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

August 16, 2012

Listening To Ourselves Talk

The other day I went to lunch with my financial advisor, whom I hadn’t seen in several years. She asked me a perfectly reasonable question: “How’s it going?” And I told her. And went on a rant.  Two big accounts hadn’t worked out, I had worked hard on them, yadda yadda. After a while I began to listen to myself, how negative I sounded. “That’s pretty toxic,” a part of me thought,” and that’s not how I want to be in the world.” Clearly a piece of me needed to vent, which is understandable. But our words are indicative of our inner world and it’s instructive to take a look at the pictures they paint about our beliefs about ourselves and our place in life. What I was painting wasn’t pretty.

I slowed down and took a breath. My lunch partner was kind enough to replay some of what she heard. We agreed I might need to take a stress break. But more than that, the gift she gave me was the mirror. It wasn’t fun to hear myself complain. By the end of lunch we were laughing and I was over myself.

When I looked back honestly at what had cancelled, one contract was a bullet I’m glad I dodged. And the other was work that I no longer really want to do. So really, what’s been lost? Sometimes the Universe forces a major housecleaning so that new opportunities can appear. We’re so busy concentrating on what we’re losing that we’re not open to what’s possible. We focus on our losses, and can be blind to what’s coming.

My coach Lari talks about being “in question.” Holding an open space around what’s next. Being willing to not know. The way he describes it is that we need to “push away from the side of the pool.” Since I have a fear of drowning this analogy has real meaning for me. It means I dog paddle for a while in the deep end.

Lunch was a gift, a reminder of how we sometimes get swept away by life and by our negativity. I took time to consider how lucky I am and how much there is to be thankful for in all aspects of my world. Afterwards I mentally pushed away from the side of the pool and figured what would come, would come.

The next conversation I had with a new potential client was amazing. We immediately clicked. It could lead to a remarkable relationship. All signs point to a lot of potential, but more importantly, work I love for a company I respect. Had I gotten the other two accounts, this couldn’t happen.

Do you listen to how you sound? Are you lucky enough, as I was, to have someone play back your WordFood so that you can hear when you’re being toxic? These are our true friends. We all have parts that want to vent but there’s a time to put that part to pasture and make room for what’s possible. Pay attention to your words, and what they are saying about your state of mind.

July 23, 2012

WordFood Starvation Diet

Today I went to my chiropractor to get a laser treatment on my knee. The technician who was administering the service asked me what I did for a living and I told her about my book and the idea of WordFood, and how we all put each other on “diets.”

“Well I just stop talking when I get mad,” she proclaimed. “I shut down and clam up.” I told her that this was what I described as the Starvation Diet, where others had to talk to her hand, and she wasn’t forthcoming about what they had done wrong.

As it related to her significant other, I asked her how she expected him to figure out where he had gone wrong or offended her. “He should be able to figure that out!” she exclaimed.

“Well, people can’t read minds,” I said gently. “One of you has to open the door. Either you have to take 100% responsibility for your end and let him know what he did wrong and let him clean it up, or on his end, he can apologize in general and say let’s at least open the door to a conversation here.”

She laughed. “I’d love it if he’d apologize,” she said.

Chances are he goes along in their relationship having no idea he’s done anything wrong in the first place while this lovely woman is fuming, I thought as she labored over my knee.

The Starvation Diet costs both parties with its silence. Someone has to step up to the plate and offer the peace branch. You’re both 100% responsible. Primarily the one holding the silence- because that person alone truly knows what the issue is.

If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to be a bit more forthcoming in your communication. Let others know if they have hurt you. You may fear confrontation or conflict as this technician does, but the promise of a more honest and open exchange awaits if you the let sun shine on what’s troubling you. You give up nothing by talking but you may give up everything over time by withholding communication.

July 9, 2012

WordFood in our Messaging

The wonderful thing about technology is that it’s instantaneous. The terrible thing about technology is that it’s instantaneous.

Have you ever received an email, a text, a tweet or a voicemail that set you off? And then you fired off an angry response, hit the Send button and, moments later, realized what you’d done and felt instant remorse?

That message was already off in the ether, bouncing around like an angry bowling ball, doing its damage. We can’t take it back. And it’s part of our permanent legacy.


A few weeks ago I received an email in my inbox from a competitor announcing a webinar they were doing for a client that I had been working on for a long time. I had a lot of feelings about that email, and I whipped off a note to my client that said, in effect, glad to see you’re working with this supplier, they’re good people. However, my bruised ego slipped in a sentence that clearly let it be known I wasn’t happy about not being chosen as their supplier.

A few minutes later I got a terse email from my client that said they weren’t, in fact using this supplier and that the webinar was free. Uh-oh. My client was clearly in the office and I made a call right away.

It turned out to be a good idea. She was writing me an angry response. She was insulted and offended by my email, and I had some serious cleaning up to do. I had to apologize for my tone and my poor WordFood. It took some explaining but we got through it. Now whether I’ve lost this multi-billion dollar client because of a bone-headed stunt on my part remains to be seen. The sad part about this is that this client has been one of my biggest supporters, and with one badly worded email I hurt our relationship- and it happens just that fast.

In our fast-paced, do it now world where we so often feel compelled to respond immediately to everything that we receive on our devices, it becomes easier and easier to make this kind of mistake. Our emotions are swift as lightning and they inform what we write. If we’re whipping out a text while we’re walking down the street we’re not likely to be thinking carefully about content and impact. An email isn’t going to be saved to be rewritten later before it’s sent out, like mine should have been. We end up sending out toxic WordFood without realizing it and it can have devastating effects personally and professionally.

If there is a remedy to this, it’s to install an internal regulator or questioning system that automatically puts forth the challenge “How would I feel if I got this message?” Some kind of discipline that asks us to take a breath before we overreact to something we’ve received. In the moment, we may be feeling righteous, but with time and information that indignation often goes away.

Before you fire off an angry response, keep in mind a few key things:

  • chances are you may not know the whole story
  • without context it’s easy to read emotions into the words that may be inaccurate
  • re-reading the same message an hour later may give you an entirely different viewpoint
  • doing a little research could provide you with everything you need to know the whole picture

My email may have simply cost me some embarrassment, and it was a good lesson in keeping my ego in check and being sensitive to my client. The more sophisticated our devices become, the swifter the communications, the more vigilant we need to be in reining in our lightning fast emotional responses to the messages we receive.

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 11, 2012

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 3, 2012

UnderCover Boss WordFood At Its Best

I’m a big fan of Undercover Boss, the CBS program where a CEO goes underground in his or her own company to work as a new employee. They learn the ropes and on the way, they are deeply humbled by the stories of their own people, their goodness and commitment. On rare occasions they see less than stellar behavior but by far and away they are blown away by the generosity of spirit, the personal stories and capacity for giving.

At the end of each program the CEO brings these employees back to headquarters. The employees think they’re going to assess the “newbie” they worked with but instead they meet with the CEO who ends up giving them wonderful WordFood about how they performed on the job. How hard they worked, their commitment to the job, how they give to the community, their generosity to their employees. Then, depending on the individual situation, the CEO may give a financial gift to help with education or a vacation.

The program has grown in popularity and has been moved to the prime Friday night slot. I believe that the reason Undercover Boss has become so popular is that we love those moments when the big boss compliments their people. We hunger for that from our own CEO or manager. We wish someone would recognize us that way. It’s not even about the $5000 vacation they’re giving away- we’d just like someone to notice how hard we work. The times we come in early. The hours we spend coaching younger workers. How dedicated we are to doing good work every day. We’d just like to be noticed. In fact, some of your best people are probably starving for attention.

Time and again the employees on Undercover Boss say the same thing: they never thought anyone would ever notice them. Leaders and managers, pay attention. If you want your people to be engaged, to be committed and truly put their hearts into their work, it doesn’t take much. It takes the WordFood of acknowledgement. Notice people doing things right. Watch people every day and tell them you appreciate their hard work.

UnderCover Boss is a study in how to make people feel like a million dollars. It’s a weekly lesson in how to treat your employees well. And it’s not about giving away money. It’s about how we talk to them every day. It’s the acknowledgement that’s most important. People want to know that what they do matters, that someone is paying attention.

If you haven’t seen Undercover Boss yet, start watching. It’s full of ideas on how to really treat your employees.

May 31, 2012

WordFood of Love

My friend Lori is extremely busy. She left a demanding job as a partner with a tile company a few years ago to take a break and found herself even busier, taking on responsibilities working at a hospice, learning and then teaching Italian, getting and then training a dog to be a companion to those in need. Now she is deeply involved with animal rights issues.

Our friendship has spanned thirty years. As Lori has gotten older she has taken on bigger and more complex projects. Her time is more precious. We don’t talk very often and when I do call, I usually find her in a highly preoccupied state.

Today, I called and got the usual. “Hi honey, look I don’t have time to talk, my Italian student is late, I have a deadline to meet, she knows this drives me crazy, can we talk later?”
“Lori, I only called for one thing.”
“What’s that?”
“To say I love you.”
“Oh. Thank you darling.”
“You’re welcome.”

We can get so in love with our busy-ness and our activities that we forget to make room for those we call our closest friends. Sometimes we need to just take a moment and breathe, and let someone love us.

When a child wants to hug you, are you too busy to take that extra few seconds to cuddle? When your mom wants to say something to you on the phone, are you in a hurry to hang up to get on to more important things? These ARE the important things.

When we look back on the times that were important, we think about the exchanges we had with those most precious to us. Not the big deals, the contracts won, the high fives with the guys at the office. It’s the WordFood of love that we were fed by our children, our parents, our beloved friends, our family members.

Who in your life needs five phone seconds from you? Who is so busy, so preoccupied, so busy in life that an “I Love You” message would be a bright spot in their day? My beloved friend Lori reminds me that I’m the one who needs to call her.

Whose life can you brighten today?

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