Build Your Leaders

Your Gang

November 4th, 2013

Who is your group, your gang, your gaggle? Take a minute and list the people you like to hang with. Go ahead. Don’t think about it, just list them.

How big is your list? Two? Ten? Twenty? It really doesn’t matter.It’s quality not quantify that counts. My good friend Ginny says that if we die and have one person who we can call our dear friend, we’ve had a good life.

There’s a wonderful exercise that helps us rank the significant relationships in our lives. In it, we draw four concentric circles like the ripples in a pond after a stone has been dropped into it.

In the ripple closest to the center, we place those people who are our closest friends, those people with whom we share our secrets. In the next circle, we place those friends who we really like but probably wouldn’t share the intimate details of our lives. Those people who we enjoy doing things with – mainly because we belong to the same groups — land in the third circle, and in the fourth circle, or outermost circle, we place those people who are paid to be in our lives such as our doctors, bosses, or even executive coaches.

Look at your innermost circles of the friends, who energizes you and who takes away your energy? Now ask yourself, why are you choosing to spend time with energy vampires? Okay, maybe they are relatives or others that you have to see. Still, you can consciously limit your exposure to them, can’t you?

Even when people drain my energy, it’s hard for me to let them go. I can feel like a failure when a relationship runs it course. Several years ago, a friend forwarded an e-mail that is helping me learn how to let go.

Here it is:

A Season, Or a Lifetime?

Pay attention to what you read.
After you read this, you will know the reason it was sent to you!
People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a reason…
It is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty,
to provide you with guidance and support,
to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are!
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part,
or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die.
Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met,
our desire fulfilled,
their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered.
And now it is time to move on.

Then people come into your life for a season.
Because your turn has come to share, grow, and learn.
They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it! It is real!
But only for a season.

Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons:
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

Seek Connection Over Perfection

October 6th, 2013

Great communicators seek connection over perfection. Connection is crucial for communication to take place, and few of us can connect, or identify, with someone who appears perfect. Perfection is rarely reality, and we seek out people who are real.

Most of the executives I coach falsely believe their presentations must be perfect. They put tremendous pressure on themselves to say the right words, the right way, at the right time, all the time. Under this kind of pressure, it's no surprise so many of them would rather eat glass than present in public.

Think back to a recent conversation you had with a friend. You probably can't remember the exact words he or she used but you can remember the point he or she wanted to make. Great communication is far more than the words we use.

Great presenters focus on their audiences and not on a script. Research tells us our words - the actual words we use - account for only seven percent of our credibility as a speaker. Visual and vocal cues make up the remaining 93 percent.

When we strive to be word perfect, we do ourselves a disservice. In the unlikely event that our speech flows like milk and honey, it can also curdle for we appear scripted, stilted and not our natural, authentic selves.

If we stumble and lose our place, we do not have to lose our credibility. We can simply acknowledge we have lost our place and take a few seconds to find it. Most audiences want us to succeed as speaker. They will be patient as we find our place and resume our talk.

If we misquote a figure or statistic, we simply correct ourselves. Most audiences won't think twice about the correction.

If we don't know the answer to a hard question, we say so, but promise to find out the answer and get back to the questioner. Audiences will appreciate our honesty and responsiveness.

Audiences may not expect perfection, but they do demand humanity. They want to connect with the speaker above all else. They want to get to know us; they want to know that we can be trusted. Showing them our vulnerability accomplishes these important tasks.

We can be competent and not perfect. Competence comes from knowing your stuff, and many times we learn our stuff from the mistakes we make.

One of my more effective speeches was entitled, "Confessions of a Reformed Manager." In it, I recounted ten miserable mistakes I had made as a new manager. The audience of new managers was mesmerized during the hour-long presentation for they felt a real affinity with me. By exposing my flaws, I had invited them into my home. By sharing my humanity, we could walk on common ground.

In conclusion, great speakers combine competence with vulnerability. They seek connection over perfection. They know their stuff and are not afraid to show us who they are.

The Power of Creative Expression

September 1st, 2013

Paint, write, dance, sing, or garden; let your life become the full expression of all you are.

I’ve been painting for years, I love writing, and nothing gets my creative juices flowing more than brainstorming and program development.

Asheville-based Jungian psychologist and author Bud Harris says life is composed of being, doing, and creating. Yet our culture values productivity, or doing, above all else.

I am finding that “doing” (my strongest suit) becomes empty when not supported by “being” and “creating.” Driving to my studio to paint during the week, I fight feelings of not being productive, or goofing off. Yet I know that this time is as important as any I spend during my work, for it is when I paint that I ground myself.

I once worked with a young CEO who was struggling to find more meaning in his work. As we talked, it became apparent that he was neglecting a very important aspect of his whole being, his Creative Self. I asked him if he had a creative outlet in his life and he replied that he used to draw but no longer had time for it. He was either working during the week or spending time with his wife and two young boys on the weekends.

I asked if he might set aside some time during the weekends to draw with his sons. He could learn much about pure creativity from them, and they could learn the importance of caring for their creative selves from him. The young CEO took my advice. “I am having the time of my life, Randy,” he later reported.


How to Live Life on Purpose

August 1st, 2013

In my work (and my book “Engineer Your Career)”, I address four “Ps.” One of those “Ps” is Purpose. I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose. Identifying and  sharing my gifts–my special talents, skills, and attributes–is crucial if I want to live life on and with purpose. This summer, I found these two passages in Paul Ferrini’s book “Silence of the Heart.”

“You think the gift is ‘a doing,’ but it’s not. The gift is a ‘way of being’ that is effortless and exultant. It comes naturally to you. It immediately and palpably brings joy to others.”

“Whatever you do, you can express your gift. You don’t need a special role, a special platform.”

Over the past few months, I’ve been pondering how my life’s work can be more “a way of being” instead of “a doing.” I don’t have all the answers, but in Ferrini’s words I’ve got a direction.

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