Communication Breakdown: Are You Resonating With Your Audience?

How Leaders Can Refine their Focus to Know their Audience

Communication Breakdown

Over the course of my career many leaders have lamented this: “Little I say seems to be resonating!?!?”

Although this can be very frustrating, it certainly does not mean that you should just stop communicating (as I’ve also heard…)

Knowing Your Audience

Problem:

Most likely, the failure to communicate effectively an indicator that you need to take more time to find out what makes your audience tick, and how and when they’re most receptive to information.

Solution:

Think about any questions and concerns they might have that will impede their ability to hear you. By anticipating audience needs and concerns, you can ensure that you shape your message in a way that will resonate with your listeners.

The Real Communications Challenge

As challenging as it can feel to state your thoughts clearly and concisely, the real challenge is shaping those thoughts clearly and concisely for your audience.

Employees (and any audience) want you to appeal to them in terms that speak to them and their needs, often on a personal and emotional level—yes, even if you’re just talking about work.

Especially if you’re talking about work.

When leaders don’t understand their audiences’ needs or perspectives, they make these two common missteps:

  • They mistake any communication for good communication
  • They communicate from their perspective instead of the audience’s

Your Communication Role as a Leader

As a leader it’s your job to use communication to help your audience make the connection between business objectives and their role in helping you meet them. But it’s important to understand that before you can get to the business big picture, you’ll need to address employees’ personal needs first.

At the end of the day, employees want to know “What’s in it for me?

They might articulate that need in any number of ways:

  • “How does this affect me?”
  • “What does this have to do with me?”
  • “What should I be doing?”
  • “Does anyone care about me?”

The Solution: Know Your Audience

Know your audience and speak to them. There’s real magic in addressing your audience’s needs first. When you do your audience is more likely to trust you, and as a result be more generous, open and receptive to big-picture, strategic communication.

All communication should always be tailored to the specific audience to make them aware of their role in the organizational whole.

That’s what leads to engagement and the discretionary effort all of us want.

Then, you can truly inspire employees to action as only a great leader can by giving them feelings of significance, community, and excitement through your communications.

Specifically as a leader you should:

  • Contextualize organizational information to ensure your team understands how it fits in.
  • Craft information so that it’s relevant to individual employees and teams.
  • Provide job-related information so that individuals and teams can do their jobs effectively.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s whether you can make it relevant to your employees.

So, how clear are you about who EXACTLY is your audience? Have you developed the right mindset to serve them in a way that will work with them? Or are you stuck in a place where you seemingly don’t connect well? If you are, what would you do to get to a more effective platform for your audience? I would love to hear you thoughts!

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———————
David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
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The Leadership Yawwwn-Fest

by Karen Dietz

Yawning Lion

Are you inspiring others to action with your captivating stories that delight your audience?Or you guilty of just providing a leadership yawn-fest?

Your Best Tool For Inspiring Others

I was at a board meeting the other day where an outside organization was presenting its latest project. The vision was in creating a sustainable vision for the future of the region.  The idea provided the perfect opportunity to enroll people in their grand vision!

All they needed was the perfect vision pitch from an inspiring leader.

But what a big “yawner” this presentation turned out to be. What a lost opportunity!

So what was the problem?  It wasn’t for lack of commitment, enthusiasm, or interest.  It wasn’t because a young inexperienced executive was before us.  In fact, the presenter had a lifetime of success under his belt. It wasn’t even an experience of death by PowerPoint.

It was simply because the presentation was dry as a mouthful of sand. In addition, it was without a compelling story to engage people.  The result?  Nice project.  No inspiration.  No enrollment in taking action.

Telling Compelling Stories

Being able to tell a compelling story is an essential leadership skill that bears paying attention to, no matter how experienced or successful you are.

As Howard Gardner says, “Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”

Just imagine how many missed opportunities that this successful executive has created over his career because he wasn’t sharing stories, much less in ways that inspire others to action.

Brain research (Story Proof, Influencer) has shown time and again how sharing stories immediately engages people and their imaginations.  It is the most efficient method for transmitting knowledge, and is a powerful tool for enrolling others moving them to action.

Authenticity

Every leader who is able to link their own personal stories into specific initiatives will score big on the engagement meter.

Q: Why?

A: Because they are viewed as authentic — one of the core qualities of an effective leader.

Over one thousand studies during the last fifty years have attempted to define successful leadership styles or qualities.  Yet none of this research has produced a clear profile of an ideal leader.  That’s because leadership has many voices and the key to being a successful leader lies in your ability to be you – authentic, passionate, and disciplined.

Leaders are defined by their unique life stories. They are defined by how those stories illuminate their passions and leadership purpose, and by the way they frame those stories for others.  Every leader, whether young or old, has inspiring stories to tell.  Most however, don’t recognized the power in their own stories, much less know how to tell them in ways without sounding arrogant or self-serving.

By being willing to explore, reframe and tell their life stories, leaders set free their passions and the ability to inspire others.

Training is required though.  Just because we can speak doesn’t mean that we don’t need to go to Toastmasters.  Even though we can all tell a story at some level, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to identify our stories and learn to tell them in ways that inspire others.

Core Stories

What stories do you need to tell?  There can be many. And every leader needs to master a set of core stories to get started.

These stories are:

  1. About the founding of your organization and the challenges it is addressing
  2. People and results stories – About customers/clients and the results they’ve experienced, along with stories about people within your organization and the difference they have made
  3. Recovery stories – Those about mistakes that have been made, and the recovery / lessons learned from those experiences
  4. The story about the future you are creating – Why should we invest in you?  How will the future be different through our engagement together?
  5. The My Commitment story – That story of what gets you up in the morning, what inspires and moves you, why you are doing the work you are.

Successful leadership takes deliberate development and necessitates being true to your stories.  You are never too old or too young to share your stories and lead authentically.

Don’t wait.  Don’t miss the incredible opportunities waiting for you when you become a proficient story teller.  It’s all low-hanging fruit.  Spending time on developing your stories now will allow you to leverage them for years to come.

So, how many yawn-fests have you suffered through in your career? How many time have you seen wonderful ideas fail due to a lack of polish on the communicator’s story line? Have you ever been guilty of leaving your audience or team members flat because you could not engage them in personal stories that inspired them? Come on… tell the truth! I’d love to hear your STORIES!

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——————–
Karen (Creuziger) Dietz

Karen Dietz is a Principal at Polaris Associates Consulting, Inc.
She helps clients tell their most inspiring stories as an essential influence skill
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: karen.dietz

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Leadership and The Ugly Four-Letter Word: Fear

by Kristi Royse

Fear Face

We all have different ideas of what fear looks like.  Some people fear taking risks, others fear conflict or confrontation, and still others fear rejection by peers, just to name a few.

So what is fear?  

My Fear of Failure

Personally, I struggle with fear of failure.  I am a perfectionist by nature, as are many of us in the corporate world.  As children we are taught making mistakes equates to failure, and accumulated failure makes it impossible to become successful.

Further, failing can sometimes feel like a knock on who I am as a person-I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not driven enough, etc.  It has taken me many years to unlearn the lies I was fed as a child, however this fear still holds me captive from time to time.

“Everybody has their own Mt. Everest they were put on this earth to climb.” ~Hugh Macleod

The Four-Letter Word

The point is that we all have fear in our lives.  If we all face fear, though, why isn’t it more readily discussed in the workplace?

“Fear” is often viewed as an unmentionable four-letter word.

  • Uttering it is received with feelings of discomfort and disdain.
  • To admit fear is to accept defeat.
  • Society at large views fear as a sign of weakness.
  • We are expected to be big, bad, courageous trailblazers.
  • Overlooking the presence of fear, though, gives it power.
  • Inability to face our fears allows them to grow and fester until they paralyze us.

Thus, the first step to ridding oneself of fear is admitting that it exists.  From there, one can begin to understand the fear that holds him/her hostage and create a plan of action to confront and overcome that fear.

“The key to release, rest, and inner freedom is not the elimination of all external difficulties.  It is letting go of our pattern of reactions to those difficulties.” ~Hugh Prather

Facing Uncomfortable Circumstances

Freedom from fear does not involve changing or avoiding our circumstances.  Rather, freedom is found when we face our fear-invoking circumstances head on.  This confrontation helps to release us from our bondage to fear.

“The circumstances of our lives have as much power as we choose to give them.” ~David McNally

A Choice to Be Made

So, then, at the root of fear is a choice:

  • Do I allow my circumstances to define me? 

OR

  • Am I willing and able to overcome my circumstances?

In Maximum Leadership, John C. Maxwell poses the question, “Which emotion will [you] allow to be stronger?” (2012) Choosing faith over fear is a moment-by-moment decision.

  • Will I choose to face my fears or will I let myself be overcome by them?
  • Do I have faith enough in my abilities and belief in what I am pursuing to overcome my fears?

These questions, and others, are what define who we are as leaders and team members.

The Solution

So once we face fear, what is the next proactive step to keep it away?

Learning to trust.

In Oestreich and Ryan’s book, Driving Fear Out Of The Workplace, the authors discuss the benefits of creating a high-trust workplace environment.  The authors interviewed 260 people at 22 organizations about fear and how each workplace handles the fear they face.

In the book, “fear” is defined as “the belief that speaking up about on-the-job concerns may result in adverse repercussions.”  An overwhelming 70% labeled this situation as one that provokes anxiety.

Why does this matter?

The workplace can be full of change and uncertainty.  Fear affects us all as both individuals as well as a corporate body.

On Anxiety, Trust and Fear

Anxiety and fear in the workplace creates:

  • Insecurity in workers
  • Fear of honesty, vulnerability, and openness
  • Anger as a result of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and ego defense
  • Lower levels of creativity
  • Lack of concern for the company

Trust has the power to eliminate fear.

Trust creates an environment that fosters positive vulnerability among coworkers.

When trust is present, people:

  • do not fear they will be rejected as a result of speaking up
  • feel comfortable and are willing to take more risks
  • are willing to be more open and honest with coworkers and company leaders
  • push themselves further, knowing they will have the support of their coworkers/leaders
  • have greater commitment to work at hand and the company as a whole because the ability to trust at work creates loyalty to coworkers/the company itself

Anxiety inhibits, trust relaxes and releases. 

For more information on trust, check out my trust blog entry here.

Continuing On In Freedom From Fear

Over the course of the next four months we will be discussing different types of fears that inhibit growth for leaders and teams as well as the steps necessary to overcome these fears.

We will also be discussing Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team as it relates to overcoming fear in the workplace.  The five dysfunctions include:

  • Inattention to Results
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Absence of Trust

“Striving to create a functional, cohesive team is one of the few remaining competitive advantages available to any organization looking for a powerful point of differentiation.” ~Patrick Lencioni

My hope is these tools for overcoming fear will create more cohesive teams and more effective leadership within your company.  I hope you will join me in reading the upcoming blog focused on exploring the fear of conflict.

What fears in the workplace hold you captive? What tips do you have for dealing with these fears? Do you tend embrace fear or run from it? Do you believe trusting relationships can truly combat fear? Do you have another way of handling fear in your life/at the office?

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——————–
Kristi Royse

Kristi Royse is CEO of KLR Consulting
She inspires success in leaders and teams with coaching and staff development

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On Leadership and Overcoming a Crisis

By Jack Davis

Lemonade

Make no mistake about it, there will be moments when a crisis strikes. Life has a way of making sure that plenty of lemons come our way.

And it seem that none of us can escape this truth.

Leaders often have to manage through crisis. This can only be done with good information. Because of a crisis, you may feel like your life has been a waste. But don’t worry… there are plenty of chances to turn those lemons into something good.

Mistakes are Inevitable

In my experience, no one is always happy, excited, or hopeful. We may not always see progress. At times we see things slipping backwards. Sometimes through no fault of our own, yet often through our own mistakes as well. Everyone makes mistakes, the mistake is not the important part, the lesson is.

Here is a key truth to overcoming our mistakes:

Admitting your mistake quickly positions you to extract wisdom from it

That’s right. You learn when you admit your mistakes openly and transparently.

Laugh them off, brush them off, learn the lesson, and move on to your next (even greater) accomplishment!

You see, pain births a willingness to change. No matter what has to change around you, the first thing to change is YOU. Renew your mind to what a crisis is to you.

These steps may help:

Understand that your feelings are created by your focus

What you are focusing on determines how you feel. Here are a few ways to change your feelings:

  • Through focus
  • Through music
  • Through the people around you
  • Through praise

And if you are so inclined…

  • Through worship

Understand that your feelings can change as quickly as they arrived

Did you suddenly get upset at something? Then you are able to suddenly get happy again! It’s all a matter of what you decide to focus on. That will get your joy back.

Nothing is ever as bad as it first appears

What you see as a loss is actually an investment – if you perceive it through new eyes. Bad times can activate great relationships. Think about it, when the bad time hit, your fair weather friends left, didn’t they? But your true friends stuck with you. Your relationship with them is now cemented even better than before. What a wonderful gift to receive! Absolutely priceless in my book.

Quitting does not improve your life

WOW, WOW, WOW! This one hit me strongly the first time I read it. It just never occurred to me that QUITTING HAS NO REWARD. What does quitting give you? Regret, guilt, shame, more fear, less faith. Nope, I don’t want any of those, I’ve had enough of feeling those things. So I have decided today that I’m not quitting. How about you?

Endurance is a bridge

Everyone walks through a wilderness experience. Everyone walks through the rough places. Everyone experiences crisis, even those who seem to “have it all together.” Get real. They don’t. If you could see deeper into their lives, you would see that they don’t have it all together.

Instead, see that your endurance will increase access to someone – a friend, someone to help you, someone to encourage you, someone to help you solve the problem.

Your endurance is a testimony of encouragement to others

Someone is watching your life. Someone is learning from what you are doing. Someone is secretly rooting for you to win. People love to see the underdog win. So if you are feeling like that underdog today, take courage in knowing that when you do win, it will be a heroic and inspirational story! You will encourage others with it! So today, allow encouragement to sink in. You will win if you do not give up.

Always know that I am here to help put things in perspective and to be your friend and encourager!

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——————-
Jack Davis

Jack Davis is a John Maxwell Certified Success Coach and Speaker
He serves as Coach, YouthMax Speaker & Board Member Team Xtreme Ministries
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L2L Weekender: Leading Socially Responsible Investing

Is Socially Responsible Investing A Realistic Strategy To Follow?

Socially Responsible Investing

Is your leadership going above and beyond what you do as a boss? Are you thinking beyond your day job or your specific corporate role and looking into how your decisions affect a bigger picture?

And are you considering how your influence on a personal level can impact local, regional, national, or international concerns that can benefit society as a whole?

To be sure, anyone in a position of leadership has learned specific skills that are felt in the immediate realm. The question becomes can you lead in a different way that utilizes your skills and helps promote wise investments in a much longer-term way?

Investing Your Influence

If you have been recently surfing the web and browsing through sites such as the ones owned by Fisher Investments and other companies in search of investment information, you may have come across a term that baffled you.

While sources, such as the Fisher site, may contain a capsule definition of the term “Socially Responsible Investing,” you may still be wondering what this term actually amounts to in practice.

You may also be wondering if such a strategy is even possible to adopt, or if it is the right one for you to employ in the course of your own investment activity.

What Is Meant By “Socially Responsible Investing?”

A concise definition of “Socially Responsible Investing” might run as follows: Investment activity by people who wish to support or reward companies for engaging in activity that they feel is beneficial to the international community.

For example, a person who follows the Socially Responsible Investing strategy might choose to invest in companies whose activities coincide with their own deeply held political, economic, or ecological beliefs.

They may make use of the technique of shareholder advocacy. This is the technique by which they use their power as a shareholder to influence the policies of the company they invest in.

For example, they may use this technique to influence the company into adopting better safety standards, abandoning dangerous industrial practices, or giving better pay and representation to female or minority employees.

A Practical Use Of Socially Responsible Investing Techniques

People who make practical use of their socially responsible investing principles tend to screen the companies they are willing to invest in according to three general principles.

The first principle is known as the “Negative Screen.”

The negative screen basically boils down to a practical refusal to invest in any company that sells products or engages in activities that the investor personally views as harmful or immoral.

This could translate into a refusal to invest in a tobacco company, or an oil company that is prone to oil spills and other activities that affect the environment in a negative way.

What Is The “Positive Screen” Technique?

The “Positive Screen” technique involves the investor giving their support to a company that they feel not only earns its profits in an ethical manner, but also uses these profits to support causes that the investor also approves of.

This could mean anything from a company that supports wildlife conservation to a business that engages directly in the construction and distribution of environmentally friendly solar panels.

Keep in mind that the definition of “Positive” is a highly subjective one, and will differ greatly depending on the mindset of the person who makes use of such criteria.

What Is The “Restricted Screen” Technique?

The final screening technique is usually known as the “Restricted Screen.” This means that the company in question may engage in activities that the investor may highly approve of, but may also be involved in other activities which raise a red flag of caution in their mind.

The dilemma is normally resolved when the investor weighs the effects of the company’s “positive” activity against the “negative,” and makes up their own mind whether to go ahead and invest in this company or not.

Leading Outside of Self

When a leader takes on a much larger role in which to influence decisions and uses those skills to better society, they are able to create a legacy that goes beyond their corporate role or day job.

Investing in areas that bring about a better planet is a great way to be able to look into the mirror and feel confidence and maturity about using your skills and talents toward something big.

So how are you doing in developing your personal professional skills in your career? And better yet, how can you take those skills and make a personal commitment to use those skills and talents to leave a large footprint on your leadership legacy? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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The Paradox of Leadership and New Mindsets

Leading with Honor Video Coaching from Lee Ellis

Balance Paradox

Changing Your Mindset About Stinky Fish: Embracing Leadership Growth

The temptation is there for all us, but it’s easier to notice in others – “Why do they lead this organization the same old way? And why do they only see life from their myopic view?

dead fishThe ability to break free from old mindsets and gain new ones is a valuable attribute—especially for leaders who find themselves thrown into paradox.

And what does it have to do with stinky fish??

Read Now

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——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Ter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

 

Want or Need? Rethink Your Recruitment Priorities

Recognizing Long-term Potential Means Looking Beyond Short-term Expectations

Uncle Sam Recruiter

Before preparing a new job posting, recognize that the “ideal” candidate does not exist—yet.

In trying to separate the good from the great, people like to start with perfection and list all the traits that make someone ‘ideal.’

The Difference Between Needs and Wants

Whether it is describing the ideal mate, planning the perfect day, or defining the ideal candidate for a position, conventional wisdom holds that by making a wish list covering every preference, you have a firm base for comparing your options.

The trouble with this approach is that people are usually very bad at distinguishing “needs” from “wants.” You see this disconnect often in the form of budgeting and buying decisions, but the same principle applies to recruitment.

Think of this way: Needs are basics; Wants are all bonuses.

Typically, a new-hire wish list is made up of few Needs, layered between lots of Wants that ultimately hurt your chances of finding the best fit for the job.

Aim to Replicate Success

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through a meeting where a new job posting is being drawn up, and the “must have” column gets so big and detailed, that even existing employees wouldn’t be able to fit every requirement.

You can define true Needs quickly by looking at what makes your current team function. Not what makes them excel—that comes later, through practice and slow, steady cultural integration.

It is easy to reinvent the wheel when preparing to do recruiting, but expecting new hires to come in to your organization ready to meet and exceed the performance of existing employees is beyond unrealistic, and sets the whole relationship up for failure.

Plan on Remedial Training

The fact is, you need to plan for remediation in any recruitment effort.

Too many executives hear this and think it is a compromise: if they aren’t getting the absolute most skilled recruits, they must be settling for mediocrity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any job in any company has a learning curve.

Bruce Tulgan, researcher, author, and expert on generational issues in the workplace, explains how organizations face a baseline skills gap even in the most promising new, youthful recruits.

He says this:

One of the things we’ve measured over 23 years is, what are the hiring managers saying? And an awful lot of what they’re saying, with increasing incidence, is that [Millennials] have the hard skills, but they lack the old-fashioned soft skills.” 

Before you can capitalize on any fresh talent, your recruits have some learning to do to get acquainted with your company, your staff, your product, your mission, your systems, your expectations (let’s face it: nobody is completely forthcoming in an interview).

If every new hire is going to require an upfront investment to train and get up to speed, why pretend that raw talent matters more than the will and ability to learn, fit in, and care from day one?

Tulgan goes on to say:

One of the things you have to do to succeed with the new young workforce, is find a way to channel their fresh training and new technology that they’re comfortable with, the new processes, new ideas, new energy—you have to find a way to tap that. But you also have to find a way to teach them some of the ‘here is how we do things around here, and this is our culture.’”

Reframe Your Needs as Learning Opportunities

Getting the best talent on your staff isn’t just a recruiting challenge, it is a responsibility of management and leadership. Know that going into a new hire decision, and you can make sure they know they are expected to learn, grow, and evolve alongside your organization, from the beginning.

Presenting potential recruits with a role as a learning opportunity allows you to cultivate a cultural fit alongside the skills fit your organization needs. This is where an investment of effort on their part will be met with an investment of training, high expectations, and coaching on your part.

Tulgan continues with this:

Good management is synonymous with teaching, and good followership is synonymous with learning. Good management is constantly, systematically focusing on what they can do to make things better. People should be doing that up, down, and sideways every step of the way.”

Whether that is remediating soft skills in Millennial recruits, or getting older workers up to date with the latest technology, every member of your team needs both expectations, and opportunities to continue learning and growing.

Attract Character by Demonstrating Character

If your hard skill need happens to be programming, remember that:

You don’t need the best programmer in the business, you need the best programmer your company and your culture can attract and retain.

When it comes to posting a new job and attracting candidates, you have more reach and access than ever before. The number of resources and opportunities you have to set yourself apart from the other dull, grey “Help Wanted” postings online (especially free ones) gives you freedom to experiment, have fun, and put the focus from the very beginning on what really matters: finding the right fit.

Try doing this:

  • Convey that you take cover letters as seriously as resumes.
  • Show how skills needs align with cultural norms.
  • Ask what you can learn from applicants, and what they hope to learn from you

If you are looking for skills without consideration for character, you’re trying to hire a robot, not a person. As a result, your job posting is probably going to come across as equally robotic.

Finding someone with the right skills who also fits your company’s culture requires you to not just ask for evidence of skills, but demonstrate an interest in the person offering to help you.

What are the most unique, captivating job postings you’ve ever seen? What made them memorable? How can you go from advertising a job to advertising a culture? Are you focusing on too much on Wants and forgetting what your organization truly Needs? How are you helping your youngest team members learn the soft skills that allow them to fully realize the value their hard skills can provide?

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——————–

Edgar Wilson is a Writer, Consultant, and Analyst
He follows trends in Education, Healthcare, and Public Policy
Email | Twitter | Facebook

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On Leadership, Forgiveness and the Authentic Leader

Leading with the Open Honesty called Vulnerability

Forgiveness

It is widely accepted that forgiveness is a sacred act…a sacrifice! But did you know that this single act has a lot to do with our authenticity as leaders?

Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” ~Andy Stanley

Having just written On Leadership, Suffering and the Sacrificial Leader, there is perhaps no better follow-on. From two Latin words: Sacer (sacred, holy) and Facere (to do, perform), nothing seems to touch the experience of both leader and follower quite like the sacrifice of forgiveness.

One of my favorite authors on servanthood and servant-leadership, Chuck Swindoll, describes forgiveness in the most practical, flesh and bone, earthy terms imaginable in Improving Your Serve:

It is tears of deepest sorrow and joyous relief. It is humiliation and affirmation. It is guilt grappling with grace, pain pursuing peace.”

These are aspects of forgiveness that should hold our attention and have our allegiance as leaders. Why? Because as Chuck says this:

…however we describe [forgiveness, it is] one of the most powerful acts of servanthood we can participate in—and one of the most difficult.”

It is powerful because the deeper the sorrow the greater the joy; the greater the humiliation, the higher the affirmation. It is difficult because guilt necessarily grapples with grace and there is pain in pursuing peace.

The Case for Forgiveness and Leadership

The roots connecting forgiveness to leadership in the organizational context run deep in the servant model. Dr. Jeffrey D. Yergler has done all of us a remarkable service by writing the 3-part series The Servant Leader and the Exercise of Forgiveness in the Context of the Organization, and for the sake of space I will simply point the reader there for further study.

Role Playing for Real Leadership

Because leadership is really about influence or impact, there are two distinct roles in the forgiveness process for every real leader and follower: that of the offender and that of the offended. If we are the offender, we need to understand more about repentance as David Augsburger describes it in Caring Enough to Confront:

Repentance is living in the open honesty called vulnerability. Repentance is growing in the decisive honesty we call responsibility.”

Anyone who becomes a student of servant-leadership will have the opportunity to learn many times over the immense value in living vulnerably and growing responsibly through our mistakes—specifically the ineffective impact that our restrictive leadership strategies or passive/aggressive-defensive thinking styles have on others.

But then there comes occasion for playing the role of the offended. Are we as prone to extend forgiveness in the learning process to others as we are in asking for it when needed ourselves? The answer to this question goes beyond vulnerability and responsibility to things far deeper and potentially far more insidious in our character: hypocrisy and accountability.

From Hypocrisy to Authenticity

The basic idea here is that the act of failing to extend forgiveness to others, when we routinely need and receive it ourselves, is hypocritical. This hypocrisy destroys our authenticity and, as a result, our ability to take responsibility for our mistakes or to hold others accountable for mistakes that are clearly within their span of control.

Before going farther, it is important that I explain what is meant by “…holding others accountable for mistakes that are clearly within their span of control.” This is not fixing the blame or playing the blame game. It is first and foremost the hard work of finding common causes of variation and then fixing the system.

In the vast majority of cases, the perceived error can be attributed to a management system that is outside the span of control for most in your leadership impact area. For the vital few that actually are attributable to factors that are truly local faults, I’ll defer the reader again to Dr. Yergler’s series on servant-leadership and forgiveness, with particular focus on Part III:

…forgiveness helps servant-leaders hold employees accountable for the stewardship of the organization in terms of production quality and the return on the investment of assets. Though forgiveness must consistently be applied regardless of the person or performance, servant-leaders should always expect a return on the action of forgiveness (ROForgiveness).”

And here-in lays the relationship to our role as offender. When we seek forgiveness for our mistakes and actually change our leadership behavior as a result, we model this practice for those who will themselves be expected, at some point, to improve their performance.

As forgiveness is extended for mistakes that offend our accountability for proper stewardship of organizational resources and finances, whether in areas of core values or organizational processes, there can authentically (and should rightly) be a connection to personal and/or performance change.

The Return on Forgiveness

The full return on forgiveness comes through the commitment of the forgiven to learn, change and grow and, in the organization, will remain largely unknown and unknowable.

There are a few ways, however, in which some of the return might be measured:

  1. Marked change in attitude or behavior
  2. Demonstrable growth in knowledge, skills or abilities
  3. Improvement of overall effort in performance, etc.

That said, much of the return depends on how it is carried out and the extent of the personal/ performance change demanded of good stewardship. In the worst case, the change may result in reassignment or termination-for-cause. Dr. Yergler again has incredible insight here:

Unintended mistakes, though always forgivable, are in some cases not worth the risk of a repeated failure. Even in reassignment or termination, forgiveness by the servant-leader remains an act of grace and can foster new beginnings for the person and the organization.”

I love that he goes on to describe this act of grace as something “…profoundly restorative, empowering and generative of the human spirit.” For the servant-leader, there is no alternative, particularly when called upon to make the most difficult decisions in the organization…those that directly impact the lives of others at the point of greatest vulnerability.

So, when was the last time you asked for forgiveness as a leader? When was the last time you extended forgiveness to others as a leader? Here’s an even tougher question: How have your actions to forgive as a leader: (a) helped others realize that their self-worth is not tied to their mistakes and (b) reinforced the idea that learning from them is an inelegant, but essential process for worthwhile change and growth? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Richard Dillard

Richard S. Dillard is Founder/ Managing Partner at Dillard Partners, LLC
Pursuing Success at the Speed of Leadership!
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On Leadership, Humility and Excellent Communication Skills

5 Tips to Significantly Impact Your Interpersonal Effectiveness

A college professor of communication was once asked by the students why the skills that they teach in the college were so important.

This professor taught the interpersonal skills that were related to the daily life of college students. Additionally he trained them in coursework that helped them prepare for a long professional career that included interpersonal skills.

Doing Some Research

So to answer the question as to why interpersonal skills were so important to them, he gave the class an assignment to examine and study the job postings found in the newspaper or at the online job portals and come back the next day with their observations.

The answer to their question was just simple:

The one common thing that each and every student observed with every job requirement was to possess a definite skill set of having outstanding interpersonal communication skills.

And these requirements are magnified for any leader to really be a person of influence.

Wow, who’da thunk?

Fundamental Communication Skills

So, what are those interpersonal skills and how do they influence our daily life as a leader?

It is clear that the interpersonal communication skills are an important part of everyday life on both the personal and professional fronts. Before we start learning how to develop the interpersonal skills, first let us understand fundamental principles of effective communication. It’s a three level communication approach that includes- ethos, pathos, and logos.

  • The ethos symbolizes ethics
  • The pathos symbolizes empathy
  • The logos stands for logic

All three above factors help you in communicating effectively by developing credibility, understandability of your listener and then coherently presenting the thoughts.

On Macro and Micro Communication

Often people in leadership roles assume that they are effective communicators. Since they often are effective at speaking to people in groups, at events, and at important meetings, the assumption can be that that this skill set transfers to the interpersonal level.

However, when it comes to a one-on-one communication skills, those macro skills often are the worst ways to be effective.

Leaders need to dial it back a bit and take a look at what is the most effective way to proceed on the micro level. What can frequently be found is that some of the things that are missing are there because of blind spots that everyone has.

And what can complicate things for leaders is that they see the remedy to increase their influence and effectiveness is seen as trivial or sophomoric. Consequently people in roles of influence continue to lose out on opportunities to better themselves and their operations because of pride, disbelief, laziness, embarrassment, or apathy.

But for leaders who want to improve themselves and the results they get through their teams, all it takes is just a few steps in humility and desire and the results can be dramatic.

5 Tips for Better Interpersonal Effectiveness

Although these steps may seem simplistic, the power of recalibrating one’s basic approach to interpersonal communication skills can be dramatic.

To get results quickly, here are some of the best ways that can help in improving one’s interpersonal communication skills and become much more effective.

1) Opting for a Speech Course

If you are interested in improving your interpersonal skills, especially related to communication, then it is advisable to take a speech course. A good speech course would help in building confidence in yourself while teaching you to communicate coherently. This could be considered as one of the best ways for improving your skills.

2) Rehearsing with a Recording Tool

In order to communicate effectively, it is important to understand the way you communicate. As you record yourself, you will have a great opportunity to listening as well as watching yourself talk. With this, you can observe your body language, have proper language command, appropriate tone of voice, confidence level and many other things. This will help you to become an effective communicator by improving yourself through the observations made.

3) Look Out for the Opportunities to Lead

We already know that great leaders are the great communicators. So, you must look out for some great opportunities for taking leadership roles along with enhancing your interpersonal skills. Being a leader means you need to be proactive and ready to take the initiative. Also, in a corporate scenario, it could mean voluntarily bringing down the co-workers for solving a problem or developing a concept.

4) Develop Good Writing Practices

Writing could help you in expressing yourself clearly. It helps you thinking twice before you speak. It has been observed that the internal communication precedes the interpersonal communication, so it helps you to personally communicate to yourself. The ultimate solution for this is developing good writing practice in order to improve your interpersonal skills.

5) Enroll in an Acting Class

Acting gives you an opportunity to relate to different kinds of people. This helps in boosting your confidence and the language command as well. As acting lets you communicate on stage in a way that the audience should understand you, it can prove to be a great platform to develop your communication skills.

Final thought:

You must have met the leaders in every sphere of human life and one thing that makes them more influential is their interpersonal communication. As a result, if you want to rock your world, you can follow above-stated some of the best tips that can help in improving yourself with excellent communication skills.

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How Leaders Can Created Informed Employees

Part 1 of 3

Employee Knowledge

Your employees are your lifeblood, and as a leader, one of your most important tasks is making sure they stay happy and productive.

There are thousands of techniques you can use to boost employee satisfaction and output, but one of the more overlooked options is creating informed employees.

Informed employees are more likely to become engaged employees. They feel ahead of the curve, valued, and confident in the direction your company is heading. As a result, they’re more likely to be loyal, spread positive cheer about your brand, and feel more personally invested in the work they do.

Knowledge Is Power

It’s easy to get caught up in the need for speed, efficiency, and frugality — and leaders across the globe are constantly searching for ways to cut costs and run lean. But employee satisfaction often takes a backseat in their attempts to do this, and making this mistake can have major negative effects on a company.

A survey of more than 300 randomly selected businesses showed that the lowest-performing firms were more focused on cutting costs and boosting productivity than on developing customer and employee relationships. Further, 45 percent of these low performers fell short of their net profit goals as a result.

When employees don’t know what’s going on, they feel much less connected to their companies. It becomes harder for them to do their jobs, they don’t feel any real urgency to create high-quality work, and their productivity declines.

Because they aren’t engaged, they’re less willing to collaborate with peers and go the extra mile. They become bored, start going through the motions, and check out.

What It Really Takes to Inform Employees

Informing employees takes more than sending cheesy, cheerful company newsletters and maintaining an office bulletin board. It requires transparency, creativity, and technology.

Use the following four guidelines to ensure you’re informing your employees the right way:

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Creating a culture of transparency is ideal, but it’s no easy task. Fifty percent of employees say that a lack of transparency holds their company back, and 71 percent feel their company fails to spend enough time explaining its goals. It’s up to you to empower your managers to take ownership of what they communicate. Tell them they need to honestly and directly communicate with employees, explaining the “why” behind every company initiative.
  1. Consistency is key. Be consistent and frequent with your approach, and always make it clear that communication is a two-way street. In a recent poll, 85 percent of employees said they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news, followed by encouragement to ask questions and give opinions. If you decide to hold monthly staff meetings, stick to the schedule. Only cancel or reschedule them when absolutely necessary.
  1. Make it fun and easyMotivation and gamification strategies are great ways to increase engagement — and technology can play a major role in making informational exercises fun for employees. In one study, gamification led to a 48 percent increase in engagement and a 36 percent reduction in turnover. Perhaps you can create a fun video featuring executives, along with short quiz questions, to replace antiquated compliance trainings. Or you might create an app or immersive digital experience for performance reviews. With today’s tech, the possibilities are endless.
  1. Open your earsInformed employees must feel they have a voice. They have nothing to gain from hiding their insights from co-workers, so if you give them a platform to express themselves, they’ll be more likely to share and collaborate. The more informed they feel, the more likely they’ll be to share feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.

When you successfully keep your employees informed, you’re setting the stage for a more productive workforce — one that will ultimately return the favor and speak highly of your company.

Boosting communication and informing employees is just the first step. Next, you need to engage them to the point that they follow through with action.

For more on this, see Part 2 of 3 and Part 3 of 3.

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Russell Fradin

Russ Fradin is the founder and CEO of Dynamic Signal
He is a Digital Media industry veteran and an Angel Investor
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