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Powerful Conversations: How High-Impact Leaders Communicate

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All leaders talk, but it is what they say and how they say it that determines whether the group succeeds or fails.

Think about it: the leader’s most fundamental and most important job is to be in touch with those around him or her. Whether it is in the hallways or on the phone, in the middle of the workday or after hours, while delivering a performance review to a key employee or a yearly address to thousands of employees, leaders are involved in a constant series of conversations.

Through these encounters, whether brief and spontaneous or scheduled and structured, leaders try to use their time with colleagues, employees, customers, and others to reach a variety of ends. Grabbing a moment, the leader takes the opportunity to influence and direct a member of the sales staff. A weekly meeting becomes a chance to coach a manager and gather information about the department’s morale and its financial numbers. A quick e-mail checks on the progress of a research project and gives a boost of recognition and support to the team. During a strategy meeting, the leader negotiates next steps with division heads and outlines a coordinated approach. At a company awards ceremony, he or she tries to hammer home a message about values and goals. In short, the leader, through his or her conversations, aims to foster relationships, build support networks, and sharpen organizational focus.

Yet outcomes from conversations are too often unclear. Perceptions don’t always match. Influences are frequently not as profound as one would hope. Communication is generally a struggle with mixed, uncertain, and unpredictable results. Too much conversation is ad hoc and hinges on moods, energy levels, relationships, and personalities. Sometimes a leader is right on point. Sometimes he or she clicks and forges a new connection. Other times, the leader misses the mark. Either way, he or she pushes on, lining up the next meeting, setting up the next goal, responding to the latest need for clarification.

Communication is never easy. Inevitably, when a leader is driving change and dealing with conflicting agendas, some conversations provide a challenge that tests the bounds and skill of experience. During the heat of a difficult conversation, you need to fall back on a discipline. You need clear communication that advances agendas, promotes learning, and strengthens relationships. It’s the difference between achieving objectives and having everything fall apart—and the difference between winning and losing.

Imagine having to let a close friend know that he or she is off a project because of poor performance, yet wanting at the same time to preserve the strength of the relationship. Imagine having to make necessary structural changes to an organization, realigning roles and positions in ways that involve cuts in the workforce, yet wanting at the same time to bolster morale and organizational commitment. These are the difficult conversations that High-Impact Leaders face every single day, so what makes them different from any other leader?

High-Impact Leaders are the people who get results. They are the ones who make things happen. They are the leaders who are able to continually advance a clear agenda, get others to buy into it, and move an organization, a division, or a team forward. Being a High-Impact Leader has nothing whatsoever to do with title or rank, because High-Impact Leaders can be found up, down, and across any organization.

-Impact Leaders are the ones who cause no surprises. They are explicit, consistent, concise, and authentic. They sometimes have an abundance of charisma, but that is clearly not a prerequisite. More to the point, High-Impact Leaders are the ones who take charge wherever they are. They are the ones others want to follow. They are also the leaders whose teams others consistently want to join. When they move on to new roles or new territories, they do not travel alone. Others ask to go with them.

These conditions result because High-Impact Leaders use the technology of Powerful Conversations and then match what they say with what they do. Through Powerful Conversations, they develop openness, honesty, and clarity in order to get others to believe and share in their goals, to gain commitments, and to foster trust. And they prove they are worthy of that trust by delivering on their own commitments and by making results happen.

The link between Powerful Conversations and High-Impact Leaders lies in the relationship between two concepts I refer to as Say and Do. I have seen people skilled at the art of Powerful Conversations nevertheless fail as leaders because they fail to live up to their words. As a result, they never become High-Impact Leaders. I have never known a High-Impact Leader, however, who was not also skilled at Powerful Conversations, whether conscious of that designation or not. To be a High-Impact Leader, you have to be able to conduct Powerful Conversations on a consistent basis and live up to the outcomes of those conversations. Why is this important? It has to do with trust—without which conversations cannot progress toward the realization of commitments.

One of the most important functions of a Powerful Conversation is to create clarity, a critical success factor for building trust. I cannot tell you how frequently I have been involved in situations in which a leader, reflecting on problems that have arisen, says, “I can’t believe they thought I meant that. I never had any intention of doing that.” And the followers say something like, “It’s unbelievable. Our leader made a clear commitment to do this and now denies it was ever part of the agenda.” Both sides shake their heads. Barriers go up. Trust is reduced or nonexistent.

True clarity implies that a leader says exactly what he or she means in such a way that his or her statements are received as intended. This requires openness, honesty, and an active and careful tracking of wants, needs, and commitments. It furthermore requires that those clear statements be lived up to with demonstrated actions built on organizational trust.

High-Impact Leaders today lead in a better way because they recognize that the shortest path to achieving objectives is to build trust and gain clear commitments from others. Specifically, they engage in Powerful Conversations to uncover the wants and needs of others in order to understand what will motivate those people to join forces with the leader and live up to the commitments of a conversation. They skillfully orchestrate the Powerful Conversations in which they engage to make clear all parties understand the exact commitments that have been made. Then they check into those commitments and make sure through follow-up conversations that the commitments can be kept. They track the wants and needs of others and find ways to reinforce their own desire to understand the wants and needs of others, often through continued follow-up conversations. High-Impact Leaders do these things because they know that trust must exist if the leader is to achieve his or her agenda through Powerful Conversations to create positive outcomes for their teams and stakeholders.

by Phil Harkins

Here’s How Many Jobs U.S. Companies Cut In September

The computer industry was hit hard.

Last month saw a surge in layoffs, primarily due to large-scale employee cuts at companies like Hewlett-Packard.

U.S. companies laid off 58,877 workers in September, according to data released Thursday by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. September layoffs are up 43% from August when about 41,000 workers were let go.

In total, employers have announced 493,431 planned layoffs so far this year, a 36% jump over the same period last year and 2% more than the 2014 total.

“Job cuts have already surpassed last year’s total and are on track to end the year as the highest annual total since 2009, when nearly 1.3 million layoffs were announced at the tail-end of the recession,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The computer industry accounted for the heaviest job cuts in September primarily driven by Hewlett-Packard, which said it would cut 30,000 jobs. The job losses, which were announced in mid-September by CEO Meg Whitman, should save the company $2.7 billion annually and represented about 10% of the company’s workforce, HP said.

Source: Here’s How Many Jobs U.S. Companies Cut In September

5 Common Networking Mistakes You’re Making

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Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless.

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Scott Kriz, CEO of Bitium.

All too often, I see people at networking events exchanging business cards and starting up superficial conversations for obviously one-sided, self-serving purposes. But what happens when you leave the happy hour or the conference? How many of those conversations resulted in something substantial? Networking should be viewed as the beginning of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship. While there’s no formula to creating a valuable network, there certainly are guidelines. Here are five lessons I’ve learned while building and strengthening my network:

Be authentic
When I was fresh out of college, I used to attend events and come home with a pile of business cards, trying to figure out how each person could benefit me in my career. Guess how many of those turned into valuable relationships? Not one. Realizing this, I stopped bringing cards with me to events. Instead, I started attending events with smaller groups of people and focused more on getting to really know everyone on a personal level. Over time, I found that people with whom I shared common personal interests tended to provide more value than those with closer professional ties.

See also: What a game of chess can teach you about networking

Listen and ask questions
While I love sharing stories, I have never learned anything by hearing myself talk. So I try to focus on learning from other people’s experiences by taking a genuine interest in that person and asking them questions instead. For example, a few years ago, I found out the CMO from Microsoft had retired and was living in Southern California. Marketing has always been an area that fascinated me because it didn’t come naturally. I wanted to learn about marketing from the top mind in B2B marketing software so I could better understand it for my own business.

Through my network, I found out that she was going to be at a local accelerator event so I decided to attend as well. It’s amazing how generous people are with their time and their knowledge when you express genuine interest. Mich Mathews is now an investor and board member for Bitium–and a close friend of mine.

Seek out people that you like
Building a network of people that you don’t get along with is completely pointless. Every one of us has our own opinions, tastes and tolerances. Spend your time with people you like and you will find natural alignment. When I started my current company, I was lucky enough to have a co-founder that I had enormous respect for both personally and professionally. We wanted to hire the smartest employees, of whom we also enjoyed working with. Everyone on our current team has been hired through a personal or professional connection. I’m proud of this, not only because I love what we do as a company, but because I love the people that I am building the company with.

See also: Business cards aren’t outdated and 4 other networking tips

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
Some of the best networkers that I know are busy and overcommitted by nature. In order to leverage their networks appropriately and get the introductions I want, I’ve found that the less intrusive and more specific that I can be, the more likely they are to help out. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is being solicited and read the content of the email as if you are that person. Make your email request is concise, specific, not completely self-serving and most importantly, easy for them to forward on to the person you want an introduction to. Help them help you.

Be yourself
Remember that everyone is just a person, no matter what they have achieved or how well-known they are. It’s easy to get star struck when meeting someone you’ve read about or who is considered a ‘celebrity’ in your industry. Approach them like you would anyone else at an event. Too many times people try to force a conversation because they really admire someone and want nothing more than to be associated with that person. Relax, have fun and don’t try to foster relationships that aren’t natural.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s the best way to network?

How to work a room at an important networking event by Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify.

The one question you have to ask everyone you network withby Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.

3 signs you’re a serial meet-and-greet networker by Shadan Deleveaux, director of sales multicultural beauty division at L’Oréal USA.

Forget what you know about networking. Do this instead by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.

3 networking mistakes you don’t know you’re making by Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite.

Why face-to-face networking will never go out of style by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.

How to effectively network (even if you dread it) by David DeWolf, president and CEO of 3Pillar Global.

The only thing you need to keep in mind when networkingby William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.

Why social media alone won’t get you a job by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.

NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.

5 Steps For Building Trust And Credibility

In today’s hyper-connected and transparent marketplace, brands and products arrive and depart at hypersonic speeds.

According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, For the first time, trust and transparency are just as important to a company’s reputation as the quality of their products and services. In U.S.A., these two elements stand even higher than product quality.

Cautious of fraud, scams, and scheming marketing tactics, customers are beginning to perceive the world defined by genuine or contrived. More often than not, they’re basing their buying decisions on how authentic they judge an offer to be.

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Unfortunately though, many companies don’t practice trustworthiness and credibility. Alternatively, they attempt to grow their firms based what they believe customers want to hear.

But listening to prospects and customers and mindlessly responding back what they state isn’t going to earn trust or relationship capital from the customer. It is not about deceiving people with amazing commitments. Rather, it is about courageously proclaiming what you believe, and then withdrawing to observe who is attracted to your idea.

Credible brands are able to earn a loyal following; a social community, so to speak. Happy customers will share their experiences with peers and friends, and if the company stays true to its messaging and continues to deliver products and/or service that are in alignment with the customers’ hopes, it will be on the path toward building a relationship capital brand built for the long-run.

If you’re thinking of elevating your organizational culture, launching a startup or developing a brand, think of the 4 attributes of earning Relationship Capital (RC):

•Character
•Competence
•Good Intent
•Proactivity

Take the Free Relationship Capital (RC) Test. I welcome you to take this assessment in confidence as we never share this information outside Standard of Trust.

 5 Steps For Building Trust And Credibility

The following steps are by no means the only ways to build trust, credibility, and relationship capital, but they are the most important.

1. Define Your Purpose and Guiding Principles

The first step is to determine what your credibility is composed of. You will need to choose which guiding principles you are willing to commit to no matter what. If you commit to the open standard principles of Relationship Capital (RC), they are the following:
•Honesty
•Accountability
•Responsibility
•Support
•Respect
•Trustworthiness
•Emotional Boundaries

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Your ability to embed this relationship capital guiding principles into your company’s purpose will be an effective way in earning and building relationship capital with your stakeholders that will sustain long-term distinction.

For example, the Purpose of the Standard of Trust Group is:

To make a difference to business organizations and their stakeholder relationships through the capture, measurement, and utilization of open standards of relationship capital. To assist business leaders and their organizations to compete by out-behaving the competition.

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Let me “Warn” you. Do not make superficial commitments to the relationship capital guiding principles or other principles you may select. Inauthentic behavior will be found out by the social and digitally connected tribe and your reputation and credibility will be damaged

2. Determine How You Will Demonstrate Authenticity

Look for the moments to demonstrate your authenticity. Whether it’s online with social media or your LinkedIn blog, or in offline interactions with others, take the time to learn and understand your audience and permit to learn and understand you too.

3. Be Open

How far would you go to show your authenticity and credibility? Decide how you will demonstrate your guiding principles and how open you want to be. Then make a plan of action for showcasing this openness.

4. Be Consistent

Keep your communications consistent. The messages that you’re sending out through marketing, promotions and social media should be in alignment with the offline experience that you provide to customers.

5. Prepare For Resistance

Finally, get ready for the resistance. When you build a certain level of awareness, you’re going to get people who oppose. Don’t let this dishearten you or sidetrack you from your guiding principles and purpose. Stay committed to your principles, and you will earn respect (and relationship capital) from the people around you. Your loyal and customers, employees, partners, and brand ambassadors will defend and support you.

Conclusion

Whether a business leader, entrepreneur or startup, committing your authentic self is about being true to your guiding principles and fulfilling your stated commitments to your stakeholders (customers, employees, or partners).

Leading with authenticity is not for everyone, but those who decide to utilize this as the foundation for establishing or nurturing a relationship capital business or a relationship capital brand will learn that building a company based on purpose, performance, and relationship capital will provide sustainability despite the accelerating changes that may come in the future.

By Robert Peters

Sources: Standard of Trust: Leadership

Urban Ecology Center- Riverside Park

Image I am always amazed when I find new and exciting places to visit here in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park is one of those places. Made of 76% recycled material, the Urban Ecology Center “Green” building boast that it using rain water for all restroom purposes and is not connected to the Lake Michigan water filtration system, saving thousands of dollars a year. On the roof are solar panels that produce enough energy to sustain it for the summer months and get a rebate from Wisconsin Electric Energies (WE Energies). The hardwood maple floor is over 100 years old and was donated after the demolition of a nearby elementary school gym. The wraparound porch is made entirely of wood scraps of trees from Africa from the construction of the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Although the building is amazing, the best feature of the Urban Ecology Center is its people.

Led by the unassuming Executive Director, Ken Leinbach, the Urban Ecology Center has grown year after year as one of the key organizations designed to connect urban areas with the beauty of the outdoors. In just 10 years the organization has grown from a $50,000.00 annual budget to over $3 million dollars as of the 2011. To ensure that all of the employees of the Urban Ecology Center share the vision of the organization, they are required to go on a 3 day camping retreat with no access to technology while being immersed in nature. This helps drive the purpose of the mission and the importance of what they look to accomplish; improving the relationship between nature and the urban community while promoting green energy alternatives.

If you are interested in learning more about what the Urban Ecology Center has to offer, please visit their website at: http://urbanecologycenter.org/ for more information.