S5E26: Off-Key: Learning To Listen To Avoid Tone-Deaf Leadership

“Leaders of organizations tend to be controlling, but the ability to let things go and see where the journey takes us can be more powerful.” Peter Margaritis

This is an excerpt from the book, Off Script: Mastering the Art of Business Improvisation.

Leadership is not about self-promotion, being the center of attention, talking as much as you can, speaking in the third person, always being right, even when you’re wrong, disrespecting others, or being a narcissist. However, in some organizations, these traits are viewed as effective leadership skills, which is the slippery slope to the leaders and potentially the organization’s demise.”

The one skill that helps to save people’s careers and organizations is the art of listening. Leadership is all about becoming a better listener. Leadership is all about listening to understand versus listening to respond. Listening to understand means you genuinely want to understand what is being said to you directly, in the room as you participate in a meeting, or while attending a presentation as an audience member. When you listen to understand, you park your ideas and biases somewhere else, and you go out of your way to eliminate all distractions while listening.

When you’re exhibiting the kind of listening skills worthy of a true leader, you suspend your judgment, set your ego aside to focus on listening to what the other person is trying to communicate, and you do so all the while managing your emotions. When you are “listening to respond” rather than “listening to understand,” you aren’t fully listening to what is being said. We can all strengthen our listening skills if we work on them daily.

Leaders of organizations tend to be controlling, but the ability to let things go and see where the journey takes us can be more powerful. Improv exercises teach us practical skills that can be applied in moments when the gameplay is the furthest thing from our minds. They can teach you and your team how to be better communicators and leaders. When practiced often, these improv games give you muscle memory of how to behave in real-world situations.

S5E25: Tips and Techniques on Becoming a Better Salesperson with Lon Graham

“To get what you want as a sales professional, you have to connect with the person who has it, and that person is your client.” Lon Graham

My guest is Lon Graham, who’s a speaker coaching advocate. Lon speaks to sales teams, coaches, and sales leaders and is an advocate for sales professionals. He is also an award-winning sales and leadership professional. His message of getting the sales you want comes from over 25 years of experience in healthcare, corporate programs, events, and the airline industry. Lon is an active member of the National Speakers Association.

Sales are complex, and two statistics prove that. The first statistic is that sales have the highest turnover; a third of the sales force leaves yearly, which is 10 points higher than any other profession. The second statistic is that the average tenure of a sales professional is a year and a half.

There is transformational power in being nice to people. If you start by being nice to people, talking to them, and spending a little bit of time getting to know them, they will be more inclined to want to talk to you, and then they will give you a chance to come back.

The four C’s is a framework designed to get people to become better at sales. The first C is Choice which addresses how to choose what you want. The following C is Commit, which addresses the steps to take for you to progress towards that goal. The third C is Connect which is about knowing who to connect with. Finally, the fourth C is celebrating, which is about recognizing the progress that you’ve made and acknowledging wins.

To get what you want as a sales professional, you have to connect with the person who has it; that person is your client. What makes sales so hard is how to connect with your client. The starting point is meeting your client in their story and understanding what they’re doing and what they’re dealing with so that you can provide solutions to their challenges. When you do that, they’re going to connect with you, and they’re going to help you get what you want. The four Cs framework is shaped like a wheel because it’s progressive.

The two things that are so important for sales professionals to learn are first, what your client or potential client does best, and their productivity. The second thing is knowing your ideal client. By knowing these two things, you have an insight into how that potential client thinks, and if you can contribute to them doing more of what they want to do with who their ideal client is, you’ve just made them more productive and more profitable.

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S5E24: Networking Even Accountants Can Mingle

“Any gathering of individuals, no matter how large or small, is an opportunity to meet someone.” Peter Margaritis

If the thought of networking makes you sweat, it’s time to rethink what networking is. Anytime you are at an event or even in a meeting where you don’t know someone, you have the opportunity to network. It’s about introducing yourself and getting to know someone. This involves having the right attitude, believing in yourself, having a plan, and remembering to smile.

By taking just a little time to get in the right mindset, you’ll have a lot more confidence walking into any event, and simply smiling can make anyone more approachable. Any gathering of individuals, no matter how large or small, is an opportunity to meet someone. Preparation is vital in making connections, and this means doing your homework. Engage people by being curious about them. It is a great way to break the ice and create a rapport with someone. The key to effective implementation is to be a good listener with your eyes and ears. Always end a conversation by asking someone to feel free to contact you at any time, if you could do anything for them

S5E23: From Improv to Financial Literacy with Rory Henry

“We have to do a better job of providing kids with the foundation of financial literacy so we can set them up for success in the future.” Rory Henry

My guest was Rory Henry has 15 plus years of experience working in tax and, most recently, financial advisory professions. He’s built a program AFO Wealth Management Forward, that works with accounting firms to implement holistic Wealth Management Services. Rory is a technology enthusiast at heart and adept at finding ways to improve the client experience using technology to streamline tax, accounting, and wealth management services.

Rory is the co-host of a leading accounting and financial podcast, AFO Wealth Management forward. His interviews include the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Fortune Magazine, accounting today, Channing Webb and venture-backed FinTech companies, and nationally recognized thought leaders. In addition, Rory has launched Arrowroot Family Office and Goal Setter Financial Literacy Initiative to help 1 million kids gain a pathway to financial freedom. The program is enlisting fortune 1000 companies, athletes, entertainers, and Financial Thought Leaders, to bring resources and awareness in the fight to help kids in underserved communities. Rory has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and passed the series SIE, Series 63, and series 65 Security exams. Rory is an avid sports fan outside of work, plays golf, and enjoys performing improv comedy at theaters throughout Los Angeles.

Active listening and dropping the ego is huge because it helps you find out what a person’s wants and needs are. Improv is empathy because, in the end, you’re trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s finding out where they are in life, where they want to be, and then helping them get there, and that’s real influence. People want to be heard and understood. You can provide some feedback or add to a conversation. But coming in and providing unsolicited advice is never the smart thing to do. When an improviser has a good idea or wants to interject, they’ll lean forward.

I love helping out clients by looking at their situation in a holistic viewpoint and then being able to provide the right advice to set them up for success in the future. For example, we have a program promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion through financial literacy. We believe that providing financial literacy to the next generation is vitally important to our society.

We have to do a better job of providing kids with the foundation of financial literacy so we can set them up for success in the future. We have teamed up with technologies to help kids learn about financial literacy exciting and fun. Reaching kids in underserved communities that may not have financially literate role models is especially important.

We’re sitting in a technological revolution, and these digital devices enable us to reach the masses. Children are inundated with information, so we have to try to set up an environment and make the content engaging. This will enable them to start understanding financial concepts.

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S5E22: Laughter is the Best Medicine for Your Organization

“By injecting humor and levity into our work lives, we give ourselves an opportunity for human connection.” Peter Margaritis

According to some recent research, adding more laughter to the workplace helps improve the organization’s culture. Humor allows people to cope with stress and build relationships and is associated with intelligence and creativity.

Workplace humor is about a positive, light-hearted, open attitude and a playful mindset. One of the best ways to create a competitive advantage is to create a culture that embraces laughter. By injecting humor and levity into our work lives, we give ourselves an opportunity for human connection —something so easily lost in today’s pandemic weary and technology-driven world.

Humor has not been seen as a top leadership characteristic but rather a secondary leadership behavior. However, there is more research evidence that humor should be one of the top leadership behaviors. Incorporating humor into your company culture isn’t that easy, but well worth it. It is essential to understand your own company culture when it comes to humor in the workplace and bring it in a way that fits and enhances the culture and the people.

There is a delicate balance between creating a culture that embraces humor and developing leadership that learns how to use humor to strengthen the organization, and it’s well worth the effort.