Has Dialogue Become A Lost Art?

Has dialogue become a lost art? I pondered this question as I read the latest news, surveyed the latest posts in my social media feeds, and listened to prognosticators on TV and radio give their opinion. It seemed like the proclamations and posts on both sides of the issue of the day were more about shouting to be heard versus seeking to understand and discover a solution. It made me wonder if we have lost the art of having an effective dialogue as a society in order to find common ground and unite around some fundamental principles, core values, and virtues that transcend race and socioeconomic background.

Effective Dialogue Image

In my work with leaders in sports, business, and life, we have found that the best leaders and teams truly understand how to communicate with each other and find a way to have effective and constructive dialogue when issues arrive. Trust is one of the foundational elements for true teamwork to exist. Courage, authenticity, and vulnerability also have to be prevalent in order for individuals to come together. With these core values as the backdrop, here are 4 things that the best leaders utilize to have effective dialogue with their teams:

  • A Listening Ear – You have probably heard the old adage that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Yet, we sometimes speak more than we should and listen less than we could. Great leaders pursue conversation with others with a listening ear. They don’t think of listening as a pause in the conversation where they are waiting and thinking of what they will say next. They seek to understand what the other person is communicating both verbally and non-verbally. They ask clarifying questions and actively listen to the facts and feelings of the moment.
  • A Discerning Spirit – The best leaders also have a discerning spirit where they discover meaning in the conversation. There is a depth to the dialogue where the two people feel heard and understood and mutual respect is present. Practically, this could be the ability to repeat back – both in terms of feelings and facts – what the other person is striving to communicate. It could also be as simple as saying “I understand how that makes you feel.” When leaders exhibit a discerning spirit, it helps them attach meaning to the moment, which facilitates a drive to constructive action.
  • A Willing Mind – Great leaders also exhibit a willing mind to try and understand different viewpoints and perspectives. The best leaders and teams that I have worked with and researched over the years are lifelong learners, and they never lose the desire to learn and grow. While effective dialogue can often lead to agreement, the most basic level must be mutual understanding and respect, even if both individuals choose to disagree with the other person’s point of view. Civility in discussion is paramount to constructive progress and that begins with a mind that is willing to seek new and different insights.
  • A Servant’s Heart – The best leaders approach teamwork with a heart that yearns to serve and unite others. Caring is at the core of a servant leader’s heart, and they passionately seek to discover the motivators and activators of their team, peers, and colleagues. They also seek to find common ground where they can use their platform and their sphere of influence to be a force for positive change and impact. They understand that life is not all about them, and they pursue a higher calling in life.

As my friend and colleague Mark Sanborn says, “You don’t need a title to be a leader.” Each of us has a platform whether it be your family, social media feed, workplace, church, school, sports team, and/or community. Think about your voice today and every day and consider whether you are serving as a catalyst for effective dialogue or just a trumpet who continues to play a solo long after the music has stopped. The art of dialogue is a two-way street. Both participants or sides of a conversation must exhibit these qualities in order for the dialogue to be productive.

I always look to the Bible and the example of Jesus, who I think was the greatest leader of all time, for the model of how to lead and act well. During His life on Earth, Jesus understood the power of the question and longed to discern what was in a person’s heart. He listened intently to what was being spoken and not spoken. He exemplified a willing mind and servant’s heart to impact people physically and, moreover, spiritually. And through all of this, He never wavered in His convictions, the truth, and His overarching purpose to bring people together in a relationship with God.

Let’s remember why we are here, pursue the essential and eternal things in life, and be leaders of positive impact, rediscovering the art of effective dialogue in the process.

Preparing For Defining Moments – Podcast: S02E003

In today’s episode of Monday Morning Moments, I talk about the power of  a defining moment. You can’t always predict when a defining moment will happen in your life, but you can be prepared for it. The sad reality is that many people never realize the opportunities that they have to unleash their strengths, talents, and gifts in the midst of an opportunity to positively impact others. Defining moments provide that opportunity for us, and they also present an opportunity for us to get very clear about our calling  and purpose in life.

Episode Outline:

  • Defining moments allow you to unleash your strengths, talents, and gifts in the midst of an opportunity to positively impact others.
  • Defining moments provide clarity of your identity and calling.
  • You can’t always predict when a defining moment will happen, but you can be prepared for it.
  • Preparing for defining moments involves learning from the past.
  • The key to preparing for a defining moment in your life involves the following principle: “Focus on the Moment.”
  • To have focus in the moment, you have to “focus on the moment.”
  • Focusing on the Moment involves asking the following questions:
    • What’s at stake?
    • Who else is involved?
    • How can I make a difference?
  • Other questions to consider:
    • Why do you have the platform (i.e. title, role, sphere of influence) that you have?
    • What are you doing with that sphere of influence?
    • Who is being impacted by your platform?
    • How are they being impacted?
    • How are you preparing for the defining moments in your life?
    • When you think about your entire life as a “moment” in time, how have you prepared yourself to focus on the “moment?”

 

What Are You Afraid Of?

Is it death that makes us so afraid or the thought that we may not have lived a life of meaning and purpose? Or worse, the life that we lived did not fulfill the life that was imagined when God created us?

Through my work with athletes, I have seen many stories of celebration and conquest as well as disgust and defeat. Most athletes do not fear a clock that reads 0:00 – especially if they know they have given their all and played their best. What frightens them the most is reaching the end of a contest knowing they did not play to the best of their ability or potential.

Man on top of a mountain

We must play to win instead of playing not to lose. In other words, we need to appreciate the opportunities we have been given and use them to make an impact in the lives of other people. When the last second ticks off the clock of your life, what thought will you have? Will you triumphantly raise your hands in victory celebrating a fulfilling life? Or, will you hang your head haunted by the feeling that you could have been more and could have done more?

Begin today by asking these relevant and pertinent questions:

  • What roles do I play in life (e.g. student, athlete, friend, husband, wife, father, mother, business leader)?
  • What am I doing with the responsibility and opportunity of these roles?
  • Am I realizing my potential in all areas of my life?
  • Am I motivated by the joy of living or haunted by the fear of dying?
  • Do I see opportunities to make a positive impact and seize them?
  • At the end of this year, this decade, this life, will I cherish the memories that I made or fear the regrets that I have?

As Ken Blanchard so prophetically proclaims, “The legacy you live is the legacy you leave.” What are you afraid of? Every day, you can make a choice to positively impact the people within your sphere of influence by:

  • Encouraging them
  • Listening to them
  • Mentoring them
  • Learning from them
  • Leading them
  • Serving them

Also, true leaders in any walk of life are:

  • Purposeful with their time
  • Confident in their calling
  • Generous with their resources
  • Compassionate with their heart

Choose today to invest your time purposefully and wisely, and make your life count for what matters most! A life well lived leads to rejoicing, not regret!

Step Up As A Leader – Podcast: S02E002

Great leaders in sports, business, and life consistently rise to the occasion and lead in the moment! They assess the current situation or opportunity and consider how their past experiences have prepared them for this moment to make a positive impact in the lives of other people. The best part of this is that transformational leaders step up to serve others…not themselves!

In today’s podcast, I talk about how leaders do this by identifying 3 basic steps that help them truly lead in the moment:

  • Step Up – Learn From the Past
  • Step Out – Prepare For The Future
  • Step Forward – Perform in the Moment

I also offer and discuss 7 questions that can help you grow as a leader at work, at home, in sports, and in your community:

  1. How are you growing as a leader?
  2. What is your plan for personal growth?
  3. Do you invest time in learning from the past?
  4. How self aware are you?
  5. When the moment calls, do you respond?
  6. Even if you are not in a formal role of leadership, how can you influence the influencers based on your strengths, talents, gifts, and past experiences to respond in the right way?
  7. How can you make a positive difference at home, at work, and in your community?

Remember, there is no one right way to serve. Serving others is all about leveraging your strengths, passions, and opportunities to make a positive impact in the lives of other people within your sphere of influence.

A Prayer For Houston

My mom, an incredible woman of prayer and an excellent English teacher, sent me this poem by Robert Browning to share with you. I think it is appropriate for anyone who is dealing with some kind of trial in their life including everyone who has been affected by the damage and destruction of Hurricane Harvey. While there are many emotions that people are dealing with during this trying time in the greater Houston area, peace, strength, and perseverance can be found in God and the power of Jesus Christ! We are praying that you find peace in this moment and comfort in this prayer:

If I forget,
Yet God remembers! If these hands of mine
Cease from their clinging, yet the hands divine
Hold me so firmly that I cannot fall;
And if sometimes I am too tired to call
For Him to help me, then He reads the prayer
Unspoken in my heart, and lifts my care.

 

I dare not fear, since certainly I know
That I am in God’s keeping, shielded so
From all that else would harm, and in the hour
Of stern temptation strengthened by His power;

 

I tread no path in life to Him unknown;
I lift no burden, bear no pain, alone:
My soul a calm, sure hiding-place has found:
The everlasting arms my life surround. 

 

God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that.
I know Thee who has kept my path, and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy;
It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love.

 

– “God, Thou Art Love” by Robert Browning

Houston Strong Photo