Listen with Appreciation

Have you been in a conversation where the other person (people) don’t seem to be listening?  Do they interrupt to make their point?  Are they simply missing the message you are trying to convey?  Of course, you have.  If we are honest, we have been on both sides of this scenario. However, if we begin to listen to understand and not to respond, our conversations will be a lot more enjoyable and effective.  Whether in your personal or professional life, establishing a level of appreciative listening will allow you to build stronger relationships and have more relevant conversations.

Appreciative listening starts with a basic understanding that we should want to listen to understand the other person’s perspective.  You are open to their thoughts and ideas.  You aren’t positioning your next statement in your mind, as doing this will cause you to miss a large piece of the other’s point and message.  If you truly listen to gain their perspective, your responses will be more thought out and effective.  You will be able to compare with your perspectives, have a more conscious thought process and maybe change your narrative.  However, appreciative listening doesn’t mean that you must change your view to be aligned, it simply means being open-minded and authentic.

While not the direct subject of this article, appreciative listening is also tightly aligned to Emotional Intelligence – the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions while also recognizing, understanding and influencing the emotions of others.

Since appreciative listening happens so rarely in our fast-paced world of always being connected where we communicate in short bursts of information (texts, tweets, etc.) needing to share thoughts, ideas and even pictures of our dinner, if you effectively listen with appreciation, you may surprise yourself and the other person.

While this seems like common sense and sounds easy, the actual execution is more difficult and takes time to build into your persona, but you can take minor steps each day and in every conversation.  Eventually, you will become a more appreciative listener.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • It should go without saying but disconnect from technology. You obviously won’t be able to truly listen with appreciation if you are checking text messages or emails during the conversation.
    • On a personal level, leave your phone in the car while out to dinner.
    • At a professional level, close your laptop and leave your phone in your pocket.
  • Assess how you participate in your next conversation right after it is over. Did you listen with an appreciation or still compile your response before the other person was done?  Write your thoughts down and reread later.  How could you have done better?
  • During the next conversation, be mindful of how you are listening. Quiet your thoughts.  If you feel yourself stepping away from being an appreciative listener, catch it and bring yourself back.  It’s kind of like meditation when you let go of thoughts coming into your mind.  Don’t punish yourself, just recognize it and let it go.
  • Ask for feedback from the other person. Ask them if they felt like you were attentive in the conversation and if they felt like your responses considered their perspectives.

Listen with appreciation and see how it makes you feel and improves your overall communications.

 

 

Always Know Your Value

“Try not to be a man of success, but rather a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

Have you ever asked yourself – What value am I providing in my current role?  If you can’t confidently answer this question, it is unlikely that anyone else will be able to either.  This is something that you could be asking yourself daily, but at a minimum, you should be reviewing on a regular basis.  The timing decision is a personal one.

We all get caught up with our day to day activities and don’t take the time to step back to reflect our value to the company, organization, etc.  The challenge is that others are continuously in observation mode and while they may see a high level of activity, can they see the value output from the activity?  In the perfect world, others would recognize your value; however, they are in a similar position of busyness and don’t necessarily carry the same perspective as you do.

There are several reasons to reflect on your value.  First, there is a level of positive psychology in reviewing your value and contributions you are making.  It stimulates positive thinking and sets you up to be more positive throughout the day.  While “positive psychology” was initially seen as a fluffy term, since the late 1990’s, research has proven the beneficial impacts to not only a person’s performance, but also their health, learning and many other benefits.  At a minimum, creating a habit of thinking about the value you are contributing will provide a plethora of personal benefits.

If you can’t clearly articulate where you are adding value, you have an opportunity to modify what you are doing to remedy the situation.   A value assessment allows you to either modify what you are doing or look for another role where you feel more comfortable that you’ll be able to contribute.  This will be a positive practice, if you are taking action on your finding.

Additionally, assessing yourself helps you clarify your value into your communications and helps build your level of confidence.  You don’t want to come across as arrogant, but you do want to ensure that your value is understood.

Let’s face it, work life is competitive.  While we all want to work within a “family” environment, there is also competition within a family.   Have you ever been confused as to why someone received a promotion or got the position you wanted, even though you believed you were more qualified?  It may have been that they were able to communicate and promote their value better.

Ensure that you are relevant to the success of the organization and company.

What value will you add?

 

 

Lesson #27 – Keep a “To-Do” List

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

Ray,

Today was the first day of classes for me. I got A LOT done in PLP office hours today and feel confident about kicking off the semester with our SD meeting and member meeting tomorrow! In addition, I got a final approval from Central Housing today to take an LSAT prep course. After that, I registered and secured my spot in the class I wanted!

In between it all, I got a lot of little things crossed off of my to do list! It has been a bit of a long day, but a pretty productive day as well! Talk to you soon!

Alexia

 

Ray,

This weekend was exactly what I needed! I was able to spend some time with my friends and my family, as well as get some work done! I was able to spend some time getting my to do list put together and making a plan for the week so that I can get as much done as possible! In addition, I was able to spend some quality me time and tons of playing with my dog time! I am feeling very refreshed and ready to go for the week!  See you in the morning!

Alexia

 

Ray,

Today has been quite a long day for not having much on my schedule. I have gotten a handful of things crossed off my to-do list, but I do have a lot left. It will have to make for a productive weekend! I’m tired and now off to bed! Can’t wait for our meeting on Monday… It feels like its been forever!

Alexia

Ray,

Today I had a very productive day at work, productive class and a pretty productive night as well. I had some me time and some friends time and also got a workout in. I still have a lot on my to do list for the week but I feel like I’m at a good spot as of now! I’m off to bed!

Goodnight,

Alexia

 

Lesson: Keep a “to-do” list.

If you want to get things done, you will need a “to-do” list. If you want to be a leader, you need items on your “to-do” list related to accomplishing your goals and the goals of the team. You want activities that will matter and make a difference in your life and the lives of others. Review your “to-do” list; if it includes things like “buy milk” and “stop by the bookstore,” then it is good you have those items captured. But what you really need is a list of the activities that are most important to reaching your goals and helping the team reach its goals. Don’t just think about what you have to do, but think about what is the most important thing you can be doing? Look at your “to-do” list and add the actions that will move your goals forward. Make sure those are prioritized so you get them done first. Then add all of the other smaller items swirling around in your head. But be sure to mark them a lower priority and fit them into the schedule vs. spending your time on the lower priority items and never getting to the activities that will make you successful and happy.

One important note; make positive relationships one of your top priorities. Nurturing positive relationships is an investment in your happiness and success.

 

Opportunity: Create a “to-do” list. Put a priority level next to each item. Do the high priority items first.

Activity: Schedule your to-do list

Make a list of things you need to do tomorrow and schedule each one on your calendar to hold yourself accountable. Make sure your most important activities get the highest priority times and the most cushion in your calendar. Check your calendar often and stick to your scheduled times.

At the end of the day, tomorrow, review your success. Check each item and confirm whether you were able to complete it or not. Did you schedule enough time to complete the activity? Did you schedule enough transition time and down time? Honestly evaluate your progress. Did you get side tracked by something unexpected? Was it more important than what you had originally planned or just more urgent?

Your schedule should remain flexible, so don’t worry about being perfect and never missing a scheduled activity. It is more about creating a habit, learning to budget enough time, and making sure the highest priority activities don’t get replaced by the lower priority activities.

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #3 – Share Your Smile

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

Alexia was among the most beautiful people I knew on campus. Her beauty was not merely external: it was also internal. This inner beauty shined through her speech, her actions, her attitude, her schedule, her bearing, and her smile. I remember a number of times coming down to the front desk of Honors Hall with questions and concerns, and Alexia was so helpful and kind. She was a hard and determined worker. I was amazed after hearing about everything she was involved in. Her drive was motivating and inspiring. Amidst school and work, Alexia still had time for Honors Hall, her residents, and her friends. Even when she was faced with stress, she dealt with it in a composed manner.

Every time I walked into Honors Hall, and Alexia was in the lobby or working the front desk, she always made it a point to smile or say, “Hi, Julie! How are you?” Even though she probably never realized it, those hellos really meant a lot to me.

At the conclusion of this spring’s semester, a huge number of exciting doors opened in my life. When Alexia heard about them, she gave me a huge hug and a joyful “Congratulations!” I came to Alexia with some problems and I knew that if I ever needed help with something personal and troubling, I could go to her. I felt so comfortable around her. She made herself approachable and available to any who needed her.

The thing that will always stand out in my mind when I think of Alexia Ardeleanu is her smile. Her smile was contagious, so joyful, and happy. It was a very rare occasion to see her without it.

Julie Hagen, Honors Hall Resident

 

My most prominent memory of Alexia is her uplifting attitude. Even when I saw her very busy with a lot of things on her plate, I don’t recall ever seeing her with a negative attitude. She made such an effort to make me feel welcome on staff that I looked forward to running in to her.      Marla Ross

Alexia always knew how to cheer me up with her genuine, sweet smile and words of encouragement that honestly lifted my spirit more than most people could.                         Jennifer Ciocan

 

Lesson: Share your smile.

Your smile is one of the best gifts you can share with the world. It is easy and doesn’t cost anything.  It communicates warmth, welcome, and caring. Your smile is viral and will make others want to smile. Smiling actually releases a chemical in your brain that makes you happier. People who see your smile will instinctually mimic it and it will make them happier. It will then spread to other people who see them smiling. Practice smiling. Share your smile with everyone. It makes more difference than you could ever imagine.

 

Opportunity: Think about whether you are so focused on team and personal challenges that you are walking around with a grimace on your face, or are you taking a few moments to appreciate life and share your smile with others?

 

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #10 – Make an Impact

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

I had the privilege and luck to know and work with Alexia for a year and a half. In that time I found she was kind hearted, professional, and a joy to work with and know as a friend. As a Resident Assistant for about a year before Alexia arrived at Honors Hall I thought I had a measure for the kind of people I would encounter at my job. Alexia surpassed my expectations. It isn’t hyperbole to state that by the end of her first week she knew more about being a good RA than I did. Outside of work she brought a fire to the honors hall community that never existed before her.     Eric Johnson

 

Lesson: Make an impact.

How do you move through the world? You can demand the world adapt and change to your needs or you can make a positive impact and leave good feelings wherever you go. You can “go through the motions” and exert as little effort as possible or you can bring your passion and creativity to your job and other leadership opportunities. As a leader, make it your goal to impact people’s lives in a positive manner. Take passion and caring into every project and every job. Try to make a difference.

Opportunity: Find out where can you make an impact today?

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #39 – Include Your Team in the Solution

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

Ray,

Today I spoke with Rachel about the Student Director situation and although it is a curve ball, I’m feeling pretty hopeful about the team finding a solution at our meeting tomorrow. I have also completed all assignments for this week (except for two short quizzes that don’t open until Friday at 12:01 AM) so I am feeling good about academics as well! I am done with my to do list and journaling and I am now off to bed!

Talk to you soon!

Alexia

 

Ray,

We had an interesting first meeting since the news of Student Director leaving. I actually am VERY pleased with the team, their positivity, and the direction we are going from here. I can’t wait to fill you in fully next week!

As for my academic predicament, I have gotten a bit of the run around but now know which classes I have to choose from and who exactly to go to that has the final say if I can substitute or not. (Thankfully I also did extremely well when I took his class so hopefully he will remember me and know that I am a determined student who isn’t trying to cut any corners). So I will be looking at the classes and setting up a time next week to actually meet with him. I also have two appointments set up in the next week with professors who can help guide me and give me knowledge that should help me in my goals to make a decision with CPA vs MBA.

Exercise, journals, and me time are still going well. I have also not felt hot or faint so hopefully my body is recovering well! Sorry for the extra-long email tonight!

Talk to you soon!

Alexia

Lesson: Include your team in the solution.

As a leader, even though you are taking full responsibility for the team, you don’t have to solve every problem yourself. Reach out to the team for answers and for their expertise. Let them step up and create solutions to new challenges. They need the opportunity to lead as well and part of your job as a leader is to know when to be a follower. Reach out to your team for support. Let them solve most of the challenges. You will build a better team with many good leaders and a strong future.

 

Opportunity: Identify what problems you can let your team solve.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #26 – Keep Track of Who Signed up for What

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

At every meeting and through email when we weren’t having meetings, Alexia would ask each of us about our deliverables. She usually took notes on the agendas and wrote down what everyone was responsible for. She always knew what we needed to do and checked in to confirm it had been done. We felt accountable to deliver for her each week. Several of our team members had other priorities and if Alexia hadn’t stayed on top of it, they would not have put in the time to work on the PLP stuff.     Austin Hatcher

 

Lesson: Keep track of who signed up for what.

A simple step for being an organized leader is writing down the actions each person has agreed to take and by when they will be completed. This small task keeps the teams on track and helps ensure the team is actually accomplishing something vs. just meeting, talking, and coming up with great ideas, but then not getting anything done. As a leader, “Inspect what you expect.” If you expect a team member to accomplish a task, you have to inspect whether they are on track for completion. There will be a few members who don’t need the reminders, but the rest will welcome your help.

 

Opportunity: Determine how you will you track assignments at your next meeting.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #45 – Offer Your Gift of Leadership to Those Who Might Get Left Behind

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

 

Ray,

Today has been quite a day! I woke up this morning with a horrible headache so I went back to sleep for a bit. I then got up and got some more of my project done before heading off to class. I then had SD office hours where I went over my SD Scorecard with Rachel and had a very productive conversation! I also spoke with Tina some more. She should have reached out to you tonight. She was hoping to sit in with our meeting tomorrow after PLP but I told her to email you and get your okay as well. That way, like you said, it really is her making the first step. After office hours, I went with a friend and got a massage, which was very helpful in alleviating my headache! I then came home, worked the front desk, did a little work out, showered, and am now off to bed feeling great about an all around productive day!

Can’t wait to meet with you tomorrow!

Alexia

 

Lesson: Offer your gift of leadership to those who might get left behind.

Alexia made sure everyone was taken care of. One of the girls in her group, Tina (I changed the name to protect her privacy), was struggling with time management, participation, and concern about what happens after college. She was overwhelmed by school and all her activities. Alexia took special time to work with her on her goals, and assembled a team of mentors and friends to consult with her, and then Alexia coached her on a daily and weekly basis. She kept the team informed of Tina’s progress and made herself available until Tina was able to successfully graduate.

As a leader you won’t have time to take care of everyone and various followers will drop out of the team for their own personal reasons; but it is worthwhile to evaluate whether someone can be helped, and with a few nudges from you, get back on track. Reach out for help from others and don’t try to do it all alone. Offer to help the person in need, but don’t try to force them to do anything or even expect they will respond. Your leadership is a gift. They may or may not decide to accept your gift. They may not want to take advantage of the opportunities you provide them. But offer your gift of leadership any-way. Helping one person get back on track will make it all worthwhile.

 

Opportunity: Think about who needs a little nudge and a little help from you to be successful.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #31 – Make Time for Yourself

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

 

Ray,

This weekend was exactly what I needed! I was able to spend some time with my friends and my family, as well as get some work done! I was able to spend some time getting my to do list put together and making a plan for the week so that I can get as much done as possible! In addition, I was able to spend some quality “me” time and tons of playing with my dog time! I am feeling very refreshed and ready to go for the week!

See you in the morning!

Alexia

 

Ray,

Today has been a good day! I got up and had my classes then PLP office hours where I got a lot done! (I also have the jump drive Rachel wants me to give you with a copy of your presentation on it.) Afterwards, I had some productive homework time! I continued to try your tips (changing scenery, taking breaks filled with movement, fresh air, and me time, etc). It seems to really be helping me stay productive when I’m working and relaxed during my breaks. And getting out of my room I think has helped my productivity the most!

To add to good news, I have breakfast plans and a massage with Shannon in the morning! So hopefully, tomorrow will be an even better day! Talk to you soon!

Alexia

Lesson: Make time for yourself.

One of the keys to being a good leader is setting a good example and taking care of yourself. Unfortunately, none of us has an unlimited supply of energy. We need to pause and renew. We need to pull back from the world and take care of ourselves so we can be prepared and full of the energy we need to help others. Make time each day to focus on your health. Take time to renew your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Go for a walk or call a friend. Rather than sitting at your desk all day, get up and take a walk or find a change of scenery. Go outside and get some fresh air. Take time for a pleasant meal and conversation with friends and family. Take a few moments to contemplate and write down your dreams or the things in life you are grateful for. Make time for yourself to renew your energy and you will find an abundance of energy to lead others.

Opportunity: Schedule some “me” time.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Lesson #21 – Make Each Day Productive

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

Ray,

Today was a productive day full of staff bonding, training, meeting with Rachel to catch up on PLP things and accomplishing some McKesson work tonight. I’m now doing journals and am off to bed!

Alexia

 

Ray,

I had a very busy productive day between RA and PLP! I accomplished A LOT in the last 24 hours! And I am now off to bed!!

Alexia

 

Ray,

I had some me time this morning and continued with some exercise this morning. Had RA training and fun relaxing activities today. And after tonight’s SD meeting, I am caught up with PLP stuff for the next week. I just did my journals and I am off to bed!

Alexia

 

Ray,

I completed all my stuff for today, had a successful first PLP SD meeting and Wednesday meeting and am now off to bed!

Alexia

Ray,

Today has been a good day! I went to breakfast and got a massage with Shannon! Then we had a long but productive student director meeting. I also got a few cases read between SD meeting and member meeting. I got a little exercising in and then did nothing but GMAT problems while working desk tonight!

I just finished up my me time and journaling and am now off to bed!

Talk to you soon!

Alexia

 

Lesson: Make each day productive.

Are you making progress on your goals every day? Are you accomplishing the things you need to get done, or are you caught up in the chaos of life? In one of the emails above, Alexia started the day with a good breakfast and then spent time nurturing relationships and taking care of herself. Then she had a productive meeting with her team, the Professional Leadership Program Student Directors. She got her homework done, fit in some exercise to stay healthy, and went to work at her second job as a Resident Assistant and found time to study for her GMAT to help her prepare for her goal to get a combined MBA/Law degree. Finally,  she ended the day with some journaling and making sure she got plenty of sleep. Alexia was not super human. She was organized, disciplined and committed to her goals. Anyone, including you, can have this kind of productive day. Set your goals, clarify your priorities, and create the discipline to follow through.

 

Success and leadership are not a result of one great accomplishment or one big action. They are a result of lots of productive days doing the right things related to your goals day in and day out, over and over again. It has to become routine and habit to know what your priorities are and to make sure you create a little progress on those priorities each day. The big wins are almost anti-climactic because they come after many routine days of taking the actions that are moving you towards accomplishment of that big goal. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to be a leader. Don’t wait for success to happen. Long term happiness is created by lots of productive days strung together that lead to success, not by one big win in a lucky moment. Make leadership and success a part of your daily routine. Make them habits that happen every day and are an integrated part of your life.

Opportunity: Evaluate how productive was your day today and determine how can you make tomorrow more productive?

 

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

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