(Estimated reading time: 22 minutes)
It starts with one factor which may have prevented you from reading this today.
How many emails did you get today? How many texts? Maybe you haven’t noticed the exponential increase anymore; you’re too busy trying to keep up. If you told an earlier version of yourself just how many emails and texts you would handle each day, your younger self would likely be scared. If not, telling s/he about the prevalence of social media in your life might do the trick. Isn’t it funny how some things intended to make our lives easier have instead made it more complicated?
This may not apply to you. Some of us have a knack for juggling asynchronous communication (the younger the better, it seems). But I’m sure I could find something else, because digital communication is just one example of what we are all struggling with: change.
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Estimated read time: 10 minutes
“I’m not going to like this guy,” he said while chuckling.
It was my friend’s first impression of me, in a group where he was the newcomer and I was an established voice. After I provided my viewpoint on something neither of us could no longer remember, this was the unspoken thought he shared with me.
“Really?!” I exclaimed in astonishment.
“Yea,” he continued, “but after the third meeting, I had a different thought: ‘Ya know, I think I like this guy!’” Now we were both laughing.
It wasn’t the first time I heard something similar. A high school friend of mine affectionately labeled me “the fungus”. “He’s like a fungus; he grows on you,” he would say while grinning (um, thanks?). Others would later express it more constructively: “I like you; you keep it real.”
Yet, it was in the conversation with the friend from that group where I had an epiphany. Each of these statements was a reaction to a character trait I have sought since I was young: authenticity. And I was pleased to be someone’s fungus.
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Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes
Peter Drucker once said that “company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.”
And what have we got? The research studies tell us the same thing every year: people love what they do, but hate where they do it (eighty-six and sixty-six percent respectively, last I heard). If employers could listen in on their employees around the water cooler or during happy hour, they wouldn’t need statistics.
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Estimated read time: 12 minutes
Better culture needs better communication.
Everyone agrees with this, but not everyone understands the factors involved with better communication. It’s not just about skills; it’s also about the character of those communicating, specifically how they view each other. If I hate you, your communication skills are not going to matter very much.
I consistently teach and model three principles, no matter where I am or who I am with, principles that I have found to be consistently true no matter where I am. These principles work wonders for improving organizational culture. When internalized by a group of people, conflict disappears. In its place arises constructive communication, better work relationships and, most importantly, teamwork.
These principles exist in every healthy culture, just as they exist in every healthy relationship. I come back to these principles time and again throughout my writing. Here I summarize them.
So, without further ado…
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Reading time: 5 minutes
You don’t need to be an expert in communication strategies to know when someone is listening to you.
Think back to the last conversation you had with someone who loves you. It was a pleasant conversation, wasn’t it? They asked questions to clarify what you were saying. They summarized you after you were finished (“so, if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying…”) They validated your opinions and feelings, whether they agreed or not. If they did disagree, they didn’t allow the disagreement to get in the way of the relationship.
And you likely returned the favor. You do love each other, after all. Truth is, almost everyone knows and practices good communication skills.
So why do so many feel they are not being heard?
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Estimated reading time: 30 minutes
“One does not, of course, ignore the great voices of the past. One does not awaken each morning with the compulsion to reinvent the wheel. But if one is a servant, either leader or follower, one is always searching, listening, expecting that a better wheel for these times is in the making. It may emerge any day. Anyone of us may find it out from personal experience. I am hopeful.”Robert Greenleaf, “The Servant as Leader”
In his seminal essay, Greenleaf introduced a fundamental concept: great leaders stem from great servants. Those leaders who place the needs of others ahead of their own needs are those who ensure success for their followers, and for their organization as a whole. In correlation, those followers who recognize and embrace their roles as servants, no matter how small their role, ensure the success of those around them, along with the organization they serve.
Since the introduction of this concept, organizational leaders and thinkers have developed an expansive literature and practice to assist leaders in acquiring this critical perspective as a path to greatness. This revolution in leadership is an overdue acknowledgment that some traits are only sufficiently acquired by eschewing traditional notions of leadership, while engaging in the humbling of one’s self as a servant. Although the concept has demonstrated validity, in my observation, much of the research, evidence, and practice is missing a key perspective.
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