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August 2005

Art of Communication

The best way to learn the art of communication is to be with people who are good at it. Words can build bridges as well as walls. We have to learn to build bridges. Very often we find we have not learnt the art of using appropriate words and we land in trouble. Some of the things I have learnt by observing the leaders are as follows:

  • Feel good about yourself.
  • Do not be tempted to impress others; instead express yourself.
  • Learn to avoid using ‘I’ and ‘Me’, instead use ‘You’ and ‘We’.
  • Make the other person comfortable in your presence.
  • Practice pause, pace, pitch and voice modulation while speaking.
  • Learn to adopt the emptying technique while talking to people.

The emptying technique involves asking questions in such a way as to empty the others minds while bringing out their likes and dislikes. This would give us a picture of what the other wants, so that we can present our communication again in an accommodating climate.

Practice the SOFTEN technique. While socializing, find out who among the strangers has S = Smile, O = Open body posture, F = Friendly energy, T = Touching while talking, E = Eye contact, N = Nodding in affirmation. Then, strike a conversation with those who have such qualities. Invariably you will feel comfortable with them.

Responsibility: Greatness

"No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines greatness."
- Charles Kendall Adams

"Here is a simple but powerful rule: Always give people more than they expect to get."
- Nelson Boswell

"Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you."
- Henry Ward Beecher

Give it time


Merging on to a crowded expressway can unnerve even the calmest driver. Despite the stress, most Of us just check our mirror and cautiously forge ahead, hoping that the hole we're shooting for remains open until our vehicle has safely entered the highway. We obey the yield sign on the on ramp, but we keep moving.

Every once in awhile motorists will make it all the way to the end of the ramp and just stop. Other drivers line up behind them, honking and gesturing, but the poor drivers are too intimidated by all the 18-wheelers and SUVs whizzing past to make their move. Instead of slowing down until they find the right spot to merge, they just gives up.

Have you ever been tempted to do that in other areas of life? Have you ever gotten so discouraged by the pressures, responsibilities, or lack of progress associated with a certain project or role that you just want to throw in the towel?

Wanting to surrender and actually giving up are two totally different things. Sometimes, when you're thinking about quitting, a fresh perspective on time can help renew your spirits and energize you for the long haul.

Here are five thoughts that might encourage you the next time you find yourself coming to a standstill in your work as a leader.

1. Wrong perception causes many people to quit.
The moment one person says, "I give up," someone else is looking at the very same situation and saying, "This is my great opportunity." One person's yelling "uncle" and getting out of the ring, and the other is saying, "This is the chance of a lifetime." What's the difference between the two? It's all a matter of perception.

2. If you start for the wrong reason, you'll stop for the wrong reason.
When people tell me they want to stop doing something, I always want to know why they started it in the first place. Instead of listening to a list of five reasons why they should quit their profession, for example, I take them back to the beginning. Why did they get into accounting (or construction or sales or whatever) at all? Did they love numbers, or did they just become CPA's because that's what their parents expected? If you have the right reason for starting something, you'll have the tenacity to give it a little more time.

3. Perseverance and patience are a result of seeing the big picture.
Let me explain it this way. A stonecutter, hammer and chisel in hand, pounds on a hunk of granite. For a long time, there's no obvious change in the stone, but he keeps tapping the chisel. And then, on the 101st tap, a hairline crack appears. Does the 101st blow make the fracture? Of course not. It's the constant hammering on the chisel that causes the rock to split. The stonecutter knows what will happen if he keeps pounding. He perseveres because he sees the big picture.

In work and life, many people give up when they don't get immediate results. They hit the chisel about three times, and then they quit because they don't think anything is happening; but they're wrong. When you're doing the right thing daily, something is happening even when you can't see it. Don't lose sight of the big picture.

4. Great accomplishments take great time.
The sculptor who carved Mount Rushmore was once asked if he did a perfect job of sculpting the faces of the four presidents. "No," he replied. "The nose of George Washington is about an inch too long, but it's okay. In a thousand years, erosion will make it just right." Talk about a good perspective on time. He understood that great achievements don't happen overnight. Sometimes, you have to wait a long time to see the results of your hard work.

5. Some things only work out if given enough time.
I once read an article in Golf magazine about the late Sam Snead. A person who had played golf with Snead recalled that when the legendary golfer made a triple bogey (three over par) on the first hole, it didn't seem to bother him. As he was walking off the green, Sneed looked at his partner and said, "That's why they have eighteen holes of golf." In other words, it will all work out in the end. Some things just take time.

It's easy to put too much stock in a single event. It's not one meeting, one lecture, or one presentation that makes us into great leaders; it's the process. It's the time we spend day in and day out--working diligently even when we're not seeing any results--that makes the difference.

So next time you're tempted to give up, remember this. Leaders develop daily, not in a day. Give it time.

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at"

Anti Gossip Pact

-Karthik Gurumurthy

This is from "God's little devotional book" by John Wesley and Friends.

In 1752, a group of Methodist men, including, John Wesley, signed a covenant that each man agreed to hang on the wall of his study. The six articles of this solemn agreement were as follows:

  1. That we will not listen or willingly inquire after ill concerning one another;
  2. That, if we do hear any ill of each other, we will not be forward to believe it.
  3. That as soon as possible we will communicate what we hear by speaking or writing to the person concerned.
  4. That until we have done this, we will not write or speak a syllable of it to any other person.
  5. That neither will we mention it, after we have done this, to any other person.
  6. That we will not make any exception to any of these rules unless we think ourslves absolutely obliged in conference.

Abraham Lincoln: Character Profile by John C. Maxwell

Abraham Lincoln has almost become a mythical figure in our  nation's history.  But Lincoln was much more than the sum of his myths.  He was an outstanding leader--quite possibly the greatest  President in the history of this nation.

What is it about Lincoln that made him such a great President?  The time of his presidency was marked by much conflict and criticism.  Yet, despite the turmoil, he maintained many admirable qualities which should be modeled in every leader's life:


Lincoln's leadership was founded on character.  A man of solid values, he actually lived up to the "Honest Abe" moniker given to him as a young shopkeeper.  For example, when Lincoln was 24-years-old, he was the postmaster of New Salem, an appointment that lasted briefly since the post office closed.

Because the bureaucracy was so slow in those days, years passed before a government agent came to settle accounts with him.  When he was told that he owed the government $17, Lincoln produced the exact amount of money which had remained untouched despite his poverty.  The agent was shocked.  But Lincoln explained, "I never use any man's money but my own."

Lincoln always desired to do the right thing.  His motto was, "Stand with anybody that stands right.  Stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong."


Lincoln has an uncanny ability for communication.  His Gettysburg Address is still considered to be one of the finest speeches written in the English language.

Lincoln knew how to connect with an audience.  He once said, "They say I tell a great many stories.  I reckon I do; but I have learned from long experience that plain people, take them as they run, are more easily influenced through the medium of a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way."

He also excelled at one-on-one communication.  It's said that he could convince anyone of just about anything.  A letter from journalist Thurlow Weed illustrates: "I do not, when I am with you, say half I intend... partly because you talk me out of my convictions and apprehensions."

Lincoln put his communication skills to good use.  He spent much time out among the people, particularly with the troops. He also employed an "open door policy," rarely declining to see anyone.


Perhaps the greatest demonstration of Lincoln's leadership was his courage in the face of adversity and his ability to beat the odds.  Entering the office of President, he inherited the mess left behind by his predecessor, James Buchanan:  seven states had seceded to form the Confederate States of America, and the Union Army, unprepared for war, was facing budget cuts in Congress.

Ernest Hemingway once defined courage as "grace under pressure," three words that appropriately describe Lincoln's tenure as President.  He displayed amazing courage when the country needed it most, and did so while facing vicious criticism.  He wrote to General John McClernand, "It often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong.  He who has the right needs not to fear."

Abraham Lincoln's attitude and actions characterize what it takes to be an effective leader in any organization.  His character stood the test of time; his ability to communicate effectively continually broadened his influence; and his courage inspired a nation.  Abraham Lincoln's leadership clearly went the distance.

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at"

Leadership by John C. Maxwell

If you could improve one quality in yourself to increase your leadership ability, what would you choose?  If you're like the majority of people, you would probably like to increase your charisma.  After all, that's what initially attracts followers, right?

Author Anthony Trollope once said, "Marvelous is the power which can be exercised, almost unconsciously, over a company or an individual or even upon a crowd by one person gifted with good temper, good digestion, good intellect, and good looks."  What he's describing are the effects of charisma.  It's very valuable to leadership, but unfortunately the effects of charisma are only temporary.  Strong charisma will get you in the door with people, but it can never sustain your influence by itself.

When it comes to lasting influence, nothing is more important than character.  As Robert A. Cook noted, "There is no substitute for character.  You can buy brains, but you cannot buy character."  It's the inner fiber of a person.  And it's essential to ensuring that your leadership goes the distance.  Here's why:


There was a time when the people who lacked integrity stood out from the crowd.  Unfortunately, now the opposite is true.  So when you consistently exhibit character over a period of time, people take notice.  Billy Graham is a good example of this. Every President since Harry Truman has sought his leadership and wise counsel--a result of his lifetime of unwavering integrity.

It's true that charisma can make a person stand out for a moment, but character sets a person apart for a lifetime.


Charisma can draw people to you, but it gives them no reason to trust you.  With character, you build trust with others each time you choose integrity over image, truth over convenience, or honor
over personal gain.

PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Craig Weatherup explains, "You don't  build trust by talking about it. You build it by achieving results, always with integrity and in a manner that shows real  personal regard for the people with whom you work."  Character makes trust possible.  And trust is the foundation of leadership. 


NBA great, Jerry West commented, "You can't get too much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good."  Leaders with inner strength can be counted on day after day because their ability to lead remains constant.  If your people know what they can expect from you they will continue to look to you for leadership.


John Morely said, "No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character."  When a leader's character is strong, people trust him, and they trust his ability to release their potential because he has taken steps to reach his own.  That not only gives followers hope for the future,but it also promotes a strong belief in themselves and their organization.

If you're currently leading people, you probably have some measure of both charisma and character.  The question is, which one are you relying on to lead?  The answer can be found in your response to this question: As time goes by, is it easier or harder to sustain your influence within your organization?  With charisma alone, influence becomes increasingly more difficult to sustain.  With character, as time passes, influence builds and requires less work to sustain.

Take some time to evaluate your character.  Ask yourself the hard questions, then if necessary commit to making changes to ensure you are building a stronger foundation of trust among your people.

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at"

Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed:

Be true to yourself.
° Help others.
° Make each day your masterpiece.
° Drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible.
° Make friendship a fine art.
° Build shelter against a rainy day (faith in God).
° Pray for guidance and counsel and give thanks for your blessings each day

George Washington's Rules of Civility

  1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.
  2. Show nothing to your friend that may frighten him.
  3. In the presence of others sing not to yourself with a humming noise, nor drum with your fingers or feet.
  4. Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when your should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.
  5. Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.
  6. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another through he were your enemy.
  7. Use no reproachful language against anyone, neither curse nor revile.
  8. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be along than in bad company.
  9. Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest at none although they give occasion.
  10. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily but orderly and distinctly.
  11. Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.
  12. Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.
  13. When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence.
  14. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

Banish the "but"

Frances Hesselbein has interacted with many great leadership experts throughout the years, including Peter Drucker, Warren Bennis and Jim Collins.  But Hesselbein, editor-in-chief of Leader to Leader magazine, says her grandmother, "Mama Wicks," was the person who had the greatest impact on her life and her work.

Mama Wicks was a powerful leadership model because she taught her grandchildren the importance of listening--an art that Hesselbein calls "the essential element of effective leadership."

"When people are speaking, it requires that they have our undivided attention," she writes in Leader to Leader's Summer 2003 issue.  "We focus on them; we listen very carefully.  We listen to the spoken words and the unspoken messages.  This means looking directly at the person, eyes connected--we forget we have a watch, just focusing for that moment on that person.  It's called respect, it's called appreciation, it's called anticipation--and it's called leadership."

Hesselbein recently was asked to pinpoint her number one piece of listening advice.  Her answer? "Banish the but."

"How many times," she writes, "has someone told us how well we have performed--and we were feeling good about the feedback, listening carefully--then we have heard 'but," and the positive, energizing part of the feedback was lost in the 'but' and what followed it. 'But' is nobody's friend--listener or speaker.'And' provides the graceful transition, the nonthreatening bridge to mutual appreciation, the communication that builds effective relationships.  Replacing 'but' with 'and' is the best advice I could give to the leader who listens and wants others to listen with an open mind."


Developing Discipline

By Dr. John C. Maxwell

H.P. Liddon said, "What we do on some great occasions will probably depend upon what we already are, and what we are will be the result of previous years of self-discipline."  I believe that with all of my heart.

Discipline is doing what you really do not want to do, so you can do what you really want to do.  That makes it hard is that in our own human nature, we do not want to do certain things, and so therefore, what happens is we have a tendency to be undisciplined in the areas that we do not care to do.

Three areas to develop discipline:

1. Disciplined Thinking.

George Bernard Shaw said, "Few people think more than two or three times a year.  I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week."

I am in the process of writing a new book.  The whole book is based on the idea that people who understand how to get to the top and stay there are people who think their way to the top.

One of the major differences in this discipline of thinking is that people that think their way to the top have the ability to do what I call "sustained thinking."  They have the ability to think on an issue for a long period of time, until that issue becomes clear on the decision that should be made.

People who do not think their way to the top have the unwillingness of discipline to master sustained thinking.  They will think about something for a while, and then they will get off it and go on to something else.

They have never learned how to discipline their thoughts by writing them down.  I always keep a pad with me of things that I am thinking.  I write thoughts down so that I can stay concentrated and disciplined in that area.

2. Disciplined Emotions.

We have choices when it comes to our emotions:

1. We can master them, or
2. They can master us.

I was playing golf the other day at East Lake Country Club, a great golf course here in Atlanta.  It is known for being the links where Bobby Jones played.  As you may or may not know, he is a legendary golfer who won a major tournament at twenty-one. By age twenty-eight, he had already won the grand slam and retired.

Jones had an uncle who said that by the time he was fourteen, Bobby was probably already the best golfer in the world.  He certainly was popular.  However, Jones was also known for his temper because he would throw his clubs when he got irritated. Jones's uncle sat down with him and said, "Bobby, your problem is you've mastered the game of golf, but you haven't mastered your emotions; and until you master your emotions, you'll never be a champion in golf."

3. Disciplined Actions.

I call the two actions of initiating and closing the "bookends of success" because I really think they are.

I know some that can initiate but they can never close; I know some people that can close but they can never get it cranked up. You have to kick start them every time.  When you can do both, initiate and close, you have the bookends to success.

Allow me to leave you with this closing thought about developing discipline:  you cannot give what you do not have, and self-improvement precedes team improvement.

The only way that I can keep leading is to keep growing.  The day I stop growing, somebody else takes the leadership baton.  That is the way it always is.

"This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at"