Take Off Your Mask and Speak from Your Heart

This is a guest post by Dr. Quentin Schultze, Professor of Communication Emeritus at Calvin College, a media company CEO, speaker, and author of many communication books, including the newly released Communicate Like a True Leader: 30 Days of Life-Changing Wisdom. Visit his blog.

 

Speak from Your Heart

A fine friend and skilled speaker landed in a dreadful situation. He had agreed to address a convention of toastmasters—persons who lead local public-speaking clubs where members overcome common speaking fears and practice effective speaking techniques.

When he arrived a few minutes early for the event, he met with his friend who had arranged the speech. He discovered that the audience was not toastmasters, but postmasters who run local post offices.

He frantically tried to organize a speech in his head while his friend introduced him. Then he took the stage, mic in hand, alone with the whole banquet hall of postmasters peering directly at him. What could he possibly do?

He relinquished his facade.

 

“I never saw a well-fitting mask. It is a great relief to take them off.” —Robert Greenleaf

 

My friend explained to his audience that he had planned a speech for the wrong group. That he didn’t even know what postmasters actually do. That he was thoroughly unprepared.

Then he spoke from the heart about what he knew intimately. He told stories about his loneliness. About his fears. About the stifling lack of meaning in his own work sometimes.

My friend’s message was simple but profound: We are all first and foremost human beings, not workers. We share a common humanity. We experience fear as well as hope. We all feel this in our hearts.

Then he thanked the postmasters for the opportunity to share his off-the-cuff thoughts and feelings.

He received a long, standing ovation. The wounded storyteller had connected with the wounded postmasters. By taking off his “professional” mask, he had honestly led them into a shared, human journey of hope. In spite of being unprepared, he had served them as a great leader-communicator.

 

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson

 

If You Fake It, You’ll Eventually Fall

How to Become a High-Stakes Leader

Become a High-Stakes Leader

When the stakes are high, that’s when we need the very best in leadership. Why do some leaders succeed and others fail? Why do some not only survive a crisis, but use difficulty to produce incredible results?

These questions are tackled by Constance Dierickx, PhD in her new book, HIGH-STAKES LEADERSHIP: Leading Through Crisis with Courage, Judgment and Fortitude. She shares how to lead with the type of courage that makes you stand out.

I recently asked her to share her insights on high-stakes leadership.

 

“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” -Aristotle

 

What do you mean by High-Stakes leadership?

A high-stakes leader is someone who is successful when risk is high and visibility is low.  New ventures are an example, whether they are for a new product, service, geography or method of production. Top leader changes, mergers and crisis are also examples of high-stakes situations.

Leaders who get good results achieve value on multiple fronts. As Jim Kennedy, Chairman of Cox Enterprises says, “It can’t be just about the money.” In a crisis, we need only compare the recent leadership failure at Equifax with the response of The Home Depot in a similar circumstance, a breach. The response of these two companies was wildly different. Frank Blake’s actions are a model of what to do.

My book talks about what leaders in high-stakes situations should do and provides examples from a wide range of organizations. I also talk about what gets in the way of leaders. Invisible traps include the human cognitive system, which is not a completely rational system. Our human limits lead us to make mistakes that may look foolish but can be the result of cognitive limits, the effect of emotion on decisions, the context or our own habits of avoiding anxiety.

There is an additional factor, which I include in my forthcoming book Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, in which I focus on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. That is when we wrongly assign value to opportunities, risk, timelines, market size, and so forth. It’s one thing to think something is low risk and be right and quite another to believe risk is low when it isn’t. Even smart people can be blind when making evaluations, a part of leading. We don’t have measures for everything, and even when we do we aren’t always measuring what matters.

Perhaps the greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone and being complacent.

 

“The greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone.” -Constance Dierickx

5 Tips to Master Your Next Meeting

meeting
This is a guest post by Dr. Rick Brinkman. Dr. Brinkman is a communications expert and keynote speaker with clients ranging from NSA to IBM. His latest book is Dealing With Meetings You Can’t Stand: Meet Less and Do More.

Master Meetings

Business leaders always look for ways to boost engagement and productivity, but few of us would start with meetings. A 2015 Harris Poll found that going to meetings is the biggest obstacle to getting work done. Many of us see meetings as a necessary evil. For most C-suite executives, meetings devour 40% of our worktime: focusing on them even more is not exactly appealing.

 

Harris Research: Meetings are the biggest obstacle to getting work done.

 

But creating better meetings is a highly effective way to make your people happier, energized and more productive — without increasing their hours or salary. Here’s one simple but effective approach with an immense payoff: Don’t think of it as a meeting. Instead, think of being on an airplane flight, with the meeting participants as the passengers.

Confined in a small space together for a designated period of time, passengers are subject to possibly rough weather, unpleasant neighbors, a fatigued pilot, or worse. But we all have to fly. It’s a useful analogy since that’s what it feels like, most of the time, to be in a meeting. Imagine your people’s surprise when you can make the “flight” a whole lot more bearable in 5 practical steps:

 

1. Question its necessity.

Start planning the meeting by asking if it’s even necessary. As a leader, you sometimes challenge teams to justify the purpose behind an action. First identify the meeting’s purpose, then ask if it’s best served by a meeting, or there’s another way.

 

2. Measure the cost.

Meetings all have a cost. There’s the cost of what people are paid to sit in the meeting and there’s the price of all the work they’re not doing because they’re in a meeting. Knowing the cost, is the meeting worth it?

 

3. Create an agenda.

5 Ways to Manifest Your Inner Leader

inner leader
Maurice De Castro is the Founder of Mindful Presenter. Maurice is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s most successful brands. Maurice believes that the route to success in any organization lies squarely in its ability to really connect with people. That’s why he left the boardroom to create a business helping leaders to do exactly that. Learn more.

 

Your Inner Leader

Everyone knows that leadership skills are essential in the modern workplace. These skills are not just reserved for CEOs like Richard Branson and Marissa Mayer. Everyone has the potential to become a leader, but a lack of confidence or uncertainty often holds them back. Learning to manifest your inner leader will have countless benefits for your career and self-development, even if your badge or position never says the word “Manager.”

 

1. Fail Every Day

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Confucius

 

Failure is an essential part of growing into a great leader. You learned to ride a bike. You fell over a few times, scuffed your knees. But you got up and learned how to do it. Through that failure you learned how to keep your balance. Now riding a bike is second nature.

Failure is only what you perceive it to be. So go out and fail at something every day. Then learn from it. Embrace the new experiences many little failures bring. You’ll be more humble and open to learning than you’ve ever been.

Whether it’s writing an email, using the wrong tone of voice in a sales call, or messing up a presentation to the board, no one is perfect, and you can throw the old adage that “great leaders are born” in the bin, too.

Reflect, review, learn.

Grow.

 

2. Lean into Your Fears

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

 

The world’s a scary place. Your boss is scary. Delivering a presentation to the board is terrifying. If something doesn’t scare you, then you probably won’t learn from it. All great leaders have had to face their fears at some point in their lives.

To start manifesting your inner leader today, lean into your fears. Start with a task that scares you a little bit. This might be something as simple as picking up the phone to speak to a manager about your idea. See your fear as a challenge you need to overcome.

Got some bigger fears you need to overcome? Get guidance and support. You’re not on your own with facing your fears. Tap into your network, and you’ll be seeing how much you can achieve when you step outside of your comfort zone.

A good leader knows their fears, but doesn’t shy away from confronting and developing them.

 

3. Think. Speak. Inspire Like a leader.

The Mythical Leader: 7 Myths of Leadership

mythical leader

Misunderstanding Leadership

My friend Ron Edmondson is a pastor, author, blogger, and consultant. After reading his leadership book The Mythical Leader: Seven Myths of Leadership, I followed up with him to discuss the many misunderstandings people have about leadership.

 

“Leadership is influence.” -John Maxwell

 

Avoid the Boss Mentality

I often say that leadership is personal, not positional. Myth number one hits this immediately. What are some of the problems with the “boss has ruled” mentality?

I so hate the word boss. Maybe because I’ve had one and, no, I never want to be seen as one. Frankly, from a purely practical standpoint, the “boss has ruled” mentality simply doesn’t work. It might get the job done for a while, but it will wear people out over time. We don’t get the best people have to offer because they will only do what has to be done to meet the “boss’s” expectation. But, I think there is a bigger reason. It’s wrong. At least from my Biblical perspective, we are all – regardless of title or position – ultimately to be servants of others.

 

“The culture the leader creates impacts the feedback a leader receives.” -Ron Edmondson

 

Myth number two says that if you’re not hearing complaints, everyone must be happy. Tell us a little more about this observation.

I’ve learned even in the best organizations and on the healthiest teams, the leader only knows what they know. And, people may be either hesitant to share what they are really feeling for fear, or retribution or they assume the leader already knows the problems. I go through seasons, as the leader, where I’m simply getting the required things done. I’m traveling a lot. I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate. If I’m not careful, I can assume silence means agreement. I must consistently be asking good questions to make sure I know the true pulse of the organization.

 

7 Myths of Leadership

Myth 1: A position will make me a leader.

Myth 2: If I am not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy.

Myth 3: I can lead everyone the same way.

Myth 4: Leadership and management are the same thing.

Myth 5: Being the leader makes me popular.

Myth 6: Leaders must have charisma and be extroverts.

Myth 7: Leaders accomplish by controlling others.

 

 

How to Lead Creatives