About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

07 September 2009

Are These My Students?

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with most of the world's great speakers. At the very top of that list is Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

There are many things that have boosted Ben to the top of the speaker leader board. First, he is a true genius and his thoughts on how to better our lives, relationships, and organizations are practical as well as profound. Second, he is a remarkable performer. He shares his ideas with great warmth and joy. He also plays the piano, tells poignant stories, and involves his audience in ways that make his points jump to life. These things alone make Ben a lock to receive a standing ovation and the highest possible ratings whenever and wherever he speaks.

But, there is something else - an X factor if you will - that brings Ben even higher regard: he always shows up as the caring, interested human being he is, and not as a celebrity or the star of the show. To illustrate:

In early 2000, I was involved in planning and conducting a three day conference for an international bank. We hired Ben to give the opening keynote, which took place right before dinner on the first night. Ben's presentation was a rousing success, of course. But, it was what happened before he even registered at the hotel that clearly demonstrates what I mean when I say he shows up as a human being.

I met Ben's limo when it arrived at the front entrance to the hotel. After he stepped out, we exchanged pleasantries, corralled his luggage, and headed for the lobby. Once inside, we bumped into 20 or 30 of our conference's attendees who were milling around as they waited to register. It was what Ben did at that point that helped me understand why he moves people so deeply. He said - out loud so that everyone could hear -
"Are these my students?" When I confirmed his notion, he said "Ahhh! There you are!" He followed that by wading into the crowd and asking folks to tell him their name, where they were from, and so forth.

There is a great lesson here that should not be missed. Whenever we walk into a room full of people - or simply greet one other person - we have a choice: we can feel, think, and behave in a way that says, "Here I am!" or we can do it in a way - Ben's way - that says "Ahhh! There you are!"

  • Do you know someone who shows up like Ben Zander? How does that person make you feel when you are with him or her?
  • How are you most apt to show up with others? How do you want to show up?
  • When you meet someone for the first time, what are you most interested in learning about him or her? What do you most want that person to know about you? Which comes first?
  • Are you more attracted to people who seem fascinated with you, or to people who fascinate you?
"You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you." - Dale Carnegie
"When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life." - Brenda Ueland, author

No comments: