Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

I was thrilled and blessed to see Chris Isaak in concert last night at The Kent Stage, in Kent, Ohio, and have to say it was truly a highlight of my year. Not only does Chris, and his band Silvertone, put on one heck of an entertaining show, but they also demonstrate what it truly means to connect with others.

These guys travel a lot, and yet, they make a point of truly connecting with their audience whether they are in the BIG city (i.e. New York, Paris, San Francisco) or in a small town in the mid-west (i.e. Kent, Ohio!). Here are a few lessons in connecting that I was reminded of last night:

Connectors show appreciation for others. At the end of the opening song, Chris said, “Thank you for coming out tonight and supporting live music.” This resonated with me for a couple of reasons: 1) It was a snowy day, and the roads to Kent were not in fabulous condition. Having driven 3 hours to get there, we passed no fewer than 6 vehicles off the road (some in the ditch, some in the median, one Durango that looked as if it had rolled across several lanes, spilling its owner’s things thru the median and across the highway). Kent is a bit out of the way; it’s not far from Akron or Cleveland, but a bit off the beaten path. 2) We have so much access to music of all kinds at all hours of the day, fairly inexpensively. Attending a live concert these days is a bit of an investment — tickets, travel, maybe dinner out and a hotel for longer-distance travelers.

In addition, while the tour is titled “Chris Isaak,” it’s not all about Chris. He showcases each member of the band separately during different parts of the show, allowing each to shine with his instruments of choice. He also highlights, and pays tribute to those performers who inspired and mentored him…from Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison to Carl Perkins and Elvis.

Connectors create entertaining experiences for others. Chris and Silvertone put on a SHOW! For them, it’s not all about flash and special effects, unless you count the sequins or mirrored panels on the suits Chris wears when he’s entertaining! The Kent Stage has about 620 seats, old movie theater style, so there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and the band took full advantage of being able to interact with the audience. Chris and his guitarist, Hershel, were both out performing in the audience during a couple of different songs. They tell stories, they make fun of themselves, they do some fun moves together (imagine the stage shows of bands in the 50’s and 60’s), they even had one of those ridiculous dancing Santa’s on-stage — you know the ones, they move when they are activated by sounds around them. They encouraged us to get up and dance and they performed for a full two hours.

Connectors respond to the needs of others. As  I mentioned, they were out among the audience performing. They invited a few audience members on stage to dance with the bass player. They did a couple of songs based on requests yelled out by members of the audience. If you’ve been to a concert, you know they have a “stage set” or planned play-list that they work their way through. Yes, they had a stage set, and I’m sure they stuck to most of it, but they also improvised in response to the audience.

Finally, there is something so powerful about watching people perform in their passion zone. These guys have been playing together for 25-30 years, and it shows. They were having a lot of fun, and so were we. It was one of those experiences during which I was truly “in the moment” the whole time. If these guys are coming to a venue near you, I highly recommend seeing them, you won’t regret it!

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Now that you’ve defined your BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal — see yesterday’s post, if this doesn’t make sense to you), spend some time with someone you trust today and share it with them. Ask them for their input on it, and ask them to join you on your quest to go after it (taking the initiative!).

Make note of their thoughts and insights as you discuss it. Then set some time aside, with this person, in several weeks to review the progress you’ve made toward reaching your BHAG.

What are you learning through the process?

How might you have approached it differently?

What help, support, encouragement did you get?

What more did you need?

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A number of years ago, when more and more companies started getting more interested in and involved with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental Stewardship, I was working as the Communications Manager for a food processing company. Having been in that position for several years, I had the communication duties well in hand and running smoothly. Looking for some new challenge to take on, I took it upon myself to become the company’s expert in CSR.

To do that, I read all the relevant material, followed the relevant blogs, connected with the experts in the industry who were also studying the topic. I attended conferences and networked with others in the industry responsible for CSR within their respective organization.

The CEO I worked for was pleased that I had taken this initiative, as he recognized the need to do something and didn’t have anyone else assigned to this role. I enjoyed it; it was interesting, I learned a lot, met a lot of bright people working in this area, and was able to guide the company’s position on CSR. The result was the inclusion of a number of key CSR-related initiatives built into the company’s next strategic plan.

I don’t tell you this story as a way to pat myself on the back. I was looking for something new to focus on and the opportunity presented itself. The point is, there are likely a number of issues within any organization that need some attention, focus, and solutions. And, you could be the person to step up and take one or more of them on.

What issue is there in your organization, right now, that no one seems to be dealing with?

What possible solutions can you come up with to deal with it?

What actions can you take to begin the process of moving towards a solution?

What resources will you need?

How will the organization benefit from your taking the initiative in this area?

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For the first time, EVER, two of my mentors, John C. Maxwell and Les Brown, appear together in a FREE 3-part video series “Behind the Stage … The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.”

These two have over 40 years of professional speaking experience and they are ready to share it all with you…what it’s really like to be a professional speaker.

Consider it EDUTAINMENT in its highest form! You’ll learn about the speaking business, as well as laugh with them at some of the experiences they have had and share in this video series…If you’ve ever heard Les Brown laugh, you know this is going to be fun; and if you haven’t, you are in for a treat!

Did I mention the 3 videos are not only FUNNY but are FREE?

This launched yesterday, Wednesday, October 23rd.

Here’s the link…After you’ve watched it, tell me what you think!


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Let’s look externally today…Who do you know, in your business or industry, who consistently takes initiative and moves things forward?

Who is it?

What do they do?

What results are they getting?

What can you learn from observing them?

Make a point of letting them know you admire their performance in this area and ask them if you can learn from them. Ask why they do what they do, how they keep themselves moving forward, and how they view initiative.

Then, spend some time reflecting on what you learn and how you can implement something new that will allow you to improve in this area.

Let me know what you discover!

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What is Initiative?

The power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

It is the drive to make things happen, and it is yet another crucial ingredient in the recipe for creating a strong leader. When leaders have initiative, they make things happen, they create momentum, and they propel their teams/organizations forward, even in the face of resistance and obstacles. Without initiative, one would achieve nothing. Yes, it’s important to have dreams, vision, strategies, action plans…yet, without taking the initiative, nothing would happen.

I find this to be a fairly common stumbling block with some of my coaching and mentoring clients. They know they are stuck. They recognize the need for change. Sometimes, they even know what they need to change…but often feel helpless or unmotivated to take action. The key is to have clarity around the “why” so you then can find your “way” and take intentional action.

Consider the story of Margo, a director in a high-tech company who was feeling somewhat discontent in her work and aware that it would be time for her to make some kind of move to a different position soon, as that was the culture within her company. We worked together for several months and over the course of that time, Margo chose to focus on several areas: improving communication with her team, improving communication with her manager, and understanding what next step she needed to take — within or outside the company — that would allow her to function in her strength zones, continue to grow as a leader, and express herself creatively.

Throughout the course of our engagement, I functioned sometimes as a coach, sometimes as a mentor, and sometimes simply as a sounding board. Margo defined the areas of focus, identified the challenges and obstacles, discovered her own answers, and took action to make the changes she needed to make to move herself and her team forward. She took the initiative and she was consistent in implementing the new practices that would allow her to move forward.

Today, she has a new sense of purpose, greater clarity around her role and future plans with her company, and has discovered a creative outlet that allows her to continue on her path of self-discovery and personal expression.

It’s a process; getting to that point took a few months. Growing into her potential will be a life-long journey, but the point here is that she recognized some needs and took the initiative to learn, think, grow, and move herself — and as a result, her team and organization — forward on a new path.

This month we will focus on initiative and how it plays out in our lives as leaders. It’s one thing to have an idea, it’s an entirely different thing to make it a reality. Without initiative, nothing would happen.

So, before we get started on this month’s study and exercises, I encourage you to spend some time pondering these questions:

Do I proactively take the initiative to get things started, or do I wait until circumstances force me to do something?

If I wait for external forces to move me forward, what is the basis of my hesitation: Fear, lack of knowledge, laziness…?

How have I overcome fear, lack of knowledge, laziness, etc…in the past to enable myself to move forward?

How have I gained momentum by harnessing the power of taking initiative?

Who do I know who frequently, proactively takes initiative to get things moving and what can I learn from them?

I look forward to exploring this month’s topic with you, and hope you will share your thoughts, insights, and feedback as we continue on our Intentional Leadership journey.

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Now that you have identified the others you will need to involve to move forward with your strategy, and have some time scheduled to meet with them to get started, take some time to consider these questions:

What strengths does each person bring to the table?

Why are they important?

What can you do to encourage and support them in functioning at high levels as you move toward this opportunity?

After you’ve given this some thought, make a point of spending a few minutes with each of these people today and let them know how much you appreciate their strengths and talents, and how valuable they are to the organization and the success of this upcoming effort. Let them know you are looking forward to working with them and that you will do everything in your power to help them — and the overall effort — be a success.

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