Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘authenticity’ Category

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.

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Become a Better Person: The 90/10 Rule

January 2nd, 2013

Nothing spotlights sagging self-esteem stronger than when people judge others. Growing up, I was the supreme judge. A fat kid (I had to wear “Husky” brand pants), I constantly put down others in an attempt to pull myself up.

Looking back, I had good teachers; my family members were masters in the art of judgment. Around the dinner table, we would take turns picking on and judging one another. It got so bad during one Sunday supper that my brother’s new bride fled the dining room; our cruelty had reduced her to tears.

Teachers used to preach, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.”   Even when I don’t verbalize judgments, I subtly communicate them and damage relationships.

I now know that judging serves me poorly. My judgments separate me from others, and above all I want connection in my life. I also know that self-esteem is an inside job; it must come from within, not by putting people down.

When judgments bubble up, they must be examined. Writers Carol Kurtz Walsh and Tom Walsh recommend applying “The 90/10 Rule.”  When judgment rears its serpent-like head and we experience a strong negative emotional reaction to another, assume that only 10 percent of our reaction is based upon the situation, leaving a whopping 90 percent that belongs to past.

When we consider the psychological principles of projection and transference, the Walshes’ counsel makes sense. A projection is something that we don’t want to accept about ourselves, so we bury it and then observe it someone else. Years ago, I was in a men’s support group in Atlanta. One man in the group drove me crazy. He was so emotional; he cried at the drop of a hat. Several years later when I began to experience my own shut-down emotions, I was able to reclaim my projection.

Transference occurs when we assign traits to someone that really belong to someone else, and nowhere is transference more apparent than in our primary relationships. I used to transfer negative traits belonging to my mother and father onto my romantic partners until I read the eye-opening imago work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. Hendrix’s research shows that we seek partners who have the predominant character traits of the people who raised us. He believes that we do this subconsciously in an attempt to heal old childhood wounds.

Old habits are hard to break. Although my self-esteem is much stronger than it once was, I still catch myself becoming judgmental toward a person or situation at times. When I do, I try to remember the 90/10 Rule and these wise words: “When you point your finger at someone else, there are four fingers pointing back at you.”

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I Do It Too

July 22nd, 2011

Finding compassion. Extraordinary moments pop up at ordinary times when we pay attention. My friend David was standing in line at the supermarket when an impatient woman broke in line and demanded the cashier check her out. “I only have one item,” she barked. The young cashier politely explained she was serving another customer. Exasperated, the woman broke into another line.

David looked at the cashier, rolled his eyes, and said, “She must have been in some hurry.” The cashier opened her mouth to reply, then paused and thought better of it. She took a deep breath and said, “I do it, too.”

I do it, too, thought David. What a wonderful response. Instead of judging the impatient woman, the cashier found empathy.

“All through the day, whenever I got put out with someone, I thought, ‘I do it, too,’” David told me. “Whether I was in line, in traffic, or dealing with a rude coworker, I remembered, ‘I do it, too.’ What a gift that cashier gave me,” David said. “And I would have missed it, if I wasn’t paying attention.”

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Look in the Mirror

March 28th, 2011

What do you see? “The Guy in the Glass” is a poem written in 1934 by American writer Peter “Dale” Wimbrow (1895-1954); it was first published in The American Magazine in May that same year. Wimbrow submitted the poem in response to the magazine’s request for its readers to send answers to an 18-year-old man’s question. His question was “Why should an ambitious young man be honest?”

Many versions alter the word “pelf” ‘ in the first line of Wimbrow’s poem to “self,” believing the word “pelf” to be a misprint. Pelf in fact means money or wealth, usually ill-gotten, derived from Old French “pelfe” and “pelfre,” meaning reward gained from plunder or contest or achievements, probably related to the same roots as the word “pilfer.”

The Guy in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father or Mother or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

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