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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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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“A mind that knows how to think is more empowered...

...than a mind that only knows what to think.” Through the course of the summer, I kept bumping into this uneasy feeling as I experienced what was happening around me.  I kept asking myself with each new situation, “What were they thinking?” As it turns out, after coming across Neil deGrasse Tyson’s words in the title of this article, I was asking the wrong question. I should have asked, “How were they thinking?” as I now believe that answer has far greater ramifications in our leadership-challenged world of today! Let’s break down his words further to see what we can learn relative to 21 st Century Leadership. Only knowing what to think ~ If we define thinking as “…concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it . ” as William Deresiewicz does in his October 2009 lecture to the plebe (freshman) class at the United States Military...
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"Don't tell me...

...show me.” We define Integrity as the alignment of what you think, what we say and what we do such that they all tell the same story.  We are constantly judged on how these three dimensions align as we interact with others.  However, only two of these are visible to others and create the most common input to how others view us.  In personal settings, the misalignment between these elements may create some personal conflict.  As leaders, the misalignment between our words and our actions could ultimately destroy them! It is amazing to me the disconnect between what leaders say they will do and what they ultimately do without realizing the consequences of the disconnect!  For example, comments suggesting a leader is committed to the mission and strategy of the organization while that same leader consistently misses on meeting goals and delivering on the promise.  When it comes time to evaluate...
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So what if none of the candidates are leaders…

As a leadership coach, I have searched high and low to find a definition of leadership that fits what we are seeing on the national election stage.  Since I cannot, I stand by the inference in the title which I am sure some will disagree.  I also reference a recent Gallup Poll rating the candidates lowest in Inspiring, Caring for Individuals and Visionary in that order.  Given these are also traits the nation is looking for in their next leader further supports the assertion.  However, what bugs me more is the narrative around hopelessness and helplessness coming from the candidates’ supporters.  Really!  Is all really lost because of one person? I’ve certainly been in many situations throughout my career where my direct supervisor, whether they be a front-line manager or CEO, who would not win “Boss-of-the-year”.  I can also never remember a time where I used my supervisor’s weaknesses as an...
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Start Steady…

…Finish Strong! This has been a mantra I’ve lived by since the days of running marathons in the early 90s, to helping get my kids ready for Army and Navy boot camps.  As each was getting mentally and physically ready to attend their respective basic training, I would repeat the phrase over and over especially on our training runs.  Now it holds a place on my triathlon jersey as a constant motivator to keep improving as a triathlete.  It is in this context the mantra was recently put to the test and got me thinking about its relevance in a broader leadership setting. Start Steady ~ In the local sprint triathlon earlier this month, I was even more committed to a steady start in the swim as I have ever been. It was not about talent, rather finding a pace that was in keeping with this being a sprint, but not...
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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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Never Stop Learning…

…because Life Never Stops Teaching. A common discussion over the past several months has been how leaders stay relevant in today’s dynamic economic and political environment.  What was relevant five years ago is passe’ today.  What is relevant today will likely be on its way to obsolescence three years from now.  What is even more surprising is how many leaders seem to believe they can stay relevant with the skills, knowledge and attitudes learned years before.  They lament the need for different outcomes for their business (for profit or non-profit) and yet spend little time actively engaging in the process of staying relevant, the process of continuous learning!  Let’s break down each of the key areas of learning with some ideas to stay relevant in each one. Learning Relevant Skills – Skills are the things you need to know how to do to be an effective leader.  Goal Planning, Effective Communications,...
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There are no Time Management problems…

…There are only Priority Management problems It seems we hear people lament their latest time management problems no matter where we are.  Typical fare like “I didn’t have time to…” or “I ran out of time to…” packs the airwaves with just enough conviction to get the rest of us to buy-in to their dilemma and potentially offer some level of sympathy to their plight.  Those that know me well will actually refrain from saying these statements or will catch themselves mid-stream, because they know I will challenge them to restate the truth, “I did not make time to…”  The issue here is not about having time because everyone has the same 24 hours to invest, spend, waste or otherwise use to their choosing.  And therein lies the real issue; choosing what to do with our time! How does a leader make these choices and still keep up with the demands...
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“Secure your mask on first…

…and then assist the other person.” Those of us who frequently travel by plane recognize these words from the Flight Attendants’ pre-flight instructions to the assembled passengers.  Those of us who prefer flying with Southwest Airlines have even heard comedic versions such as putting your mask on first “before assisting your favorite child!” In any case, the message is clear; take care of yourself first! As you approach your goals for a new year, I could (and have) say the same thing to every leader responsible for leading a team, business, group or project; take care of yourself first! To be clear this is not a manifesto for being a self-centered leader or to put themselves on a pedestal of self-involvement.  It is quite the opposite.  Here is what it does mean: In order to give 100%, you have to be 100% ~ I coach several solopreneur business owners who provide...
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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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“Carry a Message to Garcia”

With the recent talk of normalizing relations with Cuba, I am reminded of the popular, and even famous in some military circles, essay that was ultimately made into two movies, a book and translated in thirty-seven languages. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, President McKinley needed to reach the leader of the insurgency in Cuba, General Calixto Iniguez Garcia in an effort to secure his cooperation with the United States. The problem was, no one knew where Garcia was. An American officer, Lieutenant Andrew Rowan (West Point Class of 1881) was given a letter with the simple directive, “Carry a Message to Garcia”. Off Rowan went to successfully complete a simply stated mission of vital importance to his country. So what do we take from this story of Mission, Accountability and Leadership? Let’s take a look at each one and see what we can glean from Rowan’s example. One of the...
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“Leadership…

…is Salesmanship” I first came across this quote when I read Hamid “Hank” Noorani’s book POWER – The Modern Doctrine and had a chance to explore the idea in a video interview we did together several years ago. It caught my attention because those who know me as a Leadership and Business Coach are sometimes surprised that I am also a Sales Coach. I have always believed there is a level of genuine salesmanship in the process of being an effective leader. While I would be the first to agree the two are not identical twins, I would argue they are at least in the same family tree! One of the key arguments they are not alike, I believe, stems from an outdated understanding of 21 st Century Salesmanship. For instance, in Daniel Pink’s latest book To Sell is Human , he makes multiple cases for the human element of sales...
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Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone for a Good Cause!

Being a successful and relevant leader in today’s business environment involves a comfort level with change. Being comfortable with change involves pushing the outer limits of your comfort zone. I had that opportunity recently when I was asked to participate in our local Community Career Center’s annual fundraiser. I recall using the Career Center multiple times in my own career transitions and always found them to be a valuable resource so it was tough to say no to an organization that had helped me in the past. But did I mention the fundraiser is a Dancing With The Stars-like event called Dancing With The Celebrities? And I was being asked to be one of the celebrity dancers! Talk about getting outside your comfort zone. It was a great experience thanks to a wonderful dance pro, Kelly at the local Author Murray Dance Studio. I will let you be the judge on...
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“I’m a much different Athlete…

…than I was two years ago!” These were the words of a world-class competitor just before competing in the most recent World Cross-Fit Games. Two years ago at the same games, he tore his quad halfway through the competition and had to withdraw. This year he stood on the podium winning the Bronze Medal in the 50-54 year age bracket! He would be the first to acknowledge that what changed in those two years was less about his physical abilities and more about his mental approach. A different attitude took him to the status of third best in the world! What does this tell us about being successful lifelong leaders? Plenty, and more than most of us realize! I would argue most people acknowledge the value of a positive mental attitude and mindset as a key element of success. This is especially true for those who have ever participated in activities...
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We Will Do That For You...

...followed by a Firm Handshake! One of my favorite artifacts in my office is a sculpture of a handshake, a Christmas gift from my three sons. They know the handshake holds high value to me as a symbol of the right kind of leader to be. It is not an accident it is part of the RPC Leadership Associates Inc. brand. While difficult to trace the exact origin of the handshake, we can easily trace its origins back as far as medieval times when knights and royalty would shake as a gesture to let the other know there were no weapons present. In other words, it was a sign of trust. It is trust, which we as a culture continue to struggle with today. We seldom go a day without seeing a headline or a story related to trust, typically a displayed lack of it. Headlines in business, politics or sports...
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There are 7 Days in the Week...

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“This accountability crap is for the birds...

However, without it I would never get anything done.” This was an actual quote from a client of mine earlier this year.  They were going through a dramatic change in their business and recognized the value of accountability, no matter how painful it might be.  It also reminded me how crucial it is for leaders to hold themselves, and those around them, accountable in order to achieve sustainable success. In their 2012 book, consultants John Blakely and Ian Day suggested accountability falls into three major categories.  Personal Accountability which focuses on one’s personal values, beliefs and attitudes that drive them toward action; Interpersonal Accountability which focuses on common goals, responsibility and shared work; and Organizational Accountability which focuses on standards, norms and measurements that apply to the entire organizational system.  Let’s explore each one a little deeper. Personal Accountability – accountability in general starts here!  What we believe, we think and...
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“The Chains of Habit are too weak to be felt…

…until they are too strong to be broken.” I have been thinking a lot about this quote from Warren Buffet as the topic of habits comes up frequently in my work as a business coach.  What do habits have to do with leadership?  Everything! Our habitual thinking about what leadership truly entails determines our eventual success in a 21 st Century business environment.  So let’s break down the quote into its two parts to see what we can learn about being a more effective leader. “The Chains of Habit are too weak to be felt…” We have often heard the road is “…paved with good intentions.”  How many times have we attended a leadership-training course, or any training course for that matter, that had little effect on our current behavior?  In the same vein, how often have we read a good business book that had little effect on our current behavior? ...
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A Millennial Mind - The Final Chapter

As a way to close out my internship, I want to dedicate this blog to what I have learned about leadership during my internship at RPC Leadership Associates. One of the first things I asked was if leadership would give an edge in an unforgiving business environment.  As I go into my last year at NIU, I realize how important it is to prepare for getting my first job.  Getting that first entry-level position in the business trenches is the last great challenge in a bachelors degree program.  After the first job, you will always have experience on your side when job hunting. So as I selfishly posture for a powered up resume and practice my 30-second elevator speech, I have to ask again, how does leadership help me get that first job? My answer?  Leadership is not just the way you lead, even though the root word may have everyone...
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