Don’t Raise Your Voice…

Persuasion
…Improve Your Argument! Much is written about conflict and how society continues to struggle with managing it in an open forum. I see this struggle first-hand with my own clients who continue to work on their effective communications skills, especially with those who disagree with them. One of the key skills of leadership is the ability to influence and persuade their teams to go where they have not yet gone before, knowing they have to change but cannot do it on the strength of their own motivations. The Leader’s ability to persuade, and manage through the potential resistance, is directly proportional to their ability to build an argument supporting why their followers should behave differently than they are currently. With the advent of technology infused communications tools, the ability to persuade should be easier. The ability to reach more people efficiently theoretically makes the process itself more efficient. However, if you...
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Soft Skills...

BAMM_20190626-150042_1
…are the new Hard Skills.” Our conversation around the emerging importance of soft skills has, to this point, focused on their impact to the individual leader and in general terms of the impact to the organization which the leader leads. In this issue, we will directly address the importance of soft skills in the context of achieving sustainable organizational success using the Business Alignment Maturity Model © ( BAMM ) outlined in our “ The Missing Piece… ” series of books. As a quick refresher, BAMM is an organizational business model outlining the five stages of business alignment necessary to create sustainable success. Whether you are a small business leader/owner, a leader of a corporate business unit/team or a non-profit leader, your organization must align all its moving parts in order to achieve the desired results – over and over again! So let’s explore how soft skills factor into this sustainable...
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“Prospects are highly informed…

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…but not necessarily accurately informed.” Happy New Year and welcome to our first edition under our updated branding!  We are excited about our new look and feel with the same professionalism and trust our stakeholders have come to expect over the first ten years in business! As the title quote from Leanne Hoagland-Smith suggests, our initial topic for 2019 addresses ability as leaders to make the right decisions based on how informed they are when they make key decisions for their teams/agencies/businesses. With the amount of information leaders have access to doubling at an alarming rate, it is no surprise the difficulty in being accurately informed to make the leadership decisions that keep the team, agency, or business growing. It’s been said people don’t typically disagree on the facts, rather people typically disagree on the interpretation of the facts.  As the pace of change increases, so too does the pressure to...
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Are We Too Soft…

ED-AK082_bauerl_G_20090827153620
…on Our Soft Skills? Much is said and written these days about soft skills and how important they are to business success. Often, the context of this discussion is the evolving influence of technology in our daily lives. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and any other technology that threatens (real or imagined) to replace humans in the workforce is a driving force behind the need and effectiveness of our soft skills. It’s as if we are less afraid of losing our hard skills and more afraid of our lack of soft skills and ability to think critically! Another context for this conversation is in the discussion of “skills gaps”. The November 2018 LinkedIn Workforce Report found the biggest “skills gap” is in San Francisco/Silicon Valley followed by New York City. The top 3 skill gaps in San Francisco/Silicon Valley are Oral Communication, Business Management and Leadership in that order. In...
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“If you want to understand how a lion hunts…

…don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” This quote by Jim Stengel, former Chief Marketing Office at Proctor & Gamble sets up this month’s conversation on Leading at the Speed of Business as we discuss the fourth of five keys to success. We left off the conversation last month by looking at how Cognitive Diversity helps 21 st Century Leaders adapt quickly by embracing creativity and diverse thinking. This month we explore the importance of how effectively we communicate diverse thinking to adapt and stay relevant. It is my contention that effective communication is the biggest challenge 21 st Century Leaders face today! When we think of all the ramifications and repercussions of poor leadership communications, we can clearly see why this is such a big issue. What can leaders do to effectively communicate at the speed of business? Knowledge Rules ~ Technology gives us unfettered access to vast...
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“To Learn you have to Listen...

…To Improve you have to Try.” Earlier this month we proudly launched the third in a series of business alignment books specifically addressing the unique leadership challenges of corporate leaders as they strive to create sustainable value for their stakeholders. In nearly all of my coaching engagements, speeches and workshops, the question of value, which I also use synonymously with relevance, comes up in the discussion. It is an issue all leaders grapple with and is complex in that it means something different to just about everyone! So, what does creating sustainable value entail in order to create desired results? To learn you have to listen ~ Whenever we do sales-related coaching, we spend time early in the discussion with the concept of helping others buy, not selling to them. This requires effective listening to understand what is valuable to the prospect or client. In similar fashion, leaders of teams must...
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“Remember, language was the first form of virtual reality.”

Last month in this forum we talked about the difference between knowing how to think and only knowing what to think. This month, we acknowledge the connection between how we think as leaders and its impact on how we behave as leaders. Specifically, we are looking at the behavior of effective communications. It is important that leaders know how to communicate effectively beyond just knowing what to say. It is, in my experience, the single biggest challenge for 21 st Century Leaders to manage as they strive for sustainable success! So, what that means is: Leave the echo chamber ~ Sure, it’s safe to hear that things are going well within the organization from your team. But if that is all you hear, as a leader, you are in trouble and may not even realize it! When is the last time someone on your team disagreed with you? Can't remember that...
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“Sir, I do not understand”

This month’s title comes from my days as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and was one of the only four answers we could give as plebes (freshmen) when questioned by upper-classman.  As I do a fair share of key note team presentations and workshops on Effective Communications, I thought it appropriate to the subject.  Effective communications, or the lack thereof is, in my experience, the number one issue in business today. An issue because we are communicating more, yet listening less.  We are blitzed with content and yet struggle to put the content into a reliable context of our leadership situation.  The result is a too often occurrence of unmet expectations. The purpose of all communications is to elicit some degree of behavioral response.  Any change effort, no matter the scope and scale, begins with understanding expectations.  Sustainable success, the ability to repeatedly achieve desired...
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Change the Narrative...

…Change the Culture! I recently attended a lecture that carried the above title and was intrigued by the ensuing discussion around how effective communications can literally change the course of an organization based on the narrative used to inspire it.  In my mind, effective communication is the number one leadership challenge in business (for-profit and non-profit) today supported by an abundance of real-world examples, surveys and professional articles.  Most surveys I’ve read on this topic not only identify the issue, but also identify leadership’s own poor attempts to improve communications within their organizations.  It is this challenge to improve what is a well-known issue that highlights this leadership discussion. Effective communication is defined as the ability of the sender and the receiver to understand the message in the same context.  This implies using clarity in the message itself, choosing the most effective and efficient media to transmit the message and using...
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Your ‘Yes’ means nothing…

…if you can’t say ‘No’ It seems the hardest thing to do in business these days is to say ‘No’ to someone else.  We can think of plenty of times we regret saying ‘Yes’ when we knew damn well it was going to mess up our current priorities, or worse, put us in a position to be less effective than we are capable of.  Let me just put it out there now; ‘No’ is a legitimate response in any business if it is, in fact, the appropriate response for the situation.  While most would agree to this fact intellectually, the majority still struggle with actually doing so!  Why is that? As a business leader, part of the art of the profession is making effective knowledge-based decisions.  A crucial ingredient to this decision-making process is listening to insights from those who work for you; including insights that may disagree with your own...
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“Leaders are sentenced…

…by their sentences.” We’ve long defined effective communications when the sender and the receiver of a message understand the message in the same contextual meaning. As leaders, this is a basic, albeit crucial, element of the success as a 21 st Century Leader. However, as Warren Bennis reminds us in the title quote, there are consequences associated with the words we use and whether or not they convey their intended contextual meaning. This is especially true when we speak. Technology advances notwithstanding, humans are pre-wired to still respond to the spoken word. The spoken word is hundreds of thousands of years old while the written word is still only several hundred years old. Even in a technology-laced world we now operate in, the spoken word still rules in the world of effective communications. In my experience, lack of effective communications is the number one reason why leaders are not effective in...
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I Listened

In the 1999 movie, “The 13 th Warrior”, Antonio Banderas plays an Arab in the company of a band of Norsemen. There is a scene where all the Norsemen are talking in a language the audience cannot understand while the lone Arab sits intently. Eventually the entire conversation is in English meaning the Arab can now understand what they are saying. When he responds to an insult in their language, one of the Norsemen angrily questions, “Where did you learn our language?” He responds simply, “ I listened! ” Effective communications is the quintessential skill for effective leadership and listening is a crucial component to effective communications. Many leaders attend class after class on how to speak and present, while very few, if any, have been to an effective listening class! Listening has always been a key part of my own success as a leader and I will use those examples...
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“Don’t Make Excuses…

No-More-Excuses1
…Make Changes.” I came across this quote in a recent book I was reading called “Hacking Leadership” by Mike Myatt. It is mentioned in the context of hacking the status quo and it struck me how straightforward a statement it is yet so telling and powerful in its underlying message. It also got me thinking about how many leaders get derailed with excuses rather than making the changes necessary for their businesses. Just as troubling are the leaders who accept excuses from their teams when changes are not effectively executed. By most definitions, excuses are used to deflect accountability. They are typically not factual or logical and may be only remotely related to the actual issue (who hasn’t heard “my dog ate it”!). Excuses don’t exist in nature and are created by humans to rationalize their own accountability gaps. There is no greater environment for accountability to falter than during times...
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“The single biggest problem in communication…

…is the illusion that it has taken place.” In the fast-moving, technology-fueled world we live and work in, we could easily be forgiven for falling prey to the illusion portrayed in George Bernard Shaw’s quote above.  As an Irish Playwright, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 so he certainly knew a thing or two about communications.  It also supports my belief that there are time-tested tenets of Leadership Communications that are consistent with the passing of time.  However, in the 24/7 always-on world it is the context of Leadership Communications that has changed dramatically further perpetuating the illusion that it actually takes place at all! Effective Leadership occurs when both the sender and the receiver understand the shared meaning of the message.  It is in this shared meaning in which the illusion actually occurs.  In my own experience in the last 30+ years, effective communications is the number...
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We live in an Information-rich...

...Knowledge-poor world. In 2010, the Institute For The Future (IFTF) published a report titled, “Future Work Skills 2020.” The report outlines six key drivers of change over the next ten years as well as ten skills required by the future workforce to meet those disruptive drivers of change.  Of course, it is not only the future workforce that needs to develop these future skills.  The future leadership structure, which enables the workforce to optimize these skills, will also need to adapt to the new reality.  As we are now four years into this cycle, let’s see how well leaders are doing in enabling these skills. According to the IFTF, the six descriptive drivers of change are: Extreme Longevity, Rise of Smart Machines and Systems, Computational World, New Media Ecology, Superstructed Organizations and a Globally Connected World. In order to adapt to these disruptive forces, the ten skills for success identified by...
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“A Wealth of Information creates…

…A Poverty of Attention” In the January/February 2014 issue of Psychology Today, the headline article was how super-taskers manage to keep their focus in spite of juggling seemingly endless tasks.  In light of overwhelming research stating the brain cannot multi-task, these super-taskers make it look easy.  In truth, they are not multi-tasking.  They have developed their ability to block out the distractions and focus their attention on the important things they have to do.  Given that most people in your business do not have this ability, it rests on the leader to help them weed through the noise to focus on what is really important. As a leader, the best way to ensure everyone in your business effectively blocks out inconsequential information around them is through clear, complete and concise communication built around a theme of simplicity.  We work and live in a complex world.  Complexity on its own generates a...
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"You Can't Talk Yourself Out of a Problem...

…You Behaved Yourself Into.” The topic of choices and effective decision-making has been top of mind recently given the recent spate of headlines highlighting poor choices and decisions in politics, entertainment, business and professional sports.  Worse, the sideshow that becomes the attempts to apologize and/or explain the choices and decisions is what prompted the title, credited to Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People .  So what does it take to make an effective leadership decision? One of the most critical elements in effective decision-making comes from the decision-maker’s perspective in the decision.  Without the proper perspective, or frame of reference, what appears to be a good decision from one perspective turns out not to be from the perspective of others on the receiving end of the decision. An easy example from my own experience involves workforce reductions.  If the perspective is to reduce expenses to a given...
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"You Can't Talk Yourself Out of a Problem...

…You Behaved Yourself Into.” The topic of choices and effective decision-making has been top of mind recently given the recent spate of headlines highlighting poor choices and decisions in politics, entertainment, business and professional sports.  Worse, the sideshow that becomes the attempts to apologize and/or explain the choices and decisions is what prompted the title, credited to Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People .  So what does it take to make an effective leadership decision? One of the most critical elements in effective decision-making comes from the decision-maker’s perspective in the decision.  Without the proper perspective, or frame of reference, what appears to be a good decision from one perspective turns out not to be from the perspective of others on the receiving end of the decision. An easy example from my own experience involves workforce reductions.  If the perspective is to reduce expenses to a given...
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People Hear Words...

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A Mediocre Leader Tells...

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