Monday, April 28, 2014

Conversationally Speaking

Despite technologies making us more available and providing us with the means to connect with others around the globe, actual conversations are our greatest tool for forming true connections with others.  If our conversations serve as a means of connecting us with others, then it stands to reason that the type and nature of the conversation drives the nature of the connection.

However, creating powerful and positive connections require more than merely talking at someone else.  It requires true engagement.  Our words can impact others, sometimes in unexpected ways.  Words can trigger emotional responses that are based on the individual's past history and baggage.  Each experience lays an additional layer onto existing perspectives, becoming more embedded in the psyche.

In looking to connect with others through our conversations, it is important to establish a foundation of trust. Scientists have determined that there are powerful conversational rituals that serve to 'prime' the brain to establish trust, to enter into partnerships with others.  Specific neuro-chemicals get released into the brain that signal the trust/distrust response, the brain picking up those messages in roughly .07 seconds.

In her book 'Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & get Extraordinary Results', Judith Glaser defines Conversational Intelligence as the intelligence that is hardwired into every human, allowing us to navigate and connect successfully with others.  She outline 3 levels of conversations, each with its own purpose and result.

  1. Transactional - Informs.  This is the common Tell/Ask format, where we are usually looking for give and take.
  2. Positional - Persuades.  This is more the Advocate/Inquire format, where we are generally looking to establish win/win collaborative results.
  3. Transformational - Co-Creates.  This involves more of a process of mutual exchange, where we share our expertise, looking to partner with each other.
In general, in attempting to ensure we build trust during our conversations, we must focus on 
  • Truly listen to the other party, without judgment (this is the same principle as Stephen Covey so aptly named in his 7 Habits... Seek first to understand)
  • Ask questions to further your understanding, not as a means to get someone where you want them to go. Leading others through your questions leaves others feeling manipulated.
  • Watch for signals/cues from others indicating their response.  if you aren't getting the desired reaction then reframe and redirect your approach, don't push.
Technology may be great at keeping people informed, but it takes actual conversations with others to establish and build the trust needed to feel truly connected.  Use the tips above to help you strengthen your Conversational Intelligence and begin forging stronger connections and networks.  

If you are interested in reading more about the concept of Conversational Intelligence, then you might want to pick up Judith Glaser's book below.  It's worth the read!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Value of Traditions

As I write this blog it is Easter Monday.  My family have come and gone, the feasting is long over. However, the gathering together of the family started me thinking about the value and meaning of the traditions we hold. There are rituals that families follow that help imbue to that family its roots and values.  Traditions may have religious significance or be more familial in focus, but they tend to mark the important events within the growth of a family.

My maternal grandparents were Ukrainian.  This meant that holidays were punctuated with specific foods and traditions that had, at their foundation, the Ukrainian culture.  For Easter, the hand painted Pysanky eggs were a traditional decoration on the table and were an art form I turned my hand to a number of times over the years (not with any significant degree of talent or success however).  This year, my young grandsons arrived for Easter dinner with a wooden version of these beautiful eggs, beginning their introduction and connection to a history and past that they have yet to understand but that is starting to take shape none the less.  Our traditions serve to pass something of meaning and value to our future generations.

Organizations too develop their own unique traditions and rituals, serving to establish their culture.  It is through these small moments that the values of the organization are communicated, that the roots take shape. It is in our moments of celebration that we define what is important to us, it is in our mourning that we give voice to what we value.  These moments shape a religion, they shape a family and they shape an organization.

I invite you to give thought to what messages you are passing on to your children with the traditions you have created and observe, the messages that will carry on to your grandchildren and their children in turn.  Are they messages of love, of peace, of understanding?  Are they values that will help them to shape positive lives, families and communities?

I invite you to give thought to what messages you are passing on to your employees with the traditions you have created and observe, the messages that will carry on to their employees and those below them.  Are they messages of love, of peace, of understanding?  Are they values that will help them to shape positive lives, families and communities?

I look at the bowl of Pysanky, gracing the center of my Easter table, and I think of the history they represent, of family I have loved and lost, of the generations of family that have come before me that have had a hand in crafted the 'me' that I am and the young men my grandsons are becoming.  I am thankful that these traditions and rituals have, at their foundation, a history rich in strength, a positive work ethic, and a willingness and drive to succeed that served my ancestors well in the past, as they serve me today, and that will continue through my grandchildren.

What are the traditions you are creating within your organization today and how will they stand the test of time?  We often get caught up in what is expedient without considering how it will test out over time.  Know that each action and step you take today is laying the foundation for what is to follow.  Take a moment today to think about the legacy that your work is creating and determine whether it is one of design.  It is never too late to begin creating the rituals that will establish the traditions of the future.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Spring Challenge!

Yesterday finally felt like spring to me.  The weather was warm and breezy, you could smell the BBQ's being
fired up and I started checking out my vegetable garden patch, planning what to plant this year.  My thoughts naturally began to turn to images of the summer months to come and... wait for it... bathing suit weather at the cottage.  I am NOT ready.  But... I'm going to be!

I need a challenge.  Sometimes my challenges come in the form of work. New projects, new clients, new initiatives.  However, sometimes my challenges come from activities outside of work.  I like the balance and I like the control that this gives me.  Ensuring that I am constantly being challenged - by something - keeps m on my toes in everything that I do.  It keeps me fresh, keeps me energized and keeps me focused.  I'm ready for a new one, and I invite you to join in!

Your challenge could be anything.  It could be something physical, it could be something you've been meaning to do but keep putting off, it could be a learning objective, or it could be something you are looking to push yourself with at work.  It could be big, it could be small, but I think that the spring is a great time to challenge ourselves with something... Extra!  Something that we have thought about but perhaps hesitated to get started with because we Can't..., or Shouldn't..., or Don't... We are dropping the excuses and 'reasons' NOT to do it and instead simply saying WHY NOT?

My challenge... is physical.  I have a million reasons why I haven't been working out as much but... two very good reasons why I need to.  First, I have a bad hip.  Degenerative arthritis means that if I don't keep moving and working my hip out, then it gets stiff, painful and my range of movement is significantly limited.  TaeKwondo has proven to be a great way to keep myself limber and moving.  Second, I have been putting off 'grading' for my next belt level in TaeKwondo for a year, never feeling that I was ready.

Here's my challenge then... to get into good-enough shape to successfully grade for my next TaeKwondo belt the end of June. June of this year.  No excuses.

What's your challenge?  What's something you have wanted to do or try but have been putting off?  No excuses.  Let's begin together.

  • I need to learn my patterns (I haven't been fully committed so I keep forgetting them.  No more!)
  • I need to lose weight to take the pressure off my hip for the jumps (trust me, my hip does not like my leaving the ground but I have jumps and 180 degree rotations with an elevated leg in my patterns. Less weight equals less stress so the 'extra' needs to go)
  • I need to develop my upper body strength to get ready for my 100 pushups (lord I hate pushups, but it's part of the grading process so... it is now part of mine)
  • I need to brush up on my Korean terminology (yep, there is theory to study!)
What do you need to do?  How are you going to make it happen?  Determine your steps but don't get caught up in the planning, let's get caught up in the Doing!  If you're willing to share, then post your Challenge below.  I'll update you every so often on how my Challenge is coming along, I'd love to hear from you. Nothing like a little public accountability! 

 May the Challenges... begin!

Monday, April 7, 2014

10 Steps to Building a Better Brand

Whether you work for yourself or work for someone else, you need to consider what your Brand is.  You
need to think about what others experience when they interact with you.  These experiences build your branded message, whether good or bad.  Generally speaking, we want others to think of us favourably.  We want their experience of us to be positive and memorable, such that they will refer opportunities to us.

In building this brand then we must not only think about 'what' we want others to experience when they interact us, but we need to consider 'what' actions we need to take to make that happen.  What are the behaviours we need to engage in that will create the desired impression?  Once we have identified them, we then need to be prepared to replicate them.  Therefore, these need to be behaviours that become our habits, that we do repeatedly.  It is through the consistency of our actions that others will come to trust in us and what we represent.

The following are 10 behaviours that I believe are critical to any branded message.  Are they part of yours?

  1. Dress appropriately.  Your role may not require a suit but we're talking about the details here.  Are your clothes clean and presentable?  Does what you are wearing show that you care about who you are and are proud of what you do?  This is just as true if you are CEO of your own firm or are in the mailroom.  Dressing with care shows others that you respect your value, instilling in them the belief that they should too.
  2. Smile.  Often.  Show others some warmth and engagement.  It is astounding how much this matters and how little we do it.  We get focused on the projects, the deadlines, the files on our desk and get caught up in the overwhelm, forgetting to step away (even in brief moments) and connect with those around us.  A small smile, freely given, has more impact than you know.  It shows that you came out of the bubble revolving around 'you' enough to see and be present for 'them'.  Building your brand is not about you, it's about others' experience of you.  
  3. Be on time.  Yes, we know you're busy but so are we.  Being repeatedly late is selfish and self-focused.  It is disrespectful of the value of other's time and will do much to undermine your credibility.
  4. Listen.  Don't just wait your turn to speak, truly listen to what others are sharing.  If you want people to value your input and listen to what you share then start by demonstrating the same to them.  Give what you want to receive.
  5. Show Respect.  Demonstrate your respect for others, who they are, what they do, what they bring to the table.  The easiest way to gain respect is to show respect.  Respect shows up in the little things that you do.  Too many people pay lip service to this thinking that simply 'telling' someone that you 'respect' their opinion takes care of it.  However, saying you respect them and demonstrating your respect for them are two completely different things.  What you say will not be believed if what you do is not delivering the same message.  Showing your respect is infinitely more powerful and memorable. 
  6. Compliment Others.  Recognise and reinforce the good things that others do around you.  Giving them an extra boost for the good they have already done brings even more value to the action.  People always feel more positively about those that make them feel good about themselves.  No one ever gets enough of this.  But... it must be sincere.  Handing out compliments that you don't feel will not be received favourably.  Keep them simple, honest and immediate.  
  7. Keep your promises.  You want a brand that others can trust and put faith in, which means that you need to uphold your promises.  You need to be good to your word.  If you aren't sure that you can deliver something, within the budget, within the time frame, then state it upfront. Don't tell people what they want to hear, tell they what you can deliver.  Promising someone something makes them feel good in the short-term but it's the long-term experience you are after.   Failing to deliver on a promise you made is not going to build the positive brand that you're after.  Under-promising and over-delivering will always serve you well.
  8. Be Kind.  Small acts of kindness show an awareness and interest in others around you.  Holding the door open for the person coming behind you, offering to carry a few packages for someone who is struggling, giving someone the nickel they are short for their coffee, offering to help instead of agreeing to help.  All are small acts of kindness that take you outside of 'it's all about me' bubble, demonstrating to others that you care.  
  9. Admit your Mistakes.  We all make them.  However, we lose much when we attempt to hide or deflect them.  Own up to your mistake, apologise for it, do what you can to fix it, move on.  
  10. Say Please and Thank you.  Your mom was right about these ones.  Two of the most under-used and yet most powerful words in our vocabulary.  In a world where basic politeness seems to be going out the window, showing common courtesy and manners will serve you well. Please remember yours.
If you want to Build a Better Brand, start with these 10 fundamental elements.  Use these as your foundation and build from there.