Storytelling

Episode 65: Our Internal Disconnect and the Damage of a Perception Gap

When I have an opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic as a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator, the first step I take is to describe what I lovingly call the Perception Gap.

That’s the gap between how you THINK you’re being perceived, and how people are ACTUALLY experiencing you.

Episode 64: Like Change, Uncertainty Is a Constant Undercurrent in Life

Stories of Risk and Addressing Uncertainty

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis doesn’t see risk the same way most people might define it. To her, it’s all about how prepared you are for whatever step you intend to take, the people you’ve surrounded yourself with and trust to take that step with you, and your ability to address uncertainty at any given moment.

Uncertainty is, like change, a constant undercurrent of life. There’s nothing certain in life, and there definitely isn’t anything certain in business. So how do we find ways to cope with an ever-uncertain world?

As a founding CEO and a turn-around CEO, Marylene has learned to quickly identify the resources she will need to address uncertainty and to make decisions effectively. She also has learned to trust that people truly want to learn, they have the capacity to learn, and they want to do a good job.

We covered a lot of ground in our conversation about how she sees risk, and how she addresses learning and innovation in her employees. One strategy Marylene uses in her presentations is to include music, particularly classical symphonies and opera. Here are a few links we agreed to share for you - our listeners - to get a better understanding of the impact:

Hector Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique

Why listen to what Marylene has to say about building a strong, engaged, trusting workplace? For one thing, she has had great success in this area. For another, she is the one who, when she started her first US tech firm, poached Guy Kawasaki from Apple, and wrote the French forward for his recent book!


The operatic piece she mentioned, featuring Maria Callas:

And the book The Republic, by the philosopher Plato.

Learn more about Marylene by checking out her book, Everybody Wants to Love Their Job, and by connecting with her on LinkedIn.


Are you enjoying listening to episodes of this podcast? Are you wondering how you can help me sustain this project, to support and encourage the sharing of important stories?

Here are a few ideas!
1) Leave a rating and comment on your favorite podcast service like iTunes or Stitcher
2) Share a link to the show and tell people why you like it
3) Become a sponsor (for as little as $2/month) by going to Patreon

Episode 63: Are You Listening to Your Instincts?

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I was introduced to Bill Fox, who lives in Estonia, by a woman who lives here in Helena, Montana, who was introduced to Bill by her husband, who worked with Bill at some point in Washington DC.

So many things had to happen for us to have met, and statistically, it was highly unlikely. And yet...

These days, when a trusted friend or colleague suggests the Bill reach out to someone to connect, he doesn’t hesitate - not for a second.

Over the past 7+ years, every one of those suggestions has turned into something important, something magical, and something life-defining, if not life-changing.

If you’ve read or listened to my work over the past few years, you’ll know that I don’t believe in coincidence. I also don’t believe strictly in fate; that’s an awkward line to walk. Opportunities are everywhere when we’re looking for them, as are obstacles.

Our subconscious minds are powerful - far more powerful than our conscious minds. Our subconscious can pick up all kinds of information from our surroundings that our conscious minds could never keep up with, much less process as subtle, specific things. So when something happens that is incredibly unlikely, our subconscious mind has already picked up all sort so clues about why it happened. It was prepared for this likelihood, even when that thing happening is highly statistically unlikely, because statistics are human-made with information we absolutely know and have available at any specific moment.

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Like me, Bill Fox has learned to trust his instincts and his subconsciously-given cues, and that’s how he ended up in Estonia with the love of his life.

Visiting her for the first time, she asked him: “Where will you park your car?”

“At the airport.”

“But what if you don’t return home?”


Learn more about how Bill Fox is helping leaders lead effectively with humanity and compassion on his website, Forward 2.0, and connect with him on LinkedIn.


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This image was taken atop of one of the many 14th century artillery towers in Tallinn. It was a magical place and I was amazed to discover this space after climbing (crawling really) several hundred feet up a very narrow and steep stairwell that twisted around the tower. It’s called Kiek in de Kök.

Episode 62: Missed Opportunities in Leadership

…and Opportunities Taken

I’ve had a handful of good managers in my career. I consider them good when a manager trusts me to get my work done, cares about me, doesn’t micro-manage, and does their best to advocate for me and provide the resources I need to do my job.

What’s missing here?

Mentorship.

Early in my career, I was offered an incredible opportunity to be a branch administrator in Washington DC as the branch transitioned to a new owner, a company based in Vancouver, Canada. It was probably beyond my experience and skills, but the branch manager interviewed me (in a coffee shop, one of the best interviews of my life), hired me on the spot, and generally trusted that I could figure out my role and be successful. In other words, he trusted his instinct that I could make him look good to the new owners.

I did.

He didn’t micromanage me. He gave me full authority to make decisions, while making sure I knew I could talk to him and ask for guidance at any time. Over the course of about 10 weeks, I negotiated a lease for new, raw office space, 3x larger than the space we were in, worked with an architect to design the interior (layout/offices, paint, carpet, etc.), negotiated data and phone system installation, and even purchased artwork.

When the time came, I organized, coordinated, and managed the move of our employees and the contents of our tiny office space into our new location in about 24 hours, losing only about 4 hours of productivity for those employees. I was 24. It felt like a huge accomplishment, especially because I had never done anything like that before.

After I set up and trained staff in A/R, A/P, payroll, benefits, and basic processes and procedures of the new company, I settled into my position… and promptly got bored. Six months after the move, my boss saw the minor mistakes I was making, called me into his office, and asked me about them. I honestly didn’t know how to answer him, so I got defensive. He figured it out before I did, thank goodness, and within a few weeks, he hired a new branch administrator and transitioned me into a junior consultant role.

I enjoyed every client site I worked on, moved around enough to keep me interested and constantly learning, and was appreciated and valued by our clients. But I still hadn’t figured out exactly what my unique skill sets were, so I simply moved between tasks, learned a lot about everything I touched, and moved on again.

I look back now and think:

Thank goodness I had a boss who basically understood me, so I could learn and grow in that position. What incredible opportunities I had, despite my age and lack of experience!

I also think:

What if my boss had a tool back then so he could coach me, mentor me, to guide me in the direction of applying my unique strengths to a specific role? I made him look good because he gave me the tools and challenges I needed to succeed, but how much better could I have made him look if he had the ability to see into my future and guide me to my best self, using my natural talents?

I’m not one to look back with regret; I look back because I love to learn lessons from my experiences, and apply them to help others. So when I look back at that time, I am grateful for what Melvin Sassoon did so early in my career. He trusted me and saw skills in me that I didn’t know were there. I also look back and think about what we both could have done differently to have different, even better outcomes.

What if you had a tool that would transform your relationship with your employees from manager to mentor or coach?

What if you had a language to speak that would help your employees understand their role and value in your company, and would help them understand their own strengths and how to apply them to be more productive and happier at work?

You can even begin with selfish intentions: When your employees are successful, productive, effective and happy, they can make YOU look REALLY good.

The end result is that you will find more satisfaction in your relationships at work, even if you don’t start with that intention. It would be almost impossible for you not to improve on your success, leaning into that style of management.

Here’s the good news:

There are tools to help you mentor and coach your employees to bring their best selves, their greatest talents to work. The difference in the tools is simply how you manage to apply them to improve communication.

I could have focused my attention on a number of assessments and tools to help me in my communication coaching; StrengthsFinders is simply my tool of choice because I find the concept to be so positive and easily applied to the workplace.

Whatever assessment you use - whatever tool you use to help uncover the natural talents of your employees, take the time to coach them to apply those talents to their role in your organization. Think about your own career, and how it could have benefited from having a manager who truly understood your strengths, and could have helped guide you to lean into them and use them in every aspect of your life.

Those strengths don’t always show up in positive ways, especially in relationships with people who have very similar strengths, and those who are on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s as if you’re speaking different languages when interacting with people with different strengths.

When you coach with a tool like StrengthsFinders, you can help your employee understand every aspect of their talents, and how those can be negatively perceived by the people around them. In time, that employee will start to be more self-reflective, and will be able to adjust how they present their strengths to others, basically finding ways to get out of their own way (their heads), and move past obstacles. And when they truly understand their natural talents, their career will gravitate to roles that they will find great success and satisfaction.

At that early stage in my career, if my boss had access to a tool like StrengthsFinders, and understood how to use it, it’s likely he would have steered me in the direction of sales for the company. I love people, and I love to share information and tools that help people improve their daily lives. My natural, unique talents would have made me an excellent sales person in that industry, with just a bit of training and guidance.

Who really knows what might have happened?

I could fill my days with alternative futures based on those “what if” questions. What matters at this point is that I now understand how my natural strengths have helped make me successful in the past, and how they’ve created obstacles when I haven’t known how I was being perceived by the people around me. I also know how I can apply them to improve my future, and the lives of the people I have the honor of working with.

If you had a tool to help transform your relationship with your employees from manager to coach, would you use it?

Think about it this way:

When you coach your employees, rather than manage them, when you understand their strengths and what motivates them, your relationship improves. If you can coach your employees by helping them apply their strengths to their role, and encourage them by acknowledging their work, they can make you look really good.

And when you micromanage your employees, undermine their confidence and trust, withhold information, and allow whatever insecurities you have to impact your behavior, knowing you’re somehow threatened by their competence, you make it absolutely impossible for them to make you look good. You make it absolutely impossible for them to do their job well, and to make you look good.

Whatever tool you use, make sure you understand your employee’s strengths and what motivates them, and help them apply their strengths so they succeed. Because when your employees are empowered to learn, grow, and improve, they’ll make YOU look GOOD.


Are you enjoying listening to episodes of this podcast? Are you wondering how you can help me sustain this project, to support and encourage the sharing of important stories?

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Here are a few ideas!
1) Leave a rating and comment on your favorite podcast service like iTunes or Stitcher
2) Share a link to the show and tell people why you like it
3) Become a sponsor (for as little as $2/month) by going to Patreon

Episode 61: Grief Isn't the End, It Can Be a Beginning

Shortly after the loss of her son, she went right back to work as a news anchor, a very public life. But shortly after her return, she realized her heart just wasn’t in it anymore. She felt as if she had just been going through the motions, mostly because that was what was expected of her.