8 Ways to Make your Communication Stick

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Whether you are a seasoned leader, college student, author, professor, CEO, politician, or pastor, we all have to learn to communicate well. Whether we are speaking to thousands, speaking to our staff, giving a report, making a speech, teaching your kids soccer team, or addressing your company, it’s imperative as leaders we know how to communicate. To make our point. To deliver a message.

And communicating is much easier said than done. Actually it’s the saying part and the doing part that make it difficult.

So here are some tips that might make communicating a bit easier for you and a bit more enjoyable for those listening. To make it stick. 

1. Keep it Simple. Stay focused on a few key points. And use common sense. If it sounds confusing, it probably is. If it sounds cheesy, it probably is.

2. Tell great stories to validate your points. Unless you are just an amazing communicator, your points probably won’t hold me. So sprinkle in some great stories, good analogies, personal connections, and current events.

3. Inspire action. Push me towards doing something, not just hearing something.

4. Know your audience. Seems simple, but many miss this one. Make constant connections to your audience. If you’re talking to a group of high school students, don’t use the same jokes and intro as you did with the local Lions Club mens pancake breakfast the day before.

5. Create hooks, repetitions, and memorable phrases. I won’t remember all you said, but I might remember something you said. Our current culture is now built around soundbytes- status updates, tweets, texts, etc. So keep it simple, but also keep it short.

6. Connect personally. Look people in the eye. Recognize individuals in the audience and mention their name. Find people in the crowd and speak directly to them. Make eye contact with the entire room, from side to side. If your audience thinks you care about them, then they’ll care about what you are saying.

7. Be authentic, vulnerable, and funny. The key is to just simply be you. Allow the audience to get to know you. Make yourself vulnerable by talking about a failure or something that gives you instant connection. Be funny and find ways to keep your content light and humorous.

8. Land the plane on time. Not just ending on time, but actually ending with the right timing. Don’t keep circling above the runway- land it now.

What other tips would you add for communicating well? 

5 Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah

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One of my favorite Old Testament leaders is Nehemiah. He was a government worker in the employment of a foreign administration. A high ranking worker no doubt. A leader. A cupbearer to the King. Trusted and respected.

Then he became a building contractor, called in to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Through the story of the Old Testament book, we can discover a few of the leadership qualities that he possessed.

1. Compassion- when learning of the condition of the wall and of his people, Nehemiah wept.

2. Conviction- he understood that loyalty to his country and to his people in Jerusalem was paramount. He was deeply bought in and moved to action.

3. Courage- he stood alongside the builders of the wall to fight off enemies who wanted to bring them down. A shovel in one hand and a spear in the other.

4. Confrontation- Nehemiah called out those who were stealing from their brothers, and doling out debt without reason. He held them accountable, and directed them towards living right. Those whom he loved and admired he pushed towards righteous living.

5. Calling- he understood his role as the one who had been called to lead in rebuilding the wall, and correctly responded to that assignment when God prompted.

Say No to the Good, and Yes to the Best

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“Learn to say no to the good so you can say yes to the best.”  - John C. Maxwell

I love this quote, but I struggle constantly with implementing it. It makes total sense, but as a persuader, my leadership style is to include and to invite more and more into the conversation and the huddle. I have a hard time saying no, because for me that feels like I am excluding someone. I’ve learned how to do this, but it still goes against my natural leadership style.

But as leaders, we have to be willing to say no in order for our time and energy to be spent on the things that only we can do, as well as the few ideas or projects that will end up being the “best.”

Reality is, the more influence you gain, and the more your organization grows, the harder it is to say no to the good. And with more influence, you have more opportunities. With more and more opportunities, the more we have to make decisions on what we will focus on and where we will expend our time, energy and resources.

The key is to know what you do really well. The areas you are great. Spend your time and energy on those things. Be focused. Give up on trying to do everything. On trying to be all things to all people.

Remember, saying no doesn’t mean you don’t like someone or something. It’s not personal. You have to be disciplined and focused on a few things to be great.

Leaders Take the First Step in Relationships

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Reach out First. Take the first step.

Most of us aren’t “experts” at relationships. Whether dealing with family, friends, co-workers, new acquaintances, or team members, we are all guilty of coming up short. It seems like every day I goof up in the way I relate, communicate, and lead.

I’m sure this scenario applies to you right now, or will soon. A business deal gone bad. A conversation that was really tense. A mis-spoken word or hurtful phrase- either directed towards you or from you. Gossip behind your back that you know about, and so does the person who said it. Disagreements turned into frustration and now no communication. A confrontational conversation with a close friend that leaves both hesitant to talk.

Are there folks in your life right now who you are at odds with? Here are two thoughts on how to “restore” healthy and harmonious relationships with those around us.

1. Reach out first- don’t wait on someone else to move toward you. Go ahead and confess, apologize, bring it up, or start the conversation. Even if you are not at fault. You need to lean in and reach out and move across the “center aisle” and intentionally make amends.

2. Move on- Don’t hang on to something just so you can hold it over someone’s head. Let it go. Restore the relationship, and restart the relationship immediately.

3. Get better- continue to work on living and leading at peace with those around you. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Establish a healthy routine of daily reaching out and daily vulnerability. Make sure you are progressing and improving and not allowing relationships to get to points where you have to be intentional about mending them.

10 mid week Thoughts for Leaders

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1. Learn it, relearn it, and then learn it again. Just because you are out of school doesn’t mean you quit learning. Be a lifelong learner.

2. Being an “expert” is quickly fading in the current culture. Everyone is an expert these days because of technology and connectivity. Don’t put your hope in being an expert, since now more than ever there is someone else who knows way more than you do. Just constantly get better. Improve daily.

3. We have to reclaim a sense of Biblical understanding, wisdom and practice. Our Biblical illiteracy as a generation is staggering, sobering and frustrating. Gotta get back in the Word. This starts with pastors and Christian leaders embracing and constantly teaching the Scripture.

4. Humility rules.No explanation needed.

5. As always, making it happen and “shipping” as Seth Godin says is still an incredibly fashionable attribute. If you can execute on a project… if you can get things done…. if you can take an assignment and drive it to completion…. You’re still valued and incredibly needed.

6. Put the Xbox up, turn off facebook, get out a book (or your iPad), and start reading. Seriously.

7. Understand what you are FOR. Don’t be defined by what you are against, but instead by what you are for.

8. Embrace your role. No one said leadership is easy. Your job is to make decisions, including the difficult ones, and carry more responsibility than the rest of your team.

9. Stand on the stage, and take out the trash. Be willing to be the hero, as well as the servant.

10. Risk something today. Step out of your comfort zone, and lead with courage. Have that tough conversation, make that decision, push the team past the normal boundaries.

8 Important Roles for your Board of Directors

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Many of us deal with a board of directors, especially in the non-profit arena. I serve on a couple of boards for ministries I am involved with. Being on a board can be a great experience, both for the board member and for the executive director/president. It can also be incredibly frustrating and taxing, especially to the leader in charge of the organization.

So thought I would provide a few points here on the role of a board member, and the overall role and responsibility of a Board of Directors, specifically as it relates to non-profit charities or ministries:

1. Give, get, or get off- give money, go get some money, or get off the bus. You have to help the organization thrive financially.

2. One employee, one customer- sole focus of the board is the role and responsibility of the executive director/president of the organization. Don’t mess with the rest of the team. It’s not the role of  the board.

3. Health and stability- take care of your executive director and make sure they are healthy and stable. Their sense of well being is your responsibility.

4. Be a friend, and advocate- while the board should only focus on the role of the executive director/president, that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with the rest of the staff. Friendship is important, and so is advocacy. Be a cheerleader, and a fan of the team.

5. Carry the vision-  own the vision of the organization. It can’t just be owned by the visionary or founder.

6. Stay in your strengths- make sure the board members are operating in their areas of strength. In their areas of interest and focus. Not just serving on a committee just for the committee’s sake.

7. Make connections- leverage your relationship network and folks you know for the good of the organization. Connect your friends, family and business associates.

8. Replace yourself- find other potential board members who can take your place. Succession and legacy are critical.

Tips for 1st Time in a Meeting

We’ve all been there. First time in a one on one meeting with your boss. First time in a brainstorming session. First time in a staff meeting. Whether your 1st meeting ever as a young intern, newly hired greenie, or seasoned pro who is new to the team, there are some keys to how you should approach the environment of a 1st time meeting.

1. Don’t try to be the expert. Reality is, you’re probably not. Make others in the room around you the expert.

2. Ask lots of questions. This is your entry point for any meeting, at any level. Good questions give you instant credibility. And many times are more strategic than the right answer.

3. Don’t feel like you have to give any answers. While asking good questions, don’t feel the need to provide answers in response.

4. Be curious and engaging. Look people in the eye. Engage with everyone around the table and in the room. Encourage others ideas.

5. Take a posture of learning. Take notes. Act like you’re in class. Be the most interested.

6. Get coffee. Or drinks. Or snacks. This shows you are okay with serving everyone else. Whether young or old, you’ve never too old or young to wait on others.

7. Act like you don’t belong, but work like you do. This is a good rule for any meeting, and your overall leadership in general.

9 Ways Your Leadership Should be Social

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It’s imperative that you are “social” in your leadership and influence today. A new reality exists, and as leaders we have to be not only aware of this, but also willing to jump in and embrace a new reality of Social engagement like never before.

Here are a few thoughts on Social Leadership:

1. Social Media = Influence. Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, and Social media junkies are now the normal outlets to tap into for getting the word out. I’ve seen this the last few years with everything from new movies to new books to new conferences. These leaders are being sought out not just for their networks, but also for their endorsements. It’s a new era. Exponential influence in ways never seen before is happening through blogging, tweeting, instagramming, facebooking, pinteresting, etc. Digital mavens are shaping what we are listening to, reading, watching, and learning.

2. Social Entrepreneurs= A new wave of leaders has emerged. Leaders who combine business savvy with charitable endeavors and social innovation. Scott HarrisonCharles LeeBlake MycoskieJamie TworkowskiLaura Waters Hinson, Eugene ChoJeff ShinabargerKohl Crecelius and Jason Russell just to name a few.

3. Social Accountability- Leaders are constantly being evaluated in todays culture. You can’t hide anymore behind a position or title. Leaders are being held to a standard never seen before because of constant media- video, flip cameras, blogging, twitter. Your leadership has constant real-time evaluation. Especially well-known leaders. And Authenticity is crucial. Being honest, genuine and real is important for continual influence.

4. Social Good- it’s now in vogue to “do good.” And society in general is taking notice. Celebrities gain more influence because of causes they’re involved in. Businesses are “doing good” and focusing on the triple bottom line, which is now a normal measurement of success in business. Meaning what was our “gift back to society” and how did we “leave the world a better place.” It’s not just about making a profit anymore.

5. Social Politics in organizations is fading- Positional leadership doesn’t really matter anymore. Not about what position or title you hold, but more about what you are delivering. If you are executing and getting things done and creating value for the organization, your influence will have impact.

6. Creating a social “community” is now a norm, not an exception. A great example of this is Zappos, and the kind of culture that Tony Hsieh has created there. Employees enjoy being around each other, and take pride in a sense of family that exists within their company.

7. Flattening of the “social hierarchy of influence.” I can learn from all kinds of great leaders in todays culture, and not know them personally. I can also connect with well known leaders much easier than in the past through technology and social platforms. Information and inspiration has never been so readily available to us. When you follow someone on Twitter, you feel like you know them personally, even if they have hundreds of thousands of other “followers.”

8. Social Justice is not just a fad. Connected to #4, but my opinion is that especially within the Church/faith community, this shift towards the “living out” of the Gospel through justice and mercy is here to stay.

9. A new generation of employees expect a “social workplace.” This is a Reality of a new generation, according to Tim Elmore is his great book Generation iY :

Experiential- all about the 5 senses. Sensory engagement is critical and a reality in terms of what Millenials have grown up with and desire.

Participatory- want an experience to be customized. Millenials have grown up in a participatory culture. They don’t just listen, but actually want to participate. This is very important in terms of creating a work environment/team culture that is attractive to 20 somethings.

Image-Rich- all about pictures, video, large screens, large TV’s, high res pics on your phone, etc. Pictures/video are an incredibly powerful learning medium for Millenials, vs. just text. Especially in terms of memory.

Connected- information is constant for Millenials. Text, facebook, twitter, phone, email. This can be both a positive and a negative.