Know Their Story

I believe that in order to truly “get” your client you have take the time to listen to…and hear…their story. Their history is an important part of their future and many times they can’t take steps forward without having their story acknowledged. It’s a way to help them move into possibility.

So listen. Just listen.

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The Power of Building Trust

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times: there’s no better way to alleviate conflict, grow your team and foster a culture where everyone feels valued and heard than BUILDING TRUST. But building trust ain’t so easy is it?! It takes people on your team being willing to take a risk…be vulnerable….open their “house” to others. It is a courageous act. I had the gift of watching a misaligned executive leadership team take huge risks, stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones, and begin to see one another very differently…by lunchtime today they’d pushed their lunch tables together…so as to not leave anyone out. I could’ve cried to simply see that…something they didn’t even realize they’d done.

What inside of us opens up to allow new things in? My theory is that you can’t let new stuff in without letting old stuff GO. We have to let go of the little things, assume positive intent on behalf of others, and take risks in order to grow ourselves as leaders.

And when you take that risk, make that leap, and leave behind the “yuck”…man, it CHANGES EVERYTHING.

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Speaking So Others Will LISTEN

I’m always trying to learn how to engage people in new ways.  I’m a firm believer in PRESENCE, in that if you have presence, people will listen to what you say.  But there’s also a few tricks that I’ve learned along the way.  Here are a few to share: 

1.  To capture someone’s attention, start the sentence with the person’s name.  When they hear you say their name, it makes people feel special and often compels them to listen to what comes next.

2.  When you’re on the phone with someone, SMILE when you’re talking.  It makes your voice come across as friendlier and it makes people want to listen to you.  I tell my mentees to always have a mirror on their desk so they can ensure they SEE themselves smiling when talking on the phone.

3.  Stop saying the word “BUT…” It often negates everything that was said before it and is generally a big turnoff.  Replace it with “And…”

4.  Stop saying the word “SHOULD”  It makes people feel as if they’re being lectured to, and it might just make them ignore what you’re saying entirely.  Replace it with “How about if we…”

5.  Own your voice.  When you’re upset, hurt or angry, always begin by saying “I feel…” or “I think…”  It takes the harshness out of your anger.  If you start there, you will almost guaranteed have a better outcome.

6.  Make eye contact immediately…people have super short attention spans!  Eye contact says “I’m listening to you” without being so overt.  And it makes you pay attention more too.

7. Truly LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN and don’t just “build your response” while the other person is speaking.  Often when others speak we are just waiting for a break for us to jump in and share OUR experience of that same thing.  Instead (and I learned this in Singapore), PAUSE for 10 seconds after the person is done speaking, THEN make your comment.  NOTE:  this is totally and amazingly hard to do.  Just keep practicing!

When we take the time to listen to others and speak in ways that show that we care, it allows others to engage with us in more meaningful ways, and strengthens our relationships.  And when people feel heard, they feel safe enough to share their own ideas and thinking back…and that’s when we get the best of our people.

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Being Born Without a Filter

I was born and raised in New York (or “NewYawk” as my family would pronounce it).  There are a lot of amazing benefits to being raised as a New Yorker: grittiness, perseverence, character, the ability to talk loudly and command space, and a very high pain tolerance. Plus an uncanny ability to not be able to enjoy any food not made in New York…fyi it just doesn’t taste the same.  But the one characteristic I’ve always loved about New Yorkers is their lack of a filter when speaking. It’s TRANSPARENCY at its finest….ahem…or sometimes its WORST frankly.

I think one of the reasons I love to blog is because it’s a place for me to house all the millions of business ideas and concepts rolling around in my head. I am in perpetual learning mode and I need to share it! It’s unbelievably annoying.  However, it also gives me an uncensored forum to express ideas.  My own personal lack of a filter serves me well as a consultant.  I don’t waste time with formalities and properness and instead choose to say what needs to be said to move a group forward.


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Authenticity as a Hiring Criteria

What if we made AUTHENTICITY a hiring criteria within our organizations? As a consultant working with culture change and engagement inside organizations I often find that we come back to the basics:  we want…and EXPECT…that the people we work with will be honest, transparent, and worthy of our trust. That they will be  authentic with us.  When people aren’t “real” with us we feel cheated, let down, and we don’t fully engage with those individuals.  And in employee engagement surveys people overwhelmingly say they want more authentic leadership.  So why don’t we start by ensuring that any new leaders we bring into our organization represent the best of authenticity?  It seems to me that it’s always better to START with trust…and assume positive intent on behalf of people, and create a shared definition of what “being authentic” truly looks like behaviorally.

Begin with authenticity and value that characteristic as much as you would a subject matter expert’s knowledge, as much as a highly-valued skill or expertise, and as much as a high sales producer.  See what happens inside your organization.  Heck, tie in bonuses for leaders to employee engagement levels.  I bet it changes everything.


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Building “Ohana”

Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to bring a team of 5 amazing graphic recorders to Hawaii for a large conference with one of my favorite clients.  There is a phrase the natives use to describe family … ‘Ohana.  One of the stories we experienced was about how when the Polynesians needed to cross the ocean on long journeys they used canoes. The canoe crew needed to paddle in a rhythmic formation to reach their shared destination.  When each paddler focused and was aligned with the rest if the team, they got to their destination much quicker…and safer.

How do we build ‘Ohana within our organizations?  We need good people, good leadership and a persistence to keep going. We must focus on the issues and problems that impact the whole. Then  we simply need to LET PEOPLE OWN THEIR WORK.

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Intentional Leadership is…

I was reading an old issue of Fast Company magazine the other day and came across the phrase “intentional leadership.” I thought to myself whoopie ANOTHER term to use to describe leadership to confuse people even more!  So I started thinking about the leaders I work with that I would define as intentional leaders, if I self-defined it as leaders who are consistently and purposefully changing their behaviors to be more transparent, more visible, and more aware of what is truly going on within their organizations, within their market, within their industry, with their people and their customers. THAT’S A BOATLOAD OF INTENTION.  I also frankly think there’s a difference between intent and actual DOING too, btw.  The leaders I knew and had worked with like that really GOT it. They knew instinctively that the most important part of their job was to be OUT of their office.  Like jetBlue CEO Dave Barger, who,during the afternoon of a long but exciting executive team meeting, ordered milk and cookies from the hotel staff and walked around the room with a tray handing them out himself. Or former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company Roberto Goizueta, who I watched walk into the back kitchen of an offsite retreat’s facility because he wanted to see for himself that the storage temperature for the Coca-Cola beverages was optimal.  When I asked him why he checked he smiled and said “If I don’t care, why should anyone else?”

That’s intentional leadership at it’s best. And as I always say…leaders MUST CARE.


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Building Trust to Enable Change

How important is trust in the process of change?  I believe that nothing happens without it. People need to TRUST in order for them be open to new possibilities.  I witness this happen all the time with my clients…and it’s simply amazing.  It’s the coach’s job to allow people the space to feel heard, honored for their contributions, and valued. When they experience trust they can see something different in themselves…perhaps something they’ve never glimpsed before. Then you just step aside and watch them stand taller, speak louder…and FLY.

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Magazine Feature Article

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