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Why Connection Matters

Why Connection Matters

A couple weeks ago I wrote about connecting. In our current socio/political climate, connecting with almost anyone can seem challenging, or at times risky. But I think it’s important to remember that we don’t have to connect with every voice — we don’t even have to connect with the loudest voice — we have choice. And we can chose to connect with those in front of us. Our neighbors, coworkers, friends, family: these are the people we love and who love us. If we can engage there, and listen more than we talk, we can share a new experience. Then, because of their starting point, they will be able to turn and reach someone who is closer to them — but further from us — and have the same positive impact. It’s a domino effect: we can’t do everything, but we can do one thing. But even more importantly? The impact is the same on us.   When we engage and listen, we’re in turn affected by those same neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family. If we have the courage to truly engage, we too will evolve, we will learn, we will shift, and we will connect with others in new and different ways because of it. It goes both ways. And that’s what leadership does. It brings opposition together and finds solutions that serve everyone, that respect everyone, that honor everyone. And, even more importantly, it recognizes that acceptance and connection don’t depend upon agreement. The goal isn’t total agreement with everyone, on the same page, thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same emotions — no. We can lead and follow people we...
When Confrontation ISN’T Confrontation

When Confrontation ISN’T Confrontation

“I don’t like confrontation.”  That is a phrase I hear remarkably often.   The perception there is that to be a great leader, you have to like — or at least welcome — confrontation. But confrontation is hard. It’s vulnerable and scary and for too many of us we feel unarmed, no matter how well equipped and/or prepared we might be about the facts of the confrontation. You know that old joke: when is a door not a door? * Well, what if we asked that same of confrontation? Question: When is a confrontation not a confrontation? Answer: When it’s a conversation! (I know, it’s not much of a joke, but it’s true). For so many of my clients around the issue of confrontation, there is a simple shift of perception that can change the game completely. Start here:  What is a confrontation? An argumentative clash, a conflict, an encounter… between what? That’s right — people.  The first breakdown exists when we lose sight of the fact that we are talking to a person and instead see them as an opponent, an enemy, a label. Consider this: Think about the “confrontations”/challenges we have with our children, even when we want to change their behavior or teach them something important. We see it less as a confrontation — and more as an opportunity to help them. Why? Because they’re a child. We don’t read any ill-intention into their actions. They’re just people learning how to grow up. Change this: When we have confrontations with adults, however, we read into every meaning, tone, intention, and body movement. We listen with bias and baggage, we think ahead of their words, not listening to their meaning but strategizing our response. With a child the conversation would be a happy one,...
Finding Connection: Two Easy Steps

Finding Connection: Two Easy Steps

20 years ago Linda Ellis penned a beautiful poem called The Dash which reminds us that though our tombstones mark the dates of our birth and death, those dates tell nothing of who we were. It is the dash in between that represents our life. How, she asks in the end, do you spend your dash? In a recent presentation about the 3-dimensional aspects of leadership, I was asked, “in polarized environments, how do we lead those that disagree with us, those on the opposite side of the fence, be that political, in our companies, or even at the family dinner table?” In that moment I thought of The Dash. It felt to me that the extremes of opinion too often represent the dates on our tombstone — the end points — but not the real meaning of life that lands in the middle. The dash. It is in that place, that place in between, where we actually live our lives. The place leadership has a chance of connecting with people where and how they live, so that it can make a difference. I know we’re conditioned to think that leadership is fast, that great leaders can change the hearts and minds of those at the extreme opposites of our viewpoint with a magic word or the power of their position. But we can’t. It takes time, and though there are many parts to the process, there are two core components too often ignored:  Engagement and Silence. Begin by choosing to engage, by choosing to connect, by choosing to honor the people that disagree with you, seeking first to understand them in the very manner you wish for them to understand...
Is It Leadership – Or Just Power?

Is It Leadership – Or Just Power?

As 2017 takes shape, I am finding myself recalibrating this masterpiece-in-progress I call my work & the impact I want to have on the world. It’s time to step up and call out our inner leader in meaningful ways. That is, after all, the heart of my work: to change the face of leadership to yours, to facilitate the courage in us “ordinary people” to see that we are indeed leaders. We are powerful creatures, you and I, and that can scare the bejeezus out of us because we are too often conditioned to believe otherwise. But let us not confuse our powerfulness with leadership. It’s easy to get seduced, to think that leadership is all about power and control and “making” people do what you want. It’s not. If leadership is about power at all, it isn’t about power over others, it’s about power over one’s self. Leadership isn’t power, power is power! And just because someone has power does not mean they’re a leader. All it means is they’re powerful. If you hold a gun to my head and threaten to kill me or my family, you can get me to do pretty much anything. That’s power in the sense that you can “make me do something” — but it certainly isn’t leadership. There’s no invitation, inspiration, connection, long term loyalty or commitment to you, the “leader.” It’s fear-based manipulation I engage with for survival and will run from the first chance I get.  Similarly, just because I have position & authority, that doesn’t make what I say right — especially when I am, in factuality, quite wrong! God knows my family can attest to how many times I am wrong, no matter how authoritatively or intimidatingly I say it. Leadership isn’t...
2×381: The Formula For Leadership

2×381: The Formula For Leadership

Published for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in my newsletter. Sign up here! Four days before the Montgomery Bus Boycott began on December 5, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat on a public bus. She wasn’t the first to take such a stand. And she wasn’t, as many have come to believe, sitting in the front “white” section of the bus when it occurred. In fact, she was sitting in the front row of the black section. But when the white portion of the bus filled, an entire black row was asked to move and make room for a single, additional white rider. The distance she was asked to move was one row back, roughly two feet — arguably the most powerful distance never travelled. Two feet that moved a nation by sitting still. A stance that changed history. The night before the boycott was to begin, MLK Jr. and his wife Coretta questioned if it was the right thing to do — whether it would make a difference. Little did they know that night just how big a difference it would make, how long the journey would take or the effect it would have on a community to rise up and create positive, non-violent and powerful change. In the end, it took 381 days. People walked instead of riding the bus, some taxi drivers offered rides to blacks for the same ten cents it would have cost for bus fare, and others in the community formed carpools and shuttle schedules to accommodate the needs.  It was a brilliant example of leadership, of speaking truth to power and of standing up against...
Beware The Lure of Pragmatism

Beware The Lure of Pragmatism

Pragmatism – i.e. practicality.  A traditional, and often desirable, trait of leaders. Unfortunately, it reminds me of that Dudley Moore line in the 1990 movie “Crazy People,” when, as an advertising exec, he wrote: “Volvo’s: they’re boxy but they’re safe.” Practical? Yes. Effective? Meh. Much of the advice from the gurus this time of year could fall into this pragmatic category as they encourage a conscious, deliberate, pragmatic approach to the new year, one filled with concise plans, clear goals and the restraint to bite off no more than one can chew in the months ahead. Sage advice, I suppose. Making plans, after all, needs a lot of practical know-how and discipline, and leaders who can do so well are often commended. Such a leader defines a clear and well articulated vision and decides how to get there. They take action. But when that vision and that plan is built upon pure pragmatism, i.e., only what is practical, well…then they cease to be leaders. They are doers, for sure, but leaders?  Such “leaders” make the mistake of thinking that clarity of vision, no matter how safe or restrained, is all they need to truly be a good leader. But that approach alone misses a key element of truly great leadership, and honestly? If you live only in that pragmatic world you’ll ultimately fail.  Leadership is bigger, more 3-Dimensional than that. As you face the start of 2017 with all the challenges built in from the start, real leadership isn’t calling for you to envision the practical; it’s begging for you to see what others have deemed impossible. In the immortal and beautiful words of Robert F. Kennedy: “There are those...
Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017!  How does it feel so far? Here’s your first challenge of the year. Over the next 12 months you are either going to let things happen, or make things happen.  Which will it be? I’ll give you a minute to decide. …(Theme from Jeopardy plays in the background) Alrighty then! You’ve decided? Excellent! Assuming you chose to make things happen, here’s step two: Look in the mirror, stare yourself in the eye and say out loud to yourself that you have  decided to spend this year making things happen. And repeat it until you can do so without laughing and feeling silly, because you’re likely going to feel pretty stupid. Say it ’til you mean it. Say it until you can actually hear the words speaking to your soul. Say it until it’s no longer just a task, but a mantra, one that you own, one that empowers you, one that you actually mean and believe. Some of you are going to be like me, and it is going to take a while because the little gremlin voice in the back of your head will be shouting at you the whole time, telling you you’re full of crap (you’re not), that WAY too much is out of your control (it isn’t), that if you were capable of “making things happen” you wouldn’t be in this situation of your life (that’s bull – – – -) , or maybe that you’re weak (ha! You are strong beyond measure!). That voice isn’t you. Don’t own it. Instead, laugh at it. Tell it he’s wrong. Then, write down every single thing that voice screams at you.  Every last...
In Between The Holidays

In Between The Holidays

[Originally shared in my email newsletter on December 27th – sign up here!] Can you feel it? It’s approaching. That magical moment between the past and the future. That split second when it’s neither 2016 and all that has been, and 2017 and all that can be. There’s something special about the time between Christmas and New Year’s. Like a state of suspension. In a way it can seem like the slowest week of the year.  For many of us, it’s time off. The stress of the holidays is behind us, and what lies ahead is the endless potential of a new year, A new chance — A new opportunity — to be the person I always intended to be.   It feels like the last restful breath of the year.  Let me ask you, have you had a chance to hear that still, small voice I wrote about last week? Take a listen, and in these fleeting moments that remain of 2016, take a moment to rest, to dream for the future, to connect with others and to listen for the miracle that is you. See you in...
The Magic Isn’t Where You Think

The Magic Isn’t Where You Think

Shhh… Listen. Can you hear it? Get Quiet. Be still. Listen.   Turn off the music for a minute. Can you hear it now? Close your eyes. Rest your body. THERE! There it is!! Did you hear that?! Shhh… Don’t hold your breath… Breathe gently. Let it it find the rhythm of your breath and ride those waves into your conscience… THERE! Did you hear it now? That still small voice? That purity of thought? That brilliant spark of an idea set deep inside of you, waiting to be heard, longing to be seen? This is a time of year wrapped up in so many things: good, bad, happy, sad, joyful, mournful, loving, scary. It’s a time for miracles and a time, for some, when miracles have proven a fantasy. Whatever this season holds for you, I encourage you to take a moment to get still. To look deeper. To listen closer. To feel more courageously as the real miracle of the season occurs. The real miracle is you. It’s your heart and your love and your compassion and your wisdom. Deep inside of you lives a truth desperately seeking to be heard. Listen. Can you hear it? Our deepest fear, as Marianne Williamson taught us, is not that we are inadequate, but rather that we are powerful beyond measure.  Deep below the distractions of the season, the lights, the sales, the money, the decorations, the family obligations, the services, the tree…lives a deeper magic: You.  Do you have the courage to listen? This season calls us, at the darkest time of the year, to find the light, to share the love, to bring the warmth that ignites the soul. The...
The Missing Link To Great Leadership

The Missing Link To Great Leadership

Good leaders have a clear vision for where they are going. True. Really good leaders have a clear vision for where they are going and a solid plan for how to get there. Also true. But great leaders? Great leaders have something else. Something good leaders, even really good leaders, too often feel is unnecessary, or too “touchy-feely.” That something is A Story. Let’s be honest, your plan & vision don’t matter if you can’t lead others into where you are going! What makes great leaders truly great, therefore, is the story. Think about it this way: people will do tasks assigned to them because that’s how they get a paycheck. If that’s all you seek from those you lead, don’t waste your time cultivating a story, because you’ll never be able to sell it and no one will care.You’ll get lackluster performance and virtually no loyalty. However, leadership isn’t about tasks, is it? Leadership is about people. Remember: we manage tasks, but we lead people. Managers who fail to lead rarely inspire loyalty, rarely get people to achieve above and beyond their expectations, rarely engage in emotional connection that creates a cohesive team that supports and inspires each other to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders, however, do just that. And they do it through the story. Too often leaders are so eager to explain the “how,” when what really gets people engaged is the why, the reason behind what you’re doing. Why are we going down this path and not that one? Why are we focusing our efforts on this product line? What makes you right when the...

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