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

Phrases to Defuse Difficult Workplace Situations

Defuse conflict

Are you ever at a loss for words?

Do you approach a potentially volatile situation with trepidation because you don’t know what to say?

The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book by Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem is for you.

It’s a handbook of sorts, a reference book, filled with clever phrases and questions all designed to help you in conflict situations.

After reading it, I decided to put it to use immediately. I read a few of the phrases before attending most of my meetings. What I found was that I was asking better questions and was a more focused listener.

I recently asked Barbara more about her work.

 

“Knowing when to fight is just as important as how.” –Terry Goodkind

 

Build Your Conflict Muscle

How do you best build the conflict muscle so that you don’t shy away from it?

Practice, practice, practice!  Many of us are uncomfortable with conflict to the point where we not just shy away from it—we run from it and give in rather than dealing with it. It takes courage and practice to have conflict muscle, but we also want people to know that not all conflict is “bad.”  Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships.

 

Talk about the power of listening.

Most of us think we’re really good listeners, but what we really do is, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when they stop speaking.  That’s not listening.  Listening is putting your own thoughts aside to focus on the words being said but also observing body language and facial expressions to really get what the person is saying.  Our ever-increasing virtual world makes listening even more difficult, so whenever possible, have difficult conversations face to face. But if you can’t be in the same place, use Facetime or Skype so least you can see each other. A good listener uses techniques like paraphrasing back what they heard to ensure both people are on the same wave length. Listening takes practice—just like any other communication form. We spend a lot time learning how to speak to be understood or how to write well but not much time learning how to listen.

 

“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.” –Thomas Edison

 

Ask for Clarity

4 Keys of Personal Reliability

This is a guest post by Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. Lee Colan and Julie Davis Colan co-authored The 5 Coaching Habits of Excellent Leaders.  They also co-founded The L Group in 1999 to equip and inspire leaders at every level:  personal, team and organizational.

Personal Reliability

A business that delivers reliable results is the sum of reliable teams, and reliable teams are the sum of reliable individuals. So, building reliable business results really starts with a leader coaching each team member to deliver reliable individual results.

 

“Personal reliability is a cornerstone of leadership.” -Lee Colan

 

Personal reliability is a cornerstone of leadership. Ken May began working at FedEx while he was in college. He started at the bottom sorting packages. He gradually worked his way up, becoming the Senior Vice President of North American Operations. He then became CEO of FedEx Kinko’s and is currently CEO of Topgolf. When asked about his career climb, May is quick to say, “I just work hard at whatever I do. I don’t complain. I don’t blame. I just work hard. I’m grateful for my job, my organization and my customers. I try to never promise what I can’t deliver.”

May knows that he can’t expect anything from his employees that he isn’t willing to model. His employees know they have a boss, a friend and an example in May. He, in turn, has a loyal workforce. As May has been heard to say, “Personal reliability at the top is the beginning of a successful organization, a dedicated workforce and loyal customers.”

 

3 Levels of Leadership

Leadership is an inside job. It starts inside with your personal leadership traits, such as integrity, trust, competence, authenticity – all of which are aspects of personal reliability. In fact, our company logo is a group of three stacked L’s representing the three levels of leadership: personal, team and organizational. You cannot expect your team to be reliable (or any other trait for that matter) if you are not being reliable. Since reliability, like leadership, is built from the inside out, the most important question a leader should ask is, “How reliable am I?”

 

“Reliability, like leadership, is build from the inside out.” -Lee Colan

4 Traits Leaders Can Learn From Dogs: The Fido Factor

dog boss

Lead Like a Dog

What can leaders learn from dogs?

 

“Be the person your dog thinks you are.” –J.W. Stephens

 

In a quick, humorous read, co-authors Krissi & Dan Barr, in The Fido Factor: How to Get a Leg Up at Work, share how dogs can motivate each of us to become a more effective leader. Dogs can teach leaders the importance of being faithful, inspirational, determined and observant. I won’t mention how this book will help you unleash your potential, have you barking up the right tree, or help you get a leg up at work.

 

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” –Mark Twain

 

4 Traits Leaders Should Emulate

“It’s time to lead like a dog.” That’s the last sentence on one of your first pages, and it would surprise most readers. Tell us what you mean.

It likely won’t come as a big surprise to the 44 percent of American families that have dogs! Clearly we’ve taken some literary license in drawing the leadership parallels between dogs and business leaders, but the truth is there are many important lessons we can learn from our four-legged friends.

We boiled it all down to four traits dogs exhibit: they’re faithful, inspirational, determined and observant. Anyone who improves in those areas will become a better leader. And we’ve filled the book with hundreds of practical ways to do just that.

 

“A hungry dog hunts best.” –Lee Trevino

 

The Hallmarks of a Faithful Leader

Faithful is the first trait in FIDO Factor. What are the hallmarks of a faithful leader?

At the core of it, faithful leaders earn the trust of their team and their customers by doing the right things and living up to their word.

Form a bond with a dog, and you’ll have a faithful friend, someone you can depend on and who will defend you no matter what. When you are regarded as faithful, it means you’ve earned trust. You can be relied upon.

Trust comes from being loyal to your teammates and customers and doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’ll do it. It’s awfully hard to be an impactful leader if others don’t think you’re committed to the cause.

The issue of being faithful at work goes to the heart of team building. To get both results and loyal team members requires a personal connection based on your team’s belief in you and what you stand for. You need to build trust to be influential, and you need to be faithful to build trust.

Faithful leaders work in a way consistent with both their company and personal values.  They don’t spend sleepless nights worrying about what they said, how they acted or whether or not they did the right thing. That’s because they make values-based choices that put the good of the team ahead of the personal interests of the leader—just like your dog does.

 

“Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” –Kinky Friedman

 

Inspirational is number two. You say, “Inspiration moves people to do the extraordinary.” What is it about inspirational leadership that draws us in so fast?