Archives for April 2015

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Listening versus Interpreting

I met with a new coaching client this Monday and saw again the appreciation, relief and enthusiasm someone experiences when they are listened to in appreciative and nonjudgmental ways. I see this because what we think of as listening is not listening, but rather interpreting.

When we listen to understand someone we are placing on the back burner our beliefs and expectations about what the person is telling us, and listening to understand the thoughts, feelings and beliefs being expressed.

When we interpret someone we are hearing the thoughts, feelings and beliefs expressed and running them through our personal filters about what we’ve heard. After we’ve interpreted what we’ve heard we then respond based not on what they said specifically, but on our interpretation of what they said.

When this happens all too often people feel judged, misunderstood and unappreciated.

One of the greatest skills I learned was how and when to listen to someone without interpreting them. I learned this from my good friend Sam Van Fleet who taught a course that powerfully changed the course of my personal and professional relationships. Here’s what I learned from Sam and in turn are my top three recommendations for listening rather than interpreting.

1. Listening is not about you. Many conversations should primarily be about the other person; their thoughts, experiences, hopes, beliefs and aspirations. When we listen to understand what’s important and WHY it’s important, the person feels valued and appreciated in ways that far too often does not happen at work or at home.

2. Listening is rooted in loving. Let me be clear about this second point. If we love someone, we place their best interests at the center of our thinking. I’m not talking about romantic love, but the kind of love that is referred to by Thomas Aquinas who said, “love is willing the good of the other as other.” When we think of times when we have listened to someone with our full attention, we have loved or cared about the person.

In the world of work loving a customer and or employee is an intellectual construct that keeps us in our heads. But, the moment we listen with our head as well as with our heart we see something magical happen. We win the heads and hearts of those we are trying to lead.

3. Listening requires practice. Any skill we want to develop requires awareness, new choices and patience. The first step in listening versus interpreting is being aware of when we are not listening to understand, but interpreting. The moment we catch ourselves doing so we need to make a different choice. The choice is to suspend our interpretive judgement and replace it with genuine curiosity. And then we rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday Challenge:

This week notice how many people listen to you in order to understand you versus listen to you as a means of interpretation. How does this impact you? What is like for your customer when employees do the same with them? What’s it like when employees experience this from their leaders and managers? If you want your business to flourish start by learning how to listen.

Listening versus interpreting is a skill we can all learn. It is a skill that pays huge dividends not only at home, but in the world of work.

I hope you were listening.

Why We Need Beauty In The World Of Work

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Video Notes:

This week I want to talk about beauty in the world of work. I want to talk about beauty because I don’t think there’s nearly enough beauty in the world of work.

In Dostoyevsky’s novel, “The Idiot” there was a Prince Myskin, and he had this line that said, “beauty will save the world.” I want to suggest that beauty can save us as human beings. Beauty will also save the world of work because too often there’s not enough beauty in the world of work and work has become drudgery.

Since 2008 some cultures have gone into austerity mode. There’s no more nice furniture in the surroundings, there’s no nice artwork, there’s no nice photographs…there’s not a lot of beauty in the world of work.

When we don’t have beautiful surroundings, when we don’t have something that uplifts us, it squashes us, it holds us back. You can walk into a room where the color of the walls depresses you because it’s not attractive to you.

We as human beings are looking for beautiful things, we’re naturally drawn to beauty. And I’m not talking simply about external beauty, I’m talking about the internal beauty that resides in all people in all interactions, in all beautiful crafted things.

This week when you look through your corridors, when you look at the interactions your employees are having, is there a beautiful sentiment, is their beautiful token, is there something of beauty that stops people and reminds them that the world in which we work can be beautiful? Are the interactions with your customers beautiful? There is a beauty to doing something well because there is an artistry in doing our work really well. There’s beauty in the art of leading an organization. There’s beauty in living a life that truly fires you up with the hope and dream and aspiration thats grabbed hold of you.

When there’s no beauty in the world of work, work becomes drudgery. And if you are in a leadership role, I ask you this week, “what will you do to cultivate beauty in the world of work. What is the one thing you will do?” If you do one thing you will be pleasantly surprised at the beautiful interactions that come from that.

How Do You Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help?

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Video Notes:

How do you help someone that doesn’t want to be helped? That’s a question I was asked this week. Someone in all sincerity asked, “Hugh, how do you help someone that doesn’t want to be helped?”

My answer will not address the alcoholic friend that needs an intervention. That’s not the type of situation we’re talking about. In a work context, if you have a friend or colleague that needs help but doesn’t want any help, what should you do?

You should leave them alone. You don’t offer any help. You say, “you know what, if you ever need help I’ll be happy to do so, but for right now, until you get this handled I’m going to be over here.”

I know that sounds incredibly cavalier, but ladies and gentlemen, there are some people who are indifferent, who are stuck, and who are for whatever reason not willing to do the work necessary to change a negative situation. Why would you spend time with someone like that? It’s not the most loving act to spend time with them, sometimes you have to say, “you know what, if you choose not to deal with this situation you need to do it alone. I cannot sit and watch you do this.”

How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? You leave them alone. You walk away. You distance yourself from them and say, “when you’re ready for my help you just let me know.”

That’s the best thing to do.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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To increase an individuals and teams performance there must be a desire, dream, hope or aspiration that fuels behavior. There is always a motivation and a payoff for behaving in the ways we do. For Bernie Madoff it seems to have been greed, and for Pope Francis it seems to be the desire to share the love, generosity and joy of Catholicism. Two different motivations produce two different outcomes.

What motivates you can get muddled by the pressures of the world of work. But when you strip away the demands and pressures of the never ending to-do list, there is a hope, dream and aspiration that is waiting to be fulfilled. It is locked away in between our ears and rarely sees the light of day. Why? Because too often we are afraid our hope, dream or aspiration will never be accomplished. In turn, it remains hidden away where it can’t be seen and most importantly can’t disappoint us with its lack of accomplishment.

And therein lies the problem. The hope, dream or aspiration that can inspire our thinking, that can infuse our work with courage and that can put a bounce in our step, remains hidden from our everyday personal and professional lives. Without an overarching hope, dream or aspiration we devolve to what Thoreau described as “quiet lives of desperation” where we “go to the grave with the song still in us.”

My greatest hope, dream or aspiration is to help people flourish. To that end I have three questions I believe will help you know what truly motivates you.

1. If your life were guaranteed to be exactly the same over the next five years as it has been over the last five years, would you sign up for that? If yes, why? If not, why not?

2. What is your greatest hope, dream or aspiration personally and professionally? Is there a connection between your answer to question one and question two? If so, what’s the connection?

3. What is it that captures the majority of you mental bandwidth? What is it that you are striving for, working toward and making plans around? Does this uplift you and leave you invigorated? Or, does it leave you anxious and depleted?

These questions are a great first step in moving toward knowing your highest hope, dream or aspiration. But the real question is, do you want to maintain the life you have now? Or, would you like for your life to be appreciably different? If you want it to be different, get busy answering these three questions.

Your Most Powerful Four Letter Word

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Video Notes:

I want to talk to you about THE most powerful four letter word you will ever use in your personal and professional life.

Here’s what I mean. Upstairs is an eighty seven pound giant schnauzer that jumps with joy and does circles and barks up a storm when it’s time for his morning or afternoon walk. He spins in a circle and starts barking because he is elated about going for a walk.

Here comes the four letter word; love. He is in love with morning walks. He gets to smell the other dogs, he gets to smell the rabbits, he gets to smell the salt air. He just loves going on a walk. He loves being with Alyson and me because we’re his pack. He is also in love with walks because he knows he will eat after his walk. Dogs are food focused, so I think he’s in love with that also.

I don’t think we use love in the workplace nearly enough. I’m not talking about a romantic sappy love. I’m talking about agape, a selfless love, the type of love that you have when you have fallen in love with a hope, a dream or an aspiration. You’ve fallen in love with something that prompts you to put aside your own selfish interests, and you’ll talk about or work towards a selfless greater good for the whole.

Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t use the word love enough in the world of work. What would it be like for a leader to say, “I really love my employees?” What would it be like if employers could say, “I really love our customer?” What would it be like if we could say that we work every single day to have our customers really, really love doing business with us?

Love is a powerful word. It will transform people’s lives, it will make people do heroic acts, because they love an idea, a hope, a belief, a cause, whatever it may be.

How much love is in your organization? How much love is in your leadership? How much love is in your team? Let’s use that word. Love can transform the world of work from an idea into a noble aspiration. Love can transform the world of work, and it can transform our personal lives for the better.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week think about that. How much love do you have for your employees? How much love do your employees have for your customers? And how much love does your customer have for you and your organization?

Whatever your answer is, how do you increase the amount of love? You’ll only increase it if you love what you do.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Heightened Expectations

Organizations are continually choosing between one of two paths regarding growth and financial wellbeing. They are either choosing to raise the bar and move beyond the safe, known and secure in order to achieve memorable experiences for their customers, or, they are choosing to maintaining the status quo and rely on what has worked in the past. The first leads to heightened customer satisfaction, heightened employee engagement and heightened financial performance. The latter leads to complacency, mediocrity and underperformance.

If an organization chooses to raise the bar regarding any aspect of their operations, the heightening of expectations must always be accompanied by heightened clarity around five key aspects of organizational performance:

1. Clarity of purpose. What are we here to do and why is it important to us, our customer and our employees?

2. Clarity of expectations. What expectations will our customers have of us? What expectations do we need to have of one another?

3. Clarity of measurement. How will we measure our progress? What are the output metrics versus the input metrics?

4. Clarity of accountability. Who is the sponsor of the heightened expectations? Who are the champions?

5. Clarity of talent, skill and mindset. What talent, skill and mindset is needed? Do we have it now? How can we develop it?

Which of the five key aspects above do need heightened expectations around?

Make A Difference or Make An Exit

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Video Notes:

I have somewhat of a harsh message for a lot of leaders, but it’s a message a lot of employees want me to deliver.

I’ll say this in the nicest way possible, but it is somewhat of a tough love message. Here’s the message:

If you are not making a meaningful difference in your employees life, and by that I mean if you’re not helping your employees flourish, if you are not helping your customers flourish and in turn making a meaningful difference in their life, then it’s time for you to make an exit from the ranks of leadership. I don’t know of any other way to say that.

You see, if you are not passionate, if you do not care, if you are not actively involved in making a meaningful difference in your employees lives, and in your customers’ lives, and helping them flourish every single week, then my best recommendation for you is to get out of leadership and become an individual contributor. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I want you to think this week; are you fully engaged in making a meaningful difference in your employees and customers life this week? If you are and you want to make a difference stay, but if you don’t, it’s time to make an exit.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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What would your customers say?

When we purchased our new vehicle for Alyson recently, the salesman knew the dealership would send an electronic survey to gather customer satisfaction data.

But what impressed me was the salesperson saying the following, “you will have a chance to give me, this dealership and Toyota a lot of valuable feedback about how we’ve done during your purchase, but because this business is a personal relationship business I wonder if you’d be willing to answer three questions for me in person. I want to ask you them in person because as an important customer to me these questions are important questions to ask, and I want to hear your answers in person. Are you willing to spend fifteen minutes with me to do so?”

We answered, of course. Here are his three questions.

1. What was the best part of your experience working with me/us?

2. What was the least favorite part of your experience working with me/us?

3. Have I helped make the purchase of your vehicle easier, better or more rewarding? If yes, how?

We gave him our answers and he listened. He genuinely and sincerely listened. He asked clarifying questions, he elaborated when need be and then he thanked us.

He also said that because his was a relationship business and because we had such a positive experience working with him, he would be honored if and when we knew of someone who would be interested in buying a car that we would refer them to him. We have and will continue to do so.

His name is Roger Stone and he works at Burien Toyota here in Washington State. You can find him at 206.243.0700.

What would your last customer say about working with you? Would your last customer do the same as I just did for Roger? If not, you will benefit immensely from asking these three questions.