8 Focal Points for Deeper Listening

listening, communicationEarly in your career, your idea of being a good communicator might have been making cogent arguments and clearly expressing yourself verbally and in writing. This would prove your capability.

But those things, while very important, are not the keys to becoming really great at communication.

With experience and more confidence in yourself, you gradually discover that communication is less about how you express yourself and more about how deeply you listen to others. Listening allows you to focus on what is important to others. In turn, you can then tailor your communication to them to find common ground or to respond appropriately.

Listening requires that you move beyond merely hearing the words expressed by others. Instead it requires that you tune into communication aspects other than words. Like the insight tied to your “3rd Eye”, it’s as if your physical ears are tuned to the words used and your “3rd ear” is tuned to a deeper level.

Use your “3rd ear” to listen for one or all of the following to deepen your listening:

Commitments, Aspirations, Point Of View, Interests

What is important to this person that they would put whatever it took into accomplishing, preserving, exemplifying, etc.? What’s their vantage point?

Emotions, Fear or Disappointments

Based on tone of voice, word choice, and facial expressions, what is the overriding feeling this person is experiencing and what does that tell you? What might they regret or want to avoid?

Values or Priorities

For which principle(s) are they taking a stand? What’s important to them?

Analogies

Are they using similes, metaphors, or other comparisons? How can these analogies apply to the way forward?

The Crux of the Matter

What is at the heart of their message that they might not have put into words?

Impacts

How did you or someone else impact them? Did it help or hinder them in their pursuit?

How to Help or Serve

Underneath it all, are they asking for or do they want/need something from you?

Simply Hold Space

Sometimes, others just need a witness as they wrestle with a conundrum or to clarify their own thinking. You don’t really need to DO anything. Your presence alone is enough.

Next time, you’re listening to someone, practice zeroing in on one of these areas. What do you hear? How does it add to their words and your understanding?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leaders they are meant to be while maximizing the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Do You “Run Toward the Roar”?

roar, face fearsWhen was the last time you got out of your “comfort zone”? Here’s a story, from storyteller Michael Meade, about the fact that seeking safety might be costing you something:

On the ancient savannas life pours forth in the form of teeming, feeding herds. Nearby, lions wait in anticipation of the hunt. They send the oldest and weakest member of the pride away from the hunting pack.

Having lost most of its teeth, ITS ROAR IS FAR GREATER THAN ITS ABILITY TO BITE.
The old one goes off and settles in the grass across from where the hungry lions wait.

As the herds enter the area between the hunting pack and the old lion, the old lion begins to roar mightily. Upon hearing the fearful roar most of the herd turn and flee from the source of the fear.

They run wildly in the opposite direction. Of course, they run right to where the strongest lions of the group wait in the tall grass for dinner to arrive.

“RUN TOWARDS THE ROAR,” the old people used to tell the young ones.

When faced with great danger run towards the roaring, for there you will find some safety and a way through.

Sometimes the greatest safety comes from going to where the fear seems to originate. Amidst the roaring of the threatened and troubled world, surprising ways to begin it all again may wait to be found.

Michael Meade, Excerpted from his book, The World Behind the World

What you can take away from this story:

1. Running towards what appears “safe” can be deceiving and lead to its own kind of trouble.
2. Run towards what scares you.

Look for those situations and circumstances that scare the crap out of you. You will never know your true talents and gifts if you don’t face what you fear to test yourself.

3. Things almost always seem worse in your head than they turn out to be.

Once you identify those fears, move beyond your comfort zone to face them. What you originally feared could end up being an elderly, toothless lion that can’t hurt you and is only a distraction.

4. By facing your fears, you find out what you can truly do and what’s possible.

And with each successive time you venture out toward a “scary” adventure, you’ll find that you are safe and capable. At the worst, you might fail but you’ll find out where you stand and what you have to learn. Then, at least you can figure out a way through to what you want.

And in all likelihood, you’ll live to venture out another day.

Which current “roar” are you avoiding? How might you test it to see if it really has teeth?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leaders they are meant to be while maximizing the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

What Psyche Can Teach You About Being Authentic

vision, authentic, perspectiveIs it difficult for you to find the right balance between being task-focused and relationship-focused? Is it simply challenging to figure out how “nice” you need to be at work? Do you ever wonder what it really means to be a good team player?

If you’ve never had these dilemmas, you’re lucky. Read no further.

For the rest of you, making sense of the mixed messages you receive as a woman in the workplace can be distracting and down right maddening. Mixed feedback about how you’re supposed to act can make you hesitate and even hide behind an inauthentic persona. This can keep you from realizing your full potential or embracing your leadership role.

The timeless mythological story of Psyche’s Four Tasks provides guidance.

The Story of Eros and Psyche

Psyche, a beautiful mortal woman, fell in love with and married what turned out to be the god of love, Eros. He was the son of the goddess Aphrodite, who out of jealously of Psyche’s beauty, had initially jinxed Psyche so that she would not fall in love with any mortal man. The jinx backfired and much to Aphrodite’s chagrin, her immortal son Eros fell in love with Psyche and they married, with the caveat that Psyche could never actually look at him.

However, Psyche couldn’t help herself. She carried an oil lamp and a knife into his bedroom (in case he turned out to be a monster), and took a forbidden look at Eros while he was sleeping in the dark. Unfortunately, the lamp dripped hot oil on Eros and awakened him. Interpreting this as a sign of mistrust, Eros ran off and abandoned Psyche. Heart-broken, Psyche appealed to her disapproving mother-in-law Aphrodite for help to get him back.

Jealous Aphrodite saw an opportunity to be rid of Psyche once and for all. She devised four seemingly impossible tasks for Psyche to complete in order to get back Eros. Psyche’s 4 tasks provide guidance for illuminating a situation (the lamp), dissecting it, and cutting away what doesn’t serve you (the knife). Doing so, allow you to make a decision that is authentic for you in your home and work relationships.

Task #1 – Sorting Seeds with Discernment.

Aphrodite put Psyche in a room that was full of many varieties of seeds all mixed together and instructed Psyche to sort all of the seeds overnight if she wanted Eros back. Psyche was overwhelmed and didn’t know how she would to do it. Then, a line of tiny, diligent ants entered the room and began to sort the tiny seeds for her.

The lesson: A situation may seem daunting at first, but you must examine what you have to contend with. So, listen to the small, still voice inside (ants), then diligently sift and sort through all available information to decide what is important based on your priorities and values.

Task #2 – Nab Golden Fleece at the Right Time.

Aphrodite then assigned Psyche the task of collecting golden fleece from the nasty Rams of the Sun. Again, Psyche thought this task impossible because these rams were large, tough, no-nonsense, powerful creatures. Coming to her aid, a flexible green reed advised Psyche that she could avoid the rams by waiting until they left the field at the end of the day, then pick their fleece from brambles they brushed up against after they had gone for the day.

 The lesson: Be flexible enough to watch and wait for the opportune time to go after what you want. There may be a way to do accomplish what you want with less direct conflict, allowing you to maintain relationships.

Task #3 – Fill the Flask After Gaining Perspective.

Next, Psyche must fill a flask with water from an intimidating stream, guarded by dragons. While Psyche doubted her ability to fill the flask, Zeus’s eagle arrived, grabbed the flask, and flew to an opportune spot to fill it for her.

 The lesson: When you get overwhelmed with deciding how to engage with a situation and those involved, pull back like the eagle to get a broader perspective of the bigger picture to find patterns. Then, spot the salient details before making decisions.

Task #4 – Fetching Beauty Cream in the Underworld Without Distraction.

Finally, Aphrodite sent Psyche to the Underworld to refill a box with beauty ointment. To make things even more difficult, Aphrodite tells Psyche that three pathetically desperate people in the Underworld will beg her for help as a distraction from her quest. A tall tower advises Psyche to harden her heart, ignore them, and concentrate on fulfilling her task.

The lesson: You must keep your eye on your tasks and goals and learn to assert your boundaries by exercising a conscious choice to say “yes” or “no” to others’ requests.

Psyche completed the four tasks and won back her beloved Eros. Not all women need nor will they apply Psyche’s lessons in the same way. Still, when you face a dilemma at work or get confusing feedback that reflects someone else’s perspective on who you’re supposed to be, think of Psyche’s lessons and apply the one(s) that are apt in a way that is right for you.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG, OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it:  Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

 

By the Numbers – Capturing Lessons Learned

Much institutional knowledge in companies is lost through turnover and poor communication. Such institutional information is often critical to successful operations and execution of company goals. One way to preserve and share knowledge and expertise is to actively capture, store and share “lessons learned”. However, for most, it’s easier said than done.

This infographic compiles the numbers related to capturing, retaining, and sharing lessons learned:

lessons learned

 

 

3 Things Leaders Must Do to Bring Company Missions To Life

maze strategyWithin months of the June 2016 investigation into a Tesla vehicle crash due to malfunctioning autopilot, CEO Elon Musk showed his commitment to Tesla Motors’ mission to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. He broke ground on a battery plant in Nevada and announced a bid and recently acquired a solar products company that has a similar commitment to sustainable energy.

What kept Musk going after this crash setback? He (and by extension his company, Tesla Motors) has a compelling mission that he lives and breathes.

This same commitment to accelerating the transition to sustainable energy drives Tesla Motors’ Patent policy, which states the company will not . . .

initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use its technology. Tesla was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport, and this policy is intended to encourage the advancement of a common, rapidly-evolving platform for electric vehicles, thereby benefiting Tesla, other companies making electric vehicles, and the world.

Allowing your competitors to compete against you using your own proprietary information? THAT’s living your company’s mission!

Make Your Mission Statement Mean Something

Some have opined that mission statements don’t really matter but that companies create them anyway because, well, that’s what you do. Yet, just because some companies are not good at creating compelling mission statements and actually using them doesn’t mean that mission statements are “dead”. To the contrary, they are a necessary and valuable component of a well-run corporate strategy.

61% of employees in North America don’t know their company’s mission. – Achievers Survey, September 2015

In fact, your company’s mission statement is part of the guidance system that focuses you on what you are here to do. It keeps your company on track, so you remain focused in a general direction and are less subject to the distraction of every bright, shiny opportunity in the world. Used effectively, your mission should inform your vision, your values, and corporate goals.

To what degree is your mission statement a vital and compelling guide for your business? Here are 3 critical ways to make sure you and your employees are living your company’s mission:

1. Assess How Well the Mission is Resonating

According to a recent survey by achievers.com, 61% of employees don’t know their company’s mission statement. Whether you do a formal or informal survey, find out if your employees know your company’s mission and how much passion there is for it. On a scale from 1-10, where are you? Where is the executive team?

The level of awareness of and passion for your mission is not only an indicator of how well you’ve built the mission into all aspects of the business, but it might also indicate whether you need to punch it up to make it more compelling. Also, take stock of what’s working and what’s not working with respect to how your mission is showing up in your company daily.

2. You Go First

To make your mission statement come alive, you of all people must embody it. How are you and the rest of the executive team helping it come alive or hindering it from doing so? Do you mention the mission statement often? What do you convey to others that shows you used the mission when making a decision? creating a vision for the foreseeable future? or setting a goal? In short, you must intentionally and consistently make others aware that the mission is embedded in all that you do and say.

3. Build the Mission Into Every Aspect of Your Business

In addition, you can ensure employees see the mission in action by using it as the foundation for all work practices, policies, processes and standards of conduct. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Make your mission explicit in policies, processes, team charters, etc.
  • Ensure each employee knows how their job furthers the mission.
  • State it regularly in meetings to set the tone and work it in to every project and assignment.
  • Ask employees how their current work furthers the mission.
  • Incorporate it in all decision-making regarding products, services, customer service, employees, community relations, etc.
  • Be explicit about how new goals, a new vision, new policies, new products, etc. align with the mission.
  • Reflect regularly on how well you live it.
  • Recognize and adjust obvious practices that are contrary to it.
  • When giving feedback, acknowledge the employee’s actions were consistent or inconsistent with the mission.

Your mission serves to keep you on the right track. It is the foundation of the alignment of everything in your company. Make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

5 Ways to Bolster Confidence During Chaos

confidence

Ever lose your confidence? The world is never stable. Physics teaches that everything moves toward maximum entropy (disorder or
randomness).

That means, there is always something churning and arising that can upset the current balance. When you finally come to the realization that things are “off”, the so-called chaos could have been in the works for a while before you noticed it.

Thus, when you finally notice the disorder, randomness, or chaos, it can knock you off your game. The trick is to maintain your composure and your confidence to make the necessary adjustments and re-calibrate.

So, how can you feel and telegraph the steady confidence your employees need so they don’t get spooked like a herd of wild bison?

Here are 5 tips on how to create and maintain a confident demeanor that quells uncertainty in yourself and more importantly in your employee ranks:

1. Keep a supportive mindset and confident bearing.

You are where you need to be. Don’t psych yourself out. It’s easy to let your inner critic berate you. Turn the inner critic on its head by looking for how it’s trying to serve you. Like a nagging parent who wants you to succeed, what is the good intention of the inner critic and its negative criticisms?

Additionally, you can boost your confidence by following the power posing research of Amy Cuddy, which indicated that 2 minutes of adopting a “superhero” pose led to a 20% increase in subjects feeling more powerful/confident.

2. Do rely on others to bolster confidence.

As a successful person, you might tend to think you have to put the whole company on your shoulders and carry it forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have a host of people who can cut through the chaos with you. You may not know everything but you can rely on others around you to shore up your weaknesses. Upgrade your network if necessary, too.

3. Toggle between forest (big picture) and the trees (details).

When an obstacle or problem arises, recognize it but then pan out and re-focus on the big picture, to gain perspective on where that obstacle fits within the grand scheme of things and to gain flexibility of response. With perspective comes confidence.

4. Spend 20% of your time on work directly affecting your big picture goals.

Remember the Pareto Principle: 20% of your efforts will lead to 80% of your results. Calendar the high-value activities that have a direct line of sight to your company goals. Then, execute those high-value activities in baby steps each day to move your goals forward. In other words, don’t try to eat the elephant all at once.

5. Take risks by following the data AND your gut.

You build confidence by being true to yourself in light of the data and seeing it pay off. This happens most noticeably when you weigh the pertinent information and take action based on your own sense of things. Then, go for it. Don’t worry — failure can build your confidence when you learn from your experience and use that learning to try again.

Confidence is an important leadership attribute and is critical during times of uncertainty. It’s your role to project the confidence necessary to create a sense of “all is well” in your employees. It does need to be tempered with humility. In other words, there is a difference between confidence and cockiness. But having the wisdom of other smart people, good data, a “can-do” attitude, and the discipline to focus on high-value daily work is how you exude and continue to build your own confidence and the confidence of your staff.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

5 Tips to Avoid Tripping When Stepping In To Someone Else’s Shoes

confident, leaderAssuming a new leadership role on the heels of a well-respected predecessor can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Regardless of the circumstances, the challenge is to be authentic while assisting others through the transition from the former leader’s style to yours. Remember that people can accept change if you focus on the nuts and bolts of the transition from Point A to Point B. When you are that Point B, consider the following tips to avoid tripping when stepping into someone else’s shoes:

Be Patient.

A large ship doesn’t turn on a dime and neither will some people’s loyalty in your new situation. In most situations, plan on taking anywhere from 6 months to a year to understand the issues and culture that you have inherited without feeling like you must make changes immediately. (If the board hired you to make drastic changes immediately lest the company go under, well, that’s a different kettle of fish.)

“Lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at you.”                 –David Brinkley

Build Relationships.

A large part of what you can focus on during your first year, is to get to know others and allow them to get to know you. You might meet individually with board members, colleagues, and direct reports. Small group lunches, town halls, and just walking around with incidental chats are ways to meet a larger number of employees who are more removed from your immediate sphere of influence.

Focus on the Big Picture.

During the transition period to your new brand of leadership, stay focused on “why” the company exists, “why” your position exists, and on the company’s mission. This will keep you from getting caught up in potential drama of other people’s issues around the transition.

Serve Others First.

Another way to avoid getting caught up in your own as well as other people’s “stuff” is to orient yourself to what those around you need from you to remain productive. Focus on the service your customers expect and need. Also, ensure your employees and especially your direct reports have what they need to keep things moving forward. And don’t be stingy with the “thank yous” and acknowledgement for jobs well done.

Don’t Take Things Personally.

Be ready to be compared to your predecessor – a lot. Put your ego aside. This is simply one way people are communicating that they are noticing the differences and coming to terms with them. Deal with this by focusing on what you can actually control within your sphere of Influence. For example, you cannot completely control what others think and do: some people will leave; some will stay; and new people will join. People have to make their own decisions about their individual preferences and loyalties. Assuming you’re being forthright, authentic, above board and respectful, let it go.

Over time, the company will acclimate to you and you will adjust to it. And eventually, you will be a part of the status quo as though you had been there forever.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.


This post was inspired by a conversation with Stephanie Wright of the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce in Murray, Utah.