January 21, 2008

The Attack of the Angry

Filed under: Observations, Relationships, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 10:06 am

A speaker friend is dealing with a blistering attack from an audience member. Amazon reviews call authors name and make slanderous suggestions about their motives. Political candidates attack each other rather than each others’ ideas.

It seems there is an increase in personal attacks made by angry people. I find it very disconcerting.

I learned a long time ago that there is little to be gained from attacking the person rather than the problem. While it offers a short-term and immature gratification, it kills much chance for dialogue. It is normal for someone to become defensive when he or she feels attacked, and it is difficult to respond sanely and rationally to defend one’s position when one’s person is the thing being attacked.

It is helpful, but hard, to remember that people who attack inappropriately are often coming from their own woundedness. As a person of faith, I try to recall that Jesus answered anger with love. On a good day I do. On a not so good day I tend to forget.

Once we become adults, we owe it to ourselves and others to deal with our anger issues if we have any. Working them out on others increases the misery in the world and there is already more than enough of that.

December 26, 2007

Two of My Favorite Books for 2007

Filed under: Observations, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 12:32 pm

I have long been a fan of Richard Russo and greatly enjoyed Empire Falls. His latest book is Bridge of Sighs and it was a delight. The rich character development, engaging storylines and nuanced and beautiful writing made this book a standout. It deals with a myriad of subjects including the affect of the past on our lives, matters of the heart, upbringing and human imperfection. Russo has the ability to show a character’s strengths and weaknesses in such a way that still allows you to feel fondness for them.

The other book I put off reading because I misjudged its premise. It is The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer. The setting obviously, is a bar in Long Island. I thought a book about growing up around and in a bar would be a bit dark and sordid, but in this case it isn’t.  It is a true coming-of-age story and the best look at interpersonal relationships I’ve read since Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety (the latter being a work of fiction but loosely based on the relationship between the Stegners and another couple close to them). Moehringer, who lives in the greater Denver area now, writes with uncanny insight and, like Russo, reports on exceedingly interesting and eclectic characters. The only difference is that Moehringer’s characters are the real people–friends and relatives–who influenced his life.

These days I read more non-fiction than fiction, but I have always believed that great fiction can be just as educational as non-fiction. Neither of these books will provide you three steps to take for a better life, but they will do something much better: they’ll make you think about your life and your relationships. They’ll remind you of things that will delight you and of some things that will disappoint and maybe disgust you. And they’ll most likely provoke questions you’ve not considered before. A good book with do some of those things; a great book will do all those things.

One test I use for an extraordinary book is that I hate to see it end. Both of these books passed the test.

September 17, 2007

Easy Dislike Mode

Filed under: Uncategorized, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 12:19 pm

My wife Darla and I are part of a small group bible study and we have just begun a series on relationships.
As we were talking last night, I was reminded of how easy it is to like or dislike someone if you don’t know them very well.

Sometimes we have an unrealistic view of someone–a celebrity, leader or well-known person–that isn’t based on much more than a superficial knowledge of him or her. If we find out something troubling, we quickly move from the “easy like” mode to the “easy dislike” mode.

There have been those people who, for whatever reason, I initially disliked. As I got to know them, my opinion changed drastically and a few have become my closest friends.

I believe one of the quickest ways to connect with someone of a different opinion is to get to know the person behind the point of view.

Getting to really know somebody doesn’t assure you will like them more or less, but it will increase the odds of a meaningful relationship. It takes time and effort, and that is one reason why relationships are difficult.

September 14, 2007

Remarkable Performance Can Happen in an Instant

Filed under: Non-titled Leaders, Success, Difference Makers, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 9:10 am

Stephen Hopson is a remarkable individual. Born profoundly deaf, he overcame many adversities to become successful in many areas. He became a highly successful stockbroker for Merrill Lynch, a published author and an inspiring speaker.

I’ve gotten to know Stephen through his love of flying. Stephen became the first deaf person to earn his instrument rating, an amazing accomplishment (his rating does require that he fly with a co-pilot who can handle the radios for him).

Stephen tells a story that was a turning point in his life. He recounts having a larger-than-life teacher as a youngster with eyes that seemed to twinkle. She inspired him. One day she asked the class a question and Stephen raised his hand, hoping she wouldn’t call on him.

She did, and Stephen answered.

“That’s right, Stephen!” she enthusiastically exclaimed.

The simple but sincere approval of someone Stephen respected and admired so much made a powerful and lasting impact on Stephen. Years later he recounts the experience as life-changing.

Usually remarkable performance is ongoing, and no doubt Stephen’s teacher was an excellent educator who had won Stephen’s admiration over time. But she also proved that remarkable performance can happen in an instant. Her warm and encouraging approval had impact far beyond what she could have imagined.

To learn more about Stephen, go to www.sjhopson.com

August 25, 2007

Love and Preparation

Filed under: Professional Development, Selling, Success, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 4:54 pm

Consider this quote from my friend and world-class speaker Joel Weldon: “You prepare for what you love.”

The single biggest booster of performance is preparation. Pros prepare; amateurs wing it.

I prepare as much for a pro bono presentation as I do for a paid speech. Why? Because I take the opportunity to share ideas very seriously. Whether I’m donating my time and expertise or being reimbursed, I love to communicate important ideas. That’s why I prepare. I love my work.

Have a big meeting this week? How much have you prepared?

Have you prepared more for your next sales call than your competitors?

If you’re a teacher, will your students benefit from a little extra preparation for your next class?

You’re a manager giving a performance review. How much time have you invested in thougtful consideration and preparation?

Got an upcoming date night with the husband or wife? Have you made plans that will make the evening special, or will it be a last minute decision about where to eat and what movie to see?

You prepare for what you love. Where your preparation takes place, there lies your heart.

What have you prepared for lately?

August 21, 2007

Larger Than Life

Filed under: Uncategorized, Success, Difference Makers, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 10:29 am

This past weekend I attended a special event honoring my dear friend and legendary speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. A nickname like “Tremendous” might seem over-the-top, but not if you’ve met Charlie. His enthusiasm for life and love for people is authentic and makes him quite unlike anyone I’ve ever met.

In my tribute I said that the phrase I most often associate with Tremendous is “larger-than -life.” To me, people like him remind me that life can be larger than the way I experience it each day. Larger-than-life people stretch my thinking and inspire me by their refusal to play by the rules. Their over-sized commitments and passions inspire me, so when I say someone is larger-than-life it is a compliment of the highest order.

I hope you know someone who is larger-than-life, and that you get to spend time with them on a regular basis. If you do, you’ll know what a “tremendous” experience that is.

July 27, 2007

Thinking Deeper is Difficult

Filed under: Observations, Professional Development, Success, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 10:12 am

Lindsay Lohan and the Grim Reaper kitty cat, both items of attention in the national news, are easy targets. I could blog about either but you’ve already heard about that stuff and have formed an opinion or don’t really care.

The big issues like the war, natural disasters and the economy are important and significant, but unless you’re an elected official, inordinately well placed and powerful, or a committed activist, thinking about that stuff doesn’t always yield much in the way of actionable ideas.

So what is left is the no-think zone. We go about our routine each day, get periodically troubled by news of the big issues and moderately amused or agitated by news of the trivial and unimportant–but we don’t do much thinking.

Deep thinking is difficult. Deeper thinking than the really big and the really trite, where our thinking is likely to provide insights we can actually use, is tough.

Here’s a practical question: what in my life that I can influence or control should I be giving serious thought to today? That would include things like relationships, family issues, financial planning, career choices, health and exercise, and one of my favorites, the difference between activity and accomplishment.

The agenda set by print and broadcast media don’t always focus us on what we need to be thinking about. The only person who can determine the appropriate thinking agenda for your life is you.

July 5, 2007

Parenting isn’t Foolproof

Filed under: Observations, Success, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 11:42 am

Al Gore’s 24 year old son was arrested on drug charges and this made headline news. Al Gore said they were treating it as a “private matter” which is sensible unless, of course, you are a highly visible public figure. That is one of the high costs of celebrity and, while I hate to use the word in the same sentence, leadership.

I’m not busting Gore. His son is an adult and responsible for his own decisions. My guess is that those most critical either don’t have kids, or their kids aren’t old enough to have gotten into any trouble yet.

The fact is I know people who were wonderful parents and ended up with kids that made bad mistakes. I also know some folks who were rotten parents and, amazingly, their kids ended up fine. (And good parents with good kids, etc.)

Children deserve good parenting, but don’t always get it. Responsible adults should, and I’m being optimistic here, usually do the best they can to provide it. But like mileage, results may vary.

It is one of the great mysteries of life. Good parenting stacks the odds in a child’s favor, but it is no gauruntee of smashing success.

July 3, 2007

Two Key Leadership Factors

Filed under: Leadership, Moral Leadership, Professional Development, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 2:12 pm

Recently I reconnected with a valued friend from my past. Dr. Byrl Shoemaker was Ohio Director of Career and Technical Education from 1962 to 1982. At the time I was involved in state leadership of the FFA (then Future Farmers of America). Dr. Shoemaker always impressed me as a wise leader who was always first and foremost committed to the best interest of students. I learned much from him those many years ago.

A mutual friend provided him a copy of my book, You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader. After reading it, Dr. Shoemaker wrote me, and told about a graduate level class of mostly superintendents of schools that was funded by a special grant:

“The professors were from psychology, sociology, educational administration and educational methods. Various theories of leadership were reviewed and the focus finally was placed on the extensive leadership studies conducted during WWII with the pilots of the bomber aircraft with crews. The Air Force was concerned with identifying the leadership abilities of the pilots due to the cost of the planes and the effectiveness of the missions. Various theories of leadership were tested, using both superiors and subordinates in the evaluations. The research identified only two factors that were identified by both superiors and subordinates. Those were:

The ability to initiate structure (”Put the show on the road.”)

The ability to show consideration for the people with whom they worked.

The grant also allowed them to test the concept with superintendents of schools over the state. The research supported the two factors as being good measures of the leadership of superintendents.”

Dr. Shoemaker’s remarks remind of hard skills (structure, process, administration, etc.) and soft-skills (people). Regardless of the words one chooses, the concept rings true intuitively and is proven by the research.

At EDS they say “The soft stuff is the hard stuff.” I’m not sure why that is, but I tend to agree. For some reason leaders are often more at ease in the neat and tidy hard world of numbers and things than the soft squishy world of people and relationships. Ironically, the soft skills become the hard skills to learn.

Dr. Shoemaker is in his eighties and a vibrant thinker and leader. I appreciate his insights.

July 2, 2007

Request Ignored

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy, Relationships — Mark Sanborn @ 9:02 am

Last week I blogged about a disappointing experience at the Desert Springs Marriott. I did talk to a guest relations manager before I left, and appreciated his concern. Literally while I was speaking with him on the phone, room service arrived and the food was disappointing (which I relayed to the manager on the phone). I asked the room service employee to please post my charge within the next thirty minutes as I would be checking out and heading for the airport.

Thirty minutes later I tried to check out. It took quite some time to retrieve my bill and guess what? The charge had not been posted. Then it took quite some time longer to get it posted.  I wrote a note for the General Manager of the property: “Please call me about my experience at your hotel. You’ll be interested….”, signed my name and provided my phone number.

Second “guess what?” Never heard from him or her or anybody.

The irony is that I’ve always liked that property and was genuinely interested in providing feedback. I wasn’t looking for anything more than concern, didn’t ask for anything (like not paying for my disappointing meal), and I wasn’t offered anything.

When a customer or client specifically attempts to give you feedback, at least listen. I’ll get an email survey about my experience at the Desert Springs Marriott, and I’ll figure why bother to fill it out? I tried to talk to the GM and my request was ignored.

Nobody enjoys negative feedback, but it is often the antidote to service delivery failure in the future. My friend Janelle Barlow wrote a terrific book whose title says it all, “A Complaint is a Gift.”

Evidently the GM wasn’t accepting gifts that day.

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