Archive for the ‘Connecting’ Category

A Decision I Made 38 Yrs. Ago

April 12th, 2017

 

38 years ago, I decided to start my own business because I knew working for someone else didn’t feel right for me. I am too independent and at times don’t play well with others. More importantly, the inhumanity of some workplaces struck me when working with different companies. Working in sterile environments, shouldn’t mean having to be sterile, ourselves. Business consulting seemed to be a way for me to help people work better together and maximize their potential.

The person to inspire me to work for myself was my Aunt Yvonne. She had chronic arthritis. She was confined to a wheel chair. Yet, wrote a column for the local newspaper, sold cosmetics and Christmas cards all from her wheelchair. She inspired me to work independently. As a child, I sold cards at Christmas time with her.

I was nervous about starting my own business because I lacked money, a PhD and had yet to write a book. In my first year, I sought out the advice of a retired executive to help me. He was 80 years old. His approach annoyed the hell out of me because he kept asking “why?” Well, my answer was because I said so. My shallow response wasn’t satisfactory to him and he forced me to think about how our customers can benefit from our services.

 

So, I asked myself how selling Christmas cards as a teenager helped my then customers? The answer:– I made it easy for them, they didn’t have to sign their names and write their addresses on the envelops. It was printed.  Aha! That was my signature; make it easy for my customers!

My father was my role model for owning a business. My dad supported my family with Alwon Electric Co. He, like me, was just a good technician who worked for himself. He always had a small team helping him. He showed me, by example, how important it is to treat employees like peers and friends. His customers were loyal to him because he cared about them as people, not just as clients.

On the first stages of building my business I struggled because I didn’t know what I was selling and didn’t have confidence in my abilities. Yes, I could sell cards as a kid. But now I had to sell more complex and expensive products.

I wanted to quit when people weren’t buying. My biggest mistake was trying to sell to the wrong person–the gatekeepers: Personnel (these were the people who ran HR in the past). They listened, got excited and challenged me. Yet, no one bought anything! I had the wrong buyer and I didn’t know how to sell. What a horrible and depressing combination that was for me.

What motivated me was simple…I did not want to fail. Down deep, like my Aunt Yvonne, I knew that to succeed I had to have relationships. All I needed was a few solid business friends and things could take off. Not having kids or a husband to support made this easier for me. My Aunt Yvonne kept a happy face and remained persistent despite overwhelming obstacles. My dad built his business while supporting my mom, my siblings, and me.

I knew we could do good with the great leadership training and assessment programs we offered. So, my partners and I kept at it. With persistence, I began to find the right buyers. I prioritized getting in front of people who had the authority and budget to invest in their teams. These leaders (managers and business owners) also wanted someone they could confide in, a mediator to help with people problems, a coach who could help motivate and energize their staff. Yes, they wanted a consultant… like me. Business owners, as they’ve always been, were busy with building or selling and didn’t have time for the softer part of business. They liked our style. It worked!

For those wanting to start a business, I’d suggest you find your personal style, be persistent and genuine with those you work. My guess is that what you start out with may not be what you end up doing. If you listen to your customers, then you will find that as the market, technology and times change, so should you.

I watched my Aunt work on her phone from her wheelchair. She could hardly hold the phone, yet she spent many hours talking with people and building relationships that lasted a lifetime. And they bought from their friend Yvonne.

Without relationships, your sales are only transactional. With solid relationships, your impact can be transformational.

What Great Listening Really Means

September 8th, 2016

About 30 years ago, a manager of a manufacturing plant chastised me.  He said, “All you are doing is repeating what I said!” My intention was to make sure I understood. Yet, I was humiliated.   It hurt because it made me doubt my listening skills. From that moment on, I chose to engage clients further. I now do more than just listen and repeat. Exploring, questioning, sharing and building on their statements are my new tools.

For years we have been teaching and practicing active listening. In a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled What Great Listeners Actually Do, authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman share results of a new study and point out there is a lot more to it than just nodding and summarizing. These thoughts resonate with some of my own gut feelings about great listening.

newsletter-photo-of-dog-listening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are their excellent tips on what great listening means:

1. Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks.
To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehend it well enough to  want additional information. Good listening is consistently seen as a two-way dialogue, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.

2. Good listening includes interactions that build a person’s self-esteem.
The best listeners make the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners make the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening is characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences can be discussed openly.

3. Good listening is seen as a cooperative conversation.
In these interactions, feedback flows smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners are seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.

4. Good listeners tend to make suggestions.

Good listening invariably includes some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)
Check out the entire article for more info!

The 5 Pitfalls of Conflict Resolution

November 4th, 2015

Last year around this time, my friend and business partner, Rob Ferguson, published his book Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement, along with co-author Peter T. Coleman.

The book recieved excellent reviews.  Publishers Weekly described it as a “practical guide to redirecting energies from conflict toward the achievement of goals.” They went on to write: “Grounded in more than 15 years of research, Coleman and Ferguson’s findings offer insight into the strategies and skills necessary for managing work disputes and show how to make conflict work for you instead of against you. Full of valuable advice, this book will help readers develop better strategies for workplace disagreements.”

In honor of the book’s one year anniversary, we wanted to share with you the following excerpt. It’s about the pitfalls that can make workplace conflict resolution worse.
AVOID THESE 5 PITFALLS:

1. Treating all conflicts as the same.
Our research has identified seven distinct conflict situations, depending on how cooperative or competitive the parties are, who has more or less power, and how much they need each other to achieve their goals. The seven situations are Compassionate Responsibility, Command and Control, Cooperative Dependence, Unhappy Tolerance, Independence, Partnership, and Enemy Territory. Each situation requires a different approach, and diagnosing the situation correctly leads to the most effective strategy..

2. Ignoring power differences.
Most leaders (and consultants) overlook the full significance of how power differences affect conflict. Whether you have more power than the other party, or less, it takes additional skills to get to the real issues and achieve your goals. If you have less power, you risk overstepping your bounds or inviting abuse. If you have more power, you risk eliciting dishonesty or sabotage from your supervisee. Ignoring power differences, and lacking a strategy for them, can render standard conflict resolution methods ineffective.

3. Abusing the power you have.
Read any page of any history book and you see how monarchs, generals and presidents abuse power. But so do supervisors, middle managers, and team leads. You only need a little power to abuse it –– and thus make yourself less effective in conflict. Some of the most common power traps include: “The Bulletproof Trap” (you make conflicts worse by thinking you are invincible), the “Not-Seeing-the-Trees-for-the-Forest Trap” (you appear insensitive to your underlings by ignoring details because you only see the “big picture”), and the “Screw the Rules Trap” (you bend or break rules because after all, you’re special –– you’re the leader! This sets the stage for minor or major rebellions).

4. Neglecting the power you have.
When you find yourself in lower power in a conflict, you may fall into different traps. These include the “Keep your Head Down Trap” (you keep your aspirations so low you don’t even try to find better solutions), the “Powerlessness Corrupts Trap” (you succumb to cynicism or rage toward those in authority, turning to apathy or sabotage), and the “Victim Status Trap” (you wallow in a sense of oppression and victimhood, which ironically can lead to a sense of superiority and refusal to negotiate).

5. Misunderstanding power.
Don’t make conflict worse by acting passively. Even if you are less powerful than the person with whom you disagree, it doesn’t mean you have no power. Less power does not equal powerless. There are always informal ways to influence managers and leaders above you in the organization. And these methods do not show up on the org chart. They include actions such as appealing to the others’ interests, eliciting cooperation, creating positive relations with superiors, fostering reciprocity, rational persuasion, increasing their dependence on you, and more.

I highly encourage you to go buy the book! Happy reading!                            Making Conflict Work COVER

When Emotion Gets in The Way

September 3rd, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Photo July 2015 Newsletter

I learn my lessons the hard way. Twice in my career (maybe twice is good?), I let my ego and arrogance get in the way of being a good leader and supporter of my team.  Over 35 years ago, a consultant interviewed my team of twenty.  He gently pointed out that my emotional impulses were poisoning my team much like the article we refer to in this newsletter states.  Yes, I painfully learned my lesson and made changes to improve my awareness of myself and others.

In spite of what I learned, about 15 years ago, I found myself in the same spot.  Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad.  Today, at age 70, I am still working to avoid the poisons and improve my awareness.

From Harvard Business Review come these great tips on what NOT to do regarding emotions at work:

1. Forget your emotional intelligence (EI) and let your amygdala do the talking: Act on feelings and impulses, and don’t filter what you signal, say or do. Don’t let pesky things like social constraints or norms get in the way. Get really pissed off—and stay that way—when someone gets more than you do. Stereotype people who are different from you. Say what’s on your mind then excuse your behavior by telling people that you’re just honest and transparent, which maybe you are, but you’re also just being mean, and if it’s your direct reports, you’re bullying. Unfortunately, given the stress that people deal with at work today, an awful lot of people are walking around in a permanent state of amygdala hijack.

2.  Stick to your guns: Awful phrase. How about “My way or the highway?” Same idea. If you want to ruin a team, be rigid, single minded, and obsessive about your goals or how to get things done.

3. See the glass half-empty: If you want to mess with people’s minds and kill a team’s spirit, focus on everything that could go wrong. Scare people. Be cynical. Emotions are contagious; and negative emotions and the cynicism and biting humor that go with them kill the trust, creativity, enthusiasm, and happiness that are so important to group success.

4. Truly don’t care about people: I once worked with an executive who was, in fact, blowing up his teams­—and his family. He was at risk of losing the prize at work—the CEO job he’d been promised because he got results. The leaders of this company had, thankfully, figured it out. That this guy got results at the expense of every person and team he touched. Naturally, these results weren’t sustainable. When I asked him why he did this, he told me straight out: “I don’t care about those people.” “Really?” I asked. Underneath this total lack of empathy was a profound belief that his goals, and his way of accomplishing them, were more important. And he was smarter, so what those other people needed—well, it just didn’t matter. It wasn’t until he realized that he was blowing up his family—his wife was about to leave him and his kids had given up asking him to do things with them—that he understood why he was ruining every group and ultimately every part of the business he touched.

5. Don’t think too much—especially about your motives and feelings: Lack of self-awareness, whether conscious or not, is at the heart of pretty much all of the bad behavior I’ve seen in teams. Take the executive I mentioned above. When we really got down to it, the reason he was blowing everybody up was because he was scared. So, he got them before they could get him at work. And at home, he was scared of intimacy. Yes, he loved his wife and kids. But he just wasn’t ready for real intimacy—so he kept them all at bay.

Less Talking, More Listening!

July 1st, 2015

 

 

 

More Listening Less Talking (ears photo)

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all been there. Do you have a friend or colleague who often talks over you, interrupts, or one ups your stories? Glances away or fails to make the right follow up comments to show interest? Effective listening makes one feel appreciated, respected and worthy. Poor listening does just the opposite.

It’s funny that we tend to pay a great deal of attention to our ability to speak. From Toastmasters to unlimited courses and workshops, we see that speaking, especially public speaking, is a highly desirable, sought-after skill.

Public speaking is considered to be an essential ability for those who aim to advance their career in business and politics. But compared to all this attention placed on speaking, listening is virtually ignored. It can be argued that listening is every bit as important as speaking. Everyone wants to be heard and understood, and really that’s how trust and loyalty are gained.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

– Ralph G. Nichols

From Forbes, come these tips below on being the best listener you can:

 

1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.

2. Be attentive, but relaxed.

3. Keep an open mind.

4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.

5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions.”

6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.

7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding.

8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.

9. Give the speaker regular feedback.

10. Pay attention to what isn’t said—to nonverbal cues.

How Good Is Your Boss’ Emotional Intelligence?

May 1st, 2015

Emotional intelligence is about being able to understand your and others’ interior lives and how your actions and environments affect them.  Believe it or not, those above the middle management level don’t always score so high on their emotional intelligence. Travis Bradbury, author and co-founder of TalentSmart, analyzed the score profiles of more than a million people, working across industries on six continents. Middle managers stand out with the highest emotional intelligence (EQ) scores in the workplace.

Companies have a clear tendency to promote people into front-line supervisory and then middle management positions because they’re good with people. They assume that a manager with high EQ is someone that people will want to work for.  Interestingly, emotional intelligence scores decline precipitously as you move above middle management, with CEOs having the lowest EQs in the workplace, on average.

Here, Bradbury writes for Forbes and offers up some of his favorite EQ-boosting strategies below.

These tips apply to anyone, even if you’re not a leader.
Acknowledge Other People’s Feelings
Assertive, action-oriented executives don’t exactly ignore other people’s feelings. What they tend to do instead is to marginalize them or “fix” them so that they don’t get in the way of action. While some have suggested that this is a predominantly male problem, it can more accurately be described as a “power problem.” People who fail to acknowledge other people’s feelings fail to realize that lingering emotions inhibit effective action. So the next time you notice someone on your team expressing a strong emotion, ask him or her about it. Then listen intently and play back what you have just heard in summary form. By validating their emotions, you’ll help them feel understood so that they can move forward without hindrance.

When You Care, Show It
Good leaders always notice when people on their teams are doing good work, but they don’t often show it. When you appreciate something that another person does, let him or her know about it. Even a quick email or pat on the back goes a long way in this regard. There are people who do great work around you every day. Don’t put off letting them know how you feel about it. Your praise will build fierce loyalty and inspire your people to work even harder.

Watch Your Emotions Like A Hawk
You may think you have a world-class poker face, but if you’re like the average executive, your weakest self-awareness skills are “understanding how your emotions impact others” and “recognizing the role you have played in creating difficult circumstances.” In other words, you would become a much more effective leader if you obtained a better understanding of what you feel, when you feel it. Practice this by taking notice of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors just as a situation unfolds. The goal is to slow yourself down and take in all that is in front of you, so that you can understand how your emotions influence your behavior and alter your perception of reality.

Sleep
I can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and improving your relationships. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. The pressure that leaders are under often makes them feel as if they don’t have time to sleep, but not taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

Quash Negative Self-Talk
A big step in developing emotional intelligence involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity. When it feels like something “always” or “never” happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

Now, somewhat contrary to what the article says, I know many CEO’s with high emotional intelligence.  I guess that is because they know enough to bring us in to help with the development of their people and themselves.

For those of you who’d like to check out your own EQ levels, we offer you a free Emotional Quotient™ 3 from Target Training International. (Please limit one per person.) This is of course just one example of the many developmental assessments RCG offers.

 

Making A More Meaningful Connection

January 26th, 2015

There’s a work conference that I’ve been attending for over a decade now. I’ve made long-time friends and colleagues there with whom I keep in regular touch. Many of us do the same work, consulting and selling similar products, and over the years we’ve formed “master mind groups,” where we meet every month virtually to encourage each other and discuss big ideas, as well as to stay up to date on our personal lives. We’ve grown to deeply care for and trust one another.

I always find it more fun and engaging to build relationships with people who are open and willing to be a multi-dimensional resource to other business folk, as well as to their community, and who add extra value to their clients and friends in order to succeed together.

With any group or event we join, there are always a few people there who only want to mingle with those they see “value” in, while ignoring others. Or there is the infamous business card ninja, who throws their business card at everyone around them.  That is no way to truly connect with people.

That’s why a Forbes article on forging real connections struck me. Below are their valuable tips.
Regardless of status or fame, people are people. And the 7 pillars of making a connection with another person are always the same.

  1. Be genuine. The only connections that work will be the ones that you truly care about; the world will see through anything short of that. If you don’t have a genuine interest in the person with whom you’re trying to connect, then stop trying.
  2. Provide massive help. Even the biggest and most powerful people in the world have something they’d like help with. Too many people never reach out to those above them due to the fear that they wouldn’t be able to offer anything in return. But you have more to offer than you realize: write an article or blog post about them, share their project with your community, offer to spread their message through a video interview with them. Give real thought to who you could connect them with to benefit their goals. If it turns out you can’t be that helpful, the gesture alone will stand out.
  3. Pay ridiculous attention. It’s nearly impossible to genuinely offer help if you don’t pay attention — I mean real attention, not just to what business they started or what sport they like! Do your research by reading blog posts, books and articles about the connection beforehand. Learn about their backgrounds and passions. Invest genuine time in learning what really matters to them and how you can help.
  4. Connect with people close to them. Most job openings are filled through networking and referrals, and making connections is no different. You automatically arrive with credibility when referred to someone you want to meet by a mutual friend. For example, I recently wanted to meet a best-selling author, and it turned out we had the same personal trainer. In reality, that fact means nothing, but in the world of social dynamics, it’s gold! Spend more time connecting with your current network of friends and colleagues and see where it leads.
  5. Persistence wins most battles. If you can’t get a direct referral, simply click send on that email or leave a message after the beep. But do not stop there, as most the world tends to. The first attempt is just the very beginning. Realize that the first try may get you nowhere, but the fifth or the tenth tries are the ones that start to yield results. An unreturned email or voicemail doesn’t mean they don’t want to connect with you. It’s your job to be persistent! I sometimes get hundreds of requests in a day from readers who want to connect, but only about 2 percent ever follow up. Don’t be in a hurry, but don’t be invisible either.
  6. Make real friends. Think about how you’ve made the friends you have. That’s all this is. You only make friends with people you genuinely want in your life. The same rule should go for bigger-name connections. Don’t over-think it. Be human, be helpful and most humans will happily be human in return, regardless of who they are.
  7. Remain unforgettable. All of the above are simple — yet sadly underused — ways of standing out. Send birthday cards. Mail your favorite book with a signed personal note from you on the inside flap. Send them your family Christmas card. Be genuinely helpful. You’d be surprised how the simplest things actually never get done. Being memorable isn’t as hard as some think!More great info on this topic! Forbes– Networking Is Not Working: The Secret to Making Meaningful Connections