Its the Dog’s Life for Great Communication

Sam the happy British Lab and sage teacher.

Sam the happy British Lab and sage teacher.

Pet owners know that you can learn a lot from your animals. My wife and I have been “renting” Sam, a British Labrador Retriever — actually watching him for my sister-in-law since February who is selling her home and relocating near us. I recently wrote a blog about Sam and what I learned about communication and leadership. You will enjoy the full article, here, but let me summarize the points for you:

  • Make your needs known. Sam knows I cannot read his mind. When he wants something, he gets my attention and doesn’t stop until I acknowledge his need.
  • Tomorrow is another day. Hope springs eternal with dogs. If I don’t play fetch with him now, it doesn’t mean he won’t ask again later. No isn’t forever.
  • Make time for those you care about. Dogs (and kids) start acting up if you don’t make time for them. But give them time and you get enriched AND a well-mannered pet (kid).
  • Love one another. I don’t have to do anything but show up and Sam loves me (see his tail wagging in the picture?) His gratitude is infectious.  Gratitude is a form of love. Who are you grateful for? Do you show them love?

Sam will be moving out soon, but his lessons will stay with me. I hope that we can continue to have a great relationship here on Leaderclip. I hope these posts are useful and enjoyable, and that you get as much from them as I do. I would love to had a dialog with you, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this or any other post. I’ll reply…

What Man’s Best Friend Can Teach Us About Communication and Leadership by Dwayne Baptist at dbaptist.com

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Amazing Public Speaking Tips when the Subject is You!

From time to time we all find ourselves in situations where we have to express ourselves and our ideas to others. The way to make these engagements more successful is to transform them from an interrogation into a conversation, according to Holly Murchison, a public speaking coach, in a recent post at Mashable. Holly offers five tips from the world of public speaking for job hunters, but I thought that the spirit of these tips was relevant to nearly any type interview:

  1. Know Yourself. A common ice breaker question is “Tell me about yourself” or variations on that theme. In any interview, you want to not simply tell the other party a stream of consciousness about your life. Rather, think about why you are there and relate who you are back to the point of the interview. If that is a job interview talk about the part of you that is relevant to the position posting. If you are selling, how you got involved with your product. By opening up this way, you give people a reason to connect with you while also staying on topic.
  2. Bridge the Gap Between Confidence and Enthusiasm (Then Marry the Two). You need to be both, but with balance. If you are missing one or another, people will wonder if you are right for the opportunity. Before the meeting, list for yourself the reasons you are both confident you can deliver and why you are enthusiastic to do so.
  3. Use Your LinkedIn Profile to Practice. OK, this one is the most job-interview directly related point, but the spirit of the point is valuable. Holly wants you to think about your experience more like someone writes a LinkedIn expression of their jobs, not the bullet point approach most people use for resumes. More broadly, you might use lists and bullet points to think and written communication, but human conversation is held in a real language (usually English here in the U.S.) where people use complete sentences and grammar. If you talk like your resume or how you text, you will not impress others with your communication style.
  4. Know When to Wrap Up. Don’t overstay your welcome. People are busy, respect their time. If you don’t respect it when you don’t know them very well, are you going to be even worse when you are even more familiar?
  5. Be a Team Player. Anything challenging and worthwhile requires a team to accomplish. If you are interviewing for a job, it is likely to be on some sort of team. If you are selling, you will likely have a team helping with fulfillment. Remember to be inclusive when you talk. If you are job hunting, people will want to know you are a team player. Prospective customers want to know you are with them even after the sale.

5 Public Speaking Tips That’ll Prepare You for Any Interview by Holly Murchison at Mashable.com

Victors and Viktors

Dr. Ben Carson (from White House Photo) and Dr. Viktor Frankl (Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

Dr. Ben Carson (from White House Photo) and Dr. Viktor Frankl (Attribution: Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely

While researching my newsletter, I came across a 1999 PBS interview with Dr. Ben Carson, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon. Many of you know his story: young black boy raised by a single mom who wanted her boys to escape from poverty. She required he and his brother to read 2 books weekly from the library, and write book reports. His love for learning inspired, he fought other challenges to eventually become the man of distinction he is today.

Carson’s mom also would not stand for her boys to play the victim. If they were in trouble and used someone else as an excuse, she would ask, “Do you have a brain?” If they answered yes, then it really didn’t matter what others did. She made her boys understand personal responsibility.

And personal responsibility is an empowering trait. Recognizing that racism was a serious problem in his youth, Carson’s mom reminded him that he still had choices. As Dr. Carson told it in his interview:

When it comes to something like racism, for instance, my mother used to always say, “If you walk into an auditorium full of racist, bigoted people,” she said, “you don’t have a problem. They have a problem. Because when you walk in, they are going to cringe and wonder if you’re going to sit next to them, whereas you can go sit anywhere you want. So let them wory about it if they want to. You don’t ahve to do that.” And, you know, that’s the whole concept in terms of the victim’s mentality. You either accept it and become a victim, or you deny it and become a victor.

You have a choice between being a victim and a victor.

Another “victor” — Dr. Viktor Frankl — said:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

When somebody provokes you, or you discover your plans are failing, in that moment between the stimulus and your response, choose how you will respond. Choose to be a victor and find a way to win.

Conversation with Dr. Ben Carson (1999) by David Gergen at PBS.

The Three Stooges Communicate!

I was reading on my iPad using Zite, a news aggregation application you can tailor to get information that interests you (I find many of my Leaderclip post subjects via Zite), and came across today’s article. What caught my attention wasn’t the title so much as the graphic — Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk! (Which you see here…)

If you want to talk about three rules of anything, one great way to attention (at least of middle-aged white guys) is to show the Three Stooges. Fortunately, Mike Figliuolo of ThoughtLeaders LLC wasn’t offering silly ideas when presenting Three Rules for Successful Communications. Here they are:

  1. Its always three things. As Mike suggests, even if you have 47 things to share, break things down into three major points. Some people can keep track of a bunch of things, but keeping organized so that there are only three things keeps you (and your audience) focused.
  2. They have to hear things three times. Why do you think your high school or college speech teacher told you when planning a speech, “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”? People need some repetition to understand and process your message.
  3. After three emails, go have a conversation. If you have to keep going back and forth, there is probably something that can be handled much more deftly if you talked to one another than continue to waste a bunch of time typing emails. Relying solely on email just slows things down and invites misunderstanding.

Yes, Mike really kept it to three things. You can be a stooge, or you can adopt these simple rules to help you improve your communication with others.

Three Rules for Successful Communications by Mike Figliuolo at ThoughtLeadersLLC.com

Failing to Acknowledge Failure

How many of us as we start to set goals and create plans stop to analyze the possibility of failure? Adrienne Asselmeier, a guest blogger at bplans.com, in her recent post, Failure is an Option, commented recently that “When all you can think about is success, goals, and growth, then you’re not going to have a Plan B.”

“Dren” is right when she comments that people don’t really want to think about failure, but inevitably any plan will have some little failures in it. She points out that lots of people are starting to talk about failure in blogs and on the conference circuit. Failure is actually good, and our friend, if we learn from it. If we understand that we are likely to fail at first, it won’t bother us to do so–it is part of the process of learning. Setbacks are part of achievement.

While we should expect we will face setbacks, we should not use this as an excuse to inadequately plan. We should be looking at our plans and asking questions, challenging our assumptions. For example, Why do I believe my sales projections are accurate? How do I know it will take this long to manufacture my product? Why should I believe I can recruit the team in the time allotted?

The management discipline that addresses the real challenges any plan or organization faces and deals with threats, active and potential is Risk Management. It is all part of grounding yourself in the realities of the market. You want to understand what you face so that you can adequately plan.

I think a lot of people confuse what is Plan B. For many the thinking goes, “If I fail at starting this software company, I can always be a bartender.” If you want to run a nightclub, bartending so you can learn more about running a club might be something of a Plan B. But real Plan B’s are about taking a different approach to getting your dream. I wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy for college. I wanted to be a Marine Officer. Knowing that the academic standards were rigorous, my Plan B was not to become a Music major at the local college. I enlisted in the armed forces and got some education to prepare me. This plan also kept me near my dream, keeping me focused on my mission. I entered the Naval Academy 1 year to the day after I entered enlisted service. Sure there was hard work in there, it didn’t happen by magic. But I knew what I wanted and was not going to accept failure. It was an option, but not one I had to settle for.

Failure is an Option by Adrienne Asselmeier at bplans.com

How to Ruin a Business (or Any other) Relationship

Woman-profile-trashOver at the Inc.com blogs, Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick recently posted a great piece about how to mess up business relationships. They share two great ways to screw up a business relationship: inattention, and not being 100% present.

To illustrate their first point, they share a story about a friend, “Sam,” a great guy but he doesn’t get around to responding to responding to emails or phone calls with any rhyme or reason. This can threaten relationships if people begin to believe you don’t really care about them. They then point to a survey their company did with 10’s of thousands of employees for client companies and found that one of the biggest problems affecting employee satisfaction was perceived disrespect from their bosses. When you are too busy to make time for people, they perceive that you don’t value them. Don’t be careless with your relationships, like Sam. Decide what is important to you and work on those things. Don’t let the urgent get in the way of doing what is important.

Which brings us to the other thought, being 100% present. There are tons of things that scream for our attention during the day, especially with 24/7 access to information, it is easy to let the urgent chirp or vibration of a text or email distract us from meetings or other work we may be doing. But is it wise to sneak that peek or tap that quick reply. When you do, you are telling those around you that they are really not as important as that other message. Once again, you are showing disrespect, however unintentional it may be.

John Maxwell says that connecting with people is hard work. If you value a relationship, give it the attention it deserves, and show respect for your connection. This is true whether a colleague, customer, or significant other.

…I guess I need to catch up with some people this next week! How about you?

How to Ruin Business Relationships by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick at Inc.com

Nancy Faces Her Fear

Many of us have all sorts of fears — limiting beliefs that keep us from doing our best or having the life we really want. In her blog post, Nancy Loderick shares how even risk takers can become afraid of things. Read how empowered she felt when she faced her challenge.

Nancy also reminds us that we have choices about how to treat ourselves when facing our fears — ridicule or reaffirmation. Why not be like Nancy next time one of your mountains turns out to be a molehill and congratulate yourself for learning and growing?

Life is too short to play bully with yourself. Celebrate your victories and let your new-found knowledge lead to more action!

What fear do you need to face? Why don’t you share your struggle-victory story in the comments section below?

Face Your Fear by Nancy Loderick at nancyloderick.com.

Are You Holding Yourself Back?

Have you ever seen the rush hour in a major metropolitan area? I used to work in downtown Washington, DC. Lots of people, regardless of economic status use public transportation, at least part of the time. Why? Because it works very efficiently.

Suzanne Lucas, another Inc.com blogger lives in Basel, Switzerland, another town with an excellent public transportation network. She noticed that out-of-towners tend to take cabs when arriving in town. It was going to take them more time waiting for a taxi than to take public transportation. Why? It was what they knew.

Is your thinking holding you back?

Do you always rely on what you already know when approaching a problem or situation? I am not suggesting you not develop habits and use them to manage and control your life. But do you take time to check new situations to see if your assumptions still hold?

When encountering a new situation, ask yourself questions. Think things through. You might know the answers, but maybe not. Research those things. Don’t rely on assumptions, find the better way.

Will You Leave Your Comfort Zone? Ask Yourself This Question by Suzanne Lucas at inc.com

The King of Happiness

Chip Conley at TED. From chipconley.com

Chip Conley at TED. From chipconley.comI was stuck, looking for some inspiration on a project today and sought out some TED talks for inspiration. If you aren’t familiar with TED, it is a non-profit and acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Well, I came across a talk called Measuring what makes life worthwhile by Chip Conley. It did not disappoint.

While Chip had lots of great points to make about how people and organizations struggle to move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he brought it all into sharp focus talking about the King of Bhutan. Shortly after the 17-year-old assumed the throne in the early 1970’s he was asked about his country’s Gross National Product (GNP – today called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP). The king responded, asking why should we focus on GNP, when we ought to be focused on the happiness and satisfaction of people? This has led to a movement called “Gross National Happiness.”

Of course, you cannot achieve what you do not measure, and for many it is especially difficult to measure an intangible such as happiness. However, the pursuit of happiness is exactly what Jefferson reminded us was a natural right. So, why shouldn’t we find a way to measure it?

In the end, Chip doesn’t offer any specific prescriptions for what people should measure, but he does offer questions you can ask yourself to begin to move in this direction, “…what less obvious metrics could we use to actually evaluate our employee’s sense of meaning, or our customers’ sense of connection with us?”  There are many things you can study to increase employee satisfaction with their jobs and customer/client connection with your company.

A key point is that you don’t have to choose between having either a great culture with happy workers and customers or a very profitable organization. Both are possible with some planning. And wouldn’t happy workers who find meaning in their work serving clients who value your products and services, not just for what they do but for how they make the customer’s life better lead to opportunities to make a fair profit for giving so much value to so many people?

What intangibles do you think show happiness and satisfaction for your life? For your organization? For your customers? Why not share some of your ideas in the comments section below?

And if you have about 15 minutes, why not enjoy Chip Conley’s TED Talk. You will be glad you did.

Chip Conley: Measuring what makes life worthwhile at TED.com

Connecting as a Solo-preneur

Are you a “solo-preneur” – someone who is charging off on that grand adventure of entrepreneurship all by yourself? You have probably realized that you cannot do it all by yourself, but need a supportive team if you are going to realize your vision and make your dreams come true. Antonio Neves, blogging at entrepreneur.com has some advice for you — ways to create community so that you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself:

  • Meet with like-minded masterminds: there are groups all over the country that offer opportunities to “mastermind” with like-minded people to get fresh perspectives on your problems and possible solutions. Some are open-ended, others focus on books or systems. I have run both types, and they have helped clients move businesses in directions they never realized were possible.
  • Seek out formal training and support: Neves points out that you probably need to learn skills as an entrepreneur. All across the country there are opportunities popping up to help nascent entrepreneurs, including incubators, accelerators, and formal schooling like MBA programs. Besides getting knowledge to help you will have an opportunity to expand your network.
  • Problem-solve with people who aren’t exactly like you: Our tendency is to surround ourselves with people just like us. Why not seek others in allied professions and get their reaction? You can probably help each other expand your thinking and insight.
  • Network with people you wouldn’t normally meet:  Neves mentions an event called Wok+Wine which brings people together who are interested in good food, wine, and conversation and allowing the magic to happen because you are now having to explain your concept to people who aren’t necessarily like you. Seek out ways to interact with people who aren’t just like you and see if you can’t get a fresh perspective on what you do, and maybe even some support, too.

What are you doing to create a community to help you succeed? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Where to Find a Community If You’re a Solopreneur by Antonio Neves at entrepreneur.com