Toastmaster’s High Performance Leadership Program–Introduction


Toastmasters International has two educational programs, one with regards to communication and the other with regards to leadership.   The communications track has four levels, from the Competent Communicator to the Advanced Communicator Gold, and the leadership track has three levels, from the Competent Leader to the Advanced Leader Silver.     If you achieve the highest level on both tracks, you are eligible for the highest level of educational achievement within Toastmasters on the individual level, that of being a Distinguished Toastmaster.

 

 

The Advanced Leader Silver, the highest level on the leadership track, has three requirements:

–Serving a term as a District Officer, including being an Area Governor.

–Completion of the High Performance Leadership Program

–Serving as a Club Sponsor, Club Mentor, or Club Coach.

The purpose of this post is to discuss the second of these three requirements, namely the High Performance Leadership Program.   The program consists of completing a project with five components, which are listed below.

Part 1:  Learning About Leadership

Part 2:  Choosing Your Objective

Part 3:  Winning Commitment to Your Objective

Part 4:  Working the Plan

Part 5:  Analyzing and Presenting Your Results

The project is supervised by a Guidance Committee, who act as the sponsors of the project, give feedback regarding the skills you are developing as the project manager of your project, and monitor the progress of your project.

Tomorrow I will go into the five parts of the project, and outline the role that the project manager (you) and your sponsors (your Guidance Committee) take on in each part.

 

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Focusing on Others (4)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 2–Connecting Is All About Others

The first chapter was an introduction to the importance of connecting rather than just communicating.   The second chapter starts getting into the principles behind connecting with others.

The last post dealt with John Maxwell’s decision in his early career to get better at communicating.   He got a clue from Zig Ziglar at a Success Seminar John Maxwell attended in Dayton, Ohio:   he realized he was trying to get ahead by correcting others when he should have been trying to connect with others.    He also discussed the elements that keep a person from connecting, namely a) immaturity, b) ego, c) failure to value everyone, and d) insecurity.

In the last post, John Maxwell shows the three questions that people always ask themselves when interacting with others:  a) Do you care for me?, b) Can you help me?, and c) Can I trust you?   If you can answer those questions, you will succeed in connecting with those people.

This last post deals with the concluding portion of the chapter:   empathy is the key!

1.  Cuban Missile Crisis

This example is not from John Maxwell’s book, but is rather taken from an historical incident that could have ended in nuclear war, namely, the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.    Photographs taken by a U.S. spy plane overflying Cuba revealed the construction of what were identified by the CIA as missile launchers, presumably ones that were designed to deliver nuclear warheads to targets in the U.S.    However, the nuclear warheads themselves were not seen in the photographs, so the assumption was that they would delivered from the Soviet Union in the not-too-distant future.    When President Kennedy was alerted of this situation, he called together the intelligence agencies, the State Department, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and asked for options on how to deal with the crisis.   The State Department recommended using diplomacy to try to get the Soviets to agree to remove the missiles.    The intelligence agencies opted for the deployment of a naval blockade which would, at least temporarily, prevent the warheads from reaching the island of Cuba.   The Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by Gen. Curtis LeMay, recommended air strikes against the missile sites followed by a full-scale invasion of Cuba.   Their thinking was that, since the Soviets and Cubans did not yet have nuclear capability, we would have the tactical advantage if we invaded immediately.   If we waited until the warheads reached the island, we would not only have that advantage and it would impossible to force the Soviets to remove the missiles.   An attempt was made to get the Soviets to respond to a message through diplomatic channels, namely, the Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, but was unsuccessful.   President Kennedy ordered the blockade to commence, and ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare for a full-scale invasion of Cuba.   Nikita Khrushchev said that the Soviet Union would defy the blockade, and so the two superpowers were headed towards a confrontation that might have catastrophic results.

Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent a message by telegram to the State Department on Friday, October 26th, stating that they the two superpowers were like people pulling on the ends of a rope in which knots were tied, and he suggested that they work together to untie the knot rather than encouraging those whose only solution was to try to pull harder.   The message was brought  by the former ambassador to the Soviet Union Tommy Thompson, a State Department official who was fluent in Russian and who had known the Premier when he had lived in Russia as an ambassador.    Just as he was reading the message to President Kennedy, a new message came in that was more threatening than conciliatory, threatening “annihilation” if the US tried to invade the island; this message was apparently written by hardliners in the Kremlin, the equivalent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US.   Tommy Thompson urged the President to answer the first message.    He empathized with Khrushchev, saying that he had put the missiles in Cuba because Kennedy had put nuclear missiles in Turkey that were aimed at the Soviet Union.   He was trying to counter that threat, and now the situation had obviously gotten out of control.    He wanted a solution to the crisis that would allow him as a politician to say to the Cuban people that he had saved them from an invasion of the island by the US, and to say to the Soviet Union that he had neutralized the nuclear threat that the Kennedy administration was putting them under.    Kennedy listened to Thompson’s message, because he recognized that, although Khrushchev was ostensibly on the opposite side of the crisis, he was in a similar position vis-a-vis the military, meaning that he also was trying to resolve the situation politically rather than militarily.   So he answered Khrushchev and they made a deal that, if Khrushchev would remove the missiles from Cuba, Kennedy would agree within six months to get the missiles out of Turkey.

The crisis was solved because someone had the training, experience, and the courage to tell Kennedy exactly how his adversary was thinking.    This allowed Kennedy the space to see what he and his adversary had in common rather than what their differences were, and this was what made the difference.   Kennedy was criticized by Gen. Curtis LeMay for not having gone ahead with the invasion.    However, events in 1992 proved him wrong, because at a conference held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the crisis, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara learned that the CIA analysis had been wrong.    The Kremlin’s archives were opened, and their records showed that in fact there already were nuclear warheads on the island at the time of crisis, but the CIA had somehow missed seeing them in photographs.    Their assumption that the warheads hadn’t been delivered yet was false.    This meant that the strategy of the blockade was useless, because the warheads were already there.   But more importantly, if the green light had been given for the invasion, the Soviets would have had the tactical advantage, not the US, and the situation would definitely have escalated into nuclear war.    So empathy with your adversary is important.

2.  Empathy is Key

Now the audience is not your adversary, or at least they should not be.    You and your audience are not in conflict, or again, you should not be.   The best way for you and your audience to connect is for you to imagine what it is that they would like to get out of your presentation.   There are some that would like a memorable story that they can relate to their own experience.   There are some that would like a “takeaway” in terms of some action items that they can do to improve their lives, given the information you are about to present.   There are some that need to see the ideas connect to each other logically so they can see the entire structure of your argument at once.    You need to be able to deliver to all of them.

And that is where the next chapter takes us:   going beyond words to deliver a message that engages their eyes, their minds, they ears, and their emotions.   I will be covering that chapter in next week’s posts.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Focusing on Others (3)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 2–Connecting Is All About Others

The first chapter was an introduction to the importance of connecting rather than just communicating.   The second chapter starts getting into the principles behind connecting with others.

The last post dealt with John Maxwell’s decision in his early career to get better at communicating.   He got a clue from Zig Ziglar at a Success Seminar John Maxwell attended in Dayton, Ohio:   he realized he was trying to get ahead by correcting others when he should have been trying to connect with others.    He also discussed the elements that keep a person from connecting, namely a) immaturity, b) ego, c) failure to value everyone, and d) insecurity.

In this post, John Maxwell shows the three questions that people always ask themselves when interacting with others.   If you can answer those questions, you will succeed in connecting with those people.

1.  “Do You Care for Me?”

If you make the subject of the conversation about yourself, then you will not connect with others.   If you make the subject the person you are talking to, then you may have a chance of connecting.

2.  “Can You Help Me?”

Focus on the benefits of the information you are conveying to the person you are communicating to.   Don’t give information in a rapid-fire way like a fire hose; give it in a gentle way like a garden hose, so that the person has a chance to leisurely drink at their own pace.

3.  “Can I Trust You?”

Is the information you are giving credible?   You should be able to answer any questions or concerns that your audience has about it.

These are all points which can cause people to connect with you.    In a previous John Maxwell book, he related the story of a prominent Englishwoman who, at the end of the 19th century, had a chance to meet the current Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, William Gladstone, at a formal dinner.    The following week she met the former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli at another formal dinner.   She said that Gladstone made her feel like he was the most intelligent and interesting person at the table.   However, Disraeli made her feel like she was the most intelligent and interesting person at the table.   That is the difference between communicating and connecting.

 

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Focusing on Others (2)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 2–Connecting Is All About Others

The first chapter was an introduction to the importance of connecting rather than just communicating.   The second chapter starts getting into the principles behind connecting with others.

The last post dealt with John Maxwell’s decision in his early career to get better at communicating.   But how to do it remained a mystery, at least until he attended a Success Seminar in Dayton, Ohio…

1.  Zig Ziglar inspires John Maxwell

Zig Ziglar inspired John Maxwell at the Success Seminar he was holding in Dayton, Ohio.   John felt that he really connected with the speaker, and then Zig Ziglar put into words something that changed John’s life:   “If you will first help people get what they want, they will help you get what you want.”    He resolved from then on to study good communicators, and try himself to connect with others by focusing on them and their needs above his own.

2.   Three Blocks at Connecting

There are three personality traits people have that can block a person’s ability to connect with others.   Fortunately, all these traits are curable!

  • Immaturity–if you cannot see and act on behalf of others, you don’t know to see things from someone else’s point of view
  • Ego–if you have a disproportionately large sense of your own importance, chances are that you have a disproportionately small sense of the importance of others
  • Failure to Value Everyone–you cannot add value to others, if you don’t first value them as they are
  • Insecurity–if you lack confidence, you will try to impress others, but this is only using others to bolster your own self-image; it is not giving to others for their own sake.

No matter what business you are in, you must end up being in the people business.    You are there to serve your customers or your clients, if you do so, the product or service you are offering them will sell itself.

The next post deals with three questions people have which echo their inner expectations of you when they meet you.  By paying attention to these questions, you can make sure you not only meet, but exceed people’s expectations.

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Focusing on Others (1)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 2–Connecting Is All About Others

The first chapter was an introduction to the importance of connecting rather than just communicating.   The second chapter starts getting into the principles behind connecting with others.

1.   Great Expectations, and How Not to Meet Them

John Maxwell opens with the story of a tour guide.    John Maxwell was on a business trip to South America, and got to visit Machu Picchu, the mountaintop home of the ancient Incas that is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.   He was so enamored with his visit, then he told his wife Margaret that he wanted to take her there on vacation.    He and his wife invited two of their closest friends along, and all four of them went to Machu Picchu  with great expectations of a trip that they looked forward to being one of the most memorable of their lifetimes.

Unfortunately, the tour guide Carlos conducted their tour like a robot, giving a canned speech that contained tons of minutiae, statistics, and other information that was mind-numbing in its quantity.    However, Carlos told no stories that would have engaged the group, and one by one, each of the members of the group peeled away from the boring lecture and decided to engage the landscape with their own eyes and their own mind, preferring that to the deadening experience of listening to a speech delivered in monotone syllables.

John Maxwell at one point looked back with a feeling of guilt for having abandoned the group, only to find that EVERYONE had abandoned Carlos, who was delivering the rest of his lecture to the empty air!    John Maxwell used Carlos as an example of how NOT to connect with people.   By analyzing what Carlos did wrong, John Maxwell got valuable clues on how to do it right.

2.   The Failure at Connection cuts across Professions

John Maxwell emphasized that it is not just CEOs that sometimes fail to connect.    Teachers and professional speakers can fail to connect as well.    An example of this was sent by John Maxwell’s friend Elmer Towns, a professor at Liberty University, who shared the following verses about self-centered teachers:

Ram it in–jam it in, student’s heads are hollow.

Cram it in–slam it in, there is more to follow.

Contrast this to the saying by Plutarch:

The mind of a child is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.

The way to kindle the fire of a child’s mind is to connect with it.

The next post will show the person who taught John Maxwell the importance of connecting, and the two resolutions he made on how to achieve that skill.

 

 

Duolingo–the Fun Way to Fluency


Those people who get to know me often remember at least one fact–that I am fluent in 5 different foreign languages:   Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Chinese.     The most frequent question I get asked is not how I learned them all, but how do I remember them all.

Compared to real polyglots like Benny Lewis, author of the blog about language learning called “Fluent in 3 Months”, my ability is pretty modest.    But the way to learn and remember foreign languages is to use them as often as possible.    So if possible, using them on a daily basis would be the best practice.   But if you are working a regular job in an all-English environment, and you don’t have access to the money you need to travel abroad, how can you learn and retain a foreign language?

There are various language-learning software programs like Rosetta Stone, but the one free app you can download to your smartphone or tablet that will help you learn and retain a foreign language is Duolingo.    It was developed by Carnegie Mellon University professor Luis von Ahn with the idea of creating a way of crowd sourcing translations.   The app to learn the languages would be offered for free, and those who felt a certain degree of confidence in their language ability would be encouraged to try their hand at translating articles between the foreign language they are learning and their native language.

The result ended up being an essentially free foreign-language learning platform for English speakers to learn one of the following European languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Portuguese

There are 25 language levels, and you will probably be close to the B2 level of fluency, which is upper-intermediate, by the time you are completed.     I myself am at around level 12 or 13 for all five languages.    Spanish, French, German, which I studied to review them, and Italian and Portuguese, which I studied for the first time with Duolingo.

Why is it popular?   Because the language is not broken down into lessons, but rather units of skills, such as Basics, Verbs, Adjectives, Colors, Numbers, etc.    For each skill, there are a series of lessons that introduce various vocabulary and/or grammar points.   For each lesson within a skill, you answer a series of questions and try to complete all 15-20 questions correctly.   You start out with 3 “lives” that are represented by hearts at the top right of your screen.   If you get an answer wrong, you lose a “life” and one of the hearts disappears.    If you lose all of your lives before the questions run out, you “lose” and have to start the lesson over.    If you win, then you complete that lesson and move onto to the next one.    After one row of skills is complete, you go on to the next one.

But what if you already know a language to a certain extent?   Do you have to start from square one?   No, you can try to test out of a particular skill, or even a particular set of skills, if you want to try to skip over material that you already know well.    That’s what I did with Spanish, French, and German.

There are various achievements called “lingots” that you get for completing all questions without losing a single life, or for having a “streak” of having played the Duolingo app once every day for at least 10 days.   Right now, I’m on a streak that has lasted 228 days–for all five languages!    It takes me about one half-hour to do a single set of exercises for all five languages.    The fact that it is fun, and that you get achievement awards for every small “win” along the way to fluency, are some of the reasons why I have kept up with it so long.

If you get a question wrong, there is a comment section which will contain the reason why you got the question wrong.    These comments are usually written by native speakers who are experts at the language you are trying to learn.    So any grammar points that you are stuck on get answered in the context of particular examples you are trying to learn.    The questions that are asked can vary from filling in the blanks from multiple choices (the easiest kind of question to answer) to doing a translation of a sentence from your native language to the target language you are studying (the hardest kind of question to answer).    If you get an accent wrong, or even make a single typo, the program is forgiving of those kind of mistakes.    But if you make a mistake that changes the meaning of the sentence grammatically, it will be marked wrong.

You can follow friends, or have them follow you, to have “contests” to see how many points you can rack up during the week.   I really follow my own pace of doing one skill in each of five languages every day, which during a busy week may be all that I have time for.   However, on the weekend, if I’m close to going up a level in a particular language, I may do a half-hour or more on that particular language.    But the minimum I always do is one skill per language so I don’t forget what I learned.    Doing a little bit each day is better for learning and retaining a foreign language than studying once a week for a long time.

If you are trying to learn a foreign language, or you are trying to review a language you’ve already learned, then try Duolingo, download it to you smartphone or tablet, and start learning!    Other languages are being developed, so you may be able to study other languages in the future–so stay tuned!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Principles (3)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 1–Connecting Increases Your Influence in Every Situation

The first two posts dealt with a) the importance of connecting and b) the journey that John Maxwell made on his way towards becoming an expert at communication.   This post shows how you can make the same journey.

1.   Connecting Starts with Your Attitude

When people start to learn how to communicate, they typically focus on themselves.    Am I doing this right?    That insecurity goes away with confidence and practice, but some people remain focused on themselves.    However, to become a connector rather than a communicator, you need to change your focus to others and to recognize the value of people.

When I was leading a study group for the Project Management Professional exam prep course, I concentrated on myself.    Did I understand the material well enough to present it to the others in the group?     When the questions came from various people, I would get frustrated.    Why didn’t you understand my explanation?   What’s wrong with you?     Then I started to change my focus from myself to those people who were asking the question.    The question showed not where they were deficient in understanding my explanation, but rather where my explanation was deficient.    You see, I’ve always been strong in mathematics.    It makes sense for me to explain things using equations, because that’s a language I readily understand.   But you realize that not all people have the same strengths, and so when you explain a concept using mathematics to a person for whom that is not their strong point, then you are working to your strengths, not theirs.    You are not connecting.   So I would go back and try to explain the point using stories, using images, using other methods which were not necessarily my first preference, but methods I was willing to try to utilize to get the point across.   More and more, I had success in explaining the concepts to people who didn’t understand them before.    I was connecting, and now when I do a technical speech in Toastmasters, I make sure to use a variety of communication techniques so that all members of the audience will get something out of it.

2.   The Achievement Connection

According to Jay Hall of the consulting firm Teleometrics, there is a correlation between achievement and the ability to care for and connect with people.

HIGH ACHIEVERS AVERAGE ACHIEVERS LOW ACHIEVERS
Care about People as Well as Profits Concentrate on Production Are Preoccupied with Their Own Security
View Subordinates Optimistically Focus More on Their Own Status Show a Basic Distrust of Subordinates
Seek Advice from Those Under Them Are Reluctant to Seek Advice from Those Under Them Don’t Seek Advice
Listen Well to Everyone Listen Only to Superiors Avoid Communication and Rely on Policy Manuals

3.  Connecting Principles, Connecting Practices

The next four chapters deal with the remaining connecting principles, namely

  • Focus on others
  • Expanding your connecting vocabulary beyond just words
  • Marshalling your energy for connecting
  • Gaining insight in how great connectors connect

The next five chapters deal with the practical skills of communication, namely

  • Finding common ground
  • Making your communication simple
  • Capturing people’s interest
  • Inspiring them
  • Being authentic

I look forward to the next few weeks working on these chapters.   I belong to a Mastermind group that discusses each chapter once a week on a Thursday evening; I consider these blog posts another form of working with the material and I hope it deepens my mastery of the material.   My only hope is that it will inspire the readers of the blog to look at John Maxwell’s book and make the material their own, and maybe even to join a Mastermind group of their own!

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Principles (2)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 1–Connecting Increases Your Influence in Every Situation

The last post covered the importance of connecting with others, because it will increase your influence with the person who are connecting with.

This post covers John Maxwell’s admitting that he was not always the communicator he is today.   He talks about what it took for him to recognize his own deficits at communicating, and what it took for him to correct them.

As a framework for the discussion, he used the Serenity Prayer made famous by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change

the courage to change the things we can; and

the wisdom to know the difference. 

1.   The courage to change the things we can

John Maxwell knew that he was not connecting with others, but it’s not that he didn’t have the courage to change into someone who couldn’t connect; he didn’t possess the knowledge of how to do it, and nobody in his immediate circles seemed to know either.    Even if he didn’t know how to get there, he at least had the impatience to want to be somewhere else than he was at that time in his life.

2.  God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change

The ability to cope with the situation you have is a passive, reactive attitude.    The ability to accept the reality of a situation is different; it is a clear-eyed ability to see what actually exists right now, and what needs to be done to correct it.   However, to correct it you cannot merely cope, you need to take the initiative, which is an active, proactive attitude.    Rather than serenity, he had the restlessness he needed to change in order to be able to connect with others.

3.   The wisdom to know the difference

The serenity in the Serenity Prayer is for accepting things that are beyond your power to change, such as the weather or global events.    However, the restlessness that I mentioned John Maxwell had was the recognition that he was NOT going to accept that there was nothing he could do to learn more about connecting.   He was going to find a way–somehow.

It’s not just the courage to try to change something, but the knowledge and skills you need to actually do it that are important elements in creating that change.    John Maxwell developed that knowledge and those skills, and his mission now is to impart that same skill-building knowledge to his readership.    The only element that his readers must supply, besides the time and attention it takes to learn those connecting techniques, is the element of courage–you have to want to do what it takes to learn it.

In the next post, I will discuss more about the attitude it takes to want to connect with others, and how those skills of connecting will affect your ability to be a leader–of any organization.

 

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: Connecting Principles (1)


I joined a Mastermind group which is taking the book by the leadership guru John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates Few Connect” and going through the book one chapter a week.    The first part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Principles, and the second part of the book consists of 5 chapters on Connecting Practices.

I am going to cover each chapter with one blog post, taking notes based on my reading of the chapter.    Rather than simply a summary of each chapter, I hope these notes will provide my own interpretation of the material, especially regarding the ways it applies to the various facets of my life where I am applying leadership (in church, in Toastmasters, as a project manager).    I hope to relate my experiences learning foreign languages and working in foreign countries to the subject of communication.

PART I:   CONNECTING PRINCIPLES

Chapter 1–Connecting Increases Your Influence in Every Situation

1.  Connecting Can Make You or Break You; Connecting Is Key

The first two sections of this chapter emphasize the importance of connecting.   Let me illustrate with a saying of Oscar Wilde’s that may first seem a bit perplexing:  All bad art is sincere.   If for the purposes of our discussion we replace the word art with the word communication, since art is a form of communication, you get the saying:   All bad communication is sincere.

Well, what’s wrong with being sincere, you might ask?   You’re not suggesting I be insincere, are you?   No, not at all.   However, being sincere, which you can define as “having a connection between what is in your heart and what comes out of your mouth as words”, is not enough.   It will get the words out of your mouth, but if you are not able to connect with the other person in such a way that they hear and understand those words in the same way that you meant them, then that communication is bad.    Being sincere is a condition which can be called “necessary but not sufficient.”    This book will teach you how to produce words which connect what is in your heart (the “sincere” part of the message) with the heart of your listener.

2.  Connecting is Crucial For Leaders

Presidential historian Robert Dallek said that successful presidents exhibit five qualities that enable them to achieve things that others don’t:

  • Vision–the ability to describe where they are going
  • Consensus building–the ability to persuade people to come along with them
  • Charisma–the ability to connect on a personal level
  • Trustworthiness–the ability to do what they say they will do
  • Pragmatism–the ability to see a problem clearly to reach a solution

Of all these five qualities, the first four clearly are related to communication skills, and even the last one (pragmatism) could be said to rely on communication skills to a certain extent.   And those communication skills rely on the ability to … connect!    One of my favorite examples of this comes from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals about the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.    In running for the presidency in 1860, the other candidates tried to show how through the selection of vocabulary and literary illusions how educated they were.    Abraham Lincoln used stories with everyday images that the average uneducated person would even be able to relate to.   He connected, and thereby eventually became the Republican candidate for the Presidency, although the others all had superior educations, at least on paper (Abraham Lincoln was mostly self-taught).

3.  Connecting Helps in Every Area of Life

Besides helping leaders, connecting helps teachers and trainers, and I would add given my experience in Toastmasters that it certainly helps those giving speeches.   After I completed by “basic training” in Toastmasters by having earned the Competent Communicator award, I started going into some more advanced training by going through two separate advanced manuals, one called “The Entertaining Speaker” and the other one called “Speaking to Inform.”   The entertaining speeches I would do in my home club (Yorba Linda Toastmasters Club), and the informative speeches I would do in my project management club (OC Project Masters Club).    One meeting, the OC Project Masters Club had someone drop out at the last minute, leaving a speech slot that suddenly opened up.   I had an entertaining speech ready for my other club, but I volunteered to give it at the OC Project Masters Club instead so that the opportunity wouldn’t go to waste.

After the speech, one of the founders of the club who was a Distinguished Toastmaster or DTM, the highest level of individual achievement within Toastmasters, came up to me and said, “That was a very good speech, better than the ones you’ve given in this club before.”   I told him it was because I was doing the entertaining speech manual, not the informative speech manual.   He said, “you are laboring under the delusion that there are two kinds of speeches, those that are entertaining and those that are informative.    They can be BOTH at the same time!”    That was a revelation to me.   Thinking back on what I had been doing, I realized that with the entertaining speech, if I got a line that was designed for laughter, and the audience laughed, I would pause and wait for the laughter to die down before I went on to my next point.    In the informative speech, however, I never waited to see if the information I had just stated had sunk in or not.   People were expecting a nice, refreshing drink from a garden hose, and here I was mercilessly spraying them with a fire hose, not noticing that they were (metaphorically speaking) grasping on their chairs for dear life to prevent from being swept up and hitting the back of the room.    I needed to connect with them the same way I connected with my “entertaining speech” audience!

4.  The Desire to Connect

I have been an introvert by nature pretty much all of my life, but that just means it is more difficult to connect to others than it would be for an extrovert, who rather than requiring energy to do so, gains energy by the exercise.   However, introvert or extrovert, the desire to connect with others is still there.    For introverts, I would say that you may have to put more effort into learning how to connect with others, but I think in a subtle way, it is more rewarding when you do so precisely because it is more difficult.

When I was in junior high school and felt awkward making the transition from elementary school to the new social universe I was presented with at this next level in my educational career, I developed a sense of humor to get other kids to like me.    One of the best kinds of humor, I found, was humor where I laughed at myself.    I remember one time when coming back to my seat after giving a presentation in front of the class in English, that I tripped over a book left in the aisle right in front of my desk.    I looked down and said, “who’s the idiot who left that there for me to trip over?  Oh, wait, that’s MY book.”    The person sitting behind me thought that was hilarious, and he ended up repeating it to the person next to him, and so on, and suddenly the teacher was looking suspiciously in the general direction of my desk, wondering where all the commotion was coming from.    She said, “what’s going on?”   Realizing that I had struck comic gold, I feigned innocence by saying, “I’m sorry, I tripped over a book that some idiot left on the floor.”    That just added fuel to the fire, and my comment spread throughout the lunchroom later on that day.   Now, I’m sure the English teacher was not appreciate of my efforts to ingratiate myself amongst my classmates, but being willing to laugh at myself made it easier to connect with others.   Why?  Because by stating your own imperfections or mistakes, you often make it easier for people to relate to you because they have either done some similar or have been afraid of doing something similar.

The next post will deal with the way John Maxwell developed his own set of communication skills–by a series of keen observations on his deficiencies in that area when he was a younger and more inexperienced communicator…

Strategic Project Management–Adopting the Logical Framework to Real-World Challenges (part 3)


In the book Strategic Project Management Made Simple, Terry Schmidt introduces the Logical Framework Matrix as a tool for creating a strategic plan (chapters 1-8), and for executing, monitoring & controlling that plan (chapter 9).   In the 11th chapter, he wraps up his book with several tips on applying the ideas in his book to real world project challenges.

1.   Making Projects Stronger in 12 ways

post to be continued