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A picture is worth a thousand words. What’s the picture, or image, that others have of you?
What do people say about you when you are not in their presence?
In this episode of The Spirit of Leading I discuss the power of images, and why symbols are more powerful than words, whether it’s a flag, or a corporate logo, a brand name or trademark, or your own personal brand.
Symbols convey powerful emotional connections to ideas, ideals, and leaders. We use symbols as shorthand to communicate a range of values and beliefs.
Your personal brand is symbolic of what others think and feel about their experience with you.
Links to resources mentioned in the podcast
Background on Pledge of Allegiance
Background on the Confederate battle flag–PBS
Background on the Confederate battle flag-CNN
Optimistic people energize me. They challenge me to see the possibilities in just about every situation.
Hope is the feeling that we have a successful future in store for us.
Hope and optimism are mindsets that drive us to continually improve the quality of our lives. In contrast, pessimism is the resignation that we must accept the reality of a hopeless situation. Given the alternatives, I choose hope.
According to research by the Gallup Organization, followers want four primary messages from their leaders: trust, stability, compassion, and hope. (Tom Rath, Strengthsfinder 2.0).
But our crop of presidential and congressional wannabes generally feed us a steady diet of mistrust, instability, self-interest, and despair. I think the cumulative impact of their negativity is having a devastating effect on our national psyche.
I wonder, why do most politicians spend so much time and money reminding us how crappy things are today? Frankly, they wear me slick with their pessimism and trash talk.
They wonder why so many of us are turned off, and yet, they are preparing to spend about $8,000,000,000 (that’s BILLION) on the 2016 presidential and congressional elections telling us why their opponents suck.
Instead, what if we got an $8 billion dose of all the great things going on in our country and how we can make it even better by collaborating on mutually beneficial projects and issues?
Where are the voices of INPowered leaders who are looking for ways to make things better for all our citizens?
Where are the INPowering voices of inclusion, diversity, respect, and compassion?
U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”
I like the so what, now what? attitude of the optimist.
INPowered leaders, in spite of the complications of current reality, never lose their optimism that sincere and selfless people working toward noble and meaningful goals will prevail. This is true in government at every level, business of every industry, organizations of all kinds, communities of all sizes, religions of all faiths, and families of all nationalities.
Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Let your optimism abound,
and show the world why you are
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We stop being able to listen when we let our belief systems filter out all other voices.
In this podcast of The Spirit of Leading, I discuss why belief systems can be barriers to listening. Belief systems are filters through which we decide right and wrong. Since we must be right in our beliefs in order to be emotionally and intellectually consistent, we cannot allow contradictory beliefs to coexist within our belief system.
I make the case that INPowered leaders must rise above this human tendency to expunge contradictory beliefs and lead us toward a world where people of diverse beliefs can find space to live in peace.
Read my companion blog post, Why no one ever wins an argument.
If the goal of arguing is to change minds, it’s an exercise in futility. I’ve never won and argument, and I’ve never lost one either. When people are arguing, they are not interested in changing their own mind. They are only interested in changing their opponent’s mind.
No one is listening.
Asking someone to change his or her mind is like asking them to redefine themselves.
Why? Our personal identity is tied up in our belief system. It defines us. Our belief systems come from our life experiences and how we explain them to ourselves so they make sense to us. Our reality comes from the stories we tell ourselves about what events, ideas, and experiences mean to us and why they matter.
Just listen to the way we speak to ourselves about ourselves:
I am an American.
I am a conservative (or liberal, progressive, moderate, etc).
I am a Christian, and more specifically a Baptist (substitute your faith and faction or denomination).
I am an atheist.
I am _______________. (Fill in the blank.)
Our quest for truth becomes our search of information to validate what we already believe about who we are. We are not interested in changing our minds.
How to think differently about ourselves.
Dick Cavett, a former talk show host and columnist said, “It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.”
To learn and grow means being willing to explore information that contradicts our prevailing beliefs about who we are. It also means running the risk of being labeled a heretic by others of our belief, and that’s scary.
The INPowered find strength in flexibility. Making judgments derived from critical investigation that helps us to INLighten the mind will make us strong in our beliefs without becoming so rigid and inflexible that we cannot evolve, learn, and grow.
After the heretic leads the way, others follow, and beliefs change.
Winning arguments is not as important as winning the respect and trust of those who hold different opinions and beliefs. You will be respected, if you can say,
I am open minded.
I am wiling to listen and learn.
I am willing to change.
Then, you are
And other will follow as true believers.
Critics can be harsh and insensitive. When they are, their criticisms are met with resistance and defensiveness, because they forget the single most important objective–to help someone feel good about improving.
I remember sitting across the desk from a manager in his office as he proudly told me that he did not hesitate to tell others the brutal truth about their performance. But when I listened to those who answered to him, they said his criticism was seldom truthful–factual–but always brutal.
He continually squandered his opportunity to make things better by being a bully.
Criticism is evaluating current performance to a standard, then, giving praise for excellence as well as drawing attention to that which could be improved.
Compassionate criticism is offered in service to excellence. Compassion is taking the other person’s frame of reference and seeking to understand and feel what they are going through.
Here are some suggestions for making your criticism more helpful and compassionate.
Tell your truth kindly.
Ask how you would like to receive criticism. Probably, the last thing you want is to be humiliated, verbally abused, or demeaned. So don’t do it to anyone else–even out of frustration.
What would helpful criticism do for you? Think about how good you feel when you accomplish a difficult task or overcome an obstacle that has been dogging you.
We’ve all experienced times when someone kindly offered helpful advice and insights to get us pointed in the right direction or to get us over an obstacle.
We can, in fact, be truthful without being brutal.
Seek first to understand.
Listen to their backstory. Think of it as context, not whining or excuses. What is trivial to you might be significant to them. What comes easy for you might be very difficult for them. What is obvious to you might never have occurred to them.
Others are more likely to take your criticism seriously when they know you care about them as a person. They need to trust that you have their best interest at heart. Understanding the issue from their perspective is the first step.
Before telling them anything, ask about everything.
Think about what opens you up to receiving critical suggestions? I know I’m more open to listening when I feel safe.
I know when someone starts in on me saying, “You need to . . . You need to . . .” I tend to get defensive. However, when they ask me how what I’m doing helps me get to the result I want, we start discussing ways to improve. I feel like they are on my side, and I’m more receptive to their observations and critical feedback.
Seek the easiest early win.
As you discuss making improvements, focus first on the easiest fix that gets the most results with the highest prospect for success.
The compassionate critic understands that the more competent one is, the better they feel about themselves. As they ease in to the conversation, a compassionate critic keeps in mind, how can I help this person grow from the experience? They look for the quick successes to build confidence before going on to the more complicated improvements.
The compassionate critic is not content to point out flaws and walk away. They stay available to help with more advice, insight, and support.
For me, listening to criticism means I’m open to improving. I’m more likely to accept criticism from those who I know are going to stay around and help me through the change. I believe from their continual engagement that they care about me as a person.
One of my tenets of an INPowering leader admonishes us to, “Be excellent to yourself and to others.” One aspect of that is to, Tell your truth kindly.
Showing compassion as a critic will foster more trust. Staying engaged to help make things better for others will make you a more stable partner in the growth process and help others be more hopeful about their success.
As a compassionate critic,
you will be more