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Building Community Through Better Relationships

The Best Advice in One Word

Act! The answer requires no fancy introduction, nor clever anecdote. “Act” has nothing to do with performing on stage, or in front of a camera. It really has little to do with a child behaving properly: “Act like you have some sense”. But, it has everything to do with meeting a challenge with purposeful activity. The response is elegant, in its simplicity. Nike says “Just Do It”. I say “Act”.

When confronting business problems, educated professionals are taught to research, plan and strategize. Matrices are incorporated to facilitate finding the optimal solution. Alternatively, therapists use sophisticated listening techniques and probing questions to identify frameworks to aid in resolving personal problems. In both cases, great ideas are generated. Unfortunately, ideas do not produce results, action does. To resolve issues, whether organizational or personal, strategies are great steps but, “Act” is the answer.

In the context of a community, a chief benefit is the ability to interact. The camaraderie involved with sharing and collaborating is a life-affirming aspect of the human experience. When challenges emerge inside the community, the communal resources are available to overcome them. Communal resources can be sharing advice or experiences to help another. It may be encouragement to uplift someone’s spirits. It can be providing shelter or attacking a threat. In a primal sense, it is dragging the conquered beast back to camp for the tribe to feast. Communities prosper when its members act. Planning and strategizing engages the mind. It stimulates emotion. It arouses the imagination. However, only action nourishes the individual and feeds the community.

“Act” is the activity that produces results. It manifests the plans. It validates the research. Individuals can visualize, teams can strategize, but once it is time to proceed toward resolution then the only tactic is to act. Whatever challenge that is before you right now has a solution. You may not like the circumstances. You may not like the consequences. It may not be fair. But if a set of choices, events, or misfortune has placed you in a bad place, then please take the best advice in resolving your problem. Act!

By Glenn Hunter

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August 17, 2013 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Reasons Why General Education Matters to Leaders

The old saying goes, “A leader without followers is just someone taking a walk.” This wisdom applies to business, technology, the military, but is presented as literature. Literature is part of General Education which represents coursework that emphasizes baseline skills. Such skills establish a foundation for educated individuals. While technical skills are essential to perform a specific job, combining that learning with General Education develops the capacity for different types of people to interact. Across departments, cultural backgrounds, geographies, or socio-economic status, the expectation that educated individuals have a similar set of skills and experiences starts with reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic and goes to recognizing life lessons from literary classics, thought leaders, and assorted cultural perspectives. Leading depends on this understanding.

1. You Lead the Other Guy
Lead, follow or get out of the way ~Thomas Paine, American revolutionary. For people to follow effectively, they must know where they are supposed to go and the leader must communicate that to them. A common understanding, a common language, a common set of beliefs are necessary to proceed in an orderly fashion. Just because you are loud, have a position, or have more experience does not mean that you are clear. Knowing how to read to understand, to write to be understood, and to connect with other people as they see the world helps all groups communicate and perform better. General Education develops this capacity.

2. Innovation is Born of Diverse Ideas
A leader’s expertise may be technological, but their peers and superiors still have to consider finance, sales, and human resources. How can you follow directions or agree on the best plans across disciplines, without understanding all perspectives? How can you truly innovate with only your own, original ideas? Innovation is clearly a collaborative exercise. Technical knowledge is based on historic learning. You learn how to do a particular task or execute a process, then you repeat it. However, our dynamic world means the marketplace constantly changes. No matter how much any individual professional dominates her technical field, to repeatedly benefit from great innovations she needs external inputs. For leaders who are responsible for creating strategies, new products, or future forecasts, General Education provides diverse thinking skills to optimally use all inputs.

3. Get Out Your Lane, Now Pass
Leadership does not stop inside the organization. Leadership is a skill and must be continually developed. Professionals who safely stay in their lanes will eventually run into traffic and stop progressing. But, professionals who intentionally get outside their lane gain new perspectives and opportunities to progress. Progressive leaders maximize their skills by contributing to ad hoc projects, corporate boards, industry committees and non-profit boards. In turn, highly productive boards perform at their best when they compile a diverse set of high-performing professionals. General Education learning skills that include: reading across intellectual disciplines, creating content to demonstrate expertise among decision makers, and enlarging one’s cultural lens to better understand a growing legion of followers, enable leaders to fulfill their greatest potential. In short, they lead better because they can authoritatively connect to more followers!

Organizations and their leaders have to be culturally aligned to be successful. A particular discipline may dominate an organization and dictate its objectives. But, the marketplace will not be that rigid. Charting new paths and solving new problems are essential to effective leadership. General Education teaches applying diverse skills to solve new problems. If you are not solving problems, then you are just taking orders and are easily replaceable! Without General Education, you become “just someone taking a walk”.

By Glenn Hunter
(inspired by MDP)

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Great Networkers are Better Listeners

The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot. Thus, good schmoozer’s are good listeners, not good talkers. ~Guy Kawasaki

Networking is a critical skill to business success; except that it isn’t! It is critical. It influences business success. But, it is not a skill. Networking is an embedded character trait. If an individual performs in the business arena, then that trait reveals itself there. It is no more a skill than drinking when you are thirsty. Professionally, you must do it to survive.

Fortunately, networking is simpler than most ultra-polished salespeople lead you to believe. It is not a low golf handicap, late night cocktail parties or schmoozability. It is simply contributing to a community of people where you have an interest in helping. Best of all, this trait can be demonstrated in a few easy steps.

1. Listen
Because networking involves finding ways to connect someone to a resource, the first step is listening for the need. That means listening to understand that someone’s need in order to meet it with resources or a solution that you can access. Keys to listening include paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. Also, asking open-ended questions that allows your contact to share their pain is a sure-fire way to find opportunities to help. Now the connecting begins.

2. Really Listen
And, the connecting gets ramped when you really listen. You have asked questions and interpreted responses, but the real power starts when you listen to the point that you share the problem. Being undistracted and not interrupting are often overlooked listening skills. Pausing, then paraphrasing what you have heard, also allows you to show off superior listening skills. These practices give you more credibility when you are prepared to direct the target to resources that can solve the problem that you now share.

3. Give
The next step in great networking is giving. Not selling, but giving. Networking’s objective is establishing credibility, not selling a product. Sharing a resource, an idea, or a referral is a great way to build credibility. As credibility grows, you become the solution. Your product or service is merely a representation of your ability to deliver. But proven delivery comes before selling, therefore you must seize opportunities to give. And, as your networking turns into successful demonstrations of giving, the more indispensable you become.

4. Receive
While effective networking encompasses communicating and making resources available, the bottom line is, in fact, the bottom line. Business benefits are OK. Networking is contributing to a community. But, others need to contribute, as well. Permit yourself to accept their contributions. To be an effective networker you must make your desires known; a bold ask is important. And, be grateful. Networking is not trading business favors: I give one, now I get one. It is more like a family potluck. As long as everyone genuinely brings something, there will be more than enough for everyone.

Elevator speeches, clever techniques to remember names, memorable business cards are the icing. It is not the cake. Caring enough to contribute is networking. It is the sincere, “let me get back to you”. As you practice helping others more, you will find real professionals are eager to return your kindness. That is when your value grows because your relationships are now invested in your success. Now accept that investment and go network!

By Glenn Hunter

August 9, 2013 Posted by | Better Business, Better Person | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make Him Thirsty

Everyone knows that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. But, people can be stubborn to the point that you can lead them to what they desperately need and they will refuse to even want it! For anyone whose position or passion is guiding people to their individual goals, this refusal has to be engaged and overcome. The implications go beyond the ability to coach an individual toward personal development, but extend to having people fulfill their unique purpose.

Reminding them, “It’s good for you” is not enough. What happens when the person you are charged with shepherding to a higher level stonewalls you? What are the strategies required to successfully develop staunchly reluctant individuals?

1. Be Present
A mentoring or training relationship requires accountability as well as instruction. When the stallion that you are developing shows decreasing desire, maintaining contact is critical. While working toward personal improvement, beware of encroaching discouragement. While soldiers may respond to intense boot camp techniques, the typical person first needs to know that accountability and support is present. Regular reminders of the commitment through encouraging words and leading by example are valid tactics. Emotional and physical presence reinforce the thirst for success that launched the development efforts initially.

2. Be Patient
Remember that change is not instantaneous. Taking your trainee to the gym is not the same as getting them on the treadmill. Similarly, professionals who seek to extend beyond their comfort zone and network may not realize immediate success. They may physically attend the event, but nudging them to interact with new people still presents a challenge. Although our stallion realizes that this step is key to future career or social success, fear of the unknown or rejection can quickly overwhelm their thirst for progress. Adhering to a process that gradually introduces new behaviors and recognizes regular victories promotes personal improvements that sustain. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are better habits!

3. Be Persistent
The advantage of planning personal development is that the long haul is acknowledged upfront. Encouraging, pleading, threatening, attacking are all available tools for progress. To move your stallion, realize that you may need to use one or all of these tools multiple times. Ultimately, the goal is as important as the desire. When the desire wanes, the goal has to be re-introduced. Ironically, when the goal seems beyond reasonable reach, the desire has to be enflamed. As an accountability partner, coach, mentor or trainer, results are a byproduct of repeated behaviors toward a specific outcome. Persistence pays in creating the thirst to achieve results.

4. Be Practical
In building winners, know that your pearls of wisdom and tools for high performance are valuable! Your willingness to share these gifts makes them even more valuable. Giving has power and once applied, it multiplies to the giver, the recipient and the next beneficiary. Realize when it is time to take your talents and apply them to the next beneficiary. You can educate, enlighten and encourage a horse, but you can’t really make him thirsty. Many stallions only need a drink to win great races and accomplish incredible deeds. You cannot save each and every one, but the rewards of saving one are great. Guide the champion steed who will drink from your watering hole!

By Glenn Hunter

August 1, 2013 Posted by | Better Person | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment