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Giving Back

Sometimes the most powerful messages are communicated not by what you say, but by what you do. Especially when you do it for others, with no expectation for anything in return.

Recently I had the privilege of speaking with Rob Lowe, host of the “Giving Back Podcast,” where we shared some stories about how we, you guessed it, give back to the community and the world.

Most importantly, I had the opportunity to get out of the spotlight myself, and turn it on to the Hope Partnership for Education, an AMAZING educational organization — far more than a plain ol’ “school,” whose motto is “breaking the cycle of poverty through education.”

It’s not just about working with high-needs populations. They’re transforming the community.

For example, in an area with a >50% high school dropout rate, their students — all high needs, often entering school several grade levels behind, academically — have a 95% graduation rate!

How do they do it, and how can you help, no matter where you’re located or what your current abilities are? Tune in to this inspiring podcast to find out.

You can go directly to the podcast episode here: GivingBackPodcast.com

Or listen on iTunes here (Episode 12: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty).

Thank you for making a difference in our our world! Please share this and help others take action on what they feel passionate about.

Here’s to a world of success,

Laura

“A Game of Inches”: Leadership on Any Given Monday

“A Game of Inches”: Leadership on Any Given Monday

Recently, my family decided to watch Any Given Sunday, the 1999 iconic football movie starring Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Fox and a slew of other stars and unexpected cameos ranging from LL Cool J to Lawrence Taylor (of 1980s NY Giants fame), who comprised the fictional Miami Sharks, an extremely dysfunctional pro football team/franchise.

It looks at everything from money and egos to injury and politics surrounding the NFL. Not my typical first round draft pick for Sunday evening family time, but I was outvoted… and I’m glad.

While my husband eagerly took every opportunity to point out plays, dangers of concussions and other “teachable moments” to our 13-year-old son (who, unsurprisingly, was far more interested in the movie than the lessons), I was drawn in to the way the characters talked to each other, and when efforts at leadership succeeded and failed.

Most importantly, I couldn’t help but notice how much the challenges on the football field, in the locker room, and in the board room all have in common. For example:

  • Seemingly incompatible priorities held by ownership/management and the players/employees
  • Executives who viewed the players as property rather than as people
  • Star players driven by their egos
  • A young female president/co-owner trying to prove herself in an industry that is historically and undeniably a “man’s world”
  • Work-life (im)balance and resentment
  • Life-or-death (money or safety) choices
  • And of course, the coach who had to navigate among all these groups while trying to do his own job and keep it all together if they were going to have a winning season, which was what everyone wanted.

But what really “scored points” with me was the inspirational locker room talk coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) gave to the players toward the end. (You can watch it here.) Talk about someone whose delivery is credible and authentic. His verbal, vocal, and visual (physical) communication are in perfect alignment, all conveying exactly the same message, and that’s what makes his team – and the viewers – buy into it… because they buy into him.

He describes football as “a game of inches,” and how those inches are everywhere. He drills into them that the difference between winning and losing is being willing to fight and die for that inch, and a crucial component in that motivation is knowing that the guy next to them is working for the same inch, working together to reach team goals that are bigger than themselves as individuals.

As he tells it, it’s “the six inches in front of your face,” that make all the difference.

While that summary may sound cliché, (watch the original clip, it was great, as was the rest of the movie), I started to think about the professional “inches” that are all around us. So often we get tunnel vision, focusing on the total yardage we need to score the big points in signing new clients, completing big projects, meeting sales goals, delivering killer presentations, or nailing the interview to land next big promotion, but lose sight of the inches in between.

The kicker is, your reputation drives much of your ability to score, even the likelihood of getting opportunities to score. But your reputation is built in the moments in which you are not typically trying to impress. Your reputation is built in the everyday patterns, interactions and experiences people have with you when there isn’t a formal audience, and you’re not officially performing. In other words, your reputation is built in the inches.

At work, those inches might be the way you give or receive negative feedback, your attitude (contributions, body language, or tone of voice) during the drudgery of the weekly Monday morning meetings, or the balance of confidence and humility you demonstrate in speaking with others above, below and beside you.

You gain or lose inches based on how proactive you are in getting to know other people in the office, offering to help others because it’s the right thing to do even if it’s not officially in your job description, and peacefully but diligently working through conflict rather than letting disagreements fester in silence and become toxic.

Those “six inches in front of your face” show whether or not you’re in the moment: during an important discussion, are you listening to someone so you can formulate your rebuttal, or are you truly listening to understand? Trust me, they’ll know the difference. And it will reflect on your reputation for integrity. And over time, it’s integrity that scores points.

So ask yourself: On any given Monday, are you mindful of how you choose to navigate the inches of the day? Because the person who is, is the one who will lead the team into the end zone, and to victory for all.

Milestone: 1 Million Views on my TEDx Talk!

Milestone: 1 Million Views on my TEDx Talk!

Today I’m celebrating a milestone I’d like to share with you: My TEDx
Talk, “Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right”,
published almost exactly a year ago, just passed the million viewers
mark.

I’ve learned a lot in that year, about everything ranging from voice
to web popularity to marketing and more. Naturally, I’m very proud and
honored to have given the talk, and I’m even doing some mentoring work
behind the scenes for TED, which has been a thrill. But in hindsight,
if I could do my talk over again, there are some things I’d have
changed (and not just my wardrobe, as some commenters perhaps
rightfully but rather ungraciously posted…talk about people with
nothing better to do!)

Word choices, cadence, anecdotes and the like are all details, large
and small, that change the impression you and your message leave on the
listener, and there are some details I still think I could have done
better. But the ability to reflect on your work and simultaneously
appreciate what was well conceived and executed, and still take an
objective eye to decide what you’ll do differently and better next time
is an essential skill that ensures continued growth, and the likelihood
of getting to, or staying at, the top of your game, and being a true
leader in your world.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I invite you to watch the talk and share
your thoughts. I know each one will help me hone my craft. And for
those of you who have seen it, I happily and humbly thank you for
helping me reach this exciting milestone.

And to everyone — here’s to creating your own unique and authentic
sound of leadership!

Today, April 16th, is World Voice Day!

Today, April 16th, is World Voice Day!

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the amazing instrument that connects us to virtually every other person on the planet (and no, I’m not talking about the Internet.)

The voice is one of those things we take for granted until it fails us, whether a case of laryngitis due to overuse/abuse, an illness, or anything else. Here are a few tips to take care of your voice so it can take care of you:

  1. Drink plenty of water! It’s important to keep hydrated. Caffeine and alcohol have the opposite effects and the voice can suffer so limit those options and stick with healthier options.
  2. Avoid dairy before a speaking eworldvoicedayngagement – including a simple phone call or meeting. Dairy (which I love) can cause excess mucous/phlegm, so unless you want to continually be clearing your throat, stay away from them too. Citrus can help counter those effects, so add a few drops of lemon juice to your water to give it a little zing.
  3. Breath support is key. Check your posture: are you a perpetual sloucher, whether standing or sitting? If so, you aren’t getting a full breath of air, which is the “fuel” for your voice. It has a negative effect on volume, clarity, endurance (you’ll run out of breath easily), and increases the likelihood of “vocal fry,” that annoying crackling sound that makes people sound indifferent or insecure. While men and women, old and young, commit this faux pas, women get the brunt of the bad “rap” for it, even influencing hiring decisions.
  4. Use a microphone when possible. Plenty of us decline to use a mic when it’s available, declaring, “oh, I have a big mouth, I don’t need it!” But more often than not, you’re wrong: acoustics of the room, audience members with undeclared hearing impairments, and our own unrecognized tendencies to trail off at the end of sentences, or speak loudly enough to be easily heard by ourselves but not by those toward the back of the room, are all landmines that sabotage our ability to be heard… or we try to compensate for all those things and PUSH our voices to be heard by everyone. But then you’re practically yelling, and without breathing from the diaphragm (see point 3 above) you’re just straining your vocal cords, and that causes the very problem we’re trying to avoid!

So remember these simple tips and practice them regularly to make sure your voice projects the best image of you!
To good vocal health and communication,
Laura