Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen The Courage to Connect

GettyImages-952769054.jpgWhen research professor Brené Brown opened up to a TedxHouston audience about shame, vulnerability, and courage, she had no idea her message would become one of the most wildly popular TEDx talks of all time (with over 24 million views). Brown has spent the last ten years studying the power of authenticity and empathy, and poses wonderful questions like these:

  • How do we embrace vulnerabilities and imperfections so we can live from a place of authenticity and worthiness?
  • How can we engage people in a way that makes them feel worthwhile, brave, and willing to commit to something bigger than just a project or deadline?
  • How can we choose courage over comfort, stretching our team to connect in ways that powerfully motivate everyone?

Every Extrovert Can Learn to Listen

Brown’s work hits home in the hearts of many who long for authentic relationships and want to see this come alive in their workplace. While there are many hindrances to open communication, one of the greatest barriers is simply our personality differences. Over half the population are considered introverts, but research shows that introverts make up only two percent of senior executives. Which gives extroverts a great opportunity to do lots of talking. But studies show that business leaders who prioritize listening are perceived as considerably more effective than those who dominate the conversation.

Invite Them to Engage

We all have room to grow, and great interactions begin with intentional listening. Here are three ways to quiet your mouth and open your ears as you seek to engage others in meaningful ways:

  1. Start every meeting with a question.

Imagine yourself standing before your team with an invitation instead of a megaphone.

Seek to motivate conversation rather than charging into a meeting with a tight-fisted agenda. Opening your gatherings with dialogue can shake out the nerves and cobwebs of the entire team, sparking creativity and building interpersonal collateral. Increasing dialogue can catalyze more “green light” brainstorming and bring a fresh, life-giving dynamic to your entire company. When you formulate meeting agendas, push yourself to start with a prompt and to leave more tangible space for discussion.

  1. Listen with action.

How can you show your teammates their insights really matter?

Often people are tentative about sharing constructive criticism, fearing negative repercussions or believing “nothing will really change.” Great leaders surround themselves with those who will give honest feedback, and they intentionally close the “listening loop” by following up with some sort of action. Close a meeting by thanking your team for their honesty, or sending personal e-mails telling them you valued their input. Make a list of things to look into, review, or change, and add timelines to these goals so your ideas aren’t lost in the weekly grind. Even if you can’t implement suggestions, make a point to tell people they are valuable and you have actually heard what they are saying.

  1. Embrace vulnerability as a step toward courageous communication.

What do you do when someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Saying, ‘I don’t know” can be the most significant reply of all.

When you acknowledge your limitations, it opens the door for your teammates to step in and shine or to admit their own uncertainties or frustrations. Vulnerability can grow powerful partnerships and prompt growth in areas you hadn’t previously targeted. Ultimately, vulnerability builds engagement, which grows teams and enriches the atmosphere. Push yourself toward bold, transparent communication, and you may be surprised at the results. Brene Brown says it like this:

“Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the most accurate measurement of courage.”

Ready to open a new pipeline of thoughtful teamwork and open communication? Be brave, be intentional, and sometimes . . . just be quiet.

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6 Steps To Customer-Centric Writing

LISTEN. SOLVE. REPEAT.

Most business owners come ingrained with a laser-like focus on their business. They’ll swell with pride and “shout it from the rooftops” to tell you about their newest, exciting product or service. However, like the majority of people in business, they tend to take a business-focused approach, focusing on promoting the features or specs of the product and making sure that you know how this new product or service is the best of the best.

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Herein lies the rub, as they say. While shouting it from the rooftops might seem like a good approach, customers don’t necessarily want to hear about your business. Instead, they want to hear about how your company will help THEM. They are more concerned that you understand their need and are offering a solution to address it.

Here’s where customer-centric writing and promotion comes in. Instead of writing with the focus on you and your business, you can stand out from the crowd by thinking about how your new product or service will benefit your customers. Writing with your client in mind demonstrates that you understand their needs and want to help them achieve their goals. Writing with empathy creates better connections, improved communication, and happier outcomes. Happy customers become your business’s greatest fans.

Here are six steps to help you shift your perspective to be more customer-centric:

  1. List at least three to five main features of your business.
  2. Arrange the list beginning with the most important feature.
  3. Now look at the list, select the first feature, and dig down to what that feature means to your customer. For example, if you are in the tire business and one of the features is that you’re within walking distance of a mall, then you might put “location” on your list.
  4. Step into your customer’s mindset. What does your location mean for them? How will it solve their problem? The benefit is they can drop off their car, shop, have lunch, or meet a friend instead of sitting in a dull waiting room.
  5. Take the next feature you listed and then go through the same process. Rinse and repeat with the rest of the features.

If you’ve never looked at your business this way before, it’s likely that you might not be sure of what your customers do want and need. How can you find out? That’s where tip #6 comes in. Even if you’ve been in business for a while and think you know the needs of your customers, it’s good to refresh your viewpoint.

6. Pay attention to the questions they have and ask them for more information about what they’re trying to do. Don’t assume you know what they want, find out by talking to them.

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Your customers are individuals, with goals and dreams unique to them. They come to you for help to make these happen. What does your company do for them? That’s the direction your marketing writing needs to take.

When you practice customer-centric marketing, you not only differentiate yourself from competitors, you establish the basis for customer loyalty, repeat business, and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Women Leadership Matters in Business

ThinkstockPhotos-614875172There are plenty of lists in business and the news. However, they frequently only represent one half of the human race with men. The fact is, women can be just as tremendous as business leaders, and they are showing their capability daily. Here are five women we all can take a lesson from in how they function and perform as leaders and would provide great case studies if the higher education system would recognize them:

1. Mary Barra

General Motors has been in the heat of regulatory and litigious battle over faulty car ignitions that were known by its management to exist but were allegedly tolerated for cost savings. However, it has been Mary Barra who has been at the helm of the company leading it back on the correct path. And Barra is no stranger to the car world. She worked her way up from the bottom through engineering and then through administrative management as an insider. She is the most powerful American car company CEO yet most American drivers know nothing about her.

2. Ginni Rometti

If your name is on a government file somewhere, there’s a good chance Rometti’s company product has touched it. As the CEO of IBM, Rometti’s products and services have the widest reach and are used worldwide. Ginni Rometti was also an insider, starting with IBM as a system engineer in 1981 and then working upward into management. Today, her decisions impact every big company and government that relies on large database systems and related hardware, but many in the tech field would be hard-pressed to remember her name on a test.

3. Meg Whitman

Probably one of the most recognizable of women business leaders due to her run for Governor of California in 2010, Whitman today is the in-charge CEO of HPE (formerly Hewlett-Packard). Whitman first gained fame as hard-charging CEO of eBay, launching its massive growth in the 2000s, but she was already on the executive track well before. Although she resigned in February 2018, Whitman continues to redefine her role as one of the longest-lasting CEO role models for women in business. And many wonder what Whitman’s next step will be in 2018 as the leader has reincarnated herself multiple times.

4. Marillyn Hewson

Another insider who worked her way up the ranks, Hewson started with Lockheed-Martin in 1983. In her earlier executive capacity, Hewson has held key roles in operational leadership in a company that competes with the biggest brass for top aviation contracts from the government, military, and industry. Since 2015, she has been aggressive on the military market, reading the tea leaves for a resurgence in military spending. Her strategy was correct, especially after the latest Presidential election results. Most would not expect to see Hewson next to generals in photo ops, but she is the face of Lockheed-Martin on Capitol Hill.

5. Debra Crew

When people think of a cigarette company CEO, they visualize an older man with thinning hair and a cigar. They don’t think of Debra Crew. Yet this CEO has cut her teeth in PepsiCo, Dreyers, and as a veteran intelligence officer prior to her executive days. Crew’s challenge is huge, making a company work in a world where smoking seems to be a dying market. And since her start as CEO the company has grown in capitalized market value by 16 percent.

These five women are not models, actresses, or famous wives. They are battle-hardened CEOs worth their title and with billions in market investment at their fingertips.