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Here's Something That You Should Do at Home!!

Say what?


I have just finished the accreditation process for Navigational Conversations from Leadscape Learning.  This is a workshop that introduces strategic coaching skills for leaders who want to take a coach-approach when working with others.


Not surprisingly, listening is the key element of the Navigational Conversations program.  For a long time, I've felt that listening is the one skill that most of us should improve.


Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who is distracted by something else that is going on and doesn't seem to be really paying attention to you?  I know, probably not.  But, it could happen!


The folks at Leadscape Learnbullhorning speak about three stages of listening that exist on a continuum of listening skills.  At the low end of the continuum is what they refer to as tracking.  In this stage of listening, we are engaged in a primary activity that supersedes listening.  This is the listening that includes responses such as 'uh-huh, yup, okay, whatever, ...".  Again, maybe you're not familiar with this situation, in which case I apologize for enticing you into this blog via the title.


However, for those who understand that the power in a conversation comes from the listening, read on.


In the middle of the continuum is a stage of listening where we are now focused on the conversation at hand.  However, while we are listening, we are thinking about what is being said to us.  We might be thinking of the next question that we want to ask, or we might be forming our response.  We might even interrupt the other person by not waiting until he/she has finished speaking, so we can speak.  In this listening mode, we run the risk that we won't pick up on all of the nuances in the conversation.


So, if you are bold enough to try something at home, here it is.  Move to the far end of the listening continuum and practice being present.  In this listening mode, we are listening with a quiet mind.  We are intentionally not thinking up our next response.  We are listening and observing.  We are able to discern meaning from body language.  We can pick up the essence of the conversation.  We are simply being present.


Being present is a difficult listening mode to achieve and it is also difficult to remain in this mode.  But it is a very rewarding skill to achieve.  The person that is speaking to you will feel very connected and you will realize the power of listening.


Why not try it?

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Leadership Advice: How To Draw An Owl

I recently read a Seth Godin blog that compared leadership and business advice to being asked to draw an owl.  The article suggests that the approach typical of much business advice would be analogous to saying that there are two steps to drawing an owl.


First, you draw two shapes to represent the head and body.  Next, you draw the rest of the owl.  In other words, the advice is not very helpful.


The statement that particularly caught my attention was what followed the above instruction. Godin suggests that ”the difficult part is learning to see what an owl looks like. Drawing an owl involves thousands of small decisions, each based on the answer to just one question, what does the owl look like?”


Godin suggests that the process of drawing, erasing and re-drawing is representative of the iterative process that we all go through as we learn to see the world.


I’d like to draw from the work of Betty Edwards who wrote Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  It can be a very useful exercise to learn to draw the owl by drawing the negative space that surrounds the owl.  If we pay too much attention to the details of the owl, then we might simply come up with the answers that are already known to us.  So, it can be a very useful exercise to see the owl differently than we might normally look at it.


Creativity can be a useful thing.

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Aim Higher. Be Different

By now you have all had a chance to relish in our wins at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.


If you are Canadian, you were likely one of many holding our collective breath to see how we did in such events as ice hockey, curling and skating.  Naturally, the team or individual that wins a given event will have to be the best on the day of that particular competition.


In my mind, competition is not only about being better, but also about being different.


Those athletes who are measured both quantitatively and qualitatively, such as figure skaters, are judged better when they are different.  The chosen degree of difficulty, the music selected and the energy brought to the routine all contribute to the skaters being different.  Like all Olympians, the skaters’ goal is to be stronger, faster, more agile and more focused.  They push themselves to be more daring; to use every reserve of energy.  They push themselves to be better; to be DIFFERENT.


And they train relentlessly.


What are we ‘business athletes’ doing to be DIFFERENT from our competitors?  Do we spend time thinking about and then implementing the steps that we might take to wow our customers?  Are we focusing our efforts on providing a customer experience that far exceeds ‘meeting expectations’?


Like the Olympians, our business efforts are being judged.  Our performance standard is set by our competitors.  But, the judge in our case is every single customer and every single prospect.


If we are not being DIFFERENT in our businesses, how do we stand apart from our competitors?  How do we get chosen?


Fundamentally, it is a choice that we make.


What choice are you making?

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GOALS 2014

During a recent webinar that I conducted for Small Business Solver, I presented some considerations that you might use when thinking about goals and goal setting.



Of course, my starting point was that our goals should follow the SMART acronym.  That is, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bounded.


However, perhaps we struggle with the process of actually identifying those goals that we think are worthy of pursuing.  If I asked you to produce a list of ten goals that you’d like to pursue this year, would it be a challenge to get past number four or five?   During the webinar, I offered a list of ideas that can be used to stimulate one’s thinking about goal setting.  One of the specific suggestions was to think about some negative consequence that you would like to avoid during the year.



During the Q&A session that followed the presentation, Carla Langhorst, the co-founder of Small Business Solver indicated that she had never thought to set a goal around something that she wanted to avoid.  She asked if I had an example that I could share.  I mentioned that in my former sales company I had a line of credit with a local bank.  Unexpectedly, the bank informed me that they were no longer going to work with companies in my particular industry segment and I lost my line of credit.  Consequently, I told Carla that my goal in this example would be written as “we maintained our covenants with the bank and successfully managed our line of credit”.


For more insight into goal setting, I invite you to:

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We are in the thick of week one of the 2014 Olympics.  There have been numerous highs, lots of thrilling competition, some moments of despair and lots of smiling faces.  In spite of the controversy that led up to the beginning of these games, the general impression seems to be overwhelmingly positive.



It strikes me that these games are the source of a tremendous amount of inspiration.  While you might think that I’m suggesting that you immediately get off the couch and start your knee bends and toe touching, I actually have something else in mind.



Here is what I’m thinking.  The athletes exhibit a number of common characteristics or habits that contribute to their ultimate success in qualifying to compete in the Olympic Games.  These characteristics are worth emulating if we want to maximize the likelihood of succeeding in our businesses.  Specifically, I would identify the following attributes as noteworthy:



1.  The commitment to excellence

2. Passion

3. Goal attainment

4. Consistency

5. Perseverance



I also think that some other worthy characteristics get displayed during the games and we’ve seen some of these already.  My list would include:



a) Empathy

b) Humility

c) Compassion

d) Team before individual


During the next ten days, we’ll continue to witness events and happenings that will make us proud of our athletes and their accomplishments.  We’ll see the ‘other guy’ win when he or she deserves the victory.  We’ll know that preparation and fortitude contributed to the outcomes and we’ll be amazed.



But, before the last flake of snow or chip of ice has settled, I’d suggest that we should all reflect upon the above characteristics and decide how we would feel if they were part of our daily businesses.  What kind of outcomes would be possible for us in our respective businesses if we prepared the way an Olympic athlete prepares?  If we displayed a similar passion?  If perseverance was one of our watchwords?



Is a gold medal performance something that we hope for in our businesses or is it something that we are actively striving towards?  The choice is ours.

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Jennifer Roth
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