Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Being Thankful

November 2011

I wanted to take a unique perspective on being thankful this Thanksgiving. (Sorry, I'm a month late for my Canadian friends.) Last November I talked about active thankfulness and giving thanks TO others (people) not just being thankful for things.

When most folks think of being thankful it's usually for the "positive" things in their life. I just visited a website at where folks post what they are thankful for. Here are a few examples of what I read:
  • Fridays!
  • My mother and the fact that she tells me she loves me every day.
  • My awesome hair and all the compliments I get on it!
  • 94 on my strategic management test
  • My family and good friends
  • Financial security
  • Skype
  • My health
  • My kids sleeping in their own beds
There are thousands and thousands more, but you get the picture. I am also thankful for many of the things listed above but this year I'm also thankful for the not-so-positive things. I'm thankful for:
  • Having low self-esteem and self-confidence most of my life
  • Having no money and taking 20 years to payoff my student loans
  • Being bullied and teased as a dorky, cry-baby, jock growing up in a small town
  • Failing and dropping Calculus III twice in college
I'm thankful for...
  • Being diagnosed with melanoma when I was 17 years old
  • Lying to a dear friend and having her never speak to me again
  • Crying in the CFO's office (my boss) when he criticized my decisions and actions
  • Not telling someone I loved them before it was too late.
These may seem like odd things to be thankful for but it's not comfort and peace that create growth. Discomfort and challenges trigger GROWTH.

I'm thankful for these things because I now know that crying in your boss's office, being bullied and teased, and being under massive debt may be painful but they are not fatal.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Engage AND Inform

October 2011

In a recent poll that asked "What is the single most important question you have about leadership", "How can I improve my communication?" received 34% of the votes.  (The runner-up received 20%.)

So, we've been discussing communication and how to improve our skills in this area. One area where many fall short is in engaging others BEFORE they try to inform. Most meetings start off with the obligatory and brief niceties. Then, they proceed right into the data dump... metrics for this, numbers for that, status for this, issues with that... blah, blah, blah. A whole lot of information... but who really cares?

Telling facts touches MINDS (informs).
Telling purposeful stories touches HEARTS (engages).

The greatest value and motivation comes from touching hearts!

In axiology I often talk about the hierarchy of value.

Highest Intrinsic Spirit Heart People Be
Mid Extrinsic Body Hands Products Do
Lowest Systemic Mind Head Policy Have

Often we are so focused on the Mid and Lowest classes of value that we neglect the most valuable one. Many times, in fact, we devalue the highest class of value.

As I speak to audiences of leaders, I talk about the intrinsic, the people part of leadership. They understand that leadership involves people but often they just want the 'people' to be human doings instead of human beings.

I talk about taking the time to get to know the human being. In this newsletter, I'll discuss telling stories and many of you will hear a thought like this in your head: "I don't have time for that."  "They should just do their jobs." "I shouldn't have to motivate them." "They're getting a paycheck."

If human beings were just heads and hands without hearts, those statements above might work for you. As you know, human beings are much more than that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Improving Communication - Part 2

September 2011

Last month we talked about communication and the interference that we often have from our own thoughts and internal dialogue.  We talked about this from the receiver’s point of view. Often times as the receiver of a communication, we aren’t really listening to the speaker or sender.  Our brains actually think faster than most humans can speak. When this happens your brain may try to fill in the void with its own thoughts which distracts you from listening and staying present.  If you remember from last month’s newsletter, we said that while others talk sometimes our minds think a number of things like:
  1. “They are wrong.”  “They are stupid.”  “What an idiot.”
  2. “I know.”  “I don’t need to keep listening.”
  3. “Ooh, ooh, I have something important to say (so I’m interrupting you).”  “If I just say this...”
These types of thoughts keep you from connecting to the sender so you don’t completely hear their message.
But as the sender, you can also have thoughts going through your mind that are keeping YOU from sending the message properly.
  1. If you are thinking… “I need to impress them.” or “What if I mess up?” what may happen to your message?

    Sometimes you hear thoughts that cause you to pretend or try to impress people. You mind is focusing you on YOU rather than on connecting. Let me ask you a question… are you able to tell when people are trying to impress you or when they aren’t really present? Most people can figure this out pretty easily. When someone is trying to impress you, are you listening to their message? Sometimes we are caught up in wondering why this person isn’t being real. Our mind goes off and starts analyzing why the person is behaving this way. When that happens, you aren’t hearing the message.  In order to make sure you are sending the message properly, you must be real and you must be present. You must focus on the receiver, not you - the sender.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Improving Communication

August 2011

Last month I asked a question on LinkedIn: “What's the single most important question you have about increasing your leadership?”  I proposed a few answers and asked you to pick what you thought was most important.

The results are in and out of 211 responses, here are the results:
(Click the image to view larger online.)

As you can see communication seems to be a big concern for leaders so I’d like to talk about it in this newsletter edition.

What gets in the way of your communication? Do you believe that it is lack of skills and tools of the folks in the conversation? Could it be that people just don’t listen? Is it that most people are just opinionated and selfish? Is it that everyone has their own agenda and goals? What gets in the way?

Let’s start with what communication is. Well, the dictionary says that it means to give or impart thoughts, feelings and information. It comes from the root word of ‘common’. It originally meant to share. However, I think a lot of times, when we say communicate we want it to mean to “make people listen to and hear us”.  What many fail to realize is that before we can share or give or impart, there must be a willing receiver… a connection.

Many people skip the very first step of communication which is a connection between the parties. Think about the telephone…

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Let's Change Things Up

July 2011

For this month’s newsletter, I thought I’d change it up a little… and talk about, well, changing it up a little.  I’m a big proponent of change - specifically change that produces growth and adds value. However, the human brain likes patterns and repetition. It takes less energy to follow a habit than it does to change things up a little.

So, here are a few thoughts on changing it up a bit that may help get you started.

#1 STOP asking people “How are you?”  Oh, but you may ask, “Traci, you’re always telling us to care about people. How can you say that?” My thought is that if you really cared about people, you’d ask them a different question… one that shows you are actually thinking about THEM! “How are you?” is a no-brainer and doesn’t involve thinking about or caring about people. It’s a rote question that you can throw out often anywhere to anyone.

#2 Switch things up a bit. Ask unusual, unique questions! As Og Mandino says in his book “The Greatest Salesman in the World”:

Since the beginning of time never has there been another with my mind my heart my eyes, my ears, my hands, my hair, my mouth. None that came before, none that live today, and none that come tomorrow can walk and talk and move and think exactly like me. All men are my brothers yet I am different from each. I am a unique creature.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up?

June 2011

Seems like a simple question, right? Millions of graduates are being asked that question during this graduation season. (Most of them by their parents who want to be sure that they're moving out of the house and paying their own bills. :)  )

I speak to thousands of "grown-up" people every year and many of them don't know what they want to be when they grow up.  Do you find it odd that we expect a 17 or 18 year old to know the answer as they graduate from high school?

The belief or expectation that this is a simple question to answer can often get in the way of actually answering it. It’s not a simple question!

As I think about the question from my past (What did I want to be when I grew up?) I realize that I'd have to ask my parents and friends from back then because I really don't remember.  I know in high school I wanted to coach sports. But then again, I thought I was pretty smart so maybe I should go pre-med in college. That made a lot of sense because those 2 professions are so similar... not!  One difference that became abundantly clear to me is that as a college basketball coach I would get to pick my players and work with people I had hand-selected ...  as a doctor, I wouldn't get to pick my patients.  I also remember from before high school that one thing I was NEVER going to be was a public speaker. I turned down the nomination to be the President of the National Honor Society and instead became Vice President because as the President, I would have been required to give a speech. Horrifying!!

Part of the problem with answering this question is the question itself. The "what" and the "be" don't match up! The "what" is extrinsic... a thing, tangible, measurable.  The "be" is intrinsic... immeasurable, ever-changing, ever-growing.

We really should be asking:
  1. What do you want to do?  AND
  2. Who do you want to become?
These questions are more easily answered.
So, WHAT do you want to DO? Do you want to do something technical, something creative, something inspirational, something meaningful? What would that look like in your life? “I like to work with my hands.”  “I like to work with people.”  “I like to do accounting.”

Now, I believe the more important questions are... WHO do you want to BE? or Who do you want to become?  I've heard some people say "I want to become a multi-millionaire."  "I want to become a teacher."  "I want to become a CEO."

If these are in line with your thoughts, will you allow me to share another perspective with you?