"Whether you are communicating with one person or a thousand, in this information-saturated, attention-deprived age, you need to earn the attention of your audience as quickly as possible--then hold it."
Nick Morgan, How to Tell Great Business Stories
In my last post I urged leaders to tell their stories to their people. It was my most popular post this year. Thank you for commenting and sharing it. I also promised that I would share my story. There are no bullets or lesson points in this post. Just a story.
|photo credit: Chris Blakeley via photopin cc|
I learned the power of story telling from my mentor. She once told me when teaching and training on communication skills, the learner has to feel the impact and stories do that.
Nick Morgan put it this way:
"[b]y drawing them in [with a story] you will increase their emotional investment and help them remember your message."
John Maxwell says "everyone communicates. few connect".
Don't you find it ironic that in this digital age, where we have multiple ways of connecting with each other, people are more disconnected now than ever before?
Why is that? This was my question back before the internet was a part of everyday life. I was a bullied child, and I found myself sympathetic to my tormentors. Don't misunderstand. I hated my tormentors and hated myself even more for sympathizing with them. [I've since forgiven us both]
But the truth was, the very girls who caused my life such distress, were in fact hurting themselves. I remember one of my regular elementary school bullies, (let's call her "Nancy"), hit me in class. After I told the teacher, (yeah I snitched) we were both taken outside in the hall. The teacher stepped back into the room and told us when she returned she would be calling Nancy's mother. As soon as the door closed, Nancy turned to me with such fear in her eyes and begged me to plead to our teacher on her behalf. She apologized profusely and begged me not to call her mother, as if the action was left to me. Sympathetically, I agreed; and when the teacher returned, I somehow persuaded the teacher not to call Nancy's mother. I believe it was because I showed Nancy the mercy she was never given. She never bullied me again...in fact, she made sure no one else did either.
In his book, Be A People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships John Maxwell makes one of the most profound insights I've ever read.
"The key to relating to others is putting ourselves in their place instead of putting people in their place."
So often we aim to put people in their place. We call it "checking someone"; "reading their mail"; "putting them on blast"; "keeping it real" or a myriad of other euphemisms to basically keep people in place.
Here is the problem. If we spend all of our time systematically placing, moving, and replacing the people in our lives, when do we actually have a relationships with people?
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All of this contributes to the BRAVE Communication LLC Story.
I decided to call my company BRAVE Communication for two reasons. The first is because I knew that stepping out into entrepreneurial waters was a big step for me. For so long, I looked for validation from others. I needed it. I needed to be brave enough to, in the words of King David, "encourage myself". Being an entrepreneur is a scary place at times. But I knew I had to do it because I had a mission.
That mission is the second reason I started my business and called it BRAVE Communication. The real, genuine, heart felt connection that people long for, only comes when one is brave enough to communicate openly and skillfully. A lot of peoples' problems are traced back to poor communication.
Small irritants, not dealt with, become large offenses that threaten relationships.
People really want deep meaningful relationships with others. A relationship built on trust. A relationship free of fear. Free from jockeying for power. Free from "one upping" one another. Free to make mistakes and learn from them. Free to just be. Relationships that make us better instead of worse. I mean even as I write these words, my heart soars to think of it. Who doesn't want a relationship like that?
|photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc|
But because of not knowing how to have such relationships, we roam about doing the best we can. Because of fear, we only strive to have shallow relationships that only magnify the void in our lives. After all, shallow relationships are safe.
A ship in harbor is safe but that's not what it was built for.
My mission with BRAVE is to help people with the how. I like training groups of people on communication skills. But I LOVE coaching people one on one because that is when people can, as Nick Morgan says, feel the return on the emotional investment in open and skillful communication. I also love coaching because it takes people from the how to the actual do. It is safe to learn better ways to communicate when you work with a coach who genuinely cares about you.
Good communication skill is needed in all areas of life. However, I focus on building these relationships at work because it is almost non existent there. Work has somehow been diminished into a place where everything that makes us humane, is asked to be checked at the door for the sake of the bottom line or being professional.
Managers are bullying and abusing their teams because they are finally in a position of power and think that is the only way to get results. Like my elementary school bully, who feeling powerless in one place came to school to exert power over others; leaders are throwing child-like tantrums and calling it leadership.
|photo credit: Microsoft clip art|
Leaders are afraid that they can't produce results and be kind and considerate or dare I say it...be NICE! Leaders don't trust the people they lead and why should they when they only strategically place, move, and replace people like pawns on a board?
Let me be clear about the word nice. Nice doesn't mean you don't set high expectations. It doesn't mean you don't set boundaries. It doesn't mean you don't fire someone. It just means you aren't a jerk about it.
Leaders have to be bold enough to be the best they can. Jack Welch and I will never be the same. I am made differently but I can still be just as effective in business. But I will never be effective as long as I am trying to be the next Jack Welch or Sara Blakely or [insert the person you admire]. God didn't make me Jack or Sara. God made me...Julia.
And it is by fully accepting myself and being secure in myself that I as a leader can help someone else do the same thing. I issue that same challenge to you. If you are reading my blog, then you are interested in leadership on some level. So I ask you, are you trying to fit the mold of leadership laid out by others? Writing your story, and rewriting your story, helps you remember why you are doing what you are doing. It also gives you the courage to keep doing it so you help someone else find success.
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.