WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

June 29, 2012

The Words We Feed Ourselves About Others

Have you ever talked yourself into a state of anger about someone else? Have you ever gotten a piece of information about someone, and based on that information, gotten very angry, although you may not have the whole picture? Sometimes we find out later we’re justified, and sometimes we’re wrong. Either way, we can expend a lot of energy being mad, and talking to others about this person, taking sides spewing our frustration. It can be costly if we don’t rein this in early on, and think about the consequences to ourselves and others.

This week I was on the phone with a client who is putting in a lot of hard work on a significant project at her company and being asked to do yeoman’s work with limited senior level assistance. More importantly, everyone pressures her to succeed, she is aware that all eyes are on this company wide project, and she has absolutely no funding to help her achieve her goals.

On the phone with one of her primary sponsors, she reported that this person told her on one hand that there was no money available but in the next breath that they were off to an international conference. She was furious- how could this so called supporter find the funds to head off overseas but not find funding for what was supposed to be such an important project?

It was tempting to take this personally. But the truth is that no one knows – we never know- what is going in on in another person’s mind, their life, their circumstances. This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. This may be something this person has worked to achieve all their life. What she is seeing is a tiny bit of information and it’s being processed as it affects her project, and of course she’s going to take it personally. But there may be so many more facts affecting this situation. Were she to hear them, she might fully support the decision.

The choices are simple. She can be angry, resentful and frustrated at what she sees as the facts. Or she can take a larger view and realize that she isn’t aware of all the information, and to not let this sweep her away in anger. To not feed the fires of resentment, to not feed ourselves toxic WordFood about another person takes courage, especially when we think we’re right. What takes real courage is to hold the situation in question, and accept that we just don’t know. Because in truth, we don’t.

So perhaps this person goes to the conference and comes back with ideas for funding. Perhaps they come back energized and enthusiastic and full of renewed support for the big project and my client ends up with a real advocate. These are real possibilities.

My mother used to tease me about “jumping to conclusions.” Our emotions are quick to respond especially if something affects us personally. What makes us stronger, better, bigger people is the ability to recognize that we don’t know all there is to know in a situation, and never about what it is going on inside another person. Before we feed ourselves toxic WordFood about someone else, it serves to hold things in check, see what we can learn, and let things evolve. We may be surprised at what we find.

June 24, 2012

Asking to be Fed WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 6:29 pm

Do you suffer in silence? Are you in a relationship where little is said and you hope for a kind word here and there? Perhaps you’ve been in this relationship for a long time, and there are habits of interaction and mind that have formed over the years. One of you comes home and the exchange goes like this:
Hi honey
Yeah hi
Howsa day
Howsa kids
Kids okay
Yah fine doing homework
Okay when’s dinner
‘Bout six
And at best you might get a small hug or a cheek buss at the door. And that’s the extent of your late day interaction.

And this, with the person you couldn’t WAIT to marry. You pined for and dreamed about.

Perhaps you’ve become resentful that your partner doesn’t notice that you wore something pretty today. Or that you have worn that sharp suit that takes ten pounds off your middle. Or perhaps you’re beginning to actually lose weight on that tough diet. Wouldn’t it be nice if they noticed and said something?

Sometimes, perhaps all too often, partners go on expecting the other to speak up first and neither does, and then there is an anger or resentment that begins. Well, you think, I won’t if she won’t. And she thinks the same thing. On it goes.

If we want to be fed delicious WordFood, sometimes the simplest thing to do is simply to ask for it. Tell your partner what you want to hear. They may have absolutely no clue what you need, what you crave, what you long for. And in fact if they did notice something it might be the wrong thing.

We need to teach each other our preferences for WordFood of love, and what feeds our souls. Let those we love know how we want to be acknowledged. Most of us want to please our partners and like to be needed. When given the chance to please, we often will.

Most of all, ask what others need first, and be willing to offer it. When you do this willingly, this is likely to open up a wonderful place in their hearts to reciprocate.

Try it next time you greet your partner. Say, do, be something different. Be appreciative. Find out what will feed their need to be seen as special. And watch them bloom.

June 22, 2012

WordFood in any Language

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:28 am

While at a women’s business conference this week I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely Chinese woman and her associate. The woman, who runs a manufacturing firm, spoke no English. Her associate translated for her. They had come to listen to me present a seminar on how to sell to major corporations in America.

After the program, these two lovely women approached me again.The older woman was animated and excited. She spoke rapidly and her face was glowing. Her associated translated for her how pleased she was about the program and how grateful she was for the information.

As I watched her face and listened to her speak I realized that I hardly needed the translation. Her warmth, enthusiasm, and generous nature made her message very clear. It was helpful to know precisely what she was saying, but I understood her perfectly.

I am sure she also understood my response as I expressed my gratitude for her kind words and that I was honored to have her in my class. She wants to bring back many more Chinese women to America for similar training and it would be wonderful to have them. With gestures that made her laugh I expressed my own enthusiasm for this idea.

We bowed deeply to each other when we ended the conversation and I was reminded of how much graciousness, warmth, and courtesy we communicate without words. Her open face and body language expressed so much and her tone of voice was so kind that her meaning was very clear.

Our words are only a small part of what we communicate, with body language and tone of voice being much more powerful delivery systems for our message. This lovely woman hardly needed a translator. I got it. And she understood perfectly how felt.

Whether we are world travelers or wandering down the hallway to breakfast with our family, it helps to remember that what’s on our face, in our tone and in our gestures conveys a big part of our message. Consistency is important and powerful when you want to be compelling, and understood, in any language.

June 18, 2012

When Others Say WordFood Better Than You

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 7:46 pm

This week I’m giving a speech at a conference of women who are selling their products and services to the Fortune 500. For the most part, this is a very savvy bunch, and they understand their customer very well. But not always.

In the nine years of attending these conferences I’ve seen instances of alcohol abuse, bad behavior and inappropriate clothing that have cost these smart women contracts- and this from comments made to me by my Fortune 500 friends. I wanted to make some kind of mention in my presentation, but how do I do this without sounding, well, parental or condescending? For the last three days I have gone over the wording and struggled with the slide. Considered forgetting it altogether but knew that it made sense to say something, but what and how?

The answer came today in the form of Caroline, another woman business owner whom I met at the coffee counter this afternoon. Her comment to me was that “The Fortune 500 consider us as extensions of themselves – they want us to represent them to their customers. That’s how they’re looking at how we look and behave.”

This is perfect. Why do I have to say it? One of their own should. And better Caroline than me.

It’s not up to me to moralize. It’s so much more effective, and so much softer, for another business woman to make the case for how to be successful.

Sometimes it can be tempting to be right, to be Moses on the mountain and march down with the tablets. But my bet will be that with Caroline as the messenger they will  find the advice palatable and even wise, and certainly will not resent it.

When you have a tough message to deliver, you might check in with your ego first and make sure there isn’t a warrior intent on cleaning house. While the warrior may sound attractive at some level, you may end up making enemies. Find a way to utilize another voice to express your message, using positive WordFood to equals.  Caroline gave me a nice lesson in WordFood diplomacy. It works in families, financial summits and the founding of nations.

June 14, 2012

Costly Toxic WordFood

On a beautiful day in Boulder, Colorado I went to lunch with one of the most powerful women in the state. My friend Meg is a serial entrepreneur, a brilliant businesswoman. She has sat on some of the boards of the biggest banks in the country, created jobs, and been a powerful force for women in her state and the business community for years.

I’ve known Meg for more than thirty years. I don’t know how old she is, somewhere in her late 80′s, I’d imagine. But she won’t tell anyone her age because of incidents like this one.

She was traveling with a business group in Viet Nam a while back when they had missed a return flight to Hanoi. One man in the group offered to rebook the flights and took their passports to get this accomplished. Afterwards, he approached her in a huff.

“If I’d known how old you were I’d never have allowed you to go on this trip,” he said condescendingly, and with force.

Meg has been an athlete all her life and she still is. She works out with a trainer, runs, does yoga, has a personal chef. She is up earlier than most of us and looks perhaps seventy. She still climbs mountains. She is likely in better shape than this dope.

What he didn’t know was that Meg was considering him for a job in one of her companies. His toxic WordFood and obvious age discrimination cost him a significant opportunity. Typical of Meg, she didn’t mention it. This fool will go on in his self-righteousness, clueless about what his ugly words cost him.

Our prejudices can be expensive. Age prejudice can make us overlook, ignore and bypass some of the most amazing and brilliant people all around us.  And our assumptions, based on those prejudices, can cost us the chance to learn from the richest resource in our society.  We may worship the young as a society but I’ll take Meg any day.

We owe our most respectful WordFood to those who came before us. Many of the things we take for granted, they put there for us. The inventions, buildings, highways, infrastructures that we depend on. And oh yeah, us.

Pick up the phone, email, go to a senior center, make the time and feed an elder the WordFood they so rightfully deserve today.

June 13, 2012

WordFood Starvation Diet

Have you ever had someone say to you, “Talk to the hand?”

Has your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse or coworker ever turned their back on you and refused to talk for an hour, day or even weeks as punishment for something that perhaps you may not realize you’ve done?

If this has happened to you, you’ve been put on what I call in the WordFood vernacular the Starvation Diet. No matter what you do, somebody’s not responding to you. You get the cold shoulder. No eye contact. No emails, tweets, phone calls. The silence is hurting you- possibly both of you, and if this is happening at the office, productivity may be going down if it’s a critical work relationship.

Someone is hurt here, and as time goes on, the chances are both of you feel hurt and angry. Your egos get involved and tend to want to be right. It gets harder to solve the problem the longer it goes on.

At some point, someone has to offer the olive branch. Bury the hatchet. It’s important to realize that others may be affected by this Starvation Diet: people in your family, community members, others at work. Consider the importance of letting go of your attachment to being right about whatever happened or didn’t happen, and the value of the relationship.

One of the best ways to bridge the gap is simply to apologize whether or not the problem was yours to begin with. Acknowledge your part of the issue. Look at the larger picture and what’s at stake, and offer to move beyond this and work things out. Suggest a way to proceed.

The offer of an apology is often the first step towards mending a broken relationship. Gently inquire about what’s wrong. Be gracious, courteous, caring. Show your appreciation for their feelings. Make no assumptions for what’s going on inside them, for we never really know. All we can do is offer our understanding and empathy.

When we are fed a Starvation Diet, we are often dealing with hurt or anger, possibly with fear. It’s up to us to make the first step. Offer a safe place for the other person to feel validated and a way forward, and see if you can start talking again. A little time, caring and compassion go a long way.

June 11, 2012

The Tongue We Trip Over

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 3:21 pm

I just had a day when I had to do some apologizing. I sent an email that wasn’t as carefully thought out as it should have been and it landed badly. I had to do offer some serious courteous WordFood to clean up with my client. Then I was on a conference call and said some things that were out of turn and had to send another apologetic email.

Ever have a day like that?

No matter how well intentioned you start out, somehow your tongue or your typing gets all tangled, your mind gets mangled, and what comes out just isn’t what you intended. Not long afterwards you find yourself working backwards trying to mop up the mess.

It happens to all of us. As a wordsmith, I want to think I’m not subject to this kind of entanglement but I fall victim to it like everyone else. Life has a way of showing us who we are in all our glory- clumsy and awkward, and prone to failures. This isn’t fun to look at. But as my coach Lari puts it, it’s important to see how I’m capable of “foot in mouth” disease and be sensitive to how that impacts people. I need to see that this part exists in me, that if I’m not careful, inappropriate stuff slips out.

People realize that we’re not perfect. An honest apology will usually be accepted especially if it’s offered right away. And when we feel genuine remorse for any hurt or inconvenience we’ve caused, we need to express it. That’s a true and important emotion. These failures and missteps are the everyday fodder of feedback about who we are in life.

The best answer to a clodhopper day is to brush off the dust and keep on going. Sweat it off at the gym, take a walk around the block. The great thing is that most people are quick to forgive. We need to forgive ourselves for our periodic verbal clumsiness. When our WordFood doesn’t feed others the way we think it should, that’s not the time to go toxic on ourselves. We are all doing our best with what we’ve got. And that’s saying a lot.

WordFood for Top Performers

Are you lucky enough to have great performers on your team? Are they highly independent, self-starting individuals? Are you glad that you can pretty much let them do their own thing and leave them alone?

Then you may be making a big mistake.

It’s very easy to assume that these top performers don’t need feedback or management oversight. Sure, they don’t want micromanagement- they are, after all, intrapreneurs. They might even tell you that they don’t need you to look in on them. But this is largely untrue.

Your top performers all have egos. And they want to know you’re paying attention to their work. That doesn’t mean looking over their shoulders all the time. What it does mean is that you do check in and acknowledge them. Notice their achievements. Ask them their opinions and involve them in the development of new people. Watch their numbers and express your appreciation.

Don’t be fooled by their independence. Our highest achievers want positive WordFood from you. They want to know you’re paying attention to what they do. If you don’t, they will find somewhere else to work where they will get that pat on the back.

All too often well meaning leaders make the assumption that their best people don’t need attention. The opposite is true. These are the people who deserve the most acknowledgement. This teaches your lowest performers that to get more of your support, they have to step it up.

Many a great employee has left because he or she got ignored. Make sure you are giving Energy Enhancer compliments to those who are making your company successful. Find out how they want to be valued: everyone is unique.

Feed your best performers rich WordFood and they will continue to reward you.

June 8, 2012

WordFood for the Tough Jobs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 3:05 pm

This afternoon I was doing research for one of my WordFood leadership programs and was interviewing a manager at BNSF about her work. She has a demanding job that requires her to be pretty independent, and to take a lot of responsibility for her own results. I asked her, being as much as a self- starter as she is, how much she needs to hear that she’s doing a good job.

At first she said she didn’t need to hear much at all. “I really don’t need that kind of acknowledgement,” she explained. Then the more she thought about it, she added, “but you know, it would be nice to hear once in a while that people know it’s tough out here. Demanding and sometimes thankless. When we go over and above, it’s nice when that’s noticed. So, yes. It matters.”

When I turned the tables and inquired about how she took care of those who attended to her needs, it was a different story altogether. She shared one situation where she needed help from the IT department. She gave fair warning starting in January that she had a drop dead deadline on April 30th. Due to a series of circumstances, nothing was done and she ended up with a brand new IT person helping her at the last minute. This person had other, higher priorities, and often was dragged away. At key moments in this process my client would tell this overstressed IT person “You’re my hero today.”

This front line, brand new, overworked IT kid probably only heard this from my client but it was probably the best thing he heard all day. And he got the job done- at the last possible moment on April 31st, right at the drop dead last second.

While my client may not always think about her needs to be fed nutritious WordFood, she knows how to feed it to others, especially those who do the tough jobs on the bottom rungs. Sometimes we can forget the demands place on people in these positions, and get frustrated with them. Acknowledgement, thanks and recognition go a long way towards helping us meet our goals and making friends for future support.

Who does the tough jobs for you? How can you thank them today?

June 5, 2012

WordFood Character Fiber

Some of the best sources of feedback we have come from our critics, and for those of us who pay people to give us this guidance, this can be very humbling.

Last year I wrote my third book, a big fat tome that I called “Exchange.” I whipped it out in a few months, very much in love with my own verbosity and eloquence, sure that this was going to be a world changer. My editor loved it too. I invested thousands in the editing and proudly handed it over to my coach, Orvel Ray Wilson.

He struggled through the first few chapters and called it a piece of crap. “Arch, arrogant, finger pointing and many more choice words,” he said. “It’s beneath you. You can do much better.”

I was deeply hurt and very offended. Or I should say, my ego was wounded. How dare he blast my masterpiece?

The truth is, he was right. I had gotten so swept away by my topic that I had failed to check in with him as I normally did to make sure my feet were square on the ground. They weren’t. Part of me knew it and the other part of me sulked.

I am regularly humbled by people smarter than I am. I’ve been wise enough to hire a few of those people to coach me. I’m not always smart enough to keep them close to my creative process so that I don’t give birth to a Frankenstein monster.

Those who offer us critiques (and possibly damage our oh-so-delicate egos) give us a chance to rethink, redirect and reconsider. As I take on the considerable task of rewriting Exchange to make it the humble, gracious book it was intended to be, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have a book coach who will tell me that what I write is junk. It is hard to hear but it is the simple truth. What he is entrusting me with is the courage to go back and do what he knows I am capable of doing: a much better job.

WordFood talks about Character Fiber, one of the key kinds of WordFood that we need from those we love every day. This is what gets us up and over the obstacles in work and life. Sometimes it can be bumpy for our self image, but those who support us and believe in us deliver the goods, and aren’t afraid to tell us the truth.

Our contributions in life demand it. Our little egos will recover. Here’s to those who provide us with the WordFood to do our best.

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