Today’s post is the featured article from the June 2012 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription. Being successful at communication ultimately has little to do with skills. It has everything to do with connection. Skills are simply a set of tools that, when put in the right hands (better yet, in the right mindset), can be useful. But they aren't the end-all some would have you believe. It is an over-used quote, but one which holds endless truth: They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. They also don't care "how" you deliver what you know ... unless they know you care! Organizations expend extensive resources in time and money to better position their people to negotiate, communicate ... and sometimes, unfortunately, to directly or indirectly manipulate. It seems, in both internal and external relationships, we would be far better off spending those same resources in helping people more genuinely connect and more deeply care. Anyone can fend-off your slick skills. In fact, your polished skills can often be a turn-off when they appear to have no real grounding. It is much harder to deny your care and desire to connect. It can't be fake. It has to come from a place that is real. This is much harder to teach than it is to model. People know it when they see it in a leader ... and then it tends to go viral. Communication skills are much easier to teach, but they are far less potent unless they are planted in the fertile soil of care and a desire for connection. Care and connection are not skills. They are an outgrowth. Care and a desire for connection are the fruit of a keen awareness of our personal core values ... especially when our values are coupled with a deep understanding of how they connect to organizational values. This systemic connection of values sets the stage for an incredible foundation from which solid communication skills can flourish. Communication skills such as strong eye contact, good energy, strong and varied vocal animation, along with thoughtful pauses shouldn't be the drivers to create a sense of connection. It is the other way around! Our genuine care and desire for connection will naturally bring each of these communication skills to life. I am in solid support of teaching skills. Fertile soil cannot produce without the seeds being planted. Communication skills are these seeds. And they become exponentially more valuable when planted in the rich soil of care and desire for connection. Yet, we have to til the soil before we plant the skills. Most won't. Many would prefer the quick fix of just honing a mechanical skill in the hopes it might appear genuine. Those days are over. Customers, clients, employees and followers usually see directly through that sheer. Care and connection come only from your core. Think about the last time you were with a friend, a client, a work colleague, or a family member for whom you really care and with whom you have a natural connection. Regardless of the level of your communication skills, my bet would be, you had little trouble communicating! Ultimately, we should eliminate "communication skills" workshops ... merging the content into a different kind of experience. We would be better served by discovering how much we care and from there developing our "connection skills." My hunch is that we wouldn't only be better served ... but we would serve better. We may be surprised in just how some incredible communication skills would naturally follow! Life is more than a series of transactions ... and communication is certainly more than a set of skills. Ironically, our desire to connect will eventually be overshadowed by our ongoing natural ability to do so. It will have less to do with whom you're with and more to do with who you have become. It is there you will have moved from "c" to shining "c" ... from communication to a shining connection!
Today’s post is the featured article from the May 2012 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription. I see you. Simply put, it is a customary greeting in Central Africa. It is a brilliant recognition of the individual. The standard American greeting "How are you?" is often said without the intent of receiving a real answer ... and even if genuinely requested, rarely is it authentically answered. I see you is actually meant! My research indicated that saying "I See You" means you recognize another as a person, as an equal, as a fellow human being, and as a friend. I have never been to Central Africa, yet learned this beautiful custom right here in the USA from my work with the incredible organization of Best Buddies. Best Buddies, started by Anthony Kennedy-Shriver in 1989, creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Those with these disabilities are the "buddies." Each time I would speak at a national conference for Best Buddies, I would see a number of attendees wearing bright red t-shirts with white letters that simply said "I see you." Nothing fancy. Simply stated. You see, in the world of Best Buddies, what you choose to see means everything. When volunteers are paired in one-to-one relationships with the "buddies" the lessons begin. The question becomes ... who really is the teacher? Whenever I was invited to speak at a Best Buddies event, I was the one who left with another lesson learned. The "buddies" were masters at "seeing you." And by their example I learned to open my eyes. I particularly remember Kevin. One year I was invited to speak to a group of about 15 "buddies" who were working on their presentation skills. I have never had an audience more attentive, more responsive, more grateful ... or full of joy. Some of the participants in this particular session were to be selected to speak at the closing session of this national conference in front of about 1,500 people. I was the resident "professional speaker" to share a few tips. Kevin was working on his presentation when I asked him about his topic. He simply said, "I want to talk about the importance of looking at others' abilities rather than their disabilities." Kevin knew what it was like to be seen for his disabilities. Kevin revealed an important characteristic of a leader ... an ability to look at others and be drawn to their abilities. Kevin knew this changes everything. We worked together on his speech over the next couple of hours. As we worked together, his presentation skills continued to improve ... and I could see more clearly! Often leaders become blinded along their journey. There are many species of this blindness. It comes in many strains, but all can be fatal to their ability to genuinely lead. Yet it doesn't have to be. That is, if they choose to see. This is not a lesson that needs to be studied at Harvard or some expensive leadership retreat. You can easily learn it at a Best Buddies national conference when you are surrounded by a group of participants with "intellectual disabilities" and incredible vision! I see you ... I know, it sounds so cliché. So flavor-of-the-month. That is until you try it. You don't have to change your words. Just change your approach. The next time you are in a meeting and you are frustrated with an opposing point of view ... just think ... I see you. When you are with your team and you are sharing your challenging expectations ... just think ... I see you. When you get home at night and greet your family ... choose to see. We talk a lot about the importance of vision in leadership. Vision is about the future. Seeing is about the present. And unless we learn to see, the vision may never become a reality. Because seeing is believing. And when a leader learns to believe in others anything is possible.
Today’s post is the featured article from the April 2012 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription. It is often said that talk is cheap. That can be true ... but I will also suggest it is critically important. In corporations and organizations across America, what we talk about and what we think about have a lot to do with what we act on. When it comes to core values, talk is an important element of sustainability. Leaders can't just slip away to the mountain top and come back from some on-high retreat and post the core values and assume all will follow. They must talk about them and think about them again and again. Core values don't speak for themselves. They demand our attention ... and need our voice. Imagine a financial budget that is issued at the beginning of the fiscal year and never mentioned again. That just isn't going to happen in most organizations. Imagine a leader setting an array of metrics and measurements for her department and never mentioning them again. That's not going to happen either. We establish and come back to what is important. When budgets, metrics and other measurements are established, we come back to them over and over. Leaders expect people to continue to think about them, talk about them and take action because of them. It's called accountability. Leaders should expect it. It's called responsibility. Leaders continue to think and talk about them. Bill Hybels, Lead Pastor for Willowcreek Community Church in South Barrington IL, often uses the analogy of a bucket with a hole in it. I first heard him use it in connection with organizational vision. He said the vision of an organization is like a bucket with a hole in it. When you fill a bucket with a hole in it with water, the bucket eventually becomes empty again. He says the same is true with vision. You have to continue to fill the bucket with water over and over again. The same is true with your bucket of core values. You have to continue to fill the core value bucket over and over and over again. Once organizational core values are established, you have to continue to think about them and talk about them. This kind of talk is not cheap. It is necessary. Look at the agendas of your important meetings over the last several months. What percent of the meeting was devoted to financial results or achieving key metrics? What percentage was related to hiring, firing or layoffs? What percent percentage was related to social events? What percent was specifically related to core values? I am not suggesting that just because we talk about them insures organizational core values will come alive and everyone will live them. But I am suggesting, no matter how core values are "rolled-out" and displayed, if leaders don't think about them and talk about them on a regular basis, then they are not likely to be lived. I was recently in a meeting of top leaders. A lot was talked about. Core values wasn't one of them. And my sense was that this was normally the case. Talk is cheap when leaders don't believe in or live what they talk about. But I do believe there are leaders that do believe in core values, but just assume they live on their own accord. Which makes me wonder if they really do believe in them at all. We think about and talk about what is really important to us. Just watch and listen to any sports fanatic ... you will see what I mean. Just watch any business executive who is trying to achieve a year-end forecast and you will no longer doubt. I have no doubt that talk about core values is certainly not cheap. It is eventually quite valuable!