Leading yourself …

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The first step in articulating your leadership philosophy is determining how you’ll lead yourself. Nobody is going to follow you if you don’t know where you’re going (except out of curiosity).

This aspect of leadership is tricky. It requires introspection and a frank, honest conversation with yourself to understand where you’re headed and how you want to get there.

To start that discussion, there are four areas you must explore:

1. Finding your internal motivation

Why do you get out of bed every morning (alarm clocks, crying kids, or an overfull bladder are not  acceptable answers here)? Why are you excited to drive to the office? The answers to these two questions can help you articulate a leadership maxim.

2. Charting your path

What are your professional goals? What will your epitaph say? Grim, I know. But at the end of it all when you become worm food, what will you want the summation of your career to be?

Allow me to assist you in developing your maxim on this one Mad Libs style. Simply fill in the blanks for this sentence: “(Your name) stood for (BLANK) and we’ll never forget (BLANK) about him/her.” Imagine someone is reading that statement as your eulogy. Once you’ve reflected on that and filled it in, you have a good start on a maxim for this point.

3. Stating how you’ll move down your path

We’re human. We make mistakes. Having guardrails on the path of our lives helps keep us on track. Sure, we’ll run into those guardrails occasionally (and sometimes find ourselves crashing through them and ending up in the ravine on the side of the road). The important thing is to put those guardrails in place and adhere to them as much as we’re able.

4. Inspiring yourself

Life will knock you down. It’ll kick you in the teeth. It’ll spit on you and call you names. The big question is how will you pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fight?

As a leader, your team is looking to you in these situations. There won’t always be someone there to lift you back up. You sometimes have to find that inspiration within. This maxim is all about creating an anchor phrase for yourself that you can use to reignite the fire in your belly.

My maxim on this comes from Ernest Hemingway: “Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Every time I’ve had the wind knocked out of my sails, I find myself referring to that quote to remind myself that I don’t stop fighting and I need to get back up. What phrase, quote, or image will you use as your anchor?

That summarizes the leading yourself aspect of leadership. Is it holistic? No. Is it a great way to start articulating your leadership philosophy? Absolutely!

Disengaged … Disconnected … Unaware

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Leading a business in today’s economy takes more than just forecasting numbers, budgeting, setting goals and developing a long-range plan. It requires an understanding of the significance and integrity of the business and the people who make up the organization. The current economic climate will test the stability of many companies more than ever before. Businesses that understand the value of all the people it interfaces with are the most successful. Businesses that allow fear to dictate decisions are disengaged, disconnected and unaware, and are more susceptible to failure.

Disengaged – When a business is disengaged it is disconnected from its customers, clients and vendors. It is essential that business leaders are proactive in reaching out to client, customer and vendor bases, and that they establish a mutually beneficial partnership to see what can be done to help each other weather any challenges. Personal communication, feedback, support and guidance are critical when fostering long-term relationships with businesses and establishing trust.

Disconnected – A business operating in survival mode can become disconnected from its employees. It is important more now than ever before to connect with the members of the team. Solicit honest feedback and in return be direct with them on where the company stands and where it is headed in the future. An open dialogue of honest communication creates trust in the workplace and allows employees to feel supported and remain focused on their jobs and the company’s future success.

Unaware – A business will miss out on opportunities when it is operating from fear and is unaware of new possibilities when they present themselves. The reality of today’s economy is that some businesses will be unable to weather the storm and only the strong will emerge. Businesses that take this opportunity to focus on customer service and connect with their employees will not only survive, they have the opportunity to dominate in their industries.

At Rapport Leadership International, one of our favorite quotes about leadership came from John Quincy Adams. He said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” When he said this quote, John Quincy Adams was speaking of the types of leaders who are engaged, connected and aware and lead from integrity. And these are leaders who have a complete understanding of the significance of their business and value the people.

Power(ful) communication …

 Conversation

“It is the providence of wisdom to speak. It is the privilege of wisdom to listen” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Communication is commonly defined as, “The imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”

 The word “communicate” is very much like the word “best.” Both words are both tossed around as if we know what they actually mean. While “best” carries a connotation of excellence or superiority, the reality is that the meaning varies widely based on the situation and the purveyor of the term. So it is also with the word “communicate”.

When we establish the meaning of leadership and examine its essence, we will conclude with the knowledge that leadership is communication. The application of every recognized leadership skill known to man is totally worthless without the ability to effectively communicate.

Effective leadership is effective communication. The potential to effectively communicate is predicated on my ability (or inability) to listen effectively. As a leader, I deem that I have a responsibility to hear the words being directed at me and to listen to what is being said.

A study involving over 8,000 people employed in businesses, hospitals, universities, military and government agencies found that virtually all of the respondents believed that they communicate as effectively as or even more effectively than their co-workers. Research, on the other hand, shows that the average person only listens with about 25% efficiency.

The most sobering part of this information is that in a 10 minute conversation with a boss, colleague, customer, spouse, or child, most people only listen to about 2 ½ minutes of what is being said!

While most people agree that listening effectively is a very important skill, most people do not feel a strong need to improve their own listening skill levels.

We send messages in a variety of ways other than with the words we use. (Our words only account for 7% of our overall communication.) Factors like voice tone, voice inflection, facial expressions, and body language convey more of the message than the words we actually use. We must look, listen, and feel for the meanings beyond the words.

Every communication is vulnerable to misunderstanding and misinterpretation and is challenging when we are aware of and can avail ourselves of all the tools we use in communicating with each other. The possibility of a lack of understanding presents itself even more as we increasingly rely on e-mailing and texting.

Effective listening is actively absorbing the information given to us by a speaker, showing that we are listening and interested and providing feedback to the speaker so that he or she knows the message has been received. In Rapport Leadership’s Power Communication course, many of the skill sets involved in becoming an effective listener are both explained and practiced.

 Since we think about six times faster than we speak, our brains have immeasurable capacity to do other things while we are engaged in a conversation. The vast majority of people fill this capacity with planning other tasks, thinking other thoughts, or formulating a response to the small portion of the conversation we actually choose to hear.

Effective listening requires practice at “active listening” techniques. This is where you make a conscious decision to hear the words another person is saying and listen to the entire message being sent.

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter Drucker

The most used and least effective style of listening is the act of listening to respond. Listening to respond happens when we are more interested in promoting our own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. We either listen for openings to speak or for flaws or weak points we can attack. As we pretend to pay attention, we are impatiently waiting or an opening, or internally formulating our rebuttal and planning our eloquent or devastating comeback so that we may turn the topic of conversation toward us and/or destroy the other’s point of view and make us the victor.

The least used and most effective style of listening is the act of listening to understand. Listening to understand means we are genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting, or what the entire message means.

•  When we are listening to understand, we want to give the speaker our undivided attention and acknowledge the message

•  We are conscious, aware, and we recognize that what is not being said also speaks loudly.

• We want to watch the person’s eyes for clues to both their communication style and the unspoken meanings.

• The better we are at matching and modeling someone’s primary neuro-linguistic modality, the better opportunity we have of establishing effective communication.

• We must put aside distracting thoughts and stay focused on the entire message the speaker is sending.

• We must avoid being distracted by environmental factors. (i.e. the computer screen, the TV, or other employees or activities)

• We must “listen” to the speaker’s body language. (50% of all communication is contained in our body language).

We can show someone we are listening and acknowledge the message in a variety of ways:

• We can use our own body language and gestures to convey our attention. (We can make sure our posture is open and inviting.)

• We can nod occasionally. (An affirmative nod indicates acceptance, agreement, or understanding, and it encourages the speaker to continue.)

• We can use facial expressions. (To relay understanding, concern, confusion, acceptance, etc.)

• We can encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh-huh.”

Listening to understand also requires the ability to provide feedback. Feedback is the action portion of Active Listening. Our personal perceptions filter information based on our assumptions, judgments, experiences, and belief systems. As an effective listener, our role is to clarify understanding by our willingness to actively provide feedback:

• We can paraphrase the speakers’ words back to them (What I hear you saying is…” “Sounds like you said.”); these responses give the speaker a great opportunity to acknowledge your understanding or correct any misconceptions.

• We can ask questions to clarify points or explain meaning. (“What did you mean when you said…?” or “Is this what you mean?”)

As a general rule, avoid telling your own stories or giving advice. (This suggestion comes back to the speaker’s intent for the communication.) All too often we will listen intently to what someone has to say and then begin to tell our story with the intent of acknowledging their experience with a similar situation or to indicate “You’re not alone.” Too often, telling our own story runs the risk of turning a conversation away from the speaker and gives the impression of “I’ve got one up” on the speaker.

One of the tools we practice in Rapport’s Power Communication course is to raise someone’s awareness of when s/he is telling a story by having other team members say the word “story” as soon as someone heads down that path. The more aware we are of our own actions, the more opportunity we have to change our behaviors for the positive.

Unsolicited advice is also something to avoid as an effective listener. If no advice is solicited, then giving it is quite presumptuous and will actually undermine the opportunity to have effective communication. When someone is telling me about a problem s/he is having, I can barely resist the urge to tell him/her what they get to do to fix the problem. (Everybody likes being told what to do, right?) Once I have stopped listening and have started giving my advice, I dominate the conversation. My wife has become my greatest ally in helping me change this behavior. Her willingness to remind me when this behavior appears has really helped raise my awareness of how many times it happens! As I prompt myself to concentrate on what someone has said and to listen for the true meaning of their communication, I have the opportunity to ask questions like “Would you like my opinion?” or “Would you like some advice? It is amazing when I take the time to offer help how few people are willing to take it!

It takes a great deal of concentration and determination to become an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and basic human nature is to fall back into our old behaviors and comfort zones relatively quickly. We must be deliberate with our listening skills and remind ourselves constantly that the goal is to truly hear the whole message someone is conveying. Listening to understand will demonstrate a genuine care and concern for those around you. It will improve relationships and trust levels, and it will ensure there is less opportunity for miscommunication. Effective communication skills will allow you to thrive rather than survive in every area of your life.

Dream a little dream of me …

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When you are facing uncertainty or indecision – it is important to have a plan for our lives: to keep the dream and to look to the future.

Too often when we are faced with challenges we become indecisive; we are not able to envision where we will be tomorrow, let alone five or ten years from now. We end up sitting back, becoming complacent, and thinking that someone else will “fix” everything that is going wrong.

Yet, we have the choice to change that thought process so we may become part of the solution. We can begin to focus and dream again about all the possibilities.

In her book, The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist states it very eloquently: “A dream is a catalyst for change, first in the dreamer, and again and again in the dream shared.” With that thought, why wouldn’t we dream, why wouldn’t we look forward to the future, planning our lives to be what we want them to be? Studies show that successful people remember to dream, to make plans, and to set clear goals with a plan to achieve them.

As adults we get often get to the point where we stop dreaming or we may even forget how to dream. We become disappointed by life experiences that weren’t successful and we decide we aren’t going to dream about what could be anymore. We end up lowering the bar for ourselves and for our lives; we don’t know what we want, so what we get in return is nothing. We find ourselves in a rut, walking that safe line until the day we die.

One of the big objectives students get to work on in Rapport’s Power Communication and Life Mastery courses is identifying exactly what they want. A big “aha” moment for students of these course is when I share the insight that “either you will create your life or someone else will create it for you.” Why would I want someone else to dream for me and create the life I choose to live? I want to be the dreamer and the creator of my life; I want to choose the matters that are important to me and the people I want to be in my life.

The power of getting back in touch with our dreams is stated clearly by John C. Maxwell in his book, Put Your Dream to the Test. He offers this definition: “a dream is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will, and emotions, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it.” When I read that definition I thought to myself, I know this! Whenever I take the time to dream and create the life I want now and in the future, everything just falls into place. I do create the life I choose to live. That is when I get passionate and enthusiastic about where I am in my life, regardless of what is going on around me.

In Rapport’s Leadership Breakthrough One course, the “3 Questions of a Leader” are covered and participants are encouraged to look at these questions often. The first question is “Where am I now?” It is essential that we are conscious, that we pay attention to where we are right now in all areas of our lives. Am I living all the areas of my life the way I want to, or are there elements being left out. Without answering this question, we can’t, or won’t, be able to answer the next two questions. The second question, “Where am I going?” involves having the opportunity to dream and create, waving that magic wand and knowing what we want our ultimate lifestyle to be. This focus gives us a chance to make sure we address all areas of our lives and that our lives are balanced. Once we know what our dreams are and what our ultimate desired lifestyle is, we then move to the final question. That question, “What will it take to get there and how long?” directs us to create the action plan, the specific steps we will take to bring our dreams to life, to live them, and to create the future we want. Rapport Leadership’s Life Mastery gives you the opportunity to spend time answering all these questions.

As Wayne Dyer states in his book, The Power of Intention, “Your imagination creates the inner picture that allows you to participate in the act of creation.” Imagine spending two and a half days answering these three questions, dreaming, and creating your ultimate lifestyle.

When I make the choice to get conscious in my daily life, to be in the now moment, this is when I make the choice to move forward and begin taking responsibility and saying “Yes, I am the one who created that.” This is when my passion and enthusiasm for my life allows me to create my path, to create my plan, and to be excited about looking to the future. In the words of Sir Laurence Olivier in an excerpt from the play, Time, “If you truly want to change your world, my friends, you must change your thinking.”

Change your thinking! What possibilities are waiting out there for all of us right now? What action will you take to make them happen?

10 Practices for Change and Success …

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Creating change may entail learning a new habit or skill. Yet simply learning something new generally does not correlate to a change in behavior or performance. In its training, Rapport Leadership applies proven practices for creating true performance change. Below are ten practices you can incorporate into your plan of action. Consistently applying these practices will result in immediate and ongoing impacts on your behavior and help you achieve successes.

1. Self Awareness

Learning begins when you become aware of your own strengths, opportunities for growth and self-limiting behaviors. In its training Rapport Leadership provides the opportunity for you to “look in the mirror” and assess your performance. Start by taking a one hundred percent honest look at yourself and assess your performance. Ask yourself, “How am I doing?” and “What will I do differently?” You must be self-aware in order to make meaningful and lasting changes.

2. Practice and Experience

Just as in sports, athletes practice skills and techniques in order to improve performance. Through practice and experience, performance is enhanced and continues to improve over time. Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Sometimes getting started may be the hardest part and once you get started, keep moving in a forward direction letting your experience enhance your performance and propel you toward your goal.

3. Feedback

Receiving feedback will provide insight into your behavior. Feedback will empower you and move you forward to your next level of performance. Great coaches in sports, business, and training have the power to unleash the potential of individuals by seeing traits or behaviors they may not see for themselves. It is not enough to rely on your own perspective. Assign an accountability partner to keep you motivated, help you stay on track, and provide you with honest feedback.

4. Motivation

The key to motivation is not necessarily to motivate someone, rather it is to allow him/her to discover, uncover and tap into his or her own internal motivations. It is necessary to find out what is important to you in order to achieve your goals.

5. Anchors

Anchors are words, phrases or movements used a prompt to recall a behavior, an emotion or past experience. At Rapport Leadership, anchors such as “Just Focus and Do It (JFDI)” are used so that after training, participants have quick easy ways to recall and apply specific leadership competencies. Use an anchor that will help keep you focused and motivated.

6. Focus on What You Have

In a CNBC television interview, actress Suzanne Somers was asked about the sequential successes of her books, made-for-TV movies, and array of wellness products. Her reply was that she shifted her focus from her what she did not have to what she did have. Many successful leaders achieved success by focusing on what they had and how they could leverage it—whether it was a certain talent, a particular type of knowledge or people within their circle of influence.

7. Believe in Yourself

Napoleon Hill, author of the classic Think and Grow Rich, said “You can be anything you want to be, if only you believe with sufficient conviction and act in accordance with your faith; for whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” Musicians, scientists, inventors and countless others have attributed their successes to the consistent application of this principle.

8. Work with a Coach

We know that successful leaders put their goals in writing. Another powerful strategy for achieving success is to participate in a coaching program. This strategy has been called a secret of the successful because personal or executive coaching will help you clarify your strengths and purpose; create action steps for achieving your goals; and keep you focused, to name a few benefits. Rapport Leadership provides coaching to its course graduates.

9. Acknowledge Your Successes

In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield references a management study which revealed that 46% of employees left their company because they felt unappreciated and 88% said they did not receive acknowledgement for the work they did. Like these employees, it is important for you to recognize your successes, no matter the scope or scale. Without acknowledging your successes and appreciating your strengths you will find a reason for not sticking with your plan.

10. Just Focus and Do It

According to Jack Canfield, “winners take action.” Action is what makes the difference between those who achieve success and those who do not. By taking steps toward achieving success, you will learn by doing; you will get feedback that will empower you to move forward; people around you will recognize that you are serious about your plans—you have decided to stop talking and start doing. Once you begin to take action you will realize you are no longer putting off your plans, you are actually doing it. JFDI!

Important Takeaways

Achieving success involves creating behavior change, staying focused on your successes, and taking action. Success also involves focusing on what you have instead of what you do not have.

Consider hiring a coach to help you determine your goals, visions, and action steps. In today’s competitive world a coach is as indispensable to you as he/she is to an athlete.  

Remember to always believe in yourself because whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve!

 

Sources:

Canfield, Jack. The Success Principles

Conversations with Michael Eisner, CNBC

Hill, Napoleon. Think and Grow Rich