RESET AND RENEW
Let’s face it, failing at something you worked really hard at and put your whole heart into sucks. The level of suck varies, of course, but the feeling is the same. Loss, confusion, pain, fear: these feelings are the trademarks of failure, and how deeply you feel them can set you on a course that ends with regret and guilt.
If you knew you could reach out, touch a door handle, grasp it firmly, turn it, open the door, and walk into fresh, renewed, and dramatically improved relationships (even with diﬃcult people), both at work and at home, would you take the risk to go where you have never gone before?
BE THE FIRST TO RAISE YOUR HAND…
A Laura Brandao Interview with Margarita Randell
Keep asking questions and never be satisfied!
Coming Full Circle: Amerifund
Do what you love! Most of us spend more hours working than we do with our families. As the saying goes, make sure you love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.
In this issue of the Women With Vision Magazine, our Senior Editor, Colleen Wietmarschen and I are welcoming a new member to our editorial staff! We are pleased to officially recognize Leora Ruzin who is joining us as managing editor and director of sales. Leora will be busy behind the scenes writing and working with the team to ensure we have great content for every issue of both the WWV Mag and The Vision.
In this issue, you will see we’ve already put her to work! She’s penned two features for your enjoyment. In our Spotlight Shines Brightly feature, Leora explores the concept of Reset and Renew. And in our Meet the Pros feature, Leora profiles Amerifund and founder Jamie Cavanaugh. Oh, and check out the great book review she wrote, too! Welcome, Leora! I am truly pleased and grateful to have you join our staff.
I will close with this welcome from Christine Beckwith, who has a long-time coaching relationship with Leora. I could not possibly have said it any better.
“Over the years I have known Leora Ruzin I have learned much about the resilience of the human spirit, humility, and strife. Leora is unassuming until she speaks. And then you realize her true self shining through. Leora has a heart of gold, she is giving, dedicated, and talented. I have my money on her success and I truly enjoy having Leora here at 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching. Her placement today in our magazine staffing is a natural fit for her skill set. She brings us experience and power and purpose. She is fully vested in our vision having gained as a successful coaching student on a personal level. I can’t think of anyone better qualified to help us unearth the stories of success all around us. Leora is still telling her story. We are grateful to have her here in the midst of our own story as it unfolds. I am grateful.”
Please do subscribe and read. We remain committed to developing new writers and new features and keeping these digital pages fresh and compelling.
Happy reading, all!
Once again, I am proud of this incredible edition of the WWV Magazine. As we continue to grow and bring valuable, relative, pertinent, and timely content, I cannot think of a greater coincidence than the one I am sharing with you today. It seems the gods have aligned again to allow us to bring valuable, relative information that is both pertinent and timely in a way we did not expect. Last month, in The Vision magazine, a similar alignment took place when a previously planned cover featuring Christopher Griffith suddenly morphed into a journalistic piece driven by a current event—shaving his famous beard for over $180K in charitable donations.
This past week as the finishing touches were being placed on a cover several months in planning featuring executive leaders Suha Zehl and Kerry Cole from EPM Mortgage, a current event again became pertinent. And as the cover article’s title was being determined by our Chief Editor, Candy Zulkosky, the very essence of “Voices on Fire” came to light in the most timely fashion.
A long-time industry blogger and esteemed columnist, Rob Chrisman has a practice of ending his daily communications with a joke. Recently, Suha used her voice to bring to light a repeated offense to women, shining a spotlight on a cowardly practice long overdue to be unearthed. She wrote to Chrisman after reading a sexually violent narrative in a joke (now removed from the blog). Suha received a personal apology (of sorts), which Chrisman followed with a report to her CEO of her objection to his joke.
Weak as it was, Suha might have accepted his apology and moved on. But Chrisman “reported her” to her CEO, a stance we have come to recognize as a baton passing with a message of “keep your girl in line.” His apology to Suha was more of a defense, saying “others find these jokes funny.” This is a narrative women have lived with for decades. Not this time. Suha lifted her voice to a dozen executive leaders in our industry, including Chairman of the WWV Board of Directors, Laura Brandao. These dozen or so women took action and through personal conversations brought this to the attention of mPower founder, Marcia Davies.
Fast forward to a public written apology from Rob we call a victory. Suha’s burning voice has given us hope. What she did was incredibly hard to do. To stand up in a situation like this, to put yourself personally and professionally on the line takes courage and belief. It is in accepting the status quo, which women have been doing for years, that we fail as an industry and as people. Accepting or ignoring the daily offensive jokes simply serves to prove that, as is often true, some battles need to be fought more than once. Interestingly enough, I uncovered an article published by HousingWire in 2018 written about Rob Chrisman’s offensive daily jokes. Read it here: https://www.housingwire.com/articles/42978-how-to-approach-gender-bias-in-the-mortgage-industry/. Sadly, here we are years later still fighting the same battle.
I hope you enjoy the wonderful stories and articles in this month’s edition. They were carefully constructed to help the reader feel inspired, to take action with best practices and to strengthen our voice and community. We believe we are hitting the mark.
Here is the apology reprinted here from Chrisman’s Daily Chrisman Commentary, April 27:
I’ve been writing this daily commentary for many years, and I’ve always ended it with a joke or something humorous or interesting. I figure it has added up to several thousand jokes over the years, most of which have come from readers. If I think the joke is a bit racy, I always put a warning there, but people apparently ignore the warning and read it anyway, which I find troubling. One of the jokes last week may have offended some people who read it despite the warning. My goal is to offer a little lightness, not to offend, so apologies are due to anyone who found the joke offensive. Over the years, I’ve received hundreds, if not thousands, of positive email comments about my jokes, and barely a handful from those who read past a warning and found any offensive. Once again, I apologize if you found it offensive. And if you have an issue, contact me directly.
Written by: CaZ
Two amazing women grace the cover of this issue of the Women With Vision Magazine. They happen to be colleagues, C-suite executives at EPM, whose leadership and concepts of teamwork embody the growing power of women’s voices in boardrooms across the mortgage field. Their work is being recognized. Their words are being heard. Their networks are growing, and their voices truly are on fire. It Takes a Village is a commonly used catchphrase defined as many people’s involvement to achieve a goal. While the idiom’s source is credited to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”, in our day many are reminded first of a book written by Hillary Clinton. Suha Zehl and Kerry Cole personify this concept and bring their unique twists to the villages under their purview. In these pages we are pleased to present a brief profile of each. – Editor
When it comes down to talking about the reality of who Suha Zehl is, the concept of both thinking and living outside the box comes to mind. There are few, if any, stereotypes one could pigeonhole Suha into. Suha is the very picture of an all-together person, living life on her terms, flourishing in a fulfilling career, and finding happiness and success despite overcoming dangers most of us have never faced.
Suha was born in Lebanon and spent most of her formative years there. She is fortunate to be dual citizenship and traveled often between the countries while growing up. Today she values her heritage and visits Lebanon when she can. At the age of 15, a time when the worst strife of her life should have been how to get the cute boy in civics class to smile, Suha fled a civil war in Lebanon and was sent to take shelter in the US leaving behind her parents, most of her family, and her friends.
“Being on my own to start college at such a young age would be difficult in any world,” Suha shares. “To enter a male-dominated field doubled the challenge. Back then, computer science was not woman-friendly. But that’s not what I took away from the experience. I learned to rely on myself and, most importantly, that failure is just a step in the right direction.”
After graduating Cum Laude and entering the work world, she found herself living abroad for about 10 years before returning to the US not long after the 9/11 attacks. Returning home was important to her, and yet she found during the troubling post-9/11 years, her heritage created surprising challenges, professionally.
“I never considered myself a minority until after I returned to the US. If you look at the census of Lebanon, my heritage is considered white. I don’t feel discrimination as strongly now as it was right after 9/11. There was a huge backlash then. I believe my difference gives me perspective. I’m able to bridge multiple cultures. I’m able to bridge multiple viewpoints and present them in a way others may not be able to present or even to see.”
As is true with many in the mortgage world, Suha backed into a career in mortgage. Unable to find work in her field, she registered with a temp agency and was sent on assignment to work at a startup mortgage company doing data entry.
“Analytics is my passion. I remember looking at their data and putting together reports. Next thing I knew, they hired me full time and eventually, I became their CIO and moved on from there.
The numbers and facts don’t lie. We can tell ourselves any story we like, but when we dig into the numbers and analyze them, the story they tell is the truth based on fact. I love that. Understanding this and getting the simple truth from the numbers can be the lifeblood of a company and differentiates you from others who do not understand the facts.”
Exceeding expectations, exceeding her own expectations, is a characteristic of Suha’s work ethic. She believes in setting the right expectation and then delivering more than promised. In fact, she credits this mindset as a secret to success.
“I’m not afraid of rolling up my sleeves. I never say it’s not my job when something needs to be done. I am one of the first to step up and do it. This is how companies succeed. Teamwork.”
As the Chief Analytics Officer for EPM, Suha is responsible for business intelligence and analytics and creates a dashboard of reports critical to the senior leadership. Her team provides the backup information needed to support the road map and strategy EPM has developed and makes it possible for leadership to gain key insights for decision making and to create plans for growth going out five and ten years into the future.
Collaboration and teamwork are important to Suha. While her analytical skills are valued in any kind of business, the opportunity to help people achieve homeownership is what keeps her involved in the mortgage business saying, “From the sales side all the way to the end, it doesn’t happen by one person’s effort. You can be from any background and succeed in the mortgage business; it doesn’t have to be just sales. I love our industry. It works because of collaboration. We are finally accepting disruption and wanting to do things differently, rejecting the status quo. It used to be more about the need to make a loan and everybody was in a rush to close to make money. Now it’s shifting. It’s about how we can make it better for the customer. How can we make it better and help them achieve their dream?”
Suha is a natural leader, someone who others look to for guidance. She believes in paving the way and helping the next generation of mortgage leaders by mentoring and appreciating them and their successes. She could never have imagined when she graduated college she would find such satisfaction in a career strongly based on helping people. Although when one hears her speak of her parents and the values they taught, a career finding value in service is not as far afield as she might think.
“My parents both worked. My mom was a pioneer in her field. She was one of the first females of her generation in Lebanon to earn a master’s degree and was one of the principals in a successful educational consulting company. She instilled in me from a young age the importance of hard work, living up to your word, and being authentic and true. My dad was just as much of a pioneer. Women did not really work in Lebanon in those days. If they did, it was mostly as teachers. My dad was a CFO (or its equivalent in those days) and was supportive of the family in every way he could. But more than that, he was proud of my mother’s accomplishments and supported her passion to be an entrepreneur. He was considered Avant Garde in his thinking and not in any way typical of a Lebanese man of his day. I am proud of how my parents brought me up and in the strength of their relationship.”
The teaching of both parents was effective. Suha embraces her heritage and her femininity and considers both to be strengths and the source of her uniqueness. As a leader, Suha brings to every interaction a strong sense of empathy, a willing ear and open mind, and the desire to help and find solutions. These qualities, coupled with the passion she imbues in her work, are the leadership traits she delivers. This woman who loves numbers also loves people and puts the human factor into every equation. And the response of the people she works with validates how well she leads them.
“Being a woman in leadership has two sides to the coin. Yes, I am a leader. Yes, I am a female. And as a leader, I have a gentler way of seeing things. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not about being able to make the hard decisions. I can be as determined as any male leader. But I choose to be less abrupt and in your face about it. I believe I am welcomed as a woman leader. But I have also had to overcome it because there are still people who think a woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about, especially when it comes to numbers and tech. I still have to prove myself. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I think we all have to constantly give more to be able to grow professionally and personally.”
Family is also an important part of Suha’s life. She introduced her husband, Steve, to Lebanon 10 years ago. They are both passionate about traveling and have taken many trips to places all around the world. As avid scuba divers, they also enjoy trips to dive in places like Thailand, Hawaii, Australia, and the Caribbean. They have two sons, Philip who is in hospitality management and Nick who is graduating and will be entering the technology field in game design.
Suha and Steve visit Paris, their dream city, as often as they are able. When asked what draws her to Paris, she cites the juxtaposition of old and new. Art and Culture, museums, and architecture. Young and vibrant and at the same time old and solid. Since she speaks French, the language is not a barrier and she finds the people welcoming.
A surprising fact about Suha is the depth of her love for cooking. She admits to being a foodie and actually served as a guest chef at a hotel when she lived overseas. There was a time in her life when she might have chosen a career as a chef. Today, she admits to a different interest:
“Ten years ago, if you asked me what I would do if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I would have said become a chef. Now, though, I see how hard hospitality is and I’m not sure it would provide the fulfillment I hope for. I would write and coach and mentor if I was not doing what I’m doing now. And since I do some of all that with EPM, I have the best of both worlds right now.”
Suha’s Tips for Success
- Embrace failure because failure gets a bad rap, but it’s not bad. It’s a growth strategy. Learn from failure to become better and evolve.
- Ask for help when you need it. It’s OK to say you don’t know something and to ask for help.
- Live in the Moment. Work will always be there. It’s important to be focused on work and do it well and to be passionate about it. But there’s more to living than working. Don’t make the mistake of saying you wish you had spent more time with family; make the opportunity and take the time to live in the moment.
“Being an immigrant and coming to the US was one of my biggest challenges. And it’s one of my biggest wins, too. The contrast of how something can be a challenge and a win has turned out to be one of my greatest strengths. What I experienced personally, the challenges I’ve faced and overcome, make up my core strength. Did I understand this at the time I was going through hard times? No. But I know it now. Hindsight, as they say, is 2020. Embrace the path you are on because there’s a reason for it. What you do now sets you up for success.”
Editor’s note: This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Suha’s name has appeared in the pages of a 20/20 Vision magazine. In the February issue of The Vision, Suha penned an outstanding profile of her company, EPM, under the Meet the Pros feature. If you missed it, please take a look. Also, check out what our publisher has to say, in this issue, about the power of Suha’s voice, and indeed any voice raised appropriately at the right time. Find Christine Beckwith’s comments in the Letter from the Publisher in this issue.
Written by: CaZ
Here is our snapshot of Kerry Cole, also a C-suite executive at EPM, whose entirely different personality, skill set, and experience place her in an entirely different managerial role. Her passion and unique point of view are eminently worthy of reporting and emulating.
Kerry Cole, like many in the industry, backed into a career in the mortgage industry. After college where she graduated with a communications major having every intention to become a journalist, her life took a left turn when she attended a job fair and was hired on the spot by Champion Mortgage, a subprime lender at the time.
Today, as the Chief Wholesale Officer for EPM, Kerry intimately understands how many individuals in the village it takes to make people’s dreams of homeownership come true. Her charge includes the third-party origination division, meaning all correspondent non-delegated wholesale channels, both on the sales and operations side, report through her. Kerry loves juggling the moving parts and the quick-change nature of the work. She quotes a study where it was reported mortgage people share the same characteristics as those who work in emergency rooms: they like the urgency, have the gumption to finish the job, and feel rewarded by knowing they’ve helped people.
“It’s not like there’s a four-year degree in mortgage. We all kind of fall into it. I didn’t have finance or business administration in my background. I think the woman who hired me saw I was young, excited, a strong communicator, and eager to find my place, and I have. Once you’re in this world, you are hooked. There’s something rewarding on every level in this business. Today, when I receive a clear to close, I’m just as excited about it as I was back then. There’s an adrenaline rush when everything comes together especially since there are so many people along the way who have to collaborate. It’s fulfilling when a loan makes it to the finish line.”
For Kerry, it’s the stories behind the sale keeping her coming back for more. She grew up in a family of seven children. Her parents were not able to afford a lot of extras, but they had a home. Even though they were bursting at the seams, it was their home. There were eight in the three-bedroom house. The kids shared the three bedrooms. Her parents slept on a pull-out couch in the living room, and during this time, her mother was pregnant with child number seven.
Kerry remembers well the excitement and the feeling of safety they gained by having their own home. Many of her family’s friends rented and were continually stressed by having to move. These early memories help her to appreciate and value the service she is able to provide a family when her team saves a family $500 or $600 a month on their mortgage and, in essence, provides them the ability to continue to feed their family.
In many ways, being raised in a large family had, naturally enough, a significant impact on Kerry. Early on, she learned the power even for a number three child, to be found in determination. Her grandmother told a story of a time she had taken Kerry, all six of her siblings, plus her five cousins to a playground. The cousins wanted to ride the merry-go-round but it was occupied. It was Kerry who stood up to the other kids, telling them to get off so she and her cousins could ride. She counts this as one of the first memories she has of showing determination and taking the lead.
“I think women in leadership bring strengths. We can be more intuitive and empathetic than many of our counterparts. It’s both a skill and a gift to truly listen and to hear the need. It doesn’t matter if it’s the client or your employee talking.”
Kerry believes now is a great time to be a woman in the C-suite in the mortgage industry. Her path from entry-level sales leading to executive-level management has often been a lonely journey. There was little in the way of support, few female role models, and no woman’s network to turn to for a hand up or to simply lend an ear at a difficult intersection. Early on, she felt the need to compete, especially as she moved through the sales roles, so even women who were colleagues did not serve as a supportive network.
Where she saw her most success came when she changed her mindset from competing with her colleagues to competing with herself. This allowed her to stop looking over her shoulder, figuratively speaking, to see who was doing what. She found her strength and success in competing against her own achievements by doing better each month, doing better than the previous year.
“Every opportunity I’ve been given has involved a door being opened for me by a man. Because that’s who was in leadership. There were few women to offer a hand. I’ve taken advantage of every one of those open doors, even if only a nudge to open wider than a crack, to grab on, and to work my butt off and not let the opportunity slip away. For women coming up now, there are amazing leaders with hands open reaching back to raise up others. I did not have a Laura Brandao or a Christine Beckwith in my path. If we had connected earlier, I’m sure we would have supported each other, and I am delighted now there are groups like Women With Vision and that there are woman role models in the C-suite who want to help. It’s up to us to spread the awareness, to find women who, like I used to do, are sitting at their desk with their head down working hard and wondering what their next step could be.
And it’s not just about mortgage. I have a son, Tyler, and a daughter, Kassidy. I want both of them to grow up to be confident individuals. In particular, I want to be sure Kassidy has confidence. Doubt can creep in at an early age and hold her back as it did with me. She dances competitively. I don’t know where that comes from. She’s able to get up on stage and own it. Me? Back in March, I was having doubts about being on a Zoom call which is bizarre, right? I was a top performer funding over $100 million a month in production. Now, of course, I feel totally confident on Zoom, but it shows how easily doubt can take hold.”
When she talks about her family, Kerry’s face lights up. It’s clear how important being a parent is to her. Finding a balance between career and family is a challenge many women face. To Kerry, it’s not about balance as much as it is about harmony and give and take. There are times in a family dynamic where more time is needed. When her children were very young, she spent more time with them and less time focused on her career. Now, with her children older and her husband able to take a larger role in raising them, she is able to focus more time on her career. This she counts as a blessing since her husband, Jason, stepping into a more focused parenting role meant they were able to find harmony between what her family needed and what her career needed during the past year.
“Finding harmony is my vision for success. Jason and I have come to an awareness: we’re in a phase of life right now. It may change again. That’s OK. At some point, I may retire and he may go back to work. Who knows? What we do know is it’s important to be happy with the phase we are in and recognize it will change and morph and know we will be OK with that, too.”
Kerry grew up as a city girl, living for much of her childhood in sight of skyscrapers and surrounded by pavement. When she is not working, what she loves most is to walk in the woods. Spending time with nature nourishes her, allows her to clear her mind, and find peace. She relates a story of her first experience as a child with nature when the family went camping.
“It was amazing and I was amazed by the world around me, by nature. I had not experienced this living all my life 15 miles outside of New York City. When I finally had a taste of truly being in nature, I fell in love with it all. From camping and campfires to gardening and walks in the woods, I turned into a country girl.”
Kerry lives in upstate New York now, in a community with large stretches of woods and fields to walk in, lakes and waterfalls to appreciate, and state parks many people don’t even know exist. At the end of a busy work day, she reaches for harmony by walking in the woods to clear her mind and refresh for the next day’s rush.
Kerry’s Tips for Success:
- Know your mindset. Approach life and work with optimism.
- Appreciate living with a sense of urgency.
- Be enthusiastic.
- Be determined.
- And the secret to the formula? Have confidence.
“I would love one day for our industry to reach a point where we don’t talk about women leadership. I look forward to the day when we are leaders because there are more of us at the table and it does not take as long to get there. Did you know Susan B. Anthony wasn’t present when the first convention met to demand the right to vote for women? She did not join the movement until two years later. It’s pretty amazing when you think about those women and what they did. I think there will be a day where we don’t talk about women in leadership because it’s just there.”
Written by: Executive Coach, Ray Befus
If you knew you could reach out, touch a door handle, grasp it firmly, turn it, open the door, and walk into fresh, renewed, and dramatically improved relationships (even with difficult people), both at work and at home, would you take the risk to go where you have never gone before?
You’d need courage, of course, and emotional intelligence. A critical third element cannot be overlooked. It may surprise you to learn the doorway to renewed and dramatically improved relationships with everyone in your world is conflict.
Yes, conflict. Think about a conflict you’ve had with a spouse, a partner, or a close friend. It may have started with an odd remark, a snarky comment, or a repeated slight. Tensions began to arise. Suspicion took root, resentment began to grow, and defensiveness began to erupt.
Then you both may have started to slide toward passive aggression; avoiding each other, eliminating small kindnesses, or gossiping to others about your complaint.
Eventually, one of you had enough and said, “We need to talk!” So, you prepared yourself for a fight. You went for it. You didn’t hold back. You finally said what should have been said three days ago. Only your voice and facial expressions were now on fire. The conversation escalated. Then it happened.
In the midst of the battle, you noticed sincerity and pain emerging. You heard comments that made sense and showed you the perspective of what the other person actually intended or experienced.
Fear and anger began to dissipate, the fight began to die down, and the energy drained away. You both felt a little embarrassed and sorry. You now knew facts about the other person and discovered they were important to you both.
Surprisingly, you felt closer to him or her than you had before the breakdown. You may even have thought to yourself, “I really treasure this relationship.” And then if this battle was with a spouse or partner, you might do what young lovers often do after a fight. Your conflict became the doorway to deeper intimacy.
In our common human experience, almost any conflict can become a doorway to intimacy, not sex but deep understanding, respect, trust, and love. It takes emotional intelligence to see the possibilities and to find ways to step into conflicts and resolve them before we tear into each other and damage our relationships by saying and doing things that can’t be forgotten or undone.
In work settings, there are few skills as valuable to team engagement, alignment, and retention as the ability to initiate difficult conversations. If you’re a manager or a supervisor who is receiving less than the best from the people on your team at work, part of the reason may be you’re avoiding the difficult conversations that have the power to open the door to unprecedented respect, trust, and authentic love.
So, if you lead and manage others, even if it’s only one part-time assistant, I want you to start developing skills you can take to the bank. But first, let me confess I am not an original thinker. I’m a student of the brightest and the best. Almost everything I suggest in this article is rooted in a wonderful book called, wait for it, Difficult Conversations written 20 years ago by a team from the Harvard Negotiation Project, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. Before you step into your next difficult conversation, consider these foundational tips from the authors which can save us significant pain.
Distinguish Intent from Impact
It’s vital to distinguish intent from impact. Something said or done to me might hit me with significant negative impact. But before I launch into a sermon or a tirade, it’s worth taking a deep breath and asking myself, “Did the other person actually intend to threaten me, frustrate me, or hurt me? “Did the other person actually intend to create the impact I experienced?”
In the moment of any negative impact, we may fall into a trap called human attribution error or human attribution bias. Here’s how it works: if you do something to frustrate or hurt me, I may well attribute your motive to bad character. Maybe you’re lazy or careless, short-sighted, or narrow-minded. But, bottom-line: I may convince myself you intended to create this issue. You’re the problem!
However, if I do something to frustrate or hurt you, I am likely to attribute the breakdown to circumstances beyond my control. I’ll be tempted to tell you I didn’t intend to create this problem. “Yes, I was late, but it was because of traffic,” or “I might have seemed to be this way to you, but you just haven’t taken time to get to know me,” or “I’m under tremendous pressure right now; this isn’t how I really am.”
Because of our common human tilt toward this self-serving bias, human attribution error, if we lack emotional intelligence, we’ll attribute other people’s weaknesses and breakdowns to the worst of motives and character flaws. AND we’ll attribute to ourselves the best of intentions which were overcome by uncontrollable circumstances. All this is to say before you think the worst of anyone in a conflict, make sure you make room for the possibility where the other person didn’t intend to create the impact you experienced.
Extend some grace by asking a few questions before you launch into your judgments.
Understand the Complexities of Conversation
Here’s a second foundational tip to maximize your success when you initiate a difficult conversation. Every difficult conversation is a complex conversation meaning, it is made up of three conversations. First, there is a facts conversation: what should have happened, could have happened, and did happen and, who is responsible? The second conversation is a feelings conversation: how this made me feel. The third conversation is an inner conversation about what this breakdown says about me.
Let me quickly tease out these three conversations. Believe it or not, the key conversation is rarely about the facts. Unfortunately, we often create a bigger mess by focusing immediately on the facts. The facts matter but, they are not the core of the conflict. What is at the heart of the breakdown? Feelings. This is often true for men as well as women, though both tough men and strong women may be slow to admit it. When we pause to look within, the truth often turns out to be that performance breakdowns are always personal.
They stir up painful feelings for us. We might feel overlooked, undervalued, disrespected, attacked, taken for granted, unappreciated, or unloved. These are painful feelings for everyone.
There is much to be gained by exploring our different feelings. Invite the other person to go first in describing his or her feelings but, make sure you take time to clearly express your own feelings. Then you can work together to declare the feelings you want to experience with the other person as you move forward together.
Be aware of the way to resolving any conflict, you’ll need to talk about feelings as well as facts. It is the third conversation with the most potential to trip us up. In the third conversation, we’re having an internal dialogue with ourselves. We wonder, “What does this breakdown or criticism or conflict say about me?” If our anxiety leads us in this direction, we can quickly lose our balance, wondering whether this issue has arisen because we’re stupid, or because we don’t have what it takes to succeed, or because we don’t deserve better treatment, or because we’re too, whatever. When this third conversation begins to push us off balance, most of us become defensive. Maybe we start dominating the conversation or blaming the other person or lashing out in a counterattack.
Defensiveness takes many forms, but all of them are triggered by losing our way in this third conversation. The truth is your partner cannot answer your identity questions for you. Are you incompetent, an imposter, a loser, a person who doesn’t deserve respect or appreciation? You’ll have to take up these identity questions with your counselor or with your coach. The person sitting across from you in conversation can’t speak to your soul.
You Don’t Have All the Answers
If you’ve prepared yourself to avoid the temptation and assume you know the other person’s intent; you’ve settled your own identity issues, because you’re just human like everyone else, with both strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to embrace a third foundational distinction; you don’t know it all. So, don’t take a know-it-all approach when having a difficult conversation! In this third step, remind yourself whatever your perspective may be, it’s not the whole truth. You have one perspective; your partner has another perspective. And, as is often the case, the whole truth may be bigger than whatever you both can see when you combine your perspectives. If you’re willing to admit you might have some things to learn from your partner in any difficult conversation, you’re ready to initiate a not-so-difficult life-giving conversation.
Instead of engaging in a painful, boxing match in which you’re both going to leave the ring bruised, if not bleeding, you can initiate a positive, constructive learning conversation. What’s left is to explore each other’s stories, map your different contributions, and make a plan to move forward. There’s no need to outsmart an antagonist, blame a villain, or punish an enemy.
I fell into all of these three traps at a point in my career twenty-five years ago and there is still a source of pain and regret for me. Some of my team leaders cornered me and, because of my reaction, lost trust in me and quit. I fell into the human attribution error and excused my own behavior while convincing myself they were losers. I missed the emotional component in the breakdown and tried to beat them into submission with the facts as I saw them. And I was convinced I had nothing of value to learn from them. Everyone lost because I didn’t have the skill to navigate a difficult conversation.
With the three foundational commitments in hand, you can now assume the role of a guide who is leading your partner to solve a problem or overcome a challenge together instead of staking your difficult claims as adversaries.
You can begin by saying something like, “I would like to avoid this kind of breakdown in the future. I’m guessing you would too, and I’m pretty sure we have difficult perspectives of what happened or didn’t happen or should have happened. So, why don’t you go first and tell me how you see this breakdown. I’m sure I have something to learn from you. When you’re done, I’ll tell you how I see this. Let’s do our best to find some common ground.”
You’ll be showing humility as well as respect by inviting your partner to go first. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you have time to share your perspective as well. Your perspective matters.
As you listen to your partner’s story and then you share your own, you’ll be able to see how you both may have contributed to the breakdown or conflict. In every organization, most people’s-problems or relational conflicts turn out to be breakdowns in the management process. That is, we haven’t instituted the kind of regular communication patterns to keep us clear and in sync with each other. Perhaps, as a leader or manager, you have been so busy, busyness has become part of your team culture and, as a result, vital communication, decision-making, and planning just aren’t taking place. If you’re a leader or a manager, you can bet there are some minor or even major ways you are contributing to the conflicts taking place around you. Mapping out shared contributions rather than shifting blame shows maturity, humility, and a forward-looking, problem-solving approach to work. Even better, if you go first to own your part in a breakdown, you’re providing your partner with a compelling example to follow. Of course, if they don’t see their contribution to the breakdown, you can point it out and call them to own it.
The last step, once you’ve identified the breakdown, have spoken to the hurt feelings, and have mapped out your various contributions, is to make a plan to move forward together. What can you both do differently, as you move forward, to avoid getting into this spot again? There may be some things that need to stop. There may be other new things you both can begin implementing. But, by now you are both on the same page and moving forward with self-respect and a fresh commitment to succeed together as partners. You might even set a date, a month out, to check in with each other to see if your plan is working to your mutual satisfaction.
Of course, there are other nuances in this process, but you’ll learn as you go. A coach can help you plan out these conversations and role-play beforehand, as well as debrief afterward. But here’s a fact: there are so few people in our world who can skillfully initiate difficult conversations if you commit yourself to learn the steps and practice the scripts, you will impress everyone around you. Your value to the team and the larger organization will manifest to everyone, especially to leaders and managers above you.
I myself first read the book Difficult Conversations twenty years ago, after a friend saw me struggle through the consequences of the dramatic relational breakdown I confessed above. I was deeply embarrassed by my lack of skill and the devastating consequences to my entire team. So, I owned my weakness and started taking baby steps to implement the very plan I’ve outlined for you. There is no end to the difficult conversations in a leader or manager’s life. We get to practice every week! Within a year of launching into my remedial work on these skills, other leaders and managers began to invite me in to work with their teams around complex relational breakdowns. In a relatively short period of time, my ability to wade into conflict resolution and mediate difficult conversations without anxiety became a skill others sought out. Money and promotion followed.
I tell you this to underscore the reality: if you learn to initiate difficult conversations while others are working hard to avoid them, the door you open for yourself and others will do more than refresh your relationships. The door you open will put you on a path to greater success, recognition, and promotion throughout your career.
Oh, and it can transform your marriage and friendships as well.
Written by Ana Maria Sanin
The Brand velocity isthe ability to engage your audience and share information they are genuinely interested in knowing, right now and ongoing into the future. Being a consistent and trusted brand to your targeted audiences is the name of the game when it comes to marketing and branding success, so be the business you want to follow, and think like your consumers. Brand velocity. Write it down. It’s a must!
There are people who doubt building a personal brand for themselves is beneficial for the growth of their business, as they fear they won’t see any results. This misconception arises when social media activity is coming from third-party cookie-cutter social post companies, or from marketing agencies hired, perhaps for way too much or too little money, hired perhaps for their name rather than proven ability to produce results. These kinds of branding efforts create bland, generic, non-emotional, or authentically limited social posts for your business, and they present a brand that is poorly characterized and managed.
Building relationships and growing your brand on social media and digital platforms is really no different than doing it in person, but is actually more beneficial if you think about it. We have a huge advantage today; rather than building one relationship at a time as we would in person, we can cast out our social and business nets to thousands (or even millions) of people instantly by simply showcasing who we are and what we care about, and with just one click of a mouse.
Here are three principles to keep in mind to sustain brand velocity:
- Create Content or Messages for Fragmented Audiences
We’ve all heard the saying, “When speaking to everybody, you are speaking to nobody.” This also applies when identifying your target audiences and micro-niching your brand, which is extremely important to the success of growing your brand online and organically growing your business. Think about it, when searching online or looking for interesting subjects for you personally, unless the image, video, or content is speaking directly to your needs and wants, you quickly lose interest and move to the next post. As the person behind the post, the only way to be authentic is to be real about who the audiences are and what they care about. This is how you organically connect with them and catch their attention.
If you have more than one audience, it’s a good idea to identify the similarities between your audiences and create content they can both identify with.
Generic, salesy content is everywhere, avoid being an annoying account wanting to sell people with cheesy graphics. Be authentic in your content and messages. Put in the work to allow others to know you and to truly identify with you and your brand.
People care about connection and trust. And you should too. It’s what keeps a business loved, trusted, and soaring. People love brands that know them and care about them.
- Respond and Adapt to Topics Trending Today and Gone Tomorrow
Creating and sharing relevant content to your audience is crucial to maintain their interest and create engagement. What interests are common between you and your audience? Focus on sharing information obviously relevant to what you do and be sure to also share interesting and engaging content to your targeted audiences which speaks directly to them authentically.
To accomplish this, it’s especially important to identify how your target audience thinks, and what type of relevant information they want and which you could provide. Through solid, consistent, high-quality and targeted content combined with brand strategizing, your audiences will quickly get to know you and relate to you, which eventually leads to their trust in your brand and success for your business.
- Stay On Brand Across All Social Media Channels
Most of us have heard the saying, a confused mind cannot make a decision. The same goes for when we are not consistent with all branding, content, and digital storytelling across the board. The confusing frustration it leaves behind for your audiences can turn into missed opportunities and business as well as loss of brand trust. Always stay on brand and be consistent. A full-scope brand strategy from beginning to end, catered to meet your needs and your audience’s needs is a must for branding success and organic growth for your business.
There are many factors involved in creating, building, and maintaining a solid brand. These three principles when combined with a solid strategy and implementation lead to a brand velocity that can be unstoppable.
Our Tell Your Story Marketing option provides the story-based advertising our readers report they prefer. To be seen and remembered and receive the best bang for your buck, experts say to make your marketing personal. Telling your story is about as personal as it gets. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for our rate card and additional details.
Mortgage X Podcast
On this episode Elite Executive Coach Ruth Lee joins Christine Beckwith to talk about Thinking Big, Being Authentic, Challenging Your Own Assumptions, and Unlocking the Super Me inside yourself.
Coaching is about building a foundation for results and knowing how to step into action based on that foundation. Turning vision into reality requires trust that the bedrock beneath the vision is sound. Coaching with 20/20 Vision begins by building and strengthening your foundation and ensures you remain focused on the vision for success.
Vonk Digital, an industry leader in website and marketing tools for mortgage originators across America, is a proud sponsor and hosting partner of Women With Vision Magazine.
To learn how Vonk Digital can help you leverage the “New Way” to build your brand, authority & credibility with our website platform and tools visit us at www.vonkdigital.com
Our Tell Your Story Marketing option provides the story-based advertising our readers report they prefer. To be seen and remembered and receive the best bang for your buck, experts say to make your marketing personal. Telling your story is about as personal as it gets. Please reach out to us at email@example.com for our rate card and additional details.