Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Marvelous Moments from 2016

A few years ago, I risked my livelihood and took a gigantic, scary leap from my successful sales career with one of the world’s largest companies. Having climbed to the pinnacle of Toastmasters by earning my DTM designation, I was passionate about communications and leadership development. My dream was to be a speaker and writer. Using my highly influential magnetic personality and excellent communication skills, I wanted to positively impact lives. I aspired to work for an inspiring leader who would allow me to maximize my personality, strengths, and talents. My mission was to live vibrantly today … because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

After floating in mid-air for some time, having no idea where I’d land, Paul McMurray approached me to help him with sales initiatives at his small leadership development firm. Even though I loved the communication and leadership development programs he represented, I had deep reservations about venturing on with him. Spending my resources and limited time left on this earth sitting at a desk, working a phone that seemingly leads to a big black hole, wasn’t the vibrant quest I was seeking.
Reluctantly, I accepted Paul’s offer, and found my footing on new territory. As I began to apprehensively follow Paul, I discovered he was not only an inspiring leader, but also a genuinely great guide who had my best interest at heart. He provided a safe environment, consistent encouragement and freedom for me to test my talents, strengths and passions. Nurturing me with plenty of positive feedback, he gave me assignments that aligned with my interests. Viewing me as his peer, he valued and trusted my ability to make decisions, only intervening when absolutely necessary, which was rare.
Under his exceptional tutelage, I am on an incredible expedition, exploring many exciting new places; places I’d have never gone had I not risked it all and leaped from a secure perch in sales.
Today, I count my job as a Senior Consultant with Insight Management Consulting as one of my greatest sources of fulfillment and happiness! Here’s a recap of some of my marvelous moments from 2016, a year I consider to be one of the most rewarding of my life.  
In early January, when I was submitting speaking proposals for Paul to speak at MD SHRM State Conference he encouraged me to submit a proposal for myself too. Cautiously, because I had no “real” experience or professional references, I followed his advice. My topic was: Charting the Course to Greater Fulfillment and Happiness at Work.
Later in the month, I had mis-scheduled his calendar for a speaking engagement. The organization was expecting Paul, the Master Trainer and International Speaker, and he was not available. With a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I pondered how I would unravel the embarrassing mess I had made.
The topic was Listening, and Paul had complete confidence that I could deliver it. I knew I could too, but was afraid they would be disappointed to not have him and his superior talent. To my surprise, they were excited to hear me speak, and see my talent.
A few days prior to the engagement there had been a crippling snow storm in the region. It didn’t cancel the meeting, but made getting there tricky for me. Allowing myself plenty of time, I ended up in a huge traffic jam and wasn’t sure I’d make it to the meeting on time. Luckily, I arrived 10 minutes before I was to start speaking. The committee whisked into action, connecting my computer and dispersing my handouts. In the midst of chaos, I was calm, composed and collected. Completely comfortable with my content, I had the time of my life doing what I was made to do: rousing 80 professionals to discover the golden key to effective communication and leadership – Listening.
After the presentation, a gal came to me and said, “I’m on the speaker selection committee for MD SHRM State Conference, I can’t promise you a slot, but I will recommend you, and think you have a really good chance at speaking there.”
A couple weeks later, we were beyond ecstatic when we found out that I was selected to present two workshops at the MD SHRM State Conference in October!
In February I booked Paul to speak at another organization. As his booking agent and secret sales rep (because I was never going to sell again), I accompanied him to the event. Standing around at the end, talking to the leaders, he offered, “Beth speaks on Listening. She could speak at one of your meetings.” Before I knew it, I was on their calendar for March.
A payroll organization contacted me in February 2016 requesting a speaker for their 2016 conference. Paul was unavailable, and suddenly, I was booked for another presentation on Listening.
After that presentation, the CEO of a small payroll company approached me. “My employees need to hear this,” she said. “Would you be able to come to my company and present it during an all-hands meeting?” Enthusiastically, I said, “YES!!”
In early May, I inspired her 50 employees to become more effective listeners. Listening is the secret to opening doors and securing relationships.
After sharing with me some of the challenges of her organization, she contracted with Insight for a substantial consulting project. Paul led the initiative, and invited me to participate in every step of it. It was a tremendous learning experience in measuring culture vitality, strategic planning, and organizational change. I loved it!
By mid-May, I was becoming braver and bolder. A government HR organization, reached out to us to sponsor their spring conference. We agreed to sponsor, if we were given the opportunity to present a program. They agreed and I again found myself in front of another audience! “Marvel at the Possibilities” was the theme for their event. All speakers were encouraged to choose a marvel character and weave it into their presentation. My presentation was wrapped around Wonder Woman and her powerful arsenal: a lasso of truth, indestructible bracelets, and a projectile tiara. Challenging the audience to first believe in themselves, hold toxic people at arm’s length, and deflect negative thoughts with positive ones; and, then to do the same for others, was incredibly invigorating to both them and me!
To my surprise, a Deputy Director to a Senior Executive Officer at a large government agency was in the audience. Having enjoyed my presentation, he wanted to know how he could bring a workshop to his organization. After a conference call with him to understand his challenges and needs, he awarded us a sizable contract to train his staff of 40 in August.
May ended with the International ATD Conference in Denver, CO. Paul offered me the opportunity to attend this conference with more than 20,000 training and development experts from all over the world. The icing on the cake was that I traveled to Denver early with my best friend, Ann. Together, we laughed until our liver wiggled and made a mountain of memories that will last a lifetime.

In June, Insight Management Consulting exhibited at the International SHRM Conference in Washington DC. It was attended by more than 17,000 HR professionals. Paul allowed me to unleash my full cache of creativity. At our booth, we had a large treasure chest full of foam rubber body parts representing the modules of Personify Leadership, a program we represent. Attendees were encouraged to pick a body part and solve a riddle (written by me) about a valuable leadership principle. For “Finding Insight” and playing with us, we awarded them body parts, books and bling; a few of my favorite things.

In August, it was a privilege to train What Motivates Me at the large government agency, with Paul. As we were interacting with the employees during the class, I discovered an employee who was only 20% engaged at work. She asked me to help her get unstuck. Finally realizing my value, I told her my hourly coaching fee was $200/hour. Without batting an eye, she paid me for several sessions. It was sheer pleasure helping her develop a career transition plan, and GET PAID for my expertise.
Meanwhile, in mid-August, Paul and I went back to consult with the payroll executive. Entering the conference room, she closed the door behind her. With tear glazed eyes she said, “There’s something I have to tell you. Since we began this project, I’ve been approached by a big company that wants to acquire us. We’re in negotiations and may seal the deal on August 31. I don’t know if I’ll be around on September 1. My people have no idea what’s coming. What can you do to take care of them?”
Paul immediately offered me as a resource. I quickly put together a program, offered her people the motivator assessment, and prepared and presented two webinars. The goal was to help them discover their passions, understand the value of their contribution to the organization, and equip them to be engaged when she was no longer there.
Because I had been through three mergers and acquisitions myself, she asked me to provide her senior leaders with Crucial Skills for Navigating Change. Under Paul’s direction, I prepared a presentation on the importance of trust, persuasive communication, and listening in the workplace. I delivered it alone.
Since this executive, and Paul, believed in me and trusted me with her people, I gained confidence as a consultant, speaker, and trainer.
In September, the Deputy Director at the large government agency wanted a 2-hour program for the senior leaders in his division. The topic was Creating a Culture of Openness. Paul wasn’t available on the date required, and the deputy inquired, “Why can’t Beth do it?” Paul believed in me, but wasn’t quite ready to put me in front of senior leaders at a large government agency. The deputy pressed on, and Paul agreed that I could do it. And, I did … and it was an amazing experience. Because the Deputy Director believed in me and trusted me with his people, and Paul allowed me to accept the challenge, I realized my impact as a speaker, trainer and coach. I was on the adventure of a lifetime; doing what I love; living my dream.
In September, I was invited to present a webinar on employee engagement and motivation for the Society of American Military Engineers. It was one of their highest attended webinars.
Later in the month, I traveled to Salt Lake City, UT to exhibit at a large state conference where I met hundreds of people. Traveling a few days early, I celebrated my birthday with Paul’s brother, David, in some of the prettiest mountains and canyons in America. We even ventured to Idaho, another first for me.

In October, I met two bestselling authors and international leadership gurus – Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, and presented two programs for MD SHRM in Ocean City MD. I also presented a full-day solo What Motivates Me class at the US Army Research Lab; and was invited to present a program on Becoming a Trustworthy Leader to another community organization.
At the end of October, Craig and I spent nine lovely days vacationing on the breathtaking Emerald Coast of Destin, FL. A gift from beloved friends, everything about the trip was exquisite, including our excursions to Rosemary Beach, Pensacola, and Mobile, AL.
In five weeks, I had been to UT, ID, MD, VA, FL and AL. I was traveling, meeting interesting people, and influencing lives all around the nation. It was exhilarating! I was not sitting behind a desk, dialing into an endless black hole. I was living vibrantly among people!
In November, I met another bestselling author. Epic story builder and international speaker, Steve Donahue, happened to sit next to me at lunch in room of 150 people. Drawn to my energy, creativity, and passion, he inspired me to write a book containing stories and principles for living vibrantly today. He graciously offered to be a champion on the journey forward.

A few weeks later, I presented a solo full-day What Motivates Me class for another division of the large government agency, touching the lives of 30 more public servants. Additionally, I offered another webinar on motivation to the Society of American Military Engineers.
Finally, in December, I presented a one hour program for the US Army Research Lab Admin Consortium on Charting the Course to Greater Fulfillment and Happiness at Work. At that event, I met and chatted with a Colonel and Major Sargent who are promising prospects for future business.
As I reflect on this past year, I marvel at the magnificent moments I’ve had because I risked my livelihood and took a gigantic, scary leap from my successful sales career. The time I spent floating mid-air between jobs, uncertain of where I’d land, was a time of quiet reflection that helped me discover WHO I really am, and WHAT I really wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. Landing with Insight Management Consulting was a pleasant surprise. Paul has been an amazing and trustworthy guide. This year has been one spectacular adventure after another as I aim to live vibrantly today!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Skyscrapers, Friendship, & Marvelous Mentors

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are the tallest twin structures in the world.Flickr/Hadi Zaher

Do you ever stop, crane your neck back, and look up, marveling at how far you’ve come because of someone’s influence?
I’ll always fondly remember one of my first professional friends and mentors. I was fresh out of college and clueless about corporate culture when Deb swept into my life. She was a Buyer for a large international defense contractor. I was an Accounts Payable Clerk. Our paths intersected because I reconciled invoices for the products and services she procured.
A constant stream of encouragement to me, we became fast friends.
I’ll always remember shoe shopping with her at lunch. At least 6’ tall and thin as a rail, Deb wore high heels with the poise and confidence of a dramatic skyscraper. T.J. Gottesdiener, a designer of numerous tall buildings including the Sears Tower in Chicago would say, of a skyscraper, “It has attitude, and is anything that makes you stop, stand, crane your neck back, and look up." That's my friend, Deb! Not only was she physically attractive; but much more, she was driven, strong, and connected; competitive, accountable and accomplished; competent, credible, and conversational; approachable, empathetic and appreciative. Deb stood head and shoulders above everyone else; and, everyone looked up to her, especially me.
She was my trustworthy, loyal companion, believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Recognizing my potential, she used her dynamic influence and connectivity to help promote me to a Purchasing Agent. From her, I learned the art of persuasion and negotiation, two skills that I mastered over time and used to elevate my career, and achieve my dreams.
Outside of work, we shared many endearing moments. Weekends we often hung out with our spouses, eating tasty tacos, yellow rice, and pinto beans while sipping sweet red wine at her beautiful home in the rural Welsh Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania.
Cross-stitching was my hobby and labor of love. When her daughter, Jennifer was born, I threaded my silver needle and stitched a simple sampler to commemorate the occasion. For Christmas one year, I patiently wove my needle up and down, crisscrossing stitches to create a cute little bear and candy cane keepsake. Gifts from my heart to hers.
When her second daughter was born, she named her Kristen “Elizabeth” after me.
Shortly after Kristen was born, Deb’s husband accepted a job transfer to Arkansas. When the moving truck pulled out of the driveway that warm summer day carrying my best friend and mentor far away, my heart was completely crushed. As though it were driving through a gigantic puddle on a rainy day, tears splashed my face smearing my makeup like mud.
Later Deb moved to Texas, and we moved on with our lives, losing touch. However, I never forgot this special lady who stood head and shoulders above the crowd leaving a legacy of love on my life.
You can only imagine my ecstasy when I found her on Facebook a few years ago.  Jennifer is grown and married with a daughter of her own. She named her daughter, Lilah “Elizabeth” after Aunt Kristen, and me. Jennifer wasn’t more than five years old when she moved away from Pennsylvania with her parents, but memories of her “Rudy” – that’s the name she affectionately called me – lived on in her heart. Today, she lives in Georgia.
Kristen, my namesake, is grown and married too. She and her husband live in Washington.
They are two beautiful young women who stand tall and dramatic like their mother, influencing lives through their chosen careers.
This week, Deb posted a photo and status update on Facebook: “Friends gifts keep giving every year. Thank you to Beth Rudy for this cross-stitch bear and candy cane. This traveled from PA to TX.”
She continued, “Over this Thanksgiving I gave Jenn the red heart framed cross-stitch you did with her birth date. Friends gifts are the best. 30 years is right, Beth. Your name is Kristen and Lilah's middle name. I think this makes you very special!!! God bless.”
Like a skyscraper, the gift of lasting friendship may make you stop, stand, crane your neck back, and
look up marveling at the distance of time and space; wondering at its solidity to stand through the storms of life; pondering the generations who passed through its prestigious doors.
Little did I know that a friendship that began more than 30-years ago, would stand firm through the test of separation and time. I didn’t remember the handiwork from my heart, but I’m tickled to know that it was treasured and traveled through states and years and generations.
The lesson in this story is to stand head and shoulders above everyone else. Be a good friend. Encourage those who are younger than you. Give gifts from the heart. Live vibrantly, and you will be like a skyscraper - everyone will look up to you!

Tell me in the comments about the person who causes you to stop, crane your neck back, and look up, marveling at how far you’ve come because of that person’s influence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Change Begins With Me: Reflections on the 2016 Election

This has been the most disturbing and divisive election cycle either of us can remember. We began writing this piece by assembling a list of sound bites that ought to be consigned to a political “Hall of Shame.” But as we did so, we began to realize we’ve made our own contributions to that hall as well.

Now, don’t get us wrong. We haven’t engaged in hate speech or called for the imprisonment of a candidate. But as we started throwing rocks at others’ behavior, we realized some of ours was not beyond reproach either. As we all reflect on the past year, there’s a hierarchy of culprits we can look to:

1. The candidates. Need we say more? And beyond Trump and Clinton, many of the primary and presidential contenders have lowered the bar on political discourse and election strategy.

2. The media. The media has brought in paid partisans who do little more than recite their campaign’s talking points. News outlets claim to give us “balance” when what we really want is objective analysis by unbiased reporters, producers, and news anchors. After all, the media is often touted as the fourth estate with the responsibility to hold the government to account, and from our perspective, the media has not acted any more responsibly than the before-mentioned politicians.

3. The alternative media. The Internet is festooned with fiction dressed up as fact. And most of its users have become witless distribution tools rather than cautious examiners of what it offers—causing us to “feel” informed rather than “be” informed.

4. Friends (or former friends) and colleagues. We published a study a few months ago that revealed how terrified many of us have felt to venture into political discussions – and rightly so. Over thirty-three percent of us have had a political discussion blow up in our face—causing us to lose a relationship—or worse. We can all point to others who have behaved badly as they’ve attempted to assert their views or influence the views of others.

5. Me. Our emotions turned from righteous indignation to humble reflection as we asked, “How have we contributed to the decline?” If our motive in reviewing the past is to assign blame, we could certainly start with number one on this list and move down in that order. But if we really want to influence change, we should probably reverse the order and start with ME.

With this sobering insight in mind, here are our top six political regrets from 2016 and resolutions for the future.

Regret 1: We have allowed profound disagreement to turn into personal judgments.

Regret 2: We have cowered from opportunities to share our honest views on issues of deep moral importance to us for fear of being punished by an angry virtual mob—or worse.

Regret 3: We have spent enormous time commiserating with those who shared our views and precious little exercising genuine curiosity to learn from those who don’t share our views.

Regret 4: We have been passively vulnerable to the tyranny of search engines—investing time in information that is manipulated by algorithms designed to reinforce our biases. Search engines today are a powerful force for reinforcing ideological divisions as they sense what you prefer to read and serve up more of the same.

Regret 5: We have contributed to contention by chuckling and—gulp—“liking” postings that were insulting but clever, if they advanced our agenda.

Regret 6: We complained about the final candidates but did precious little early enough in the process to produce a better slate of choices.

These are hard pills to swallow. But if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we let ourselves down.

Thankfully, we woke up this morning knowing we can do better. We don’t have to experience this type of divisive and toxic election again, and we won’t—at the very least, we won’t be participants in one. In the future we promise:

1. To not turn vehement disagreement into personal attack.

2. To periodically seek out reasonable advocates of opposing views—and listen deeply to them.

3. To never outsource our political opinions to search engines.

4. To get involved in the political process earlier rather than complain later about weak candidate options.

5. To never again forward or “like” hatefully clever but intellectually vapid material even about candidates or positions we oppose.

6. To continue to engage in the political discussion—and do so in the way we hope others do with us—even if we are unhappy with the results of yesterday’s election.

How about you? Got any regrets? How have you behaved in ways that you are not proud of? What resolutions are you willing to make to help prevent the disgrace of this last election? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

We believe in the goodness of our readers and would like to rally around what can be possible, rather than what just happened. Let’s vow to make it different the next time around.

Best Wishes,
Joseph & David

Copyright 2016 VitalSmarts

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thank you from Chester

Chester Elton has a special message for our friends at MD SHRM.

Thank you for participating in our What Motivates Me sessions at MD SHRM. We hope you found valuable insight and inspiration through both Chester Elton and my presentations.

By now, you should have received your Motivator Assessment Code and taken the assessment to discover what jazzes you to jump out of bed and go to work every day.  
What if you could use the data to do more of what you love and less of what frustrates you? The Insight Management Consulting team is certified to help you. To get you moving in the right direction, we’d be happy to spend 30 minutes discussing your results on the phone. Additional coaching and individual job sculpting is available for a fee.
What impact do you think it would have on workplace productivity if you knew what motivated your team? Companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their competitors by 147% in earnings per share, according to Gallup. Yet, a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. Many companies are experiencing a crisis of engagement and aren’t aware of it.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Insight Management Consulting works with organizations of all sizes in both the public and private sector to help improve workplaces by increasing awareness of what motivates employees and helping align tasks with individual motivators to meet strategic initiatives with highly engaged employees.
To test drive What Motivates Me at your organization, we are offering 50% off our training fee, a savings of up to $3,500. Each participant will receive a Motivator Assessment Code to discover their motivators. In 4 – 6 hours we will walk individuals and teams through the job sculpting process so that you and your team can do more of what you love and less of what frustrates you.
For a free no obligation estimate please contact me.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Power of a Positive Emotional Culture at Work

By Paul Yoachum, The Culture Works

Does your company have a positive emotional culture? A feel-good place to work can be a powerful business development tool, according to a 10-year study of the culture of companies in a variety of industries and locations.

Researchers Sigal Barsade and Olivia A. O’Neill found that companies that focus on creating positive ‘emotional’ cultures have a competitive advantage over those that don’t focus on how their employees feel at work. ’Positive emotions are consistently associated with better performance, quality and customer service — this holds true across roles and industries and at various organizational levels,’ the pair wrote in ‘Manage Your Emotional Culture,’ appearing in the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review.

Many companies focus their efforts on creating a corporate culture based on concepts such as innovation or top-notch customer service. But the researchers say that focusing solely on a so-called cognitive culture can mean a company never fulfills its true potential.

Vail Resorts has worked to create an emotional culture of joy, with ‘have fun’ being one of the company’s core values. The company’s managers are trained to create an upbeat environment for their employees with special activities and events. Employees are allowed special skiing events and other perks designed to make them feel special. Managers also ask employees to ‘go out there and have fun.’ As a result, it’s not unusual to see employees cracking jokes or dancing around with guests.

Cisco Finance created a companywide initiative, ‘Pause for Fun,’ which encourages employees to take a break and, well, have a little fun. Fun videos are created to document the frivolity at the financial services firm. The company also surveys employees regularly to help gauge how they feel.

Censeo, a consulting firm, works to create a positive emotional culture by careful hiring and by letting employees know that frequently blowing up at other workers or exhibiting other negative behaviors aren’t acceptable. The company’s executives said they have passed on some otherwise highly-qualified employee candidates because they had difficult personalities and weren’t able to fit into the company’s emotional culture.

Ubiquity, a retirement plan administrator, constantly studies what makes employees feel a sense of belonging and excitement to be at work. It measures employee moods daily — yup, daily. Company executives place top priority on making the company a great place to work.

Interested in creating a more positive emotional culture at your company? The good news is that it’s an attainable goal — even in companies that have a lot of negativity woven into their cultures. Research shows that people easily ‘catch’ feelings from others. That means that your efforts to create more joy in your office can gain momentum much faster than you may think.

FIND INSIGHT to Create a Positive Emotional Culture at Work. Insight Management Consulting is an independent representative of The Culture Works. Develop the knowledge and skills to Engage, Empower and Energize your workplace by bringing a What Motivates Me™ workshop to your organization.

Life is Short. Love Your Work. For more information contact me: beth@findinsight.com

I'm proud to call the bestselling authors of What Motivates Me, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, my dear friends.

How Do You Cope In Times of Crisis?

Emotional Resiliency, by Michelle Cummings, co-founder of Personify Leadership

Emotional Resiliency is a common leadership topic.  What leader hasn't had to keep their cool under pressure?  Simply stated, emotional resilience is an individual's ability to cope in times of stress.  Resilience is a skillset and/or set of behaviors that can be learned which helps leaders cope better and communicate better when under pressure.  Sounds easy, right?  Not really.

If you are a fan of Hollywood movies, then you may have seen a trailer for the new movie, The 33. Based on a real-life event, the movie is about a cave-in at the San Jose Cooper Mine in Chile which trapped 33 men more than 2,000 feet underground for 69 days. The miners were given a 2% chance of survival and the previous successful rescue depth record was 70 meters, compared to the 700 meters in this event.  Statistically, their fate looked pretty bleak.

This is a story that embodies emotional resilience, if there ever was one.

Leaders can do extraordinary things under pressure.

Emotional Resilience in the moment is a physical response.When a stressor is thrust upon us, the amygdala in our brains goes into fight or flight mode.  It's very hard to control which makes being emotionally resilient even more difficult.  Knowing what your unique bio-feedback triggers are is a good first step in identifying what your body does when you are stressed.  Each miner trapped below the surface most likely had a different emotional response to the cave in and each had to maintain a level of composure to work together to stay alive. 

Stay positive. In the case of the miners, believing that there was light at the end of the proverbial tunnel was inherent in their survival.  If they would have focused on the 98% chance of dying, this story may have had a different ending.  Positive emotions are possible even in times of uncertainty and fear.

There is strength in numbers. Resilience is social.  All 33 miners were required to work together and manage their own fears, as well as the fears, emotions and concerns of their fellow miners.  Reaching out and connecting with others during tough times is not a sign of weakness.  In fact, it is a great coping mechanism when times get tough. 

Look for the meaning in the situation. Resilience can draw strength from the inherent meaning in the situation.  So many of us face stresses like illness, injury, economic crisis, loss of employment, etc, which in turn mean a loss of our routines, sense of predictability and control that give our lives meaning.  The way the miners approached their particular crisis was to create new routines; using the lights on the utility trucks to create night and day, devising a schedule for doing what needed to be done, and having a democratic vote to make decisions.  This in turn created order and meaning to their experience making them more emotionally resilient.  As leaders, we can apply these same concepts to our own stressful times.

Watch for the heroes of resilience around us, and keep their stories in mind when our own times are tough.  The miners' survival of the event provides a worldwide lesson in the remarkable strength of human resilience.

FIND INSIGHT for Developing Emotional Resiliency and learn the tools leaders use to drive vision, create positive culture, and make effective decisions in a time of crisis at one of our upcoming Personify Leadership workshops. Click here for a list of upcoming classes.

Minimize Mistakes: Ask Questions To Confirm and Clarify

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” says Steven Covey. By listening to understand we learn what motivates our employees to perform and our customers to buy. Listening is the catalyst that fosters mutual understanding, and provides us insight into people’s needs and wants so that we can connect with them in a meaningful way.

Be curious. Good listeners ask questions to confirm and clarify what they heard. Here are some examples of confirming and clarifying questions:
  1. Identification of issue:
    • What seems to be the trouble?
    • What do you make of it?
    • How do you feel about it?
    • What concerns you the most about _____________?
    • What seems to be your main obstacle?
    • What is holding you back from _________________?
  2. Further information:
    • What do you mean by___?
    • Tell me more about it.
    • What else.
    • What have you tried so far?
    • What will you have to do to get the job done?
    • What support do you need to accomplish ______________?
  3. Preparation for Failure:
    • What if it does not work out the way you wish?
    • What if that does not work?
  4. Hypothetical:
    • If you could do it over again what would you do differently?
    • If you could do this any way you wanted, what would you do?
  5. Outcomes:
    • How do you want ____________ to turn out?
    • What do you want?
    • What is your desired outcome?
  6. Planning:
    • What do you plan to do about it?
    • What kind of plan do you need to create to accomplish _____________?
    • How do you suppose you could improve the situation?
  7. In relation to:
    • If you do this, how will it affect ________ ?
    • How does this affect _____________?
    • What else do you need to consider?
  8. Summary:
    • How would you summarize your effort/work so far?
    • How is this working?
  9. Taking Action:
    • What will you do? When will you do it?
    • How will I know you did it?
    • What are your next steps?
In my role as an account executive, I was proposing very complex solutions. My favorite boss taught me a crucial skill that I’ve carried with me through the rest of my career. Before I could request a proposal I had to send the client a confirmation letter to confirm and clarify the scope of the project. By doing this, we ensured that our offer was accurate. It prevented us from having to re-do proposals multiple times, and minimized mistakes and misunderstandings.

Influential leaders confirm what they heard and minimize mistakes.

Beth Rudy is a Senior Consultant with Insight Management Consulting, an organizational and leadership development firm located in Crofton, MD that focuses on leadership and talent development. She uses her passion, personality, and positive energy to influence individuals to become better communicators.

She has found that being an excellent communicator has helped her gain confidence to express her thoughts more clearly, share information more effectively, and resolve conflict more respectfully. Throughout the learning process she has discovered a lot about herself and others, and built strong and lasting relationships with customers and colleagues, as well as friends and family.

Studies show we spend 80% of our waking hours communicating. We spend 45% of that time listening. While listening is a large part of our daily routine, research also confirms that most individuals are inept listeners. To bring an interactive listening workshop to your organization please contact Beth.

A Lending Hand in Shifting Sand

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an elite FBI National Academy Re-trainer Program--a group of 100 or more executive law enforcement professionals from state, local, county, tribal, military, federal, and international law enforcement agencies gathered to hone their leadership skills. Participation in the prestigious academy is by invitation only. As a consultant and business developer, I received the opportunity to represent Insight Management Consulting, the organization and leadership development firm I work for.

It was a place filled with some true American heroes – men and women who risk their lives every day to protect “We the people”.   Bashed by President Obama and his minions, criticized by governors and local leaders, and attacked by members of the mainstream media, I wondered what motivated these high caliber professionals to do what they do every day.  Despite all the negative publicity, I discovered they are leaders who look out for the best interest of others, lend a hand, and walk the talk. Honorable individuals, they genuinely care about people, want to make a difference, and personify leadership.  One man in particular, Paul, with a thick southern drawl became my personal hero.

On a damp and dark night, I was invited to join them at a bon fire on the beach. The sky cast an eerie glare over the churning water as I nonchalantly trekked across the deep dunes and onto the gritty expanse. I approached a large pit about 6 feet round and 3 feet deep that reminded me of the cavernous holes my sons dug in the sand on hot summer days in bygone years. Nestled in the cavity, were brightly blazing reddish orange logs giving off intense heat and radiantly lighting up the ominous night. It was ideal for warming the body and soul on a cool spring evening by the galloping sea. While the waves crashed the shore a short distance away, I stood with some of the nation’s finest men and women, roasting marshmallows and listening to stories of drama and adventure. There were searches in scary places and high-speed chases. One burly guy, with the coarse tongue of a sailor, told about piracy on the high sea. Real people. Real stories. Real heroes.

The night grew blacker so I headed back to the hotel.  The glowing beams from the fire were behind me and the twinkling lights from the hotel towers were barely visible beyond the behemoth mountains of sand ahead of me. A fierce windstorm the day before had whipped millions of molecules of course granular crystals onto the walking path making it like a slippery playground slide that even a rambunctious young boy would have had difficulty climbing.

Wearing my rugged J41 water shoes (made by Jeep for adventure and typically ideal for the beach), I began ascending the steep slope of shifting sediment.  Unable to get traction beneath my feet, I kept slipping sideways like a car on a snow covered street, and I crashed into the powdery heap of drifted sand hoping my rear bumper wasn’t damaged.

Laying on my back with my bumper in the sand, laughing out loud at my predicament, I had no sooner spread out my arms like a seagull in flight to make an angel in the sand when a booming voice came from the darkness behind me.


Before I knew it a strong hand was enveloping mine, lifting me to my feet, and guiding me to solid ground.

“Mammmmm, that drift was as steep as Mt. Everest,” he jokingly said. “Why, even a Mountain Goat would have slid down it sideways!”

“Well, I sure feel like an old goat,” I teased, wondering if he could see my hot red face.

“I always wondered why policemen carry billy sticks.” I continued. “Now I know. You use them to dig out silly old goats who get stuck in the sand,” I wittingly replied.

It was better for me to spin my awkward situation with humor than shrink back, in humiliation and tears. Brushing off the sand, along with my shame, I walked back to the hotel sharing some hilarious moments with my personal hero. Unfortunately, I failed to get his name and wasn’t certain I’d recognize him in the light of day.

The next evening, a 27-year veteran law enforcement officer from Horry County, SC was called to the lectern to entertain the audience after dinner. I could hardly believe my eyes! The man who pulled me out of the shifting sand and transformed my humiliation with humor was standing smack dab in front of me spewing one wise crack after another with his deep southern drawl.

I had no idea my personal hero was a speaker, presenter, trainer, and entertainer. I didn’t realize that THE CHIEF DEPUTY of the Horry County Sherriff’s Office who has been a lifelong public servant and crisis negotiator rescued me.

Not only that but my personal hero, openly proclaimed his Christian faith in front of an audience of one hundred or more executive police officers while calling them to find their passion, live on purpose, and be proud of their profession.

“It’s not the uniform that makes me a police officer,” he said. “It’s not what’s on the outside that makes you who you are. It’s what’s on the inside. We’re being encouraged to shine up on the outside,” he remarked, “but we are failing at shining up the inside.”

He challenged them, and reminded me, to recognize the difference between image and character, to reach down and make a difference, and to be better husbands and fathers (well, I can’t be a better husband and father, but I can be a better wife and mother). As though he was speaking my heart, he said, “Life is short. Spend it with those you love, doing the things you love.”

Lastly, he quipped, “Use your experiences to provide comfort in darkness,” the very thing he did for me the night before. Paul Butler was my personal hero not only because he pulled this old goat out of the sand, but also because he personified leadership by looking out for my best interests, lent a hand, and walked the talk.

Every day we encounter people who are slipping in the shifting sand …
Shifting jobs
Shifting co-workers
Shifting management
Shifting responsibilities
Shifting processes
Shifting projects
Shifting products
Shifting technology
Shifting organizational structures
Shifting budgets
Shifting locations
Shifting routines
Shifting finances
Shifting health
Shifting relationships

Sometimes it’s easy to walk through the shifting sands. Other times it requires a true leader who looks out for the best interests of others, lends a hand, and walks the talk. How will you personify leadership by helping someone who’s slipping sideways in shifting sand?

At Insight Management Consulting we teach individuals how to Personify Leadership in a FUN and highly interactive two-day program that provides comprehensive development for both new and seasoned leaders.

We would love to learn more about your organization’s goals and see if we might be able to help you Personify Leadership through the shifting sand of organizational change. For a FREE consultation, please contact me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Angel Wings, Old Folks & Corny Jokes

During my 18 months away from work, I spent many Friday's at church helping fold bulletins with the old folks. Known as the “Faith Folders” we would talk while folding and stuffing hundreds of bulletins for Sunday services. I grew to dearly love these old folks. One specifically was Carl, an 80-year old man, with hair as white as snow. He was deaf as a door knob and quite the jokester. Week after week he told the same corny jokes over and over again.

Shortly after tying the knot, a young married couple started arguing over who should make the coffee. Being a good Christian woman, the wife went to the scriptures for her answer. She said that the Bible specifically stated that men should be the ones to make the coffee.

Puzzled, the husband asked her where in the Bible it said that. Very confidently, the wife opened up her Bible and said: “It’s right here—HEBREWS.”

What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth? Answer: He was Ruthless.

After having children, Adam and Eve started getting a lot of questions from their kids about why they no longer lived in Eden. Adam has a simple answer for this: “Your mother ate us out of house and home.”

Carl and his lovely wife Margaret had been married 60+ years. True love, as it seems, rolls its eyes and puts up with those same corny jokes year after year.

During my time with them, “Marge” became critically ill and had major surgery at UPenn, 90 miles from home. For several months she was in ICU and on a ventilator. Marge’s prognosis was not good, but Carl vigilantly stayed by her bedside. The hospital had become his home away from home. He slept on uncomfortable, institutional chairs in public waiting rooms with complete strangers, and conducted his morning hygiene in the public restroom. Overpriced cookies and crackers from vending machines were his daily diet. Through it all, he persevered in hope, and kept his keen sense of humor.

To encourage him and help him pass the time, 82-year old Spunky Sarah (a fellow Faith Folder) and I put on our angel wings one cold and blustery January day and took the Amtrak to Philly to spend time with Carl as he sat by his beloved’s bedside. Concerned about us finding him at this behemoth hospital, and eager for a friendly visit, he left his wife’s bedside, hopped on a mass transit bus, rode across the City of Brotherly Love and met us at the train station.

Sarah and I treated him to a hot lunch in the cafeteria and listened to his stories: “I bath in the public restroom,” he chuckled. “One day I was sitting by Margaret’s side, when a stranger walked in. ‘Sir,’ he asked, ‘are you missing anything?’ I thought, and answered ‘I don’t think so.’ The man held out his hand and there were my teeth! I didn’t even realize they weren’t in my mouth,” he quipped. We erupted in hearty laughter.

Then, needing to make sure we got back to 30th Street Station on time, Carl accompanied us to the bus stop wearing only a light fleece jacket on a very cold winter day. Since the dear old man was freezing on behalf of us, I took off my bright pink ear muff and wrapped it around his snow white hair and cold bare ears. I added to his attire my colorful Cashmere scarf tucking it neatly around his neck, and then finished by enveloping his frozen fingers in my toasty red gloves.  The three of us waited for what seemed like an hour in wind whipped weather for the bus. Carl was a silly sight to behold! But, he managed to deliver Sarah and me to the train station; and then, proceeded to make the trek back to the hospital to sit by Marge’s bedside.

A bit later Marge was transferred to a rehab hospital 30 miles from home. Every week I would put on my angel wings and drive Carl to the hospital to visit his beloved bride. Spunky old Sarah would go with me.

I’d drive his little blue Honda Civic and he’d tease me about my lead foot and inept parking abilities.
By Marge’s hospital bed, Sarah and I had a beautiful window view to look in on their precious souls. Tears filled my eyes as I watched Carl tenderly comb her hair, gently kiss her lips, and repeatedly tell her he loved her. Sadly, Marge never recovered and eventually died. I was incredibly blessed to have walked through the valley of death with these darling old folks.

Through their hardship I learned valuable lessons about love, laughter and endurance.

Recently, my friend Carl had a stroke. Since I'm working again, I no longer fold bulletins on Fridays with the old folks, and I don’t have time for regular hospital visits. But, on Good Friday, the day Jesus died to give us life, spunky old Sarah and I put on our angel wings and went to visit Carl the corny jokester at the rehab center. His face lit up like a light bulb when he saw us. He didn't remember any of his corny jokes and was a bit disturbed that one of his hearing aids was missing. To keep him calm, I looked up corny Easter jokes on my phone. Loudly, because Carl was deaf as a doorknob, I humored him with one corny joke after another.

How does the Easter Bunny travel? By hare-plane!

What do you call a rabbit that tells good jokes? A funny bunny!

Still, hard of hearing and now confined to a hospital chair, Carl laughed heartily which made me and everyone else around laugh out loud too!

I have learned that angel wings, old folks, and corny jokes make Good Friday good in deed.


The email from the conference director read: “Come prepared to face a challenge on the mountain. Wear jeans and sneakers.”

Permanently labeled Class Klutz many years ago, I was an uncoordinated, out-of-shape, middle-aged woman about to make a fool of herself in the majestic Cheyenne Mountains of Colorado. Sheer panic set my stomach tumbling.

It was the High Performance Excellence Sales Meeting. The company had been through yet another merger. Right-sizing the team was inevitable. In my mind, this was the organization’s way of separating the high performers from the mediocre ones. Failure was NOT an option.

As the fog was lifting over the beautiful Broadmoor Resort we boarded a luxury motor coach and began our ascent to the site of our adventure. I could not believe the challenge set before my eyes. There in front of me was a wall that seemed to reach the sky … and, we were expected to climb it!

How in the world would I conquer this presumably impossible challenge? Petrified and anxious, I was short of breath, sweating profusely, and shaking like a leaf on a windy day.

Then David, who was in his late 50’s and well over 300 pounds, accepted the challenge to ascend. He partnered with Rick who was significantly younger, stronger and more physically fit. During their ascent to the top of the structure, not once, but twice, when David was too weak to take another step, Rick reached down, grabbed David’s harness, and pulled him to the next foothold. Together they reached the pinnacle.

Seeing David succeed gave me the courage to try it too. Inhaling deeply, I swallowed my pride, let go of control, and faced my fear. With a few encouraging, able-bodied people willing to climb next to me, and a trusted advisor to coach me from the ground, I grabbed David’s sweat soaked helmet, nervously put it on my pretty little head, and began my ascent skyward.

Focused on one step at a time, I made it to the top. The experience was exhilarating! Who’d have ever guessed that this uncoordinated, out-of-shape woman branded Class Klutz would have the potential to achieve great heights?

The vast view of the valley from the pinnacle was spectacular. If I hadn’t made the climb, I’d have missed it along with important lessons on leadership and trust. In organizational life there are always at least three dynamics at play: self, team and the organization.

Unfortunately, trust is a rare commodity these days. Because of widespread hidden agendas and extensive political maneuvering in an ever-changing global economy, most people do not intrinsically trust themselves, others, or the organization they work for.  Is it possible to break through this barrier and become a trustworthy, high-performing achiever? At Insight Management Consulting we believe honorable leaders can be developed. It starts with ordinary people like you and me WHO have a heart.

Work on ME first. Becoming a respected leader requires courage to let go of control, fear, and labels. I used to tell my boys “‘I can’t means I Certainly Am Not Trying.” Standing at the base of that wall, I was thinking, “I can’t. I’m a klutz. I’ll look like a fool.”

We need to stop listening to the awful voices that tell us such nonsense and trust that we CAN reach our goals using our unique talents and personal motivation even when we’re branded incapable, scared stiff, and don’t know how to take the next step.

The next time you make a mistake and blurt out, “You’re so stupid,” catch yourself and say, “That’s okay. It was just a slip up. I’ll learn from it and try again." Self-trust refuses to give up. It perseveres and practices patience instead of perfection. It increases self-confidence, reduces your need for approval and strengthens your connection with others. A high performing leader trusts her abilities and limitations, and is motivated to let go of control, fear, and invalid insignias in order to reach new heights.

HELP OTHERS. With the stigmas gone, a savvy leader strives for a higher level of trust: the trust of others.  Others will trust us when we help them succeed. Sometimes we are the example that goes ahead of the team showing them how to accomplish the task like David and Rick did for me. Since teams can only go as high as their weakest member, occasionally, we may have to tether ourselves to the team, and work alongside them, pulling them up when they are weak. Great leaders never ask others to do a task they are unwilling to do themselves.

Other times we can be the trusted advisor or mentor who sees the potential in people and spur them to let go, face their fears, and take the next step. Often, good leaders hold the ropes, access the situation, and make it safe for others to reinvent themselves and experience new heights.

Influential leaders know the abilities and limitations of their team members, value their contribution, and inspire them to rise to challenges. Intentionally looking out for the best interest of each individual, they engage, encourage and empower their people to be successful earning not only trust but also respect and loyalty.

OBSERVE THE STRUCTURE. Trust is the heartbeat of every significant relationship with ourselves and with others, but there is yet a higher level: organizational trust. A trustworthy organization has solid structure and a clear purpose.  They not only encourage and empower their people to be successful; they also equip them with the necessary tools to accomplish their goals.

With the helmet on my head, the harness wrapped around my waist and clipped to secure ropes, I put my feet on wall, and discovered that it was a solid and trustworthy structure made for the purpose of climbing. The organization created an environment of trust, and equipped me to succeed.

Leaders of solid trustworthy organizations with a clear purpose experience the exhilarating and achieve unexpected and extraordinary results even in times of crisis because fully engaged employees will go above and beyond for leaders WHO have their best interest at heart.

As a Senior Consultant at Insight Management Consulting Beth Rudy uses her magnetic personality and passion for people to help encourage, empower, and equip others to rise to their full potential. At Insight Management we don’t believe leaders are born. We believe they are developed using tools they were born with: their eyes, ears, mind, mouth, heart, spine, hands and feet.  Contact Beth to inspire your team to reach peak performance.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Unconscious Choices

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in 2013 there were 93,727 charges of workplace discrimination costing companies a total of $372.1 million dollars.

Many organizations train employees and supervisors in harassment and discrimination prevention. In fact, many employers even train their workforces in the benefits of diversity. Why, then, is there such an exorbitant number of discrimination claims and enforcements? Experts believe that hidden biases – biases that people don’t even know they hold – affect their personal and professional preferences.

These unconscious choices are subtle instances where we misrecognize and misinterpret behaviors.
In meetings, for example, it can manifest in actions such as men interrupting more, or men talking exclusively to each other ignoring the woman with more expertise in the room. It could be a comment, that when made by a woman is discounted, but coming from a male is acknowledged.

Two people—one a neatly dressed young white man, the other a middle-aged black woman who is slightly overweight—apply for a job with your organization. They seem equally qualified, but the hiring manager has an inexplicable and slightly negative reaction to the woman. “I just can’t put my finger on it,” he tells you, “but I don’t think she’ll be a good fit.” The hiring manager didn’t think she was judging.

Two equally educated friends were talking in the lunchroom—one white, the other Hispanic. The white friend said, “When I went to the library yesterday half the people there were members of your class … actually, it was more than half because half the people were Hispanic.” The comment wasn’t meant to be racist, and the pre-judged didn’t even seem to notice.

At the lunch counter, a man jokingly tried to pay less than the full amount expected. In jest, the server said, “What are you, a Jew?” Undoubtedly, the server would strongly deny being anti-Semitic.

In Managing Your Mind, Dr. Gillian Butler explains that your mind is wired to judge, form opinions, assess a stimulus as positive or negative, and much more. This is a necessary mental process that helps you function in life. The problem sometimes lies in forming an opinion or judgment based on little evidence. And why is it a problem? Because subtle prejudices may influence your behavior.

Such unconscious choices can be disastrous for the employees who suffer as a result of them; they also can damage businesses by leading managers and employees to make flawed business decisions in a number of areas, including hiring, promotion, training opportunities and project assignments.

It’s important to remember that these unconscious choices can come from anybody, and can be directed toward anyone. Unrestricted to gender, it can show up in race, ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, weight, economic class, physical ability, religion, age, etc. Most times these inappropriate inadvertent behaviors, while obvious to the insulted, are completely unintentional.

Over time, these little untalked about incidences build up. People are afraid to broach the subject for fear of being shut down, overlooked for a promotion, or simply because they don’t know how to speak up. The result is ongoing exclusion, frustration, and sometimes termination of top talent.

Following are a few tips for to help influence sensitivity and reduce stress.

Silence isn’t golden, it’s agreement. Cultural norms are maintained when everyone is empowered to hold anyone accountable – from the line worker to the CEO. When you see incongruent behavior be brave and speak up with confidence. To remain silent is to concede to it.

Assume no ill intent. “Biases don’t necessarily stem from evil in the hearts of men and women,” says Bob Dattner, a psychologist and principal with Dattner Consulting, a New York organizational effectiveness and human resource consulting firm, and a professor at New York University.

Pay attention to the pattern, not the incident. Most of these sensitive issues involve patterns of problems that build up over time. Emotionally charged people often overreact to an incident, when it’s the repeated pattern that makes the matter so troubling.

Communicate the facts, not the conclusions. When emotions are heated up, people tend to open with their own twisted truth or distorted reality and misconstrued assumptions. Instead, begin with your perception of the facts – those verifiable behaviors you see and hear.

Exchange ideas. Open the door for discussion – two way communication. Reserve the right to be wrong, and show genuine interest in hearing the other party’s perspective. Ask questions. Express what you really want. And, be open to the other person’s ideas.

The ability to understand, identify and discuss unconscious choices in a diverse world is becoming increasingly important. Organizations that understand hidden biases and work to overcome them will have a competitive advantage in this ever increasing global economy. They will find and retain top talent, have fewer lawsuits filed against them, and make better decisions. As a result, they will be more profitable. And, isn’t that why the business exists – to be productive and profitable?

  1. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/2-5-14.cfm
  2. 0206 HR Magazine, Detecting Hidden Biases, By Pamela Babcock   2/1/2006
  3. Managing Your Mindby Gillian Butler, PhD and Tony Hope, MD. Oxford University Press, 1995

Get the Wax Out of Your Ear and LISTEN!

When my kids were little and not listening to me I would shout, “Get the wax out of your ears and LISTEN!” Every year, about 12 million Americans head to their doctors with “impacted or excessive cerumen,” a really gross-sounding way to say they've got serious earwax problems. But, did you know you can scrape that gross gunk out of your ear like the last of the peanut butter from the jar, and still not be able to hear effectively? Earwax, medically known as cerumen, is actually there for protection to keep the ear canal clean…so it’s not earwax that keeps us from listening, it’s “ear lacks

Various studies show we spend 80 percent of our waking hours communicating, and 45 percent of that time listening. While listening is a large part of our daily routine, research also confirms that most individuals are inept listeners.

Why are we such poor listeners? It is not because we have wax as thick as peanut butter in our ears. It is because our ear lacks training. In school we are taught to read, write and speak, but not how to effectively listen. Yet, listening is the key to all effective communication. Without this crucial skill messages are often misunderstood, communication breaks down, and emotions heat up.

Good listening skills can lead to: better customer satisfaction, greater productivity, higher quality, improved safety, more respect, and increased creativity and innovation.

Many successful leaders and entrepreneurs credit their success to effective listening skills. Richard Branson frequently quotes listening as one of the main factors behind the success of Virgin. Effective listening is a skill that underpins all positive human relationships. And, yet, it is a skill that is virtually ignored.

Following are six easy to remember tips to increase listening abilities. They form an acrostic for LISTEN.

LEARN. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” says Steven Covey. By listening to understand we learn what motivates our employees to perform and our customers to buy. Listening is the catalyst that fosters mutual understanding, and provides us insight into people’s needs and wants so that we can connect with them in a meaningful way. Influential leaders listen and limit misunderstandings with both employees and customers.

INQUIRE. Good listeners ask clarifying questions like:
  • I heard you say _____. Is that correct?
  • If I understand correctly, your concern is _____?
  • What else can you tell me about _____?
  • Could you give me some insight on _____?
  • What do you think (or feel) about _____?
  • Correct me if I’m wrong. Did I hear you say _____?
Influential leaders confirm what they heard and minimize mistakes.

STOP TALKING. Mark Twain said, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” It is impossible to hear others when our lips are moving. Did you notice the words “listen” and “silent” contain the same letters? To effectively listen, we must be courteous enough to let others complete their thoughts. Influential leaders are comfortable with silence and gain insight.

TIME. In today’s high-tech, high-speed, high-stress world, the deepest need of the human heart is to be understood, but few people slow down and take the time necessary to truly hear the heart. Genuine listening is a rare and special gift - the gift of time. A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean the speaker has finished. Be patient and let the speaker continue in their own time. Sometimes it takes time to formulate what to say and how to say it. Never interrupt or finish a sentence. Time builds relationships, respect, and results. Influential leaders take time to truly listen and increase trust.

EMPATHIZE. In every organization, there will be individuals with differing perspectives and opinions. Opposing values, traditions, and expectations are as varied as the characters that carry them to the workplace. When we care enough to take off our shoes, and take a walk in their shoes we begin to see the world as they see it. Though we may not agree, empathetic listeners are open to others’ point of view. Empathy is the channel that creates safety and mutual respect. Influential leaders listen with not only their ears but also their heart and establish rapport.

NON-JUDGMENTAL. Competent and confident communicators are impartial. They don’t let habits or mannerisms distract from what the speaker is really saying. They are aware of their own biases, focus on what is being said, and try not to draw incorrect conclusions or inaccurate assumptions – warranted or not – about what the other person means. They are astute at separating fact from opinion. By sticking with the facts, they earn the right to present controversial information and are heard. Influential leaders listen without being judgmental and earn respect.

Listening effectively sets apart the best communicators from the mediocre ones. It differentiates the most influential leaders from the least influential leaders. It is a skill that can be learned like reading, writing and speaking. It just takes a little training, awareness, and lots of practice.

Studies show we spend 80% of our waking hours communicating. We spend 45% of that time listening. While listening is a large part of our daily routine, research also confirms that most individuals are inept listeners. To bring an interactive listening workshop to your organization please contact me.

18 Life Changing Words

Words can heal a heart or break it. Free a soul or shame it. Empower dreams or demolish them. Motivate action or debilitate it. Words are powerful. They are constructive or destructive, either building up or tearing down. Words change lives. Let me tell you a story about the life changing power of 18 simple words.

Recently, Dan gave an inspirational speech for the Toastmasters International Speech Contest. The title of his speech was "18 Words". With a heart full of gratitude he spoke with poise and professionalism about how his life was changed by one person’s 18 words written on a small piece of paper 5 years ago.

A civil engineer, Dan almost did not graduate from Penn State because he literally passed out presenting his graduation project. Generally speaking, engineers aren’t expected to be eloquent speakers. Known to be analytical thinkers, they are not typically good communicators. For fifteen years, Dan hid in his cubicle at work rarely opening his mouth to speak. He was paralyzed by fear and riddled with shame that he fainted and nearly failed college because he couldn’t effectively communicate.

Then one day two co-workers roped him into going to a Toastmasters meeting. They were clueless about the fear and shame that lurked within their friend; he was clueless about Toastmasters. All three obliviously joined Toastmasters that day. After three meetings, one dropped out. After three months, another dropped out. Finally, Dan was the only man left standing. He too intended to quit, but was scheduled to give his dreaded Ice Breaker Speech at the next meeting.

With a lump in his throat, sweat on his brow, and trembling hands Dan stood up and delivered his Ice Breaker … and did not pass out. I was in the audience and unaware of the badge of fear and shame he wore on his heart. But, I knew how frightened I was the day I gave my Ice Breaker at Toastmasters several years prior. I remembered the kind, encouraging words others gave me.
I took a little slip of paper and scribbled on it 18 simple words:

Dan, Great ice breaker! What a heartwarming story. I look forward to learning more about you in future speeches. Beth

Today, because he took a huge risk, joined Toastmasters, persevered, and determined to overcome his fear of public speaking Dan is a rare gem among engineers. He’s not only a competent and confident communicator, but also an eloquent speaker who won our Club's International Speech Contest. From there he went on to win the Area, Division and District contests earning a place in the semi-finals for the World Championship of Public Speaking. At the semi-finals he competed against speakers from Australia to Sri Lanka, Japan to Canada and won second place.

He learned to address his boss in the hallway with a quick and accurate answer., and gained the courage and confidence to walk away from his job and start his own engineering consulting firm where he is the boss.

He used to only be able to talk about waste water systems. Yawn. Now he enlivens and entertains large audiences with words that change lives.

I am so proud of him, and honored that several years ago God gave me 18 little words to encourage him allowing me to play an important role in his personal and professional development.

Simple words scribbled on a scrap of paper may positively impact a life forever. Who will you set free, empower or motivate today? Words – they don’t have to be eloquent, only sincere.

As a Consultant with Insight Management Consulting, I help bring communication skills to workplaces; skills that improve relationships, respect and results making the workplace friendlier; skills that can be carried over to the home making families happier and healthier. Contact me to help develop your own communication skills, or to bring a communications class to your organization.

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The email from the conference director read: “Come prepared to face a challenge on the mountain. Wear jeans and sneakers.” Permanently lab...