Embracing and Being Transformed by the Storm

Storm chaser

Embracing the Storm

As I sat at my PC this morning attending virtual church, some of the dialogue focused on the fact that this is “Graduation Weekend” for most of the schools in our area. The pastor spoke of the different kinds of ceremonies taking place, given our isolated and socially distanced frameworks today. One thing he mentioned that stuck with me was that the student speakers used the themes of “Embracing the Storm” and “Transformed by the Storm” as their context for these significant times. These struck me in ways I didn’t really expect.
First, a bit of context (those of you who know me well know that I’m big on context and am a storyteller….). I was born and raised in Iowa, and grew up with the regular late spring and summer dangers of tornadoes. Since then I’ve lived in places where I’ve gone through super-typhoons, volcanoes and earthquakes. Still, there’s nothing like a tornado to make you feel like Mother Nature has drawn a bull’s eye on you (if you’ve ever seen the movie “Twister” you can get an idea of how personalized it can feel…). I’ve seen the inside of some pretty nasty storms, seen the destruction and felt the fear.
The big difference between any of those kinds of storms and what we are living through together now, in my observation, is that they had pretty distinct beginnings and endings (and then the clean-up could begin…). Nowadays, not so much. While we think we have an idea of where and when (and even a bit of how…) the whole COVID-19 pandemic began, we literally have no idea when, or even if, it will end (is ti going to be something that we just get a shot for every year like the flu, for instance? I don’t know…).
And, as if that didn’t throw the world into enough of a whirl, we have all the political and socio-cultural upheavals that have been boiling along for 40-60 years (and actually longer……) and have come to a head in the past 4 or 5. To lift out an obvious example, as a global concern, and especially here in America, the baked-in, systemic racism for which the death of George Floyd has served as a tipping point of awareness and anger for a significant portion of our world. These, and other, storms take our preconceptions and societal blind-spots and either blow them completely away or, at least, grind away at them to show us glimpses of Reality. Generally, it’s not pretty…
I return to my analogous experiences of embracing the storm:
  • I didn’t want to be there when the storm took place, but there I was.
  • The view of the storm I had was Real, and not removed by a TV screen or a news report. I was IN IT…..and I was scared.
  • My first prayer was one of survival for myself, and then for the others who were going through it with me. Regardless of whether you had a shelter (such as it might be…) or not, the storm did not care.
  • My next thought was one of fearful/hopeful wondering when it would be over and what things would be like afterwards.
  • During the long periods of clean-up and restoration, the community became more visible and provided hope, strength and the kind of caring that did the heavy-lifting of healing and repair, at all levels (that is, from literally picking stuff up to taking the data and event info and figuring out how to better protect life and limb in the future…).
That last point is the “Transformed by the Storm” bit.
Disasters have a way of breaking the points in a structure that are weak to begin with, as well as helping us to discover the unsung and previously unsuspected strengths of our communities. Transformation takes place when we as individuals, communities and societies honestly take those learned and painful bits and actually work to change and improve.
No recriminations (excepting criminality, which needs to be addressed and dealt with in a just fashion [“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”]). If institutions need to be created, destroyed or adjusted, do it. If ways of doing business work really well, keep and enhance them; if not, chuck them. If people and roles are “essential”, they need to treated as such all the time, not just when things go south and we need them.
We do not have the luxury of choosing when the next catastrophe will take place, or its nature.
The sooner we face the facts of our individual and collective complicity in our own inadequate and frankly disastrous existing paths of response (or lack thereof…), the better chance we have of still being on this lovely world of ours in a hundred years.

 

INTERVIEW: Social Sapiens and the Seattle Shrimp Tank!

Seattle Shrimp Tank pros and Me (Social Sapiens)

Seattle Shrimp Tank pros and Me (Social Sapiens)

I was asked recently to be interviewed on a podcast (of and for entrepreneurs and business owners…) of which I have been aware and have listened to a few times. Most of my familiarity with the content and tone of it, however, derived from my relationship with one of the co-hosts, Dan Weedin. Dan is a colleague, friend and fellow Rotarian, so familiarity bred a bit of lowered attention on my part, I admit.

Dan called recently and asked me if I would like to be interviewed for the Seattle Shrimp Tank podcast. It sounded like a load of fun, so I agreed.

Some of the things we talked about include:
  • Where did social media start, what’s going on with it today, and where is it going? (the short version!)
  • What is the importance of thinking about business goals, plans and strategies when considering digital marketing and hiring an expert to help?
  • How important is it to learn how to express yourself well online? What is the balance of listening, asking powerful questions, and understanding in developing an authentic and powerful online presence?
  • What else is there other than the “usual suspects” of social media (like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, Pinterest and the like)? Is there more there?
  • What’s the right frequency to post online?
…and so much more. Check out the whole podcast here, and the shorter video follow-up here. We covered a lot of great questions and concerns.

If this interview brought up other questions for you about your business and professional presence online, please reach out to me and also look for some other information that’s relevant to you on my site here.

Listening: Attention or Intention?

Attention Listening

Listening

“PAY ATTENTION!!!!!”

In your life, how many times have you heard that phrase, either from someone else or your internal voice? Shutting out distractions like noise, devices or the torrent of thoughts and imagination that the Buddhist tradition has termed the “monkey mind” seems nearly impossible. We slap ourselves internally in some fashion, and try to refocus on the speaker. This can be just as jarring as the distractions themselves!

Mindful Listening is really not about attention. It’s about intention. Let me explain how I understand and experience the difference.

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Listening is Hard

Listening

Listening

As an intelligent business owner and entrepreneur in the 21st century, you are already very aware of the importance of listening to your customers, prospects and audience (your Visitors / Audience / Customers / Community (VACC): you can read more about what this looks like here …..). “Listen” is, however, a word that is subject to as many interpretations as there are ears…
Going a bit deeper, what kinds of listening are there that you can leverage?
Definitions of types of listening are as varied as there are authors of articles, books and consultancies whose purpose is to guide you to a solution that works for you and your business….a solution that results in the kind of success you’re looking for: that loyalty-balance of relationship quality and profitability, with credibility overall. It’s kind of like a combination of “the right tool(s) for the right job” and a high-wire balancing act.
  • listen-to-understand
  • listen-to-reply
Since every conversation only has 100% of the time allotted for it, whether it’s 20 minutes or 2 hours or more, more listening requires less talking.
So what does more listening actually do for this relationship you’re trying to build?
It is the key to building trust.

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The Best Ways to Utilize Dialogue and Communication

Dialogue and Communication

Dialogue and Communication

The articles, books and webinars / workshops focusing on communication (a term that is becoming more and more vague, actually…) are multiplying as rapidly as cat videos online, frankly.

Who to pay attention to? How many are publishing because it’s a way to get clicks, a way to push a new book or membership offer, and how many are really spending time standing upon the shoulders of the giants who have come before (or who are working now…) and seeking ways to execute on the most effective thoughts and frameworks to bring dialogue into our lives and businesses that will change things? Few have the time or patience to figure this out.

I must confess to being caught up in this myself. This goes way back for me, to my early days as a musician and composer. I have always been fascinated by how music can touch that part of a human being in a conversation that goes to a deeper place. We are simultaneously very complex and very simple. Truth, trust-building, the components, if you will, that comprise a close and meaningful relationship with someone are common across us all. While music is as individually interpreted as any other form of communication, the use of words can be more of a challenge due to internally established meanings and contexts for each person.

The complexity comes with what Anthony de Mello calls “our programming”. We are each utterly unique in our make-up and our experiences. As a result, how I react or “hear” something from you is quite likely to be different than how someone else does. Hence my focus on dialogue in all walks of life.

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If You Read One Article About Ideas, Read This One!

BOOKS: Ideas Bound

BOOKS: Ideas Bound

I have long had the habit of reading more than a book at a time…

Since the advent of the Amazon Kindle, however, this has become something that is second nature. I don’t think it odd, and, with the ready access to who-knows-how-many books and samples I carry around, it just “is”! Much lighter, and a bit easier to keep track of where I am in each one….

This has allowed an enhanced creative journey for me. I read several kinds of books, according to my mood and focus…right now I am in the midst of:
…along with a couple of physical books (I have an enormous number of them that I either haven’t read yet, or return to regularly…):

Why Focus on Loyalty?

Loyalty

Loyalty

Loyalty, always a high-sounding word, is ever more in the news and on our minds.

Whether it’s loyalty to a sports team, a political cause or ideology, a leader, a brand, a long-standing relationship, a coffee shop, or the family doctor, we seem to be more concerned with it and discuss it more than ever before.

I’ve been doing (and continue to dig into…) research on loyalty. Specifically, I am interested in:
  • What the drivers are for customer loyalty to businesses
  • How these drivers relate to relationship and dialogue stages
  • Factors / components that are online, off-line, and a blend of the two
  • Other components or influences that I have yet to uncover
While this will not be the “Unified Theory of Loyalty” (with apologies to physicists everywhere….), I wish to come to a clearer understanding of what establishes, builds and maintains this stance in customers and people in general. Humans are complex, absolutely unique individuals who, nonetheless, exhibit certain related behaviors and tendencies. If this were not so, the social sciences would have to just fold up their collective tents and take up hospitality management.

As I continue to research this topic and make discoveries, I will be writing about them here first. The eventual end-product is likely to be a paper, some podcasts, a video or two….likely a combination of all of the above.

So stay tuned!

Now, having gotten the preface out of the way, let me get to the first bit:

Why Loyalty?

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Innovation and Dialogue

dialogue innovation

Dialogue

How much of innovation is an Isaac Newton-like moment (mythically alone and the apple drops on your head….”AH-HA!”) and how much is something else entirely?

And what IS that something else?

I wrote another article asking if innovation was dead. Looking at the world around us, it seems a mixed set of answers. Some things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cars and certain kinds of other technology seem to beg the question that innovation is alive and well. But we still have stubborn problems as a culture and a world that seem to defy innovative answers. Some of these problems are so monumentally complex that just trying to confront or define them is hard enough (think eradication of hard poverty, cures for things like cancer or diabetes, nuclear proliferation, economic inequality, how to have a positive outcome with whatever the heck is happening to global environment, etc….).

Getting to a more manageable level, like your business, how do you:
  • keep from being a follower when it comes to coming up with new and different ways to attract customers
  • improve and create new products and services
  • grow your business in scalable ways
  • stand out from the crowd of competitors
and the like?

Going it alone can seem attractive. It can feel like, unless you come up it, it’s not really your innovation or idea. This is a real danger for solopreneurs, as innovation is not the same as churn, and this churn is where many of us live and work. Surrounded by shifting tasks, fluid schedules, never-ending revisions of services and offerings….it can SEEM like Innovation at times, even if it’s just a new way to get through the day in one piece!

It’s not.

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Rudeness Wrecks Everything

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Rudeness

Rudeness

According to an article recently published in the New York Times, rudeness, even just “slight incivility”, has a negative impact upon those exposed to it. The article concerns a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics by several co-authors from the Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University and the Bnai Zion Medical Center.

The objectives of the study were:
  • “Rudeness is routinely experienced by medical teams. We sought to explore the impact of rudeness on medical teams’ performance and test interventions that might mitigate its negative consequences.”
The conclusions were:
  • “Rudeness has robust, deleterious effects on the performance of medical teams. Moreover, exposure to rudeness debilitated the very collaborative mechanisms recognized as essential for patient care and safety. Interventions focusing on teaching medical professionals to implicitly avoid cognitive distraction such as CBM may offer a means to mitigate the adverse consequences of behaviors that, unfortunately, cannot be prevented.”

I also read an article by Valeria Maltoni entitled “Alain de Botton’s Ten Virtues of the Modern Age.Alain de Botton is, among other things, a prolific author and founder of the School of Life. (I highly recommend following these links and finding out more…). The reason this article resonated so much with me as I thought about the rudeness study is the potential solution the Virtues present to the problem of rudeness in our societies.

Unfortunately, our society has begun to prize rudeness over civility. While the most rabid examples can easily be found or recalled from the past election season here in the US, it’s been around for a very long time. We justify it by saying that we’re just “being real”. I have witnessed numerous scenes in corporate meetings and relationships where the cutting remark or put-down was used to discredit someone’s idea, derail a conversation, or redirect a discussion that wasn’t going someone’s way. One of several articles I published reviewed how this can severely impact innovation and communication, making success or even progress highly unlikely.

The study cited earlier showed that the rude remark has a global negative effect on physical performance, cognitive performance, communications and teamwork for a significant time after the comment is made. While this has potentially life-ending effects in health care, was does this imply for business?

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