Good evening,

I am a few days behind but I wanted to share an experience I had when visiting friends and family back home.  This past weekend I have the opportunity to lead a group of nonprofit board members in Philadelphia. Most of them governed charter schools but a few were from other organizations, law firms and local colleges.  Hearing that the audience would be quite diverse I thought back to the most recent chapters I read on the plane in Maxwell’s Everybody Communicates Few Connect.  In this book, Maxwell stresses that it’s not enough to work hard or to just do a great job.  To be successful you need to learn to really communicate and connect with others.  Because when you connect, people identify with you.  When they identify with you, they relate to you; which increases your influence with them.  Whenever people take action, they do so for their own reasons, not yours.  On the plane there I thought about who actually might show up based on some intangibles, it was a Saturday morning, it wasn’t required, they are mostly volunteers, it was supposed to be the first sunny day in Philadelphia in weeks, and the session was free.  I had mapped out my scheduled 30 minutes on the plane by carefully plotting my stories and key points.  I was confident in my content, but I wondered if they would really see it as relevant as I did.  They were already board members, they have no idea who I was, why would they listen to me?

Then I read this line, “Any message you try to convey must contain a piece of you.” I realized what my session was missing…a heartfelt connection.  Not our common connection to charter schools, governance and love for Philly pretzels.  Children!  I quickly found the best picture of the family and plotted my initial story line (more to come).

As the participants entered the room I kept thinking what would John (Maxwell) do? Oh, right, make connections.  I went from table to table introducing myself asking the participants questions utilizing the F.O.R.M (family, occupation, recreation and message) method. By the time I kicked off our three hour event I had met half of the participants.  I learned the roles they carried, the barriers of their organizations, their missions and goals and for some, where they went to high school (since I was local).  By the time my power point started, and kicked off by telling them how I admired their dedication to adding value to themselves, their organization.  I admired their diligence to be here on a Saturday, raising their leadership lid, serving the children and families of Philadelphia and surrounding counties.  I shared a secret that by me being there, and them asking me questions, I would be benefiting from their knowledge and adding value to myself.  By the time I did all of that (3 minutes) I could have told them anything.  I realized that you cannot build a relationship with everybody in the room when you don’t care about anybody in the room. Connecting is a choice.  I was able to challenge them in those thirty minutes.  Put them on the spot, plant seeds of crucial conversations just by asking a few (FORM) questions.  According to the Harvard Business Review, “The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”  I challenge you today to make it a point to make a connection with someone you have had a difficult time making that connection with. See the issues from their perspective.  Maybe that extra few minutes can build a common ground towards solidifying the future.  I’d love to hear how it goes.

A few things to think about.  Studies indicated that when feelings and attitudes are being communicated what we say accounts for only seven (7) percent of what is believed.  The way we say it accounts for thirty-eight (38) percent, and what others see accounts for the remaining fifty-five (55) percent.  Therefor more than ninety (90) percent of the impression we often convey has nothing to do with what we actually say.

Use humor
See from their perspective
It’s difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you’re focused on is yourself.
Sonya Hamlin stated, “Listening requires giving up our favorite human pastime- involvement in ourselves and our own self-interest.”
FORM – Family, occupation, recreation, and message.
“Carve out time to work on getting clear about what you want to be happy and fulfilled. Become positively selfish.” ~ Les Brown
“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.”
~ Jim Rohn

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