Choosing words that matter.

Even a small word such as yes can make a difference in someone’s life when it is stated at the right time and to the correct person. Consider the last time you expressed this word, and what the context of using it was. Now that you have hindsight on having said “yes”, was this the optimal word to have chosen? Or, would you have rather expressed another word?

It’s not always easy to cobble together words that will have a positive impact, and some people are clearly better at doing this than others. Does it take practice to be able to do this? For most people it does, but there are people who have the ability to be both articulate, succinct

and expressive in a way that will the majority of time have a positive impact based on what they have expressed. I’m sure you also can name someone who does this well.

We don’t always have the chance to practice stating something that will have a positive impact on someone, and even when we have an opportunity to write and then convey our message, it might not achieve its intended purpose. Although the chances of it doing so in writing might be slightly higher because of the reality that you can edit your message, we know there are no guarantees. Which is exactly why choosing the right word or words and stating them to others can be so difficult. Yet, having the ability to do so is certainly worth striving to achieve.

When the right words are conveyed to either another person or a group, it’s always interesting to learn post the message delivery about the variety of impacts and interpretations the listeners had. About half of the listeners will be in agreement with what they heard, while the remaining half will have varying degrees of either taking action on, needing more time to digest the information or potentially not have any impact on them.

When people in a group setting are hearing words expressed to them that are intended to have a positive impact, and the impact doesn’t affect them the way the speaker thought it would, places both the message conveyer and listeners into an interesting place. One that isn’t always ideal, yet provides an opportunity to also dissect what went wrong with the message delivery.

A recent conversation I was having with a leader related to actually not leveraging an opportunity to have the power of their words impact their team. Instead of conveying upfront what they intended the outcome of a situation to be, they opted not to express what they anticipated the results would be. So, the outcome which resulted was highly disappointing to the team, but the leader was in a neutral state, and this caused unintended consequences.

Upon having a post-mortem conversation with this leader about their decision not to leverage words to inspire or express their intentions to the team about how they were perceiving the outcome of the opportunity the team was involved with, was what I refer to as an “ahh-ha” moment. The fact of the matter is that there was a missed opportunity to state up front how the leader would have leveraged the power of expressing what they were thinking, and it was completely different than how the team was thinking and reacted without any explanation. Given this scenario, this is what I refer to as a perfect “course correction” situation. One that provided the chance to leverage the power of words to do so, yet didn’t occur.

At this moment in time, there isn’t closure on the example noted, but there is a next step. The next step is to have a conversation with the leader about how to fully appreciate and apply the power of words to both their own and their teams benefit. Will the initial time they do this have the intended impact they are expecting? I believe it will, and yes, it will take them practice to become better at doing this. However, it’s exactly what they need to do as a leader, and their team also needs them to do. In fact, the team expects this from their leader, and it is an enormous missed opportunity when this doesn’t happen.

If you are a leader or sports team coach or someone who hasn’t been benefitting from the practice of choosing words that matter, below are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Consider what words inspire you. Write them down, and begin practicing using them in sentences on a one-on-one basis with people you regularly interact with.
  • Do some research and listen and read about others who are inspirational speakers.
  • Pay closer attention during conversations to appreciate who is having a positive impact on you based on how they are conveying their message to you.
  • Words can be like weapons, and have unintended negative consequences. So, make sure that the words you choose are meant to be supportive and not punitive.
  • Work on finding your communication style and comfort zone when it is time to convey your words to others. You don’t have to imitate others styles, as it will be both hard to do, and isn’t likely your natural communication style.
  • Always think about what the intended end goal of your communication will be, as sometimes your communication and the words you choose will have different purposes.
  • Factor in making sure that your body language is in alignment with what your words are expressing.
  • Appreciate and be highly responsible for the words you choose to express to others, as they might have a lifelong impact on them.

I’m excited about the opportunity I have today to see the leader I referenced above, and to have a second chance of helping them to leverage their words. Words that I know they want to positively impact the intended outcome for their team today. Let’s hope the suggestions above are ones that will benefit both you and the team you lead. Or, to have a positive impact on any future conversations you are having with others.

TAGS: #Leaders #Sportscoaches #Communication #Powerfulcommunication #Leadership #Motivation #Inspiration #Business #Sports #Sportsteams #Thepowerofwords #Influence #Theimpactofwords #Professionaldevelopment #Personaldevelopment #Growthmindset

Are you a compelling leader?

The word compelling is certainly a positive one, yet there can be varying degrees of how compelling someone might be. It can also be highly subjective in the eyes of the person stating the word, but the word is one you will pay attention to when it is woven into a conversation. Particularly when it is offered in the context of describing a leader.

In my personal experience of both working for, collaborating with and advising leaders, there are a number of characteristics that most of them foundationally have. One of them is a presence that has the effect of commanding your attention. An energy that they exude which is similar to a gravitational pull towards them, and in a positive way. Another characteristic which I have commonly experienced is the person’s ability to articulate information succinctly and in a highly compelling way to what they are saying. Although they may not have earned your trust, you inherently place your trust in them.

Granted there are numerous ways to describe a leader, and you have a gut instinct when you are with someone who is a leader in the making, not everyone who has been appointed as a leader should be one. Unfortunately, there are innumerable examples of these type of leaders, and they often overshadow the leaders who are tremendous ones that don’t get the same level of attention or notoriety. This is often because of the fascination people have with spotlighting people and topics which are less than favorable, and which have a higher level of “shiny object” effect. Consider the mainstream news as a heavy contributor to this phenomenon.

If you are a leader, or potentially on track to be one, have you actually truly stopped to think about whether this is the path you want to be on? I offer this question to have you consider the point at which you either decided to pursue this path, or the time when other people placed you on it.

Let’s start with the assumption you solely decided to pursue being placed onto a leadership path. Of course, not all leadership paths are equal, so I’ll leave the interpretation of what type of leadership path you are on up to you to decide upon. Although you may think that you either want to, or deserve to be on a leadership track, I can assure you that you will have more detractors than supporters of this decision at the onset. Why? Because by nature, people can be skeptical about someones abilities until they have more proof of them being able to accomplish something. However, the conundrum with this thinking is that how can you prove your ability without being given any opportunity to do so?

This is where early leaders who decided they wanted to be on the leadership track were potentially either more creative, or influential. Possibly both in terms of seeking and finding opportunities to gain their leadership experience. Now, consider these people early on in their “training-wheel” leadership roles. I’m certain many of their experiences with their early leadership roles were less than ideal, and I’m fully confident they made many mistakes. With each mistake they made, they either learned from it, were extended forgiveness or continued forward without the benefit of being reflective on the experience. Hold this thought for a moment.

The early leaders who did not take the time to be contemplative of their mistakes, or who do not admit having made any, are not who would be deemed a compelling leader. Why? Because there is a certain level of needing to splice in having a dose of humility and humbleness to being a compelling leader. In the absence of these characteristics, a leader becomes far less compelling as someone you want to trust, or put your greatest efforts into supporting. This might not even be something you are consciously aware of, but when you are, the compelling leader is someone you will do extraordinary work to support.

If you are wondering what other aspects there are to being a compelling leader, or are wondering if someone you work for is one, or one in the making, consider these suggestions to make this determination:

  • Would you proverbially “run through a wall” to support your leader, or would you initially hesitate before doing this?
  • What makes the leader someone you are proud of supporting? If they are simply someone you derive a paycheck from, chances are good they are not a compelling leader.
  • Do you have confidence in your leader’s abilities to make the right decisions which will offer the greatest benefit for the organization or team they lead? At least 95% of the time.
  • How would you rate your leader’s likeability level? You might not support all of their decisions, but can you separate how you feel about their decision making qualities from whether you actually like this person? It’s much easier to support a leader that you like, and this is also one of the compelling characteristics you should look for.
  • Respect is generally earned, although there are plenty of circumstances when you need to grant respect upfront, and then determine whether the leader is compelling enough to sustain the respect they may not have earned, but that is granted to them.
  • Leaders are intended to be followed. If you have any hesitancy about following your leader, chances are good, they do not fall into the category of being a compelling leader.
  • Being a compelling leader and outcome performance may in fact be mutually exclusive. However, when a compelling leader is able to achieve performance factors which are favorable, and consistent, this is a highly desirable combination to look for and achieve. I want to underscore that this is not an individually achieved outcome, and takes many people into consideration to accomplish. A compelling leader will acknowledge this.

Not all compelling leaders will be able to tick off all of the boxes above, and there are certainly numerous other characteristics which contribute to making them one. The point I am emphasizing is that we will always have a need to develop and support compelling leaders, or people who are willing to step into the role of being one. Thank you if you are one currently, or are on your way to being one.

TAGS: #Leadership #Management #Howtobeacompellingleader #Inspiration #Motivation #Awareness #Teams #Sportscoach #CEO #President

How to make communicating with colleagues or teammates easier to do.

There are clearly some people who have a gift of being able to talk to just about anyone, or about anything. When you experience someone who has this ability, it’s analogous for me to watching ice dancing. I chose this analogy because watching ice dancing at the highest level of performance is incredibly elegant to watch, and the skaters make what they do look so easy. Although we can only imagine how much time and practice it took to get to this level. Especially since they are always one small slip away from potential disaster.

Conversations can be fluid or awkward, and similar to ice dancers, are ripe for potential slip ups. The difference between how the conversations are navigated and the comparison to ice dancers diverges in one area. This area is that the ice dancers are practicing one dance, and most of the variables they will be contending with are stable. However, with conversations, the variables, even with a practiced conversation is where the divergence occurs. This is due to the fact there are so many additional factors which could contribute to making the conversation more difficult than the ice dancing, and which are out of the conversationalist’s control.

An example of a factor which a conversationalist can’t prepare for is someone else’s mood. Or, knowing how the other person’s history on this topic might impact the outcome of it. Another challenge for conversations is the level at which someone is able to converse. If one person is a highly accomplished conversationalist and they are speaking to someone who isn’t, the flow and outcome of the conversation is going to be much different. Now consider two other  factors which will contribute to making the conversation more challenging.

The first factor has to do with hierarchy (e.g., work or sports team), and where each person in the conversation stands in this part of the equation. In this conversation scenario, the lower hierarchy person may not feel that they are able to say truly what they want to express. Perhaps out of respect, but also potentially out of fear of saying something which will lead to them losing opportunities for advancement, or worse, their role on a team or in the organization. Yes, these are extremes, but they are legitimate concerns people have when they are not equals in a conversation.

The second factor has to do with influence. Although logically you would think that in a hierarchical conversation that the higher-level person might have the advantage, this isn’t always true. In fact, it might be that the junior conversationalist has a higher ability to be more influential in their conversation style. If they do, this will provide them with an interesting advantage. An advantage that can offer them the skillset to have a stronger conversation flow and outcome which results in them obtaining either agreement. Or, the results of what they were seeking to have the conversation accomplish.  

Being able to maintain the right emotional level during a conversation is also key, but not easy to achieve. Especially if the topic is highly emotionally charged. Managing through an emotional conversation is never easy, yet it’s one that everyone both personally and professionally needs to be able to navigate through. The key in successfully getting through this type of conversation is to be honest and let the other person know you may be emotional during it. By preparing the person you will be speaking with that this isn’t going to be a neutral conversation, each of you will be able to let down your guard to have a more open discussion.

I’m not in HR, but I recently read a statistic from the HR Review. It noted that 48% of Millennials reported they are having a hard time communicating with colleagues. Reading this stat was what prompted me to consider both reasons why this was occurring, but more importantly, to offer some potential solutions to consider addressing this difficulty. Below are some of my ideas to help making communicating with colleagues, or your teammates less difficult.

  • Do you have some standard questions you can ask your colleague or teammate to open up the conversation? These of course would come after you genuinely asked them about how they are doing, and you carefully listened to what they said, and then responded accordingly. Most people will say they are doing “fine”, but occasionally they will tell you they are having a tough day.
  • If you are tripped up by not knowing what standard questions to ask, a few of them might be to inquire about how their day is, or how their weekend went. You could also ask them if they are working on anything interesting right now, or working on improving some aspect of what they do professionally. Another question which you can ask is “What advice they have for maintaining the energy level they do?“ This question will likely throw them off, but in a good way. Why? Because it is intended to be both a compliment, and provides them with an opportunity to share something more personal about themselves which each of you can benefit from.
  • Even if you don’t sense your colleague or teammate needs any help in their role, ask them if there is some aspect of what they do that they wish they could spend more time on, or have a higher level of support on? Listen carefully to their response, as there might be something they share with you that potentially you can help them with, or know someone who can.
  • One of my favorite questions to ask anyone is what travel plans they have? If they don’t have any, you can ask them where they might like to travel some day? This will open up an opportunity to proceed with asking numerous follow-up questions relating to why they chose to travel to where they did? What did they like about where they went? What did they learn from their travel to that location? Would they recommend going there? What would they do differently relating to that trip if they were to go back?
  • Another way of easing into conversations is to make sure your question is open-ended. In other words, don’t ask questions which can be responded to with one word.
  • Seeking to find out what you have in common with someone is always an ideal way to easily have a conversation with them. Since so many people have pets, find out if your colleague or teammate has a pet. Perhaps they don’t have one now, but maybe they did, or perhaps they are researching to find out which pet they would like to add to their life? If you have a pet, you can also talk about the various aspects relating to your pet.

Ideally and easily being able to communicate with someone has to do with being open minded enough to find topics of conversation you can talk about with ease. Or, that are neutral enough so that even if you have nothing in common, there are plenty of topics that you both will have an opinion on. Being a strong conversationalist, like my analogy to professional ice dancing takes practice for the majority of people to master. So be kind to yourself as you begin the journey of learning how to communicate with ease. You’ll get there.

TAGS: #Communication #Business #Strategy #Howtocommunicatebetter #Teams #Colleagues #Teammates #Motivation #Conversationalists #Tipsonhowtocommunicatewithothers #HR #Personaldevelopment #Professionaldevelopment #Management #Success #Millennials #Leadership

Who are you? A simple, yet complex question.

When we are very young, it’s not uncommon to either have someone express to you what they think you will or should be doing professionally when you grow up. Perhaps you also had your own ideas of what that might include? Chances are also good, that what you thought you might want to do when you became an adult may have been absent of considering monetary factors.

In fact, when you were young and thinking about what you might like to “do” when you become an adult, it likely may have appeared to be slightly whimsical? Possibly even fun or exciting to think about the reality of being in that line of work. Some of the more traditional career options were potentially ones you thought about, and I’m going to venture to guess that your choice or choices had very little to do with concerning yourself about whether it would be a logical choice.

For a moment, suspend the idea of applying logic to a decision, and purely think about the emotional aspect of your thoughts. When you do this, you are far more likely to authentically tap into considering doing something that would make you happy. Perhaps even feel fulfilled, but when you are very young and thinking about potential career options, the beauty of this is that there are aspects of making these considerations which you were not second guessing, or heavily influenced by. Sure, there will be some exceptions, but do you remember the first time you told someone you wanted to do “fill-in-the-blank” when you grow up?

Personally, I distinctly recall telling someone what I wanted to do, and it was to design interiors. Specifically, campers or boats. For a point of reference, I didn’t have either of these items in reality, but I did have a version of these items in a toy format (e.g., my Barbie camper, and a small toy plastic boat). I would routinely take the boat to the beach and float it in the ocean and tidal pools, but I would leave the camper at home so it didn’t get sandy. I was fascinated with the possibilities of thinking about how much fun it would be to design the interiors of smaller spaces not traditionally used as a permanent home.

Now the question you might be asking yourself is why didn’t I pursue becoming an interior designer or architect? I actually did consider this when it was the right time to do so, but since math wasn’t a strong suit of mine at the time, this factor alone prevented me from pursuing this option. However, this isn’t where this part of the story ends, and in fact it is a great jumping off point to orient back to understanding who you are.

About ten years ago I had an experience which changed and provided me with an opportunity to re-think the question of who am I, what am I good at, and what do I want to do next? In reality, this is a lot to consider, and it takes both patience and persistence to pursue figuring out and determining an answer to this question. Yet, that’s exactly what I did. The best news is that I can precisely, confidently and credibly answer the question of “who I am” when someone asks me this question. Are you ready or willing to be able to do the same thing?

Before I proceed, I want to comment that I am I’m always surprised by how many people are hesitant to take the time to explore and navigate understanding who they are, what motivates them, what makes them happy and how do they want to apply their skills in a meaningful and purposeful way. Is this you, or someone else you know?

If you would like some tips to apply or share, below are some ideas I have for you to get started on helping you to be able to sort out who you are, or perhaps on your way to becoming.

  • Make a list of things that make you happy that you have control over applying to your life, and a list of things that diminish making you happy. From the second part of the list, what can you do to either reduce or eliminate that item?
  • Are there people in your life that contribute to enhancing or detracting from it? Is it possible to prune out the people who are not enhancing your life? Are you prepared to do this soon or now?
  • Can you credibly answer the question that you are 100% certain you know and can tell another person who you truly are? More importantly, do you know why, or can you factually back up why you are who you say you are?
  • On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how important is it for you to be able to articulate, appreciate and understand who you are? If this is important to you, yet you haven’t done anything to support being able to both understand and explain to yourself or others who you are, are you willing to put effort into accomplishing this?
  • Looking forward, what can you do today to propel yourself towards being in a better place from a mental health perspective. No one is immune from improving this area of their life.
  • If you were to be interviewed with the purpose of aligning who you are, with opportunities in your life that would align well with who you are, how would you describe yourself?
  • Is it possible for you to help someone else describe or understand better who they are? When you can you offer to help them with this exercise? Helping someone else, might help you to get started sorting this out.

Understanding thoroughly who we are, what we are good at, what motivates us and makes us happy is something I wish everyone will be able to achieve in their life. As someone who has mastered this exercise of self-awareness myself, I can assure you it is one of the best and most empowering and liberating gifts you can give to yourself.

TAGS: #Selfawareness #Personaldevelopment #Confidence #Empowerment #Leadership #Business #Motivation #Helpingothers #Whoareyou #Understandingwhoyouare

New leaders. What are their challenges?

There is something both intriguing and slightly anxiety provoking about newly minted leaders. We know that seldomly do new leaders take the same path to get to where they have arrived, although there may be some common experiences which landed them their title. We also know that some leaders who were put into the position, clearly do not belong there. Perhaps not now, or ever.

Consider a leader you may have worked for that was relatively “green” or less experienced than other leaders you have been associated with. Were there aspects about the approach to how they lead others that you either were impressed by, or were somewhat skeptical of? How was their communication style? Did you have any concerns about how they conveyed information, or did their style lend itself to being acceptable on most levels? What about their grasp of being open-minded and humble enough to accept the fact they were going to need a fair amount of support to guide them? Both in their early days as a leader, and then by their trusted advisors as time goes by.

My experience of working with people who are placed into leadership roles that were not given support resources in their early days, either by choice, or from their lack of awareness for need to have this support in place have not fared as well as the leaders who were given support. Even in some cases minor support. They also benefitted from having support which came in a variety of different formats (e.g., expertise in the areas of strategy, finance, management, sales, culture and communication) to name some of the key areas.

The leaders who didn’t either have access to, or refused to have support due to being overly confident in their abilities are the ones who not far into their leadership role, quickly became overwhelmed. They also often struggle with their communication and management abilities, and worse, made less than sound and rational decisions when they were under the immense pressure they were facing. Of course, these challenges lead to other challenges, which include having difficulty with building trust amongst not only their team they lead, but this had a trickle-down effect. As you might imagine, not the one they would want to continue.

One of the aspects I have always been puzzled by with new leaders, is their overzealous optimism that they have all the experience they need to be deemed fully competent on day one. Realistically no one is, but being humble about this is not only realistic and appreciated by those they are leading, but it also affords them the opportunity to ramp up faster. How? Because the people who are supporting them are more willing to do so because of what I’ll refer to as a refreshing leadership approach or style that appeals to others because it is a more inclusive leadership style. A style that distributes responsibilities and offers people a way to quickly feel more united as a team, as they are working more collaboratively from the onset.

Of course, there is a fair amount of trust the new leader will have to grant to their teams when their style is oriented more towards collaboration, but I have seen this approach work brilliantly, and with minimal downsides. One of the reasons, is due to the fact that it becomes quickly apparent when leadership responsibilities are distributed, who is, or who isn’t pulling their weight, or equally contributing to the organization’s or teams’ collective goals. This isn’t a style that most newly minted leaders are comfortable with, as they often make the classic mistake of trying to do too many things on their own without support. Perhaps they may have done so when they were in an individual contributor role, or had fewer people to manage and lead. I’ve seen this management regression style occur too many times, and the ending is never the one which is desirable.

So, are there actions new leaders can take to help set them up for early success? Yes, there absolutely are, and here are some suggestions on how they can do this.

  • Set-up a small group of outside advisors you can meet with who will be able to provide you with reasonable, objective and actionable advice in a very timely manner.
  • Take note of some less than desirable management actions you resort to when you are under pressure, and come up with a few methods to course correct your actions when you begin to see this occurring.
  • Are you fully aware of your management style, or have you even fully defined what your style is?
  • If you do not have a style that you are aware of, or if it is one that you would like to improve upon, what can you do within the next few weeks to redefine your style? Consider whether you will be able to make these changes on your own, or with some others supporting you. Either internally or externally.
  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your level of being open-minded?
  • Have you determined what your level of awareness is in terms of how you impact others by way of your own skills in the areas of motivation, collaboration, communication and performance?
  • How concerned are you in terms of the level of risk of your success in your first few years as a leader?
  • Have you defined what your own metrics will be to determine what success will look like for you? It may or may not be in alignment with what others you are leading deem to be acceptable, realistic or achievable.
  • Don’t be afraid or concerned about asking for help. You are going to need more support than you think you will, and by all means, please accept and embrace it.

Even though others want you to be successful, make sure you set yourself up for success by putting people and methods in place which will help to both mitigate your risk of failure, and more importantly, set you up for the success you desire to achieve and have worked really long and hard to get to the point of being in your new leadership role.

TAGS: #Leadership #Success #Motivation #Communication #Teams #Strategy #Embracingsupport #Embracinghelp #Achievement #Awareness #Selfawareness #Leadershipstyle

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