Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Rarity of Speaking Without Interruption

Whenever I work with a client or speak to a group and ask what their number one challenge is, they almost all say communication (no surprise there, huh?). When have we ever been taught the "hows" of communication?

I even had one client who wanted me to teach his staff the "when" of communication, implying that there is an exact time to deliver the exact "what" in order to get the exact result he wanted, which, when pressed, he couldn't even define.

I think the key to effective communication is listening, a skill which very few people ever learn. Listening is not the same as hearing - I don't think I have to explain that better here except to say that most of the time in my corporate experience, I would have loved to have someone actually listen to me - to my ideas, my frustrations, my dreams.

It seems corporate leaders are more programmed to speak instead of listen (that could be a whole other blog post, and probably will be in the not so distant future).

So although it's not quite the same as listening in person, I'm pleased to be part of a writing project called Speak Without Interruption. Here, from the website, is the mission of the site:

Speak Without Interruption was created to give everyone a place to voice his or her thoughts on various subjects. This concept originated while watching the political tv shows and seeing the frustration of the guests when nobody could get a word in. The segments were short so the guests were often left hanging and unable to complete their arguments. We thought this was not only frustrating for the viewer but was probably frustrating for the guests as well.

Because writers, in our opinion, are the most important part of any postings we have expanded our original site basis to include all writers - in all topics - who would like to voice an opinion, further advance a thought or topic, or provide material for viewer reading or comments. We welcome all participants - writers, viewers, pundits, media hosts, and anyone else who would like to “Speak Without Interruption.”

Check out the site to get some great ideas about topics people are very passionate about (and check out my first article there as well!).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bison in the Big Dance!

Our beloved North Dakota State University Bison men's basketball team is playing in the NCAA Division I big dance today and I'm having flashbacks.

The Bison are in their very first year of eligibility for the Division I tournament and they won the Summit League championship to qualify. So they drew the defending national champion Kansas in the first round - who cares? These guys are on such a roll - and our entire state is so excited - that they'll probably roll all over the Jayhawks on sheer adrenalin alone!

I'm remembering my days as a basketball player. When my high school team made it to the state tournament my senior year, I think the entire town shut down. The boys' team from Gwinner, a little town 15 miles from my hometown of Lisbon, North Dakota, made it to the state tournament this year and they won yesterday. I'm sure there's no one left to run the post office there (although the game will be on TV in case someone needed to keep the lights on while everyone else is at the game).

My freshman year at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota my basketball team won the Division III national championship, so I have a little bit of an idea of what the Bison are going through today (on a much smaller scale, to be sure). It's such an amazing rush to know that so many people are supporting you - win or lose.

I understand why they call it March Madness. We are crazy here in Fargo today! Even the University of North Dakota fans are Bison fans today! We appreciate the support!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Are You Like Jack - In the Box?

I'm just re-reading a really important book right now called Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute and the first question that comes to my mind upon picking this up again is, who is reading this book?

In my experience as a leadership and communication consultant who is committed to personal and workplace transformation, I can think of lots of people who "should" read this book, including one of my first clients who hired me when I first started this gig to "fix" a few of his people.

As I worked with those people to develop personal coaching plans with them, it occurred to me that no one had ever really listened to them at work. As I spent time with them individually, the common denominator in their dissatisfaction was their leader, which we all know if we're even a little self-aware, indicates that that leader has a lot to teach each of those people about themselves.

So during my conversation with each of them, we developed an individual plan for them knowing full well that they couldn't change the leader, only themselves. I went back to the leader and asked him the same questions I had asked his employees about what he would like to do for his own development. His answer? Fix his people! According to what I'm reading in this book, he was really "in the box."

According to this book, "in the box" means having a problem I don't think I have - a problem I can't see. When I can see matters only from my own closed perspective, and feeling deeply resistant to any suggestion that the truth is otherwise, I end up in a box - cut off, closed up, blind.

Another way to say that is that I am deceiving myself - I am unable to see that I have a problem.

According to the story in this book, the fictional company Zagrum's top strategic initiative is to minimize individual and organizational self-deception.

Sounds like a great idea ... but, going back to the first question I asked here, who's reading this book? Probably not those who have the problem.

How is it that people wake up to the knowledge that whenever they have a problem in their lives, they are there for it? Any personal or organizational problems are the result of self-deception, which leads to justification, and eventually collusion, which keeps the cycle going.

So the first step is to recognize the distinction between what we DO in our lives, which varies tremendously from day to day and from person to person, and who we BE in our lives, which comes down to two ways only.

The first way of BEING is to see people as they are - as people. Seeing them as people, according to this book, I am responsive to their reality. As responsible adults, it would seem that this is the choice we make when we are able to respond to people's concern, hopes, needs, fears.

The other way of BEING is to see people as objects. If I see people as objects, I am resistant to their reality. Seeing people as less than they are, I am deceived about their reality.

The biggest challenge I see in getting this information into the world more quickly, is that traditionally in our workplaces, being "responsive" has meant being "soft," and being "resistant" has meant being "hard."

We even call these "soft skills" and "hard results." But if we really take a look at the RESULTS of each of these ways of being, it becomes evident rather quickly which way works best.

Seeing me as a person, someone compliments me. (SOFT) Seeing me as an object, someone compliments me. (HARD) Do the compliments feel the same to me? Or consider how different it feels to be corrected by someone who sees me as a person compared to someone who sees me as an object.

Whatever I DO on the surface, people respond to who I am BEING when I am doing it.

What is the BEING underneath the DOING in your own life? We are the ones we can change ... and, remarkably enough, we are probably the ones we have been waiting for!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bock's Office Testimonial Video

Here is the new testimonial video project I'm working on to promote my business, Bock's Office Transformational Consulting. Thanks so much to my fabulous clients and master minders for participating in this video!

I'd love to hear your feedback!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Nurturing the Choir

I just spent almost four fabulous days with my new friend Barbara McAfee and I tell you what, that woman is amazing!

Barbara did six presentations over three days here in the Fargo-Moorhead-Detroit Lakes area, even braving a blizzard on Thursday to get to the 61 eager audience members in DL. She shared her message of finding the "verb" you can live in all aspects of your life, including work, and also showed how important music is to people all over the world. It really is a universal language.

One thing (among many) I learned from Barbara this week, and which was reflected in a comment to my previous post here, is that maybe it's time to give the choir some nourishment and love instead of looking past them to everyone else.

What I think Barbara meant by that, and what I mean by that, is that so often I dream so big and so broad and so wide that I forget to notice what's already happening and who's already here. I'm in such pursuit of the next thing that I forget to stop and be in gratitude for what's happening in front of my eyes.

I looked up the origin of the term "preaching to the choir" and I really got a huge "aha." Here's a definition from The Phrase Finder:

'Preaching to the choir' is of US origin. It clearly refers to the pointlessness of a preacher attempting to convert those who, by their presence in church, have already demonstrated their faith.

Even though I knew what it meant, to see it in such black and white terms was kind of startling. Given my fundamental Christian upbringing and the resistance I now have to all things fundamental, it's funny that Barbara would bring up a term which has such obvious roots in fundamentalism.

At any rate, I got to thinking about how in pursuit of sharing Barbara's message with the whole world (or my Fargo-Moorhead-Detroit Lakes communities, anyway) I may have overlooked the dedicated people who are already changing the world by changing their thoughts about what is really true for them. Those are the people who I want to nurture and support and just have meaningful conversation with.

Warren's comment in my last post really reminded me that it's maybe time to just relax with the folks who are already of like mind instead of always trying to find those who aren't and don't want to be and "converting" them. That's exhausting.

Although my vision of full houses for each of Barbara's events didn't come true the way I had hoped, I was reminded in each of her six engagements of one of the principles of Open Space Technology: "whoever comes is the right people." That was proven over and over as we had amazing experiences with each audience.

So I'm taking this moment to thank the "choir" - and to sing their praises. Thank you for stepping out this past week and experiencing Barbara McAfee's music and presence. And thank you, Barbara, for reminding me of so many things I think I already knew but had forgotten.

I think it's time for a good old fashioned hootenanny!