Course Launch!

After three years of blogging and over 30 years of leadership in various organizations, I’ve decided to offer some of what I’ve learned in an online course. You may have seen my Facebook video last week. If not, here’s a link to that.

 

I’ve learned a lot about leadership over the years. I’ve learned from mentors and from my experience with success and failure. It has been my privilege to serve clients in multiple industries including healthcare, airlines, sports and entertainment, food manufacturing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, education, and several non-profit organizations.

When I transitioned from full-time ministry to the business world almost 25 years ago, I wrote the following personal mission statement: “to build relationships within my sphere of influence through which I can help people discover and achieve their capacity for excellence.” That has been my purpose. Now I want to expand that sphere of influence by offering this online course.

I know that the skills contained in this course will help people lead better. Whether they are new in a leadership role or a CEO or business owner, these skills will make them better because they will help leaders connect with and engage their people. In fact, these skills are transferrable to all of life, not just business or non-profit leadership.

Here’s a link to my new web page. There you will find a link to the free webinar called “Engager Dynamics Bookends.” Take 40 minutes to view the webinar. It might just be the best time investment you make all month.

Connecting is a Skill

Happy 3rd Birthday, Engager Dynamics! My firsts post, Star Performance, went up on April 15, 2018, so this is celebration week. This time last year, who could have imagined what was in store? We thought we’d be out of this pandemic lockdown soon for one thing.  We sold the home we’d lived in the longest of any since we got married and moved to “The Ranch.” Let’s not even mention the interesting politics with the campaigns, the rallies, the demonstrations, the conventions, and the election. What a year!

Work, for those who still have jobs, has largely become a virtual world of masked colleagues at least six feet away if not miles. Connecting is more important now than ever. This is a good time to talk about the fact that connecting is more skill than natural talent. We can learn to connect. True, some people seem to connect more easily than others, but we can all learn to connect. Great connectors tend to draw on one or more of several factors to create a connection. Here are five to consider. Which of these might you have? The factors will be different depending on with whom you’re connecting.

Relationships – who you know.

A quick way to gain credibility with an individual, a group, or an audience is to borrow it from someone who has credibility with them. “Who” you know can open the door for you to connect with someone. I was at a convention in Orlando, Florida in August of 2019, for example. I met a guy and we started talking. You know, the small talk that we use to find something in common. As it turned out, we had lived in the same town during high school and knew some of the same people particularly a guy I had played football with. There was an instant connection. The level of conversation changed from small talk to connection.

Insight – what you know.

If you share an area of expertise generously with others, you give people reasons to respect you and they will develop a sense of connection with you. What are you really good at that most people aren’t? Can you draw? Are you good with Excel? Are you a history buff? Whatever it is that people look to you for can be a point of connection when you share it with them.

Success – what you have done.

People want to be successful and they seek out others who have accomplished something to get their advice. If you are successful in anything you do, there will be people who will want to listen to you and connect with you.

Ability – what you can do.

If you have a high level of ability in an area, others may want to connect with you because of that ability. Excellence connects. Individuals who perform at a high level in their profession often have instant credibility with others. People admire them. They want to be like them. They feel connected to them. When they speak, others listen.

Think about Michael Jordan. He’s made more money from endorsements than he ever did playing basketball. Is it because of his knowledge or use of the products he endorses? No. It’s because of what he can do with a basketball.

Sacrifice – how you have lived.

If you’ve made sacrifices, suffered tragedy, or overcome painful obstacles, many people will relate to you. If you have been able to remain positive yet humble in the midst of life’s difficulties, others will admire you and will connect with you.

Not everyone is Michael Jordan. But you don’t have to be him to be recognized for your ability at something. Ability is only one possible way to connect and these are only five of many possible connecting points. When you find a connecting point with someone or with a group, you can sense a switch from communication to connection. Finding those connecting points is a skill. I’ve just given you five places to look.

How to Cultivate Growth

We currently live in California where there are 16 separate climate zones. We learned that the hard way one summer day after we first moved here. It was over 100 degrees in the Central Valley where we live, so we decided to go to the ocean. We chose to drive into San Francisco to enjoy the Wharf. We loaded our family of 7 into the mini-van all dressed in T-shirts and shorts and headed to the city. It was when we got out of the van at the Wharf that we discovered the short drive (less than an hour) had take us way out of our climate zone. It was in the lower 60’s in the city and we were too cold to enjoy the day.

Gardening and landscaping is interesting in California for the same reason. Nurseries and Garden Centers have to stock according to the climate zone(s) represented by their customer base. “Will the plants I want grow well in my climate zone?” The answer to that question can be different only a few miles down the road.

What Growth Climate Are You Creating?

People are like plants. We thrive and grow in certain climates better than other climates. One of the first components of a growth climate is the basic beliefs or assumptions you have about people. What you believe about them will determine how you behave toward them.

Some people have the following or similar basic assumptions about people:

  1. They are uncommitted.
  2. They are basically lazy.
  3. They are irresponsible.
  4. They are merely resources you use to accomplish my goals.

What kind of climate do you think comes from those basic beliefs? I believe it would be a cold, dark climate filled with fear of failure and a punishment-based motivational model. Have you ever experienced a climate like that?

The Golem effect is in full force here. The Golem effect says that negative expectations by supervisors produce poorer performance from employees that tend to reinforce the negative beliefs of the supervisors which, in turn, generates more negative expectations. It’s a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Opposite of the Golem effect is the Pygmalian effect. It says that our beliefs about others influence our actions toward them, which impact their beliefs about themselves, which cause their actions toward others, which reinforce our beliefs about them. It is a positive cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy.

We are more apt to create a climate for growth when we believe:

  1. People will do what makes sense to them.
  2. People want to make a difference.
  3. People don’t want to fail.
  4. People want to grow personally.
  5. People need and respond to encouragement and appreciation.

What a different climate those beliefs would create. But, how do you change your beliefs? Are they permanently ingrained or can they change? I believe they can change. Often the only thing required to change them is to spend a little time getting to know your people. When you listen to them, 9 times out of 10 you will be amazed especially if you’re open to being amazed.

Sunshine and Rain

Once we have the foundational beliefs right, what can we add to the environment to promote personal growth for ourselves and our people?

Exposure – give yourself and your people opportunities to try new things. Let them attend meetings they normally don’t have access to. I’ve had people apply for promotions they didn’t expect to get just for the exposure to the process. One value of exposure is that it often generates questions which will lead to the next step.

Education – encourage yourself and your people to take classes. They could be toward certifications or just to answer those questions that came from Exposure. But, have a purpose for classes and don’t assume taking a class is the sum total of development. It’s always only a step.

Experience – the difference between Exposure and Experience is that instead of attending the meeting, you have the person lead the meeting. You let the person be lead for a day. You walk, or let your people walk in someone else’s shoes. These are amazing growth opportunities.

You have to be willing to let people fail safely for any of this to work. Failure is part of growth. In fact, we often learn more from our failures than from our successes. Failure may feel like “dung” but dung makes a great fertilizer.

A Word About Weeds and Suckers

Part of cultivation for plant growth is pulling weeds and cutting away unhealthy growth. That’s also necessary in personal growth. Correcting bad habits and redirecting people are part of the growth process. Sometimes you may even have to remove a toxic person from the team in order to promote a growth climate. That’s extreme and a last resort, but is sometimes necessary.

Just like California with it’s 16 climate zones, your climate doesn’t have to be the same as the one down the road to grow beautiful plants. But it has to be conducive to growing the plants you want.

Using the Speed Gap Trap to Your Advantage

Last week I listed one of 7 barriers to good listening as “The Speed Gap Trap.” I called it that because of the gap between the speed of speech and the speed of thought. I called it a trap because it’s in that gap that most good listening gets stuck. Most often people don’t listen well because their minds wander while the other person is talking or because they use the gap to plan their reply.

Bonus Brain Time

There is a completely opposite way to look at the speed gap. It can be listening’s worsts enemy, or it can be listening’s greatest ally. What makes the difference? Intentionality. You can learn to use the gap to your listening advantage.

Before we go any further, I want to try an experiment with you. Think about a red balloon . . . What came to mind? Was it a big hot air balloon or a smaller helium filled birthday party balloon? Now, think about a green chair . . . Did you have a specific chair that came to mind or did you imagine one? It doesn’t matter. The point of the experiment is to show that you can choose what you think about. If you followed the instructions, you directed your mind to a red balloon and a green chair, and you did it in no time at all. You’re pretty amazing!

What you are experiencing now is something called meta-cognition. That’s a fancy word for thinking about your thinking. You have the ability to examine your thought processes while they’re occurring. Think about that. If you apply that ability while you are listening, you can turn “The Speed Gap Trap” into what I call “Bonus Brain Time.” Use the speed gap to think about your listening and direct your thinking to focus on the speaker.

Putting Bonus Brain Time to Work

Try an exercise. During your next conversation, practice being aware of how you are listening. First, pay attention to your own posture and attention. Are you giving eye contact? Are you listening to what is being said or are you planning what you will say next? One signal that you are planning what to say next instead of listening is the urge to interrupt. If you feel that, you are more than likely not listening as well as you could.

Next, pay attention to the person talking. What words are they using? What are their body language and facial expressions saying to you? I call this listening with your ears and listening with your eyes. How do the things they are saying come together to form a picture (listening with your brain)? How do you feel about what you’re hearing (listening with your gut)? Does it strike you as authentic? Is there any prejudice on your part that would lead you to believe one way or another?

After the conversation is over, make some notes. How did you do? What did you learn about the person who was talking? Even more, what did you learn about your listening? Yourself as a listener? Practice that same process over and over. It will be very useful as you develop your listening skills.

7 Barriers to Good Listening

At work we often talk about “Barriers.” They are those things, people, rules, policies, etc. that “prevent movement, or access, or progress.” In a coaching conversation, for example, you might ask, “have you experienced any barriers to meeting the expectation?” In other words, “is there anything outside or within your control that has prevented you from achieving the desired result?” In their book, The Oz Principle, authors Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman write about overcoming barriers to achieve results as part of being accountable.

We have a 9 month old puppy named Zuzu. It appears that one of her primary goals in life is to overcome barriers. While we were training her to go outside, we placed various barriers at entrances to rooms with carpeting or a rug and to keep her in the family room with us which has a tile floor. Mind you, Zuzu is a 5 pound puppy. It has been incredibly entertaining to watch her find ways to get beyond those barriers. She uses her nose, her paws, her teeth, whatever she can, to move (thankfully never destroy ) any barrier.

We’ve been talking this month about Listening. There are many potential barriers to good listening. One of them is he belief that because we hear, we listen. Hearing is part of listening, but only part. Listening, as I’ve written about elsewhere, is a full contact sport.

There are several other barriers to good listening. Here are a few of them:

The Speed Gap Trap

This refers to the difference in the speed at which people speak and the speed at which we can process speech. Most of the time, people speak at a rate of about 125 words per minute. But, we can hear at a rate of 500 – 800 words per minute. What happens to all that extra time? That’s where the untrained listener’s mind wanders, they lose concentration and wind up being accused of not listening.

The Vapor Effect

Hearing is the most ephemeral of senses. Sounds are vibrations. Once the vibration is over, it’s gone. That’s why we take notes or make audio recordings of lectures in school. That’s also why its a good idea to take notes during certain conversations. Because, if we don’t make some concerted effort to retain the words that have been spoken, they won’t last any longer than the vibration that carried them.

The Me Focus

“Self-Centered” means to be preoccupied with oneself and one’s own affairs. Often when we are in conversation our focus is us. What do I want to gain from this discussion? What do I want to say next? How can I prove my point? Again, this speaks to how we use our Bonus Brain Time. If my focus in our conversation is me, what are the chances I’ll ever reach super-power listening skills?

Now, there is a difference between being self-centered and being self-aware, a huge difference. Self awareness is linked to “Meta-cognition” which is something we’ve talked more about in another post. Basically it means “Thinking about our thinking.” For our topic we could say it means, “Thinking about our listening as we’re doing it.” This self-awareness is a powerful tool for developing our listening skills. Self-Centeredness is the opposite.

Some other barriers to good listening include:

Prejudice – If we have preconceived ideas about the other person, their motives, position on a topic, or anything else, it will inhibit our ability to listen to them.

Stress – is like static in our brain and blocks out other people.

Anger – is similar to stress in its effect. When we’re angry, even if it’s not with the person who is speaking, the emotion blocks our ability to listen.

Distractions – seems pretty basic, but background noise, cell phones, TV, etc are kryptonite to super-power listening.

There are many other possible barriers to listening. How many can you think of? Understanding the barriers to good listening goes a long way in helping us get better at listening if we act like Zuzu and find a way past those barriers.

Listen Linda!

“OK. Listen, listen, listen, Linda, just listen,” pleads then 3-year-old Mateo when debating with his mom over whether or not he should get a cupcake. If you haven’t seen this video, watch it here. Mom replies, “You’re not listening to me.” To which Mateo immediately retorts, “Because your not listening to me!” Wow! What a perfect representation of what’s wrong with so much communication. Ellen DeGeneres lunched the video to viral status when she had the Mom and son team on her show. The video is cute and Mateo is very articulate. But, I wonder if at least one reason it became so popular (no shade to Ellen) is that people everywhere (not just parents and kids) could relate to the issue it unveiled, No one is listening!

Last month I wrote about Organizational Communication. But a message sent is not communication unless it is received and understood. That requires listening. In fact, I would argue that listening is the most important element in effective communication (we have two ears, after all, and only one mouth). Well-known broadcaster, Celeste Headlee, in her famous TED Talk “How to Have a Good Conversation,” (over 5,000,000 views) says listening is the most important skill you can develop. She supports this claim with a quote from Buddha, “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.”

Even though we spend a around a quarter of our time speaking and just over half our time listening (a 2:1 ratio), the following are true:

  • 87% of Married couples identify poor communication as their major problem … why? Because, “My Spouse Doesn’t Listen to me”
  • Surveys of workers rate “Good Listening” as a manager’s most important attribute, and, In a study of half the Fortune 500 companies, 2/3 of employees said “Good Listening” was a skill their managers most often lacked.
  • Management surveys have identified the most vital and neglected skill for college graduates entering the workforce as “the ability to listen and follow directions.”
  • One study estimated that 60% of corporate communication problems can be blamed on poor listening.

So, why don’t we listen?

Celeste Headlee suggests two reasons. First, she says, “we’d rather be talking.” When we’re talking, we’re in control. We don’t have to hear things we’re not interested in, we’re the center of attention, so we can bolster our own identity. The other reason Headlee offers is that we’re distracted. She mentions the fact that we can speak at about 125 words per minute but we can listen at between 500 and 800 words per minute. Our minds fill in the extra words. I call this “Bonus Brain Time” in my Listening course.

Because of Bonus Brain Time, it takes a lot of work and discipline to listen. That’s another reason we’re not so good at it. We either have not learned how to discipline ourselves or we’re not willing to put in the work.

I’ll offer one final reason we don’t listen well. We’re selfish. Let me put it in the words of Stephen Covey, who said it much more eloquently.

“Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”

I guess Celeste made the same point when she said, “We’d rather be talking.” We’re more interested in making our point than in understanding the point of another.

So, why should we listen?

For one reason, it’s the Loving thing to do. Love in any context is caring more about the other person’s well being than about your own. It’s what makes a great boss, a great lover, a great friend. If love is caring about the other person, what better way to show you care than to listen? Sometimes, that’s all the other person wants anyway.

Another reason to listen, it makes you more interesting. It’s true. If people, in general, like to talk about themselves, which we do, then we tend to find those who are more interested in us to be more interesting to us. Become that one-in-a-million listener and you’ll be the most interesting person many people know. Granted, it’s a little more selfish reason to listen, but it’s a reason.

I’ll offer one more reason to listen. You are far more likely to be amazed. Though we may like to talk about ourselves, the truth is, we know our story. Other people are often far more interesting to us. Celeste Headlee made this point in her video as well. She said she grew up believing everyone had some hidden amazing thing about them. She believes she is a better radio host because she keeps her mouth shut as much as possible, she keeps her mind open, and she is constantly prepared to be amazed. “And,” she said, “I’m never disappointed.”

This month we’re still talking about communication. But, more broadly than just organizational communication, and with a focus on the most critical part of communication, listening.

Grapevine Communication

Do you remember these guys? The California Raisins. I’m dating myself a bit. They first appeared on the scene in June of 1986. Look them up. It was an advertising coup for the California Raisin Advisory Board (I wonder if you even knew there was such a thing!) This claymation, pretend R&B group actually released 4 albums. But, when I see this picture, it’s their signature song and number one hit that comes to my mind, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” (Is it playing in your head right now?)

What does that phrase “Through the Grapevine” mean? You know me, I looked it up. Here’s what I found. The expression through the grapevine (or sometimes on the grapevine) is commonly used to mean ‘unofficially’ rather than through an official announcement, for example ‘I heard it on the grapevine that they’re planning to make some people redundant’. Rumors and gossip are spread on the grapevine but why ‘the grapevine’?

The term originated in the USA and comes from the telegraph system invented in the 19th century by Samuel Morse. The system required thousands of miles of telegraph wire to be installed, held in place several feet above the ground by telegraph poles placed at regular intervals along the telegraph route. People thought the wires and poles looked like the strings used to train vines so the telegraph lines became known as ‘the grapevine’. During the American Civil War rumors were often spread via the telegraph lines. When people were asked whether a particular story was true, they would often reply ‘I heard it through the grapevine’.

The Organizational Grapevine

We’ve been talking about Organizational Communication, it’s “W’s“, its Direction, and its Purposes. In each case the assumption was probably that we were talking about formal Organizational Communication. The “Grapevine” is the informal communication within an organization. It’s the “water cooler” conversation. It’s what people talk about over lunch and at break. It’s what people have to say when they’re outside of work or on social media.

Grapevine conversations often begin with phrases like, “Have you heard …?” or “Did you know … ?” or “Can you believe … ?” In those forms, they can sound a lot like gossip. Some of that will happen because people will be people and often people have an unhealthy interest in the affairs of other people. People will talk about their boss or about the last company event, or about their fears and uncertainty about job security, unless there’s something positive and exciting to talk about. You see, the organizational grapevine is not only a negative thing. It can also be positive. So, let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages to Grapevine Communication.

Advantages of the Grapevine

  1. The Grapevine spreads like wildfire. In that sense it is much more efficient than more formal communication. If you can manage the message, this is a great advantage.
  2. The Grapevine, in its rapid spread, also provides feedback more directly than more formal methods like employee surveys.
  3. The Grapevine can build unity among people as they share ideas and opinions
  4. The Grapevine is an opportunity for people to vent and is often a relief valve for people
  5. The Grapevine can be a handy supplement to formal communication as a way to get word out quickly and powerfully.

Disadvantages of the Grapevine

  1. The Grapevine often carries incomplete information and rumor as readily as it does solid information
  2. The Grapevine is not managed communication so it can be as unreliable as the telephone game with regard to the accuracy of the message.
  3. The Grapevine can consume enough of people’s time to make them less productive in their work.
  4. The Grapevine can foment hostility against leaders.
  5. The Grapevine can hamper the goodwill of an organization if the information is false or distorted negatively.

There is a Grapevine within any organization. A good leader will take care to avoid the disadvantages of it while understanding how to benefit from it’s advantages.

Nature abhors a vacuum. In the same way, organizations abhor silence from their leaders. Understand the “5 W’s,” the “4 Directions,” the “5 Purposes,” make sure your message is true and good, and communicate, communicate, communicate. That will give you the best chance to benefit from the Grapevine.

The 5 Purposes of Organizational Communication

So far in this 4 part series on Organizational Communication, we’ve talked about “The 5 W’s of Organizational Communication” and “The 4 Directions of Organizational Communication.” Each of those has given us insight from a different perspective on how communication works in organizations. This week we’ll look at the subject from the perspective of the intended purpose of organizational communication. What function is it intended to serve? As Steve Martin’s character said in the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,”

“And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a point.”

What’s the point of your communication? Here are 5 possibilities.

Leading

If your point is to lead, then your content and tone might include giving direction, inspiriting, motivating, encouraging, challenging, influencing, mentoring. The function of leading is often considered to be downward in direction. But, everyone influences someone. And, as John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” How might that look in lateral communication? What about upward communication?

Rationalizing (knowing the “Why”)

Comedian Michael Jr. has a video in which he illustrates the truth behind the statement, “When you know your why, your what becomes more clear and has more impact.”

The point of this communication is explaining the reasons for things (not about making up excuses after an action has been taken). In one context, it is downward communication; however, rationalizing is also important for enabling workers to bring issues to the attention of management, using upward communication to do so. If a worker identifies a motivation problem, for example, s/he may communicate this to management and use rationalization to highlight the potential impact of the problem on operations and profit.

Problem Solving

The point here is self-evident. Most organizations hold regular meetings to discuss issues such as production cycles, delivery times, price models and other areas where unusual situations could arise that may affect the performance of an organization. In these meetings, organizational communication plays an important role in addressing problems, brainstorming potential responses and finalizing solutions. In this way, a company obtains maximum benefit from the abilities of those involved in the communication, which can flow in all directions.

Conflict Management

Conflict in the workplace can lead to the loss of talented employees, the lodging of grievances and possibly lawsuits. Managing conflict by bringing all parties together to discuss their differences in a safe, moderated environment is an important function of organizational communication. This type of communication usually involves all three directions of communication, and, although discussions may be informal, the final decisions are usually communicated formally.

Gaining Compliance

Gaining the compliance of employees is necessary for them to adhere fully to instructions. I think of compliance in two ways. One is compliance of the hands. This can be won by decree, order, and/or disciplinary action (or the threat of it). This type of compliance is appropriate in command and control situations where orders must be followed for life-and-death reasons. However, in most organizations, this type of compliance can lead to the attitude of the proverbial child who is, “Sitting down on the outside, but standing up on the inside.”

The other kind of compliance is that of the heart. To do this, management needs to listen to feedback from the staff and to take account of their ideas and comments. Feedback or two-way communication can be upward and downward or horizontal and may be formal or informal, but open communication channels are important for an organization to motivate and achieve the best performance from employees. This goes back to knowing the “why” as well.

So What?

Steve Martin’s character was irritated with his traveling companion when he said, “Have a point.” Granted, their whole situation in that movie was frustrating and irritating. But the truth remains that nobody cares for communication when the only motivation seems to be that the other person likes to hear themselves talk.

This is especially true in organizational communication. When you choose to communicate, have a point. You can start by deciding which of these 5 purposes you intend to accomplish with your communication. Everyone will be glad you did.

The Power of Connection – Part 4

I received a phone call, several weeks ago, from a friend and former colleague who lives in Ohio. He’s a successful salesman for a growing service company and he honored me by asking my opinion on how they might pitch a new service offering. I asked him, “Why?” My question wasn’t “Why are you asking me?” It was “Why are you doing this new service?” But it wasn’t a question of doubt about whether or not they should offer the service. It was more reminiscent of Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why?” People will want to do business with you more because they believe what you believe than because they want what you sell.

Maybe you’ve heard the story of the three stone cutters. Back in the days when stone was cut by hand, a builder went out to the quarry to observe the work being done. He approached one stone cutter and asked him, “What are you doing?” The worker looked at him like he had three eyes and said, “I’m cutting rocks.” The builder approached a second worker and asked the same question. This stone cutter smiled and said, “I’m earning a living for my family.” When the builder approached a third stone cutter and asked him, “What are you doing,” he was met with a beaming smile and the enthusiastic reply, “I’m building a cathedral!”

Practices of Connection

The two stories above relate to the next practice of connection. Connectors inspire people. The word “inspire” comes from two Latin words, in meaning “into” and spirare meaning “to breathe.” The literal meaning is “to breathe into.” It was originally used of a divine or supernatural being in the sense, “to impart a truth or idea to someone.” The online dictionary defines it as “to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to feel or do something.”

Connection happens at the emotional level. When you fill someone with the urge to feel or do, that’s emotional. Steve Jobs said, “Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” You can feel the difference.

Another way of looking at it is to contrast Inspiration with Motivation. Motivation has to do with “Motives” or reasons. It’s rational. “If you do this (good or bad thing), you will get that (carrot or stick).” You decide based on reason. Emotions may be involved, like a desire for the carrot or fear of the stick. But motivation is logical at it’s core. On the other hand, if you can fill someone with the urge to feel or to do, you’ve got them by the heart. You’ve connected. At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did. They will remember how you made them feel.” –Maya Angelou

How Do You Inspire People?

Whether you’re like my friend, trying to help customers with a new product or service, or your a business owner or manager who wants to engage your employees, Inspiration is powerful. So, how do you inspire people?

  1. Let them know that you understand them and are focused on them.
  2. Let them know your sights are set high for them
  3. Let them see your conviction – Lyndon B Johnson said “What convinces is conviction. Believe in the argument you’re advancing. If you don’t, you’re as good as dead.”
  4. Let them see your example
  5. Let them feel your gratitude for them
  6. Let them feel your belief in them

In his seminal work that launched the Servant Leadership movement, entitled “The Servant as Leader,” Robert K. Greenleaf wrote, “The forces for good and evil in the world are propelled by the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of individual beings. What happens to our values, and therefore to the quality of our civilization in the future, will be shaped by the conceptions of individuals that are born of inspiration.”

Whom will you inspire today?

The Power of Connection – Part 3

Several years ago, while living in southwest China, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of local Chinese people. It was a mixed group. There were families with children present, and men and women from different backgrounds. Another important part of the mix was that only about a third of the people spoke English and I didn’t speak Mandarin, so I had to speak through an interpreter. I had never done that before.

The whole process was fun and interesting. When you’re speaking, you look for clues to let you know whether you’re connecting with the audience. A couple of times I said something funny. That’s when I knew for sure which members of the audience spoke English. They laughed immediately. The others didn’t laugh until the interpreter finished translating what I’d said. A good reaction, but the delay took some getting used to.

After the event was over, the interpreter came to me and confessed she had been nervous a first. She hadn’t been interpreting for very long and wasn’t sure how it was going to go. She said, “I’m so glad you have experience speaking through an interpreter. It made is so much easier for me.” It was my turn to confess. When I told her that was my first time, she expresses surprise. I asked her what made it easier for her. She said, “You kept your words and sentences simple and you paused appropriately to give me time to translate.”

Practices of Connection

In my last two posts, I mentioned Principles of Connection. Namely, to connect you must value people, and to connect goes beyond words. This week and next week, I want to talk about two practices of connection, how it works. this week – Connection happens when we keep it simple. That’s not as simple as it sounds. Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Here are some tips for keeping things simple:

  1. Talk to people, not above them – I once had a colleague who loved words. I get it, I love words, too. He loved to expand his vocabulary and was very intelligent. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem for this person was that when he talked to his employees, he used his vocabulary and came across as condescending. Whether you use big words or industry jargon or just love the acronyms of your industry, your communication won’t be connection unless it’s aimed at your listeners heart not just their head.
  2. Get to the point – Connectors don’t fly around and around the airport before landing the plane. It’s a good idea to beat the listener to the question, “What’s the point?” If they are asking “What’s the point” before you get to the point, you’re not connecting.
  3. Say it clearly – make sure you understand what you’re trying to say before you try to say it. The old saying, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with … (you know the rest)” doesn’t apply when you’re trying to connect with people. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, pointed out, “Insecure managers create complexity. Frightened, nervous managers use thick, convoluted planning books and busy slides filled with everything they’ve known since childhood.” Clarity wins the day for connecting.
  4. Say less – enough said!

Landing the Plane

A good rule of thumb for keeping it simple is to ask the question,”Can people repeat to someone else what i just said to them?”