is how do leaders really get others to voluntarily and enthusiastically produce the desired results? There are many parts to this puzzle, but there is none greater than a condition I describe as Strategic Presence.
Here is a great story that illustrates Strategic Presence and also illuminates its effect. A student from a foreign country was enrolled in the middle of a school year. During the first day of class, the other kids in the class were doing what kids do. There was a lot of giggling and staring and posturing for the new arrival. The new student was dressed in a way that did not meet the expectations of a few of the other children and eventually one of them (the class clown) began to make jokes about the new student's appearance.
As the scene was progressing toward chaos, the teacher was about to intervene when a girl stood up and told everyone to stop picking on their new classmate. The girl reminded them that it was scary to be new in a school and they needed to be kind to the student and make them feel welcome She reminded them they should treat this new person as they would want to be treated if they were in a new country and a new school. After class, the teacher called the girl aside and said, "That was a very brave thing you did. Why did you do that?" The girl replied, "Because that is what my Mom and Dad would expect me to do!"
This story powerfully illustrates the essence and the effect of what I call Strategic Presence. The girl had merely done what she knew her parents would want her to do. Her parents had succeeded in creating a positive presence in her mind, which gave her the willingness and courage to do what she did. Most importantly, the presence of her parents was so authentic that they did not have to be physically present to inspire their daughter's good behavior.
Leaders create impressions that exist in the mind of every person they lead. It is a presence that defines the perceptions people have of their leaders and what they believe about them. It is this overall persona that I am referring to when I use the term Strategic Presence and there are two types: Positive and Negative. Leaders are constantly creating and presenting images of influence that produce both.
The most important fact about Strategic Presence is that it produces two possible reactions in others. It either produces voluntary cooperation or it produces various forms of resistance. If leaders generate positive Strategic Presence, people will be more likely to support what they want, most of the time. However, if perceptions of leadership are negative people will substitute resistance for cooperation. The possibilities of how people will respond to Strategic Presence are limited to cooperation or resistance. There is not much middle ground between them. As someone once said, "you are either for us against us!" It is easy to see why creating an authentic, positive strategic presence is critical for the execution of a vision.
Creating positive Strategic Presence is not a strategy of manipulation. The positive strategic presence leaders project must be authentic. Failing the test of authenticity means the very image leadership hopes to establish will be perceived as deceptive and disingenuous, or worse. People are very perceptive and they will see through efforts to project a phony persona for the purposes of manipulating their behavior. So, why shouldn't a leader's strategic presence just be allowed to be what it is?" That is a great question and the answer is simple. Many leaders are misunderstood and create perceptions that really don't match their intent. So, understanding how Strategic Presence is created will minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.
So, how is strategic presence is created? What are the things about leadership that speaks the loudest about it? What creates the perceptions that combine to produce Strategic Presence? There are two components that contribute to strategic presence: values and behavior.
Our values are established by what we believe to be right, wrong, true, false, acceptable, unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate. Let's face it, we have all developed deep, strong opinions about many things as we live our lives. Our opinions spring forth from your values and your values influence what we actually do.
Our values and beliefs impact 5 categories of that drive our behavior, and it is our behavior that creates Strategic Presence. The five categories that drive behavior are:
Mastering UncertaintyNeal A. Hartman, a senior lecturer in behavioral and policy sciences at Sloan School of Management, MIT, offers this advice in the Financial Times, concerning how a leader should behave in this uncertain business environment.
Managers must also pay close attention to their own actions during uncertain times. Because many people perceive uncertainty as frightening, leaders need to display behavior that brings about a sense of trust and credibility. Uncertainty is often a source of stress, but it is how people react to this stress that determines the kind of decision-making that occurs. Effective managers are those who develop the emotional maturity to behave rationally and confidently in stressful and uncertain situations and they must nurture this ability in their employees as well.
Communication Crib Sheet for Crisis TimesIn a excellent series of special reports on Managing in a Downturn produced by the Financial Times, Paul A. Argenti, professor of corporate communication at Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College, observes that “many companies flail by failing to act or by taking the wrong kind of action when communicating with distressed stakeholders.” People are eager to listen and by acting quickly and thoughtfully, “a company can build reputational capital and weather the storm to come out on the other side perceived as a long-term leader.”
During a crisis, companies can uncover opportunity by adhering to a few simple guidelines when communicating with investors, employees, the press and the general public.
The Top 5 U.S. Inaugural SpeechesDavid Greenberg, a professor of history and of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, offers his view of the five best inaugural speeches in the Wall Street Journal. “Over the decades, indeed, only a few have gained canonical status – for the sublimity of their prose, the eloquence of their delivery or the aptness of their message for a concurrent crisis.” I would place Lincoln’s short but powerful second inaugural address in 1865 as the best, but here is Greenburg’s list:
5. John F. Kennedy – 1961 “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
4. Thomas Jefferson – 1801 (First Inaugural Address) “But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1937 (Second Inaugural Address) “Old truths have been relearned; untruths have been unlearned. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.... It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
2. Abraham Lincoln – 1865 (Second Inaugural Address) “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
1. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1933 (First Inaugural Address) “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Living Within the LieBritish economist John Kay wrote in the Financial Times about the power of words to send us off into the wrong direction. There are some good thoughts here. Here is an excerpt:
In western liberal democracies, no one exhibits slogans calling on the workers to unite. But you see similar displays in reception areas of businesses and even in government offices. They urge us to pursue excellence, to delight our customers, to be wholehearted in our embrace of change. Employees place these exhortations on desks and walls with the same resignation as the Czech greengrocer. The modern analogue of the address to the party congress is the business speech, in which tired clichés relentlessly follow each other, to similarly sycophantic applause.
The objective of the patronising drivel emitted by politicians and business people is to drive out argument. Engaged debate is replaced by what Jack Welch, the former General Electric chief executive, memorably characterised as “superficial congeniality”. Apparent consensus is achieved by euphemism, by avoiding issues of substance and by using slogans instead of analysis.
Mr Welch saw that the opposite of superficial congeniality was “facing reality”. But the effect, and intention, of the tacit compliance involved in superficial congeniality is to entrench a reality of power: to legitimise authority based only on the occupation of positions of authority.
Living within the lie, because it does not face reality, is the process by which great organisations fall into catastrophic errors – and through which they often fail to recognise these errors even after their consequences have become apparent. The self-deception of living within the lie is how banks fell victim to the credit crunch and the US came to be embroiled in Iraq…. Dishonesty of speech quickly leads to dishonesty in behaviour because the language we use governs all we do.
Using Information to Develop Productive Relationships
How to Become an Expert on Anything in Two Hours, written by Gregory Hartley and Maryann Karinch sounds like something more akin to a con job. But it’s not about fooling people. It’s about connecting with people. Nobody can really be an “expert” in two hours. But anyone can learn to master information to the extent that they can establish trust and create a basis from which to go forward. There are specific techniques you can use to make information relevant to others; to use information to make a difference in other people’s lives. An expert, in this sense, can take specialized knowledge and give it context.
Greg Hartley is a former military interrogator. He presents here, basic communication skills that will help you to understand human nature, identify different types of people you might encounter and assess to what extent you must plan and prepare for those different types of people in order to present yourself as an expert. He explains:
In my world of interrogation, I use questions and tidbits of information to convince the source that I know enough to be taken seriously and to make him comfortable so that he will talk to me. I create an ally through the way I use information. In some cases, "ally" means nothing more than a common understanding that we're both soldiers and we're both professionals. I don't presume that I'm going to turn the source into a buddy, but I use information to establish common ground. If I know the same things he knows, then maybe I believe the same things he believes. That common ground gives me more credibility with him than if I came in yelling obscenities and threats. I use whatever facts and images I think will constantly remind him that he's part of the same thing that I am: a military outfit, a family, the human race. In this acute situation, I do what is takes—through a combination of planning and preparation and knowledge of human nature—to be an expert in his eyes.The authors present five general information-sorting styles and approaches to interacting with people. Understanding how they work is important to gaining someone’s acceptance of you as an expert.
Technician: A detailed-oriented person who needs the facts. “If you are such a person, you place great emphasis on the source of information, and you could end up being your own biggest skeptic in trying to present expertise. If a person of this type is in your audience, one of his requirements for accepting you as he expert is going to be detail.”
Generalist: People of this type “absorb information about lots of subjects and show agility in quickly grasping correlations….The generalist understands things in terms of how they relate to one another better than she understands vast amounts of details about a specific area. If you are a generalist you have a natural edge as an expert….Remember that al of your details mean nothing to the generalist unless you can translate them into meaning.”
Storyteller: “The storyteller can create a bridge between the generalist and the technician without ever becoming either of them. The storyteller needs to tell stories that have a message that addresses questions squarely, allays concerns, and reminds the listener what is in it for him.”
Sponge: “Strongly affected by other people’s opinions and gullible about information, the sponge will easily accept someone’s expertise because of that person’s affiliation, among other reasons.” If you are a sponge, you need to make sure you properly vet your sources. “When you are dealing with people like this, you may create a tense situation when you challenge something that they believe to be true. And the facts may have little to do with their truth.”
Romantic: These people are “fanciful adventure seekers who are idealistic. Being affected more by the meaning of information than by the facts, romantics are prone to disregard the facts in favor of feelings. If you are a romantic, learn to home in on practical information in you research….When you see something that supports your belief, look past it to get more facts. If you are dealing with a romantic, try not to rain on his parade; instead, show him how to use the information you are offering to feed his picture of the world.”
Communication: Keep it SimpleProcter & Gamble Chief Executive A. G. Lafley believes that simplicity is the key to good communication. He told the U.S. News and World Report:
Repeat after me. If that sounds simplistic, Lafley is the first to admit that it is. Yet in a company where more than half the employees don't speak English as their first language, he says his Sesame Street- simple slogans, repeated over and over, keep everyone trained on what's important. Human beings "don't want to stay focused," he says. "So my job is to get them to focus their creativity around the focus; focus their productivity around the focus; focus their efficiency or effectiveness around the focus." Insecure leaders create complexity. Simple, direct language keeps people tuned in to what's important. Simple communication doesn’t come from a simple mind. It comes from tough-minded clarity of thought.Jack Trout, a promoter of simplicity, suggests in his book The Power of Simplicity, that these famous adages wouldn’t be so famous if they had been written with a heavier hand and fancier words:
• Pulchritude possesses profundity of a merely cutaneous nature.
(Beauty is only skin deep.)
• It is not efficacious to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.
(You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.)
• Visible vapors that issue from carbonaceous materials are a harbinger of imminent conflagration.
(Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.)
• A revolving mass of lithic conglomerates does not accumulate a congery of small green bryophitic plants.
(A rolling stone gathers no moss.)
Out of Context: More Isn't Better. Better Is Better
Most presentations aren’t better for being longer, most conference calls aren’t better for being extended, most meetings aren’t more productive because you spent more time in the room. It’s just that in this age of super-sizing everything from hamburgers to automobiles, we’ve become addicted to the idea that more is better. I am here to ask you to join my revolution, to tattoo on your brain, if not your backside, that “More isn’t better. Better is better.”
—Frances Cole Jones,
How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Presenting Your Ideas, Persuading Your Audience, and Perfecting Your Image
Getting the Information You NeedIn the Spring issue of the Leader to Leader Journal, authors Mark Ronald and Robert Shaw tackle the issue of getting the good information needed to make informed decisions in Developing Peripheral Vision. The problem we are often faced with is that people are reluctant to talk about their concerns. They write, “For a variety of reasons, individuals often communicate in subtle or even misleading ways in regard to how they feel about a key decision.” There is a lot that we as leaders, can do contribute to the problem of open and clear communication.
They list six behavioral flags or signals that might mean that the leader needs to take more direct action to get the information they need. In brief:
Silence: In leadership teams, members who don’t support the trend of a decision often simply disengage from the dialogue and remain silent rather than pose a contrary point of view—particularly if the leader appears to support the decision or the group is moving quickly to closure. Who has checked out?
Non-answers: People can opt out by appearing to agree with the leader when, in fact, they do not. “If you think it’s the right decision, that’s good enough for me.”
Omissions: It is often what is not said that is most critical—particularly on issues that the leader believes will be problematic.
Specific language: People surface their true feelings in hundreds of subtle ways. Leaders need to pay attention to the specific use of words that are flags suggesting that more discussion or follow-up is needed.
Offline input: Often, the insights people bring to a leader (or each other) during the breaks of meetings or in informal hallway conversations are more important than what is said in formal discussions.
E-mail traffic: In many firms, e-mail offers insight into potential issues that may require a leader’s attention. For example, an overly formal e-mail message with multiple people copied (or blind copied) is often a protective action taken by a team member with concerns.
It is up to the leader to determine what is important and what is simply noise.
The Lack of Substance in Public Speeches
Public speaking expert Michael Osborn recently delivered a speech to the Georgia Communication Association, where he stated that he has watched a problem become a crisis. The crisis is the lack of substance in the speeches we hear. He states:
It is the declining quality of reasoning, the neglect of evidence both by speakers and listeners. It is the erosion of standards that lets so much slide by unquestioned—and that results sometimes in tragically flawed policies and practices. It is our impatience with debate and our unwillingness to play active roles as citizens in deciding public policy.As leaders, are we leading or pandering? It’s time to build up our thinking, reasoning and reasearching skills to counter “an increasingly mass-mediated and cynical culture.”
How to Start Strong with Any AudienceIn Brian Tracy’s new book, Speak to Win, he presents 8 tips for taking command of the podium before even speaking a word:
Step Up Confidently. When you are introduced, step up to the podium and shake hands with the introducer. As soon as you have the stage to yourself, turn to the audience. Start with silence. Smile and sweep your eyes slowly around the room for a few seconds, as if you are really happy to be there. As you stand silently, smiling, the audience will very quickly settle down and wait for you to begin.
Look the Part. Your appearance tells the audience how you think and feel about yourself. Your appearance also communicates to the audience members how you think and feel about them. People will make a decision about you in the first 30 seconds. Nothing about how you look—your clothes, your grooming, your stance—should distract from or diminish your message. As a rule, it isn’t “cool” to get up in front of an audience dressed as if you had just been working out at the gym.
Build Positive Expectations. Your first job is to raise expectations. You want to make the audience members feel glad they came. You want them to be eager to hear more. You want them to like you from the start. The more likeable people perceive you to be, the more open they will be to your message, and the less resistant they will be to any controversial points or ideas you bring up.
Take Charge Immediately. When you stand up to speak, you become the leader. The audience wants you to take charge and be in control. Act as if you own the room and as if everyone works for you. Then, people will believe and follow.
Speak Directly to the Audience. When you begin speaking, focus in on a single person in the audience. Start off by speaking directly and warmly to him or her. Then, casually move on to another face, and then another, and another. This direct eye contact slows you down, calms your nerves, and helps you to develop a relationship with the people in your audience.
Be Authentic and Humble. The best way to be liked is to be genuine. If you feel a little embarrassed or overwhelmed by the positive attention the audience is giving to you, it’s OK to show it. Try not to appear as if you know it all.
5 Leadership Lessons: Inside Welch's Communication Revolution at GE
Bill Lane joined GE as a speechwriter in 1980, and became the Manager, Executive Communications for the Company, and Jack Welch’s speechwriter. In his book Jacked Up: Inside Welch's Communication Revolution at GE, he tells stories from his experiences with Jack Welch and other key players, with the candor that Welch prized above all.
The vanity of communications is about never – ever – allowing anything but your best face, and that of your organization, to ever, ever, appear in front of your constituencies or your employees or your mates.
I fell prey to a typical attitudinal conceit, a root cause of presentation disasters: the belief that what you think is so important is also considered to be so by the audience. The best presentations I’ve done in my life are ones about which people I respected came up and said: “It was great, but it was too short. I wanted to hear more.” All first draft presentations are too long and should be cut. Second, third, and forth drafts should be cut further.
Never, ever, make a presentation you do not feel is excellent—a home run. If you don’t spring up to the podium because you can’t wait to do it, something is probably wrong.
The domination or orchestration of company meetings may sound like the machinations of a control freak, a meddler, an autocrat, or dictator. That is precisely what I am describing; but it also the picture of a leader, and how a leader can capture ownership of his key meetings and his organizational communications, virtually overnight. These meetings were Jack’s megaphone, and everybody knew it. Do the people who attend your key meetings know whose thoughts a views they are hearing?
[Jack] would tune out, and write-off, people who made presentations that had an air of “going through the motions” or “reporting” rather than passionately advocating some course or other.
Lane asks: "What jobs are you disqualifying yourself from because of poor presentation skills? These efforts are fairly easy to acquire, and involve the architecture and effort in the presentation itself, rather than theatrics and what color dress you wear."
Roger Martin on Assertive InquiryRoger Martin’s book The Opposable Mind. Here are some explanatory excerpts from the book:
“When we interact with other people on the basis of a particular mental model, we usually try to defend that model against any challenges. Our energy goes into explaining our model to others and defending it from criticism.
“The antidote to advocacy is inquiry, which produces meaningful dialogue. When you use assertive inquiry to investigate someone else’s metal model, you find saliencies that wouldn’t have occurred to you and causal relationships you didn’t perceive. You may not want to adopt the mental model as your own, but even the least compelling model can provide clues to saliencies or causal relationships that will generate a creative solution.”
Martin continues, “Assertive inquiry isn’t a form of challenge, but it is pointed. It explicitly seeks to explore the underpinnings of you own model and that of another person. Its aim is to learn about the salient data and causal maps baked into another person’s model, then use the insight gained to fashion a creative resolution of the conflict between that person’s model and your own.”
How to Develop Integrative Thinking
Integrative Thinking: The Opposable Mind
Why Leaders Don’t ComplimentIn Results that Last, Quint Studer lists six myths and excuses as to why too many leaders resist giving people much needed compliments.
Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939), founder of the Bethlehem Steel Company, said, “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”
In the often cited study by Gerald Graham, Ph.D. of Wichita State University, it found that employees consider personal, immediate recognition by their managers to be one of the most powerful workplace motivators. However, 58 percent of the respondents said their manager rarely, if ever, offered such simple praise. Graham concluded, “It appears that the techniques that have the greatest motivational impact are practiced the least, even though they are easier and less expensive to use.”
Who should you be thanking?
Reframing ConflictManaging Conflict. Reframing the situation we find ourselves in to reflect a concern for he other person’s point of view can move us through a perceived impasse. Fisher’s rethinking process excerpted here, is helpful in this regard:
“So I come and try to put myself in your shoes: How do you see it? How can I help you see it in a way that will be helpful to you, where you can go forward? I’m not telling you what to do; I’m not fighting with you.”
“I have to get on your side, understand what you’re thinking about; what you’re worried about—your concerns, your interests—and how I can help you deal with your side.”
Fisher adds: “Negotiation is recognizing that it’s not just the other side that has the problem but that we have a problem together. When you negotiate, you want to understand each other’s perceptions. How do you see it? How do I see it? How do we change it from adversarial to side by side, so that we’re both working on this?”
The Art of Winning Others Over
If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.In The Art of Woo or "Winning Others Over," authors Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, make the case that wooing is one of the most important skills in a manager's repertoire. Research would seem to support this claim as people with strong social skills have been shown to command higher fees and salaries than equally talented but less socially adept colleagues. And they are no doubt more pleasant to be around.
Winning others over is an art. It is the ability to sell “your ideas to people within the context of ongoing, important relationships.” They maintain, “If you want to be a player in your organization, a successful partner with your customers or suppliers, a leader in your community, or even a good parent, you need to woo people to your point of view by putting your ideas across in convincing, relationship-friendly ways.”
To that end, they remind us that the idea in persuasion is not to defeat the other person but to win them over. The place to begin is in understanding your own persuasion style. They have identified five types—The Driver, The Promoter, The commander, The Chess Player and The Advocate—and have included a Persuasion Style Assessment to get you started. Whatever your preferred style tends to be, the idea is to strike a balance between what the authors identify as the "self-oriented" perspective-where focus is on the persuader's credibility and point of view-and the "other-oriented" perspective, which focuses on the audience's needs, perceptions and feelings.
They have created a systematic strategy or Woo Process, to aid you in skillfully getting your point across. In brief they are:
Step 1: Survey Your Situation, that is
• Forge and polish your idea,
• Map the decision process you face by understanding the social networks within the organization,
• Assess your persuasion styles, and
• Confirm your own level of passion for the proposal.
Step 2: Confront the Five Barriers, including
• Negative relationships,
• Poor credibility,
• Communication mismatches,
• Contrary belief systems, and
• Conflicting Interests.
Then transform these five barriers into assets.
Step 3: Make Your Pitch by
• Presenting solid evidence and arguments and
• Using devices to give your idea a personal touch.
Step 4: Secure Your Commitments by dealing with politics at both
• The individual level and
• Within the organization.
They note that authority plays a background role in most interactions and while it can be useful in some situations, it should not be relied upon especially where there are multiple stakeholders. They say, “The formal roles people occupy are the starting positions for a complex dance of organizational influence.” They also note that actually, the higher up you go in an organization, the less authority comes into play and the more important relationship and persuasion skills become.
Taking It Personally
“Foolish is the person that takes offense when none was intended. More foolish is the person that takes offense when it was intended.”egonomics, David Marcum and Steven Smith describe the difficulties that arise when we get our identity confused with the topic being debated—when we take things personally. When we get into a vigorous debate, it’s quite common to find that we respond to a perceived attack with behavior that indicates our ego is in trouble.
When we respond to a statement or question by comparing ourselves, seeking acceptance, showcasing or getting defensive, it often means that we think our identity is under attack. In other words, we forget about the debate of ideas and respond as though who we are is being threatened and we take it personally. It’s not unusual that we have a tough time separating our ideas from our identity? Trial attorney Gerry Spence explains, “We all have a personal image that he must protect. For example, I do not want to be seen by others, and particularly my myself, as weak, as ill advised, as less than worthy, as stupid, as someone who cannot be respected. I will do whatever is necessary to preserve my personal image of myself. The more fragile my self image, the harder I will struggle to preserve it.”
Marcum and Smith explain it this way: “If we can’t distinguish who we are from what we do, what we have, or who we do it with, we won’t see past our titles or tenure in a discussion. If we say to ourselves or others, ‘I’m the Vice President,’ ‘I’m the CEO,’ ‘I’m the Director of Public Relations,’ or even ‘I’m the creative one’ or ‘I’m the advocate for diversity here,’ then we’re parading our identity, and take it personally.”
In egonomics, Marcum and Smith examine an exchange between Fred Rogers and Senator John Pastore at a Congressional hearing to effectively explain this point. It clearly showcases the benefits of maintaining a separation between identity and ideas and keeping your ego in check with humility. They explain, “In the intensity of debate, humility is like a two-way surge protector; it keeps us from making it personal or taking it personally.”
Of course, the trick is to avoid this negative response cycle in the first place. The authors borrowed an idea from Carl Rogers to give form to an essential attitude to take when faced with a vigorous debate (or when dealing with people in general). The idea is to treat people with unconditional positive regard. That is to say that “everyone is worthy of respect and capable of contribution, even when they don’t particularly act that way or even feel that way about themselves.” We want to assure others that we aren’t trying to change who they are, but we are interested in presenting another viewpoint.
If you find yourself in a situation where things have gotten beyond productive, then the author’s suggest using one of the following opening statements before we begin asking questions:
“You might be right…”
“Even though that’s hard to hear, I’m glad you’re saying something…”
“Okay. Let’s talk that one through.”
“Say a little more about that.”
It doesn’t signal agreement, it expresses a mind open to understanding. Debate needs to follow understanding or people often begin to defend themselves and not their ideas.
Finally, in the spirit of vigorous debate and deepened understanding, humility prompts us to ask, “Who cares if I’m right at this instant if we get it right eventually?” If we’re devoted to progress, it doesn’t matter who has the answer, but that the answers are found.In the balance of the book, Marcum and Smith show that shifting conversations from statements and judgments to exploration requires not just humility, but the relentless application of two more principles—curiosity and veracity. They maintain a good blog that is worth checking out also.
Having Trouble Listening?Effective leaders will make a concerted effort to listen to and learn from those around them. Not only does listening build trust, but more importantly, listening is the clearest way we can show respect for another person. A lack of the ability or desire to listen may indicate a lack of self-respect. Something to think about. In How to be a Great Communicator, author Nido Qubein, suggests that if you are having trouble listening, the following factors may be behind the problem:
Prejudice: We all have biases. It’s all too easy to ignore a person because of something we don’t like or value about them. “It’s best to overcome our prejudices, but while we’re overcoming them we must learn to override them.”
Jumping to Conclusions: Listening can be difficult, especially when you think you have heard it before. When you get that bored feeling and begin to drift away, bring yourself back to the present and “accept the challenge of drawing from the speaker some ideas and information that will be of value to you personally."
Assumption: Related to the above, Qubein writes, “You may assume that you already know what the speaker is going to say, so your attention drifts elsewhere….Make it a game to look for something new to take away from the conversation.”
Inattention: We can think almost four times faster than we can speak. In the lapse between the two it’s easy to place your attention elsewhere or begin to formulate what you want to say. In doing so you may miss important information. “The remedy is to use the ‘spare’ time to evaluate and interpret what the speaker is saying.”
Selective Listening: Our minds are tuned to hear what we want to hear; those things that confirm what we already think. “Once again, the solution is to evaluate and interpret. Look for information and ideas that challenge your own ideas.”
Excessive Talking: If we’re talking, we’re not listening. It’s easy to use someone else’s comment as a jumping-off point to your monologue. “Be conscious of the amount of time you spend talking, and be alert for signs that your listener has something to say. Be willing to yield the floor at reasonable intervals.”
Lack of Empathy: Try to listen from the other person’s point of view. Knowing where the other person is coming from can give you a lot of insight into what they are saying.
Fear: When you don’t like what someone else is saying or if you think it might make you look bad, instead of listening, we often begin to formulate an argument or begin to plan our escape. Force yourself to hear the other person out. Qubein cites Patrick Henry, “…Whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”
Andy Stanley on Communication and Leadership
Andy Stanley is always interesting. He told Christianity Today the following in a discussion about church leadership:
"Here's an incredibly important principle. You cannot communicate complicated information to large groups of people. As you increase the number of people, you have to decrease the complexity of the information. Congregational rule, when you're trying to make a complicated decision, works against the principle. So consequently, the guy with the microphone and the clearest message always wins. The most persuasive person in the room is going to win. Whether right or wrong."
He was asked about criticisms that some churches seem so corporate in their leadership structure with the pastor as CEO. He says there is a sound principle behind the structure: “‘Follow me.’ Follow we never works. Ever. It's ‘follow me.’ God gives a man or a woman the gift of leadership. And any organization that has a point leader with accountability and freedom to use their gift will do well. Unfortunately in the church world, we're afraid of that. Has it been abused? Of course. But to abandon the model is silly.” I would add that we can find many that are afraid of that concept outside the church as well. It's often why we see leadership theory taking strange twists and turns in the literature today. Learning to operate without abusing the influence or power that goes with leadership at any level, requires a proper perspective as to why you are leading in the first place.
A Tutorial On Letter Writing
Here is a lesson in communication from the pen of Benjamin Franklin. The following letter was written 230 years ago in reply to letter from a stranger who identified himself only as Lith. Lith is angry that he didn't get a prompt reply from Franklin. Franklin's response provides a counterpoint to those who think that they should be answered just because they ask. Some things are impolite or unreasonable to ask and some things are frankly none of our business. I’ve included the whole letter out of interest and for context. The lesson is highlighted in bold type.
To — Lith
The Art of CommunicationIn Communication Arts, designer and communications strategist Cheryl Heller asks if there has “ever been a better time to ponder the art of communication? Or a time when the fate of life as we know it hangs on our ability not only to communicate but to actually understand each other?”
She observes that all of us are communicating but wonders what it is we are not talking about that we should. T.S. Eliot asked, "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" Communicators should be about helping people to process all the banter they experience into meaningful thought. That activity, often referred to as the four levels of learning—a progression moving from raw data to information, to knowledge and finally to wisdom—is not always an easy one. There are many things that conspire to keep us from getting there.
Heller asks, “How can we get people’s attention and begin to tell the truth? How can we learn to listen differently so that we know what the truth is?” A couple of key questions. Overcoming our own biases, preconceived ideas and faulty thinking make that all the more difficult.
Heller offers some ideas. Two of the most important are, first, having the courage to say less. “This is the opportunity to evolve from being paid for how much you can do to being paid for how well you think.” Secondly, and frankly the most crucial, is making time to think. She suggests, “Pay quality attention to the things that matter, and give our brains some time to digest.” Make the time.
More on developing wisdom:
Where Is the Wisdom We Have Lost in Knowledge?
Wisdom: The Interval Between the Notes
Martin Luther King Jr. and Adaptive ChangeWhen trying to bring about a solution that requires adaptive change—a change in frame-of-reference, a change in attitudes, values and behaviors—the challenge “is to work with differences, passions, and conflicts in a way that diminishes their destructive potential and constructively harness their energy.”
In Leadership on the Line, authors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky explain, “To sustain momentum through a period of difficult change, you have to find ways to remind people of the orienting value—the positive vision—that makes the current angst worthwhile.”
“As you catalyze change, you can help ensure that you do not become a lightning rod for the conflict by making the vision more tangible, reminding people of the values they are fighting for, and showing them how the future might look. By answering, in every possible way, the “why” question, you increase people’s willingness to endure the hardships that come with the journey to a better place.”
This what Martin Luther King Jr.’s accomplished in his famous I Have a Dream speech. He painted a tangible vision when he said:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
Interestingly enough, the civil rights speakers who were to speak on that day—August 28, 1963—argued amongst themselves who would speak when and for how long. King had agreed to not only speak at the end of the day, but to limit his remarks to four minutes. This would seem to have had the effect of virtually sidelining King as it was assumed that the newsmen would have to leave to prepare for the nightly news and the crowd would have thin out by then. However, the news crews and the crowds stuck around to hear King. His well-rehearsed but improvised words captivated everyone present. His four-minute limit stretched to over 16 minutes and the rest is history.
Who Will Succeed or Fail in the Corner Office?Carol Hymowitz asked in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “which CEOs have the skills to survive the New Year’s challenges?” In her article she writes:
The true test of enduring leadership success is how well business leaders handle setbacks and failures. They can advance by outperforming others, but they can't always be in control.
A leader’s communication flexibility and consistency is important in this regard. Leaders are not only expected to influence their direct reports, Gene Klan writes in his new book, Building Character, but “are also expected to influence their superiors, board members, peer, customers, clients, suppliers, the news media, community officials, political leaders, government regulators, negotiators, environmental authorities, special interest groups, Wall Street Analysts, and any number of other stakeholders…. [E]ach group requires different tactics to be influenced and led both effectively and positively. Leaders need flexibility and many different skills to communicate credibly and interact with all these parties for maximum results.”
Consistency is a matter of character. “For leaders,” Klan continues, “consistency means always reflecting the same basic principles in practice. It means that one’s behaviors conform and agree with one’s past words and actions regardless of pressure, criticism, and advice to do otherwise. It means maintaining the habitual positive behaviors that are key to winning trust and respect and achieving effectiveness overall. It means being seen and known as a pillar of dependability and reliability, not changing or wavering based on opinion polls, internal disapprovals, or external condemnations."
"Consistency also implies that a leader’s behaviors and character are not compartmentalized between work and personal life. You are who you are, and that doesn’t change when you arrive at the office or at your own front door. Your character is such that you find consistent standards for behavior in any context. Responsibilities, stresses, and personalities may vary, but your character does not. All the politically correct arguments to the contrary do not change that reality. Behaviors reflect a leader’s character regardless of the context. In every context, your character will be noticed and judged.” It is these leaders that have to best chance of surviving the challenges that lie ahead in the coming year.
How To Fine Tune Your Listening Skills“Why do most of us like to talk so much? Because we want to be noticed. We get a charge out of being the center of the universe. But when you yap on, you use up all of the oxygen and energy in the room, which is debilitating for everyone else” say authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval in The Power of Nice. Often times, more communication is less communication.
They suggest five ways to fine tune your listening skills:
Let the Other Guy Be Smarter. When you let the other guy’s brilliance shine through, you not only gain new information, you also earn their goodwill. Everyone likes to be around people who make them feel intelligent.
Keep It Simple. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one. By listening rather than pontificating you will often hear the simple connection that makes the difference.
Ask, Don’t Tell. When you ask questions, you tell people that you care about them, that you’re interested in what they have to say. You also send an oh-so-subtle message that you’re a bright, inquisitive individual who would like to know more. That’s why even the smallest question can have a huge impact.
Don’t Argue So Much. Whenever problems or conflicts arise, there is a natural tendency to try and “talk your way out of it.” But sometimes you win your case by shutting up and listening your way out of it.
Everyone Is Worth a Listen. Jay Leno says, “We live in a society of exclusion. There is this idea that you should try to keep people out—‘Oh, you can’t come into this club, you have to be a member, you don’t have enough money, you’re not handsome enough.’ But if you go through life with the opposite attitude and try to include everybody, it opens up doors.”
Remember Dale Carnegie's quote: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."
Teaching as MarketingSeth Godin wrote an excellent post on his blog about communication through speeches or talk. He writes about the dynamics of speech: “Speech is both linear and unpaceable. You can’t skip around and you can’t speed it up. When the speaker covers something you know, you are bored. When he quickly covers something you don’t understand, you are lost.” This is both the advantage and the challenge of speech.
A speech has always been a platform to sell ideas, but we often forget that and just drone on presenting what perhaps is important to us (often the audience can’t tell) without regard to our listeners. Godin adds, “If marketing is the art of spreading ideas, then teaching is a kind of marketing. And teaching to groups verbally is broken, perhaps beyond repair. Consumers of information won’t stand for it. We’re learning less every time we are confronted with this technique, because we’ve been spoiled by the remote control and the web.”
Godin suggests, “If you teach—teach anything—I think you need to start by acknowledging that there’s a need to sell your ideas emotionally. So you need to use whatever tools are available to you—an evocative PowerPoint image, say, or a truly impassioned speech.” Speech isn’t broken; we just don’t take the time to do it well. A well crafted speech has the potential to cut through the clutter and hold your attention more intimately than nearly any other form of communication.
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