September 2013

“Mr. Rogers’ Birthday Song” Needs to SpeakStronger

We promised my friend Susan that we would sing her a happy birthday song, but not the traditional one. I chose Mr. Rogers’ birthday song; however, I was struck by its passive tone and felt a need to revise it. Here are the words:

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Dear Friend. We sing to you. 
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you.

We thought we’d try to tell you how we love you on your birthday.
We thought we’d try to sing and dance and play today.

We wanted to surprise you on your birthday and say,
We love you every day. Not just today. 

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Dear Friend. We sing to you. 
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you.

How many limiting words do you detect in the lyrics? What are they?

“We thought” and “try” and “we wanted” stand out to me. We didn’t just think it, we did it. We didn’t try to tell her we loved her, we told her. And we did more than try to dance, sing and play. 

It’s a lovely and sweet song. We just needed to remove the “respect-robbing poison phrases.”

Susan loved it.

After you’ve digested that one, check out the “Happy Birthday Song” by Casey Jones. It was my favorite as a child, but even then I was uncomfortable with part of the message and wanted to change some words. See if they hit you as a bit off. 

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PowerPhrase: How Do You Like to Receive Feedback?

powerphrase icon2“What if you say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean when you say it, and the person you’re speaking to still gets their feelings hurt?”

That was a question for me at the end of my keynote.

You could be the perfect communicator, using the perfect phrases, with the perfect body language and still find your words sting. The “Ultimate Communication Formula” doesn’t guarantee roses and lolipops. What it does do, is give you confidence that if someone reacts to your words, you gave it your best. 

The speaker before me had given tips for offering feedback. I added a few comments. 

  1. Ask people how they like to receive feedback moving forward. Sometimes I’ll say, “That didn’t go as well as I had hoped. How could I have said that better? How can I give feedback in a way that works for you?”
  2. Cultivate a continuous improvement culture where feedback doesn’t imply you did something wrong. If we’re all improving each step of the way, feedback is a welcome gift that helps us reach the next level.
  3. Share your own mistakes when you talk about theirs. Then, move on to discussing how to avoid making similar errors in the future. For example, when someone missed an appointment with me because they got their days confused, I mentioned that the last time I had gotten my days mixed up, I showed up a day early. Then we went on to discuss using TimeBridge to track our appointments.

Of all these tips, what is key for me, and often not even considered, is to ask:

  • How do you like to receive feedback?

(P.S. On an unrelated note: I made it home from Long Beach just fine. The pass had opened three hours before my flight landed. Yay for that!)

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Invocations Invoke

Mom2It’s another one of my guiding lights. What if every word you speak contains a conscious invocation? Think of the invocation not in a ritual sense, but instead, in a sense of speaking as much for effect as for information conveyed.

The fact is, every word we speak has a conscious, as well as, unconscious effect. When I mention how my mother communicated, I invoke images, impressions and feelings of my mother that are different from what I would invoke if I spoke of an old manager who communicated the same way. Chances are, you aren’t even conscious of the full impact of what I’ve enlivened in you. But you will still be affected by it. (You are also affected by the picture I posted of her.)

I assure you, Steve Jobs and Tony Robbins know (knew) that invocations invoke. They consciously invoke(d) something in their listener with every word (and picture).

Do you?

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Strive for Perfection but Don’t Expect It

DebrisTrucksRIn normal times, 4.5 inched of rain over a 24 hour period isn’t a cause for being on alert. But these are not normal times in Colorado Springs – and as of last night, Colorado in general. Bob wanted me to stay in town last night because of flash flood warnings. He was worried the pass into town would be closed and I would be unable to catch my flight to LA.

I was concerned too, but wasn’t ready to leave and thought I was safe to stay. I figured, worst case scenario, I would need to drive the back roads to South Denver and take the interstate back down. That would turn a twenty minute drive into a four hour one, but it was possible.

When when a deluge hit just before bed, I started thinking I should have listened to Bob.

I was up in the night watching the coverage of flood events, including the closing of Highway 24, which is the only direct way in to Colorado Springs. Not only that, but Denver was getting flooded too. My escape route might have been treacherous.

When I’m a breakout speaker, I know that if my best effort to get to the conference isn’t good enough, it won’t put a big hole in the event. But when I’m keynoting, as I am tomorrow, it has a much bigger impact on the event. 

I was stressing in the wee hours of the morning. Then I asked myself what my biggest stress was. It was me being hard on myself. I had made a calculated guess based on the information I had at the time and chose to stay put until morning. If my guess was wrong, I would have to cut myself some slack (while duly noting the situation for future planning.) If the rain didn’t let up, at least I could let up on myself.

The pass opened at 6:00 and I left at 8:00 for my noon flight. When I arrived at the airport around 9:00 I had an alert that the pass was closed again. I happily wait at the airport.

We are all becoming more savvy about what rain means in our community since the fires last year. In the process, many of us are learning that when life is a bit hard on us, we can at least let up on ourselves. (And each other, of course.)

As I told my assistant Cassia, we strive for perfection, but we don’t expect it.


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“Infinite Patience” Can Feel Infinitely Sweet

“Move the mouse to the left,” I instructed my visually impaired father. From a thousand miles away, I watched his curser move to the right on his computer screen. “It’s moving to the right now,” I noted. “Try the opposite direction.”  

If you had been a fly on my wall yesterday, you would have understood why my father referred to my “infinite patience.” Forty-five minutes later, my father had started an email and was ready to compose a message. He was also ready for a break. So was I.

It was tedious but it was also very sweet. Sometimes taking time to really be with people is like that. Working with my father on his computer is good practice for me.


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Encountering Others in Their “Natural Habitat” Zits Cartoon

Encountering the teenager in its natural habitat. That’s the theme for the Zits cartoon below. Yesterday I posted about “Life of Pi” and the “animals” in your “zoo.” Great communication results from understanding and working with the nature of those we deal with.

But that doesn’t mean we tiptoe around their nature. September 9th’s “Zits” cartoon illustrates a communication dynamic that many of us can relate to – not just with teenagers, but with coworkers, managers, employees and others. When you feel the need to dance around a simple question like how was your day (or like how is your project progressing) it’s a signal that you have a serious communication challenge.

Skilled indirect communication can be a powerful and effective response to Jeremy’s walls. But not this kind of indirect communication. Mom is in reaction, not in response. Her behavior is defined by his insolence, not informed by it. She cowers in the corner. That’s no better than full frontal attack to Jeremy’s indifference. Either approach would be defined by him, and he would hold the power.

I like direct questions. I also like honest indirect questions that work. I don’t like actively pretending you’re not doing what you clearly are, as in this approach. 


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Meet the Animals in Your Zoo

Life of Pi 2If you’re a zoo keeper, it’s important to know how close people can get to your animals without triggering the flight response. It’s different for every animal. Flamingos require 300 yards. Buffaloes require 75. The haughty ignore individual differences, but the wise study them and avoid triggering unnecessary resistance. 

People get territorial too, and it’s helpful to know how to relate to them without triggering their flight response.

Bob and I are reading Life of Pi.  What a great book!

As Bob read to me last night, I thought of a coaching client whose manager is very territorial and can get threatened when her perceived “turf” is violated. Working with her is a bit like waking up to see there is a tiger living on your lifeboat. What do you do?

“Joan” respects the nature of her manager in the same way wise zookeepers respect the natures of the animals in their keeping – or in the same way electricians respect the power of electricity. No matter how right and justified Joan is, she is unlikely to prevail over her manager if she encroaches on what her manager considers her domain. When someone pushes on you as Joan’s manager does, it’s tough to resist pushing back. But when Joan pushes back, she plays her manager’s toxic game.

Joan’s game is much bigger than her manager’s. In fact, it’s bigger than her manager is likely to be able to see. So while her manager might roar over trivial fabricated incidents she takes umbrage to, Joan wisely keeps her focus on her bigger picture. That keeps her manager from being threatened by a sense of encroachment, and from being emboldened by the smell of fear. 

It’s not ideal. But it’s kind of how life works. Those of us who adapt to the natures of the “animals in our zoos” (or on our lifeboats, or in our office) have the collaborative and cooperative advantage. We relate to others as they are – not as we wish they were. We create and play our own game – which is where our power is. If that means going beneath the radar while others prance around roaring, so be it. We get the last laugh, even if it’s a secret last laugh.

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Altars Alter

office alter 2Well, it’s one of my guiding lights. It works for me. And it might work for you.

What if you considered every surface, closet and drawer in your home to be an altar?

Not in the ritual sense, but in the sense of only placing things on every surface and in every closet and in ever door that honor the wholeness (holiness) of the location. Just like you wouldn’t put an empty beer can on the church altar that you stand in front of while sharing wedding vows: what if you honored the true purpose of every spot in your home with conscious placement that considers intent and purpose?

It’s amazing. I see many misplaced things that don’t belong where they are when I go through my home and workspace with that visual filter. Things I miss without it. That perspective helps me with my Lean sorting and straightening.

The altar images alter my perception which alters my behavior which alters how I organize which alters how I work and live.

Try it this week and next Sunday I’ll have a related post with something new to practice.

I love “altered states” that aren’t illegal, harmful or delusional! 

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Mistake-proofing and Texting – a Suggestion from Seth Godin

icn.seths.headAnother great idea from entrepreneur Seth Godin. He says a powerful film from ATT about texting while driving “won’t work.” (If you watch it, the letter one man received from the father of the family he killed will blow you away.)

But what would work?

Creating cell phones that notify anyone being texted to, that the person texting them is driving. Knowingly receiving texts from someone texting while driving is illegal in many states.

He suggests one step further – make phones that won’t text while driving. 

You can talk and preach and advise and extol. You also can mistake-proof phones so texting while driving just can’t happen.

Read the original post here.

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