Outside Voices

An outside voice can challenge and encourage our inside voice.

“I bet your husband doesn’t have a chance if he gets in an argument with you!” That’s what someone actually said to me after a presentation I gave on mastering crucial conversations. I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about because my husband and I don’t ever have any arguments. And, if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Iowa for sale.

A lot of people think that because I am a communications coach that I have a perfect marriage, perfect children, and a perfect team culture at work. Let’s set the record straight: I don’t. None of the above. Just because you understand a concept and teach it to others, does not mean that you have it personally mastered for all time. I am a good communicator most of the time, and I aspire to be a great one. It’s actually a very good thing that I do teach it so often as I need the consistent reminder of the principles as much as anyone.

I’m not always the leader at work that I desire to be. I’ve certainly made mistakes as a parent. And at home, we have a “no coaching” agreement. Truthfully, my husband, nor my grown children, are all that interested in my professional opinions about what would make their communication skills better. Weird.

But, one thing I know is that if you want to get better at something, it’s pretty hard to coach yourself. We all have blind spots, and a pair of qualified outside eyes can be invaluable in helping us handle limiting beliefs, see new possibilities, and gain access to resources we didn’t even know existed. I currently have a business coach, a fitness coach, a marketing coach, and a financial coach. On occasion, I’ve used a parenting coach, a speaking coach, and an image coach with great success. All have proven to me that I need outside counsel from people who have gained a level of success to which I aspire. I consider them to be my personal board of directors.

An outside voice can challenge and encourage our inside voice. You know, the one that tells you that you can’t, won’t, or couldn’t create what you secretly dream of. If you want to accelerate your career path, strengthen your business, and improve your relationships or outcomes, then consider a coach. Do your homework and find someone who has achieved a level of mastery you admire, and then try them out on a short-term basis to see if it will be a good fit. But, one caution… don’t look for someone to tell you how great you already are. Look for someone with whom you can relate and in whom you can trust, and then expect them to push you beyond your comfort zone to attain your goals. I’ve found that the coaching hasn’t really begun until things get a little challenging.

We’re not meant to do this thing called business (or life) alone. At LionSpeak, we will continue to follow our calling to help those who seek to communicate at a higher level, lead from a strong emotional platform, create positive cultures, speak with influence, and train for mastery. We’d love to be a set of outside eyes for you, and we would welcome the opportunity to explore if we might be a good match (because clearly no one’s listening to me at home!). But, whether it’s LionSpeak or someone else, there are lots and lots of options out there. Your job is to find the right one for you. So, stop waiting. Set your sights on a higher version of yourself and get an outside voice to speak to and to elevate your inside voice.


“Each person holds so much power within themselves that needs to be let out.  
Sometimes they just need a little nudge, a little direction, 
a little support, a little coaching, and the greatest things can happen.” 
~~Pete Carroll

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The Hard Thing Rule

I don’t want to exercise in the morning. I feel good when I do it, but I don’t wake up wanting to do it. I like to wake up slowly, drink my coffee, check emails, and start cranking away at my to-do list for the day. I actually prefer it at the end of the day, but my current life doesn’t really support that schedule.

When I was single, I only had one person to please so I could work out any time I liked. But I married a morning person who is ready for lights out by 9:00 p.m. and who really looks forward to evenings together over dinner on the porch. In the give and take of relationships, it just works better to get my exercise out of the way first thing in the morning. So, how do I learn to like it more and change my pattern to actually get it done so I can have both my exercise and an enjoyable evening with my husband? The answer may be in learning the virtue of doing hard things.

Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance submits that there is a great deal of virtue and momentum gained by doing the hard things. In a boatload of research, she found that natural ability had much less to do with success than with what she calls “grit” which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal. She cited example after example of students, athletes, actors, and business tycoons who had the “grit” to persevere through the hard things and hard parts of the journey toward their dreams.

One of her earliest studies was with the cadets at West Point where about 20% of the 1000 new cadets each year quit before graduation, most of them before the end of the tough first two-week initiation called, “The Beast.” The initial assessment they took, which gauged their innate ability, did little to predict who would drop out and who would make it for the long haul. Duckworth created her own “grit scale” measuring cadets’ responses to things like, “I finish what I start” or “New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.” Cadets that scored the highest on the “grit scale” were the most likely to finish the program regardless of their raw talent.

Duckworth has taken her lessons home to her own family… and this is where we come in. She developed the “Hard Thing Rule.” She, her husband, and their two teenage children commit to one hard thing about which they are passionate and for which they passionately want an outcome. It must also be something that requires daily practice. They agree that they cannot quit until they come to a natural stopping point such as the end of a season. She believes it has taught them follow through, the building of consistency over time, and the virtue of doing hard things. In other words, they’ve developed true grit.

It feels helpful to me to think that by choosing the commitment of getting my exercise done early in the mornings, I’m not just building physical muscle, but I’m also strengthening my “true grit” muscle which may just help me in other areas of life and work for which I passionately desire a particular outcome.

What would you choose this week to which you could apply the “Hard Thing Rule?” Where do you need to develop more “grit” in order to obtain the things you feel most passionate about?

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“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done.
~~John Wayne

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Mindsets, Skillsets, and Toolsets

Last week’s Monday Morning Stretch sure did strike a resonant chord with our subscribers. We were swamped all week with comments, kudos, and questions about the need for developing this high level of dedicated team members and elevated communication skills. I even received this email from my assistant, Kelly Case:

I just got a call from a woman who works for the Education Corporation of America. She said that she’s a long-time follower of your MMS and has heard you speak before and is a fan. She said she loved this week’s MMS so much that she forwarded it to the head at their company who then forwarded it to their entire company. And, because of it, they are having a company-wide training where they will role play how to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes.’ She just wanted to call and tell you that. I told her how thrilled you would be to hear it and how much we appreciated her calling to tell us.

We’re thrilled to have stirred the pot a bit on the importance of training your team to understand your commitment to top-notch client service and to make the time to train that level of skill. If you want to make sure that your team can and will interact at this advanced level with clients, I believe you must work on three things: 1) their mindset, 2) their skill set, and 3) their tool set.

Mindset: Mindsets stem from beliefs. Expertly communicating and delivering exceptional client service consistently requires your team to believe that these skills are critically important to your vision, brand, and overall reputation in the marketplace. They must feel that it is not only possible to do but essential. Teams who excel at delivering this level of service often see it as a fun and rewarding game of turning negatives into positives, resolving conflicts, creating raving fans from even the most disgruntled customers, and finding creative ways to create win/wins. These teams are united in their faith in the overall goodness of people, the power of respect and empathy, and the boomerang effect of kindness and generosity.

Skillset: And then… you have to train, train, and train some more. At LionSpeak, we believe in the old adage of “inspect what you expect,” meaning that discussing this is not enough. Mastery comes from learning, observing, practicing, and evaluating. We teach high-level communication skills, and then we demonstrate those skills for our trainees in real time with real issues. We have found this to be one of the most convincing and powerful tools in our training arsenal. Then, we create engaging, safe, and effective ways for the team to practice the new skills with us being right there to guide and correct. We start with the simplest elements, and as mastery takes hold, we begin to layer on real-life complexity so that the team’s confidence grows. Lastly, we recommend ongoing evaluation to cement the learning and maintain the standards. This can include mystery shopper calls, secret shopper visits, or random observations with evaluations and ongoing training.

Toolsets: Communication and client service toolsets might include customized telephone intake sheets, “scenario of the month” discussions at team meetings, easy-to-access cheat-sheets for resolving conflicts, daily reminders at morning meetings, easy-to-follow protocols for certain types of communications, mentoring partnerships, and monthly client service book clubs at work.

Most of us did not learn these high-level communication, conflict resolution, or client service skills at home or at other jobs. We set ourselves up for failure and ongoing frustration if we assume that people will just naturally know how to do this and understand how or when to use these skills… or that once trained, they are masters forever more.

This week discuss your team’s client service and conflict resolution mindset. Take a look at your system for elevating those skills and provide the necessary tools to support your team’s efforts. Lastly, create a method for ongoing support, evaluation, and continued advancement.

If the expert team of coaches at LionSpeak can assist you in any way with implementing high-level mindsets, skillsets, or toolsets for mastering client service or communication… just say the word. We’re standing by, just waiting for your call or email!


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,
and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” 

~~Steve Jobs, CEO Apple


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Spinning the Positive

Every coin has a flipside. Every inside has an outside. Every “No” response has a “Yes” alternative.

At the Disney University, I’ve heard that one of the class assignments is to go out into the theme park and find a few Disney “cast members” and ask a question for which the reasonable answer would be “No” … and listen to the well-trained responses. What Disney knows is what all great communicators, sales professionals, leaders, and customer service representatives know… When faced with a request you cannot grant or to which you cannot agree, a response filled with sincere empathy and a focus on what is possible will always be the better answer and often save the client, sale, online review, and future relationship.

“Can I march in the parade next to Cinderella?” “Oh, how I would love to say yes to that! You’d make a perfect prince charming. What I can do is recommend the best place to sit and watch the parade so you’ll feel like you’re practically in it!”

“I forgot my wallet. Can I take my hamburger and come back in a minute and pay you for it?” “Gosh, don’t you hate it when that happens? So frustrating to wait in line and then realize you can’t pay. Here’s what I’ll do… I’ll put your meal right here where it will stay perfectly warm and when you find your wallet, just come right up to the front of the line and I’ll ring you right up.”

Here’s a real and recent experience that happened to me. Last week, while attending the Speaking Consulting Network annual conference in Anaheim, I enjoyed a truly amazing farm-to-fork meal at a restaurant called The Ranch with three of my favorite colleagues. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere charming, and the healthy, delicious food was perfectly prepared. Throw in rich, meaningful, and funny conversation with good friends and it was a truly lovely evening. Only one problem. In my haste to leave, I left my credit card and receipt and didn’t realize it until I was home a few days later.

I called The Ranch and asked if they had found it. The none-too-friendly gal that answered confirmed that, “Yes, we do have a credit card in your name locked away in our secure vault.” Great news! May I give you my address so you can send it to me? “No, we cannot mail credit cards to people who leave them.” Okay. I don’t live nearby. How about I ask a local friend to stop by and pick it up for me? “No, we can only give the card to the owner with a matching ID.” Hmmmm. Okay. Help me out here. This is a corporate credit card with all kinds of bill payments, subscriptions, and for God sakes, my one-click Amazon account tied to it. (I’m starting to get pretty riled up now!) Not only don’t I live nearby but we are leaving the next day for several weeks of travel. Can you just hold on to it for a month or so until I return and spend the 4 – 5 hours round trip it will take to retrieve it? “No, we destroy the cards after 2 weeks.” Is there a manager I speak with? “No, he won’t be in until after 3 today. I can ask him to call you but I don’t think he’ll be able to do anything. These are our policies.”

No empathy. No solutions. No Bueno.

If I were a communications coach for The Ranch, a business who clearly cares about their patron’s experience, here’s what I would advise as a better trained response:

“Great news, Mrs. Belt, we do have your credit card and we’ve kept it secure in our vault hoping you would call. How can I help reunite you with it? Do you live nearby where you can come in to claim it?” No, I don’t. “I’m so very sorry for the hassle of all this for you. We typically can’t mail it or give it to anyone other than the cardholder but if you’d like, I will speak to my manager to see if there is any other arrangement we can make for you. Worst case, we’ll put a note on your card that you’ll be picking up sometime over the next few months. If you forget, we can certainly give you a courtesy call before we actually destroy it. How would that work, Mrs. Belt?”

You can’t always change your policies. Sometimes, the rules are the rules because, well, attorney’s advice and all. But there are very few events where we cannot focus on what is possible, what we can do, and what will work. And there is never a time when true empathy doesn’t soften the hardest news.

This week reinforce with your team how to meet clients with a positive, can-do, empathic attitude and response. The Golden Rule is a good one. Treat folks the same way you’d like to be treated and give them a reason to stick with you even if the answer is actually, “No.”


“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next.
Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
~Denis Waitley, Author and Motivational Speaker


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Seeking Advice

Have you ever been driving your car, exercising, taking a shower or just drifting off to sleep and suddenly… You feel a brilliant, daring new idea being born within you? I had that moment a few weeks ago and immediately picked up the telephone to call a friend and discuss it.

She listened and, as I had hoped, gave me some advice… just not quite the kind I was expecting. She told me she liked the idea and encouraged me to pursue it, but she also warned me about asking too many people too early for their opinions about this big new idea of mine. Once she sensed my enthusiasm and passion around the idea, her advice was to follow my strong intuition and get a little further down the road with my idea before opening myself up to the well-meaning friends and colleagues who might, in an effort to keep my knees unskinned, raise some personal flags of fear and pessimism.

She was right. After a few stumbles, and the epiphanies and adjustments that accompany them, I already intuitively knew that this was a valuable and worthy idea before I finally presented it to some other folks. Some did try to warn me off the project, which I quickly recognized as an extension of their own fear, but I was already well on my way. Others offered some terrific helpful hints and added valuable ideas that I know will make my final project much better. And I learned an invaluable business lesson in the process.

I want the counsel of people I admire and respect, especially those who have blazed a trail already that is similar to one I want to navigate. I will carefully consider their input and advice. But, it’s helpful to remember that while most people around me are my biggest cheerleaders, their advice can’t help but be filtered through their own fears, prejudices, and limiting beliefs. Many will never be comfortable with the level of risk that I might be willing to take. So, I will be cautious not to seek that counsel too early and let myself be filled with unnecessary fear and pessimism before I give the ideas, about which I am passionate and intuitively confident, a fair start. Conversely, there are likely to also be ideas that I decide are not the direction I wish to pursue… no matter how good it looks on paper or how much my friends say it’s the only way to go. In the end, it has to feel right to me. I will first use my own internal wisdom to allow the idea to blossom and either make my own intuitive cut or not. If it does, then I’ll seek insights from the brightest minds I know to help it grow and prosper.

This week, while Katherine joins fellow speakers and consultants at SCN’s
annual meeting, we are recycling a favorite MMS from a few years ago.
Our new subscribers will enjoy Katherine’s story and the lessons
she took from the experience. And to all of our MMS readers who have been
loyal subscribers from the beginning… you’ll remember why we love seeing the
world of business and life through the eyes of The Lioness.


“Don’t follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as
deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.”
~ Joan Rivers


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Music Monday: Catching Your Breath

The month of June signals warmer weather, school vacations, graduations, and lots and lots of birthdays … at least in our family. The biggest reason we love June is it typically signals “Cabin Season” for the Belt family, and next week Tom and I will make the 2-day, 10-hour trek from Southern California to Echo Lakes (just south of Lake Tahoe) to officially re-open his summer family cabin, Silver Firs, for the season.

This is the place that we call home for most of the summer months. After a predictably busy Spring season for my business as well on the Ranch, we’re more than ready to slow down a bit and recharge our batteries. I still work from there but, aided by the peaceful pace of nature and the stripped-down version of cabin life, we use the time to catch our breath before my typically busy Fall season cranks up and the holiday madness envelopes us.

Before I ever met Tom, I would have told you that it would be impossible for me to leave my home and slow down my travel schedule for several months. What I know now is that with intention, creativity, and some great help at home and at the office, I can indeed create this experience every year. And, it’s important that I do. I work hard. I pour my heart and soul into my business, my family, and my friendships, and I’m more capable and resilient when I slow down occasionally and take care of me.

On this Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month), I chose a brand-new song by Jason Mraz called Have It All. Jason describes the song as a toast, a musical greeting card, one meant for sharing with people you love. “May you have auspiciousness and causes of success” was a common greeting in Myanmar that he heard while touring back in 2012.  Have It All is a reset back to the heart; a return to joy; a song with a message of generosity; a blessing disguised as a playful rap song; one meant to be paid-forward and shared.

My favorite lyrics: “May you get to rest, may you catch your breath. And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. And may the road less paved be the road that you follow…”

Tom and I plan to rest, catch our breath, and follow some roads less paved throughout this summer season. I hope you’ll carve out some time to do the same. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It fills the bucket which will quickly be pouring care, knowledge, ideas, and love into an army of the empty buckets in your world. And… I want you to have it all.


Jason Mraz

Have It All

“May you have auspiciousness and causes of success
May you have the confidence to always do your best
May you take no effort in your being generous
Sharing what you can, nothing more nothing less
May you know the meaning of the word happiness
May you always lead from the beating in your chest
May you be treated like an esteemed guest
May you get to rest, may you catch your breath

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

Well here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh! I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

May you be as fascinating as a slap bracelet
May you keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk
May you have unquestionable health and less stress
Having no possessions though immeasurable wealth
May you get a gold star on your next test
May your educated guesses always be correct
And may you win prizes shining like diamonds
May you really own it each moment to the next

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

Well here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
All you can imagine
All, no matter what your path is
If you believe it then anything can happen
Go, go, go raise your glasses
Go, go, go you can have it all
I toast you

Here’s to the hearts that you’re gonna break
Here’s to the lives that you’re gonna change
Here’s to the infinite possible ways to love you
I want you to have it
Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
You don’t need money, you got a free pass
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all

Oh, I want you to have it all
I want you to have it
I want you to have it all

Here’s to the good times we’re gonna have
Here’s to you always making me laugh
Here’s to the fact that I’ll be sad without you
I want you to have it all”

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True Heroes

It’s easy to forget what Memorial Day actually means while you’re sitting by the pool and looking ahead at summer vacation—but the day signifies much more than just a three-day weekend. Memorial Day is a solemn day for remembering those who have died serving in the American armed forces. It’s not only easy to forget what Memorial Day is about but also to underestimate the massive collective loss to families, loved ones, and communities as a result of the millions of American soldiers who gave their lives fighting for our country.

One of the most beautifully written pieces about one girl’s awakening to the meaning of Memorial Day is written by Nancy Sullivan Geng who wrote the following article for Guideposts magazine. I hope it inspires you and your family to take a moment today to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could enjoy our freedom and all that our beautiful country affords us every day.

The Meaning of Memorial Day

I leaned against an oak at the side of the road, wishing I were invisible, keeping my distance from my parents on their lawn chairs and my younger siblings scampering about. I hoped none of my friends saw me there. God forbid they caught me waving one of the small American flags Mom bought at Ben Franklin for a dime. At 16, I was too old and definitely too cool for our small town’s Memorial Day parade. I ought to be at the lake, I brooded. But, no, the all-day festivities were mandatory in my family.

A high school band marched by, the girl in sequins missing her baton as it tumbled from the sky. Firemen blasted sirens in their polished red trucks. The uniforms on the troop of World War II veterans looked too snug on more than one member.

“Here comes Mema,” my father shouted. Five black convertibles lumbered down the boulevard. The mayor was in the first, handing out programs. I didn’t need to look at one. I knew my uncle Bud’s name was printed on it, as it had been every year since he was killed in Italy. Our family’s war hero. And I knew that perched on the backseat of one of the cars, waving and smiling, was Mema, my grandmother. She had a corsage on her lapel and a sign in gold embossed letters on the car door: “Gold Star Mother.”

I hid behind the tree, so I wouldn’t have to meet her gaze. It wasn’t because I didn’t love her or appreciate her. She’d taught me how to sew, to call a strike in baseball. She made great cinnamon rolls, which we always ate after the parade. What embarrassed me was all the attention she got for a son who had died 20 years earlier. With four other children and a dozen grandchildren, why linger over this one long-ago loss?

I peeked out from behind the oak just in time to see Mema wave and blow my family a kiss as the motorcade moved on. The purple ribbon on her hat fluttered in the breeze.

The rest of our Memorial Day ritual was equally scripted. No use trying to get out of it. I followed my family back to Mema’s house, where there was the usual baseball game in the backyard and the same old reminiscing about Uncle Bud in the kitchen. Helping myself to a cinnamon roll, I retreated to the living room and plopped down on an armchair. There I found myself staring at the Army photo of Bud on the bookcase. The uncle I’d never known. I must have looked at him a thousand times—so proud in his crested cap and knotted tie. His uniform was decorated with military emblems that I could never decode.

Funny, he was starting to look younger to me as I got older. Who were you, Uncle Bud? I nearly asked aloud. I picked up the photo and turned it over. Yellowing tape held a prayer card that read: “Lloyd ‘Bud’ Heitzman, 1925-1944. A Great Hero.” Nineteen years old when he died, not much older than I was. But a great hero? How could you be a hero at 19?

The floorboards creaked behind me. I turned to see Mema coming in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. I almost hid the photo because I didn’t want to listen to the same stories I’d heard year after year: “Your uncle Bud had this little rat-terrier named Jiggs. Good old Jiggs. How he loved that mutt! He wouldn’t go anywhere without Jiggs. He used to put him in the rumble seat of his Chevy coupe and drive all over town.

“Remember how hard Bud worked after we lost the farm? At haying season, he worked all day, sunrise to sunset, baling for other farmers. Then he brought me all his wages. He’d say, ‘Mama, someday I’m going to buy you a brand-new farm. I promise.’ There wasn’t a better boy in the world!”

Sometimes I wondered about that boy dying alone in a muddy ditch in a foreign country he’d only read about. I thought of the scared kid who jumped out of a foxhole in front of an advancing enemy, only to be downed by a sniper. I couldn’t reconcile the image of the boy and his dog with that of the stalwart soldier.

Mema stood beside me for a while, looking at the photo. From outside came the sharp snap of an American flag flapping in the breeze and the voices of my cousins cheering my brother at bat.

“Mema,” I asked, “what’s a hero?” Without a word she turned and walked down the hall to the back bedroom. I followed.

She opened a bureau drawer and took out a small metal box, then sank down onto the bed. “These are Bud’s things,” she said. “They sent them to us after he died.” She opened the lid and handed me a telegram dated October 13, 1944. “The Secretary of State regrets to inform you that your son, Lloyd Heitzman, was killed in Italy.”

Your son! I imagined Mema reading that sentence for the first time. I didn’t know what I would have done if I’d gotten a telegram like that.
“Here’s Bud’s wallet,” she continued. Even after all those years, it was caked with dried mud. Inside was Bud’s driver’s license with the date of his sixteenth birthday. I compared it with the driver’s license I had just received.

A photo of Bud holding a little spotted dog fell out of the wallet. Jiggs. Bud looked so pleased with his mutt. There were other photos in the wallet: a laughing Bud standing arm in arm with two buddies, photos of my mom and aunt and uncle, another of Mema waving. This was the home Uncle Bud took with him, I thought.

I could see him in a foxhole, taking out these snapshots to remind himself of how much he was loved and missed.

“Who’s this?” I asked, pointing to a shot of a pretty dark-haired girl.

“Marie. Bud dated her in high school. He wanted to marry her when he came home.” A girlfriend? Marriage? How heartbreaking to have a life, plans and hopes for the future, so brutally snuffed out.

Sitting on the bed, Mema and I sifted through the treasures in the box: a gold watch that had never been wound again. A sympathy letter from President Roosevelt, and one from Bud’s commander. A medal shaped like a heart, trimmed with a purple ribbon. And at the very bottom, the deed to Mema’s house.

“Why’s this here?” I asked.

“Because Bud bought this house for me.” She explained how after his death, the U.S. government gave her 10 thousand dollars, and with it she built the house she was still living in.

“He kept his promise all right,” Mema said in a quiet voice I’d never heard before.

For a long while the two of us sat there on the bed. Then we put the wallet, the medal, the letters, the watch, the photos and the deed back into the metal box. I finally understood why it was so important for Mema—and me—to remember Uncle Bud on this day.

If he’d lived longer he might have built that house for Mema or married his high-school girlfriend. There might have been children and grandchildren to remember him by. As it was, there was only that box, the name in the program and the reminiscing around the kitchen table.

“I guess he was a hero because he gave everything for what he believed,” I said carefully.

“Yes, child,” Mema replied, wiping a tear with the back of her hand. “Don’t ever forget that.”

I haven’t. Even today with Mema gone, my husband and I take our lawn chairs to the tree-shaded boulevard on Memorial Day and give our three daughters small American flags that I buy for a quarter at Ben Franklin. I want them to remember that life isn’t just about getting what you want. Sometimes it involves giving up the things you love for what you love even more. That many men and women did the same for their country—that’s what I think when I see the parade pass by now.

And if I close my eyes and imagine, I can still see Mema in her regal purple hat, honoring her son, a true American hero.

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Power Talking

There is an oft-quoted statistic published by a USC professor, Albert Mehrabian, which states that we communicate 55% of a message with our body language, 38% with our tone, pace, and pauses and only 8% with our actual word choice. As a student of communication, I find convincing evidence of this almost every day, but I believe it’s only relevant if there is a disconnect between our truth and our words. If there is an incongruency, the body language will trump the words every time. If there is total congruency between our body language, tone, and words… there is no issue of believability for the listener. But, there can still be big issues with understanding and impact.

Assuming that we’re speaking our truth and that our body language and tone lines up, the words we choose can make a big difference in the level of comprehension and influence that we actually have.

Here are some tips for choosing the right words and increasing your impact with those with whom you are trying to communicate and influence:

1) Learn and use their name.
You don’t have to overdo this. Two or three times in a business conversation will work wonders.

2) Emphasize what works.
We have a tendency to tell people what won’t work or what can’t be done versus what will work or what can happen. Always try to rephrase your words to highlight the positive versus the negative.

3) Partner with people.
a.  How can I help?
b.  What do you think?
c.  How would you approach this?
d.  What’s been your experience?

4) Speak to the good.
Appreciate and acknowledge people. It feels good and most people don’t hear it enough. It opens people up and makes them feel good about themselves and you.

5) More “You” – less “I”
“Here’s what we deliver” is different than “Here’s what you get.” The words “you” and “your” are your best friends when trying to influence.

6) Stay in control.
“I’ll find out and follow up on that” is better than “I don’t know.”

7) Stack your vocabulary with power words. Here’s Inc. Magazine’s list of the most powerful business words:

a.  Verbs
i.   Discover
ii.   Enjoy
iii.  Reduce
iv.  Save
v.  Act
vi.  Empower
vii.  Enrich
viii.  Believe
ix.  Partner
b. Nouns
i.  Guarantee
ii.  Results
iii.  Time
iv.  Power
v.  Commitment
vi.  Solution
c. Adjectives
i.  Affordable
ii.  Best
iii.  Convenient
iv.  Easy
v.  Free
vi.  More
vii.  New
viii.  Safe
ix.  Proven
d. Others (prepositions, adverbs)
i.  Because
ii.  Never (never worry again; never overpay again)

8) Connect with “and” versus “but”
“But” is usually the big eraser of what came before it in a sentence. Inserting “and” is almost always a better choice in the middle of a sentence.

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter… ‘tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” This week, step into your full ability to persuade, connect, influence, and create lasting impact by paying attention to your choice of words.

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The Joy of Work

Reader mail and subscriber responses are one of my favorite parts of writing a weekly inspirational blog. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the value of connecting with clients, patients, and customers on more than just a digital format such as email, texts, or social media. (www.lionspeak.net/the-knowledge) I contended that while we use all those modalities to communicate, sometimes you simply can’t replace picking up the phone or connecting intentionally with someone in person.

Soon after, I received the following email from one of our subscribers, Alicia Morris:

“You are so right about the personal touch with patients. 90% of the patients love it and want it. Service with a smile (it’s not about you!) Compassion and caring will win a friend (aka) a faithful, loyal patient every time. I applied those principles for over 23 years and it works, it works, it works!

The perks in doing this was loving my job and looking forward to going to work every morning. I made friends that, even today after moving away and leaving that office, still send me Christmas cards and thank you notes… and I retired over 10 years ago! It was a career I loved. I still grieve over the inability to comfortably stand on my feet 8-10 hours a day to continue doing it. And last, but by no means least, I had a happy doctor with a full appointment book and patients that showed up on time!

Thanks for listening to my ramblings but your post brought so many wonderful memories I just had to encourage you “to keep on keeping on” teaching your principles of a successful practice especially from the front desk perspective. I did attend your classes in Atlanta at the Hinman one year and quickly became a fan.”

It was a great reinforcement for sure, but what struck me most about this note was her unmistakable joy about her work. She contends that “loving her job and looking forward to going to work every morning” are perks of the compassion and caring she showed to her patients. But, I might argue a different cause and effect relationship. Could it be that demonstrating that level of compassion and caring actually produces the quality of relationships and satisfying results that help to increase the amount of joy we feel in our work?

There is no question that the amount of significance we feel we have and the impact we make has a direct affect on our level of satisfaction at work. If we don’t feel we’re making a difference or having a positive and important impact but rather just going through the motions of doing a job to get a paycheck… we can’t help but miss out on an elevated level of joy and gladness with our work.

This week check in with yourself and make sure that you are building a professional life and body of work that will leave you feeling like Alicia when you look back on it all years later. Do what it takes to be really present, build deeper relationships, and serve at a higher level so that your significance and impact increases, thus driving your joy and love for your work to the stars!


“I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.”
~Pablo Casals

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Music Monday: Imperfect Choices

Nothing in life is perfect. Not our children. Not our jobs. Not even our “perfect moments.” At 50 years old, I found myself single and searching for something more in life. Something perfect. And, 8 years ago, I met him. 5 years ago, I became engaged to him. And, 3 years ago on May 24th, I married him. But, it’s not been perfect. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned. We’ve experienced joys and triumphs as well as defeats and solid disagreements.

Looking back over photos of our wedding day, I remember that even my most perfect day was not perfect. The caterer forgot my beautiful handmade cake stand. The live butterflies that were supposed to be fully awake and poetically fluttering out of the box carried by Tom’s granddaughter down the aisle ahead of me… were somehow still sleepy and decidedly not cooperative. Much of the carefully selected music I had chosen for every moment was never played because (I found out later) our MC couldn’t make the playlists work on my laptop and so he improvised and played what he could from memory. My hairdo didn’t last the night, and we weren’t allowed to use our firework sparklers because of the fire restriction at the resort.

As I gazed at the memories of that beautiful day, I contemplated the people we were then as well as who we have become together and as individuals through this experience and the choice we made. I know we have much yet to learn, but some important and useful lessons have already made us better.

I’ve learned that when we choose anything in life… a job, a home, or a partner… we choose it with all its parts. Good and bad, easy and hard. Embedded in every choice is an opportunity to get to know yourself better in relation to that choice. I realize now that every choice I’ve made on my journey so far has brought me immeasurable gifts, even if I didn’t experience them quite like that at the time. I’ve discovered that I don’t make any important choices- work, friendships, love-just once. We continue to make that choice over time. Every day, in fact. We choose again and again. Or not.

I’ve realized that we can’t possibly know what twists and turns are coming or what new information or knowledge will reveal itself, but if we did know in advance, we’d avoid the hardships and consequently lose the learning that comes with it. So, choosing and growing is better than not choosing and just playing it safe.

Thankfully, our love has deepened and been well-earned. My choice to marry Tom three years ago has brought more fun than pain, more joy than despair, more discovery than stagnation, and more laughter than tears… though all of it has been there. So far, my choice has been a pretty good bargain indeed. And so today, on this Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month), I selected our wedding song sung by Sara Bareilles, I Choose You. My favorite lyrics say what I knew then and what I know now…

“We are not perfect, we’ll learn from our mistakes
And as long as it takes, I will prove my love to you.
I am not scared of the elements, I am underprepared,
But I am willing, and even better,
I get to be the other half of you.”

This week, my encouragement for all of you is to be brave and make those choices that have the potential to move your life forward. Choose wisely but choose. Trust yourself to keep making the choices you’ll need to make in the future but don’t stay on the shore for fear of the storms that may or may not come. As John Burroughs said, “Leap, and the net will appear.”

Choose YOU.

“Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can’t say I’d even notice it was absent
cause I could live by the light in your eyes
I’ll unfold before you
what I’ve strung together
The very first words of a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you

There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me that you could not come true
Just love’s illusion
But then you found me
And everything changed
And I believe in something again
My whole heart
Will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you

We are not perfect we’ll learn from our mistakes
And as long as it takes, I will prove my love to you
I am not scared of the elements, I am underprepared,
But I am willing, and even better
I get to be the other half of you

Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you,
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
I choose you”

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