September 2013

About You: Is This Method a Fit?

Is The SpeakStrong Method for you?

Are you a creative, multi-dimensional professional? Are you more interested in personhood than persona? Are you a life-long learner? Are you curious and experimental? Do you strive to be to be professional, powerful and totally yourself?

The SpeakStrong Method isn’t for everyone but if you want to go deep insead of cheap then this is the place to be.

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PowerPhrase: So, That’s a No?

powerphrase icon2“You said you were going to make hard-boiled eggs. Did you?”

I replied that he had told me he didn’t like hard-boiled eggs. So, when I decided to have eggs for breakfast, I didn’t see any reason to hard-boil any.

  • So, that’s a no?

…he asked. His response taught me a lot about how I communicate.

I had immediately gone into an explanation of why I hadn’t made hard-boiled eggs. It was a slightly defensive reaction. I realized later that he simply wanted to know if all the eggs in the carton were raw before he cracked some open to make his omelet. 

I did everything but answer his question. Of course, had he asked if the eggs were all still raw or if there were some hard-boiled ones mixed in, I might have answered more directly.

I like the way he clarified my answer. It made me conscious of how indirect my response was. I caught myself doing something I often note other people doing. I often find that people go into long explanations instead answering my questions. For example, if I ask if someone is available to work, I often get an in-depth run-down of everything that person is doing. I feel like I’ve been taken down rabbit holes and am not sure what the point was.

  • So, that’s a no?

Pretty simple, really.

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When the Tool Shapes Our Lives

limeinthecoco1Cassia has been helping me clean up my act since the beginning of the month. That’s the best way I can put it – she’s been fixing broken links, updating my books, editing and on and on. She’s been learning new software and navigating broken systems as part of helping me put my world in order. Oh my goodness, it’s heartening to believe I will have a solid foundation for the next chapter of my life and work.

Our organization and alignment is a work in progress – and so far is remarkably effective. We’re using OneNote to our advantage. Cassia took the initiative to post updates at the end of each day so I can easily see what she does. I love that she does that, and love that she initiated it.

Today we looked at an overview of my, and our, vision. Seeing that lead her to comment that posting her activities for the day influenced her to do tangible things she could check off. That’s fine so far, but now it’s time for her to spend some time learning and developing things that might not have a concrete tangible outcome for a while. 

Kudos to Cassia for recognizing how she was serving the tool instead of the other way around. We often don’t even notice we do that. Having hammers can send us looking for nails. Life is much bigger than our tools.

P.S. From Cassia: It has been so beneficial for us both to take time to realign and focus our vision together. OneNote has been a fantastic tool to help get all of the little tasks together in one place; however, it’s been so easy to get carried away in a direction that seems important but isn’t a priority to the big picture.
I believe Meryl and I have both felt, at times, as though we are facing down the mythical Hydra from the tale of Hercules.  In the story, each time Hercules cut off the head of the Hydra, two more sprung forth.  Similarly, each time we manage to check off one task from the list, we find five more in its place.  Hercules finally sought council in his cousin, Iolaus, who recommended that Hercules try something different, in order to complete the task at hand.

That’s why our Long Term vision is so important.  It’s like our own Iolaus, off in the distance saying, “Try something different! You’ll figure it out!” I’m confident that keeping our focus on the long term, will keep us from getting discouraged by the mounting challenges, enabling us to keep moving forward and finally defeat the beast.

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Being Someone You’re Not is Really Hard Work

mask“I can’t believe I spent that much time working that hard to be someone I’m not!” Sue confessed. I tried to tell her when she was in it, but she needed to go through it herself. Now Sue is “herselfer” than ever.

“That’s what I had to do to get where I am now,” she shared.

It took about a year for the spell of success gurus who preached quick mega-bucks to wear off and for Sue to find her own center. It took about a year for her to stop trying to center herself around the instant-answer-industry’s center.

 “Watch me,” the speech bubble says on “Lily’s” video image in her promotional email. I know it means – watch this video – and yet it strikes me as what many in the information industry are really saying. It’s all about me. Not, it’s all about you. Watch me because I’m special. I have the answers. Everything you think you know is wrong. Listen to me, and you, too, can have all the toys, privileges and admiration I have.

“Lily” is enormously successful. People do watch her. They must benefit from it. 

But for Sue, Lily’s center was a journey into angst and exile. 

Sue was making some inroads and getting some business by being someone she’s not. But it was hard work and it wasn’t making her happy. It was tough for me to watch, and who knew? She might have tapped into some aspect of herself that I didn’t anticipate. 

In some ways, that’s just what happened. Being who she’s not helped Sue become herself in deep new ways.

Sometimes we return home after being lost, and see home for the very first time. I’m so happy to be part of Sue’s welcome home committee. 

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The Power of Being You

arms crossed 300Persona or Personhood?

Looking for some tips to push your weight around? This isn’t the place. Looking for a way to express your true self effectively? This is for you. Read on.

I’m sitting at a table with conference attendees the day after my keynote. One woman tells me:

“During your talk, I turned to the gal sitting next to me and said: ‘Meryl just said the opposite of what the speaker before her said.'”

“Thanks for noticing!” I reply smiling. “I expected we would say different things the moment I heard the title of the keynote that I would follow was ‘Cultivating a Leadership Persona.’ I’ve spent most of my adult years working to drop persona and be the real deal.” They nodded approvingly and knowingly.

It used to bother me that my perspective usually is very different from others’. It doesn’t bother me anymore. And the speaker before me wasn’t wrong (except, in my opinion, to repeat the cultural bias that being a manager isn’t cool – we need to all be leaders instead. Every job has its own blend of the two functions.)

“What struck you as so different?” I ask. 

“That feelings are part of powerful communication. The fellow before you would have us all be feeling-less robots.”

“I’m sorry. But we’re women!” the woman next to her exclaims. “He about croaked in a breakout session when someone asked ‘What do you do when you have a crier?'” 

It isn’t just gender difference. I see being able to integrate feelings into professional communication as a leadership skill. I also see cultivating persona as a piece of the puzzle and not the whole deal. In my world, it’s better to, for example, become trustworthy, than to focus extensively on appearing trustworthy. Most of the time, who you are shines through any packaging attempt. If you have some residual habits that signal a lack of trustworthiness, it’s good to identify them and consciously change them. But I see that as secondary.

I also see persona as something to approach with caution. We can only consciously focus on a few things at a time. If I’m consciously attempting to appear confident, say by adopting a stance like the photo, that takes some of the bandwidth I need to listen well and BE confident because I understand the situation.

If you’re more interested in cultivating persona, don’t listen to me. It’s not my focus. If you’re interested in cultivating excellence, I’m your gal. That means cultivating true personhood. It takes longer – my eCourse is one whole year of learning and practice. But in the end, it makes you the best you that you can be. That beats persona any day, in my opinion. 

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