Wednesday, June 27, 2012

F-Words that Ascend, Not Offend

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out." - Winston Churchill
One of my favorite Lundbergisms is "practice what you preaching required", and it is my practice to attend trainings and speaker events throughout the year, just as I promote and provide learning events in my business. So, recently, clients and friends joined together to engage in some personal growth and learning of our own!
While I will not disclose the location, date or event name, you can imagine our surprise when we registered months in advance, arrived to find nothing ready, the kick-off started over 40-minutes late, and the opening comments by the host included the F-word (and I don't mean "fashionable")! Embarrassed, dismayed, and recovering from the shock and disappointment, I lead a quick discussion on how we can learn what not to do just as well as we can learn things to do. We turned it around, and even got a smile out of it. We made the most of the event, and the conversation got me thinking even more...what is it about words that can be so inspiring or so damaging...
Please know I am a far cry from perfect, and I am not a stranger to a curse word. There is a time and a place for how you want to communicate and be remembered. From that unfortunate opener, I came up with some alternatives to that oh-so-memorable F-word. These F-words, whether used out loud or as an internal guide will likely ascend you and your business and others' perceptions of you, rather than offend. The list includes:
FOCUSED - Remember to keep your client, customer, audience and team as your focus with your words. They are thinking about them, and not you, so focus on their interests. Also, stay focused on your expertise, so you can really hone it! FRIENDLY - Rarely do business leaders get criticized for being too friendly. That approachability is what makes someone real. It is both the smile and welcome that people prefer to remember over the rushed and disinterest that too many of us have on our faces and in our body language. FREE-THINKING - Being open to ideas and concepts that may seem different or new can keep you fresh. You may not implement everything, but by being someone who considers options, you will minimally broaden your horizons. FORWARD-MINDED - Consider what and how actions and words impact the person, the company and you later. While I am big on being present, it is also wise to think beyond the moment and the emotions in order to think through what is about to happen. Impact often overrides intent! FLEXIBLE - It is not only nice to show agility, rather it is almost imperative to be willing to change in our wonderfully-paced world of growth and "newness". Demonstrating an ability to shift and flow is something most of us admire and respect. FIRM - Interestingly enough, I put Firm after Flexible. What I mean by this word and the order, is that it's terrific to be willing to collaborate and alter plans, and at the same time, to be respected, you do have to take a stand, and professionally hold your ground when you believe in something wholeheartedly. FABULOUS - While this is one of my favorite words, being fabulous is more than a look or a one-time mention. Being fabulous is being happy for others, supportive of what is right, and willing to stand up and stand out for what you believe in while respecting others as well.
So, while this summer's traffic, heat, storms (and more) inside and outside your work or business may bring thoughts that are less than favorable, remember, there is no failure when you stay FOCUSED, FREE-THINKING, FORWARD-MINDED, FLEXIBLE, FIRM and FABULOUS!

Friday, June 22, 2012

SUCCESS Through Difficult Conversations

"A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month's study of books." - Chinese Proverb
What makes some conversations more difficult than others? Surely it is the topic, and it can also be our perception, our approach, and our own discomfort. Hoping things will go away or change is ideal for a moment, but eventually, just idealistic. As a leader, there are going to be potential difficult conversations to lead. First, decide you are going to have them, and then determine how to handle them professionally, and, for the sake of you and the other person/people, quickly! I view the situations as a DPD road to Success. The DPD stands for Decide, Prepare and Deliver. The SUCCESS comes from how you handle the last, most critical part, the delivery. Here is an overview:
Decide. Before you launch into a plan, please consider the following: Is this useful? Is this opinion or input? Is there a solution?
If the conversation will just be hurtful, filled with opinion, and more of a "hit-and-run" criticism versus a chance to address and resolve something, don't have it. People mistake complaints and thrashings for difficult conversations, and those are only difficult for those of us who thought you were a leader and find you were not leading, rather ranting if you do that. If the conversation is useful, for input, and there is a solution, proceed.
Prepare. Think this through beyond the concepts above. Go into a tactical approach, including: What to say. What not to say. How to say it. What if...
Know that certain facts and concerns are to be included. Bringing up superfluous ideas and the past may just be "piling on", so be certain things are not unrelated, or simply hurtful. When addressing someone and something like this, keep tone, eye contact, and compassion in mind. Know what you hope to have as an outcome. Similarly, think "what if this goes differently?". Consider the personality, personal history, and personal attitude of both you and the other person in the conversation. Expect the best, and still prepare for the worst.
Deliver. Do it. Ensure this is done face-to-face whenever possible. Even if you are on the phone due to distance of the relationship or situation, please embrace the following in delivery: Privately. Personally. For growth. With compassion.
By ensuring the person's privacy, and bringing the "e" to human and being humane in your delivery, you will ensure the person knows you want him or her to grow as a result of the conversation, and not feel embarrassed or ashamed. This is something you will discuss and put in the past. When you are compassionate and clear, there will be SUCCESS in the tackling of the difficult conversation quickly and kindly while being firm and focused. SUCCESS comes from all the following:
Seek permission. Make sure the person knows you are having a meeting. Something like "Is this a good time to talk for 10-15 minutes about the XYZ client lunch?" Use a soft start. Give the person a chance. "How did you think the lunch went?" may be appropriate, and something like "How ARE you doing?" may work. Let the other person take the lead on recognizing things. S/he may not, but a soft start (Not a "Boy, you are in trouble here!" or "You've got me in a really bad place") will allow the compassion to show. Consider feelings and facts. People get emotional. You may. Keep to facts whenever possible. Calm with mood not humor. While discomfort can bring out the worst in our "humor", let it rest. Resist the temptation to say something light, or to giggle or laugh to "lighten the mood". Instead, focus on being calm and professional, so the other person will sense your mood and likely follow your pacing and positioning. Express impact of change. Let the person know s/he can make the change. Move to solution and change fairly quickly once the situation is outlined. Also, share how the change will positively impact his/her image, impression, feelings, and position. Stay clear and stay positive on this one. Straight-forward in language and tone. Watch the "kind of", "sort of", and "sometimes you might", and even the "you might want to consider" language. I love "you may want to consider" for offering ideas, but in difficult conversations, language and tone are to be firm and fair, clear and concise, so instead, something like "it is imperative for your success and growth that you...". Seek agreement/follow-up. With all of the above happening, you are not dictating, rather being a guide and leader as you manage the situation. Let the conversation end only when you and the other person have agreement. Ask for it if there is little said or expressed from the other person. Getting it may seem invasive, and yet not having a plan to follow-up (specifically with a date/time to cover it), you may be left in ambiguity and facing a much more difficult exchange.
Few of us enjoy difficult conversations, while most of us enjoy growth and being the catalyst for it in ourselves and others. Having difficult conversations for SUCCESS will enable that in your relationships, so take the DPD approach to things like inappropriate behavior, changing roles, odor, personality, language, and other issues I hear about frequently, and experience the impact of addressing things instead of simply hoping for change!

Friday, June 15, 2012

4 Cs of Hiring/Transitioning

"It is all one to me if a man comes from Sing Sing Prison or Harvard. We hire a man, not his history." - Malcolm S. Forbes, American Businessman and founder of Forbes Magazine (1919 - 1990)
Whether you are seeking a new team member or looking to change roles, if you are the person hiring or the one looking to be hired, please keep the 4 Cs of Hiring and Transitioning in mind, and in action. For a change to work, remember to assess all of the aspects mentioned here, as we tend to cover one or two, maybe even three, but rarely all four, since we let time, the referral, emotions, or simple distraction get in our way. Those 4 Cs are: Competencies, Culture, Commitment, and Character. Competencies are to be defined as a number (ideally 10 or fewer) attributes that are necessary for being able to complete the tasks and get the job done. Some may be customer-focused, detail-oriented, independent worker, creativity, etc. These are not just words, but definitions that can be assessed and interviewed to/for in a behavioral style. People can "sell" us a great line of always and never, when we really want specifics to prove the competencies have been demonstrated. Culture is about attitude, flow, communication, and expectations. Someone can have the competencies to do the tasks, but not the feel, vibe, comfort of the environment in which s/he will work...and you want all of it! People who are casual, and the culture is business professional, or people who are low-tech when your firm is high-tech, are likely not a cultural fit. People who are new to the idea and open, may be a fit. Watch snap judging here! Commitment is about focus, desire, and the ability to show a stick-to-it-ness. Flexibility in what happens plays into commitment in that someone does not run when things change, and yet commitment means that person will dig in and get things done when needed because it is the right thing to do. Commitment is less about words, and more about actions. Ensure there is talk about adversity, opportunity, change and choices here. Character is a judgement. Right or wrong, nice to say or not, we are a society where character gets tested. This is the bringing together of your gut feeling with what was demonstrated. Be mindful of not getting caught up here with credentials over the core of the person. For some people and companies, the definition/concept of "character" becomes one of the competency, and for others, it is a sense of the person. Give scenarios where challenging decisions come/came into play. Character is not about charm and likeability, rather it is a mix of competencies and commitment working in the specific culture. In a way, this is both the foundation and the umbrella for the "fit", and yet reviewing someone or some team for character is often where things are missed. Often, like in dating, we take hiring tremendously personally. We will...each of us is a person, therefore, we take things personally. Still, with the 4 Cs in mind, we can be a person who looked at each aspect, and decided if there was a fit or not on both sides instead of feeling like we either won or lost, were "it" or not, or that we "performed" well or not in an interview or during the vetting process. Remember, making a hire, or transitioning to a new position is not just an action, it is a decision, and it is not about a fix for a problem, rather it is about growing the business and growing personally/professionally. Ensure the 4 Cs are part of your next move, and see how you view the hiring or transitioning differently!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

3 Ps of Meetings

"Life it is not just a series of calculations and a sum total of statistics, it's about experience, it's about participation,it is something more complex and more interesting than what is obvious." ~ Daniel Libeskind, American Architect (b - 1946)
Since many of us have a lot of meetings on our calendars, and with time being one of our non-renewable resources, let's make the most of them! The 3 Ps of meeting success are that people are prepared, present and participatory...if you are not, for what reason are you in the meeting? Being prepared may be about a readiness to learn, being present is not allowing distractions for that short time, and being participatory may mean conflict, encouragement, questions and/or idea-sharing. Stick with the 3 Ps, and meetings will be most meaningful!