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

Seeing the future. Can you?

About ten years ago I was out in Las Vegas at a technology conference, and one of the events I attended was headlined by someone I was surprised by. It was Sinbad, and he was there to provide both insights and predictions on how our future was shaping up.  Some of his predictions seemed far-fetched, but many of them were plausible.  In fact, the ones that were plausible were the ones I was most captivated by.

Although being able to see and predict what might be happening in the near or long term future, if you had this ability, what if it included both positive and negative information? Could you handle the potential negative outcomes? Or, would knowing this information allow you to potentially prepare to either mitigate the damage in advance, or altogether avoid it?

Now, let’s focus on looking at the positive side to being able to capitalize on being able to see into the future. Perhaps you know someone who has this ability, or possibly this is one of your skills? In reality, the majority of people do not have this ability, but when you come across someone who does, be prepared to have a fascinating conversation. In fact, some of what you might be hearing will either be tantalizing or put you into a state of having to suspend your skepticism to truly pay attention to what they are saying. If you are a good listener, this will be easier for you to do.

When I am in the presence of someone who has the ability to see what I don’t, I have always been thoroughly intrigued by the way they describe what the future looks like. Their descriptions are typically influenced by their level of both life and professional experience, but not always. In fact, I have been most surprised by younger people (e.g., sub 30) who are able to verbally paint a vivid depiction, and provide a highly detailed description of what they see happening ahead of where we are presently. The more questions you ask them about what they are seeing, the more details you will get about how what their predictions are.

Are people who have the ability to see into the future always accurate? Not always, but many of them have an uncanny ability to predict what the proverbial road ahead has in store for us. Upon reflecting back on conversations with the people who have the skills to offer predictive insights into our future, has offered me personally and professionally tremendous advantages. The trick is to pay close attention to what you are hearing, and not make assumptions and twist what you are hearing about to be in your favor. This isn’t always easy to achieve, but I highly recommend you heed this advice.

In terms of whether it is possible for those of us who don’t have the ability to see what lies ahead to help us, how do we know if there are people we interact with that have this skill set? Here are some suggestions to help you to do so.

  • The first step is to ask yourself if you are open-minded enough to allow these type of conversations to occur?
  • Consider some conversations you have had where the person you were speaking with had a completely different approach to how you think. Were you dismissive or intrigued by their thinking? If you were dismissive, it’s possible you were in the presence of someone who has a “futuristic” ability.
  • When you are conversing with someone who has the ability to see into the future, they might seem conversationally as if they spend a great deal of time thinking about what has yet to occur, and appear to be more comfortable with thinking ahead versus living in the moment, and being fully present.
  • A few key phrases that you will regularly hear from someone who has the futuristic thinking tendencies, is “Imagine if this was possible…” and then they venture into telling you about the vision they have which supports this statement.
  • There is a certain contagious energy people with a futuristic ability possess, and they generally have a positive outlook on what they are describing to you.
  • If you think you might have the ability to see into what lies ahead for the rest of us, work on fostering this ability by both verbally, in writing or perhaps both options with the intention of engaging and increasing your talent in this area.
  • For those of you who are leaders or sports coaches, I’m going to highly recommend you seek having someone like this on your team, or in your “trusted advisors group” who has this ability.

As a consummate optimist, I’m always excited when I come across someone who has a futuristic capability, and I’m delighted to share with you that I have the good fortune of knowing quite a few of them in my life. All of whom I treasure, and I hope you either have them in your life too, or will soon.

TAGS: #Future #Futuristic #Optimist #Optimism #Leader #Leaders #Leadership #Sportscoach #Team #Teams #Business #Success #Motivation #Teamdynamics #Trustedadvisor #Openminded

The benefits of losing.

If I have said this once, I have said it hundreds of times. No sports team ever shows up on game day and says, “let’s lose today”. This same sentiment can apply to work scenarios too, albeit there are some additional layers of complications that doesn’t make this statement as simple or straightforward. However, it is applicable. Although in work scenarios, this statement may not be applied one hundred percent of the time, much to the chagrin of those leading the employees.

The comparison between sports teams and work teams is something I truly enjoy doing. Yes, this is partially due to working with both team types, but also because there is so much to learn from both of them. Now toss in the cross-pollination from the learnings, and that’s where everything begins to start to become more interesting.

I chose the word interesting, because I am always pleasantly surprised by how similar sports and work teams are to one another. The obvious common denominator is that people are at the core of both scenarios, and both are led by typically a few leaders. Although where the people comparison differs, is in the age decade that the sports teams are in, compared to work teams. The sports teams age decade is more homogenous and typically all female or male teams, versus the work teams being far more diverse in both categories.

Another interesting comparative difference between the two types of teams is that there are more opportunities for less experienced leaders of sports teams. An exception to this would be that some work teams in the start-up phase, or smaller, family-owned businesses might have less experienced leaders. Are the less experienced leaders at a disadvantage then the more experienced leaders in both categories. Yes, and no. Yes, if they seek counsel from more seasoned leaders, and no, if the less experienced leaders are willing to admit they will likely require more support than they might realize.

Although work and sports teams have different metrics to determine their performance, the sports teams have a more straightforward method of determining their outcome results. Work teams also are generally working on quarterly based results, while sports teams may not all be playing in all four quarters of the year. This also has both advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that the sports teams comparatively are operating on more of a “sprint” style, versus the work teams who are running marathons. Preparing for both styles is far different, and also comes with a separate mindset approach. One isn’t better or more favorable than the other, they are just different.

Having experienced for most of my career what it is like to be focused on quarterly results, I learned how to pace myself and ramp quickly for results at the beginning of a quarter. Typically, my team would then have to shift into maintaining and then potentially have to figure out a strategy to surge on the performance results in collaboration with the sales teams towards the end of the quarter. Admittedly, there were times that the frantic feeling of having to collaborate extraordinarily well with the sales team was something I enjoyed doing. Although it could also be exhausting and highly stressed induced.

Comparatively, sports teams are in this situation on a game-by-game basis, so their cycle to focus on what it will take to win is different, but also similar. The similarity is that like the work teams, they are extraordinarily dependent on one another to perform at their peak level in every game. We have all seen plenty of examples of some of our favorite college or professional athletes who exhibit being able to perform at a peak level consistently, but this doesn’t apply to everyone on the team. So, can one or two peak performers on both work and sports teams make a difference? Yes, I think they can, but this is where the concept of taking a look at the benefits of losing comes into focus.

As I stated earlier, no one shows up on game day and says, “let’s lose today.” The athletes may think their chance of winning is limited, but most of them are going to put all their energy into having the game outcome be favorable. Ideally with a win, but a tie in some cases will also give them points towards their final season performance numbers. Granted although we can agree that winning can be more desirable, teams can in fact equally benefit from losing. Here are some benefits to a team losing.

  • When a team loses, more emphasis is put into evaluating where were the trouble spots that prevented them from winning, versus a winning team focusing less on this.
  • Losing isn’t satisfying to anyone except the winning team and its fans. However, it can help the losing team to look for opportunities related to how they can work differently and more effectively together.
  • Experiencing adversity can be a great motivator towards change, and if the change is oriented towards being constructive, it can help a team to fuel its team dynamics in a positive way.
  • No matter how stubborn a leader is, eventually if they are consistently experiencing defeat, they will inevitably seek support from others to help them. Or, help will be given to them. Although this doesn’t always mean they will accept the help if the leader is reluctantly having to accept it. Even if it is in their best interest for them and their team.
  • Upon repeated defeats, some leaders will eventually figure out whether they are unselfish enough to admit they don’t have all the answers. This doesn’t always mean they will seek more experienced counsel, but it does offer a glimmer of hope they will admit their leadership approach isn’t working.
  • Although there are teams who have long stretches of losses, at some point, circumstances will change that will have others making decisions for the leader who they have lost confidence in. This doesn’t always happen at a desirable pace for most fans, the athletes, or the support staff of the team, but it will invariably get to this point.
  • The feeling and memory of losing can remain with you longer than the amazing feeling achieved by winning. How a leader and their team handle both aspects can be what separates them from heading towards the path of turning their performance results around, or continuing on the same path. Knowing how to achieve this is critical, with emphasis placed on the word “how”.

Even if you are not a competitive person, most people will agree that winning is far more fun than losing. Although, understanding and appreciating the benefits of losing can be far greater in terms of applying it successfully to other areas of one’s life.

TAGS: #Leaders #Teams #Motivation #Leadership #Business #Winning #Sportsteams #Sportsleaders  #Teamdynamics #Collaboration #Learning #Personaldevelopment #Professionaldevelopment

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