Archive for January, 2014

Listening Tests Your Self-Discipline and Leadership Potential

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Ear_Small_2Listening is a strategic communication tactic. When you are not prepared to listen strategically, you can fail yourself and the other people in the room.

Strategic listening requires one skill first and foremost. You need self-discipline. You must give your complete attention to the speaker. Avoid doing anything that gives the impression that you are simply waiting to reply. And, when you do respond, make every syllable count. Bad news or good news, your response reveals how much self-management, and thus how much leadership potential you possess.

Here are the last three of the 6 listening strategies, which I started in my prior post.

De-escalation Listening
Strategic listening is key when you’re stuck with a temperamental person who is light on impulse control. Maybe you actually did something that irritated them, and then again, maybe someone in their household ate the last bowl of Cheerios. It doesn’t matter. The temperamental person is not about solving anything. In short, they just want an audience for their temper tantrum. Against all the advice you will get from listening gurus: do NOT use words to reflect back what you heard. I recommend you maintain solid eye contact, and only use sounds in response. Start with vowel sounds: ahhh, ohhh, and ooo. And when they run out of gas, switch to consonants: hmmm. Finish them off with a firm nod of your head. You will find when you withhold words; these dirigibles deflate and waft away.

Misery-Interrupt Listening
A surprising number of people are not emotionally centered at various parts of the day, or in response to a variety of situations. We all have old “tapes” in our head that frequently play the kind of angry self-talk gangstas use in a war of words against their enemies. Assess whether you are listening to a fair, objective assessment of a situation, or if it’s the speaker’s own descant relaying depression, low self-esteem, or fear. If someone is mired in personal misery rather than reality, there’s only one response: compassion. If there’s a desk between you, come around the other side. Politely acknowledge their pain. For example, say, “Sounds like a lot is going on.” Then, normalize, so they keep their dignity. For example, say, “Almost everyone has this kind of thing happen from time to time.” Follow that with some hope, so they keep their sanity. For example, say, “I know you can figure this out.”

Joyful Noise Listening
Every so often someone scores a win, and wants to retell the story. I hope you are in this situation really often, both as a speaker and a listener. As the receiver of a triumphant tale, do not relate back your own successes – even if you’ve done the same thing and your experience is totally relevant, identical or even bigger and better (for goodness sake, don’t talk about that). Instead, be a great audience. Listen to the joyful noise coming at you, and smile. Listen carefully, and echo back the key points framed as questions. For example, “You didn’t get a call back until one minute before the end of the day, on the last day the deal could be done?” or “And then you slam dunked the deal, in that last minute?” Clap your hands, and if the flu isn’t going around: give a fist pump. If the flu is going around, holler: “Air five!” and pretend you’re slapping palms.

Would you like to have all six listening strategies to use for your business or career goals? Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Listening

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Effective Listening Strategies for Career Success

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Ear_SmallYou need a listening strategy, because listening is dangerous. No one tells you that.  When you get into an interaction, and fail to have a listening strategy, being receptive turns you into a receptacle. You’re just the recipient of other people’s concerns, personality quirks, beliefs, and goals. That means in the meeting, you get demoted to “just listening,” which is a role anyone and their dog can play.

Many successful job candidates, business people and managers have adapted an intentional listening approach, using six specific listening strategies. I profile three of those listening strategies below.

I always warn my coaching clients about “over-listening.” That’s when you listen endlessly in interviews, meetings, presentations, conversations, and pitches. Other people command all the attention and you lose any importance or significance.

The one immutable rule in business communication is to have an outcome in mind BEFORE you engage in any interaction. That is the start of employing a listening strategy.

By outcome, I mean: get a firm idea of what you want to happen by the end of the interaction. Know exactly what you want the other people to say to you or each other, before the interaction comes to a close. I coach clients to write down the exact words they want other people to speak, or an action they want to see by the end of the interaction.

These first three listening strategies help you guide an interaction toward your desired outcome. Whether you’re in a job interview, a pitch meeting to investors, conflict resolution with another employee, your annual performance review or a presentation you are giving – or attending: have an outcome in mind and a listening strategy.

Here are three strategies.

Opportunity-Response Listening
You ears are antenna for something specific you can turn to your advantage. You might ask a “magic wand” question, to prompt them to tell you what they really want. Then you listen for an opportunity that could match your goals and outcome.  For example, you listen to a hiring manager go on for a while about the department and the job. Then, you say: “If you had a magic wand and you could have the ideal person come to work for you: what would that person be like?” If they say, “hard working and loyal,” then you know what facts and stories you are going to bring into the conversation.

Reflective-Mindreading Listening
You swap words around, so you re-tell your audience what they just told you, plus take a small guess at what they really need. Listen intently, so you have the exact words they use. For example, your manager says: “The last time the client was here, he complained that customer service doesn’t get bids back to him in time.” You reply, “Customer service isn’t good about timely communication on bids, so this customer came in to vent. It would be good to know the current status of the bids he’s asked for now.” Because you listened, understood and took the issue one baby step forward: you are a genius!

Collaborative-Permission Listening
You ask permission to participate and at the same time showcase your value. For example, you listen carefully to a client going on about an opportunity in a new industry. You ignore any prattle, but listen intently to estimate the size of the opportunity, how frequently it occurs, and the consequences of missing out on it. Then, you reply, “Is this very large, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the new industry something that you would like to brainstorm about? Would it be appropriate for me to share my insight, because that might help you prepare to win it?

Listening can be the biggest compliment and relationship-building tool you have. On the other hand, listening can feel like drowning in an onslaught of words. Your strategy makes all the difference.

Would you like to have all six listening strategies to use for your business or career goals? Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Listening

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We Must Like You to Hire You

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

ShadowPortraitIn all the time I’ve been working, coaching, teaching and speaking: I have never met anyone who is too stupid or uneducated to get the job they really wanted. I’ve never met a business owner or someone who wanted to be an entrepreneur who lacks the intelligence or ability to build the enterprise they really wanted to captain.

It’s been about 15 years, and I’ve directly met over 50,000 people, plus many more from speaking to audiences around the world. So, I have a lot of proof that you can do pretty much what you want to do.

Your life is pretty much what you make it.

If you feel you’ve got a skills or information deficit, at your fingertips on a moment’s notice, you can learn almost anything. Just Google “how to roast a prime rib to medium rare” or “how to do a laparoscopic spay.” True, that last one presupposes you run a veterinary clinic, but most often the skills or knowledge you need are all over the web, with plenty of videos to give you second opinions, workarounds, alternative approaches and some good arguments.

In addition to various search engines directing you to real time resources, you have an abundance of remarkable educational institutions offering free courses on science, technology, management, design, and nearly every other topic you can yearn for.

Of course as an educator with UCLA Extension, I must mention you have access to an abundance of high quality on-ground and online courses for a fee. These 2-day to 12-week courses often turbo charge your learning, because you apply new skills as you study with teachers who are working in the field you want to enter.

There’s so much knowledge, it’s impossible to say you can’t become exactly what you feel driven to achieve. And, if you can just watch videos: you pretty much have the intellectual capacity required for that dream, along with the resources.

So it’s not for lack of intellectual capacity or opportunities for skill-building that most people find themselves stuck in a bad job or failing in a poorly run business, or failing to fulfill their desire to be an entrepreneur, consultant or anything else.

And, it’s not for lack of employers or customers who want to pay reliable, motivated and personable individuals to help them achieve their goals. Truly.

That’s the secret. If we don’t like you, we won’t hire you or retain you.

Very few people are really personable and likeable. The researcher Anderson along with many others who have expanded or contracted his seminal work on personality, determined there are 555 traits that define anyone’s personality. More than half of those traits are undesirable ones.

Your worst personality traits ALWAYS overshadow your good ones. You may be hostile, irritable, selfish, ungenerous, boring, discontented, trouble-making, a gossip, negative, annoying, attention-getting, confused… the list is long.

Unfortunately, the people who are stuck, can’t land an interview, can’t get funded, can’t stay in business or otherwise fail are leading with their worst traits, or letting them run amok when they need to be corralled and defused – before we meet you.

It all but kills me when I meet someone who could be so happy, satisfied, proud, and financially stable except for the fact that their negative personality traits are like a bad odor that won’t go away (so everyone else does).

Stop thinking you are being victimized by some outer force – although you may be. Most of us who succeed, overcome the odds, including a bad economy, less than ideal bosses and all the other things that are just a part of business and life.

Would you like an inventory of the 555 traits, and an assessment of your personality? Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: 555

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Why Cheating is the Secret to Success

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

CheatingSquareA whole lot of people are making resolutions right now, and not one of those goals is: “I will master the art of cheating.” Yet the truth is, all high achievers are expert at cheating, because cheating is the secret to success.

When you shadow leading entrepreneurs, CEOs of Global 2000 companies, world class athletes, master mechanics, and prolific inventors: you see them cheat constantly. That is, they spare themselves any extra work, when less will do.

They spare themselves the stress of winning popularity contests, unless the prize is big enough. They often ask forgiveness rather than permission, because it’s faster that way.

This doesn’t mean they cheat on their taxes, partners or exams.

Psychologist Albert Ellis calls their systems “elegant.” They are free of unnecessary psychological or physical strain, as it relates to the process of getting things done. Their actions are streamlined, and wherever possible, they have ritualized what works best into a set of procedures or criteria.

They avoid revisiting old drama, feeling stuck, and negativity.

They constantly listen to their own insights, rather than the opinions or judgments thrown their way. They’re not addicted to positive regard and they’re not deterred by unconstructive criticism.

Consistently high achievers look like they are cheating, because they work faster and produce more and better outcomes. That’s because they observe and measure themselves at the same time they take action, which takes incredible stillness of the mind while the body is at work.

Surfers, extreme downhill mountain bikers, and other successful athletes have this mind-body synchronization down pat. That’s why when we watch them perform feats beyond what most of us believe is possible, we often say: “he cheated death.”

In fact, these elite athletes make corrections in flight, because they are so deeply in flow they somehow bend the rules of physics a bit. After staying in control of a bad trip, you might hear them say, “I cheated the landing.” They may pull up short or come down with their equipment and body in a less than picture perfect pose, but they continue to devour the course, get big air or tail whip with as much speed as a body can bear (and then some).

Successful people in business do the same kind of cheating. They avoid perfection, they go even when they don’t know all the right answers and they don’t strike poses.

Do you need help with your resolutions? Do they need to be more adventurous or less conventional? Whether it’s your weight, career or relationship, let me mentor you. Send me your top three resolutions and I’ll give you some guidance. Email: [email protected]. Subject line: Resolutions.

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Personal Branding Pledge 2014

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

I write a new pledge each year to inspire you to take control of your life and career. If something is holding you back from real success, please reach out to me and let me know what it is. Perhaps you’re dogged by something someone said about you, something you’ve done or some problem you suspect is in your way. Email me with the obstacle. I’ll give you guidance to overcome it. Email [email protected] Subject line: Obstacle


My Pledge for 2014

This is the year I blow the roof off

I crank up my life so loud it explodes

I leap with abandon as I shed my old skin

I swoop and I float and I dive so low

When I emerge from the depths

My punch lands a blow that cracks the case open

The thing I most wanted to know

I can finally see

The person I am, and what I’m meant to be


The one you dismissed

The one you don’t see

The one you cut, like I’m butter and you’re a knife

The one who’s been waiting and negotiating for my own life

Everything I want is hiding in plain sight but was obscured

While I waited for your decision, your permission and approval

But this year that’s over, it’s all trash for removal

No more crowdsourcing and agonizing about what others expect

I’m here to command my reality and self-respect

This year I am the master, my own muse and architect

Keep your eyes on this space

I am the meaning of success!

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