12 Tips to Help You be a Better Speaker and Communicator

1. End on time. So simple, but so hard for so many speakers I know.

2. Don’t ask if people can hear you. They can. And if they can’t, the sound guys will turn up your microphone. This is incredibly distractive.

3. Avoid open ended questions with your audience. Those can be incredibly awkward if no one responds. For example, “are you fired up?” If no one answers, or even one person, you’re off to an awkward start!

4. Always thank your host or sponsor. It creates connection, and also shows that you are actually aware enough to know who’s behind the event or gathering you’re part of.

5. Make room for questions. Not always an option, but anytime you can create a conversation with those you are speaking to, that’s a good thing.

6. Don’t read your slides. I can read your slide. You don’t need to.

7. Never throw the production or front of house or audio team under the bus. This is a cardinal rule.

8. Tell stories. Be personable. Stories create connection and vulnerability. Stories fill in the gap between you as the expert and everyone else as the wanna bee’s.

9. Be authentic. If you aren’t funny, don’t try to be. Be real and who you truly are. Approachability is crucial.

10. Always have a call to action. Leave those in attendance with something to go work on. The point is to Change and Do Something!

11. Look people in the eye. Whether it’s 10 people or 10,000 people, eye contact is imperative.

12. Be passionate. Your level of passion will give permission to the audience to lean in with you. Move towards Heart and soul, and emotional intelligence. Leave it all on the field! Make sure you create emotional hooks, and take people on a roller coaster instead of a train when it comes to passion level. Trains are good for sleeping on….!

Great Leaders are committed to the Insignificant

in leadership,Leadership Rules. 1 Comment

As Leaders, we live for the moment.

The big moments that are memory makers. The home runs. The winning “touchdown.” The deal that launches our organizations or business to the next level.

The significant benchmarks in life that define us and shape us. The times that people will talk about for years to come. When the adrenaline is dialed up and we step in.

But ultimately, faithfulness looks most like being disciplined and faithful to the small things in life and leadership.

Great leaders are committed to the Insignificant.

The making of a leader takes time, and I believe is revealed and refined through the continual steadfastness in the small things.

Our character, our sense of who we are, is defined by the insignificant points in life when no one is watching, when no one really cares. The times when it doesn’t seem to matter. The points where it is difficult to actually finish the project. The pain points when we wonder is this what God has actually called me to do. The moments when it would be okay to cut corners but we stay committed to excellence.

This is where the foundation of faithfulness and our character as leaders is created and solidified. Jesus describes this in Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Be faithful to the small things.

Perseverance is crucial to being a disciplined leader. Staying true to the process. There is beauty in the process, and we are shaped by the journey.

The process defines us. No overnight transformation. No shortcuts. It takes years to be shaped into the leader God has called you to be. The nitty gritty daily grind of walking steadfastly in the mundane and ordinary that shapes the extraordinary.

Great leaders are always growing, learning & moving forward. It’s a journey, not a destination. Effective leaders never stop growing and getting better. They are curious, committed, and coachable. Always a student and desperate to learn.

And committed to making the small things, the seemingly insignificant projects and assignments that no one seems to care about, the best they can possibly be.

Stay committed to the insignificant!

8 Ways to Honor Your Leader

Leading is not easy. And it’s even more difficult if those on your team aren’t equipped well to follow.

We all have leaders that we work with, for and around. And every leader I know values being honored and respected. Honor is a really big thing. And incredibly important as it relates to being part of a team.

And especially relevant to young leaders, many of whom are working for leaders who are older than them.

Here are some ways to honor your leaders:

1. Pray - a huge one. Pray for wisdom, for clarity, for compassion and for a clear vision for your leader and leaders.

2. Encourage- lift your leaders up in public, and critique them in private. Tell them how you appreciate them. Consistently. Write them a note. Pour into them.

3. Confront- if you see something out of whack, tell them. Most leaders crave input and feedback, so give it to them. Push back on their ideas and convictions when appropriate. Confrontation works best though when encouragement and service and trust have been given freely for a long time. Confront in moderation.

4. Serve- be willing to carry the load. Get things done. Deliver more than you were asked to do. Be action oriented. Anticipating is a great way to honor. Figure out what needs to get done before your leader has to tell you.

5. Trust- incredibly important. Follow them. Put stock in the fact that they have your best interests in mind. Fight against sarcasm and cynicism.

6. Understand- know what drives them, what motivates them, and also what frustrates them. Lean into the things that motivate them, and avoid the things that frustrate them.

7. Protect- always have their back. Stand up for them. If you hear something negative, fight it. Sometimes we actually find misguided joy in ganging up on our leaders in order to make ourselves look and feel better. Avoid this.

8. Release- give your leader permission to lead you. Lean in. Have a posture of humility, respect, and openness to follow them. Open hearts and open minds, vs closed thoughts, arms crossed, and a made up mind.

8 Ways to Empower Your Team

Leaders: one of the key things you must ALWAYS do is empower your team. As I’ve learned over the years, most leaders at their core are control freaks, which is part of the reason they are successful. But we all must learn and recognize the need to empower those around us to succeed and do what they do well. Most leaders think they can do it all on their own, and many try, but ultimately in order to grow a successful organization that outlives you, as the leader, you have to empower those around you.

Here are a few thoughts on Empowering your Team:

1. Give them the opportunity to make decisions, and don’t second guess them. A lot of us as leaders are willing to allow our team members to make decisions, but want to step in as soon as we see something done differently than we would do. Don’t make that mistake. It is totally demoralizing to your team. Believe me, I know from experience!!

2. Assign them responsibility by them owning key projects from START to FINISH. So once we allow team members to make key decisions, now we have to allow them to own projects and feel the responsibility of completion.

3. Give them Freedom combined with Accountability. Freedom without accountability can lead to a great place to work with nothing getting done. Accountability without Flexibility can lead to a terrible place to work with things getting done but everyone hating their job. These have to work together.

4. Fight for them. Whether it’s standing up for them to your boss, or standing beside them and supporting them in a disagreement with a vendor, always take the stance of fighting for them and being willing to go to battle for them.

5. Encourage them. This is the one we so often forget. I know I do. I tend to keep pushing without stopping to say thanks. But encouragement can go the furthest in creating team chemistry, longevity, and commitment. Reward them with small gifts, extra unexpected bonuses, cards, etc. Be unexpected in your thankyous. Hand them out without bias. No one has ever been too much of a true encourager!

6. Counsel, coach and instruct. Not necessarily the same as encouragement. Great coaches do this well. They scream at you and make you better, while also putting their arm around you and giving you “ego biscuits” when needed. Two different parts of empowering, but both equally important. Instruction is key for releasing again and again, and assigning more responsibility.

7. Overwhelm them. Not on a continual basis, but ultimately your team members should constantly feel a bit overwhelmed by the projects or assignments they are working on, not underwhelmed. Many of their projects should cause them to feel like they are not prepared or ready. If they feel underwhelmed, they will probably end up looking elsewhere for greater assignments and more responsibility.

8. Give them permission. Permission to take risks, to fail, to represent your organization to others, take on responsibility and stewardship, and many other things. But ultimately give them permission to push back. Give them permission to call you out as the leader (appropriately, of course). Give them permission to argue and fight for their idea, even when it looks like it’s directly competing with your idea as the leader. Permission to push back. This does wonders.

To “don’t Do’s” as a Young up and Coming Leader

For young leaders who are “up and comers,” here are a few things to NOT DO as you continue to gain influence, responsibility and authority.

DON’T DO THESE:

1. Believe that you are “the answer.”

2. Stop honoring those who’ve laid the groundwork before you.

3. Write off all the folks who finally helped you “arrive,” who might suddenly seem insignificant or unimportant.

4. Remove yourself from reality by surrounding yourself with “handlers” and those only interested in being “yes” men and women.

5. Believe the hype and regard yourself as crucial, and ultimately more important than all others, in connection to the success of the organization or project.

6. Adopt a scarcity mindset, believing that everything is a zero sum game.

7. Lose the passion for collaboration and partnership, whether in your community, or industry, or network.

8. Become cynical and pessimistic at every turn.

9. Stop “dating” your spouse and intentionally building into your closest friendships.

10. No longer see learning as a priority since you now know everything.

DON”T DO THESE.

6 Ways to Become Skilled at the Follow Up

in leadership,Leadership Rules. 1 Comment

Leaders get things done. They are action oriented and always moving towards the finish line.

As all of us know, when dealing with other people, other organizations, and other teams, many times the project or initiative bogs down because “you haven’t heard back from him” or “she never emailed me to confirm” or “I’m still waiting on them to send over a fax” or “I called and left a message, but don’t want to bother them again.” When other people get involved besides us, things get more complicated.

If you want to truly get things done, you have to become skilled at the follow up. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years:

1. It’s always your responsibility to initiate. Obviously if you are the one asking for something, then you have to initiate. But even if you’re just part of the project or one of the steps in the project, you need to always feel responsibility to initiate.

2. We’re all busy. Never take offense or get your feelings hurt because someone hasn’t responded to your initial invitation or request. Very rarely is a lack of response personal. It’s just because people are busy.

3. Figure out how best to get an answer. Many people don’t return phone calls anymore, but if you text them, they’ll get right back to you. Be smart. Customize your communication if you want a quick response.

4. Make it easy to get a response. Make sure it’s one step to confirm or respond or get you the information you need. Don’t make folks jump through multiple hoops in order to get you what you need. Remove all the barriers.

5. Create a deadline. Make sure you are very clear in your initial request and in your follow up what you are asking for, as well as when you need it. Sometimes we forget to create urgency and expectations alongside the request.

6. Aggressively pursue until you get a yes or no. If it takes 5 emails, then send 5 emails. If it takes 3 phone calls, make 3 phone calls. Get it to the finish line.

What are some of your secrets in regards to following up and getting things done?

8 Characteristics of Great Teammates

in leadership,Leadership Rules. No Comments

Great teams are a joy to watch. OKC Thunder, Miami Heat, Seattle Seahawks, and more. And of course my beloved Oklahoma Sooners!

Reality is, we are all part of some kind of team, wherever we are in life. Family, church, volunteer, sports, business, community, social. As Leaders, it’s equally important for us to know how to follow and be a great team member as it is how to LEAD and be a team leader. In fact, many believe to be a good leader, you must first be a great teammate. And I would suggest that great leaders are equally in tune with how best to be a teammate, along with how to lead well.

So here are a few thoughts on being a great team member:

1. Good teammates are great finishers. They get the job done. They take projects across the finish line.

2. Good teammates anticipate. They understand what needs to be done next before others, and are always looking for ways to make the process better.

3. Good teammates criticize their leader in private, and praise in public. Enough said on that.

4. Good teammates are trustworthy. When given an assignment, a leader can be assured that it will get done. This is incredibly important.

5. Good teammates are vision copycats. They take on, embody and live out the vision and mission of their leader, and of the organization.

6. Good teammates make their leader better. They push their leader, and know how to lead up appropriately and intentionally.

7. Good teammates make their other teammates better. They know how to lead their peers and lead across in an organization, and don’t rely on the leader to be the only one motivating the team, as well as holding the other teammates accountable.

8. Good teammates lead themselves. They don’t need to be managed, and aren’t needy. They don’t need all the attention from the leader.

9 Ways to Truly Connect in a Conversation

in Leadership Rules,Misc. 1 Comment

Connecting in a conversation is very important. Whether someone you are meeting for the first time, or everyday greetings in your office, close friends.a follow up meeting, or a longtime business associate, it’s important to properly connect.

So here’s your cheat sheet for connecting in a conversation.

1. Start with a proper greeting- We’ve talked about this before. Handshake, bow, hug, etc. Figure out what is appropriate and then stick to that.

2. Look them in the eye. It’s amazing how many folks still can’t do this. Here is a post with more about this.

3. Listen more than you talk. Ask more questions than you give answers. Listening is an art.

4. Find at least one area of common interest. Look for the area you all have common interests in. Food, cooking, sports, church, family, hobbies.

5. Make at least one valuable connection for them. Might be that you commit to introducing them to a friend of yours, or you heard about a business opportunity they might be interested in, etc.

6. Create one simple action item. Could be a follow up call, another meeting, an email they need to send, an email you need to send, or a simple reminder to connect again soon.

7. Ask great questions. Here are a few:

What are you learning lately?

Who has had the greatest impact on you?

What gets you up in the morning and keeps you awake at night?

What do you love most about your family?

What do you love most about your job/profession?

What are you most excited about right now? 

8. Look for opportunities to provide encouragement. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to be encouraged. Find places in the conversation where you can provide some “ego biscuits” (as my good friend Steve Graves always told me).

9. Give plenty of “conversation exit ramps.” Always give opportunities in a conversation with someone new the ability to exit quickly. Options to jump out of the conversation and into another one. This is paramount in environments where there are lots of other folks- dinner parties, weddings, social gatherings.