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We The People

On February 14th 2017, a massacre occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A former student, armed with an AR-15 rifle walked through the halls on a shooting spree. Seventeen students and teachers were killed and fourteen others were injured. The assailant, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, purchased the rifle himself. This particular rifle, the AR-15, has been involved in several mass shootings. You might recognize some of these recent occurrences: Aurora, Colorado; Santa Monica and San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida and now Parkland.

The children have gone back to school, but understandably, with some trepidation. They have anxiety just being at school, dread fire drills, along with remembering the scene no child should have to see especially in a place that should be safe. Think back to when you attended school. Did anything like this even cross your mind? It’s unthinkable. Yet, since 2013 there has been an average of one school incident a week in the United States confirms USA Today.

Depending on how you define school shootings, there have already been 18 this year. How are our lawmakers handling this fact? They are arguing over how to define “school shootings,” states The Atlantic.

Luckily, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are speaking out. Recently the children met with President Donald Trump and with lawmakers in the Senate and the House. Their message was one of the horrors they experienced and the strength of demanding something be done.  They are confronting our leaders and holding them accountable for change.

Watching these kids from Florida describe what they went through and how they don’t feel safe in school is heartbreaking. Yet these events happen weekly. Where is the government in all this. Why haven’t things changed? We know there have been discussions in both houses and bills brought forth. These bills have experienced trouble getting passed. One reason is the tacking on of other issues that democrats or republicans want to be passed. They hope they can slide their issue in while the gun violence topic needs to be addressed now.

Another reason nothing gets accomplished is re-elections. This is an election year, so senators and congressmen don’t want to do anything to upset their chance of being appointed. Their focus in on themselves and how to keep or win the seat they want. Basically, they are working for themselves, not working for us.

Senators and congressmen are busy not only with their elections, but with keeping the powerful happy. The NRA is a powerful lobby that no one wants to upset and that gun group is against any changes to the existing laws. Who are the lawmakers working for? Not us.

Let’s take a look at what’s really going on. The recent State of the Union gives us our answer. One of the pictures taken of the house floor this year shows half the house standing in agreement and the other half seated. This not a President Trump thing. When you look at pictures of President Obama’s State of the Union you see the exact same thing except the sides of the room has switched. Our lawmakers are fighting with each other. How can anything get accomplished when the democrats and the republicans don’t work together? Our system is broken and We the People need to stand up.

The job falls to us. We are to hold our senators, congressmen, judges, city and state officials accountable. We are charged with this task by The Declaration of Independence. It states, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [unalienable Rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

When our leaders fall away we are to speak out. Not in the shameful way the media does about our President. Instead, we require our leaders to succumb to the design our country was founded on. This is found in The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. We the People send the message to our lawmakers; adhere to the rules or you will be removed.

Our government is fractured and needs to be rectified. That means getting rid of those senators and congressmen who are not working for us. There are many leaders in office who have lost the reality of what the people want. They represent their own interests. We must cut them loose.

Our message is clear. No longer do we accept the shut-down of our houses. We don’t tolerate stall tactics; we demand action. We demand that you work while you are in the office we put you in. No longer will we pay the price of your lack of work or your own agendas.

This is an election year and it’s time to clean house. Put term limits in place. You serve two terms and then you are done. For those currently in office, when your second term is up you can’t run again, period. This can be pushed through the Senate and the House of Representatives if we push our leaders to get it done.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was named after a woman who was an environmental activist and journalist. She encouraged people to be a “nuisance” and “never give up” even when politics stand in the way. The students are doing just that. It’s our time to join them while they have the ears of our leaders. We must correct our country now.

 

“You have to stand up for some things in this world.”

-Marjory Stoneman Douglas

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Best Practices Growth Management Personal Development

The Gorilla in the Room

At a recent conference I attended, the keynote speaker talked about a study that I realized had surprising implications for effective leadership.

In this study, people watched a video of kids passing basketballs. Half the kids were wearing white shirts, and half wore black shirts. The instructions were to count how many times the kids in the white shirts passed the ball. Halfway through watching, a kid the same height as everyone else, dressed in a gorilla costume comes walking onto the court from the right-hand side of the screen stops in the middle of the kids, looks directly at the camera, pounds his chest, and walks off the far-left side of the screen. When asked after how many people saw the gorilla, only 50% responded yes. That is because the other 50% were so focused on the instructions to count the kids in white shirts passing the ball that they completely missed this gorilla in the room.

Why is this important, and what does this have to do with leadership?

It’s important because it highlights how much we can miss when we have selective attention, which is defined as the process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time while simultaneously ignoring irrelevant information. Our attention is a limited resource so it makes sense that using selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what really matters.

The everyday purpose for selective attention is that by focusing on too many new ideas and opportunities people become overwhelmed and can’t make a choice about how to move forward, analysis paralysis sets in, so selective attention is imperative.

But what happens when that selective attention turns into tunnel vision? We often think that what we are focused on is the most important thing, the only answer. But what If you and your team are so focused on what you think the answer is that you miss out on new ideas and opportunities?

I propose that selective attention should be done deliberately and with intention in order to ensure that it does not turn into tunnel vision. This means that instead of being so focused on your solution that you only see the ideas, people, and research that support that decision; what if you spent some time each week with your team or a partner deliberately focused on new ideas, open to the possibility that your idea is not the best solution?

The goal for this time is for your team on a weekly basis to get together and discuss their specific focus and the tasks they are currently using selective attention to complete. Each member of the team can then ask questions to see if tunnel vision has taken over, if new ideas are needed, or if new opportunities have been missed.

This should be a healthy conversation that allows debate, conversation, and challenges to keep everyone thinking in new ways. If nothing new comes from it, they can go back to their selective focus on that task or project for another week. However, is something new sparks from this, they should be allowed to explore what that might mean for the project and the team.

This is especially important if you are responsible for a team or project. Of course, you want your team to focus on their tasks in order to reach the desired outcome for the project. Selective focus is necessary in order to get work done without distraction, but it can also lead to missed ideas and new innovation when done in isolation.

The intent of being deliberate in selective attention and making time to ponder new ideas and opportunities is to help avoid tunnel vision and realize that the details you tune out might actually matter.

If you have examples on how selective attention has affected your team for better or worse, email sharon@c-suiteresults.com to share your experiences.

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Growth Leadership Personal Development

Executive Leadership Pearls of Wisdom on Conflict Management

An irritant can be the catalyst for the creation of something beautiful and valuable.

One of the most delectable foods you can eat in our beloved bayous is an oyster po-boy. Talk about delish! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! But watch out! Don’t be surprised if you crunch down on a pearl. (No need to worry about pearls if you’re slurping down raw oysters on the half shell without chewing. Your teeth will be spared. But ca c’est bon!)

Pearls are formed when a piece of grit, sand or shell get trapped inside the oyster. It protects itself from irritation by secreting a liquid around the particle, which eventually, over time, builds into what we know as a pearl.

Many managers tell me that they spend a large part of their workday resolving conflicts and settling disputes among team members. When we think of “conflict,” we automatically think that it is always a bad thing. This is not necessarily true. Like the irritant to the oyster, something valuable can come from conflict.  Actually, conflict can be a very positive thing when it challenges leaders to explore new ideas, sparks curiosity about differences, or stretches the group’s problem-solving efforts.

A little dash of hot sauce, or a bit of conflict among team members is inevitable. Managing conflict within a work group can be quite a challenge, and your team needs a leader who can channel it for the greater good of the team.

Leaders and managers, you are probably constantly faced with playing “referee” between two or more of your employees. (This is a complaint I hear often!) Although I’m certainly not a relationships expert or a counselor, I have had quite a bit of experience in this department (unfortunately).

Try to practice a few of my “pearls” of wisdom to help you help your employees resolve conflicts with as little bloodshed as possible.

Executive Leadership Pearls of Wisdom to Manage Conflict:

  • Foster an open-minded work culture so that employees will realize that their way is just one way of looking at things. Instead of asking themselves “How can I win?” they should ask themselves, “What can I learn?”

 

  • Teach team members to get their emotions under control and to gather their thoughts before they say something that they’ll regret. Explain that the only decisions that can’t wait are those involving the safety or health of others. All other decisions can wait until facts are gathered and emotions are checked.

 

  • Encourage employees that if they must criticize, to criticize ideas not people. Teammates should focus on the issues instead of blaming or insulting others, which would only result in the negative, destructive type of conflict.

 

  • Train yourself and employees to use active listening skills. For example, try restating what the other person is saying before responding. Listen to the whole message rather than just what you want or expect to hear.

 

  • Urge the team to ask questions rather than assume. You know the saying, when we assume…. Well, you can only guess what another person is thinking or what their motivations are.

It’s easy to talk about these pearls of wisdom, and hard to actually perform them regularly. Kind of like talking about the need to exercise, when we really just want to kick back and have a strawberry daiquiri. It is important as a leader that you use these team-building techniques so that your team members can learn to work out disagreements on their own.

CHIME IN:

How do you deal with conflict in your workplace?

Categories
Best Practices Entrepreneurship Human Resources Management Marketing Skills

What’s in Your Blind Spot?

Part of what makes my job fun is that no two clients are trying to solve the same problem. But whether it’s about leading with confidence and authority, managing conflict, or public speaking, they do all share one fundamental challenge: a perception gap, or “blind spot.”

You see when it comes to skills of persuasion and influence, the way you come across to others can make or break your chances of getting to “yes.” The problem is that most people know how they want to come across to others, and they know how they think they come across, but they are also remarkably unaware of how they actually come across. That gap in their perception is their blind spot.

The irony is that they are present in the moment when they interact with others: they hear their own speech and would generally believe they have control over their body and facial expressions, but the way the scene appears to play out in their minds is often very different from other people’s experience. At one time or another, we all suffer from this perception gap.  So why does this happen, and how can you close the gap?

Let’s look at those three components again.

First, how do you want to come across? This connotes an intentionality, and requires some forethought prior to the conversation or presentation. Part of the problem is that most people plan for and attend meetings on auto-pilot, and fail to put any planning effort into this question. If you want people to recognize your confidence, or if you want them to see you as approachable even in times of crisis, it is critical to start with that goal in mind, and consciously monitor your participation to keep your message on track.

Second, how do you think you come across? As the meeting progresses, and/or after it’s over, take stock of how you feel at the time. For example, if midway through the meeting you can feel yourself getting agitated and defensive, remind yourself not to let your emotions get the best of you. Take a deep breath, and watch your tone of voice, body language, etc. At the end, try to reflect on what you said and how you felt at the time, and acknowledge when your speech style did or did not feel like it reflected the way you wanted to appear. Make a point to note any discrepancies to work on them for next time.

Finally, how do you actually come across? Once you’ve attempted to assess your own behavior, seek objective feedback from others. Ask them for overall impressions you made, and if they felt that you did or did not demonstrate the qualities you wanted to project. Regardless of the answer, follow up with asking why. If they say you seemed calm, nervous, moody, distracted, confident or otherwise, ask them to point out any specific behaviors that led to that impression. Maybe you didn’t realize that you kept crossing and uncrossing your arms which appeared standoffish, or only seemed to speak with people at the front of the room and ignored those in the back. Or maybe you spoke with far less intonation variation than you thought, so while you wanted to sound engaged and engaging, people actually found you to be disengaged and appear a bit indifferent. Just remember to assure them that you will openly and graciously accept their feedback, no matter what they share, and that it won’t come back to haunt them if it’s not what you had hoped to hear.

Want to test yourself? Try recording yourself in a one-minute video as you imagine yourself speaking to your upcoming audience, whoever they may be. Go through these steps, planning how you want to come across, practicing mindfulness as you speak, and then watching the video to see where there is a gap between your planning and execution. Once you’ve identified your own blind spots, then you can take meaningful steps to close the perception gap and ensure that your message lands as intended, and you are able to influence the conversation as desired to get the desired outcome.

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Are you aware of your own blind spots, but don’t know how to fix them? Or are you unsure of where they might be but recognize that you need to identify and fix them? If so, contact me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss it with me personally!

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