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How I Remembered to KISS at The #UP2015 Conference

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As a conference speaker I normally show up to an event, meet and greet as appropriate, step on stage, share my experiences/thoughts, exit the stage, network, and then exit the building – on to the next event.For me, the experience generally centers around speaking and sharing relevant experiences/thoughts with the audience to help them increase their performance.  Seldom do I get to be a participant at the conference.

Yesterday I spoke at the first UP (Unlimited Possibilities) 2015 Conference for the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce.  In this case, I didn’t have an immediate “next event” awaiting my arrival, so I decided to shake up my routine – I decided to be a participant.  When my keynote and breakout session was completed I picked up my conference bag (yes I played the full role of the participant) and headed to my workshop of choice.  I decided to attend a workshop, taught by Brian Mininger, with an intriguing title: Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

My introduction to the KISS concept was during my younger days in the USAF.  I had one particular training instructor, can’t remember his name, that loved to espouse the values of KISS.  Keeping it simple was the key to success.  He reminded us not to overcomplicate things and, as only a training instructor in the military could, he had a not so subtle but memorable way to remind us when we were violating the principle of KISS.  So maybe I attended this workshop as a throwback to the good ol’ days or maybe Brian laid the bait just right to peak my curiosity – either way I was there.

Brian’s workshop didn’t disappoint me.  He, like my training instructor, espoused the values and benefits of keeping it simple.  He didn’t present any complicated, convoluted formulas for success, nor did he cloak his nuggets of wisdom behind a veil of mysterious analogies or metaphors that serve as pieces of a puzzle that only few could put together.  Brian’s information was new to some and a refresher to others – it was practical and relatable for business owners.  I’m compelled to share a few of the lessons learned with you.  So here they are, 3 things Brian taught/reminded me:

  1.  If you don’t find and honor the thing that brings you the greatest joy and fulfillment, you’ll spend your life punching a clock.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not a clock puncher.  Focus on those things that give you energy, not those that drain your energy.  What’s your passion? 
  2. If you don’t pay attention to your market, that lack of attention and knowledge will put you out of business.  What are your market/industry trends telling you?
  3. Figure out what people need, even if they don’t know they need it. Find out what keeps your customers up a night.  What do you know about the needs, interests and frustrations of your customers? 

The beauty of these three lessons is in their simplicity.  Sometimes there’s a tendency to devalue the simple and overly value the complicated, after all if it’s too simple anybody could do it, right?  That’s exactly the point – anybody can do it, so do it. Your success and the success of your business depends on you doing the simple things.  I suggest you consider how the above lessons and questions can help you strengthen your performance as a business owner/leader and the overall performance of your business. I thank Brian for reminding me that I’m still able to keep it simple.

What are some additional words of wisdom you’d share with business owners/leaders?  Remember, KISS!!!!

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Where’s the Synergy?

“What I want is synergy, I can’t really explain it, but it’s a feeling among team members that let’s us know we’ve got it – I want that feeling, I want synergy. “

I’ve heard the above quote, or some variation thereof, from leaders and team members more than I can recall. So many are in search of this mysterious element that we believe contributes to relationships and team performance called synergy. Like a mythical creature, we’ve all heard of it, some have attempted to find it, and a few claim to have seen it.

What is synergy? Where does it come from? Where does it start? What keeps it from staying once it appears. Can we mandate it? Maybe we can make people synergize. Sounds like something out of Star Trek, huh? Perhaps if we put it in a policy people would do it. What’s your company’s synergy policy? Do you have one? Of course you don’t.   Seriously, what is this synergy thing?

The most simplistic definition of Synergy can be captured in two words – Working Together. But I want to take it a little deeper. I believe synergy is more than working together; it’s how we work together.

It’s the spirit in which we work together, it’s that elusive feeling we all yearn for on our teams, it’s the “it” factor. It’s when the right people are doing the right thing the right way for the right reason. It’s when people want to be on the team together. It’s beyond a job, it’s journey. Synergy arises when my strengths compliment your weaknesses and vice-versa. Synergy appears when I know my contribution matters and you know your contribution matters and we know each others’ contribution matters. Synergy is birthed when we click, when we fit. Synergy appears when we’re inclusive and value the pool of diverse perspectives, experiences, and expertise among the team.

Synergy is evidence of a selfless team – members don’t compete with each other, they compliment each other. Synergy among team members is like chemistry in a relationship.

So what does all of this mean to leaders and team members?:

  1. When building your team, place a priority on the relationship over the resume. Yes, certain qualifications are important, but last time I checked, resumes don’t work together, people do.
  2. Make sure everyone knows how his or her part contributes to the whole. No role is insignificant – every position on the team matters.
  3. Find people who want to be there. Nothing will destroy synergy quicker than people with a “have to be there” attitude – they become toxic to your culture.

Tell us when and where you found synergy.  When have you been part of a team and felt the synergy effect??

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Listen, You Might Just Learn Something

There’s something magnificent about the art of listening – especially for those in a position to lead or manage others in pursuit of a goal or objective. For instance, one time a client was considering changing their mission statement. The organization had been in existence for over 75 years and they weren’t sure if the mission was still relevant. The individual members of the Board of Directors had strong opinions to change or not to change, and the CEO had their own opinion as well. There was fear and uncertainty because no one was quite sure how a change in the mission statement would impact their brand and image in the community. This is precisely why the Board and CEO decided they needed to ask their stakeholders for their opinions. Before making such a monumental decision they agreed to seek input and guidance from staff, clients, the public at-large, former board members, donors (this is a non-profit), vendors, partner agencies, and even adversaries. They asked, they listened, and here’s the magnificent part – they learned. The lessons they learned were numerous – I’ve chosen to share the following 3 with you. Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company, a County Council or a nonprofit, I’m confident there’s a lesson in here for you.

  1. Listening Requires a Dose of Humility. It takes humility to admit, someone knows what you don’t. “I don’t know”, isn’t a very popular phrase you hear taught in leadership and management classes. In this situation the leaders had to admit, they didn’t know what to do – they were teachable. Even though the ultimate decision would be theirs they felt others might have some insight to guide their decision. Imagine, a Board and CEO asking staff members and clients for their opinions. Humility provided the space for them to learn that all their stakeholders had valuable input that came from perspectives they would have never seen or considered.
  2. Listening can Remove the Guesswork. Some were hesitant to change the mission because they thought they may lose donors, funders, or confuse the community – they weren’t sure if this would happen, but felt strongly it could. By asking, listening, and learning from their stakeholders they removed much of the guesswork. Though they didn’t talk to every individual in the community, they got feedback from a representative sample that would let any statistician sleep well at night. In one case one of the primary donors that some feared would walk away, applauded the fact that the Board was, “Considering their relevancy and demonstrating their willingness to reconnect with the community.”
  3. Listening Builds Trust. High-Trust is the foundation of any functioning relationship, team, organization, or company. Listening builds and breeds trust because you demonstrate to others that they matter, their opinions matter, and their thoughts matter. If people feel like they don’t matter then they won’t trust you. In some instances when stakeholders were asked for their perspective during this project they used it as an opportunity to “say what was on their mind.” And trust me, they said it. This contributed to building trust because the board, CEO and other leaders listened to understand – not respond. Listening didn’t mean they were going to do everything everyone wanted them to do.       It meant they were going to seek, receive, and thoughtfully consider the input to help form their decision. When the ultimate decision was made, one reason stakeholders supported it was because they were part of it – it was easier to trust a decision that you played an integral part in making.

Listening will result in several positive benefits for the teachable individual, team and organization. Remember, listening requires humility, removes the guesswork and builds trust. Take the time today to listen to your stakeholders. You might just learn something. Oh by the way, they successfully changed the mission statement after listening to their stakeholders.

These are just a few of the benefits of listening. Do you have any others to add? Let us know in the comments.

 

Additional Resources to Enhance Your Listening Skills:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/

https://hbr.org/1957/09/listening-to-people/ar/1

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