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Quantity vs quality in Conversations: Knowing the Difference

Quantity vs quality in Conversations: Knowing the Difference

How long has it been since you’ve had a really good conversation? One that you walked away from saying, “I feel good. Not just about me, or the person I was just talking to, but in general. Maybe even about my work, my life”? Most conversations are passing, fleeting words that may not really be sinking in, as the majority of our messages are not even received correctly. For example, research says that at least 55% of messages sent by text that use an emoji are perceived incorrectly. How do we manage to have so many conversations – and not say anything at all?

What drives us to have an actually good conversation?

I’ll ask the question in a different way – what drives us not to have a conversation like that? How many of the conversations that you typically have in the day do you feel you didn’t get the message across, you are wary of the results, or , maybe even worst of all, you got nothing out of it at all? You’re indifferent to the entire conversation (and maybe the person too)?

This is a “quantity vs quality” conversation argument. Many people go through their daily conversations with somewhat reckless abandon. “I need to get this across, I don’t know or really care what the other person is thinking”. Or they don’t even have the conversation at all. I will honestly admit, I also do this at times… I enjoy talking, having conversation, both talking and hearing what others have to say. I’m curious. I want to know more. Sometimes, however, I barely ask the question and the other person has started to respond when I’m already ready to move on to the next question (whether I’m bored with the answer already, or think I know what they are going to say… honestly probably a bit of both). This is a situation of quantity conversation but no quality time in the conversation.

Another example – what about people you spend a LOT of time with – peers or employees at work, those you live with at home – and you barely spend a few minutes really talking to them each day? You may spend 2-3 hours with them (in a meeting, in the living room, etc) – and yet you are on your computer, your phone, and you really only co-exist nearby. You have no idea what’s really going on because you actually don’t even say enough to them. You have quantity time in the room, but no quality conversations.

Why do we do this? Perhaps it is because we:

  • get used to our routines
  • don’t think we have much to say
  • think we’ve said it all
  • have stopped investing in the relationship

The last one is the big one. As time goes on, we forget how important those relationships are, and let them just… carry on without us. When is the last time you’ve had a genuine conversation with your boss on where you really want to go, what you want to do in your role, your career or for the team? When is the last time you’ve had a 30-minute direct and uninterrupted conversation with your best friend, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, sibling, parent?

Relationships are like plants: you can’t just water it once and be done. Just because you’re together (in the relationship, in the company) doesn’t mean your connection is fine. It takes effort. It takes constant quality conversation to maintain that relationship.

Your homework is this. Pick 2-3 people that you have important relationships with (as suggested above) and have at least a 30 min quality conversation with them in the next week. See how it feels. And then do it again. Start making it a habit to have more quality conversations. You’ll see the difference immediately.

On a High Note: Start every meeting with a Success Story

On a High Note: Start every meeting with a Success Story

Quick… how many meetings do you attend in a week? A dozen? More? How many meetings are you the leader?

How do those meetings typically get started? Do you dive right into the meeting work? Do you review an agenda? Does the meeting start 5 minutes late, then just rush through the meeting action items?

Meetings are constant. Some may say they are a necessary evil, but regardless of your viewpoint, they aren’t going away. How many of them do you walk away from a meeting not any better than when you started? How many meetings did you start, wishing any piece of this meeting could be positive, no matter how big or small?

You’re not alone. More than 70% of meetings are considered to be ineffective, poorly run or inefficient. Although I can’t give unsolicited advice here on how to improve your meeting, I will give a quick, simple tip on improving it from the beginning:

Start every meeting with a Success Story
Think about it. You have meeting items you must accomplish. Some may be serious. Some conversations may be intense. Why not start on a high note? Starting with a success story allows a way for you to 1) transition from whatever you were doing before (another meeting, another task etc) and 2) reset your expectations in a positive way.

How do you do it?: Lead the group and ask “Who has a success story for us today?” – the first few times you do this, you may have to set expectations. Let people know that no story is too small, and (at your choice) it can be personal or professional. Some worry allowing personal stories (for instances, my son won his first soccer game) may deviate from the importance of the meeting, however, this typically is not the case. People WANT to feel good about what they are doing – getting people in the right mindset – even if it’s about an item not related to the topic of the meeting, which will do that.

Be prepared with a few of your own stories to get people started. Did someone on the team lead a call and was better than average? Did someone else share an accolade about a milestone you reached? Did a product just launch? Is something about to happen, but there’s hype (or hope!) around its results? Did you finally finish moving out of a storage unit? Cook your first loaf of bread from scratch?

Try it out. It may feel awkward at first but eventually it becomes ingrained in the meeting. Starting the meeting off on a positive note helps anchor the team to move forward through the agenda in a better mindset… perhaps, even with a smile on their faces. ?

Own Your Today – and What About Tomorrow?

Own Your Today – and What About Tomorrow?

Last week, I had the privilege of turning over my command in the US Navy to my successor. I have been in charge of a 50+ sailor reserve LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) Maintenance Unit for the last 2 years, and at my Change of Command, I gave the following speech. I challenge you to think about how you’re owning your today – and challenge all of us to review our concerns for tomorrow. Instead, adopt the mantra as suggested here by President Roosevelt, “How Exciting”.

Change of Command Speech – January 22, 2023

Commander Prisant

When I started my command two years ago in 2021, how many of you were here?

Not many. When I started, this unit was called the LCS SUW Mayport. Now we are the mighty LCS Met Det C (Maintenance Detachment Charlie) Tampa. But more on that later.

What does it mean to own your today? Well, I’ll be honest, the original expression is not my own. Ever heard of Charles Schwab? Their motto is “Own Your Tomorrow”. I believe it comes from the idea that YOU are responsible for what happens in YOUR future (in this case, for retirement, etc).

Owning your today does not mean life is perfect and that you should see everything through rose colored glasses. It means you recognize where you are today – and you take it with you. Don’t let someone else own YOUR today. Don’t let them take it from you. Own yours. How will you do it? How will you take it to your tomorrow?

Owning your today means taking charge of what’s yours. Full Stop. You have the opportunity to do what you’re doing. Right. Now. Whether it’s leading a division as a First Class PO or learning the Fire main System on an LCS – YOU get to do those things. Maybe your personal life isn’t 100% of what you want. But you have elements that you built, friend or family that you appreciate and choose to continue to develop those relationships. It’s a sailor in this unit that’s going to school, managing a family and trying to get advanced because he knows he should at least try. And he succeeded.

Maybe you’re not in the place where you want to be in your civilian job – but you do have a job that you have attained in some way. It’s a sailor that took on the Det C leadership role even though her civilian job was just starting, and she didn’t even know if she could manage both – and she did.

That’s your start point. You take it from there. You own your today.

As many of you know, I tend to teach from experiences, and this is no exception. The unit was very different at the beginning. I was different. That first year was hard. There was a lot of learning, of growth, and yes, a lot of pain in the ass. I will admit that I struggled. There were broken processes and rules being broken on a regular basis. I wanted to blame someone. I wanted to push it on the previous command. On “it’s not me… so why do I have to deal with it”? When things are difficult, our first instinct is to play the blame game – “it’s not fair”, “who came up with this process?”

And then I realized – that doesn’t matter what others did before me. It matters what I do now. Maybe I didn’t get the perfect place to start. The place I wanted to start. But I did get a place to start – my place to start – and that was saying something. I got the opportunity to make this my own – to make an impact and make the change. Saying “it’s not fair” or someone else has it better than me gets me nowhere. This was my opportunity, and I was going to take it. I was going to own my today.

How will you own your today? How will you take charge of what is yours, right now?

As for your tomorrow – I know many of you can’t even bear to think of a Det C without CDR Prisant (I know, I know) – but for those that may wonder what to do next or may be worried about the chance you may take, I leave you with this little story.

Anyone ever watch the movie “Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller? At the end of the 2nd movie, he realizes his time as a museum guard is coming to a close, and he’s visibly nervous about what tomorrow will bring. He says worriedly to Robin Williams, playing museum statue President Roosevelt, “I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow”. Robin Williams replies with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes “How exciting”.

So thank you. To each and every one of my sailors in MET DET C. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow and maybe you don’t know either.

How exciting.

Own your Today

Own your Today

I will say this in advance – this is not a plug for Charles Schwab, but I have to say I do like the company’s motto, Own your tomorrow. They are an investment company that makes their living on helping others get to their financial goals – typically in the distant future. The motto is strong because it empowers the customers to think they own a part of their future, their “destiny,” if you will. That not everything is left to chance – you can take ownership.

With the current events as they are these day, I would like to respectfully build on Schwab’s motto a little and say Own your Today.

There is a lot going on in the world: inflation, layoffs, and a dozen eggs that cost $6. We continue to be challenged in a variety of ways. However, you are not a victim. You are not subject to the fates of the world. You do have the ability to own what happens to you.

For example, let us say you are laid off because of job reductions. It has happened to many in the recent months. You could be a victim and say “Woe is me” … or you take it as an opportunity to do something better or maybe something you want to do. I have a former student that this recently happened. She could go on LinkedIn and complain and beg for anyone to connect her, to help her find something since she is a victim of circumstance. She has not done that. She has taken it upon herself not only to share her viewpoint and her challenges as she moves forward and look for “what’s next,” but to challenge others to improve themselves as well.

It could be a promotion you did not get. A fight with someone you are close to that you did not start. That what got you here, that you worked so hard to get or did not get you there, or someone in your life that just has it easier than you. It does not matter.

No one can make you feel inferior without your permission. Eleanor Roosevelt said that. Take her words to heart and take a chance by Owning your Today. Don’t wait – no one else can own your today – but you.

Let go now: The Power of a Non-Virtual Experience, aka ’Put the Electronics Down’

Let go now: The Power of a Non-Virtual Experience, aka ’Put the Electronics Down’

When is the last time you went an hour without any electronics? Not counting the obvious (sleeping, driving, etc) – that you SHOULDN’T be texting… Could you do it for a day?

If you cannot, you’re not alone. Nearly 50% of All Americans say they can’t go without their cell phone, and that includes people that don’t even have them, like small kids, older adults, or people that realize there’s more to life than a phone!. There is now new words in the dictionary – like “phubbing” (basically snubbing someone by being on your phone, instead of talking to them) and the emergence of cell phone addictions – as well as ways to fix those addictions.

We are losing touch with touch itself! As a leader or a manager – how often do you use IM (instant messenger) or an email to say what you just don’t (or can’t) say? As an employee – how often do you “project” yourself by firing off an email to a co-worker instead of having a face to face (or Zoom to Zoom)?

This month – When you get ready to open your phone – I challenge you to 3 questions by Kevin Roose, New York Times columnist. If you can’t CLEARLY articulate an answer, then I challenge you to PUT the phone down and make a tally of every time you chose yourself, your team, family, friends – your Non-Virtual Experience – over the latest Twitter feed, email update, or FB trend.

What for?
Why now?
What else?

You may just learn something.

You may just see something you haven’t seen before (and wouldn’t if you were looking down).

And before you know it, you may just be a bit happier & a bit less stressed.

Try it.

Other links:

Turning Leadership Challenges into Questions … and lose Control

Turning Leadership Challenges into Questions … and lose Control

Lose Control? Should you want to do that as a leader? Should you ever just “let go” of the reigns, and give control to the people? Won’t they just run amok and act out scenes from the Caine Mutiny if that’s the case?

I had the benefit of listening to Dr. George Kohlrieser, organizational and clinical psychologist and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland and former hostage negotiator, in the last week. He recounted a variety of stories that talked to working through challenges in the most daring of situations and a few things stuck out for me.

He talked about working with a kidnapper in a hostage situation that was very particular about his needs and refused to listen to anyone. Dr. Kohlreiser began asking him a series of questions – do you want to stay on the floor you are on to talk with others around, or go to another floor? Would you like to use the phone or a video camera to call? He continued to ask questions of the kidnapper, even to the point where he knew he would be arrested, “Would you like to be handcuffed in the front or the back?” and “Do you want someone to walk you out, or do you want to do it on your own”?

Even under these terms (and I’m leaving out some for brevity!), knowing the kidnapper had done egregious things, Dr. Kohlreiser gave him control of the situation, or perceived control. Did Dr. K really care which way the handcuffs sat? No, he just wanted them on the kidnapper. However, in giving the kidnapper the questions, the power, and the perceived control – he built trust with him, a rapport – and empowered the kidnapper to answer the questions, and go willingly with what Dr. K wanted him to do.

How does this apply to your leadership? Next time you have a challenge on your hands – or you don’t know how to answer someone asking how to move forward on a situation or project – ASK QUESTIONS. Give them the POWER OF CHOICE. The questions don’t have to be hard, or particularly impactful – but by allowing them to control their own direction, you will help them move closer to the course you’ve charted for you both.

The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II

Additional information: Dr. George Kohlrieser created and directs the International Institute for Management Development (IMD)’s flagship High Performance Leadership (HPL) program. He is also the author of the award-winning bestseller Hostage at The Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others and Raise Performance and Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership. George has been a guest on the BBC, CNN, ABC and CBS, and his work has been featured in the WSJ, the NYT, and the Economist.

Hold the Flashlight – Showing the (simple) spectrum of leadership

Hold the Flashlight – Showing the (simple) spectrum of leadership

Open up any business book or magazine and you’ll find it. Elusiveness is its main descriptor for those that are trying to succeed in it consistently. And anyone good in business has definitely done it wrong because you just can’t get them all right, all the time.

It’s the Simple Spectrum of Leadership

Leadership is the art of influencing another person. It doesn’t mean that you actually are the boss or manager, but means that you have the ability to influence another person to do what you want (whether or not they wanted to do it in the first place is somewhat irrelevant). The reason that leading is hard is because of the spectrum of leadership – the fact that every person is different- with different goals, focuses, experiences and motivations. You being the manager of me would require a different style to be successful than me being the manager of you. We have different personalities, places in life and desires.

So How Do We Navigate the Spectrum?

Over upcoming articles, we’ll explore some of the key elements that will not tell you how to “do leadership” (although many out there try to say it’s just following step 1-2-3) but it will give you ideas on how to approach best courses of action based on certain criteria (such as your personality, the others’ personalities, motivations, goals, projects, etc).

Today, It’s About Holding the Flashlight

When I was an Ensign in the Navy, a brand-new officer who barely knew how to put on my rank correctly, I was assigned to be the Gunnery Officer on a destroyer. I was (on paper) in charge of the 5” gun on the front of the ship. (Side note – do not let the 5” mislead you into thinking it’s a small weapon; it is quite large, shoots very large bullets and makes a whole lot of noise!). I did not know how to fix the gun. Heck, I didn’t even know how to operate the gun. That’s what my Gunner’s Mates and Fire Controlman did.

One night, right before a major gun shoot exercise – the gun went down. Hard. It was a major inspection and we had to get it going. So, it was all hands on deck. Everyone worked through the night to get the gun repaired. But… although I was the one in charge, I could do nothing. I literally had no ability to fix that gun. So – I could have gone to bed. It would be great to have the Gunnery Officer well rested before the precision gun shoot in the morning. Maybe it’s what I should have done.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I went to where my sailors were, and stood there. I held the flashlight as they needed it…as they troubleshooted and fixed various parts of the gun. I talked to them when they got tired, listened to their stories, listened as they bantered back and forth. At the time, I didn’t realize that my presence there did anything – I didn’t do anything. I just held the flashlight.

But in the morning, when the gun was fixed, and the Gun Shoot & Inspection went off as planned, my senior enlisted Chief Petty Officer came to me and told me how much I did for my team, and how my being there helped make that day a success. Shocked, I asked the question – “What did I do?”. He said that I led by example. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t fix the gun or find the right tool. It matter that my team, my sailors, knew I was there for them. And would back them up. That meant much more than just fixing the problem.

So…. I challenge you. How do you “hold the flashlight” for your team? Where do they need to know that you’re just there… supporting them … even if it’s from the background?

Fostering Leadership: Kimberly Ross, BluSkye Consulting

Fostering Leadership: Kimberly Ross, BluSkye Consulting

Fostering leadership in any organization is fundamental. Companies who foster a culture of leadership set the tone for a positive, empowering work environment. Leadership must drive this vision and lay the ground work to cultivate a positive result. This starts with attracting like-minded talent and nurturing ‘leaders in the making’.

Some people are born leaders, while others are ‘leaders in the making’. Leaders are those who step up to the challenge. They practice active listening, are open minded, creative and think outside the box. Great leaders communicate effectively, are decisive, and empower those around them. They are honest, loyal and have integrity. Leaders are part of the solution!
Researching what makes a person a good leader has led me to three core competencies – interpersonal skills, time management, and organization.

Interpersonal Skills
The first of these competencies is possessing and practicing good interpersonal skills. Leaders are active listeners, reliable and self-confident. They show empathy, have a positive attitude, and are team players. These leaders have a positive influence on others, often without knowing it. They motivate and inspire others around them. Leaders are creative problem solvers. Most importantly – they communicate effectively!

Time Management
Secondly, a good leader practices time management. This includes focus, self-awareness, goal setting, prioritization and more. Example: Having 30 plus years of sales experience and worked for several Sales Managers, it has been my experience holding team calls or one-on-one meetings at the beginning or end of the day frees up sales personnel to reach more clients during peak hours. Hosting ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions is another great way to communicate with your team, yet not taking them away from precious selling time. This is also leading by example and unconsciously mentoring. By encouraging the sales team to focus on administrative tasks during times when clients are typically not available, you are fostering good time management.

The third core competency is organization. The goal of any company/organization is to ensure work flows smoothly. Implementing deadlines, creating tasks/deliverables and managing milestones establishes a plan for achieving the desired outcome. This includes creating general work tasks for yourself and others. Set a goal for every meeting. If you do not establish a goal, you are wasting your time and that of your team or your client.

Practicing the three core competencies – improving interpersonal, time management, and organization are the foundation for a’ leader in the making’! The principals of leadership are simple when you think about it. They can be applied to any leadership role. Consistency and practice are instrumental in becoming a great leader.

Finding a mentor is key in learning and gaining experience in applying these skills effectively. A mentor can be someone you know or work closely with on a regular basis. It could be a business professional you look up to at work or a coach you have employed through a leadership training program.
Mentoring is based on relationships and communication. This is an exchange of knowledge, advise, and insight. Mentors offer invaluable skills and knowledge like storytelling, candid feedback, tips and tricks on how to handle different scenarios, and more. Often mentoring is a learning experience for both the mentor and mentee.

As a mentor, I found there were areas in my skill set I needed to improve upon as well. Mentoring afforded me the opportunity to learn more about my own leadership style. I gained a wealth of knowledge (including a few lumps) through client facing, sales and customer service management roles in my 30 plus year career. Sharing this knowledge has provided a sense of fulfillment. I hope by sharing, others will benefit from my experiences in a positive way, as well as enable them to tackle the challenging situations.

‘Leaders in the making’ may be self-motivated to take the next steps in improving their soft skills for personal or career reasons. Others are encouraged by peer leaders to continue building their foundational skills. These peer leaders see the potential in others and nurture them, sometimes simply through their actions – much like a mentor. Leadership cannot be taught; however, it can be fostered and developed through experience. The team at BluSkye Consulting recommends the leadership training solution Leadership 9 Box by Square Peg Solutions to all our clients. The program offers an eLearning experience in the core competencies of leadership, as well as mentoring by SME’s.

Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying ‘Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation’. This rings especially true in leadership. Preparation is a trickle-down effect. Companies where leaders share the organizations vision, focus on customer success, and empower employees are building a strong foundation for the future and ensuring success. Organizations employing mentoring programs are ensuring their future by essentially creating what is commonly referred to as succession planning.

As a ‘leader in the making’ or someone who already holds a leadership role, improving your skills and practicing them are the building blocks to success. You hold the key to future opportunities. Foster success for yourself and others. Find a mentor (most great leaders have a mentor), seek a great leadership training program to sharpen your soft skills, and practice those skills regularly – there is always remove for improvement!

Kimberly Ross – Entrepreneur and President, BluSkye Consulting