E-couragement: Which Voice Will You Listen To?

October 12, 2015

Inner VoiceI was closing in on him just past the twelve-mile mark of the Cannonball Run Half Marathon. It sounded as if he was murmuring something. Passing by his left shoulder I heard it.

“You’ve got this. You’ve got this…”

His mantra stuck with me. I found myself thinking, Yes, I’ve got this… I’ve got this as I climbed the last hill and headed towards the finish line.

Everyone has it. It’s been around since the beginning of time—that little voice.

This man had other options. Certainly he had a voice focused on pain, “your legs are heavy and your lungs are burning.” He most likely had a voice reminding him that he could be at home on his warm couch instead of running in the rain. Chances are he had another voice mocking him about all of the runners who were faster and in better shape than he was.

He made a choice. He selected the voice that served him best. He turned up the volume on the voice that encouraged him to carry on. He was so committed to that voice, he spoke it out loud. Powerful.

Today the voices in your head will compete for your attention. They’ll fight for their very existence. Which one will you choose to listen to? Validate? Even speak out loud?

Will you pick the voice that reminds you of your unlimited potential—your abundant talent—how far you’ve come?

Or the one that doesn’t think you’re enough?

Be selective.

Choose as if your life depends on it…because it does.

Something to consider: Which voice will you turn the volume up on today?

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E-couragment: A 3-Step Formula for Becoming an Engaging Leader

September 29, 2015

DandelionGrowing up, it was a horrifying sound: “Robert! Richard! Come to the front yard now!” My dad (a.k.a. “The Warden”) calling out for my brother and me.

On this particular Saturday morning he barked, “See those dandelions?” Looking across the sea of yellow covering our yard we timidly affirmed the reality. He continued, “You’re going to get each one up, by the root.”

My dad proceeded to model proper dandelion picking technique using a tool with a wooden handle and a long medal prong. When the lesson was complete, he handed off the tools and disappeared into the house.

After a few hours of work in the blazing sun, my adolescent brain tried to make sense of the experience. I proclaimed to my brother, “I know why Dad’s doing this. He had a bad childhood and he wants to make sure we have one too!”

This cruel and unusual punishment became a regular experience. Each year I noticed that the work got easier and was completed faster.

At eighteen, I leaned against our loaded station wagon prepped for the five hundred mile journey to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I froze, noticing the solid green lawn stretching out before me.

Years later, when my brain had matured some, I finally saw the dandelion lesson in the form of a formula:

The right tools + hard work + time = sustained results.

On your journey to become an engaging leader, how much you invest in this formula is up to you.

  • The right tools: An engaging leader is first and foremost a student. A life-long learner. Her tools are books, workshops, mentors, coaches, mistakes, self-reflection, and regular feedback.
  • Hard work: This is not for the faint at heart. Becoming an engaging leader is hard. Work. If you don’t feel the calling burning in your soul, do something else.
  • Time: This is a journey. A life-long journey. To become successful at anything necessitates that you do it over time. You need years of reps, not a weekend seminar.

There you have it, the formula for becoming a successful engaging leader. It works, it’s timeless, and gives you sustained results. What are you waiting for?

Something for you to consider: Which part of this fromula requires more of your attention?

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E-couragement: The Ledger of a Leader

September 14, 2015

Words and Actions“I value my people.” Boss

“I value my people and invest in their development.” Engaging Leader

Language of action is more powerful than language of words. Bosses talk the talk and mouth the hollow words, “I value my people,” because that’s what they are supposed to say.

Leaders walk the walk and back up their beliefs with their budget.

If you want to know what’s important to you, look at your ledger. What does it reveal? Are you investing in the growth and development of your team?

Want loyalty, innovation, productivity, and profitability from your employees? Exemplify your words with your expenditures.

Do you have the courage to have the ledger of a leader?

Something for you to consider: Where would adding actions to your words make you a more engaging leader?

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E-couragement: What Are You Waiting For?

August 31, 2015

Tree“The best time to plant a tree is 20-years ago. The second best time is now.” Chinese Proverb

It was nine years ago when I took the trip. Alone in my car I snaked along the Blue Ridge Parkway headed to Asheville, NC. The pace of life had taken its toll on my relationships, my work, and me. In the silence, I was hoping to quell the constant chatter and distractions that tends to so easily entangle many of us. I was embarking on a journey to know myself better. After three days of hiking, thinking, writing, listening, and yes, crying, I came down from the mountains. Healing had occurred. I was changed.

Today I’m writing from Well of Mercy in Hamptonville, NC. This is my second personal retreat into quietness. It’s a continuation of the belief that carving out margins in my life is necessary to grow. Here’s the question I’m asking myself: Nine years? Rich, why has it taken you this long to replicate something so nourishing for your mind, body, and soul?

What’s the lesson? The best time to plant important things in your life was 20-years ago. The second best time is NOW. Are you waiting to have that difficult conversation, invest time in a significant relationship, or learn a skill necessary to make an essential career move? If you haven’t already planted the important stuff, then why not do it now?

Something for you to consider: What important idea has been waiting for you to plant it? How about now?

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E-couragement: You Are the Presentation

August 17, 2015

Spanky and Petey“The key to communication is not what we say, but rather the attitude that lies behind what we say.” Marianne Williamson

While delivering a 2-day engaging communication workshop for a client last week, I was reminded of a highly effective principle that’s rarely utilized. It’s called: You Are The Presentation. Perhaps it’s best illustrated by an experience I had with my youngest daughter when she was a burgeoning teen.

Carley was born with electric blue eyes. Big. Round. Captivating eyes. When people met her for the first time, they were immediately drawn to them. At thirteen years old Carley approached me and said, “Dad, I want to try makeup.” I replied, “Okay, lets start with eyeliner. Go in the bathroom, apply the eyeliner, then I’ll give you my opinion.”

A half-hour later, Carley reappeared. At first I didn’t recognize her. “Carley, is that you,” I asked the girl with black rings encircling her eyes. She looked like Petey, the dog from the Little Rascals. I recommended she return to the bathroom, wash her face and try again. “Carley, I don’t think makeup is supposed to be the main attraction, it’s designed to highlight your beauty that’s already present.”

Today, while helping clients master communication skills, I recognize that many people default to Carley’s early view of makeup. Only, instead of hiding behind excessively applied eyeliner, these corporate professionals take cover behind podiums, PowerPoint slides, and elaborately constructed demonstrations or exhibits. This behavior stems from a common belief that tells us we’re not enough—that we lack what it takes to engage our audience and be memorable. We simply doubt our own capability and power.

Whether you’re speaking at a team meeting, an executive report-out, a local civic club, or a large conference, the audience yearns to make a human connection with you. Resist the temptation to outsource your power to “things” that can never bond with your listeners like you can. As an engaging communicator it’s okay to insert a few slides, a short video, or refer to an innovative product. Remember, you’re the one who breathes life into your message. You make the presentation memorable. Ultimately, you are the presentation. Own it!

Leave your comments: How might your communication be more engaging and memorable if you believed the principle: You Are The Presentation?

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E-couragement: 2 Traits Necessary for Super Charged Communication

August 3, 2015

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

Since 2013, 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. At the conclusion of our full-day event, I reflected upon what made their diverse messages so powerful. It became clear that two key traits are 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, and 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 7, 2015, at The Triad Stage in Greensboro, NC, over three hundred attendees experienced the collision of expertise and passion. See for yourself. Click on the presenter’s name to watch each inspiring presentation:

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 we speak to any audience in the first place?

Leave your comments: What message must you spread?


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E-couragement: More Difficult Than Rocket Science and Brain Surgery

July 20, 2015

Einstein“The soft skills are the hard skills.” Rich Schlentz

My clients span a variety of industries: manufacturing, retail, and health care to name a few. Despite some obvious differences, these organizations have more in common than not. As a result, there are frequent learning and developmental needs that support their journey towards more engaging workplace cultures. Improving leadership, strengthening internal relationships, effective communication, and resolving conflict are a few of our often-requested curriculum.

The reason these types of topics are necessary and important across industries is that they address a core component every business has in common: People. People are what make business work. People are what your business is about.

People skills are required to be highly successful in any industry. Skills that will allow you to ask thought provoking questions, listen intently, gain buy-in, develop loyalty, reap commitment, foster innovation, resolve conflicts, enhance productivity, and drive profits. These competencies are often referred to as “soft skills” when in fact, they are the “hard skills.”

These are hard skills for the very reason you need them: People. People don’t line up nice and neat on a spreadsheet. They don’t always respond like your professor told you they would. They rarely follow predictable patterns or theories studied in your MBA classes. Let’s be clear – this stuff is difficult, challenging and frustrating. Leading and engaging people make rocket science and brain surgery seem simple. Yet, in the end, this work is priceless because people matter. Your people matter. It’s time to master the real hard skills that will make a difference to both you and them.

Simple application: Determine what specific people skill will help you be more successful as an engaging leader. Then, make a plan to improve that skill so it will serve you more effectively.

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E-couragement: The Problem With Being Right

July 6, 2015

wrongright“Out beyond ideas of right and wrong doing there is a field. I will meet you there.” Rumi, 11th century philosopher, poet, and theologian.

It’s one of the most intoxicating of human desires; we pursue it as if our self worth hangs in its balance. It is…the need to be right. We fixate on coaxing “lady right” to shine her approval upon us.

Of course there is a cost to the rightness we desperately seek.

  • Leaders: you’ll end up being right AND alienated.
  • Salespeople: be careful or you’ll be right AND broke.
  • Parents: your need to be right often leads children to rebellion.

Instead of falling into the alluring trap of rightness, why not explore Rumi’s suggestion and… meet in the field out beyond right and wrongdoing. This involves looking for ways to engage in ongoing conversation. Uncovering areas of agreement. Seeking to understand another person’s point of view.

More important than your need to be right is your willingness to preserve important relationships. The same relationships you’ll need to get things done, grow your business, make the sale, and bring meaning to your life.

Simple application: Next time you feel the habit of proving you’re right raising its ugly head, pause and ask, instead of seeking to judge who is right or wrong, how can I better understand the other person’s point of view?

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E-couragement: Are You In a Safe Place?

June 22, 2015

Power of WordsCustomer loyalty can be lost or solidified after the sale.” Rich Schlentz

I was driving along, minding my own business when it happened. My dashboard lit up like a Las Vegas slot machine after hitting triple sevens. Next, it sounded as if I was driving on a gravel country road, only I was on a paved highway. I instinctively pulled over into a deserted parking lot. With my youngest daughter asleep in the back seat and my oldest daughter expecting me to pick her up at school, I needed to figure out a solution.

Having no mechanical competencies, I reached for my AAA card and dialed the 1-800 number. Based on customer service encounters with other companies, I anticipated what the representative might want from me: Account number, check. Home address, check. Would they require some other forms of ID? Would they demand my social security number, passport, copy of my birth certificate, or finger prints? I was moments away from finding out…“Thank you for calling AAA. This is Margie. Are you in a safe place?”

Wait. Did you get that? She asked, “Are you in a safe place?” Before she demanded I identify myself, she said, “Are you in a safe place?” That changed everything. I transformed from nervous and edgy to calm and compliant. It all happened because AAA decided to carefully chose their first words—words that demonstrate they care and they understand. Words that say, this is about you, not about us.

The power of your first words is often underestimated. A couple of years ago I received a call from my youngest daughter, Carley, after school, “Dad, will you consider something when I get home?” I replied, “Certainly Carley, what is it?” She explained, “Instead of immediately telling me to straighten up my room, complete my homework, and get prepared for dinner, can we talk about how my day went?” Wow. Carley was calling me out on my first words. She was asking me to treat her more like a human being and less like a human doing. What a novel idea.

How about you? Are these first phrases out of your mouth when you show up at work: “Where’s my report?” “Why is it late again?” How about your first words when starting a staff meeting: “Let’s look at where we came up short last month.” What about your first words when you return home after a long day at the office: “Who left this lying around?” Or, your first words when you sit down with your friend at coffee: “Can you believe what Tim did?”

The first words from that AAA representative impacted me for good. I am grateful they were thoughtful and intentional with their selection. It’s also good business. I remain a loyal customer having been a member for over five-years and now pay for both my daughters to have coverage. As an engaging leader, choose your first words wisely where ever you are; they make a difference and you can’t take them back.

Leave your comments: What better choice of first words can you make both professionally and personally?

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E-couragement: Engaging Leaders and the Need to Judge

June 8, 2015

JudgeWhen you judge another, you do not define them. Rather you define yourself as someone who needs to judge.” Wayne Dyer

We were headed through security at the Liberia, Costa Rica airport when I noticed it. My seat assignment had been upgraded to first class. Typically, that causes a sense of gratitude to pulse through me. Not this time. We were headed home from our twelfth-annual “dad-daughter” adventure and I wanted to sit in coach with my girls. My plan was simple: scurry to our gate and have my seat reassigned—providing someone else with the coveted upgrade.

I arrived at our gate check-in desk and immediately noticed the woman next to me. She was abrupt and curt. My co-passenger was complaining about her seat and rudely lobbying for a better selection. While she waited on her answer, I shared my desire to downgrade. After a strange look from the agent, I explained, “I’m flying with my daughters, I choose them over first class.” A smile flashed across his face followed by, “Aaaa, ci señor. No problem.”

The employee did an honorable job of serving me and pacifying her. In the end, the woman stomped back to the seating area, securing her place next to my daughters. After completing my paper work, I also returned to the waiting area. At the first opportunity, I whispered to my daughters about her deplorable behavior. They agreed with my conclusion after hearing her complain to her husband close by. I told them how glad I was that we don’t act like her.

Upon boarding the plane, we sat across the aisle from angry woman and her worn out husband. I snuck a quick glance of disapproval to my daughters. Then it happened. Before even buckling my seat belt, she leaned toward me and said, “I heard you give up your 1st class seat in order to sit next to your daughters, that’s really nice…would you like to have my 2 free drink tickets? Here, take them.” My daughters observed the entire exchange. I replied, “Certainly. Thank you very much.” Touché, I had been schooled. The teacher had become the student.

The lesson was clear – I had exalted myself onto the throne of judgment. It takes no skill to rule from there. It does take skill, discipline, and self-awareness to avoid that trap. Just like my daughters look to me for an example of how to act and/or react to the world around us, your followers do the same. Be sure to show them how engaging leaders resist the need to judge others. Instead, show them what thoughtfulness and compassion look like. That model will serve both you and them better.

Leave your comments: As an engaging leader (or engaging person) how might letting go of judgment serve you better?

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