First of all, thank you for being here. Your readership is the only reason this blog exists and I strive to make every post worth your while. To that end, before I get into today’s post, I’d ask my regular visitors to indulge me for a few minutes as I give you a bit of context … which may help you get more out of my posts in the future. If you’re just trying to get through this post and would rather skip the next three paragraphs, by all means go ahead. I will never know!
I have to confess, I have a love/hate relationship with writing. I love articulating and documenting my ideas and creating models, etc., and that’s why I am always writing about something, be it articles, blog posts, or content for training. I also hate writing because it is so impersonal. It’s one sided. There is no interaction and immediate feedback loop. When I’m speaking, it doesn’t matter if it is to a group of 8 or 800 people, I get immediate feedback on whether they thought my joke was funny or not, whether a statement made them self-reflect for a second, if they are distracted or engaged, and so on. I always interact with the audience even if I can only see a small sample of them in the first few rows. I love that! I am clear that as a public speaker, it would be far more devastating to me to lose my sight or hearing, than my voice. I would be able to speak through a speech synthesizer, but I’d never be able to sense the audience’s state through a third party and manage the message in a way that resonates with them.
This was the greatest challenge I faced in writing my book, The Transformative Leader, and it remains a challenge as I write these weekly blog posts. As someone who enjoys connecting with the audience, I am challenged to present my points in a way that is more inspirational than instructional to a mixed audience of different backgrounds and preferences. Those of you who have attended my talks know that I like to keep the audience laughing, I don’t give cookie cutter instructions but rather share points to consider, I get in your face a little and give what I call Spicy Coaching, and I try to do all of this in a compelling, not condemning, fashion. My greatest fear is that my blog posts will turn into a bunch of instructions that do not resonate with you as something practical and real that you can apply in your life!
I hereby declare my intention to make sure that my posts sound like me, not some guy who claims he’s got it all figured out and is sharing his formula. The request I make of you is to read and digest my content as if the two of us were having a chat in person, and if you like something or object to something or would like to know how to actually apply it in your life, let me know and let’s get into a dialogue. Remember, I love two-way dialogue. We can do it in open forums on my website, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or we can take it offline. Either way is fine and I would very much appreciate it. Also, if you care enough to direct me to topics you’d like to hear more about, let me know and I will do my best to create value for you. And with that out of the way, let me get to today’s post, find it below.
I am a frequent traveler and I have come to value the massive amount of time I spend in airports and on airplanes as my time, to relax, listen to music, read and respond to emails, or watch a movie on my iPad. To that end, I have developed a habit of putting on my “I don’t really want to talk to you” face, and my noise cancelling headphones in case my neighbor on the plane is not great at reading my face. I share this at the risk of being judged as anti-social, or two-faced because I claim to love to coach and talk to people, and at the same time I don’t want to be bothered with people sitting next to me on the plane. But, as I have no insecurities about my willingness to spend countless hours coaching people and giving them my undivided attention, I can tell the truth. That’s how I have been acting while traveling.
A few weeks ago, I was walking to my gate at 6 am, in my usual stealth mode, and all of a sudden, the duality of my approach to people became too apparent for me to ignore. How could it be, I thought, that I claim my mission and purpose is to put people in touch with their greatness so that they fulfill their unique purpose in life while I shield myself from the very conversations that would make the opportunity available for me to fulfill my purpose?! It also occurred to me that my experience of myself as an unapproachable person was vastly different than my normal self when I am in a conversation of transformation with an individual or a group. I decided to run an experiment and just drop the airport façade and have a more welcoming and pleasant demeanor. The results were instant and amazing. It wasn’t like all of a sudden people started flocking to me, but I almost instantly felt a shift in my own mood from one of “I don’t want to be here” to one of “ I am going to be present and make the most of what I am doing.” My face wasn’t tight anymore and I had a smile that seemed to be contagious. I eventually had a couple of short chats with other willing (I think anyway) partners and overall, it made for a much more pleasant experience.
Whether you have been acting like me on your travels or not is really not the point. Everybody makes the choice that’s right for them and nobody is obligated to interact with total strangers everywhere they go. The tragedy is that we act like that in our smaller circles of people that we know and work with everyday. We determine, often subconsciously, who can do something for us and who is in the way, who we are going to be nice to and who we are going to ignore, and we are not aware of the opportunities that are lost when those connections are not made.
Can you name a few people throughout your life who were always great at acknowledging your presence, or listening to you, or taking the time to talk to you? Can you think of those authority figures who instilled confidence in you through the most subtle gestures of acknowledgement? How about a teacher or a mentor? How about a stranger who committed a random act of kindness? Those are the people who have shaped that part of your personality that you feel good about. They are the ones who helped you write the part of your story that you can always look back on and smile.
Have you considered that you can be that person to multitudes of people throughout your life? Have you thought about the marks you leave behind with your words and actions every minute of everyday? Can you imagine the enormity of the good that can come from that in this world if we were all a bit more open to turning our “transactionships" into real relationships? What would be possible if we all decided that we would treat every conversation like it mattered?
Imagine what it would be like if I gave you a checkbook for an account that had an unlimited supply of money in it and told you that you could write checks to anyone (other than yourself) that you would like to help financially. I’m sure you could think of your favorite charity, or relatives, or causes you care about. Let’s say you spent a few days, making sure that all of those people in your immediate circle got the money that they needed and you still had billions of dollars left in the bank to give away. Could you find ways to get rid of that money? Can you see yourself disbursing it generously simply because you know it would cost you nothing to do so? Wouldn’t that be fun?
I hate to tell you but that scenario is unlikely to happen. However, I want to remind you that you have an unlimited supply of treasure that is often times more precious than any amount of money you can give away. That treasure can be dispensed in the form of words of affirmation, acts of service and kindness, and many other forms of acknowledgment. It doesn’t cost you anything. On the contrary, giving these treasures away makes you experience them like you never would if you were hoarding them. Why do you think all the super rich people wind up becoming philanthropists? It’s because there is a pleasure in giving that you can never experience in getting and accumulating. The philanthropists are willing to part with their money because the satisfaction they get in return is far more precious. We can all be philanthropists with our words and deeds right now and watch it create magic in our relationships and our own experience of life.
My passion and my life’s work is to coach people on leadership effectiveness and culture transformation, and I cannot think of a more profound shift in a culture than one that results from team members choosing to generously and abundantly speak words of encouragement and gratitude. I have had the pleasure of being on a team that experienced this shift almost overnight and the impact on the results and morale were indescribable. This may conjure up the image of an organization where everybody is nice and nothing gets done. It’s actually quite the opposite. In every case where I have experienced this, people in the organization found themselves speaking the truth with courage, and dealing with the tough issues that hindered their progress, simply because they had plenty of chips in the bank and weren’t worried about being perceived as not caring about their teammates. This is precisely why organizations that have established a foundation of trust and camaraderie and positive engagement always deliver superior results.
This can happen on any team, in any company, and in any family. It can happen in an instant. The reason it does not happen most of the time is that we are all waiting for someone else to go first. What if you chose to be a pioneer, regardless of whether others follow or not? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. At the very least, you begin to experience yourself as a giver and a force for positive change, and at best, you may inspire others to do the same and create a culture where extraordinary results and fulfillment are an everyday thing.
This week, I encourage you to examine the auto-pilot mode you are in most of the time and make a conscious choice to be present and attentive in your interfaces within your circles. Take the time to listen and get into the other person’s world. Don’t assume that people know that you appreciate them. Look them in the eye and tell them, and be specific about it. If you don’t feel like making a wholesale change, start small but be intentional, and let me know how it goes for you.
Before I sign off this week, I wanted to share some news of an exciting milestone. My book, The Transformative Leader, was shipped to its 11th country last week! Never did I think that my book would reach such a wide audience, and I am humbled by its reception by the global community. Publishing my book has been a tremendously rewarding journey, and I just wanted to share my news with you all and say thank you to all of you who have supported me in getting here as the majority of our sales have come from word of mouth referrals. So, thank you, merci beaucoup, danke schoen, veel dank, gracias, khob khun khrup, kheli mamnoon, and dekuji for your support!
Have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary! As always, I would love to hear about your victories and/or challenges. Please leave your comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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