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“Your Old Isn’t The Same As My Old.”

I don’t know if it’s because today is my birthday or because my daughter can be quick with her words, but this exchange I had with her today was pretty funny.

We had a family conversation today to talk about plans to move in the next two years.  We discussed potential locations, plans, etc. .

After the conversation Devin did what Devin does – she began to research, investigate, and plan.  She jumps online, starts looking at houses in the areas we discussed.  By the way, I love her enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and get stuff done.

After bringing me several listings of modern styled homes, I reminded her of the type of house I’m looking for.  Without giving it much thought, I said, “Devin, I want an older style house.”  She shook her head, walked away and came back with some other available properties.  Again, I said, “Devin I want an older house.”  She looks at me and said, “Well daddy, your old isn’t the same as my old.” 

Devin was right, her old, isn’t my old.  I had to sit down with her, show her different styles and then she got it.  More importantly, I got it.   In that moment I was confronted with a common communication barrier many of us face and learned another leadership lesson that my children have been so kind to teach me.  I realized that defining important terms is important to effective communication.  In today’s conversation with Devin the word “old” was the important term that needed to be defined – I was ABLE to define it, but I didn’t.

Leadership Lesson for the ABLE Leader = When we clearly communicate and define important terms, people understand what we want and are more likely to meet our expectations. 

By the way,  I’m not sensitive to the word old because It’s my birthday and I’m a year older, but because it’s the style of house I want.  :)

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Don’t Worry About It

A young professional shared this with me recently.  In the last few months several people had been “let go” from her organization.  Concerned for her own job security, she approached the Executive Director to find out if the organization was going to “be here” next month – she was told don’t worry about.  A few days later she overheard the CFO telling the Executive Director that cash flow was way down and the organization had never been this broke – she again approached the Executive Director and was told – don’t worry about it.  Finally there has been an increasing number of creditors and subcontractors calling the office seeking payment for overdue invoices and bills, once again she approached the Executive Director and was told – don’t worry about it.

By this time you do know what she’s doing, don’t you?  That’s right worrying about.  I understand that there are times when leadership believes the followers can’t handle the truth – not saying I agree with this or condone it, but I do understand how leaders may think it – they may think if everyone really knew how dire the situation is they may panic, they may leave, programs may suffer.  Well guess what, if they’re constantly worried about what you won’t talk about, the work and programs are suffering already.  AccountABLE  leaders help their people confront and navigate reality.

Reality is confronting this young lady on a daily basis and the Executive Director’s admonishings of Don’t Worry About It aren’t working.  Leaders are ABLE to talk about what their people are worried about.



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The Formula for Effective Communication

“We have two ears and one mouth, so let’s use them proportionally.”  I don’t know who said this originally, but I do know there’s some wisdom in these words – wisdom that leaders need to consider.

Sidebar, Pause, Timeout: Before you read any further.  If you work with me or if you’re related to me, you are not allowed to post a comment to this blog.    (Just kidding, I think..) “I’m a work in progress, like all of you reading this.  We’re growing together.”  Ok, continue on.

Communication, or the lack thereof, can make or break our relationships, our teams, our organizations, and even our communities.

If communication is so important, why are we so bad at it??  I’ll tell you why: Because we like to talk and tell.  We don’t like to listen and ask, we want to talk and tell.  Test it out on your own and see if I’m right – at your next meeting pay attention to the dynamics in the room.  There’s very little dialogue taking place – there are actually multiple monologues taking place.  Someone says what they want to say, people stare at them; they take a breath, someone else jumps in, people stare at them, they take a breath; another person jumps in, says something like “let me piggy back on that” (just to be nice), because whatever they say following this statement has nothing to do what was on the piggy’s back.

So you just spent another hour in a meeting with people talking and telling.  No one was listening and asking.  And IF a question is asked, if it’s not the question the talker/teller wants to discuss, it’s ignored.  By the way you’re lucky if anyone asks a question, because if the leaders are known for talking and telling, people that have something to ask, will stop asking because they consider it a waste of time.

So what’s the Leadership Lesson here?  It’s pretty simple stop talking/telling and start listening/asking.

4 things you (we) can do:

  1. Ask others if it’s ok for you to take notes while their speaking.  It’ll stop you from interrupting them, help you sort out your thoughts & remember what you want to say at a later time.  Oh yea, take notes – don’t doodle.
  2. When someone is finished making a point, repeat it back to them to confirm you heard the correct message.  It shows that you are listening and you value what they say, and you want to get it right. (I gotta work on this one)
  3. Ask open-ended questions that allow others to expand upon their thoughts.  Don’t ask closed-ended or leading questions that take people to where you want to go.
  4. Be willing to NOT BE the “smartest person in the room” – Someone knows what you don’t know.  Be TeachABLE. Give your people the space to express their genius and creativity.

Remember the Formula:

2 ears


1 mouth

= Listening twice as much as you speak.

I think this will help some of us communicate more effectively.   What do you think?

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The Perfect Upgrade


Never underestimate the ability of humans to over-complicate a task or a project in the name of  “perfection”.  Trust me, I know from experience.

Perfect is not reality and reality is not perfect.  Much of the stagnation, hesitation, and delay in my life comes from this need or thought of being perfect:

  • I want to write a blog, but I can’t find the perfect opening sentence.
  • Let’s host a conference, but we can’t find the perfect time or the perfect venue.
  • Start a weekly podcast?? Sure, as soon as I find the perfect microphone and equipment that projects my perfect voice. (Oh wait a minute; I gotta perfect my voice first)
  • Write and submit that article to Forbes…working on it for 3 months now – it’s not perfect yet.

My good friend Amos Disasa reminded me that I need to practice what I preach.  I teach others how to be vulnerable, take risks, and “fail forward”; but I’m playing it safe and seeking guarantees before I take a chance.  In Amos’ words, “So that’s why your website looks the way it does and that’s why you’re not driving traffic to yourself, trying to wait til it’s perfect?” OUCH  – yeah that one hurt.

Bottom line, in my attempt to make things “perfect” all I’ve really done is missed opportunities.

There’s a lesson we all can learn from the technology and communications industry.  Not only do they recognize their products aren’t perfect, they’re bold enough to say this is version 1.0, 2.0, and so-on.  And we the consumer have been conditioned to not expect perfection – hence we’re all prepared for the “upgrade.”

Well from today forward, I reject the notion of perfection, I embrace mistakes, I take chances, I am Vulnerable, I learn lessons, and I am always ready to upgrade.

How about you?  Are you vulnerable enough to take a chance?  Hey, if it’s not perfect, you can always upgrade.


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Are You AvailABLE??

When we’re AvailABLE we’re “able” to give adequate time and attention to the people and issues that matter.  We’re able to focus and “be in the moment”.

As easy as this may sound, it’s a challenge for many of us.  Life is pulling at us from every direction – it seems there’s always something or someone competing for our attention – we’re busy, and busy people don’t have time to be AvailABLE – we’re doing the best we can with what we have.

This is an excuse.  

Let me warn you.  The next sentence will be UncomfortABLE for many of us – including me.  We’re all AvailABLE – we’re AvailABLE to the people and things that we consider a priority.  Don’t allow “busyness” to be a distraction that keeps you from being AvailABLE for the most important moments in your life.

Next Steps:

  1. Increase the amount of time you spend listening to the people that are most important to you. The most precious gift you can give anyone is la istening ear.
  2. Identify and remove the “busy” work from your schedule.
  3. Be in the moment – family dinners, business phone calls, meetings, working-out; whatever it is, when you’re there – be there.
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We need more than your title

We aren’t given titles to just go on a business card. If you’re not using your position to increase access, leverage opportunities and promote or advance a cause and create positive change, then what good is that position?

If we are going to be so bold as to accept positions and carry titles, then we must be just as bold to demonstrate the leadership qualities that are pursuant to those positions and titles.

Don’t confuse position with competency and commitment.

Ask yourself the question – “Am I looking for people with real influence or just a title?”

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Seeking clay candidates…

Who are you planning to nominate for your next board vacancy?

What’s your dream team look like?

Do you only seek out the usual suspects?

When we think of great leaders, we tend to gravitate toward position and celebrity status. As a result, our governing boards are filled with busy professionals who, while well intentioned, could never in a million years fulfill the varied activities they’ve overcommitted themselves too… but at least there name will look good on our letterhead, right?

From a community perspective, we miss out on a lot of opportunities because we never consider the lesser known. Investing the energy needed into ‘molding’ new leadership for your organization

There are people providing great leadership in your communities who are overlooked everyday. Take the next opportunity you have for promoting new leaders and think out of the box…

1. Connect with alumni of young leadership program
2. Etc
3. Etc

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