E-couragement: Your Personal Winter

November 23, 2015

_MG_2427-Edit-Edit-MDriving to church Sunday morning the sky was charcoal grey, trees were barren, and blustery winds bullied fallen leaves.

Winter is here.

For the next few months nature will appear bleak. Desolate. Dead.

Yet no one worries…

We understand that winter is an integral season of nature.

It’s a time of rest and recovery. Important things are happening beyond our sight.

However, when it comes to our personal nature, we resist seasons of rest and recovery that intrude on our progress and busyness. We work hard to artificially prop up the impression of an eternal spring and summer.

Personal Winters are invaluable.

They require patience and provide wisdom that enables us to:

  • Understand why a relationship had to end, or needs to end
  • Regenerate vital energy required for personal and professional growth
  • Take the space necessary to reflect on who we’ve been and who we’d like to be

It’s no coincidence that Thanksgiving appears just as winter settles upon us.

Let’s give thanks to the gifts of change, forgiveness, courage, and healing.

Before we know it, spring will burst on the scene again, bringing new life, colors, and adventures…

We can learn from the wisdom of nature and embrace Personal Winters as part of our human experience.

Without this time of rest, recovery, and reflection, our Personal Springs won’t be nearly as vibrant or meaningful as they yearn to be.

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E-couragement: The Other Type of Listening

November 9, 2015

Big Ears“As ironic as it may sound, we’re far more inspiring to others when we’re willing to listen than when we’re giving them advice.”  Wayne Dyer

It was mid-morning during a client development workshop when the comment was made. I’d heard the statement before. In this particular moment it resonated with me in a different way. The participant stated, “The most effective type of listening is active.” 

The feeling in me was palpable. I wondered, what other type of listening is there?

You’re either actively listening or you’re not.

Listening is tough. It requires your physical, emotional, and intellectual presence. It can wear you out.

Listening is rare. Perhaps you’ve fallen into one of the two traps of counterfeit listening:

  • Distracted—excessive relationships with phones, tablets, and computers.


  • Pretending—inability to quiet the voices in your own head and resist the temptation to fixate on what you might say next.

Active listening requires you to “pay attention.” “Pay” implies value. There’s a huge cost to listening.

Look in your checking account. See the balance? Hopefully you see a surplus after all your expenditures. Now, look at your calendar. The balance is zero. No time. No space. No margin. When you give someone money, you give out of that surplus. Since listening requires time and attention, you’re going into overdraft mode.

With the holiday season approaching, will you give the gift of listening? Simply hear someone. Resist judgment. Seek to understand. Pay attention. They will be deeply indebted for your willingness to give from your deficit (time) rather than your excess (money). 

Active is the only type of listening. Everything else is counterfeit.

Who will you listen to today?

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E-couragement: The 3 Flaws of Anonymous Feedback

October 28, 2015

Group of unidentifiable business people“Anonymity is not real-life.” Anonymous

Okay, I couldn’t resist. That quote is not anonymous. It is what I have found to be true in my real-life. Too often I’ve heard companies tout, “We conduct a yearly online survey so our employees can tell us what they really think. Since their feedback remains anonymous, they’re more prone to speak their truth.”

At first glance, this concept seems to make perfect sense. Look again. There are 3 inherent defects with this rationale:

  • It’s Unnatural: Anonymity is not real-life. Where else do we ask for honest feedback while providers remain veiled behind technology? Do we utilize this method with our families, friends, or neighbors? No. Those important relationships involve people-to-people interaction, a simple and timeless concept. 
  • It Leads to Guessing: When reviewing data from online feedback the receiver often resorts to guessing. Lacking dialogue and clarifying questions, the best a recipient can do is imagine what the provider really meant which devalues feedback usefulness.
  • It Limits Relationship Building: Providing or receiving important information without the benefit of meaningful conversation can deteriorate trust. People attain mutual understanding from words, tone, facial expression, and body language. Communication restricted to written words or phrases limits the opportunity to strengthen relationships and deepen trust. 

Employee engagement doesn’t occur through anonymity—it requires getting personal. Providing and receiving performance feedback makes its greatest impact when accompanied by a strong and trusting relationship. Strong and trusting relationships emphasize ongoing face-to-face conversations. Resist the counterfeit safety of anonymity and have the courage to truly be known and accountable.

Are you brave enough to ask your employees what they think face to face?

Chapter nine of my book, Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left showcases the importance of creating a company culture where candid feedback presides.

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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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