E-couragement: Pain and Joy

September 15, 2014

JoyPain“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Khalil Gibran

It’s been two-and-a-half years since my wife transitioned. I’m occasionally prompted to revisit journal writings and blogs from the time around her death. Not long ago, I encountered such a nudge. Sometimes I feel like an outsider reading my own journal posts—reliving an experience that seems so long ago and still remains surprisingly raw. I stumbled upon one entry that aligns perfectly with a recent conversation I had with a friend.

In late 2011, during our three-week stay in Palliative care, I found myself vacillating between feelings of pain—watching Ivy traverse the dying process, and joy—recalling the significant impact she had on my life. Remembering the Buddhist saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, I was keenly aware that Ivy, and this event, were important teachers for me. Here’s a particular student lesson lifted from my journal at that time:

Pain and Joy = opposite sides of the same coin. Seeking a life of safety and security in order to protect ourselves from potential loss or pain also numbs and robs us of deep joy. Live with courage, curiosity, wonder, risk, abandon, and joy. Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to suck the marrow from the bones of life; to put to rout all that was not life, and not to come to the end of life, and discover that I had not lived.” Don’t seek the straight and secure road, rather the windy, twisty, scenic path.

That bold writing emerged only days before Ivy died. The pain that followed was excruciating, at times unbearable. Yet, a month after Ivy’s death, when asked by our minister, “knowing what you know now, would you have done anything different?” My answer was a quick, “No.” The immense pain of losing Ivy had not overshadowed the incalculable joy of knowing her. That’s one of the final lesson she left for me.

Common life teaching encourages people to mitigate risk and pain. It’s well meaning advice, often given by those who care deeply for you. This does not have to be your path. It’s not for the person looking to experience the depth and breadth of what life has to offer. Attempting to alleviate pain robs you of deep joy. In order to live fully engaged be willing to embrace both sides of the coin—pain and joy.

Leave your comments: What potential joy are you missing out on in order to limit your risk of pain

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V-couragement: Chapter 9 – Crave Feedback

September 8, 2014

Feedback can be challenging. Your willingness to seek out and accept feedback from those you trust can be the difference between mediocrity and excellence. That’s why our seventh fundamental engagement principle from Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left  is: Crave Feedback. Feedback is your personal GPS. It helps close the gap between where you think you are and where you actually are. It gives you a fuller truth to operate from and can offer perspectives that you might otherwise be blind to. Watch this eight-minute video and learn how this principle can help you grow and develop into the engaging leader you’re designed to be: crave feedback. 

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

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E-couragement: How to Tell If You’re a Pro

September 2, 2014

PracticeThe difference between a hobby and a profession is practice.” Rich Schlentz

It was the first workshop with a new client. The participants were understandably a little nervous. As if on behalf of the others, one Senior Director delivered this hybrid statement/question, “We’re not going to role-play today…are we?” I hear this often. For years I was uncertain how to effectively answer. Now, I reply, “Absolutely not. No role-play here, that’s for children.” I paused, allowing for a collective sigh of relief from everyone listening in then, I continued my response…

“Nope, we will certainly not be role-playing today. We will be practicing, because that’s what pros do—they practice.” Their look transformed from relief to a blend of confusion and fear, at which time I kicked-off the workshop. Here’s a simple timeless truth: no practice = no improvement. We understand this in other professions (athletes, entertainers, speakers, etc.), expecting them to perform at high levels. Yet in the workplace, there’s very little conversation or expectations regarding practicing your profession and honing your craft.

Let’s be clear, practice is not reading self-improvement books, listening to podcasts, or attending seminars/workshops. Those are all forms of information/education. No matter how good the information is, you won’t improve or change without application. Education doesn’t make anyone better at anything (if that were the case, we’d all be flawless). That’s where practice comes in. Application is how you improve—using what you learn converts information and tools into skill and new behavior.

Are you a professional manager or engaging leader within your organization? What skills do you need to be more effective? Communication, handling conflict, project management, sales, planning, presenting, innovation, creating a compelling team vision, coaching employees, etc.? Are you practicing any of these? If not, you’re treating your profession more like a hobby. Pros practice. How about you?

Leave your comments: How will you practice your profession this week?

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E-couragement: What Would You Do?

August 27, 2014

“What you say has value only when it’s relevant to your listener.” Rich Schlentz

This is the Scenario: Eleven hundred people have been in their seats for three hours. They’ve heard six or seven presentations from various subject matter experts. By the time I begin, their primary interest is: what’s for lunch and will there be free beer at the afternoon pool party? As an engaging communicator, what would you do? Here’s what I did…

  1. Coach the introducer: Typical bio’s are boring and speaker centric. The audience deserves better than that. In this case, the introduction is personal, brief, and instructional. Notice how my introducer guides the audience to stand and clap. Time is precious, don’t waste it on a bad “takeoff.”
  2. Play upbeat music: Find a way to raise the energy in the room. Based on the audience demographics, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts was sure to resonate with them.
  3. Change your entrance: Until this point, every speaker entered from back stage. One way to capture attention is to break a pattern. Entering from the rear of the ballroom achieved this goal.
  4. Interact with the audience: I intentionally made physical contact with the audience. Because this is a long-time client, and I know many of them personally, it was appropriate and added to the energy.
  5. Deliver a unique and relevant opening: The opening statements were custom created for this audience. It was unique and “seeded” with references that demonstrate my familiarity with them.

Influential communicators create a memorable experience by preparing in advance for their audience and considering the conditions they’re facing. Wonder if it worked? Watch the video below and see what you think.

Leave your comments: How have you successfully captured the attention of your audience before?  

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V-couragement: Rediscover Your Strengths

August 19, 2014

Doubt can often cloud your ability to make the best decisions for ongoing success. Doubt can be a formidable foe, causing you to forget the strengths, skills, and talents, which are uniquely yours. Perhaps it’s time to journey the path of self re-discovery and remember who you are. In this 4-minute video, Executive Coach Elaine Penn reminds you that creating an inventory list of your professional/personal strength assets is a powerful way to fuel productive action, which leads to achieving your goals. Enjoy this V-couragement as you fully engage your work and life.

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

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V-couragement: Chapter 8 – Watch Your Mouth

August 12, 2014

Engaging leaders understand the power of words. I used to admire the “telling like it is” or “shooting from the hip” brand of communication, longing to speak with such strength and confidence; I no longer feel that way. I now know this aggressive, bullying communication style stems from a lack of self-confidence. I’ve seen leaders hold their direct reports hostage with harsh, cutting words—leaving bodies in their wake. This is not for you. That’s why our sixth fundamental engagement principle from Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left is: Watch Your Mouth. In this 6-minute video you’ll learn four key questions to ask yourself in order to connect successfully with others. Engaging leaders practice intentional, assertive and confident communication—encouraging others rather than discouraging them. Choose your words wisely: watch your mouth. 

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

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E-couragement: 2 Myths That Kill Effective Communication

August 5, 2014

Myth“Lately I’ve found effective communication is more about what I don’t say and less about what I do say.” Rich Schlentz

It’s a reoccurring theme: I’m in a learning workshop with clients and ask, “Within your organization, what percentage of errors or internal challenges can be traced back to poor communication?” The answer provided typically sounds like, “85 – 95%.” Wow. It’s obvious that effective communication has a huge impact on successful outcomes and employee engagement. Yet two pervasive myths, which derail healthy communication, are alive and well within most companies today. Let’s expose them now.

Here are two myths impeding good communication within your organization:

  1. Email is a communication tool: Nope. Email was never intended to be used for communication. No more than a hammer was forged to dig holes or a shovel created to drive nails into a two-by-four. It’s an information tool. Errors, problems, and misunderstandings arise when people in your company (maybe you) attempt to use it as a communication tool. Email is useful to confirm appointments, propose agendas, summarize meetings, or praise someone for a job well done. Do not expect it to yield clear communication because it can’t (even if you write in all CAPS!!).
  2. Email is fast. Perhaps, if used correctly, it can be an expedient way to share pertinent information with one or more people. Attempt to use it for communication and you’ll journey into a black hole of uncertainty, errors, and unmet expectations. After a recent workshop to improve internal communication, Eric Peabody, store manager for Window World in Boston and Los Angeles wrote, “there’s nothing like a personal conversation. Not to mention, keeping it brief and to the point can be much more productive than a chain of emails.”

Let go of expecting email to do what it was never designed for. It’s an information tool. When communication is required, pick up the phone or meet face-to-face. You’ll get the results you’re after and strengthen relationships along the way.

Leave your comments: How is your company actively fostering effective communication?

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V-couragement: Chapter 7 – Seek and Ye Shall Understand

July 28, 2014

Leaders often rise to their position because of what they know. Then, knowing becomes a trap or barrier for continued success. Eventually, as an engaging leader, you’ll want to put away your knowing/telling and start asking/listening. After all, when in your life have you respected or willingly followed the KNOW IT ALL? That’s why our fifth fundamental engagement principle from Your Employees Have Quit—They Just Haven’t Left is: Seek And Ye Shall Understand. Watch this video and learn how to recognize an outdated and unproductive communication model, replacing it with a healthy and effective process. Take the tools in this video and make application. As a highly successful and engaging leader, you’ll want to: ask, listen, and understand. 

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

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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.

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

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