Many years ago I was asked to prepare a point of view and present a perspective on leadership. The point of the presentation was to suggest ways all of us could step up to be better leaders.

As part of my preparation process I interviewed a number of people to determine who their most influential leaders were. You should know that these were all highly accomplished people, people others would consider leaders, who were well into their careers, exposed to many people, opportunities and experiences. I could not wait to hear who helped form them into who they were. I anticipated leaders they met on their career path, thought leaders they got to know from writings, community leaders, the sky was the limit.

What they told me sticks with me to this day. Do you know whom EVERY single person I spoke with had on his or her list? Parents, and specifically their dad.

And do you know what else they told me? They had very few models of leaders that they truly and wholly valued. They spoke of other moments of learning from important individuals, but a person who truly formed their whole being, and showed them that leadership was not individual acts but rather a philosophical way of moving through the world personally and professionally. Someone who taught important lessons, touched people personally and makes the world a better place.

Leadership is truthful, generous, committed ongoing moments that happen consistently and continuously.

With Father’s Day this Sunday, I am feeling nostalgic and remembering my own dad and first leader in life. He taught me about doing the right thing even when it’s hard; having convictions; living with integrity; experiencing laughter and fun wherever you can; and giving everything your best effort. He made a lasting and hugely influential imprint on my leadership style.

This feels like an ideal time for each of us to reflect on our influencing leaders, and those we are influencing to make sure we are stepping up to our best right now.

Happy Father aka Leader Day!


I must confess, for me it happens more than it should. I like to think that I am exploding with enthusiasm about the topic at hand and need to join in. I like to think I am guiding to dialogue about a different perspective or augmenting the one being discussed. But after doing some reading about interrupting, interrupting is most often not perceived as well intentioned. Generally it is seen as interfering, hindering, trying to take control, or (eek!), just plain rude.

There are many reasons why we need to listen and stop interrupting:

  • In 1995 Haas & Arnold demonstrated that listening is an important component in how people judge communication effectiveness in the work place
  • Bechler & Johnson went on to demonstrate that listening is linked to effective leadership

In my own defense, I can be extraordinarily disciplined in my listening when I make a conscious choice. Like in our interviewing for projects, I am hanging on every word the person who has agreed to talk to us says, I would never dare to interrupt them. I am there to listen and encourage them to talk to their heart’s content. And they do, and they love it. There is hardly an interview completed at PROVOKE when the person who has given us their time, does not thank us for the interview. I know first hand the power of listening, and the positive impact it has in terms of connection, validation and relationship building.

Meekly, I do take some tiny bit of relief in knowing I am not alone (And yes I get that common does not mean right). Research suggests that men interrupt on average within 24-30 seconds of listening to someone, and women interrupt within 30-53 seconds. And on average we interrupt 50% of the time.

Evidence points to this being one of those not so productive habits many of us share more often than we may notice or care to admit, and that few are not guilty of at some point.

So why is it so prevalent?

Our thoughts can move four times faster than speech, so we are only using 25% of our mental capacity. SO what are we going to do with the other 75% of capacity available to us? We get distracted, with our own thoughts/responses. We either totally check out or in effort to remain engaged we start thinking about questions to ask, points to make, suggestions to offer.

We interrupt because most of us have not been taught this specifically (Funny we get lots of training on the outgoing like writing and speaking but not the incoming).

  • Only 2% of us have actually been trained to listen effectively
  • Only 1.5% of articles in business journals deal with listening effectiveness

So, to follow up on my last blog about listening, I thought I would try something new in hopes of creating a new habit.

  • I will listen, without speaking, eye to eye, fully attentive for at least one minute to start (try it, a minute can feel VERY long!), and slowly grow that time to when a person stops talking.
  • My specific strategy is to either take a sip of something when someone talks (extra fun at a dinner party with libations!!), or physically put my hand over my mouth to stop my lips from engaging (I can strike a pose reminiscent of The Thinker pretty well)
  • And when I do speak I engage my PROVOKE skills, and follow up with  comments like “Tell me more” or “What’s next?”.

As leaders, perhaps this is something we can all try. Imagine a client that gets your full, purposeful, intense attention. Or a co-worker, spouse, child, friend…..it will be interesting to see how people react. I know one thing for sure, it will build more goodwill than you could ever imagine in such a short time.


Data vs. Common Sense

by Trudy on September 21, 2013

This is a quick follow up to a blog I wrote on August 2 about people who want to lead need to step up to a degree of integrity.

Shortly after I wrote that blog, I read a startling article that talked of a study from Indiana University that posits, “For Political Candidates, All Twitter Publicity is Good Publicity”. It showed a correlation between social media posts and the number of votes the political candidate would get.  The more of one, the more of the other.

I thought, surely this cannot be. Human kind was not that checked out about the details of events and they could not be simplistically led by popularity. Or at least I hoped.

So I bided my time and waited hopefully.

A month later, much to my glee, human discretion and critical thinking prevailed! Sext scandal beleaguered NYC mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, failed in his political bid (he got just 5% of the vote!).

Yahoo to the people of NYC, I hoped you had it in you, and you did. Well done, you exercised your voice and showed that you require more integrity in your leaders.

This is a good reminder of how dangerous it can be to just accept data; especially data that just seems wrong and insulting dumbs people down. In these kinds of cases when you wonder what is going on, there is often more to the data story that needs to be explored. Data should never override common sense without being robustly challenged.

Data is a great tool, but so is common sense.


Needed: Passion and Conviction

August 30, 2013

I went to see the film Jobs on the weekend. Like many, I am fascinated by the story of Apple from innovation and marketing perspectives. (FYI I was an early business Mac user, and my first purchased home computer was a Mac, but I lost my way for a time and became a PC person, […]

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Who Wants a Weiner for Mayor?

August 2, 2013

For those who may have missed it, Anthony Weiner, a married American politician, who bowed to the pressure of his sexting indiscretions and quit his elected post in Congress in June 2011, then publicly claimed to have corrected his behaviour in July 2012, went on to become a dad, and this week has had more […]

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