Are you an Empathy Hijacker?

“We can relate to people without hijacking the conversation” Communication expert Sharon Steed.

Sharon and I connected recently as we were both on an empathy panel together. I’m in love with her work transforming company culture with empathy. She has a great LinkedIn course about communicating with more empathy as well, and that’s where I got this insightful quote.

People often assume that sharing similar experiences with someone is empathy. Not quite. Empathy is more about listening and sitting with someone to see things from their point of view. Unless asked, it’s not about you hijacking the conversation and making it about you. 

You know you’re doing this if you ever tell someone: “I know how you feel, when this happened to me, I…..”

I say this with love, because I think we all (myself included) do this in an effort to show people we understand them. It’s our way of active listening and our intention is to make others not feel so alone. So I get it.

During my long recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm, and even today, as I struggle with life-long cognitive impairments as a result, well-intentioned people do this all the time:

“You have to write everything down? Oh my gosh, I forget things all the time, too. You’re just getting older like the rest of us!”

“Wow, now you know how I feel, not remembering dates and faces.”

“I have bad short-term memory too – it must just be mommy brain!”

All of these are well-intentioned attempts to connect. But all this does is diminish another person’s pain and experience. For me, when someone says this, it negates everything I went through, all the therapy, education, and struggle, as if it’s no big deal. 

Somewhere along the line, we mistakenly learned that sharing your own similar experience was empathy. It’s not. (Tweet This!)

Empathy is about perspective taking, information gathering, and actively listening. It’s about acknowledging another person’s experience. Yes, where appropriate one can share lessons learned or how they got through something, but the initial sharing is not the time. Just be patient. Give the person room to process and share first before you dive in with wisdom or advice.

Your response is about you, not the other person. You want to feel more comfortable, or “fix” things for the other person. That is not what they need. They need to feel heard.

You can understand someone without hijacking the conversation.

Sharon also shared this gem in her LinkedIn course: “Patience means slowing down your response to judgement. Without patience, there is no empathy” (Tweet This!)

When someone is sharing their experiences, here are 4 things you can say instead:

  1. Tell me more…
  2. Wow, that must have been a lot to go through. How does it make you feel?
  3. What I hear you saying is… that right or do you want to share more? I’d love to understand more.
  4. How can I help?/What support do you think you might need?

Got more? Tweet me @redslice or DM me on Instagram @redslicemaria

Photo Credit: Jude Beck via Unsplash

How to Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

How to Listen to Your Inner Wisdom

Has a leadership coach or self-help guru ever said to you, “You have all the answers inside of you; you just need to listen?” 

Upon hearing this, I usually roll my eyes. 

Please, I’m a smart cookie. If my intuition or whatever tried to speak to me during this crossroads, I would tell myself, I’d have heard it by now. But I’m still lost as to what to do. I’m still floundering. So she must not be speaking my language. 

But at a retreat a few years ago seriously changed my tune. Here’s what went down: 

I attended a women’s weekend retreat in Calistoga, California. Hosted by my lovely friend, speaker and author Shasta Nelson, this was about getting away, diving deep and learning how to listen to that quiet little voice that (seemingly) speaks a foreign language to me. 

Fueled by prompts, deep questions and fun exercises, we did a lot of journaling. Some of it was led by out guts, some of it was more thoughtful. We used words and images to wake up our inner wisdom and get it talking. Some of the work didn’t make sense at first….until it did and the insights cracked open right in front of me. 

While I’m not a “woo woo” kind of gal, I have to admit: it worked. 

The topics I journaled about, the images I was unknowingly drawn to, the words that popped into my head–they all pointed me to the same conclusions for how to spend my year.  True, some of these themes had been marinating for months, but I still craved clarity and direction. It dawned on me that I already had direction, but lacked  the confidence and permission to do what my soul was crying out to be done. I was too wrapped up in other people’s expectations and self-invented pressures. Doing the work shed those layers and forced me to face the core truth, with flashing neon lights pointing me in the right direction. 

I think I actually heard my soul huff in exhaustion, “Finally! She gets it!” 

What I uncovered is less important than how it was revealed. Like a lightning bolt, I finally got it. When people say, “You have all the wisdom you need inside of you,” all they mean is that… 

When you take the time to journal, or ponder, or use your gut to find images or words that speak to you (for whatever reason), themes will emerge.  (TWEET THIS!)

And you have to parse out and pay attention to those themes. While I was guided by activities and prompts all weekend, in the end, no one led me to these conclusions but my own subconscious. There was no therapist, guru or teacher spoon-feeding me these ideas. No one else but me came to those conclusions in my own heart and mind. 

This, my friends, THIS is what they mean by tapping into your inner wisdom.  

So how can you as a leader or entrepreneur, do it, too? I’m clearly not an expert, but here’s what worked for me: 

  1. Write down your thoughts. Yes, not everyone likes to journal, but you can’t believe the power of getting the slush and mud out of your head and onto paper. Feeling angry for no reason? Write it down. Have a daydream or desire? Write it down? Want to feel a certain way, even though you’re not sure what action it takes to get you there? Write it down. A sentence, a paragraph, a word, Whatever. If writing is not your thing, perhaps use simple one-word descriptors or images. The important thing is to get the chaos out of your head so you can examine it and find the patterns. It’s amazing what your subconscious is trying to tell you, but like a toddler, it can’t always find the right words, so it needs your help. 
  2. Find some quiet: Your wisdom is struggling for to speak to you: you just can’t hear it above the constant noise in your life. Turn off the phone, shut down email and go for a walk, sit by the beach or just lie on your couch with a warm latte in your hand. We try so hard to numb our confusion with external distraction that we can never discover what our body and intuition yearns to reveal. Maybe we’re scared. Maybe we’re lonely. But finding the quiet is essential to hearing the small voice inside of you. I have a rule of never listening to music while I walk my dog by the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. I spend that time listening, dreaming and pondering in silence. It is truly a delicious luxury. 
  3. Share your journey: This one can be especially scary. But sometimes the best insights can come from hashing it out verbally with someone. Open up about your fears, dreams, and dilemmas with a trusted friend and as you do, you’ll find your own truths will reveal themselves as you talk it out. Introverts may not love this idea, but as an extrovert, I can tell you that some of my best ideas have come from talking things out. Forcing yourself to verbalize your desires and challenges (especially if you hate writing, see #1 above) helps you to clearly focus on the real issues. This is why talk therapy works so well. Try connecting in person with a confidante and instead of dishing about our latest Netflix obsession, spend time sharing what’s coming up for you in terms of direction and desire. You may surprise yourself. 

Want some help crafting a juicy and delicious brand story for your business, or finding just the right words to intrigue your audience? Take a look at what we can do together and let’s chat! 

5 Ways Empathy Benefits Your Business

Empathy is not just good for society, it is good for your organization’s performance. 

(Yes, if I have to speak to selfish motives to make the world more empathetic, I will!) 

Empathy has been shown to have a direct impact on everything from customer loyalty to innovation to profits. When embraced with genuine intent and not simply as a glossy PR veneer, empathy can offer your organization countless benefits beyond just, well, being a good corporate citizen and doing the right thing for people!  

Caveat: While empathy offers all these wonderful benefits, it must be genuine. Your organization can’t just paint a glossy empathy veneer on for good press. 

It must truly embed empathy at the leadership, culture, and external brand levels.  (Tweet This!)

Here are 5 proven ways that empathy benefits your business:   

  1. Empathy spurs innovation: When you understand your customers, you can keep pace with changing needs and desires. Internal studies at Google found that their most innovative and profitable ideas came from teams leading with soft skills, such as empathy. 
  2. Empathy aligns you with customer wants and needs: The more in tune you are with your customers, the faster you can deliver best-fit products or services before your competitors catch on. In order to know what customers desire, you must see things from their perspective. Building an ideal customer profile will help you know what their life is like. Steve Jobs, for instance, focused on understanding a customer so well that Apple’s product designers knew what the customer wanted before they did. 
  3. Empathy improves employee performance: Employees with more empathy and collaboration skills can often outperform and advance faster than those with purely the technical skills to succeed. Organizations find that having these skills aids in team members’ individual successes. 
  4. Empathetic brands — and workplaces — appeal to millennials and Gen Z: As professionals, they are among the most diverse generations in the workforce and seek to leverage diverse perspectives to solve tough business challenges. They stick with employers who embrace new perspectives and value their points of view. As consumers, they’re loyal to companies and brands that care and make a difference. 
  5. Empathy drives sales, growth, and market performance: The best and most progressive corporations have begun to adopt and employ compassionate business tactics, which have improved their standing in the market. Many companies report improved metrics such as a healthier stock price, higher valuation and increased revenue. 

Want to read more about how empathetic mindsets and practices specifically benefit your leaders, culture, and brand performance? Please download this free guide: Five Ways Empathy Benefits Your Brand, Performance, and Culture 

And don’t forget to check out my new book, The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success (A Playbook for Brands, Leaders, and Teams. You’ll get an even deeper dive into research and case studies that process these benefits and get actionable steps you can take right now to make yourself and your organization more empathetic. 

How to be a better negotiator 

Nice guys and gals finish last. 

That has been the conventional wisdom, hasn’t it? That only sharks using cutthroat tactics can make favorable deals and negotiate effectively. 

I’m calling BS.  

Turns out, empathy is a secret weapon when it comes to negotiation and effective collaboration. And author, activist and strategic consultant Elisa Camahort Page shared with me how she learned this powerful lesson from an unlikely source: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

 Elisa knows how to successfully get what she wants, so of course, I had to sit down and talk with her about how empathy helps you negotiate deals that are mutually beneficial for both parties. 

Elisa is known as co-founder and COO of women’s media company, BlogHer. After the successful sale of that powerhouse brand, she’s now focused on speaking, writing and consulting with entrepreneurs and organizations. She co-wrote Roadmap for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism and Advocacy For All, a resource guide to activating around causes you care most about, which features contributions and/or endorsements by diverse activists and advocates such as Gloria Steinem,  Guy Kawasaki, Soledad O’Brien and Senator Kirsten Gellibrand (get it – it’s empowering!) 

Elisa’s thinking on this topic was triggered by an episode of her favorite cult classic TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’re not familiar with it, she gives us a quick overview. 

So many things I think you’ll love about this energetic interview, especially: 

YouTube video

Highlights include: 

*Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is rich with lessons in leadership and collaboration (2:23) 
*How innovators can learn to see unintended consequences and “take responsibility for the magic you create” (12:15) 
*What BlogHer taught her about mutually beneficial relationships (13:30) 
*Three things to look for in healthy relationships…and three things that can destroy partnerships (14:21) 
*Why we need to compromise and prioritize (18:30)  
*How to think about inclusivity when marketing and storytelling (20:30)  
* The easiest way to get to what someone really wants (28:21) 

Too many great Tweetables from Elisaso I’m giving you my faves! 

“Innovation + Empathy > Innovation + Efficiency” (TWEET THIS!)

“Instead of thinking about negotiation as a war, think about it as party planning. What pieces do you need in place to get this party started?” (TWEET THIS!)

“You can’t develop a bigger audience and community until you develop empathy for the people you want there” (TWEET THIS!)

Learn more about Elisa Camahort Page’s speaking and writing on her website  
Follow #RoadMap4Revs for info about the book, Roadmap for Revolutionaries 
Check out her new consulting firm, Ternstyle Group 
Discover her work with Mentor Bureau 
Connect with her on Medium, Facebook, or Twitter @elisacp 

How to Break the Rules of Success

Be a maverick. Break the rules of success.

Everyone applauds mavericks and innovators for breaking the rules when it comes to products or technology.  It’s the classic Cinderella story. And we celebrate this image of the lone wolf, standing on a TED stage, sharing with the world how he or she refused to listen and followed their own heart to find success. 

We tend to think of technology companies or big thinkers with huge global acclaim when we envision this inspirational story.  

Some of you might believe you can’t be such sexy mavericks in your own industry. I mean, what can a wellness coach, website designer, or financial planner really do to break the rules and innovate? 

I’d like to encourage you to think bigger about breaking the rules. 

For too long, the myth of the maverick has been stuck on replay: Compete. Be fearless. Invent something new. Take no prisoners. Be relentless. Hustle. Move. Go. Go. GO!   

But here’s the thing: you can be a maverick, a true innovator, by breaking the rules… of success and achievement.  (TWEET THIS!)

You can show that vulnerability is sexy (thank you, Corey Blake!) and endear yourself to your clients or community. 

You can use empathy and compassion, not more paid ads, shiny objects or get-rich-quick courses to build a stronger community and attract raving fans. 

You can prioritize quiet time, family time or creative time and still keep forward momentum. 

You can patiently achieve your goals and still make space to rethink and reinvent without constant hustling, “crushing” anything, or grinding yourself into the ground.  

You can use your success–at any level–to make the world a better place. You don’t have to wait until you have Oprah or Branson influence. 

You can be scared, confused, lost, and unsure when tackling any challenge. And admit to the world that you are doing so. Calling fear out by name, publicly, can fuel your resolve and drain its most potent power: the power to make you turn back or never try at all. 

You have the power today to be an innovator and rewrite your story of success so that it works for you.  

So what’s your story going to be? 

Why Passion is Great for Your Business

09.22.15 Why Passion is Great for Your Business (Blog)

If you do not follow social media expert Jay Baer on LinkedIn for subscribe to his Convince and Convert email newsletter, you should check both options out.

Recently, I joyfully read the transcript of his Content Marketing World keynote. He delivered it without slides or fanfare and seemed to have just spoken from the heart. His concept of The Mom Test is a rallying cry to marketers and businesspeople to stop turning content creation into a machine and focus on making connections.

Damn, I love that.

One of his gems: “Content is the emotional and informational bridge between commerce and consumer.”

And building that bridge requires more than spreadsheets and plans and analytics. It requires HEART.

Another gem: “Competition commoditizes competency”.

Meaning, if you use the same hacks, tools and systems that your competitors do, all your marketing and content will start to look the same. So, the only thing you have to differentiate what you do is your people and your passion. They can’t copy that, no matter how much they try.

They can copy form emails. They can copy price promotions. They can copy sales pitches. But if you believe in what you do and create content that improves lives in ways great or small­–whether helping fight global disease or even just giving a busy mom a moment of rest and reflection­–they can’t replicate that passion and brand fire.

From Jay: “But they can’t duplicate, they cannot steal if you fundamentally care more than they do. About content, and about content’s role to improve the lives of real people.

So I ask you a simple question, an existential question really:

Do you love content enough? Are you making content, or are you making a difference?”

It’s not about passion for passion’s sake. “Follow your bliss” makes for a lovely inspirational slogan but you have to marry passion with purpose. (Tweet this!)

What value does your passion offer to others whom you’re trying to turn into buyers, readers or donors?

This reminds me of an email conversation I recently had with a friend and online marketing rockstar who writes the most exuberant (and useful) content. I literally devour her words and look forward to her musings, even if she’s pitching me something. Doesn’t matter how crowded my in-box is that day – I make time to read her content.

I asked her how she organized her content marketing calendar. Her answer? She doesn’t have one. According to her: “Editorial calendars make me one sad panda.”

And you know what? Despite an editorial calendar being a great tool for staying organized and efficient (and one I recommend to my clients, in all honesty), she’s kind of right. Her content is super useful and it’s addictive because she cares. Her passion shines through every word.

Do whatever you need to do to stay on top of things. Use tools, templates, automation where it makes sense. You want to strive for consistency. But more importantly, when it comes to any marketing efforts meant to amplify your message and boost your brand, don’t just crank things out to simply check them off your to-do list.

Focus on the passion to deliver true value. Speak from the heart to attract raving fans.

How do you build your passion into your content, marketing or work in general? In one sentence, what is the passion that drives your business? Please share in the Comments!

Image credit: Ahmed Rabea via Flickr

The secret to differentiating your brand? You.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde (Tweet!)

What makes your brand, business or creative endeavor uniquely you? 

When we’re insecure teens, it seems easiest to just copy someone else. At that age, originality is just too risky.  Or is it?

Let me take you back to 1988. My best friend and I were inseparable. Whether it was busting out dance moves to Whitney Houston’s latest hit, swooning over teen heartthrobs (she: River Phoenix, Me: Kirk Cameron – before he went all oddballs) or taping our own version of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies (hopefully lost forever), we found comfort in our shared interests and tastes.

But the scandal that threatened to rock our friendship? We bought the exact same denim miniskirt jumper.

I admit, it was adorable when she bought it and naively thinking it would fun, I went and bought one, too. It fit both of our lean frames to a T. But she was not pleased at all and as you can guess, the inevitable happened: we wore it to school on the same day. Now granted, out high school teemed with more than 2000 students, but still….she didn’t speak to me for a whole day, which back then felt as long as the Civil War.

And I realized I had messed up.

In trying to take a short-cut and simply copy her style, I failed to cultivate my own identity – and ended up coming off like a first-rate tool.

What works for someone else may not work for you. Either it’s not at all believable, or it just looks desperate and sad. Just think about all the Apple lookalike ads you may have seen for sub-par (and not as cool) technology. But the inverse is also true: what works beautifully for you may be laughable for someone else to even attempt. (Tweet!)

You need to walk your talk and authentically deliver what you promise. How do you do that? By embracing and owning who you authentically are. It’s your story. Only you – with your perspective, experience, world view, sensibility, taste, emotion and intelligence – can tell it the way you  tell it.

While visiting the UK, I caught a news program on an MSNBC-type network. The pundit shouting at me sounded an awful lot like Rachel Maddow, who I happen to like. But it was a sad attempt to mimic her success – down to the cadence and tone with which she spoke. It was clear she was trying to replicate someone else’s success rather than create her own.

Why do we think it’s easier to copy someone else rather than break new ground? Why do we feel that our story is not as valuable just because others have told something similar? If we all thought that way, another book would never be written, another painting never created, another innovative clothing design ever produced. (Tweet!)

Can you imagine? “Well, we all have enough shirts in the world, don’t we? No need to design another one.” Please.

When working with my branding clients, our process always starts with the unique spin, strengths, perspective and benefits they offer that no one else can, regardless of if they offer something that thousands of other people do. No one else can do it like they do it.

That is how you build a breakout brand  – find your uniquity and let it shine. I mean, there’s tons of branding strategists out there, right? But you’re here, now, visiting moi. Thanks for digging my unique style!

Photo by Levi Saunders on Unsplash

When you shouldn’t give 100%

We’re taught that practice makes perfect. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Give 110%.

I was a straight A student in high-school. I remember being devastated when I got my first B ever (Geometry) and I was brought to tears in college when I got the first C of my life (Microeconomics). Even when I got an A minus, I was a bit miffed. I’m not sure what I thought: did I really think anything less than an A-plus was a complete and utter failure on my part? Did I think it meant I hadn’t mastered or learned the content?

Math was especially challenging for me. I was more of a vocabulary and English gal. But I was good at memorization so many of my math classes were about nailing down the formula and replicating it – even if I didn’t understand the theory or reasoning behind it. Not the best way to learn, is it?

Sometimes that goal of perfection – of the A-plus – can hurt us. If we are such perfectionists, we may never get our newsletters out each month, or write that novel, or take a chance on that new business pitch. We may never launch that website. Waiting for perfection is an impossible task, since perfection is never possible. And that means you’ll spend your life and career planning to do things rather than making them happen.

There is a reason software companies release new versions every year. Version 1.0 is never going to be as good as 5.0 or even 10.0. They roll out something that is mostly complete, learn from their mistakes, and gather feedback, tweak and refine. Rinse. Repeat. If companies had not failed when trying to introduce tablets in the past, the iPad may never have been so successful now. If that first brick of a cell phone had never seen the market until it was “perfect”, we’d never have had generations of phones leading up the sleek, small, powerful smart phones of today.

Seth Godin always talks about the importance of shipping. Strategy and planning is vital, don’t get me wrong. But at some point, you have to tell the inner perfectionist to shut the hell up and ship your product, launch your website, open your shop or start your consulting practice.

You’ll learn. You’ll get feedback. And you’ll evolve. Recently, I spoke at the New York Times Small Business Summit on a panel called Evolve Your Brand. We spoke about the fact that, while a brand should stay true to its core values and mission, it can and should evolve. The world changes too fast for you to ever keep up with some mythical perfection standard built on shifting sands. It changes by the second.

So are you going to wait and wait and wait for 100% perfection before you do anything – and be the best-intentioned business or person who never accomplished a thing? Or are you going to put in the strategy work, get to a solid 80% and push those efforts out the door so you can keep on going, keep on improving and keep on innovating?

Doers DO. It really is that simple.

If you want to stop spinning your wheels and make your brand irresistible, ensure your messaging is clear and attract more clients or customers, then stop the excuses of being too busy and get into shape at my next Branding Bootcamp!

Reboot and Reframe: Branding lesson for life #6: FACE THE FEAR

jump_fearBuilding a business is scary. And building a breakthrough brand is even scarier. An in other breaking news, spinach is green and red lights mean you should stop.

Everybody wishes they were Apple. They wish they could just be so hip and cool that no matter what new products they roll out, people will line up for miles just to own one. They wish their own brands would have that “hipness halo effect.” But I’ve noticed in my years of marketing and branding, that there is one common trait across many of these companies:

They don’t want to take the risks and they don’t want to do the work.

They think they can just revamp their website and update their colors and all of the sudden people will think they are “cool.” They forget the fundamentals of brand – and that they need to revamp their company, culture, innovation inside and out. And that takes balls, to be frank. You have to be willing to lead, to say “black” when all of your competitors are saying “white",” to take the road less traveled or try not to use the same old industry jargon in al of your marketing campaigns. To differentiate and stand out, you have to DIFFERENTIATE AND STAND OUT.

And that scares the bejeezus out of most risk-averse CEO’s and the people who work for them.

As I state in today’s video, sometimes you have to face the fear if you want to advance. I was scared of so much during my brain injury recovery, but I just kept at it. I “faked it until I made it.” I could choose to crawl up into a ball and hide from life – but I chose to take a deep breath and plunge myself back into my life again over and over until one day, it felt comfortable again.

It’s the same with brand.  Innovative leaders don’t get there by doing what everyone else is doing. They do it by taking chances, by standing out. They face the fear.  I’m not advocating doing this willy-nilly, but if you have a well thought out brand strategy, you can make smarter choices – and smarter risks. And part of that brand strategy should include doing things differently from the inside out.

View the juicy video for Lesson #6  here.

Which risks have you taken that have paid off in your business? Which risks are you less willing to take and why?

BACKSTORY TO THE SEVEN LESSONS: What do recovering from a  brain aneurysm and branding have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. Recently, I got the wonderful opportunity to share my dramatic story at a Women Business Owners luncheon and I promised I’d post the lessons here for everyone. This is a seven-post series.

Lesson #1: Focus (and backstory to the series)

Lesson #2: Be Authentic

Lesson #3: Count on Your Tribe

Lesson #4: Practice Patience

Lesson #5: Learn to Say No

Ask the Expert: Author Maria Gamb on how to be a leader, what corporations are doing wrong and how to influence your world

Healing the Corporate World. Doesn’t that just sound inspiring? It sure did to me, when Maria Gamb and her book of the same name recently crossed my path. Maria reached out to me when she saw a promotion I ran for my book and we promptly connected over being first time authors  – and sharing the same name. 

maria RTC 033So who is Maria Gamb? She’s a former Fortune 500 trailblazer who served for twenty-plus years as an executive in businesses valued at upwards of 100 million dollars. Today, she is founder, CEO, and “Chief Change Agent” of NMS Communications, where she helps executives and entrepreneurs alike lead profitable, innovative businesses  A leadership expert, Maria Gamb, launched her first book this past October. Healing The Corporate World: How Value-Based Leadership Transforms Business From the Inside Out. It will soon be available in digital format.

Her passion is to help businesspeople transform themselves and find their happiness, success and fulfillment. Maria is a native New Yorker, animal lover, avid cook and total foodie (all of which we also have in common!)

RS: Welcome, Maria! Seems to be a huge trend of entrepreneurship going on in our world today. Why?

MG: I think there are several reasons why entrepreneurship is on the rise: One, job cuts and the lack of new work have fostered the opportunity for many to take action on the dreams they’ve long held close to their chest. Two, some are done with the frustrations of the corporate arena and believe they can do it better. So rather than complaining they are taking action. Three, there are those who realize that they want to be more in control of their financial stability since the existing establishments haven’t proven to be as secure as the past. And finally, four, they just have a great idea they know they want to get out into the world.

The reasons for entrepreneurship vary but the economic issues of the past few years have been a huge catalyst for sure.

RS: What do you see as the fundamental challenge with the way corporate America operates today?

MG: Fundamentally, one of the issues within corporations is that they are often times wrapped in fear. Fear is the easiest and most concise word to use. Fear of changing direction. Fear of expanding or moving into something new. Fear that they may fail. Fear of doing something beyond the status quo. These fears are magnified in their people and how they operate with one another every single day.

During President Obama’s State of Union address recently he spoke about the need for innovation and newness in business. That this, in fact, will bring about new jobs for American workers. It does take a measure of bravery by the organization, the leaders at the top, cooperation of middle management and the people within. Without a doubt, it’s a matter of saying “we’re all in this together” rather than “let me just think about me and what I have or want”.

This is only one of the major shifts that need to occur. Many reading this will say “OK, but that doesn’t work where I work. So I’m out of luck”. Well, this may be true in one regard – perhaps those around you are not willing to shift.

So I would respond by asking what that person is doing within their own sphere of influence to foster their team to work beyond their own fear and perceived limitations to become a positive utopia within what may be a less-than-ideal situation. You see, it all starts with one or two people making the decision to shift their own way of working, then others follow. That’s what creates a movement. My book Healing The Corporate World goes into this in greater detail and extends this invitation to the reader.

RS: I love the idea of focusing on your own “sphere of influence” rather than trying to boil the ocean; reminds me of the principles in Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin.   So how do you define ‘leadership’? How do we know it when we see it?

MG: Plain and simply put, the correct definition of a “leader” is a person who is in service to others. Yes, service. Not a doormat. But in service to the people around them. How we know that this person is truly a leader is ask a few questions:

Do they care more about those they lead or themselves?

Are they committed to the enrichment and achievement of others?

Are they constantly seeking ways to grow, expand and create more opportunities for others? Which can mean jobs but may also mean advancement.

There are several other attributes of a powerful leader. But this is a good starting point. Remember, a great leader inspires, nurtures, provides vision and advancement to others. That’s what the “service” part of the definition truly means. When you have a person who can do these things, others follow them with enormous loyalty.

RS: What is your key piece of advice for developing our own leadership potential within ourselves?

MG: Being a leader is very much a journey of recognizing who you are, what motivates you and putting down your ego to allow others to shine. I offer these 3 points:

  • Be willing to put down your own “stuff” and “need to be right” all the time. It only shows your insecurity when you do.
  • Be willing to partner with others. Otherwise you’ll be a leader in isolation. And well, that’s not a leader at all it’s just someone talking to themselves.
  • Operate from a set of values that you hold dear. Then never compromise your actions. Those around you are always watching to see – do you mean what you say? Yes? Then take the actions that follow that no matter what. This builds trust.