E-couragement: How to Build a Culture of Trust

May 11, 2015

Trust Walk“Building trust is not about crafting the right words—it’s about the actions behind your words.” Rich Schlentz

The other dads and I listened intently in the Northern California wilderness. Our counselor, Malcolm, gathered us around to be sure we understood our roles and the rules. Our daughters were off on their own, anxious about the bandanas being secured around their eyes. We were preparing for the Trust Walk.

In their silence, our blinded daughters appeared unsure as they heard our footsteps approaching. I stopped just behind Carley, placed my hands on her shoulders, and whispered the three phases Malcolm had provided us: “Listen to my voice. You can trust me. I will never leave you.” These words trembled with emotion and conviction as they emerged from my mouth.

So began our trust walk. Thirty-minutes later, we successfully completed the treacherous trail full of rocks, tree roots, and sharp drop offs. The exercise concluded with our daughters removing their bandanas and an insightful debrief of our experience.

As powerful as those three phases are, trust is not about crafting the right words—it’s about the actions behind the words. Those expressions would ring hollow if Carley didn’t have evidence to believe she should listen to my voice, she could trust me, and indeed I would never leave her. Combining experience and words provides the foundation of trust that allows a team or group to successfully navigate the treacherous path of life.

An engaging and thriving workplace is built upon that very same foundation of trust. In organizations today there’s no shortage of impressive words and statements—yet the actions or experience behind those words have failed to make them believable. How about your followers? Why should they listen to your voice? Why should they trust you? Why should they believe that you will stick by them?

Engaging leaders demonstrate, beyond their words, that they are trustworthy. Out of the fertile soil of trust grows loyalty, innovation, productivity, and profitability. Cultivating trust makes perfect sense for important relationships, strong teams, and a successful business.

Leave your comments: What action will you take today to help your followers trust you on their walk?

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E-couragement: How to Win the Battle Between Efficient & Effective.

April 27, 2015

Effectiveness“Our greatest tool for changing the world is our capacity to change our mind about the world.” Marianne Williamson

When my daughters were toddlers I tied their shoes. This worked well because I was the obvious shoe-tying expert and the process was highly efficient. Now, at twenty-four and eighteen, Taylor and Carley tie their own shoes. Somewhere along the way, I had to forfeit short-term efficiency for the sake of long-term effectiveness. In order to accomplish this, I had to:

  • Relinquish my role as expert.
  • Become the teacher.
  • Be patient.
  • Encourage them.

What’s the benefit? Taylor and Carley have emerged as shoe-tying experts. I’m free from that role, using my time to accomplish other things, like writing blogs.

Here’s the simple connection. Many leaders are still “tying the shoes” of their followers. They want to remain the resident expert, completing tasks in the most efficient manner. Somewhere along the way, they’ll need to forfeit short-term efficiency for the sake of long-term effectiveness. In order to accomplish this, they’ll want to:

  • Relinquish their role as expert.
  • Become the teacher.
  • Be patient.
  • Encourage others.

Engaging leaders intentionally shift their focus away from time-task and onto results-people. Free yourself from the efficiency bondage by helping others develop into experts. Stop tying shoes and start leading. In the end, that’s highly effective for both you and them.

Leave your comments: How might you move from an efficient leader to an effective one?

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E-couragement: Stop Knowing. Start Asking.

April 13, 2015

A person who seems to have all the answers usually isn’t listening.” Jeffrey Gitomer

It might have been because I thought I was so smart. Perhaps I believed that asking was a sign of weakness. Maybe I didn’t trust people to give me the right answer—even when it concerned them. Whatever the reason, I spent the majority of my life pretending to know the answers. In the long run, this trait did not serve me well.

Finally, I decided to let go of the answers and replace them with questions. I released myself from the need to appear all knowing. The burden is lighter; I feel free from the illusion of having it all figured out. The Bible says that the truth will set you free and letting go of all the answers has set me free.

Here’s my new strategy: when I don’t know something, I ask. Then…I listen. At length, I learn something and gain understanding. I’ve stopped guessing and started exploring, and as a result, I am a more effective leader, friend, and dad. You can experience this, too.

Knowing can be a trap and a curse. Oh yeah, it feels good to know—at least for a while, until it has you bound so tight that you can’t see how you’ll ever escape its grasp. As kids, we never liked the neighborhood know-it-all. Somehow, along the way, a lot of us have morphed into that villain. Take a look at this common model for leadership communication:Model 1

Why is this one of the most common leadership communication models? It’s what got you here. It’s the process that made you an expert in your field. It’s what others admire about you. “If you ever need a quick answer, just ask Bill.”

Yet this model has a limited shelf life for the engaging leader. It precipitates exhaustion and codependency; in the end, it’s an unhealthy model. You need followers to ask questions (making you feel important and smart), and they need you to give them answers (justifying their false belief that they are not smart enough and that their ideas are unimportant).

When this is your model, you rarely get a break. Even at home, you’re interrupted because someone needs an answer. If you are that leader, you end up angry, wondering why your team can’t figure out the answers to their challenges. The real problem is that you haven’t given them ownership of those problems. You insist on owning them yourself. Your followers become resentful because they don’t see themselves as vital to the organization’s success. They don’t feel that their contribution is valued. One day, they cease contributing and become disengaged.

Let’s consider a new model for engaging leadership interaction:Model 2

See the difference? What a relief. You’re finally off the answer hook. This model allows you to fulfill one of your most important roles—developing others by asking skillful questions. In The Question Behind The Question, author John G. Miller writes: “Leaders are not problem solvers but problem givers. They let others tackle the problem, design their own solutions, and take action. How else can people learn?”

Allow others the opportunity to provide their answers. Break the pattern of knowing and telling. Replace it with asking and listening. Your followers want to bring their knowledge and talents to the workplace and make a difference for the organization. This is good for everyone. By applying this new model you’ll reap understanding and your followers will gladly provide better answers and solutions than you can think of on your own.

Leave your comments: In what specific area of your leadership can you stop knowing and start asking?

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The Answer: Quantity vs. Quality Time.

March 30, 2015

QualityThe gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift.” Staci Eldredge

My oldest daughter, Taylor, was homeschooled through 5th grade. Once while attending a workshop at the North Carolina Home Educators Conference, the speaker took on the subject of quantity time vs. quality time. I was particularly interested in hearing his thoughts since none of our modern day philosophy seemed to resonate with me. He summed up his viewpoint with this; “Quality time magically appears within the midst of quantity time.” I had found my answer. Case closed.

The idea that quality time appears magically within the midst of quantity time isn’t an ideology limited to home schooling, parenting, or significant others. This is a universal human principle that is desperately needed in the workplace.

Want to know what’s important to you? Check your calendars. What do you see? Meetings, projects, tasks, and deadlines? Engaging leaders know that the traditional once-a-year mandatory performance evaluation doesn’t cut it. Those who look to you for guidance require and deserve more quantity time.

Go ahead and carve out the time required to lead, coach, listen, understand, provide advice, care, encourage, and hold people accountable. You can’t microwave effective workplace relationships, it’s best served in a slow cooker. If you do this, you’ll reap a significant harvest in terms of loyalty, productivity, innovation, and long-term success.

When Taylor was a freshman in college, I drove to Raleigh and we met for lunch. She recalled a conversation during her high-school years, saying, “Dad, remember when you told me you’d outlast all my friends and no matter how difficult our relationship got you’d stick by me?” “Yes I do,” was my response. “Thanks. I’m glad you didn’t quit on me when I really needed you.” I smiled, wrapped my arm around her and thought: There it is again, quality time magically appearing within the midst of quantity time.

Leave your comments: Who in your organization deserves more quantity time from you?

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Show and Tell. Not the Other Way Around.

March 17, 2015

Show and Tell“Who you are shouts so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was in elementary school when I proudly hoisted the cage for all my classmates to see. They crowded around, excited to peer through the glass. After providing just the right amount of time for my audience to “ohhhh and ahhhh,” like a circus ringmaster I barked, “His name is Igor. He’s a chameleon and eats crickets!”

I was taking part in one of the greatest community events of all time: Show and Tell. Why is Show and Tell so popular and engaging? It aligns with our human condition. Show me, and then tell me; visual example first, verbal explanation second. 

Our present day adult workplace could learn a lesson from Show and Tell. All too frequently we get this process backwards.

Leaders often default to telling their direct reports what to do and how to behave without first showing them what that looks like (modeling). Companies invest millions in telling us why they’re the greatest when they could save millions just by demonstrating their greatness.

Show first. Then tell. Let that be your credo. It’s a time tested formula to engage both your followers and customers.

Leave your comments: Where in your life might you do a better job of showing first and telling later?   

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E-couragement: Nick’s Drive Through

March 3, 2015

Drive Thru“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

Nick is a genius. Not so much in a Mensa or valedictorian type of way. Not even in a PhD, Steven Hawking, or Beethoven manner. He is a genius in the way of Albert Einstein. In the method where Einstein states, “Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler.” Yes, that’s it. Nick is a genius of simplicity.

Who is Nick? He’s a drive through bank teller. He’s more like the king of drive throughs. Nick has created the most socially interactive banking experience in town. He’s accomplished this through the genius of simplicity.

It all started when I pulled up to his window to make my deposit. Through the intercom, Nick asked, “Do you prefer to be called Richard?” I replied, “You can call me Rich.” And so he did…and he’s never stopped. Nick leveraged common information on my deposit slip and transformed a banking transaction into a meaningful encounter that grew into an ongoing business relationship.

I visit Nick’s drive through lane whenever I get the opportunity. Why? Because I get to hear my name and enjoy some banter. While waiting, I overhear Nick carrying on personal conversations with customers all around me. Simple—and very effective.

While businesses are pouring marketing dollars into gaining new customers, Nick is garnering free word of mouth advertising. As organizations toil over the secret to retaining key clients, Nick is fostering customer loyalty.

Here’s the lesson for engaging leaders. You can be a simple genius. Resist the urge to over complicate your work. Pay attention to the simple actions that often go neglected to pursue seemingly more important tasks. Remembering a name, a hand written note of appreciation, a sincere thank you, or a thoughtful word will all fit into your budget and yield you a nice return. Take it from Nick…this is not complex. Being a genius is pretty simple.

Leave your comments: In what ways have you experienced the genius of simplicity in your workplace?

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E-couragement: 3 Ways You’re P-ing on Your Customers

February 17, 2015

Customer Loyalty“Customer loyalty is lost or solidified after the sale.” Rich Schlentz

Engaged and loyal customers. That’s what you’re after. Loyal customers exhibit powerful buying behaviors:

  • They revisit your organization—happily leaving money with you each time.
  • They’re evangelists, imploring friends to pop in and give their money to you.
  • They drive right by your competition in order to visit you.
  • They throw your competitor’s coupons in the trash.
  • When you’re not perfect, they forgive you.

Loyal customers are more profitable than those coerced through the door with expensive advertising and marketing campaigns. Yet, you might be losing these priceless business boosters by P-ing on them. Here are 3 interactions that prevent your customers from becoming loyal:

  1. Policy: “Well, our policy is…” NO! Keep your policies to yourself and don’t allow them to become barriers to potential loyalty. Instead, tell your customer how you can make things work for them.
  2. Problem: “Ms. Client, you see, the problem is…” NO! They have enough problems of their own without you piling on more. Instead, talk about the solution you can provide.
  3. Pass-it-along: “Mr. Patient, I’m gonna have to pass this along to my manager…” NO! Don’t demonstrate a fundamental lack of trust in your staff by stripping them of the power required to fix things. Instead, explain how you can take care of them right here, right now.

Perhaps loyal customers/clients/patients are rare because they continually encounter mediocre interactions. Your customers are seeking an experience that will cause them to transform from merely satisfied to loyal. Won’t you help them? You can start by not P-ing on them anymore.

Leave your comments: What practices (a good P-word) does your company use in order to prevent P-ing on your customers/clients/patients?   

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E-couragement: Your Brain at Positive…

February 3, 2015

Stress Free“Your brain at positive performs significantly better than negative, neutral, or stressed.” Shawn Achor

Overwhelmed. Stressed. Exhausted. Deadlines. Outnumbered. Powerless. These are the words I recently received after asking  client team members to describe the feelings of their employees. Interestingly enough, I’ve heard similar descriptors from clients across various industries. Perhaps that’s why many of them are asking for help with positivity, work/life balance, and managing stress.

At EXTRAordinary! Inc., our job is to provide information, ideas, and tools that clients can apply in order to be more successful individually and collectively. Since the challenges my clients face are not unique, here are a few resources that you’ll find helpful in your quest to live and work with more engagement:

  1. In this 12-minute video, psychologist Shawn Achor describes how the lens through which your brain views the world determines levels of positivity and happiness.
  2. This 7-minute video takes an experimental approach to exploring the question: What makes you happy?
  3. A short article reviewing the works of Dr. Martin Seligman (founding father of positive psychology) offering a simple practice for enhancing wellbeing.
  4. A brief blog by Leo Babauta considers how you can drop stress levels while still getting your job done and take care of your family.

We trust these resources will prove valuable for you. Read. Reflect. Apply.

Leave your comments: What practices are helping you improve positivity and manage stress?

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E-couragement: Speak Up

January 20, 2015

Voice“I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.” Sting

“I won’t be writing your speech,” is what I tell potential clients seeking to hire me as their presentation coach. Now, from a sales perspective, you might wonder about this technique. Perhaps it’s what I say next that really matters: “The speech is already in you. My job is to help you bring it out.”

You see, by writing a speech for my client I cheat them out of the opportunity to own their voice. My role is to help them uncover, structure, and deliver the message that’s uniquely theirs to give. Here’s the deal. Everyone has something to say. That includes you.

You may never deliver a formal speech. You will be prompted to speak up. You have something to offer this world in both word and deed. We need your voice. Withholding your divine message robs others of the wisdom and insight that can only show up through you. Here’s a three-step process to help you discover your message inside:

  1. Be quiet. Powerful speaking begins with listening. The thirteenth-century poet, theologian, and mystic, Rumi said, “Since in order to speak, one must first learn to listen, learn to speak by listening.” In this case, listen to your own inner voice. Learn to hear the message that might be hidden inside of you.
  2. Journal. After listening, write. Write your thoughts down. What’s important to you? What matters to you? How has life been preparing you to offer a unique perspective on a specific topic?
  3. Speak. Eventually you’ll have to summon the courage to speak. A face-to-face expression of your thoughts to an “audience” of one or more. This is when the magic happens. You’ll find how your message resonates with others. This is the affirmation of your voice. Keep speaking (go back to step one).

Life has a way of provoking us to speak. What do you have to say? In order to make your message impactful and memorable, you’ll want to communicate clearly and with passion. This will take practice. It’s not an easy process. It takes a lot of work. Your message is worth it. We need to hear you.

Leave your comments: What message should you be sharing with the world?  

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E-couragement: 3 Steps to Make Friends with Change

January 5, 2015

Change“Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor E. Frankl

It happens every year. 2015 will be no different. I’ll receive several calls/emails from clients who are no longer employed. We’ll meet for coffee and chat about their circumstance. It’s an honor to share this journey with them. In general, change makes us uncomfortable, uneasy and even afraid. Since change is an inherent part of our human experience, what if we could transform our relationship with it? Let’s consider 3 steps that could shift change from an adversary to a friend:

1. Be Kind to Yourself: Before takeoff, the flight attendant declares, “If cabin pressure should change, panels above your seat will open revealing oxygen masks; reach up and pull the mask towards you… Secure your own mask before helping others.” Did you hear it? You have permission to take care of yourself first. At 30,000 feet that makes sense. Yet at sea level many of my clients are blue-in-the-face having spent most of their energy providing oxygen for others. Here are a few ways to be kind to yourself in the midst of a change experience:

  • Acknowledge and validate your feelings: Angry. Scared. Excited. Simply feel it. Be patient. Talk about it. Support yourself.
  • Treat yourself: Vacation. Massage. Pedicure.
  • Carve out time for inspiring activities: Hobby. Music. Read.
  • Spend more time with people who are good to you.

2. Be True to Yourself: Reconnect with your core values. During times of change, be clear where you won’t compromise. Recently, the workplace of a client was closing. His successful operation was being shut down by a corporate mandate. Friends questioned him during the final months. They asked, “Why are you working so hard? Why do you still care?” He replied, “Because that’s who I am. I work hard. I care. These current circumstances won’t change that.” He remained true to himself in the midst of significant change.

3. Be Open to Opportunities: As time progresses, I’ll hear back from clients on their change journey. They’ll tell me about the exciting opportunities that have appeared. They often find themselves reinvigorated and excited about their new path. Whatever change shows up in your life, expected or unexpected, be sure to remain open to the good that will surely come your way.

Every year my business and life change in common ways. Some years, like in 2002 when I got fired and 2012 when my wife died, it was more significant. Whatever level of change you experience this year, apply these 3 steps and allow it to morph into your friend.   

Leave your comments: How have you successfully navigated change in the past?  

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