E-couragement: When Expertise and Passion Collide

July 21, 2014

TEDXGreensboro“Make sure the words are yours. Push them from the very bottom of your soul. The performance will take care of itself.” The Leaders Voice

For two years, I’ve had the honor to serve on the leadership team for TEDxGreensboro as presentation coach for our selected speakers. It’s one of the most rewarding roles I’ve ever experienced. Working beside these presenters is meaningful and moving. Shortly after the full-day event concluded, I reflected upon what made their diverse messages so powerful. It became clear that two key traits were critical for moving an audience from distracted to engaged.

All of our presenters are experts in their fields. Left alone, expertise can be boring and unappealing. By itself it rarely causes an audience to laugh, cry, gasp, or cheer; another ingredient is needed to make expertise engaging. Passion. Passion is hard to define, yet we know it when we see it. On Thursday May 8, 2014, at The Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC, over three hundred attendees experienced the collision of expertise and passion. See for yourself. Click on their names to watch these inspiring presentations:

  • Brenda Elliot: Character Strong Youth Lead to Strong Communities. Brenda is director of student services for the Guilford County (NC) Schools, which has achieved distinction as one of three National Districts of Character.
  • Patricia Gray: The Music of Nature; the Nature of Music. Patricia is a research scientist and a concert pianist. She is on the cutting edge of research about the role of musical behaviors in the lives of humans and animals.
  • Dr. Eric Kraus: Hearing, Smartphones, and Empowerment. Eric is a physician, educator/trainer, and surgeon in Otology & Neurology. He is an inventor and creator of a new iOS App—the Sleeping Baby Hearing Test.
  • Jack Hoskins: Lessons Learned from a Teenage Entrepreneur. Jack is a 16-year old high school student and tech entrepreneur. Since the age of thirteen, Jack has created over forty-five apps and started three Internet businesses.
  • Steadman Harrison: Future Leadership, Regardless. Steadman is the general director, Africa, for the Center for Creative Leadership. He is a global champion for the democratization of leader development.
  • Sarah Ray: Meaningful Work Isn’t Found; It’s Formed. Sarah is the Director of the arcBARKS Dog Treat Company, a bakery operated by clients of The Arc who are developmentally disabled. She has guided the startup from baking a few dozen treats to producing 2,000 boxes monthly that are sold in major supermarket chains while giving purpose and meaning to the lives of her clients and “chefs.”
  • Marianne LeGreco: Building Vibrant Food Systems. Marianne is an assistant professor of communications at UNC Greensboro and focuses on food issues. She is an advocate for increasing access to healthy foods in underserved areas.
  • David Schmidt: A Gift at the End of Life. David was CEO of a major Medicare HMO and has experience in helping individuals and their loved ones through the final stages of life.
  • Dennis Stearns: Super Trends: The Changing Future of Jobs. Dennis is founder of Stearns Financial Services Group, Inc. and focuses on future trends in the economy. He is recognized as a leading futurist in the financial industry.

There you have it. Expertise and passion—a powerful and engaging duo. At the end of this long and inspiring day these messengers caused me to want to take action, to change, and make a difference. Ultimately, isn’t that why you engage your audience in the first place?

Leave your comments: What message must you spread?

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V-couragement: Believing is Seeing

July 14, 2014

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” Highly successful people determine to believe in an ideal future outcome before they can see it. It sounds like this, “Believing is seeing.” In this 4-minute video Executive Coach Elaine Penn discusses the three questions visionary leaders must ask themselves as they move toward creating their future. It’s time for you to live with unrealistic optimism instead of unbridled negativity. The choice is yours.

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E-couragement: Fix Your Blunder

July 7, 2014

I'm Sorry“People don’t stop doing business. They just stop doing business with you.” Jeffrey Gitomer

Before kicking off my session at the North American Home Furnishing Association conference titled, Platinum Customer Service, I initiated conversations with a few participants. Shortly after beginning, one particular attendee, Mark Robinson, chimed in with a comment. Being eager to demonstrate my recall from our earlier conversation, I replied, “Strong point Mark. You’re with Sealy, right?” The immediate look of disdain on his face signaled my verbal blunder. I only had a moment to recover in front of a room packed with eager learners.

Mark works at Serta. Suggesting he’s with Sealy is like asking a Lowes manager if they’re with Home Depot or a Pepsi executive how they like working at Coke. Company and brand loyalty runs deep with these competitors. As usual, the Universe orchestrated everything perfectly. A portion of our workshop would address winning back customers by delivering an effective apology. This was my opportunity to model that. I stepped towards Mark as if he and I were the only people in the room, and I said:

Mark, I am sorry. I spoke without thinking and I blew it. I’d like you to have an autographed copy of my book. In the future, I’ll be more careful and certain when referencing your workplace. I hope you’ll forgive me and we can have a great workshop together.

I can’t claim this response as my own. I learned this from Dr. Jennifer Thomas. Jen is co-author of When Sorry Isn’t Enough. We’ve taken her research into the workplace, helping our clients transform customer complaints into loyalty experiences by applying a well-crafted apology. Pulling from Jen’s book, here’s the five-step process of an effective apology:

  1. Express Regret: Use the words “I am sorry.” Focus on what you did or failed to do and how it affected the other person.
  2. Accept Responsibility: Be willing to say, “We were wrong.” This helps convince the customer that your apology is sincere.
  3. Make Restitution: Do everything possible to make it right. Without your effort to make amends, the apology won’t succeed in rebuilding your customer’s trust.
  4. Retool Your Plan: Share your intention to change. This reinforces that you mean what you say.
  5. Request Forgiveness: Articulate that you want to see the relationship with your customer fully restored.

This process is not a tool for manipulation, rather a skillful and heartfelt method to repair a relationship with your customer. It worked for me. Days after returning from the conference, I received a Facebook friend request from Mark. He posted this note:

Morning Rich. Wanted to say thanks again for the great session earlier this week at NAHFA in Phoenix. Awesome combination of serious and funny…well done keeping everyone engaged! As for the copy of your book that I “earned,” I started it last night and took a few key points from it already that I plan to use and share with colleagues.

Relationship restored. Sweet.

Leave your comments: How have you used an effective apology to salvage a customer relationship?

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E-couragement: Face Your Fears

June 25, 2014

PlungeThis installment of E-couragement has been written by Executive Coach, Elaine Penn.

I was five years old and scared. This was my day to jump off the diving board. Two weeks earlier, during my first attempt, I had split my chin open. With freshly removed stitches, my father was encouraging me to try again. All week he penned inspiring notes. He promised to be in the water to catch me. In my uncertainty, he knew the importance of keeping dreams alive and not succumbing to fear.

When we arrived at the pool I was trembling but my father wasted no time and jumped in. I stepped onto the diving board like a prisoner preparing to walk the plank towards certain death. Treading water, he gently coaxed, “You can do it.” My dad continued, “Just lean into my arms. I will be here.” On a hot July day, I took a deep breath, walked beyond my fear, and stepped off the diving board. I emerged from the water exuberant. I had accomplished the biggest dream of my five-year-old life!

The Roman philosopher, Seneca said, “It’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it’s because we do not dare that things are difficult.” Whether you are 5 or 50, fear can prevent you from achieving your dreams. It keeps you from thinking big, taking risks, and challenging your status quo. Fear diminishes your confidence and hinders your willingness to travel into unknown territory. Metaphysicians define fear as: False Evidence Appearing Real.

There are times fear signals real obstacles you must navigate. That’s when you’ll need a mentor and encourager, like my father was for me. In the face of fear, consider building a support team or implementing a pilot program. Use the inevitable experiences of failure as an opportunity to begin again with new knowledge and understanding. It is through facing fear, and taking action, that your dreams will emerge.

What dreams need to emerge through you? Do you have a new product or process to create? Do you want to become a more powerful leader or speaker? Are you at a transition in your career or personal life? Each day, spend time journaling about your dreams and then take small action steps towards your goal. Make the phone call that needs to be made and make the changes that need to happen. Walk past your fears, step off the diving board and splash right into your dreams. You’ll emerge exuberant.

Leave your comments: Looking back, what fears have you overcome in order for a dream to emerge through you?

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V-couragement: Chapter 6 – Take a Stand

June 23, 2014

Engaging leaders don’t back down from what’s important. They demonstrate commitment to those they lead. As a result, they reap uncanny loyalty. Author, Laurie Beth Jones, writes, “A leader who is not passionately devoted to the cause will not draw much commitment from others. The world will make way for someone who knows what he or she wants because there is not much competition when it comes to passionate commitment.” This month’s video blog from Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left focuses on Chapter 6: Take A Stand. How do you develop a team who is committed to a goal, each other, and your leadership? Sow commitment first. Demonstrate your passion for that goal and the individuals you lead. The most powerful way to shape your workplace culture is to model what you expect from others. Watch this month’s video and learn what it means to Take A Stand. Be courageous. Be engaging. Take a stand.

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E-couragement: Different vs. Similar

June 9, 2014

apples and oranges“When you judge another you do not define them, you define yourself.” Wayne Dyer

Scott is unshaven, cool, and articulate. He’s originally from Perth, Australia and moved to Munich, Germany a year ago to be with his girlfriend. On this overcast day, Scott was our tour guide at the former Nazi Concentration Camp, Dachau. He was a journalist before putting a lifelong interest in history to work as an instructor at this grim and significant memorial. His presentation was the appropriate balance of historical facts and personal insight. Scott said something particularly intriguing—a concept that’s at the root of cultural hate and corporate disengagement.

Scott stated that the Dachau guards intentionally created a disconnect between their captives and themselves by focusing on differences. They’d highlight a disparity in gender, religion, nationality, language, or lifestyle as a means to justify their inhumane actions and sooth their conscience. Ultimately, inmates were viewed as mere numbers or things, not actual human beings.

There’s a similar, yet unintentional, phenomena occurring in today’s workplace. Increased workloads cause a lack of meaningful human connection. Coworkers know about one another without really knowing each other. With little time available to discover the many similarities between peers, they’re left to focus on the few differences that separate them. The result is disconnected, isolated people, rather than engaged individuals and cohesive teams. The solution is to make workplace connection a greater priority. 

In reality, we’re all more similar than different. Yet it takes both time and skill to uncover the innumerable commonalities that connect us. Here’s what we know to be true, organizations which encourage relationship building, understanding, and trust, outperform their competition in areas such as employee retention, customer service scores, productivity, and profitability. As an engaging leader, it’s time to foster a culture where employees can shift their focus from differences that separate them to the similarities that unite them.

Leave your comments: In what ways are people building meaningful work relationships within your organization?

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V-couragement: Make It Personal – Expert Interview

June 3, 2014

Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left highlights nine fundamental engagement principles that will revive your workplace culture. This month’s leadership expert, speaking to Principle #3: Make It Personal, is Marty Freeman, Senior Vice President of Sales for a global transportation company. Marty reveals why Make It Personal is a brilliant business concept which yields loyal employees committed to delivering results. He discusses techniques for making personal connections with employees in order to retain your top talent. Finally, Marty shares how mentoring young team members yields an impressive ROI for his department. Enjoy this valuable, real-world conversation about what it takes to be an engaging leader.

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V-couragement: A Coaching Process for Leadership Success

May 29, 2014

You’re a leader in high demand with goals to achieve, problems to solve, people to inspire, projects to manage and emails to respond to. So, what are you doing to support you? Yes, it’s your responsibility to be your own advocate; this can’t be outsourced and executive coaching might be your solution. In this 3-minute video, Elaine Penn, Executive Coach for EXTRAordinary! Inc. explores the G-R-O-W coaching model. No secret sauce here, rather a simple and powerful framework that’s proven to take you from where you are to where you ought to be. The magic ingredient? Hard work. This process works when you work it. See what you think…

To see more encouraging videos, visit our YouTube channel. Click here.

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V-couragement: Chapter 5 – Make It Personal

May 13, 2014

 Engaging leaders understand that business always has been and always will be personal. Here’s why, it involves people. If not leading personally, your only other option is impersonally…and that never engages. This month’s video blog from Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left focuses on Chapter 5: Make It Personal. You’ll discover two key components which positively impact workplace engagement: Step Into Their World and The Power of Praise and Appreciation. Leaders who embrace and harness the energy within Make It Personal, garner lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction scores, and increased overall productivity. Like all valuable outcomes, there is a cost. It requires you to make commitments: schedule time to connect with employees; ask, listen, and learn more about them; and be sure to recognize and appreciate the good that they accomplish. Watch this month’s 7-minute video and learn what it takes to begin building your engaging culture.

To see more encouraging videos, visit our YouTube channel. Click here.

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E-couragement: Intention to Reality

May 6, 2014

PlantThis installment of E-couragement written by Executive Coach, Elaine Penn.

Some believe they are defined by their circumstances. Based on how things appear, they envision success or failure; however, it has been proven that circumstance does not determine what we can achieve. People have transformed failing businesses into thriving enterprises; conquered Mt. Everest without sight or limb; and achieved financial success during economic downturns. In fact, more millionaires were made during the depression than any other time in history. What makes this possible?

People who transcend circumstances possess three common traits. They have a vision of what they want to accomplish; an undying faith in that vision; and take action to turn vision into reality.

It all starts with vision. What is the compelling purpose that drives you each day? Is it to become an inspiring leader, grow into a persuasive communicator, build a powerful team, bring more positivity into your workplace, or embark upon a personal quest to find your life purpose? Werner Erhard says, “You can live your life one of two ways: out of circumstances or out of a vision.” Whatever the journey, the first step is to become clear about your destination.

Once you’ve created your vision, give it the energy and attention it deserves. What you focus on are the seeds you plant in your life. Have faith that those seeds are going to sprout. Even in the midst of an impending drought, believe that water can be found. According to Marianne Williamson, “There’s no such thing as a faithless person. It is what you choose to have faith in.” Do you put your faith in budget cuts, recessions, office politics, negativity, stress, and fear? Or do you put faith in your talent, innovation, creativity, the innate goodness in each person, and the idea that anything is possible? 

Finally, take strategic action to accomplish your vision.  Exhaustively research the steps needed to reach your goal. Be willing to improvise, start over, or reverse direction. Never stop the process. Your vision will remain only a dream unless you actively start a plan.  Along the way, as you stumble on the steps you planned, learn from them, move on, and keep climbing to your ultimate destination.

Everyone has an intention that must be born of them. There’s no need to travel this journey alone. Consider partnering with a professional coach who will support your vision, build your faith, and help determine the most effective action. It’s time for you to turn intention into reality!

Leave your comments: How have you learned to turn intention into reality?

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