What do Goat Yoga and Business Development Have in Common?

Q: What do “goat yoga” and business development have in common?

 

A: They both require you to do a LOT of stretching.

 

(Sorry, that was “B-A-A-A-A-D”…)

 

Terrible joke notwithstanding, this past weekend I attended a four-day intensive business development training program in Long Beach Island, NJ, and to say there were a lot of “firsts” outside my comfort zone would be an understatement.

 

The first assignment was to get up early enough the first day to watch the sunrise over the water:

 

 

…followed immediately with a dip in the ocean around 6:30am (remember, I am NOT a morning person!) before starting the day. Let the stretching begin!

 

Sometimes that stretching was more literal than others. The third day at the end of the seminar we were escorted out of the classroom and back to the beach to find these these very non-aquatic creatures waiting for us:

 

Goat Yoga greeting

 

You guessed it: Goat Yoga on the beach. If you’ve never heard of Goat Yoga before, that’s where you do yoga in a room/pen full of goats, and as you move into different positions, the little goats will randomly decide that you look like a good place to hang out, at which point they’ll climb up on your back and look around until you change positions or they get bored, whichever happens first. (I SWEAR I am not making this up.)

 

There were a lot of experiences I had where I had to suspend disbelief, find my courage, and try something new, ranging from making some strategic business decisions to jumping in the ocean at midnight in the dark.

 

But regardless of the activity, I’ll tell you this: sometimes the greatest lesson I learned was about the importance of knowing when it’s time to ponder a decision for long stretches of time, and when it’s time to just pull the trigger and GO (which is the ONLY way to plunge into a cold ocean, FYI.)

 

The choice can be more complicated when the issue at hand is things like how to develop cultural ties and bonds among employees and coworkers, and how to get people excited about changes and new opportunities.

 

That’s why, in this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence , Nathan Peirson, SVP of Talent and Employee Experience of Paycor, shares with us his primary focus of empowering leaders and building culture and community in today’s remote and in-person workplaces.

 

Unfortunately, happy hour gatherings, both virtual and in-person, are still a standard default effort, but people are getting tired of both: the semi-forced “fun” of a decidedly un-festive Zoom event, and when working from home, nobody wants to make the commute into the office just for a glass of wine among coworkers.

 

As Nathan said, “A happy hour isn’t a culture driver.”

 

So what’s the solution?

 

 

The answer is: It depends on the group, the motivation, and the purpose, for starters. Ultimately, it’s about building a shared experience that is employee-centric.

 

His team has arranged everything from volunteer service events to trivia nights to speaker series and more. Seeking input from various employee resource groups regarding what kind of event they would like to facilitate gets buy-in from the members, and is much more likely to be culturally relevant, unique, and reflective of the company culture.

 

To get buy-in, whether for a cultural event or any significant culture change, Nathan realized that there were four big stakeholder groups whose support he needed, each of which required a very tactful approach and unique focus:

 

  • The executive team who focus on the investment, impact, and drive confidence
  • Non-senior leaders (directors, VP, etc.) who care about the impact on their teams, retention, and their role
  • Associates, who want to know the impact that any changes would have on their direct jobs, and
  • The team of workers doing the actual execution, who want to understand how their role fits into the organization.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

 

And speaking of getting buy-in on massive scale, join us this Friday, September 30, 2022 from 11:30 PM – 12:00 PM for another lunchtime Linkedin Live with Erik Huberman, Founder and CEO of Hawke Media and former Speaking to Influence guest.

 

Erik and Hawke Media are getting ready to launch a massive new initiative that is going to require getting everyone on board and excited about it with minimal friction for optimal results.

 

In our live session, we will look at it as a case study into the inner workings of building excitement for a launch, diving into the thought process behind the messaging in the build-up to the launch, to ensure maximum buy-in.

 

You can RSVP here.

 

Don’t miss it!

Did You Know That Went into Your Coffee?

                   “Would you like anything to drink?” the waitress asked.

                   “A cup of coffee would be great,” I responded.

                   “Cream and sugar?” 

                   “Just cream,” I smiled. “I’m sweet enough!”

                    She laughed. “Yes you are, honey! Coming right up.”

 

Okay, so the line is a little corny, but it never fails to make the other person smile whenever I say it, and more often than not, putting a smile on someone’s face is an even better pick-me-up than whatever’s going to be in the cup.

 

And what’s in my cup is pretty darn simple by today’s standards: straight up black coffee if it’s a good roast, maybe with a splash of milk or cream, and that’s it.

 

(It’s strange because I love coffee ice cream, and I may have my coffee alongside a slice of chocolate cake or other sweet treat, but I absolutely can NOT drink it if there’s any trace of sugar or other sweetener IN the coffee itself. The same goes for my tea. Don’t ask me why.)

 

I marvel at the rainbow assortment of decorations people put in their coffee/tea nowadays. From six different colors of sweetener packets and an equal number of different “milk” options (only half of which come from a cow), to syrups and sprinkles of cinnamon or cocoa powder and more, it’s amazing!

 

No matter how you like your morning (or afternoon… or evening…) cup, one thing we all agree on is that that cup makes a difference!

 

But what if your daily cup of coffee also made a first-hand difference for thousands of young people?

 

That’s exactly what Nick Bayer, CEO and founder of Saxbys, set out to do.

 

In this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, Nick described the evolution (or was it a revolution?) of his company from being “just another café chain” to becoming a pioneer in experiential learning.

 

Beyond the coffee, as Nick says, they’re “in the human development business.”

 

 

Nick explained how today, every branch of Saxbys is on or near the campus of a partnering university, because they give students (average age is 19.5 years old) full authority over managing the entire business!

 

With the idea of teaching hands-on entrepreneurship to the next generation and incorporating the power skills of emotional intelligence, critical thinking and cultural agility, his philosophy is that combining these skills with their traditional classroom education will prepare young people for real-world leadership.

 

Even more impressive, Saxbys is a certified B-corporation. If you’re not familiar with it, certified B Corps are driven by the values of creating a more “inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy.” Way beyond lip service or a values statement on the wall, the company’s entire social and environmental impact are objectively measured by a third party. Needless to say, it’s a rare achievement.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here – perhaps over your next cup of coffee!

 

I’ll think of you with a smile as I drink mine.

How to Take the Awkward out of the Silence

Just for fun, here’s a two-question music history pop quiz for you:

 

Q1. On December 4, 1965, what song hit #1 on the US Billboard Top 100 charts?

(Hint: It was sung by the group The Byrds.)

 

A1. The hint may have helped – does anyone remember anything else The Byrds sang? – but the answer is “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”.

 

Now, while the original version of the song was written by Pete Seeger in 1959 and several other artists recorded their own renditions of it in the early ‘60s before The Byrds topped the charts with it, this brings us to question #2:

 

Q2. What was the original source of the lyrics?

Memory jog: The song begins:

            To everything (turn, turn, turn)

            There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

             And a time to every purpose, under heaven…

 

A2. It may surprise you to know that the entire song is taken nearly verbatim from the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) in the Bible.

 

It discusses how, in life, there is a time for everything: for sowing and for reaping, for crying and for laughing, for war and for peace, etc.

 

But the line that sticks out to me is “a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.”

 

It’s amazing how the simplest concept in the entire song, silence, is so elusive for most of us in today’s over-scheduled, hyper-stimulated, constantly-plugged-in, FOMO culture.

 

Yet whether we self-identify as more extroverted or introverted, when we do experience silence, we often find it to be awkward or uncomfortable, so we do everything possible to FILL it! Errands, activities, Netflix, phone calls, chores… anything to avoid being left alone with nothing but our thoughts.

 

And we often do it to our kids too – filling every waking moment with activities, gadgets and more, even chastising them if we see them sitting there “doing nothing.” Then we lament that they’re stressed out as teens and into adulthood. (It reminds me of another iconic folk tune by Harry Chapin, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” A beautiful wake-up call… but I digress…)

 

But the truth is that we NEED silence, even momentary silence, from time to time, to be able to frame and articulate our thoughts, feelings, wants and needs clearly and accurately when we do choose to speak.

 

The GOOD news is that there is a way – many, actually – to make time for and peace with ourselves, and our thoughts, in that silence.

 

That's exactly what we explore in this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast takes an unique twist, exploring the role of SILENCE as an essential communication skill.

 

Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz, authors of the brand-new book “Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise,” (and consultants for little organizations you may have heard of like NASA and the US Congress) join me to demystify the importance of embracing silence for physical and mental wellness, and how to create a culture that values quiet time in the workplace.

 

We explored a range of topics such as:

 

  • how to overcome the fear of silence – like when you’re in a meeting and someone asks a question but nobody jumps in to answer
  • how to set time for silence and honor that time, such as by making an appointment with yourself and treating it as an important meeting
  • how to create micro-spaces for silence in the workplace, with family and friends in an age of constant chatter and the noise of social media

 

and more.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.

 

 

In the past I have also addressed the importance of silent “thinking time” (which, I confess, I still don’t make nearly as much time for as I should), as crucial for making good business decisions.

 

One of my favorite resources for what to think about when I do actually honor those weekly time blocks, is The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham.

 

Simply put, the underlying premise is that most of the biggest mistakes we make in business (and in life) are made because we didn’t ask high-quality questions to derive high-quality, well-thought-out decisions.

 

The Road Less Stupid helps us to figure out what questions we should be asking to make better decisions.

 

But here’s the kicker: once you pick the question, you have to set aside a block of thinking time, IN SILENCE, to allow yourself to think it through!

 

Look, if Mahatma Gandhi could commit to taking EVERY MONDAY, IN ITS ENTIRETY, to silence – even though he still took meetings, just to listen – then you and I can commit small blocks of time each week to thinking, or at least breathing, in silence.

 

In the podcast, Justin and Leah share ways to start at the micro-level. This includes simple steps such as making the conscious choice to breathe for five seconds before entering a meeting or joining a call.

 

Here’s the nutshell version: As the saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.”

 

In other words: Pause to think in silence → clearer/better ideas → fewer mistakes in communication and execution → less stress/more success!

 

Let’s start the journey by celebrating a win: Congratulations for allowing yourself a few moments in silence to read this message!

 

Now anchor it by closing your eyes for just 10-15 seconds, breathing deeply, and allowing yourself to reflect on what thoughts, ideas, emotions, experiences, arise for you as you sit with what you’ve just read. Then start the rest of your day!

 

(I’d love to hear what answers you come up with, so please share them with me!)

That’s Great, But What’s the Catch?

How many times has someone made you an offer, given a gift, or done something nice for you out of the blue, and just as you were about to say, “Wow, thanks so much!” your sixth sense kicked into gear, and instead your response was, “Wait, what’s the catch?”

 

Maybe:

  • Your teenager spontaneously cleaned their room or washed your car without being asked (or begged, or threatened…)
  • Your significant other encouraged you to call your friends and set up a boys’/girls’ night, or bought you a gift “just because”
  • Your father/mother-in-law actually paid you a compliment
  • Your friend showed up and returned the $100 they borrowed a decade ago
  • (Or maybe YOU were the one on the “giving” side of the equation in one of those moments?)

 

The point is that most people are jaded in this day and age, wary of scammers, from online dating profiles that are too perfect, to business opportunities that seem too good to be true.

 

And yet, sometimes it’s the opposite that is true.

 

Maybe it’s not that you’re deliberately trying to hide something, but rather, you may not realize that you left out some information, which allowed them to draw unrealistically “rosy” conclusions for themselves.

 

This is an important lesson learned the hard way but shared the easy way on this week’s Speaking to Influence podcast episode. Kris Burkhart, Global Chief Information Security Officer at Accenture, recounted an experience dealing with a ransomware attack, when he had been clear about providing positive updates to key stakeholders, but did not clearly state what areas those updates did NOT pertain to, thereby allowing the listeners to infer that the coast was clear, when in fact the full battle wasn’t over yet!

 

His big take-away from that experience:

 

“Don't just be clear, but be complete in your communications.”

 

 

Another important topic Kris addressed was how to draw the line between essential quality control and micromanaging.

 

It’s something we often take for granted, but in all fields, to some extent or other, there’s a true satisfaction in successful problem solving.

 

This can be challenging as a manager/leader, when you can see what the answer is or why something clearly won’t work, knowing how much time and resources would be saved if you just told your direct report the answer.

 

But telling them exactly what to do and how to do it, especially in detail, starts to loom dangerously into the world of micromanaging, and that would rob them of something even more valuable.

 

The process of experimentation, trial and error, research and development, and reaching one’s own solution is so helpful in learning and confidence building, that sometimes (even judiciously selected times) it’s important to let people make mistakes and figure out the solution for themselves.

 

To put it more simply, as Kris said, don’t “steal the joy from your employee working to find a solution,” (even if they get frustrated in the process!)

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.

 

That way when they do finally discover a great solution, they don’t think it’s too good to be true, i.e. there’s no catch!

That Sounded SO Much Better in My Head…

I don’t get starstruck easily. But apparently, I’m not immune.

 

Most of you know I’m a foodie. I love to cook, used to regularly have the Food Network on in the background, and have more photo albums full of recipes than of pictures of people.

 

One of my favorite celebrity chefs is Lydia Bastianich, an icon of Italian cuisine and near-permanent PBS fixture. So when I found out she was coming to Philadelphia to promote her latest book, I was excited to hear her speak, meet her in person and of course have her sign a copy for me.

 

I do have one pet peeve as a chef: It bugs me when a recipe doesn’t include the courtesy of a time estimate for how long it will take to prepare the dish. In meal planning, my decisions will change if I know something takes 25 minutes to prepare vs. two hours or longer. Don’t make me guess!

 

Unfortunately, none of Lydia’s recipes include prep time estimates. So I also thought that while she was signing my book, it would be the perfect opportunity to humbly request that she consider including prep time estimates in future cookbooks. After all, it couldn’t hurt to ask, and would make people even happier, right?

 

The day came. I went to the beautiful Philadelphia public library where her event was, listened to her tell stories, then dutifully got in line to have her sign my book.

 

Finally it was my turn. But in the blink of an eye she was done and I was being ushered toward the door to leave, when I suddenly realized I hadn’t made my request.

 

On reflex, I whirled around and heard myself blurt out: “Oh! Lydia! You know what you need to do? You need to add prep times to your recipes!”

 

There was a split second of silence as she – and the other zillion people still in line in the cavernous, marbled, echoing atrium – stared at me.

 

“Oh, I do?” was all she said. Then turned her attention back to signing the next person’s book.

 

I felt like a total moron.

 

That was NOT what I had planned to say AT ALL! I’d had the exact words planned out in my head, but what got blurted out made the exact opposite impression from what I wanted to make.

 

I desperately wanted a do-over. But interrupting her again to apologize, to explain, to make the respectful – and respectable – request I had planned to say, etc. would just have extended everyone else’s time in line, when I’d already had my turn.

 

Plus, I rationalized, she didn’t know me from Eve or care about my opinion, so it was just my ego needing exoneration and forgiveness. So I tucked my tail between my legs and left the library.

 

Should I have created a “do over” opportunity? It’s too late now.

 

But when it’s NOT too late, having the courage and vision to make amends with a do-over can be a beautiful thing.

 

And sometimes, it’s not even about a do-over for yourself!

 

As an example, on this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence, Dana Reyngoudt, VP of Partnership Marketing at NBCUniversal, shared how she sometimes uses do-over conversations with employees when needed to help them understand why they didn’t get a promotion, and get clear on what they need to do to make sure that next time around they are successful in getting it.

 

 

She compared the effects of these conversations on her relationships with those employees as well as on their career progress, relative to earlier experiences in her career when she did not have those conversations. They may never be easy conversations, but in the long run, NOT having them is much harder!

 

Dana also shares insights on how she came to realize that she was speaking to her family in the same way as if they were work colleagues or employees… and unsurprisingly, why that didn’t work. More importantly, she explained how she chose to listen, adapt, and find the best communication tactics for each situation: at work with her team and at home with her family, respectively.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here .

 

And here’s one more great opportunity for you:

 

Last Friday, August 19, we had a jam-packed 30-minute LinkedIn Live & YouTube Live conversation with tons of immediately actionable take-away points inside 3 Simple Marketing Hacks to build your brand and Grow Your Business with marketing expert Kimberley Day.

 

 

If you missed it live, you can still catch the replay here. The conversation was fun and fast and full of gold nuggets on how to grow your business and your brand.

 

Do you plan to eat lunch? Go for a walk? Wash dishes? Prep dinner? Tune in to listen then – you’ll have fun, the time will fly, and you’ll get tons of great ideas.

 

Aaaaand, yes – it sounds just as good when I say that out loud! (*whew!*)

How to Listen Past Your Ego

Just about everyone likes movies of one sort or other. Sometimes I need a straight-up “feel good” movie to put a smile on my face and balance out the negativity that seems to be on every other channel and website.

 

One of my more recent favorites is “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” in which Tom Hanks (who can do no wrong on screen in my opinion) plays the role of the iconic Mr. (Fred) Rogers. But to me, the most inspiring moment in the film was one of palpable tension.

 

Cynical reporter Lloyd Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys) gets the chance to interview Mr. Rogers, and eagerly seeks to prove that the beloved children's television icon isn't the modern-day saint the world makes him out to be.

 

That's when he zeroes in, and baits the hook by asking point-blank about Mr. Rogers' own sons: “What was it like for them growing up? It must have been really hard to have you as a father.”

 

Anyone who is a parent (and likely anyone who isn't) would instantly bristle at such an overtly insulting question, no matter how you objectively try to rationalize what he could have meant by it.

 

But Mr. Rogers just sat there, immobile and silent, for what felt like forever, with a look on his face that made plain the thousand possible retorts swirling through his mind. When he finally broke the silence, however, he did so with a very deliberate, measured reply:

 

“Yes. I'm sure it was. Thank you for the perspective.”

 

I was floored.

 

Talk about the road less traveled. The grace, self control and humility it must have taken to listen past his ego, not lash out in anger, self defense, or worse, and even find something to affirm in the personal attack, must have been a herculean effort… at least it would have been for me!

 

But how was he able to do it? Because he realized that his big picture goals were more important than the fleeting catharsis of verbal retaliation, and it simply wasn't worth taking the bait.

 

Greg Muzzillo, founder of ProForma and this week's guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast , also shared a powerfully personal lesson in leadership when he, too, had to listen past his ego.

 

 

As his company grew, he created a franchise advisory council, in which he invited his franchise owners to be advisors to him.

 

To his great surprise, the council's first unanimous decision was that for future meetings, Greg would not be allowed in the room! It felt like a punch in the stomach.

 

But while his momentarily wounded pride may have told him to stand his ground and refuse to leave, to his credit, he resisted the urge to let that reflex drive his response.

 

Instead, he objectively understood why the council needed him out of the room to be able to speak freely, and that this freedom was not only necessary for them to achieve the best decisions, but it was also ultimately for his own benefit.

 

After all, HE had picked THEM to help him make the best decision for the company. Did he want a room full of “yes men,” or was he going to trust their collective wisdom, and let them do the job he specifically selected them to do?

 

So he responded with the three little words that all truly successful leaders need to be able to confidently say to their team:

 

“I trust you.”

 

And another subsequent success story was born!

 

Tune in to the full interview on your favorite podcast platform here or watch the interview on YouTube here.

 

How about you? Where does your ego make it hard to hear what's really being said and make smart decisions in your response?

 

As carpenters and contractors say, “Measure twice, cut once.” In those moments of tension, take a moment to breathe and get perspective before responding, and see how much better your results are!

When to Admit You Don’t Know the Answer

“If you can’t explain it simply,
you don’t understand it well enough.”
                                       -Albert Einstein

 

I often find myself in what many might think is an awkward position:

 

I have to demonstrate my ignorance.

 

My biggest clients are leaders in areas ranging from cybersecurity and asset management to construction and pharmaceutical research, all industries in which I know next to nothing, in the grand scheme of things.

 

So when they want help preparing for conference talks, media interviews, public info webinars, or even presentations to internal clients in different divisions, they need to figure out how to clearly explain the most important – and often the most technical – issues to a diverse audience with an extremely wide range of technical knowledge, sophistication, and interest in those technical details, and ensure that everyone gets it.

 

How do we measure that success?

 

Simple: I leverage my ignorance.

 

More specifically: I listen to each key point, and feed back to them what I understand them to have said. As long as there’s still something I’m clearly not getting – for whatever reason – we need to keep working on it.

 

NOT until I’ve learned enough about the topic, but until THEY’VE finally figured out how to explain the concept, tell the story, contextualize the issue, or interpret the data without talking down to me or over my head, but in a way that makes me (and any other non-expert in the audience) say, “OH, now I get it!”

 

When I can summarize what I’ve heard well enough that they can say, “Yes, that’s it!” then and only then can we move on.

 

I don’t recall who originally said it, but one of my favorite phrases is:

 

“A teacher is someone who is good at

explaining things to people

who are not good at understanding,

and is good at understanding people

who are not good at explaining.”

 

That’s a perfect description of my guest on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast.

 

Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a.k.a. “The Earth's Virology Professor,” is an award-winning professor of virology (the study of viruses) at Columbia University, who has not one but SEVEN concurrent podcasts, including “This Week in Virology,” which has been running weekly since 2008 – that’s 15 years – with over 924 episodes to date!

 

But what’s more important for our purposes, is that these podcasts are NOT “by scientists, for scientists.” On the contrary, the intention of each series is to make the most cutting-edge research on these topics available, intelligible, and interesting to the general public.

 

 

That’s why in this episode, we spent our time talking about how he changes his communication style as an on-going experiment with the seven different podcasts, to see what works best.

 

Ironically, having the “power combo” of both confidence and humility also allows him to admit (without shame, and without losing status) when he does NOT know the answer to a question – whether because he doesn’t have it but will do his best to find out, or simply because as of yet there IS no available answer.

 

Beyond that, Vincent shared his “must-do” list for anyone who wants to be a thought leader with an ever-widening sphere of influence, and you’d better believe it includes:

 

  • Be able to translate your expertise
  • Make it relevant
  • Don’t talk over the heads or down to people who do not share your level of expertise
  • Have fun
  • Share your passion

 

Why? Because, as he put it: “The best thing that you can do is share what you know with others and empower them.”

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

Vincent recently was awarded the Richard Ernst medal for science communication in the Netherlands. You can listen to his acceptance speech here, about how scientists can and must communicate their findings to the public. The part on podcasting starts at about 32:20. I confess, I never thought I’d listen to an entire lecture on virus communication (including NON-POLITICAL coronavirus research findings from his own lab), but it was truly FASCINATING!

How to Locate Your Blindspot

We all have a blind spot. You know I’m right, because like everyone else, you’ve probably had more than one moment when, for example:

 

  • You’ve said something and immediately thought, “That sounded SO much better in my head!”
  • You’ve seen yourself in a selfie video seconds after recording it and thought, “What was I doing with my face (or hands, or hair, or…)?”
  • You’ve made a comment that was interpreted very negatively, and wondered, “How did you get THAT from what I said?!”

 

These are just a few examples that offer evidence of the blind spot: the undeniable gap between three identities:

 

  1. The way we WANT to be seen by the world (our ideal self)
  2. The way we THINK we are seen (considering the strengths and weaknesses we recognize in ourselves, and believe others recognize in us)
  3. The way we are ACTUALLY seen by others (what people actually think – and say – about us, but we don’t know it. The selfie video offers a BIG clue into that one!)

 

Now, there are countless reasons for the gap, many of which are discussed in my book Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice, along with ways to close the gap (which, of course, is the purpose of the book in the first place.)

 

But one predictably powerful cause for the gap is when we respond to something from an emotional state rather than a calm, objective one. After all, who among us hasn’t had “sender’s remorse” after firing off an angry email and instantly wishing we could take it back?

 

And yet, there certainly IS a time and place for a measured degree of emotion – sometimes a LARGE measure, for that matter.

 

Ultimately, the key is to be intentional in your communication, and when possible, to have a second, objective person read through your draft (or hear you out orally) to give you some feedback on your messaging before you pick up the phone, join the meeting, or click the “send” button.

 

That critical combination is a big part of what was discussed in this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, with Virgil Sheppard of the Hope Partnership for Education.

 

As president and CEO of a unique educational organization seeking to elevate some of the most economically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in the city by serving children and adults alike, Virgil shares how critically important it is for him to be intentional about his communication with all stakeholder groups, from students, families and employees, to partnership organizations, sponsors and beyond.

 

 

In our conversation, we explored a particularly sensitive balancing point:

 

  1. The need to impress upon sponsors and supporters exactly how unique and extreme the challenges are that are faced by the students admitted to the Hope Partnership for Education school. These children have been statistically identified by third grade as the ones who are already most at risk of dropping out of school for myriad awful reasons. That's why it’s important to support Hope Partnership’s mission, to ensure a very different, and much brighter future for these students.
  2. And the need to NOT let those challenges and differences DEFINE them, but rather honor and dignify each and every student and family, helping the world see them as the same as anyone else, with the same hopes and dreams of a better future, deserving of the same opportunities, and capable of becoming the same kind of meaningfully productive members of and contributors to the community.

 

When these issues also intersect with issues of race, gender, immigration status, home language, creed and more, needless to say, this balance gets even more tenuous, and it becomes even MORE important to avoid communicating impulsively when emotions are high.

 

That’s also when it's crucial to have a second pair of eyes or ears preview the message before it is sent out to the masses.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.

 

Then ask yourself: Where might it be worth seeking a bit of objective feedback on an email you want to send, or a conversation you want to have, in order to shed some light on your blind spot, and help you see your way to a clearer path to a positive outcome?

What Do You Need to Let Go?

One of the funniest series of ads on television a few years ago was for the website letgo.com. Imagine the silliness of scenarios like the following:

 

  • The astronaut lugging around an old stereo amplifier in outer space because he’d had it since college
  • A woman sitting there staring longingly at her “favorite” pair of red shoes in the closet as her house was burning down around her… even though she’d never even worn them
  • A guy dangling by one hand from the bumper of his truck as it teetered on the edge of a cliff… while still holding onto his “lucky” bowling ball with the other hand

 

In each of these situations, there was another person trying to reason with them, reminding them that they really didn’t need that thing anymore, it definitely wasn’t serving them, and it was time to “let go” (i.e. post it on the website and sell or give it away.)

 

Of course, those examples are deliberately ridiculous… but if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, aren’t there plenty of things in life that don’t serve us anymore (assuming they ever did,) yet we still refuse to let go?

 

And just like the main characters in these commercials, don’t we have our reasons which – in our minds – are perfectly logical, rational, and defensible, for why we simply CAN’T (or WON’T?) let go, no matter the cost?

 

Instead of a bowling ball, maybe you’ve been holding on to

 

  • A grudge
  • A bad habit
  • A relationship (friendly, romantic, professional or otherwise)
  • An excuse
  • A fear
  • A job
  • A belief

 

It can be even harder when what we need to let go of is something that – at least on the surface – seems good, like when you don’t confront someone or tell them an unpleasant truth because you don’t want to hurt their feelings and are trying to avoid conflict.

 

But deep down, isn’t that really about protecting our ego by staying in our comfort zone? And in the long run, doesn’t avoiding the truth almost always make things worse?

 

When is enough, enough?

 

Our guest this week knows a lot about that.

 

In this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, Renee Williams, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, shared her experience as a life-long “people pleaser,” and the consequent growing pains and challenges of taking on top leadership roles where it’s simply not possible to make everyone happy all of the time.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here to hear how and when she realized it was time to let that need go.

 

 

Renee and I explored a range of other negative cultural patterns inside many organizations, and how to find alternative solutions to change the culture tide. For example, do people in your organization ever:

 

  • Complain about problems for the sake of venting, without suggesting solutions?
  • Fire off a slew of texts, slack messages or other questions without a second thought, expecting near-instant replies, instead of compiling non-urgent questions throughout the day and sending one comprehensive email with timeframes for requested answers?
  • Have meetings seemingly for the sake of having meetings, with no clear purpose, agenda or deliverables?

 

I’m sure the list goes on, but the whole point of this note is NOT to dwell in the negative, but to have a candid conversation with yourself and decide who or what you simply need to LET GO of, and what, if anything, you need to replace it with, in order to create a happier, healthier, and more productive environment for all.

 

Naturally, communication skills are a big part of this, so if you need a quick refresher on some success strategies for when you DO decide to have some of those difficult conversations, you can always take a look at my TEDxPenn Talk, “Want to Sound Like A Leader? Start by Saying Your Name Right.”

 

Believe it or not, that video just hit 6.7 Million views! Thanks for continuing to spread the word and, more importantly, the TOOLS for how to be a more effective communicator and inspiring leader.

 

 

You are all a part of this journey and I am grateful as always. Please continue to share the link with others you know who might benefit from it.

 

Our next goal: 7 Million views. (And we’re definitely NOT letting go of that!)

Do You Live in a Google-Search World?

A little while ago I got a rather funny message accompanying an invitation from someone to connect on LinkedIn:

 

“Hi Dr. Laura! I’m getting ready to launch my own podcast, and have been thinking about how I want to introduce myself at the start of             each episode, like whether to use my first and last name, or nickname, etc.

So on a whim I went to YouTube and searched ‘how to say your name,’ and sure enough, the very first link was to your TEDx talk about           how to say your name right.

It’s amazing, you really CAN google anything!”

It’s true – we really are living in a Google-search world.

 

Not to be confused with living in a material world (can you believe Madonna popularized that phrase way back in 1984?! But I digress…), today’s Google-search world demands that if you want to be recognized as a thought leader, you have to proactively share information that people not only want, but are actively searching for.

 

If you can provide that kind of “gold nugget” information even before they know they want it, so it’s available when they do decide to search for it, you get multiple benefits:

 

  • You build the reputation as a trusted resource
  • People voluntarily come back for more
  • They’ll share it – and you – with other people, expanding your reach
  • They’ll “go down the rabbit hole,” following your links, seeking additional information on the subject, and
  • Ideally, they’ll reach out to you directly, as their newest go-to expert!

 

This notion of “living in a Google-search world” was a big part of the conversation on this week’s episode of the Speaking to Influence podcast, with Joellen Meckley, Executive Director of the Center for Special Needs at the American College of Financial Services.

 

To Joellen’s point, an important key to success is building an educated clientele or fan base: The more they understand about and value what product, service or information you provide, the easier it is to work with them, and give them exactly what they need and want. It’s a perfect win-win.

 

  • In the course of educating your target audience (whoever they may be,) Joellen and I explored a range of key topics including:
  • Shifting communication styles for different audiences at different stages in her career
  • Owning your position and authority, no matter who your audience is
  • Handling your most toughest and most critical audience: YOURSELF
  • Empathy vs. sympathy, and how to empathize even when you don’t agree with someone’s perspective at all
  • Convincing yourself, even more than others, that you DO, indeed, deserve a seat at (the head of?) the table.

 

Listen to the full conversation here or watch it on Youtube here.

 

 

Speaking about getting what you deserve, that’s never a more sensitive topic than when it’s about MONEY. And that’s exactly what we discussed on our Linkedin Live last Wednesday “How to Ask for the Money You Deserve” with Sue Begent, Women's Business, Confidence and Success Coach.

 

 

Sue and I hit on everything from

 

  • how childhood family values around money have influenced our beliefs about whether having money – or not having it – is good or bad
  • specific negotiation tactics
  • And even how to shift your mindset from “Who am I to ask for that kind of money” to “Who am I to NOT ask for it?”

 

One seat you definitely deserve is at the negotiation table!

 

In case you missed it or want to re-watch to take even MORE notes, you can watch the replay here. (Go ahead – trust me, you deserve it!)

 

Sorry if you have the song “Material Girl” stuck in your head for the rest of the day now. (Hey, why should I be the only one?) Enjoy the trip down memory lane!