You Are A Genius

This month, I dive into the topic of Accelerated Learning and the potential we each have to experience exponential growth in the areas of learning, memory and reading.

I am intrigued by how quickly and powerfully technology is advancing. If we were able to travel back in time 100 years, the thought that someone could speak into a small device (cell phone) and speak to someone else on a small device (cell phone) in real time, yet each be on a different continent in a different part of the world, would be totally inconceivable (it still amazes us). The same can be said for space travel, or microwave ovens, television, and of course, computers and the Internet. But here is what is most intriguing to us: The possibilities to do all this existed hundreds of years ago, and, yes, even thousands of years ago—they just had not been discovered.

Key questions:

1. What has not been discovered yet that we would find unbelievable?
2. Who discovers or figures these things out?
3. What is more powerful: the inventor/discoverer or the technology/discovery?

The bottom line is this: Despite the advances of technology has given us (for example, the computer), they are still tools created and operated by humans. Humans keep figuring out and discovering possibilities and opportunities that previously seemed impossible. We each have a wellspring of undiscovered possibilities and opportunities sitting right inside our own heads, just waiting to be explored and tapped into.

Let’s seize the day to see the possibilities and the wide-open expanse of the unexplored territory waiting to be tapped!

We are on Month 11, keep on learning!

The N.J.W Blog

Accelerated Learning, Part One—You Are a Genius!

This month, I focus on accelerating our learning processes—how exciting! First, understand that we all posses the ability to improve and accelerate our learning curve. And second, this creates the potential of what we can continue to become.

Here is an overview of the month.

1. You Are a Genius! This week, I discuss ways to unlock and tap into the incredible and powerful potential in your mind. We will also cover the attitudes of successful learners and show how your attitude about learning will determine how far you go in your life and career.

2. Six Stages of Learning. Next week, I will talk about how to accelerate your learning and discover what your unique learning strengths and weaknesses are. I will also cover the topic of finding your particular learning style, and how to best tailor your learning to fit your unique needs.

3. Improve Your Memory. In two weeks, I will talk about how the mind and memory work and how to train yourself to remember more. I will also cover basic speed-reading techniques and show you the importance of reading and how to develop a basic reading plan.

4. Lifelong Learning. In Week Four, I will discuss the importance and benefits of being a lifetime learner. In addition, I will talk briefly about a basic plan for lifelong learning and how to keep your mind tuned for success, as well as how to win the battles of thought that take place in our minds.

You Are a Genius—Unlocking the Power of the Mind

This month, I focus on the learning that comes through the power of the mind. Take care to feed and stimulate your brain, and you will expand your mind. A healthy brain is central to a healthy mind. Because the two are inextricably connected, I would like to start this month by giving an overview of the astounding complexity of the brain. Many of these facts may be familiar to you, but they are important reminders of this incredible tool God gave us. We again need to see the human brain and mind with wonder, awe and inspiration.

But first, what do we mean by “learning”?

Here is how some dictionaries define it:
—The act, process or experience of gaining knowledge or skill
—Knowledge or skill gained through schooling or study
—Behavioral modification, especially through experience or conditioning
—To gain knowledge, comprehension or mastery through experience or study

Keep this in mind as we go through the month: Learning is gaining knowledge through various means.

Now, a little about the brain:

The brain is the equivalent of a human supercomputer. Your brain is more complicated than any computer mankind has ever made. Maximizing your brain’s ability is essential to becoming the success you desire to become because it controls who you are. It is the command center involved in and controlling absolutely everything you do. Your brain determines how you think, feel and act.

Simply put: When your brain is working at peak performance, it allows you to be your best because it controls the rest.

Here are some facts about the brain:

– It is about 2 percent of body weight.
– It consumes about 20 to 30 percent of the body’s energy.
– There are about 100 billion neurons in the brain.
– Each neuron or nerve cell is connected to other nerve cells in the brain.
– There are more than 1 quadrillion connections in the brain.
– Each one of these neurons is a little “learning center” capable of storing knowledge.

Needless to say, most of us have barely scratched the surface when it comes to tapping into those neurons!

There are some basic influences on the brain that shape how it functions and how far it develops. Some of these include genes, health, injury, self-talk, life experiences, stress and study (or lack of it). Notice, I said that these influence the brain, but they do not determine how far you can go or what you can learn, except perhaps in the case of severe injury or mental retardation. In other words, you have the incredible opportunity to go as far as you desire!

So, with such a tremendous tool at our disposal, what keeps so many from experiencing the possibilities that this tool can bring? There are some simple barriers that many people face that can have the potential to wreak havoc on our learning if we allow them to.

Barriers to Finding Your Genius

Lack of belief. Many people do not believe that they can learn, master knowledge or become “smarter.” These are deeply held beliefs for many, and, ultimately, if you do not believe it, you will not achieve it.

Lack of knowledge. What keeps some people from learning is that they choose not to access or do not have access to knowledge. Knowledge comes from experiences, books, people and other “knowledge dispensers.” We must tap into that knowledge.

Lack of desire. Some people simply do not have the desire to learn. They may be lazy, or they may not see the positive impact that learning would have on them. They have no passion inside that drives them to learn.

Lack of hard work. Gaining knowledge—learning—is hard work, and it takes a lifetime to master. It is an ongoing discipline that is never complete. I am getting on in my years, and I am still learning. I am still doing the hard work to expand my mind. It would be easy to give up and coast, but I love the challenge of continuing to learn.

So, how do we overcome or break through these “barriers”? The key to breaking through these barriers is to do the opposite.

Let’s look at some tools we can use to knock down those barriers:

Change Your Beliefs. It is up to you to do the work of changing your beliefs. And when you do, you will be opening up new worlds— literally! Feed your mind with information that will change your belief. By taking part in this one-year plan, you are doing just that. But also ask yourself if you are doing that with belief. The truth is that you have an amazing mind with a capacity for learning that is beyond your comprehension. You must believe this. And when you do, you will be unlocking the potential of your mind!

Get the Right Knowledge. Words—if they are not true—are meaningless. I hear children say, “I read it in a book.” But is it true? Just because someone says it or writes it doesn’t mean it is true. As learners, we want to get the right knowledge, not just information or opinions. It is our job to seek out information and knowledge and then test it and run it through our minds to see if it is true, and if it can be rightfully applied to our lives in order to make them better and help us succeed. We need to weigh and measure what we learn in order to gain the right knowledge. And when we do, we will be unlocking the potential of our mind!

Become Passionate About Learning. This will take some work, but the only way to do it is to begin learning about things that have an immediate impact in your life. When you learn about a new financial concept that helps you earn money or get out of debt, you will be fired-up. When you learn about a way to communicate that helps you sell more product, you will be energized. When you learn about how to interact with your family in a healthy way and your relationships get better, you will be inspired! Become passionate about learning, because when you do, you unlock the potential of your mind!

Discipline Yourself Through the Hard Work of Study. Learning will take work. Until someone comes up with modules that can plug into your mind and give you instant access to knowledge, you are on your own, and that takes work. The process of learning is a long one. Yes, we can speed it up, but it is still a process of reading, listening, reviewing, repetition, applying the knowledge, experiencing the outcomes, readjusting, etc. Simply put, that takes time. Slowly but surely, when you discipline yourself, you gain knowledge and learn. And when you do, you will be unlocking the potential of your mind!

Learning is possible, no matter your age. You are never too young or too old. Your mind was created to learn, and it has a huge capacity to do so. This week, make a commitment to unlock the potential of your mind!

-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

We can choose our attitudes about anything, including learning and education. That’s right. We get to choose what our attitudes are. Attitude is “the feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that follows from this.” We choose our opinion about people and situations. We choose the way we will behave in relation to other people and circumstances. We choose what we believe about learning. We choose it. Learning doesn’t have to be bad. It doesn’t have to be anything but what we want it to be. We have the option. We can have tremendously optimistic attitudes about learning—attitudes that will help us grow in ways we have never achieved before!

The choice of a right attitude will significantly determine new circumstances. Choosing to have the right attitude will change the world around you. This isn’t any sort of magic; it is just how the world works. Now, don’t get us wrong. It won’t cure everything and turn your world into a virtual Shangri-La, but it will significantly improve the world you live in. For example, let’s say that every day you go into work and you gripe about life and work from the moment you get there until the moment you leave. Will others want to be around you? Will others ask your opinion? Will others like you? Will others ask you to join them for lunch? Probably not! But what if you come to work every day and you are the positive optimist of the crowd? Will everybody love you? No, but significantly more people will than if you are the office pessimist! Your choice of attitude will determine what kind of circumstances you get!

The same is true with learning. What we feel about learning and what we believe about it will determine the outcomes of our learning. And the outcomes of our learning will determine the outcome of our lives.

Ultimately, our attitude is a choice. Nobody else can force you to have a bad attitude. Nobody else can force you to have a good attitude. It is simply a choice we each make.

Where are you with your attitude about learning? Is it positive? Take some time to give it some serious thought. Then, no matter where you find yourself, decide to take your attitude to the next level! If you have a really bad attitude, decide to take it up a couple of levels!

So, if our attitudes determine to a great degree what kind of life we have, shouldn’t we focus on the best attitudes to have and then make them our own? Absolutely! If we want to soar with the eagles in this life, and if there are attitudes that will make us soar, shouldn’t we pursue them with all our hearts? Yes, by all means! So here we go!

Attitudes of Successful Learners

1. “I can.” This is the most basic attitude. We simply must choose to believe that we can learn. Telling yourself that you can’t will, in effect, make it so. But telling yourself that you can, will, in effect, enable you to learn much more. Even if you actually only achieve 50 percent of what you tell yourself, you will achieve at least that much more than if you told yourself you couldn’t. So many people were told at a young age that they couldn’t learn. Many others were allowed to engage in that kind of negative self-talk (telling themselves, “I can’t learn,” “I don’t understand,” I’ll never get this,” etc.), and their parents and teachers didn’t intervene. This enabled them to develop the “I can’t” attitudes that become self-fulfilling prophecies.

2. “This is a long-term approach.” Learning isn’t something that happens overnight. Yes, you can learn individual facts, but the real growth comes when you see your learning build on itself and compound for years, when your knowledge meets up with your experience. When we take the attitude that it all has to happen immediately, we hurt ourselves in the long run because the fact is that it takes time to learn (even though we can accelerate it). If we expect it to happen immediately and it doesn’t, then we can get frustrated and stop learning altogether.

Instead, we need to take a long-term view just as we do in financial matters, weight management, leadership, etc. Long-term thinking, including our learning is always the best way to go for success.

3. “Learning is valuable.” Some people have a “learning schmearning—who needs learning?” attitude. They think that learning is overrated. That’s wrong, especially today. We live in the information age. We must gain knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge if we are going to be successful. We must tell ourselves and cultivate the attitude that learning is valuable and that it will affect our lives.

4. “I will make a difference in the lives of those around me.” People who soar are generally people who have the attitude of helping other people. Yes, they may do it for monetary gain, but they are others-focused. They want to change the way people live and experience life for the better. They are difference makers all around. This is the same in what we learn. We learn first for ourselves, but then with the goal of taking what we have learned, and what we make of ourselves, and we then help others to do the same.

One thing we can say, as almost a universal truth, most people are not self-consumed. They genuinely care about others and will do what they can to help others. This is what we know to be true about the attitudes of the genuinely successful.

These are the attitudes of people who are not just successful at getting information into their minds, but in becoming good people because of that information. Learn all that you can, and be sure to keep the attitudes that will make you a successful learner and a successful person!

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

Becoming The Best Leader

Part Four—Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself and Motivating Those Who Follow You—in Good Times and Tough Times

N.J.W Blog

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Remember our key phrase this month: You are a leader! Continue to grow in your leadership position so that you can effectively lead the group around you, no matter what size it is!

This month I am covering the topic of Leadership:

1. The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision. In the first week’s edition, I covered the basic foundational elements that are central to becoming a person with tremendous leadership skills and abilities. I also discussed the secrets to having a powerful and compelling vision that helps you attract others.

2. Character: The Core of Leadership and Leadership Mistakes to Avoid. Two weeks ago, I looked at what I believe is the core element of what it means to be a leader: the issue of character. I looked at what it means to be a person of character who can inspire others, and how character is essential. I also looked at some typical mistakes people make that hinder their ability to lead and move their organizations forward and how you can avoid making those same mistakes.

3. Skills Needed for Effective Leadership and Developing Other Leaders in Your Organization. Last week I focused more on the basic skills that effective leaders demonstrate. I also looked at some strategic ways to develop potential leaders around you to ensure a new generation of leaders.

4. Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself as the Leader and Motivating Those Who Follow You—In Good Times and Tough Times. This week I will take a closer look at making sure that you take care of yourself. In this day and age, it is even more important for the leader to closely guard their personal growth and development. I will also look at how to motivate others to follow you.

There is a basic principle in life: You cannot help people beyond the degree to which you have first helped yourself. This is not to say we should be narcissistic and selfish; it just means that we should make our own lives successful so that we can, in turn, help others along their journey as well.

Leaders can fall into a trap. They can be so focused on the needs of their followers and the needs of the organization that they eventually fall apart, meaning they can no longer help others.

One key to being a great leader is to work toward longevity, which includes taking care of yourself and making yourself the very best leader and person you can be.

So here are some keys to keeping yourself in the game so you can be an effective leader for a very long time and help as many people as possible:

1. Realize that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. Leaders are people, just as their followers are. We need to take care of ourselves. And it isn’t selfish to do so. In fact, the argument could be made that not taking care of ourselves is the most selfish thing we could do because there is a high likelihood that we will burn out and be unable to serve our followers if we don’t. We can still work hard and lead, and at the same time be very effective in taking care of ourselves. This may be an attitude or belief adjustment for some of you who are used to giving up too much of yourselves to your followers.

2. Have a plan for taking care of yourself. If you don’t have a plan, something important could be neglected. What gets planned gets done. It is interesting that the same leaders who wouldn’t neglect planning their work don’t plan the part of their lives that will restore them to a greater strength in both their work and personal lives. A strong leader plans to restore themselves. They schedule restorative activities and times.

3. Set boundaries. Even as leaders, we need to have boundaries with our followers. There needs to be a clear line that they are not allowed to cross or encroach upon. Your followers need to know not only that you are the leader, and as such, you are willing to sacrifice for the team, but also that you are a person who needs time for yourself.

4. Live a life of balance. One of the most important things you can do in this area is to make sure that you are balanced. There are many areas of life: work, hobbies, family, health, recreation, learning, etc.—the list could go on forever. Unfortunately, too many people spend too much time on one or two areas, and usually it is work that gets the bulk of our energy and attention. Life isn’t designed to be lived this way. We all need a break from an intense routine. We are actually designed to work more efficiently when we live in balance. As we turn away from a part of life for a time, it actually enables us to be better when we return. So, when you leave your leadership at work for a time, say, a well-needed vacation, you will actually be a better leader when you get back to the office. Balance makes us better in every area, including our emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual lives.

5. Spend quiet time. We live in a day of noise. From the time we get up until the time we collapse into bed, we are surrounded by noise. We are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages. We’re exposed to television, radio and people talking all day. Frankly, we need quiet. We need to be alone with just our thoughts. We need to get away from all of the voices to be alone with our own voice, that inner voice that we don’t always get to hear. When we are alone, we begin to see more clearly. We learn about ourselves. And that, in turn, helps us become better leaders.

6. Take time for fun things. Every leader—every person—needs time for fun. Just because you are a leader doesn’t mean you have to be serious all of the time. Everybody should have things they do to enjoy themselves. Laugh and have fun!

7. Have someone, such as a mentor or coach, invest in you just as you invest in others. The job of the leader is to give sacrificially to those they lead. This is the idea of servant leadership. Leaders give. The idea that the leaders get to the top and live off of others’ work is not accurate. True leaders give to others. The downside is that we often do not have anyone to give to us. While we are teaching others, who teaches us? Every great leader should have someone who can pour into their life, someone who can teach them, someone who can encourage them, someone whom the leader can go to with issues and problems. Those are needs every leader has. You would do well to find someone who can invest in you the way you invest in others.

8. Take a day off each week. The good book says to take a day of rest. Work six days, then rest a day. No more “sneaking back into the office.” No more making “just one more phone call.” This is a foreign concept to many people today. We have become seven-days-a-week workers. But the body, the mind and the spirit need rest. It is OK to do nothing—you have my permission! Rest one full day—at least! This will go a long way toward regenerating your life, and ultimately your leadership.

9. Go for the long haul. The old fable of the tortoise and the hare is a good one. Those who finish first are those who steadily plod along and discipline themselves to finish the race. You are a leader today. Do you want to be a leader 10 years from now? Twenty years? Thirty years? If you pace yourself and take care of yourself, you can be. Yes, we need to have a sense of urgency in our work, but at the same time, we must understand that we have a lifetime to lead.

Taking care of yourself is important. It is something you cannot neglect if you take your leadership role seriously. Give this some serious thought and consideration. When you get the concept of taking care of yourself and then act on it, you will significantly increase your chances of being a great leader for the long haul.

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

One thing known to be true (but many people do not believe) is that people do want to be motivated. Sometimes people will say, “But they just won’t follow.” Not true. You just haven’t motivated them to follow you! Get certain things right, and they will follow! With that in mind, here are some keys to getting people motivated to follow your leadership.

1. Inspire and Challenge Them. People want to be inspired. They want to be encouraged to think bigger and better things. They want to look for and climb big mountains. They want to have someone help them dream their biggest dreams. That’s inspiration! They also want someone to set the bar high for them. They want someone to tell them that they can and should aim higher and go for more. That’s challenging! Show them the lofty heights, because probably no one else is and the one who does is the one who will lead them.

2. Teach Them. One of the greatest leadership-development programs in the world is at General Electric. Jack Welch, the company’s former CEO, personally devoted himself to its growth. He spent thousands and thousands of hours at the company’s university, teaching in a classroom setting. He knew that information must be communicated and taught. He knew that leaders need to take the time and be patient, teaching those they lead. And, oftentimes, through this process, you will probably learn something yourself!

3. Empathize with Them. OK, it’s almost a cliché by now, but the saying, “I feel your pain” works! Why? Because people want their leaders to feel their pain. They want them to know what it feels like when it is hard or when it is work. This doesn’t mean every board meeting has to be a touchy feely sob fest, but we ought to do more than tell our followers, “Suck it up, soldier!” In this day and age, that doesn’t fly. Your followers want to know that you understand what they are going through and that you care. Sit down with them. Ask questions about the situation, and follow up with them.

4. Strategize with Them. Some, but very few, people want to be told what to do and then be left alone. Most would like some direction and help in the area of strategy. Take the time to plot out the plan of action. Even if you know it, it is best to not just hand it over and say, “Now, do it.” Take them step by step so they learn how to do it themselves. Remember, we aren’t just trying to get the job done—we are trying to get the job done and create new leaders under us. This is an investment!

5. Dream with Them. Take an interest in what they want to accomplish in their life. Give them the opportunity to dream about what your organization or business can become. Encourage them to dream big dreams, and then do all you can to share that dream, foster that dream and make that dream a reality! Let them know that you are committed to them achieving their dreams, and they will follow you to the ends of the earth!

6. Encourage Them to Shoot for the Stars. This is closely aligned with having them dream, but this has more to do with the size of their dream! Most people will underestimate what they can do or what they want to accomplish. Most people have much more potential than they realize, let alone live up to. Help them by encouraging them to stretch their dreams so they are even bigger and greater than before.

7. Communicate Honestly and Clearly with Them. People who follow want their leaders to be honest with them. The act of following is based on believing that you are being told the truth about where you are going! Be open about the positives and the negatives. People can take it, and if you make them integral to the solutions, then even tough problems become a chance for teamwork! Communicate in many ways: written, verbal, etc. Do it regularly so they know what the plan is, where you are going, what time departure is and the estimated time of arrival at destination success!

Now, motivation is always important, but it’s even more so in tough and challenging times. Here are a few things to keep in mind when the going gets rough:

Tough and challenging times will surely come. That is a given. The question is: What kind of leadership will we demonstrate during those times? Weak leaders will see permanent damage. With extraordinary leaders at the helm, however, an organization can actually become stronger and thrive in spite of the tough and challenging times. That should be our goal, so here are some ideas on how to be an extraordinary leader in tough and challenging times!

1. Keep Your Eyes on the Big Picture. When things get tough, everybody’s temptation is to become acutely focused on the problem. The extraordinary leader, however, will keep their eyes on the big picture. This doesn’t mean that we don’t address the problem. In fact, we have to address the problem. But what separates a leader from a follower is that the leader doesn’t get caught up in the problem. The leader sees the big picture and keeps moving toward the vision. The further they take their followers toward the vision, the further away from the problem they get.

2. Don’t Get Caught in the War or the Friendly Fire. When it gets tough, even the most loyal team members can be tempted to start shooting, and, unfortunately, they sometimes shoot each other! Rather than focusing on the enemy on the outside, they begin to question each other and find many faults with one another that they normally would not see. The extraordinary leader is the one who does not get dragged into the fray. They keep their eye on the big picture and act rationally and objectively. They understand that people can become heated and might say things they don’t really mean, that people are firing because they are angry or scared. The extraordinary leader understands this and rises above it. This way, they take fewer arrows and set the example for their followers.

3. Be First to Sacrifice. When it gets tough (cuts in salaries, etc.), the leader should do just that—lead. They need to not only be the one who is rewarded the greatest when all is well, but they need to be the first to sacrifice. The extraordinary leader says, “I know many of you are concerned with the salary cuts. I am, too. In the long run, we will be healthy again, but for the mean time, this is necessary. Understanding this, I want you to know that I am taking a 20 percent pay reduction myself. I want you to know that we are in this together.” The extraordinary leader is the first to sacrifice and will be rewarded with the loyalty of their followers.

4. Remain Calm. Panic is one of the most basic human emotions, and no one is immune to it. The extraordinary leader, however, takes time out regularly to think the issues through in order to remain calm. They remind themselves that all is not lost and there will be another day. They remind themselves that being calm will enable them to make the best decisions—for themselves and for their followers. Panic only leads to disaster, while calm leads to victory.

5. Motivate. In tough and challenging times, people are naturally down. They tend to be pessimistic. They can’t see how it is all going to work out. Thus, they have a hard time getting going. The extraordinary leader knows this and will focus on being the optimistic motivator. They will come to the office knowing that for the time being, the mood of the group will be carried and buoyed by them and their attitude. Above all else, they seek to show that the result will be good, and with this, they motivate their followers to continue on, braving the current storms, and on to their shared destiny.

6. Create Small Wins. One of the ways to motivate is to create small wins. The extraordinary leader knows that in tough times their people think all is lost. They wonder if they can win. So the extraordinary leader creates opportunities for the team to win, even if they are small. They set smaller, more achievable goals and remind and reward the team members when they hit those goals. With each small win, the leader is building the esteem and attitude of their followers, digging them out of a self-created hole of fear.

7. Keep a Sense of Humor. The extraordinary leader knows that even if the whole company goes down the drain, we still get to go home to our families and live a life of love with them. The extraordinary leader keeps perspective and knows that we humans act irrationally when we get scared and fail, and sometimes that is humorous. Don’t ever laugh at someone’s expense in this situation, because that will be perceived as cold and heartless, regardless of what you meant by it, but do keep the ability to laugh at yourself and the situations that present themselves. By doing this, you will keep yourself and your team in an attitude that will eventually beat the tough times.

Remember: You can be a great motivator of people, and you can do it even when stormy weather comes!

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Skills Needed for Effective Leadership and Developing Other Leaders in Your Organization

This month we are covering the topic of Leadership:

  1. The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision. In last week’s lesson, I covered the basic foundational elements that are central to becoming a person with tremendous leadership skills and abilities. I also discussed secrets to having a powerful and compelling vision that helps you attract others.
  2. Character: The Core of Leadership and Leadership Mistakes to Avoid. This week I will look at what I believe is the core element of leadership—the issue of character. I will look at what it means to be a person of character who can lead others forward, and how character is essential to successfully lead others. I will also look at some typical leadership mistakes people make that hinder their ability to lead and move their organizations forward, and how you can avoid making those same mistakes.
  3. Skills Needed for Effective Leadership and Developing Other Leaders in Your Organization. This week I will turn our eyes away from the character traits of leaders and look more at the basic skills effective leaders demonstrate. I will also be looking at some strategic ways to develop other leaders around you so you can ensure a new generation of leaders.
  4. Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself as the Leader and Motivating Those Who Follow You—In Good Times and Tough Times. In the last week of this month, I will take a closer look at making sure you take care of yourself. In this day and age, it is even more important for the leader to closely guard their own growth and development. I will also look at how to motivate others to follow you.

Character: The Core of Leadership

There has been a lot of discussion lately about character and leadership. Most political elections today seem to have an element to them wherein one candidate suggests that the other doesn’t have the character that it takes to lead. Just a cursory glance at the business page in the newspaper shows a major discussion of character and ethics in the corporate world. Schools are rocked with scandal, as are some churches. Everywhere you turn, it seems as though there is a lack of character. But doesn’t this beg the question, “What is character?”

Here are a few definitions of character that I have found that, when put together, give us a good understanding of what character is:

1. Strength of mind, resolution, independence, individuality

2. Moral or ethical strength

3. Who you are when no one else is around

In other words, a person of good character is a person who has a strong moral base and acts on it. They have the core inner strength, fortitude and determination to do what is right, whether anyone else is there to validate it or not. They operate out of what is good and right, not out of personal expedience.

Once we have defined character, we must also ask: Why is character important? Character is important because it is what we place our trust in when dealing with other people. When we decide to follow a leader, we evaluate their life, their skills, etc., and then make a decision to trust them. We trust that they are who they say they are. We trust that they will do what they say. Trust is built on good people who are consistent in their goodness. Those are the people we can trust—and the leader/follower relationship is, at its core, one of trust.

Six Essential Traits of Good Character

The following are what I believe to be the basics of good character. Miss one of these, and you will find a weak link in your character—one that may be your leadership’s undoing. As you go through the following, soberly reflect on your life as it relates to these integral parts of good character.

1. Integrity. Integrity is a good catch word that is similar to character but provides us with a different way of looking at the idea of character. The root of integrity means “whole” or “undivided,” and that is a terrific way to help us understand what integrity is—an undivided life. For example, you don’t act one way in one situation and another in a different situation. There is integrity and wholeness to your life. Living this way will build trust in your followers. Another use of the word integrity that provides insight for us is when the word is used in regard to a physical structure. A wall or a building that is strong and has no cracks is said to have integrity. The same could be said for great leaders.

2. Honesty. It is regularly said that honesty is the best policy, but I would add that honesty is the only policy for great leaders. Think about it. Why do people hedge the truth? Usually for a few basic reasons: they are either afraid of the ramifications or they are trying to hide something. Either way, a lack of honesty results in the fact that you destroy the trust of those who follow you. Even if you tell them the truth, but they know you have lied to others, it will destroy the trust you had with them. They find themselves thinking, “If he will lie to them, will he lie to me?”

I have never understood what people hope to accomplish by being dishonest. As the Bible says, “Your sin shall surely find you out.” Eventually people come to know that you are not honest in your dealings, and that is what you become known for. Your reputation is what your leadership is based on, though. When we are honest and live transparently before our followers, they are able to see us for who we are and make solid decisions to follow.

3. Loyalty. People of good character are loyal people. They have a “stick-to-it” attitude when it comes to others. Anybody who knows human nature knows that people fail. It is just a matter of time, no matter how talented someone is. A person of good character stays with their friends even in the downtimes. Anyone can be friends with others when times are good. People of good character stay with their friends when they need them most. How this translates into making you a good leader is this: People want to follow a leader who will stretch them beyond where they are now, but who will also allow them to try—and to fail. When we are loyal to our followers, they will be loyal to us and make every effort to succeed on our behalf and on behalf of the organization. There are few things that strengthen the leader-follower bond more than when a leader shows their loyalty to a follower in need.

4. Self-Sacrifice. Lee Iacocca became a legend when he said that he would bring Chrysler back from the brink of bankruptcy and would take only a dollar a year in pay. This was a classic example of a leader sacrificing for the followers. It also showed his understanding of empathizing with the average line worker. As a result, the workers of Chrysler rewarded him with an incredible following as they built Chrysler into one of the world’s leading car companies. What is it about self-sacrifice that breeds followers? Followers do not mind putting in the hard work. They don’t even mind a leader making more money or reaping benefits from their work. What followers do mind, though, is when the leader is using them for personal gain. People of good character do not use other people, period. So when a leader shows sacrifice of personal gain, it says to the followers that they are willing to come alongside of them—and followers reward that almost universally. A person of good character shows that they can give up personal gain for the good of the whole.

5. Accountability. People of good character do not mind accountability. In fact, they welcome it. This is the act of allowing others to have a say in your life, to speak to you straight about your life and conduct. The brutal truth is that we have blind spots and need other people to be in close to us so we can advance down the road of success. The need for accountability doesn’t prove lack of character. Rather, it proves the presence of character. G.K. Chesterton said, “Original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history.” The person of good character knows this and invites others to speak into their life.

We see this is especially true today with all that has gone on among our leaders lately. Followers are growing tired of leaders who will have nothing to do with accountability. They do not mind leaders who make mistakes, but they do mind leaders who do not take responsibility for their mistakes by being accountable. When we allow ourselves to be held accountable, our followers know that we are serious about keeping our own house in order, and thus will do a good job in leading the rest of the organization.

6. Self-Control. The ability to make decisions—good decisions—about what we will and will not do with our actions is at the core of what we become in regard to our character. There will be plenty of options to participate in things that are not moral. Everybody has temptations, but a person of good character knows to exercise self-control—literal control over their choices. When people do not exercise self-control, they sabotage their ability to lead. People lose respect for them and will follow less, if at all. Self-control is the ability to choose to do the things we should, and to refrain from doing the things we shouldn’t. When we exhibit self-control, we again build trust in our followers. They respect us and want to follow us.

You can strengthen your character. We are born with clean slates. As we grow, there are many influences that shape our character—our parents, teachers, friends and choices all mold that inner character. The good news is, no matter where you are right now, you can decide that your character will grow stronger. You can choose to be around those people who will challenge you to become better. You can choose to put positive materials into your mind and heart. You can begin making choices that reflect a change in lifestyle, and thus, in character. No one is “stuck.” You can change—if you want to!

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

When you read books about leadership, there are many points about what to do and what kind of person to be. But what about what not to do and what not to be? Those are just as important! That is why we want to take some time this week to discuss this very important topic, and hopefully challenge you to think about your own leadership situation. This week we focus on the kinds of mistakes great leaders don’t make!

1. Not Riding Momentum To increase your leadership effectiveness, you want to learn to ride the momentum of the situation (the positive momentum of course!). When we begin to experience bad momentum, we naturally try to stop it, and that is wise, but many people also have the tendency to try to stop the positive momentum as well. This comes from our basic desire to have things “under control.” Unfortunately, often when we try to control the situation, we actually stop the good that is happening. So, let go of the reins and ride the momentum! When you are rolling, let it roll!

2. Flaunting the Privilege of Leadership Leadership has its privileges, for sure, and rightly so! The entrepreneur who started the company ought to be paid well and reap the rewards for the risks they took. Unfortunately, human nature is still such that people can and do resent the success and privileges of others, even if those people worked hard for those privileges. Therefore, a great leader will not flaunt their privileges because it could cause a backlash and actually harm their ability to lead. Whenever possible, share the privileges and rewards of leadership, and your followers will love you all the more!

3. Picking People Who Won’t Threaten Them Great leaders will always try to pick people who are better than them! Again, human nature is such that we think, “Wait, if I hire her, she’ll have me out of a job in no time.” Then we pick someone of lesser quality, while our competitor hires the good one and surges ahead. Instead, great leaders are secure in themselves and will pick the best people available to them! If they are better than you, you will grow together as a team, you will still be the leader, and people will respect you for your ability to pick—and lead—a winning team!

4. Not Having a Second in Command Who Complements Them An ordinary leader picks someone who is like them so they can feel comfortable. An extraordinary leader picks someone who can do all the things that they can’t, someone who can see things in ways that they can’t. An extraordinary leader needs a right-hand person who can complement their skills and style. This way the old adage is proved true—two heads are better than one!

5. Not Giving Power Away An ordinary leader wants to do as much as they can so they can be seen as a good, hard worker. They think that they lead by example in this way. An extraordinary leader knows that they need to empower others to do the work and make the decisions if the organization is to grow and they are going to make a difference. We must let others take leadership themselves, even if it means they fail at first. This way, we multiply the organizational leadership and we enjoy greater success!

6. Unable or Unwilling to Make Hard Decisions Leadership is all about making decisions. People in non-leadership positions don’t like to make decisions because they operate from a subjective viewpoint. They aren’t thinking about the overall health of the organization; they are thinking about who might get offended or who might lose their job. While we want to be sensitive to these things, great leaders understand that sometimes hard decisions have to be made for the sake of the organization—and they make them.

7. Trying Not to Have Casualties This may be the greatest leadership lesson we’ve ever learned. Great leaders know that anytime the organization makes ground, there will be casualties. In the movie Gladiator, the lieutenant comes to tell Maximus that the troops are not fully ready for battle. Maximus sees that the other side is about to move and that if they don’t move first, they will lose the war. The lieutenant begins to say, “The casualties will be too great,” but Maximus finishes the lieutenant’s sentence so that instead he says, “The casualties will be ‘acceptable.’” Any time a group moves ahead, that is bound to happen. We shouldn’t look for or enjoy casualties, but we should understand they will assuredly come and accept them. So move ahead!

These are just a few of the mistakes that poor leaders make. If we stay aware of them, we can be assured we won’t repeat those mistakes. Here they are again, stated this time as what we should do:

1. Ride the momentum.
2. Don’t flaunt the privilege of leadership.
3. Pick people who are better than you.
4. Have a second in command who complements you.
5. Give power away.
6. Make hard decisions.
7. Allow for and accept that there will be casualties.

Character: The Core of Leadership & Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

Our topic this month is Leadership, and when it comes to great leaders, we think of people like Winston Churchill, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa. Thinking of leaders in those terms, it’s easy to think of leadership in a “far-off” context and forget that it relates to each of us in a very personal way. First and foremost, leadership is a state of mind. The great leaders of our time didn’t just one day decide that they wanted to lead a country. Instead, it was because of who they were and the character (which is the main topic of N.J.W discussion this week) they worked to form throughout their lives that, when the opportunity—and in some cases, crisis—presented itself, they were propelled into positions of strong leadership. In the same way, whether we like to think of ourselves as leaders or not, we are. So if we’ve taken the time to prepare our character and hone our leadership skills, when the opportunity presents itself—if we have done our homework—we will be ready.

Abraham Lincoln said that he would study and prepare himself so that he would be ready when opportunity came. As you go through this week, ask yourself, “Am I ready for when the next crisis comes or the next opportunity presents itself?”

Leadership, Part Two—Character: The Core of Leadership and Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

Remember our key phrase this month: You are a leader, and you can grow in your leadership position so that you can effectively lead the group around you, no matter what size it is!

This month we are covering the topic of Leadership:

  1. The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision. In last week’s lesson, I covered the basic foundational elements that are central to becoming a person with tremendous leadership skills and abilities. I also discussed secrets to having a powerful and compelling vision that helps you attract others.
  2. Character: The Core of Leadership and Leadership Mistakes to Avoid. This week I will look at what I believe is the core element of leadership—the issue of character. I will look at what it means to be a person of character who can lead others forward, and how character is essential to successfully lead others. I will also look at some typical leadership mistakes people make that hinder their ability to lead and move their organizations forward, and how you can avoid making those same mistakes.
  3. Skills Needed for Effective Leadership and Developing Other Leaders in Your Organization. Next week I will turn our eyes away from the character traits of leaders and look more at the basic skills effective leaders demonstrate. I will also be looking at some strategic ways to develop other leaders around you so you can ensure a new generation of leaders.
  4. Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself as the Leader and Motivating Those Who Follow You—In Good Times and Tough Times. In the last week of this month, I will take a closer look at making sure you take care of yourself. In this day and age, it is even more important for the leader to closely guard their own growth and development. I will also look at how to motivate others to follow you.

Character: The Core of Leadership

There has been a lot of discussion lately about character and leadership. Most political elections today seem to have an element to them wherein one candidate suggests that the other doesn’t have the character that it takes to lead. Just a cursory glance at the business page in the newspaper shows a major discussion of character and ethics in the corporate world. Schools are rocked with scandal, as are some churches. Everywhere you turn, it seems as though there is a lack of character. But doesn’t this beg the question, “What is character?”

Here are a few definitions of character that I have found that, when put together, give us a good understanding of what character is:

1. Strength of mind, resolution, independence, individuality

2. Moral or ethical strength

3. Who you are when no one else is around

In other words, a person of good character is a person who has a strong moral base and acts on it. They have the core inner strength, fortitude and determination to do what is right, whether anyone else is there to validate it or not. They operate out of what is good and right, not out of personal expedience.

Once we have defined character, we must also ask: Why is character important? Character is important because it is what we place our trust in when dealing with other people. When we decide to follow a leader, we evaluate their life, their skills, etc., and then make a decision to trust them. We trust that they are who they say they are. We trust that they will do what they say. Trust is built on good people who are consistent in their goodness. Those are the people we can trust—and the leader/follower relationship is, at its core, one of trust.

Six Essential Traits of Good Character

The following are what I believe to be the basics of good character. Miss one of these, and you will find a weak link in your character—one that may be your leadership’s undoing. As you go through the following, soberly reflect on your life as it relates to these integral parts of good character.

  1. Integrity. Integrity is a good catch word that is similar to character but provides us with a different way of looking at the idea of character. The root of integrity means “whole” or “undivided,” and that is a terrific way to help us understand what integrity is—an undivided life. For example, you don’t act one way in one situation and another in a different situation. There is integrity and wholeness to your life. Living this way will build trust in your followers. Another use of the word integrity that provides insight for us is when the word is used in regard to a physical structure. A wall or a building that is strong and has no cracks is said to have integrity. The same could be said for great leaders.
  1. Honesty. It is regularly said that honesty is the best policy, but I would add that honesty is the only policy for great leaders. Think about it. Why do people hedge the truth? Usually for a few basic reasons: they are either afraid of the ramifications or they are trying to hide something. Either way, a lack of honesty results in the fact that you destroy the trust of those who follow you. Even if you tell them the truth, but they know you have lied to others, it will destroy the trust you had with them. They find themselves thinking, “If he will lie to them, will he lie to me?”

I have never understood what people hope to accomplish by being dishonest. As the Bible says, “Your sin shall surely find you out.” Eventually people come to know that you are not honest in your dealings, and that is what you become known for. Your reputation is what your leadership is based on, though. When we are honest and live transparently before our followers, they are able to see us for who we are and make solid decisions to follow.

Loyalty. People of good character are loyal people. They have a “stick-to-it” attitude when it comes to others. Anybody who knows human nature knows that people fail. It is just a matter of time, no matter how talented someone is. A person of good character stays with their friends even in the downtimes. Anyone can be friends with others when times are good. People of good character stay with their friends when they need them most. How this translates into making you a good leader is this: People want to follow a leader who will stretch them beyond where they are now, but who will also allow them to try—and to fail. When we are loyal to our followers, they will be loyal to us and make every effort to succeed on our behalf and on behalf of the organization. There are few things that strengthen the leader-follower bond more than when a leader shows their loyalty to a follower in need.

Self-Sacrifice. Lee Iacocca became a legend when he said that he would bring Chrysler back from the brink of bankruptcy and would take only a dollar a year in pay. This was a classic example of a leader sacrificing for the followers. It also showed his understanding of empathizing with the average line worker. As a result, the workers of Chrysler rewarded him with an incredible following as they built Chrysler into one of the world’s leading car companies. What is it about self-sacrifice that breeds followers? Followers do not mind putting in the hard work. They don’t even mind a leader making more money or reaping benefits from their work. What followers do mind, though, is when the leader is using them for personal gain. People of good character do not use other people, period. So when a leader shows sacrifice of personal gain, it says to the followers that they are willing to come alongside of them—and followers reward that almost universally. A person of good character shows that they can give up personal gain for the good of the whole.

5. Accountability. People of good character do not mind accountability. In fact, they welcome it. This is the act of allowing others to have a say in your life, to speak to you straight about your life and conduct. The brutal truth is that we have blind spots and need other people to be in close to us so we can advance down the road of success. The need for accountability doesn’t prove lack of character. Rather, it proves the presence of character. G.K. Chesterton said, “Original sin is the only philosophy empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history.” The person of good character knows this and invites others to speak into their life.

We see this is especially true today with all that has gone on among our leaders lately. Followers are growing tired of leaders who will have nothing to do with accountability. They do not mind leaders who make mistakes, but they do mind leaders who do not take responsibility for their mistakes by being accountable. When we allow ourselves to be held accountable, our followers know that we are serious about keeping our own house in order, and thus will do a good job in leading the rest of the organization.

Self-Control. The ability to make decisions—good decisions—about what we will and will not do with our actions is at the core of what we become in regard to our character. There will be plenty of options to participate in things that are not moral. Everybody has temptations, but a person of good character knows to exercise self-control—literal control over their choices. When people do not exercise self-control, they sabotage their ability to lead. People lose respect for them and will follow less, if at all. Self-control is the ability to choose to do the things we should, and to refrain from doing the things we shouldn’t. When we exhibit self-control, we again build trust in our followers. They respect us and want to follow us.

You can strengthen your character. We are born with clean slates. As we grow, there are many influences that shape our character—our parents, teachers, friends and choices all mold that inner character. The good news is, no matter where you are right now, you can decide that your character will grow stronger. You can choose to be around those people who will challenge you to become better. You can choose to put positive materials into your mind and heart. You can begin making choices that reflect a change in lifestyle, and thus, in character. No one is “stuck.” You can change—if you want to!

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

-Nick James Co Founder of N.J.W Blog

The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision

This month I tackle the topic of Leadership. Although there are many definitions and facets to leadership, one of the most practical and clear realities of leadership is that it is all about the ability to influence. And since everything we do and say has the potential to influence others, we all are in the position of leadership.

For example, even if you feel you are the “low man on the totem pole” in your office (or job), you still have the opportunity to influence others—through your attitude, your example, your work ethic, your decisions, your philosophy, and everything you do. This would also apply to our children at school. And for those in a literal position of leadership.


Because leadership is obviously a very important part of our daily lives and relationships, we should be telling our kids, “You are a leader”; telling our staff members, “You are a leader”; and telling ourselves, “I’m a leader.” And soon, the very truth of this powerful statement will grow more each day, as we internalize it and allow it to influence us and those around us.

Remember to download the Activity Lessons workbook pages from here.

Lets make it a great week!

The N.J.W Blog

Part One—The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision

I love to talk about leadership, because when I talk about personal development, I am looking internally at what I do for myself. But when I talk about leadership, I am transferring those concepts outward so that we begin to affect others around us and improve their lives as well.

One brief note before we begin. Many times, people mistakenly define leaders as people who hold high-profile positions, such as the president of the United States or the leader of a large social movement. But leadership is so much more than that. Anyone who has a role in shaping the lives of others needs to develop leadership skills, whether it is a parent or a small-business owner, or the CEO of a large multinational corporation. And, surprisingly, most leadership principles are highly transferable between a broad cross-section of leadership situations.

So, plant this thought in your mind: You are a leader, and you can grow in your leadership position so that you can effectively lead the group around you—no matter what size it is!

This is what I am covering on the topic of Leadership this month:

1. The Foundational Principles of Leadership and Developing a Powerful Vision. In today’s lesson, I will cover the basic foundational elements that are central to becoming a person with tremendous leadership skills and abilities. I will also discuss secrets to having a powerful and compelling vision that helps you attract others.

2. Character: The Core of Leadership and Leadership Mistakes to Avoid. Next week, I will be looking at what I believe is the core element of what it means to be a leader: the issue of character. I will look at what it means to be a person of character who can lead others forward, and how character is essential to successfully lead others. I will also look at some typical leadership mistakes people make that hinder their ability to lead and move their organizations forward, and how you can avoid making those same mistakes.

3. Skills Needed for Effective Leadership and Developing Other Leaders in Your Organization. In two weeks, I will turn our eyes away from the character traits of leaders and look more at the basic skills that effective leaders demonstrate. I will also be looking at some strategic ways to develop other leaders around you so you can ensure a new generation of leaders.

4. Becoming the Best Leader You Can Be—Taking Care of Yourself as the Leader and Motivating Those Who Follow You—In Good Times and Tough Times. In the last week of this month, I will take a closer look at making sure that you take care of yourself. In this day and age, it is even more important for the leader to be closely guard their own growth and development. I will also look at how to motivate others to follow you.

Let’s look at some foundational principles of leadership:

Leadership is the challenge of being above average. If you want to be a leader, you cannot be part of the average. You must not be ordinary, but extraordinary. “Getting by” is not an option, but excelling is mandatory. If you truly desire to lead others, you must first decide for yourself that you will do what it takes in your own life to set yourself apart from the rest, in your character, your skills, your passion and your vision. Those who lead others must be further ahead of those they lead.

Leadership is driven by character. I will talk more about what character is next week, but overall, character centers on who you are, not just what you do. Yes, skills are important to a leader’s success, but the core is character. It is about the integrity, honesty, honor and passion that come from deep within. Some may argue that we have had many leaders who had little or no character, and my response would be, “But not for long.” People eventually find out about poor character traits, and if they have any say in it, they choose a different leader. People will not follow men and women who cannot be trusted. More on this next week.

Leadership requires vision—a long-range, organizational vision that takes the whole scope of the group into mind. That is what sets the leader apart. Most people think about tasks that need to be performed day to day, sometimes even stretching that out to monthly or quarterly goals. Leaders think about the big picture—a 30,000-foot view of the organization. For example, a 7-year-old child will think of doing their second-grade homework for the week, while Mom and Dad think about paying for that child’s college education. Or a store employee will think about placing an order to restock for the week, but the store owner thinks about seasonal changes in inventory and how to take the business to the next level. In other words, most people think about taking care of what the organization is, while leaders dream of what the organization can become. A great vision should be big, clear, compelling, understandable and achievable.

Leadership is about mastering the art of influence. When it comes right down to it, leadership is the ability to convince others to follow. Whether you lead a large group or a small one, or even if you lead just one person, you’re a leader if you can influence that person or persons to follow when you lead. Influence is an art. You do not just pick up a book, read it and then decide you will influence. No, influence is something that you develop over time. You improve your character and increase your skills. You learn to communicate better. You learn how to take risks. And as you do, your influence begins to grow in two ways: First, you are able to have a greater influence over those who already follow you. Second, you are able to influence more people. Your influence grows in depth and breadth.

Leaders are initiators. Leaders are people who see where the group needs to go and then do what it takes to initiate the movement toward that destination. Leaders do not sit around and wait for others to make the first move (if they did, they would be following). The key is knowing where you want to go, and then how to get there. Once you know this, it is only a matter of taking the risk to step out and lead. If you have mastered the art of influence, then others will follow your initial step.

Leadership requires highly skilled communication. We must have great interpersonal communication skills so that we can develop relationships with our “inner circle.” We must learn to communicate clearly so that everyone can understand our vision. And we must know how to communicate passionately so that people will see that passion and respond accordingly.

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Leadership is essentially influence, and the leader’s vision is tied to the message used to influence. So the key is to make the vision powerful enough to influence and persuade others to follow. What, then, are the key ways to make sure that your vision is powerful and persuasive? What are the core elements of a powerful vision? One of the best answers to this is found in the writings of a man who lived a long time ago.

Basic points for the notes below are based on Aristotle’s Rhetoric. We call these points “Three Legs of Persuasion and Influence.” Together, they enable us to fully persuade people. They are the core elements of a powerful vision. Leave out any of the three legs, and it is like trying to sit on a three-legged stool that is missing one leg!

What are the three legs as Aristotle defined them? They are:

1. Logos (logic)

2. Pathos (passion)

3. Ethos (ethics)

Let’s start with the two that are most prevalent, logic and passion, and end with what could be considered the most important: ethics (Jim will cover this extensively next week).

In order to master the art of persuasion and develop a powerful vision, you must have:

1. Logic. Your vision must make sense to the person following you (or the one you are trying to persuade to follow you!). How is this done?

Vision. Do you have a vision of where you want to go? Do you have a destination in mind? If you want people to follow you, you need to have a vision, a result that you are targeting.

Clarity. Is the vision clear? Can it be articulated clearly? Is it simple enough to grasp? Does the message make sense?

Communication. Can you communicate your vision so that it is understandable and compelling? Do you communicate it regularly so that the logic of it sinks in?

Strategy. The strategy for getting to your destination must make sense to your followers. Is it logical for them to follow you on the journey of your vision for your organization? A well-thought-out strategy for realizing vision is a must.

2. Passion. People underestimate the principle of passion. Today, more than ever, this element of being passionate about your vision is paramount to the idea of persuasion.

As we leave the modern era and move into what sociologists are calling the “postmodern” era, people are going to be persuaded less by logic and reason than they are by passion. We live in a video age that uses images and music to move people more than sense and reason. For example, think about how basketball shoes are sold today. The ads don’t say, “These shoes are made from the finest rubber and leather and will sustain the shock of X amount of pounds of pressure, etc.” No, today shoes are sold by showing basketball players dribbling the ball to a methodical beat. Image. Passion.

So, do we throw out logic? Certainly not, but we understand that the passion we demonstrate is extremely important, probably more so than logic, and will increasingly become more important in the years to come.

Are you passionate about your vision? Does that come through when you speak about it? Does it come through in the materials that you distribute to support your vision?

People want to know that you are passionate about your vision. If you aren’t passionate about it, then why should they be? Your vision must be passionately compelling. After all, you are asking them to put themselves on the line, to give it all to get the group to the vision. It takes a passionate person to move a group toward a vision. And the bigger the vision, the more passion you need to get there!

3. Ethics. This could be the most important aspect of these three legs of persuasion. Ethics. Integrity. Character. However you want to say it, people look at you and constantly judge your character.

You may have tremendous skills. You may have all the logic in the world and passion to fill a sports arena, but if your followers see a crack in your character, they will run for the hills. Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re not talking about mistakes. Followers will allow for mistakes. But they will not allow for poor character.

You might be thinking: Wait a minute, we have all sorts of leaders with poor character—just look at the politicians! A few thoughts on that very good point:

Many of the people we think have poor character have many others who think their character is fine (and in a politician’s case, they just need 51 percent), or at least sufficient. So, for some, the question of ethics has been answered, just differently than we would have answered it. For example, polls show that most people think politicians are generally unethical and corrupt. But when polled on their own representative, they say that person is just fine, thank you very much.

We also have seen very talented leaders eventually undone by their lack of character, or at least thwarted in their goals of leadership.

Where does this leave us? Hopefully you aren’t dealing with the kind of character issues we have often seen in our political process, but you should be asking yourself what your character is like.

“Am I honest? Am I who I say I am? Do I do what is right? Am I responsible? Am I the same behind closed doors as I am in public? Am I a person of integrity?” These are the most important questions. The way your followers answer them about you will determine to what degree they follow you. Will people follow you if your character is less than stellar? Maybe. But all other things being the same, having a strong character will put you over the top.

Logic, passion and ethics are the three legs of persuasion. Combine becoming a person with a vision who is logical and well-thought-out with a passionate pursuit, and you will be well on your way to persuading people and achieving your organization’s goal. The key will be what kind of character you have. If you develop a fine, strong character, with high personal ethics, you will have all three legs of persuasion—and you will become the leader you were meant to be!

You can—and will—develop a strong vision that will appeal to people and cause them to follow. The key, as we see above, is to make sure that your vision influences people on all three levels: the head, the heart and in how they view your character.

Powerful and Effective Presentations and Using Communication

1. Fundamentals of Effective Communication and Overcoming the Obstacles of Communication. A few weeks ago, I covered the basics of communication so you can say it well. This lays the groundwork for everything else I talk about this month. We also covered those obstacles that might get between you and effective communication.

2. Improving Relationship and Business Communications. I will cover the two basic kinds of communication: business communications and our everyday relationship communications. In this week’s edition, I will look at how to improve both, so we can excel and enjoy every area of our life.

3. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication and Listening Skills. Last week, I will cover the two kinds of communication I use and how to better use them. Most of us are aware of our verbal communication but less so of our nonverbal communication. I will also take a look at how to be a better listener and why it pays to do so. I already cover this in last week’s edition.

4. The Essentials of Powerful and Effective Presentations and Using Communication to Further Your Dreams. This covers all you need to become a better speaker for when you are called upon to give a presentation. Whether you present once a year or once a week, the tips you get here will make a big difference. We will also cover how communication plays a significant role in the pursuit and achievement of your dreams—all of this today.

This week, I am going to cover some basic elements of powerful and effective presentations.


So let’s get started with this week’s topic.

Seven Essentials for Powerful and Effective Presentations

1. Know your goal. Are you there to inspire? Encourage? Challenge? Comfort? Motivate? Deliver bad news? Good news? Is it just informational? Are you trying to motivate them to action? If you know where you are going and where you want to take the audience, you can then work back from there and create your presentation. Like Stephen Covey’s old axiom, “Begin with the end in mind.” Be sure to know your goal.

2. Keep it simple. Be yourself—you don’t have to be someone else. One mistake many people make is in trying to emulate the style of another person. This rarely, if ever, works. Why? Because you are not that person! Be yourself. That is who others are expecting.

Don’t attempt elaborate presentations. Maybe when you’ve mastered your skills, you can get elaborate. But even the most polished professional speakers rarely get elaborate. The Zig Ziglars, Brian Tracys, and Nido Qubeins of the world—the crème de la crème—are straight-ahead, no-fancy-stuff speakers. Take note of that. You can be simple and very good at the same time. So be sure to keep it simple.

3. Be passionate and optimistic about your topic. People want to see that you are passionate about your topic. Aristotle said that there are three areas integral to persuasion: logic, ethics, and passion. You need to be a person of good character, have logical reasoning, and say it with passion. Also, be optimistic. Napoleon said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.” As presenters, we pull people in and bring them along by giving them hope. Be sure to let your passion and optimism come through!

4. Balance the format of your information. Use facts, figures, and stories. Include lectures as well as audience participation. In this day and age, with waning attention spans, we do well to change up the format at regular intervals. People are used to modern media, which makes a single-person speaking a tough act. Be sure to use different formats in your presentation.

5. Tell stories. When you think of Jesus, the greatest teacher of all time, you think of a man who told stories to help root the principles into the minds and hearts of those who heard him. Stories are things that people can connect with. They can remember them. They see them in pictures. What would you be most apt to remember two weeks after hearing a speaker: the exact percentages of his or her statistics, or a well-told story? Be sure to build stories into your presentation so people remember the points you want them to.

6. Know your material. This is the foundation of an effective presentation. It tells people you are serious about the topic, that you care about it and that you are qualified to speak to them about it. Do whatever you can to know your material inside and out before you get on the stage to present. You will feel more comfortable and will come across as very credible. Audiences are looking for credibility and can see through someone who is winging their way through a presentation. Be sure to know your material.

7. Start on time and end on time. One of the skills of an effective presenter is that they can craft their presentation to fit the allotted time and then discipline themselves to stay within that time frame. Starting on time and ending on time will show people that you respect their time. Too often, a speaker will do a fine job in their allotted time, and if they were to end there, they would be remembered well. Unfortunately, they go overtime, and all the audience can think is, “I can’t believe they went so long!” These speakers shoot themselves in the foot by not finishing on time. Be sure to always stay within your time limits and leave your audience wanting more!

Follow these seven rules, and you will begin to see greater effectiveness in your presentations. I believe that everyone can become a better speaker and presenter if they practice their skill. And it doesn’t require a tremendous amount of advanced training, either. Just mastering the basics will take you to the next level and allow you to become a much more effective communicator.

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Using Communication to Further Your Dreams

What does communication have to do with achieving your dreams? A lot! Here are some thoughts on how communication helps you achieve your dreams and why it is so important.

Your dreams cannot be fulfilled alone, and, thus, you need to communicate with others. No matter what you dream of accomplishing, you need the help and support of others. Because of this, you will need to communicate with them. What precisely? How about your vision and strategy for starters? To get you to your dreams, you will need to be able to tell those who work with or for you clearly what your vision is so they can buy into it. If they don’t know where you are going, they can’t help you get there. Secondly, if you can’t communicate a clear strategy, then they will be unclear about what to do to help you get there. The vision is the big picture and the strategy is the “nuts and bolts.” Both require very clear and articulate communication.

The moral support of others requires clearly communicating your dreams. You will have people who will work with you toward your dreams and you will have others who will simply provide moral support. They are your “boosters,” or your “cheerleaders.”

Your network requires good communication from you. You will have those who work with you, you will have those who give you moral support, and you will have those in your network who will be your “salespeople” out in the field for you. They are your friends and business acquaintances who, if you have communicated clearly with them, will be able to steer business your way when they meet someone in the marketplace.

Lastly, let us touch on a different kind of communication: communicating with yourself. You see, the most important person you communicate with is yourself. You talk to yourself all day long, and what you say to yourself will do more to determine whether or not you reach your dreams than any other communication you do. So be sure to communicate clearly and optimistically at all times!

Communication, both with yourself and with others, plays a major role in achieving your dreams. Whether it is with those who work with you, those who support you, those in your network, or with yourself as you look in the mirror each day, clear communication will take you far down the path to achieving everything you want out of life!

Nonverbal Communication

let’s take a moment to review the topics I am covering on the subject of communication this month:

1. Fundamentals of Effective Communication and Overcoming the Obstacles of Communication. Last week, I covered the basics of communication so you can say it well. This lays the groundwork for everything else I talk about this month. We also covered those obstacles that might get between you and effective communication.

2. Improving Relationship and Business Communications. I will cover the two basic kinds of communication: business communications and our everyday relationship communications. In this week’s edition, we will look at how to improve both, so we can excel and enjoy every area of our life.

3. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication and Listening Skills. Next week, I will cover the two kinds of communication I use and how to better use them. Most of us are aware of our verbal communication, but less so of our nonverbal communication. We will also take a look at how to be a better listener and why it pays to do so. We will cover this in next week’s edition.

4. The Essentials of Powerful and Effective Presentations and Using Communication to Further Your Dreams. This covers all you need to become a better speaker for when you are called upon to give a presentation. Whether you present once a year or once a week, the tips you get here will make a big difference. We will also cover how communication plays a significant role in the pursuit and achievement of your dreams—all of this in two weeks.

So let’s get to it!

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Nonverbal Communication

What you say affects how you communicate, certainly, but just as important is what you don’t say. Yes, your nonverbal communication has a major impact on how well you communicate. Have you ever given much thought to how you communicate non-verbally? Here are some thoughts on ways to use nonverbal communication to support what you are saying verbally.

Use your hands. Keeping your hands by your side will make you seem stiff and uncomfortable. Instead, use your hands to communicate. Now, don’t get too demonstrative to the point where people are wondering where your hands are going next. One way to see what you do non-verbally is to tape yourself speaking. Watch what you do with your hands.

Use your eyes. The eyes can be a very powerful tool in communication. You know the old saying, “The eyes are the window into the soul.” It is true. Think of what a mother communicates to her newborn when she gazes into their eyes, or what a husband and a wife say without words when they look into each other’s eyes. The eyes speak volumes.

Have you spoken with someone who is constantly looking around? What does that communicate? A lack of interest in what you have to say.

When you speak to someone, look at them. Give them your attention with your eyes. Listen to them with your eyes. Communicate with them that they are important.

Your arms. Some people do not even realize when they are “closed off” to someone else by crossing their arms when the other person is speaking. Those who study this tell us that crossing the arms is a surefire way to close yourself off from the other person. It communicates closure, fear and opposition.

Speaking position. When you are communicating, especially in a presentation situation, your speaking position, whether you are standing, sitting, kneeling, etc., can communicate a lot. For example, Zig Ziglar, a master of the stage, will frequently move to the front of the stage and kneel. What is he non-verbally communicating? He is saying, “Listen closely to this. This is really important.” He is bringing the audience in for an “intimate moment.” Even in a room with 1,000 people, this way of communicating can make every individual feel like Zig is speaking closely to just them.

Sitting communicates casualness. I know many speakers will give a considerable part of their presentation this way. John C. Maxwell, and a world-class leadership expert, gives quite a bit of his speeches while sitting. His style is informative and casual—and it is effective.

There are other little things to be aware of: Nodding your head says, “I’m listening.” Tapping your foot or jiggling your leg says, “I’m bored, nervous or impatient.” Everything we do with our bodies communicates, whether we are speaking or listening. As a person who desires to take their communication to the next level, you should be aware of what you communicate non verbally as well as verbally. As you begin to master both, you will begin to communicate with a higher and higher level of excellence!

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!
-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Communication has always been two-way, not one-way. It involves more than one person. Effective communicators understand this.

There are many things to listen for that will tell you a variety of things about the person who is speaking.

Here are some things to listen for:

1. What the speaker is actually saying. This is taking their comments literally, not reading between the lines. First and foremost, listen to this.

2. What the speaker is trying to say. Sometimes, people try to say something but have difficulty getting it across. Work to hear what they are trying to say.

3. How they are trying to position themselves. Sometimes people will try to make themselves seem better than they are. Sometimes they will downplay themselves. This is “positioning,” and it is usually done with a purpose. When you know how they are positioning themselves, then you can figure out why as well.

4. The speaker may be trying to impress you. If they are, what are they really saying? Perhaps it is self-esteem issues or trying to cover a weakness.

5. What the speaker think of themselves. Ultimately, the longer they talk, the more they will reveal what they think of themselves. This is important to know.

6. What the speaker hopes for. People will talk about their dreams and what they hope for. Listen closely.

7. What the speaker fears. Fear is a powerful force. Listen for what they fear, and you will gain a great understanding into what drives them.

8. What the speaker’s emotional attachment is. Are they emotionally attached to what they are talking about or could they care less? It is important to know.

9. How important the speaker thinks the topic is. How highly do they value the topic at hand? Are they committed to it? If you listen closely, you will be able to tell. This also goes for how important they think you are (or your product or service).

10. What the speaker’s educational/socioeconomic/culture level is. You can tell a lot by the words they use, their vocabulary, their accents, etc. Listening can give you some insights into the people you communicate with. Certainly you do not want to stereotype, but you can sometimes hear a lot by listening for these things.

11. What the speaker likes or dislikes. Ultimately, people are driven by what they like and dislike. They move toward what they like and away from what they dislike. These things are important to know.

If you listen and take mental notes (or real notes if you can), you can learn a lot about people as they speak. This will help you understand them better, which will enhance your communication. It will help you build relationships and will help you help them. It will help you sell to them if that is a goal.

Listening is key—you just have to know what to listen for!

The N.J.W Blog

Improving Relationship and Business Communications

I am constantly making presentations in just about every relationship and communication I have. Whether it is to persuade someone to my point of view, teach a life lesson to your child or to comfort a friend during a difficult time, we are in the process of trying to achieve effective, positive communication.

On the surface, the subject of communication can appear to be an abstract skill that is mainly needed for professional speakers/trainers, teachers and leaders of companies. But the subject of communication is a major skill and tool that we need to incorporate every day.

Now let’s move on to Part Two of Communication.

Have a great week!

The N.J.W Blog

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Communication/Presentation, Part Two—Improving Relationship and Business Communications

Over the years you’ve heard me say that if you just communicate, you can get by. But if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles—miracles in your family relationships, your business relationships and your friendships. So we must take advantage of every opportunity to practice our communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity and the emotions to affect other people. What a unique opportunity to touch others with something small but powerful—our words. Having said that, let’s take a moment to review the topics I am covering on the subject of communication this month:

1. Fundamentals of Effective Communication and Overcoming the Obstacles of Communication. Last week, I covered the basics of communication so you can say it well. This lays the groundwork for everything else I talk about this month. We also covered those obstacles that might get between you and effective communication.

2. Improving Relationship and Business Communications. I will cover the two basic kinds of communication: business communications and our everyday relationship communications. In this week’s edition, we will look at how to improve both, so we can excel and enjoy every area of our life.

3. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication and Listening Skills. Next week, I will cover the two kinds of communication I use and how to better use them. Most of us are aware of our verbal communication, but less so of our nonverbal communication. We will also take a look at how to be a better listener and why it pays to do so. We will cover this in next week’s edition.

4. The Essentials of Powerful and Effective Presentations and Using Communication to Further Your Dreams. This covers all you need to become a better speaker for when you are called upon to give a presentation. Whether you present once a year or once a week, the tips you get here will make a big difference. We will also cover how communication plays a significant role in the pursuit and achievement of your dreams—all of this in two weeks.

So let’s get to it!

The Goals:

The goals of business relationships differ from the goals of personal relationships, although they do entail utilizing some of the same interpersonal skills. The goals of business relationships are the following:

1. Build positive working relationships that allow us to work together for profitable, win/win business dealings.
2. Enhance the value of work production.
3. Create win-win, mutually satisfying business opportunities.
4. Produce a profit while providing the marketplace with value through our goods and services.

So, if the above are the goals of business relationships, then the goal of our business communications should support the overarching goal of the business relationship. Here are four qualifying questions that will help form guidelines necessary to accomplish this:

1. Does our business communication support positive working relationships?
2. Does our business communication support the value of the other party?
3. Does our business communication support win-win relationships?
4. Does our business communication support profit-making ventures and value to the marketplace?

In our communication with people (our employees, vendors, clients), our constant goal should be to uphold those basic values, in all aspects. It is easy to do this with a client who has just made a large purchase. It is far more difficult, but equally important, when we are working with someone whom we are having challenges. The idea is to be so in tune with our goals that it affects how we communicate with those we do business with.

Now I want to talk a bit about different kinds of communication and some tips to improving your skills.

There are five basic forms of communication in business today.

1. In Person: One-On-One
One-on-one meetings are very effective if done properly. The obvious downside is the limitation of time, especially if you have numerous people you need to meet with. Here are some ideas to make your one-on-one meetings more effective:

Brief the person you are meeting with beforehand on the topic. This defines the basic expectations of the purpose of the meeting and maximizes the time you have. More will be accomplished, and it prevents the possibility of having to schedule a follow-up meeting.

Be on time and end on time. This is paramount and communicates that you value the other person’s time.

Meet in an appropriate setting. Sometimes a coffee shop may be appropriate. Other times you will need to be in a meeting room. Take into account who the other person is, what you are hoping to accomplish and how much time you have. Is the meeting place conducive to communication? Be sure your chosen location enhances, not detracts, so that the possibility of missed communication is greatly reduced or eliminated.

Practice the communication skills we have studied in past lessons. Listening skills, speaking clearly, etc., are vital skills you need to put into practice here.

Sum up. At the end of the meeting, take a moment to sum up what you think you have heard and what you have attempted to communicate.

Follow up. This can be done with an email, a note card or phone call. Again, sum up what you spoke about and be sure to thank them for their time and the opportunity to meet with them.

2. In Person: Group Meetings
Brief the group beforehand on the topic. Just as with one-on-one settings, this creates expectations, enables everyone to be prepared and will maximize everyone’s time.

Again, start on time and end on time. A dual purpose is accomplished here—this communicates that you value their time and it says that no one person is more important than the group.

Appoint a note taker. One person should be in charge of putting the information on a whiteboard or AV screen while the meeting is in progress. This is an improvement over the traditional way of someone taking notes on paper because the meeting participants can see how the topics are being recorded and can immediately make corrections if there is misinterpretation.

Give everyone an opportunity to participate. Be diligent in keeping one or two people from dominating the meeting. Make sure you ask for the input of everyone. If they are valued enough to be invited to the meeting, their views are important.

Stay on task. The biggest time-waster of meetings is the proverbial “rabbit trail.” As the leader, or even if you are just attending the meeting, you should be willing, when the topic veers off course, to encourage the group to get back to the purpose of the meeting.

3. The Phone
The phone has wonderful applications for communication. There are some roadblocks with the proliferation of voice mail, but the phone still remains a great tool for communication. Here are some tips for making the phone work for your business communication.

Use it to keep in touch. The great thing about a phone is you can pick it up, dial and be connected with someone in just moments. Use the phone to stay in regular communication with your business contacts. A quick call to see how they are doing or to ask how you might be of help to them will not only bring you business but raise your profile in their mind as a person who provides great customer service and follow-up.

Schedule times for phone meetings. Sometimes, just picking up the phone is ineffective because the person you are trying to reach will not be able to talk at that time. If they aren’t available right then, take just a second and set up a time to speak with them. Ask them to schedule a time to speak by phone and then record it in your calendar/planner. The longer the time you need, the more advance notice you will need to give them.

Know what you are calling for. In personal relationships, people are much more willing to sit around and “shoot the breeze,” but not so much in business relationships. “Time is money,” as the old saying goes. Instead, with business relationships, we should tell the person we will be speaking with what the topic will be and what we hope to accomplish. This should be done beforehand. Then stick to the topic and don’t digress.

Don’t take too much time. The phone can also become a real time waster for both you and the people you speak with if you are not careful. If you know what you want to accomplish and discipline yourself to stick to the agenda, you will be able to limit your time and be very efficient with the use of the phone.

4. Written Communications
The written word is still very effective for communication. It can be more powerful than the spoken word in some instances because it can be edited before being released. In addition, it can be referred to again.

Some tips for written communications:

Keep it simple. Obviously there are some communications that need to be long and complex—elaborate contracts for example—but for the most part, our business communications should be very pragmatic. That is, they should simply get the job done; there is no need for trying to be too eloquent.

Use various forms to keep interest alive. A memo, a note card, a letter and email all are different methods that will entice the reader to read. Varying methods can help our message be communicated better.

5. The Speech
At times, you will be called upon to speak to an audience; this can be a powerful form of communication that will help build your business and your relationships. In two weeks we’ll cover speaking and presentations, and we will give you some tremendous tools for making your presentations a powerful and effective means of building your business!

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Just as I covered the goals of business relationship communications above, we’ll go over the goals of interpersonal relationship communications.

The first few goals are similar to those in business:

1. Build positive personal relationships.
2. Enhance the value of the other person(s).
3. Create win-win, mutually satisfying relationships.

The next few points are specific to the interpersonal relationships and essentially take the relationship aspect beyond where one would go in a business relationship. The difference is this: in a business relationship you create relationships that enable you to do business. The relationship is essential, but the end goal is the ability to do business.

Conversely, with interpersonal relationships, the goal is the relationship itself—to deepen it. Because there are a variety of standard interpersonal relationships—marriage, sibling, or friendships—these skills are meant to take the relationships to deeper levels. So here are the goals unique to building strong interpersonal relationships:

1. Deepen the relationship. In business, there isn’t the need for a deep relationship; it certainly has to be workable. With interpersonal relationships, the desire is to make them more meaningful.

2. Bring a greater, richer meaning to your life and the life of the other person. It isn’t necessarily what comes out of the relationship, but the relationship itself.

3. Have a stronger, more bonding connection. In business, a person may choose to shop elsewhere if they feel the prices have gotten too high. Relationships are not as temporal as that. The connections we make in interpersonal relationships are not as easily broken.

4. Serve one another. Interpersonal relationships are designed to help two people enter into a relationship with each other wherein they serve one another rather than seeking the other person to serve them.

So keeping these things in mind, the goal of interpersonal relationship communications is to establish, build up, increase, deepen and maintain the relationship itself. Let’s take a look at some ideas that can help us become better communicators and use that ability to communicate with others in order to deepen our relationships.

Interpersonal relationship communications involve:

1. Affection. This doesn’t mean telling your next door neighbor that you love him, but it does mean that we need to let people know how we feel about them and how much the relationship means to you. There are parents who have never told their children that they love them. Astonishing as this is, it is true. There are spouses who rarely speak words of affection to one another. And of course the result is that their relationships, while they may work, are not nearly as meaningful and rewarding as they could be. Do not neglect to communicate your affections.

2. Vulnerability. One of the ways relationships deepen is having vulnerability between the parties. This doesn’t happen as much as it could because people are fearful that the other person will reject them if they divulge information that will make them vulnerable (and unfortunately, there are too many times that people have rejected others for this reason). The power in being vulnerable is when the person you share your vulnerability with totally accepts you for who you are. So when it is appropriate, be sure to communicate vulnerability.

3. Fun. Of course business relationships may at times be fun, but for interpersonal relationships, having fun and communicating fun together is an integral part of the communication process. Be sure to talk about fun things sometimes.

4. Understanding. Seeking to know the other person and understand them. Of course there are varying levels of this. Friends do not need to know each other as deeply as spouses do. But an aspect of meaningful interpersonal relationships is the ability to communicate in ways that help the other person know you more deeply. Be sure to communicate in such a way that deepens your understanding of the other person, and vice-versa.

Interpersonal relationships can be challenging, and the communication aspect can be equally challenging as well, just as we discussed last week. However, great interpersonal relationships are possible. And when communication is working, the results are incredible. When we commit ourselves to working with others and communicating with them in ways that enable deeper relationships, the meaning those relationships bring us is what life is all about.

The Fundamentals Of Communication

This month I am launching —Communication/Presentation. This is such a vital piece to the success equation in both our personal and professional lives. Effective communication will greatly enhance our lives, and I invite you to join me on this journey into the key components of communication that I will discusses this month.

So let us keep moving on and reaching higher on this journey together.

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Part One—Fundamentals of Effective Communication and Overcoming the Obstacles of Communication

Our topic this month is a critical component of mastering success. By mastering the art of communication, you will increase every level of performance related to your company, staff and individual performance, as well as all your personal relationships.

This is what I am covering this month the topic of Communication:

1. Fundamentals of Effective Communication and Overcoming the Obstacles of Communication. This covers the basic parts and kinds of communication to help you convey your message well. This lays the groundwork for everything else I will talk about this month. I will also cover those obstacles that get in the way between you and effective communication. All this in this week’s edition. How exciting!

2. Improving Relationship and Business Communications. This covers the two basic kinds of communication: business communication and our everyday relational communication. I will look at how to improve both kinds so you can excel and enjoy every area of your life. I will cover this in next week’s edition. Don’t Forget to subscribe

3. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication and Listening Skills. This covers the two kinds of communication we use and how to better use them. Most of us are aware of our verbal communication, but less so of our nonverbal communication. I will also take a look at how to be a better listener and why it pays to be one. I will cover this in two weeks.

4. The Essentials of Powerful and Effective Presentations and Using Communication to Further Your Dreams. This covers all you need to become a better speaker the next time you are called upon to give a presentation. Whether you give one a year or one a week, the tips you get here will make a big difference. I will also cover how communication plays a significant role in the pursuit and achievement of your dreams. All of this in three weeks.

So let’s get to it!

The Fundamentals of Effective Communication

Our very success is heavily dependent upon our ability to communicate. This is not just for professional speakers. From schoolchildren to grandparents, everyone should work on improving their communication skills so they can improve their lives. Improving your ability to communicate will be one of the most important things you ever do.

One of the easiest ways to improve your communication is to start by solidifying your base, so to speak, by working on and improving the fundamentals. To get you started, here are a few areas that everyone should know and master.

Communication is powerful—for better and for worse. There is a proverb in the Bible that says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” This is true. What a person says can build people up or tear them down. The ability to communicate is a powerful responsibility. Whole nations have been inspired to action because of single individual’s passionate words. On the other hand, countless millions of children have been deeply hurt because of the derogatory words spoken to them by their parents. You have within you the incredible power of communication. You can create tremendous things in your life if you take communication seriously and use its power to help others and yourself. Combining this knowledge with a heart set on doing good is the first step in unleashing this incredible force!

Communication must be purposeful. In order to be effective, your communication should be on purpose. Yes, occasionally you may say something off the top of your head and that can hold weight with others, but this is the exception and not the rule. In order to become an effective communicator, you should be very purposeful about your communication. Know what you want to communicate, when you want to communicate and how you want to communicate. Decide what kind of communication will enhance your life and the lives of those around you, and plan your steps for communicating in that way. And then work your plan—know what it is you want to accomplish and how must you communicate in order to do so.

What you say must match what you do. Remember, people watch what you do, not just what you say. What you do always outweighs what you say. If you say one thing and do another, people will follow what you do. If you say something and back it up with your actions, you will provide the “proof” for people who are listening to you, and they will much more willingly follow your lead.

Improve the “Big Two”: speaking and writing. When it comes to communication, these are the “Big Two” that everyone can improve upon: speaking and writing. For every one step that you take to increase your ability to speak and write, you will improve your career position two steps. Don’t think that you have to become the best speaker or writer in the world; just set your sights on the next level above where you are now. Once you get there, then continue to work to the next level.

Here are a few tips for becoming a better speaker and writer:

Becoming a better speaker:
– Join Toastmasters.
– Take a college course on public speaking.
– Give a speech in front of a mirror.
– Just speak—wherever you can.

Becoming a better writer:
– Keep a journal.
– Join a writing club.
– Have people who are more skilled than you help edit (and critique) your letters and e-mails.
– Take a college course on writing.
– Write that book you’ve been thinking about.

Becoming a better speaker and writer will be based on three things: doing it, getting feedback and acting on that feedback.

Learn to listen. Communication is not one direction—it goes both ways. To become an effective communicator, you must be a good listener. All of the following examples show the power of listening: the parent who listens for the feelings of his or her child; the salesperson who listens for what kind of product the client wants; the boss who listens to the concerns of his employees. Can you see how listening in those situations enables you to become a better communicator? Once you know what your “audience” wants, you will be able to better communicate to them. We covered listening skills last month in detail. I would encourage you to go back over those items until they become a natural part of you.

Care about the people with whom you communicate. Talk with them, not to them. People don’t want you to talk at them. They want to communicate. Think about it: The root word is commune, which means to live and share together. This is what we do when we communicate together—we share words and ideas. This means we must care about the people we are communicating with. We should be interested in their needs and desires. And when we know those, we can communicate more effectively with them.

Focus on clarity. The most effective communication is clear communication. Many beginning speakers believe that they should be as verbose as possible—but that is not what makes them effective! The important principle is clarity. Do they (the people in your audience) understand your message? That is the question. If they don’t, then you haven’t communicated. Be as clear and as concise as you can. Never go any longer than it takes to make the communication as clear as it needs to be. And, above all, make sure your audience understands your message when you are finished.

Communicate over and over again. In order to be effective, communication must be done over and over again. The parent or boss who yells, “How many times must I tell you?” is really just proving again that people need to hear a message many times before they internalize it. That is just the difficult nature of communication. Very rarely will you be able to communicate something just once and have someone or some group walk away with full understanding. It just doesn’t happen that way. You need to do it often and in varied ways. This is what will make your communication most effective.

Improve your vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling. When people hear you or read what you have written, they look for class and style. This can often be noticed through your vocabulary, your pronunciation and your spelling. If you want to be more effective, focus on improving in these areas. A key phrase is that our vocabulary directly affects the way we both view and interpret the world around us. If we have a small vocabulary, it limits our ability to define or communicate what we see, feel and hear. The larger the vocabulary, the better our ability to relate. What size is your view—a peephole or a huge, clear window showing the great expanse of this amazing, wonderful world we live in?

You can become an effective communicator! Start with improving the fundamentals, and you will get better. Once you have mastered the fundamentals—and very few have—then you can start on the advanced areas and become world-class!

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

-Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Most people have never thought about just how difficult communication really is. If we would recognize this, we would be much more patient and diligent in our communication efforts, which would, in turn, make us much more effective.

Think about one person speaking to another—the most basic form of communication. Sounds simple, right? Not so quick. Imagine all the places where communication can break down, just in one person saying one sentence to another person. Let’s take a look at the progression that one sentence goes through:

It starts in the heart or emotions. The thought starts not in the mind, but in the place where people feel. Of course, you can already see that, in and of itself, this can cause difficulties.

Next, feeling needs to be translated into a rational thought. Transforming an irrational feeling into a rational thought is another chance for breakdown.

Next, that thought needs to be transformed into words. Have you ever heard someone say, “I am just not saying what I am thinking”? Just the six inches from the brain to the tongue provide ample opportunity for breakdown in the communication process.

Can you see that before words are ever heard there are three opportunities for the communication to break down? It is a wonder anything ever gets communicated correctly!

Most people suggest that the next stage is the other person’s ear. Not true. The next step is what we call “circumstances or atmosphere.” This includes culture, noise, time of day, language, etc. For example, a joke told at a wedding may elicit laughter, but that same joke told at a funeral would be looked down upon. Invite most people to a backyard barbecue where you are serving pork ribs, and they would probably feel glad you invited them. Make that same offer to an Orthodox Jewish person, and you may risk offending them. We need to take into account our surrounding environment, circumstances and “audience” and allow those things to help direct our communication method and style.

Next, we get to the ear. Did the other person even hear you? Did they hear you correctly? These two questions will have a profound effect on your ability to communicate effectively. They also provide another area where communication can break down.

After the other person hears what you say, they have to interpret the words. Do they understand your language? Do they understand the meaning of your words? Do they interpret the words positively or negatively?

Lastly, the words go into the other person’s heart or emotions. How do they feel about it? Maybe you have communicated that your organization has to change. They understand it and agree with you on a rational level, but, deep down, change may scare them. They may fear the loss of their jobs. That is something that will definitely affect your communication!

So, how do we overcome these obstacles? First, by understanding what we are up against. Leaders can’t have the “Well, I told them once, they should get it” attitude. This is especially true in our day and age, with the inundation of communication.

Take precautions at each stage:

1. Know how you feel about what you are communicating.
2. Know what you are thinking about what you want to communicate. Get clear on it.
3. Prepare yourself to articulate your message as clearly as you are thinking about it.
4. Be aware of the challenges your circumstances and atmosphere will present to your communication efforts.
5. Make sure that the person you are communicating with hears you correctly. That is done by clarifying with them.
6. Clarify with them about how they interpret what you are saying.
7. Find out how they feel about what you are communicating.

The same goes with communicating to a larger audience. If communicating with one person is difficult, then communicating with 500 people is even more difficult. It can be done, though. It just requires diligent preparation and execution in our communication plans.

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Negotiation skills

This is what I am covering this month:

1. Attitudes of Successful Salespeople: The profession, setting your goals, attitudes of successful salespeople and getting and staying motivated. This is the basic overview of the profession of selling. Selling is a noble occupation, even though some people might think otherwise. In fact, we are all in sales. We are selling people every day. In addition, our attitude as well as getting and staying motivated are vitally important and will make or break a salesperson. We covered this at the beginning of the month.

2. Prospecting. Sales and success is a numbers game. I will covered the importance of and how to get in front of a large number of people to close a higher percentage of sales calls. I also showed you the importance of “knowing your stuff”—what you need to know about you, your prospect and your product. Then, we looked briefly at the importance of understanding how to sell to different personality types.

3. Building relationships that position you as an educator/consultant to your clients. In last week’s edition, I touched on listening skills and making the sale. We also looked at the all-important issue of relationships. Relationships are in selling, as in life, the most important factor. We don’t sell to companies, we sell to people! People always make the decisions. We looked at how to be a great listener and also discussed how to reposition yourself from being known as a salesperson to being seen as an educator and consultant who helps people make the best buying decisions.

4. Getting referrals/Negotiation skills. This week, I will take a look at how to get referrals so your business is ever-expanding. That is the key to a successful sales business—the ever-expanding network of people to draw sales from. I will also cover the basics of negotiation. This will have an emphasis on how to get both sides into a winning position so they can be happy with the sale. I will give you specific skills to get into win-win negotiations.

Win-Win Negotiation Skills

The word negotiating can automatically make some people feel uncomfortable. Often their perception is of two people, each trying to get the advantage over the other. In many instances this may be true. But if we are living according to the kinds of values and principles that we have talked about extensively related to giving and win-win relationships, then we want to find a better, higher way. And the good news is there is a better way!

Here are eight keys to creating win-win negotiation opportunities:

1. Accept negotiation as a part of life and business. When you are talking to your spouse about what to do on a Friday night, you are negotiating. She wants to go to dinner and a movie and you would like to go listen to some good jazz music. The negotiation begins. Perhaps your children want to get a puppy and you don’t think it is a good idea. They will push for negotiation. Maybe the neighborhood decides to have a garage sale. Where will it be? When will it happen? You have strong opinions—and so does your next door neighbor. There will be negotiations. You see, we negotiate often in our lives. Anytime there are two parties there will be two different opinions on what should be done, and there will be a need for negotiations. It is true in life and it is true in business. We should accept that fact.

2. We must approach the other party with an attitude that desires that they also win. It is a given that we will look to win ourselves. That is human nature, to cover ourselves and make sure that we get what we need. It is not human nature, however, to look out for the other guy. So, if we want to develop long-term relationships that prove to be mutually satisfying, we should approach the situation with an attitude that desires to see the other side come out as a winner too.

3. Be willing to listen. When negotiating, perhaps the most important skill is listening. Decide beforehand that you are going to listen intently to what the other side has to say. Perhaps you can write down some questions you would like answered and bring them to the meeting and then write the answers down as you hear them. The key should be to make sure you hear the other person. What do they want? How do they think? What do they feel? What are their goals? These are things you can listen for that will enable you to come back with a way to help them achieve what they want while positioning yourself to win as well.

4. Be clear and concise in your desires. Often, people talk too much. What is it you want? What are the boundaries outside of which you will not negotiate? Know what they are and be able to clearly and concisely communicate them. Start with the most targeted version of what you would like and state it. Then as you go back and forth, work from there, as long as you stay within the boundaries of what is acceptable for you. The key is to communicate in such a way that the other person can state what your needs are in a brief way.

5. Keep emotions out of the dealings, if at all possible. Many times the downside to negotiating is that people get emotional. If you offer something too low they may feel offended, as though you don’t appreciate them as a person or appreciate their product or services. There are many reasons you may have presented a low offer, none of which have to do with what you think of them as a person! Sometimes, you may be the person who allows emotions to creep in. The key here is to continually remind yourself to see the facts clearly, and nothing else. What are the facts? If you are expecting $10,000 and they offer you $5,000, don’t get mad. Just look at the facts. Know what number you need to make it work. Don’t make emotional assumptions about the other person or their motives or intentions. Work on the facts. Your next step should be to negotiate that number, not to discuss how offended you are!

6. Make sure each side understands the other. A couple of good statements to make from time to time are these:

“Let me see if I understand you correctly. What you would like is…” (to make sure you understand them).

“So, based on what I have told you so far, do you mind repeating back your understanding of what I’ve said?” (to make sure they understand you).

The idea is to make sure that you are hearing what they want you to hear and vice-versa. Just because you say something doesn’t mean they hear it! The only way to make sure this happens is to clarify, clarify, clarify… until you both know that you understand the other. Only then can you make satisfying agreements.

7. Focus on solutions. The key to having good negotiations is to focus on solutions, not problems. What are the solutions to each of the issues? They need it at a certain price and in a certain time frame. You need a certain profit margin. The agreement will come when you negotiate a situation that solves each of your needs. So, keep coming back to this question: What is the solution to this?

8. Cultivate this negotiation so that the end result is a platform for a future business relationship. When all is said and done you do not want this to be a one-time deal. The most successful businesspeople do multiple deals with repeat customers that produce ongoing and increasing profits and solutions for each party. This means that as you negotiate, you should do so in a manner that keeps the ongoing relationship intact, so you can continue business. For example, would you rather negotiate too hard and get a one-time $2,500 profit or negotiate a win-win solution, give up a little, and come away with a relationship that will produce a monthly profit of $1,500? That ongoing profit adds up, doesn’t it?

Win-win relationships are possible, even in relationships where you have regular opportunities to negotiate. The key is to focus on the principles and philosophy that govern your actions and will in turn produce mutual satisfaction.

Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!

Nick James

Supplemental Notes

Let’s talk more about building a referral base. We touched on this last month a bit, but this is such an important part of any successful business that we want to cover it again with you this week.

There are two primary ways of getting referred.

The first is to ask a person to refer you to someone else. This is where you ask for a name and they give you one and you then follow up with a phone call and mention the referring person.

The second is to have someone refer you to someone else without your knowledge. Then that person calls you seeking a discussion about potential business. For example, Bob tells Joe that he needs to buy some more life insurance. Joe then tells Bob that you are a great insurance salesman and gives him your number. Bob then follows up with you. This is the most powerful way to get referrals.

Let’s talk about the key elements to each kind, because each kind is important in developing our networks.

Here are a few pointers for asking others to give us the names of referrals:

1. Ask. That’s right, ask. Many times we let referrals fall through the cracks because, for one reason or another, we decide not to ask. Remember the old saying that “If you ask, you shall receive!”

2. Be specific. Bob Burg teaches that we should not just say, “Do you know anybody who needs life insurance?” That is way too broad! Bob says you really should give them a place to start. The better alternative is to say, “Do you think any of your Friday afternoon golf partners might be in the market for insurance?”

3. Be good to the person you are asking for the referral from. Why? Because they will rightly assume that you will treat the referral the same way. If you are too “hardball,” they may tolerate you themselves, but never refer you to a friend or family member.

4. Tell them exactly what your process will include and then do it. One thing you need to do is calm the fears of the person. They want to make sure that you aren’t going to call their friend 50 times. They want to make sure you won’t put them on some e-mail spam list. Let them know exactly what you are going to do.

5. Follow up with them to thank them for the referral and let them know how the referral worked. This will give them the information and feedback they need to know in order to make their future referrals better suited for you. (You want them to continually make referrals for you!)

Here are some pointers for having others refer us, even when we aren’t there:

1. Let people know what you do and that you would like their referrals. Do people know what you do? Everybody you know should be aware of what you do. This is the first step in getting your name plugged into their brain so they can refer you. Secondly, be sure to let them know that you rely on referrals to increase your business. The first step plugs you into their brain, while the second step programs them to think about you when they hear that someone is looking for someone like you.

2. Be likable. That’s right—people will only refer likable people. Do they like you? If so, they will refer you. If not, they won’t. Sorry, that’s the way life works—no way around it. What is “likable?” Friendly, helpful, having a positive attitude and being generous are great places to start.

3. Be good at what you do. If you are good at what you do, it will go a long way. If you are excellent at what you do, you are probably a lock for referrals.

4. Treat the referral well when they call you. Take care of them. Do them right. They will surely tell the person who referred them how well they were treated. That will determine whether or not that person refers you again.

5. Say “thank you.” If someone refers someone else to you, be sure to say “thank you” to that person. And make the thanks regardless of whether or not the referral does business with you. At least send a card that says you appreciate the referral. If the referral does do business with you, be sure to make the thank you commensurate to the value of the referral. If the person buys $50 worth of goods from you, send the referrer a gift certificate for a free coffee latte. If they buy $10,000,000 worth of goods from you, send the referrer and their spouse on a week’s vacation to Jamaica!

These are the basics of the referral game, but if you master the basics, you will go far! Memorize them, apply them and stick to them. If you do, you will see your network grow like you have never seen before!

And in all things, obey the golden rule: Do to others what you would want them to do to you.