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Why Isn’t Anybody Listening?

May 11th, 2010

JG-Standout-PPT-graphics-2-150x150by Motivational Speaker Jean Gatz

“I give up! Why should I bother to share ideas about how our company can improve our products and services, be more successful, and increase profits? Nobody ever listens anyway.”

I hear some variation of this comment wherever I deliver my keynotes and workshops. It’s usually followed by a remark that goes something like this. “I wish my boss (manager/supervisor /leader) could hear you talk about how we ALL can learn from each other.”

Successful leaders get the point. They know that whether they’re working directly with a customer or they’re working with someone who is, the ultimate goal is to create an outstanding product or service that customers want and need. In addition to sharing their own ideas, they’re ready and willing to listen to others’ ideas and learn from them.

Recently I was privileged to keynote a corporate client’s annual conference. Instead of the usual sales meeting format, they expanded their event to include those in leadership positions at every level in every area of the company. I gave all of them an assignment before they arrived. They were to come prepared with feedback gathered from their own departments on specific issues.

This means they had to take time in advance to communicate with every team member in person, by phone or by email, asking for their input and suggestions as to how the company could improve its products, increase profits and deliver better service. We talked about leadership, communication and managing change. Between sessions people had the opportunity to interact, discuss issues, solve problems and figure out how to work together more effectively.

Leaders in this company gave more than lip service to the phrase “our people are our most important asset.” They shared their vision for where they wanted to take the company. Then they asked questions about how policies, procedures and customer service could be improved to help them do that. Everyone gained valuable skills they could implement when they returned to their teams. People had the opportunity to rethink how they could help the people in their respective departments meet and exceed their goals.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not typical of most organizations. Some leaders get so busy “leading” that they forget to communicate what’s important. They assume others know as much as they know. They don’t ask questions, listen, or act on others’ feedback – no matter how valuable it is. Let’s face it. No one wants to be left out of the loop, misunderstood or surprised by news they should have already known. Strong and confident leaders share information, are open to new ideas, and are committed to creating a culture that is trusting and productive.

How would you describe communication in your organization? Is it open… honest… direct… responsive…and inclusive? What did your last leadership meeting look like and sound like? Do your leaders bring people together to talk about how you can help each other reach your goals – for now and for the future? Are they open to listening to new ideas from smart, creative and dedicated people, no matter what their job title happens to be? Good leaders never miss an opportunity to learn, and to let others know that someone really IS listening.

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Don’t Forget to Breathe!

May 5th, 2010

JG-Standout-PPT-graphics-2-150x150by Motivational Keynote Speaker Jean Gatz

Staying calm while dealing with change in your workplace is a lot like snorkeling for the first time. It can be unsettling and even scary. My mother always told me that if I put my head under water and tried to breathe, I would drown. Period. I never questioned her advice on this issue, as it made perfect sense to me. Years later a snorkeling instructor gave me the exact opposite advice. Put my head under water, stay calm…and breathe. (Oh, and he told me to have fun, too).

Now I was flooded with doubts. What if this is too hard? What if I can’t learn? What if my mother was right? After several attempts I began to lose my fears, relax, and enjoy the views of the fish and coral reef below. I took a risk, learned a new skill and replaced my fear with a new level of confidence. No one could do it for me. I had to do it myself.

Look around your workplace. What’s different? Maybe your job duties have changed in order to handle a new project, a reduction in staff, or new people coming on board with new ideas and new ways of doing things. If your organization is changing to survive, your job will never be the same. That means YOU will also have to change to survive – by taking a risk, learning new skills and replacing your fears with new levels of confidence. No one can do it for you. You have to do it yourself.

As I talk with people after my keynote, Business As Usual Is Over™ they confess that they really don’t like change. They see change as a problem. But as we know, CHANGE itself is not the problem. It’s been around for a long time. The problem is often our unwillingness to accept and integrate change into our jobs and our lives.

Let’s face it. Most changes, even the good ones, usually involve challenges, inconvenience and hard work. Companies, organizations, CEOs and business owners need employees who willingly CHOOSE to accept change without resisting or handholding. They can’t afford to keep employees who have to be led. They need employees who will lead the way for others.

So… when it comes to dealing with change, you have two choices.

1. You can resist, play it safe, close yourself off, be content with status quo, complain, worry, and spend your time hoping that the world finally comes to its senses, slows down, and gets back to the way things used to be.

OR…

2. You can take action, meet the world head-on, broaden your knowledge base, develop new competencies, sharpen your skills, and learn from every person you meet and every experience you have.

Deciding how to handle change is a choice that will determine your future success. Letting go of fear, being open to new ideas, and learning new skills are all smart choices. Sure, they all involve challenges, inconvenience and hard work. But you get to choose. No one can do it for you. You have to do it yourself. But you know you can! Just take it one step at a time … stay calm… and don’t forget to breathe.