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Conversation and Listening . . .The Inseparable Pair

Conversation and Listening . . .The Inseparable Pair

To be effective, leaders must first win the hearts and minds of those they lead.

By Mary Verstraete

Have you ever had the embarrassing experience of someone asking you a question during a conversation when you were pretending to listen? You had no idea what the question was, and you responded with a blank stare when the person waited for your response. The sounds of the words may go into your ears, but that does not mean that your brain interprets them; nor does it mean that your mind stores the message. 

Listening is one of the most important communication skills that we can acquire because it’s the primary way that we develop relationships, understand others and learn important, often vital, information. What happens in the workplace when listening breaks down? Employees don't feel valued, they believe that their voice hasn’t been heard, and their contribution is not appreciated. Consequences follow:

  • Disgruntled employees

  • Strained relationships

  • Decaying moral

  • Trust erodes

A good leader has the ability not only to listen and comprehend what has been said, but to also make people feel heard through empathetic and authentic dialogue. This is not always the easiest thing to do, especially when working under pressure with multiple priorities. If leaders don’t accomplish these things, statistics like this are often the result: Of the approximately 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs, 30 million (30%) are engaged and inspired at work, so we can assume they have a great boss. At the other end of the spectrum are roughly 20 million (20%) employees who are actively disengaged. These employees, who have bosses that make them miserable, roam the halls spreading discontent. The other 50 million (50%) American workers are not engaged. They’re just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers. State of the American Workplace Report, 2013. In the 2017 Report, these same struggles continue in varying degrees.

One step to higher employee engagement is trustworthy dialogue:

  1. Become knowledgeable on the nature and structure of a conversation that will equip you to connect with your team and employees skillfully and effectively.

  2. Recognize that effective communication is a skill and art. Example: We don't one day decide to become an expert listener. Skillful listening requires training of our minds to listen attentively at a logical, emotional, and organic level.

  3. Commit and make time in your schedule to be trained in becoming skilled in listening and in conversation.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw.

The Creation of Your Personal Brand

The Creation of Your Personal Brand

By Mary Verstraete

There is a long list of reasons why brand is important. Scott Goodson of StrawberryFrog, concisely states the importance of brand in his recent Forbes article:

Looking out into the world today, it’s easy to see why brands are more important now than at any time in the past 100 years. Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to a trademark. Products have life cycles. Brands outlive products. Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. Brands are valuable. Many companies put the value of their brand on their balance sheet.

Karl Speak, founder of Brand Tool Box in Minneapolis, Minnesota and coauthor of Be Your Own Brand, gives a vantage point on brand that is thought provoking:  

Everyone has a brand. Your personal brand is a perception held in others' mind, and it has evolved through their interactions with you. Through repeated contacts between you and another person, his or her perception of you sharpens and your brand in that person's mind becomes clearer.

People are constantly observing who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

How strong is your personal brand?

The authors of Be Your Own Brand, Karl Speak and David McNally, explain that the strength of your brand grows or weakens depending upon the consistent impact (positive or negative) you are making on other individuals.

Their approach advocates introspection:

A personal brand is not a result of a contrived image, colorful clothing, snappy slogan. Rather, a strong personal brand describes a person who chooses to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and who builds trusting relationships.

They answer the question: What constitutes a weak brand? A person whose attributes and perceived qualities lack clarity, and more importantly, someone who is not perceived to extend himself or herself to make a difference for other people.

Speak and McNally address that fact that anyone can be a strong brand and ask three questions to begin down the path of a strong personal brand that will make a difference in the lives of others:

  1. Do the people you know perceive qualities in you that are truly distinctive?

  2. Do they believe that you make those qualities relevant to them and their needs?

  3. Are you convinced that you will demonstrate those qualities consistently.


Practical steps to branding: 

Step One. Develop your personal brand that will be consistent with your values, your distinctiveness, and the needs that you can meet in the world around you. 

Step Two. Integrate these elements into your business brand. This will bring congruence between your personal and business brand.

Step Three. Enjoy the process of designing your brand that makes a difference in people's lives!


Content from Be Your Own Brand is used by permission.

 I couldn't be happier with the training. As a professional coach, I’m now involved in living my vision of being an agent for positive change in people's lives.

Alan Smith
CBMC Northland Area Associate Director