the surprising way to expand your range

The Surprising Way To Expand Your Range

If you’re hitting a wall as you work to achieve your goals, try backing off and softening past your limits to expand your range.

The Surprising Lesson

I’ve always found great joy in singing. In fact, I was voted “most likely to spontaneously burst into song” in high school.

From grade school through college, I sang in every choir available, always as an alto. My voice was so low that in a pinch, I would help out the tenors. Each time I had a new director, I would announce, “I’m an alto, I don’t sing above a third space C.” I’m solid with tight harmony, so no one argued.

I would have loved to sing higher but accepted the range I was given.

How Do You Expand Your Range?

Shortly after college graduation, my friends Jeff and Catherine asked me to sing at their wedding. The music was tricky, so I used my first real paycheck to hire a voice teacher from Peabody to help me prepare. I approached my voice teacher, Laura, as I had every music teacher since Ms. Elsie, my church junior choir director. “I’m an alto … what’s the best way to expand my range?

Laura’s first question was, “How do you know?”

I just laughed, “Oh you’ll see … but I’m okay with it … I’m just here to get some help with these complicated runs.”

“Let’s not make any assumptions.”

I then belted out my best alto bravado, stopped at C and smiled. “See?”

“Your pushing too hard. You want it too much. Lighten up, back off and sing it like Julia Child.”

Backing off felt scary, I was attached to my “big voice.”

Within two weeks, my range had expanded North a full octave. I’ve sung first soprano for the past two decades. Broader range led to a breadth of expanded opportunities.

Pushing too hard created false limits. There were new songs to be sung, but I couldn’t hear them.

When we push to perfect who we are, we lose sight of the talents waiting backstage ready to stretch our range.

How to Transform Mid-Team

How to Transform Mid-Team

The best time to transform to a radically new leadership style is when you start fresh with a new team. But that’s not always practical or feasible.

You’ve been reading blogs and books, watched webinars, and received some 360 feedback—but your team doesn’t know all of that. If you transform your style now, what will they think? If you suddenly start asking questions instead of recognizing their wins, or take a sudden interest in their personal life, will they trust you?

If the transformation is dramatic, your teams may be shocked, or at least skeptical. They may even distrust your motives.  Even so,

Working on becoming a better leader is always worth it.

So, how can you ensure your team will take you seriously and that you are transforming with credibility?

4 Ways To Transform in Trust 

    1. Explain why you are changing.
      Tell them you are working on your leadership. Be a role model for taking development seriously. Explain why you are making this change.
    2. Be specific about the changes.
      Tell them specifically what you are working to change, and what they should expect to see because of your efforts.
    3. Share your feelings about changing.
      Change isn’t easy. Let them see a bit about what excites and scares you.
    4. Ask for help in changing. 
      Ask for feedback about how you are doing along the way. If there is a specific behavior you are working on, ask them to help you recognize that. Consider developing a signal or other safe and easy way for them to let you know they are noticing, or that you need to remember that you committed to change that behavior.

Remember, growing and changing for the better is always worth the effort. Making a sincere effort to change and to communicate honestly about it will go a long way in building trust with your team.

Have you ever transformed your leadership midstream? How did you make the transition go smoothly?


Label With Care: Creating Possibilites Through Better Personal Branding

How we label ourselves matters. Sometimes we wear old labels without even noticing.

Years ago, I attended a diversity workshop with an exercise designed to get us thinking about labels. The main idea was that the more we talked about our differences in a safe environment, the better we would understand one another and get along. If we got along, our teams would be high-performing and results would follow.

We all were handed a stack of sticky labels and a marker. The first step was to list all the labels that we used to describe ourselves (mother, friend, change agent, energetic). We then placed these labels all over our bodies and walked around and talked about how we felt. The next step was to have others create labels for us based on how they saw us.

We then donned those stickies (with more discussion). This led to others giving us really nice labels (nice, kind, smart)… and a big group hug at the end. I must admit that although I love the concept, this was a bit corny, even for the HR gal (yup, one of the labels I was given)…but it was a snuggly day, and we all felt better and went back to work.

I hadn’t thought about that exercise in years. Until recently, when the image of the labelled swarms came rushing back.

I have been working with a few folks on broadening their career horizons. After years of being really, really good at what they are really, really good at, they are feeling stuck. They want to try new stuff, but they are being viewed so positively in one arena, people are having a hard time seeing the possibilities and other talents.

And then, I started seeing the truth in labeling. It is not always others putting the “stickies” on them. I began noticing that under pressure, the first label they put on is the most comfortable. “Oh, I can do that, I’m the ____ woman.” Leave it to me, I’ve got years of experience doing __” They keep putting on the tattered labels they claim they are trying to release.

When they see it, they do great work on repackaging.

How we talk about ourselves matters. We can label ourselves without even noticing. We’ve been saying the words so long, we forget the implications.

It might be time to refresh the label exercise, in a virtual way.

  • What labels do we put on first? Why?
  • What labels are we most proud of? Why?
  • Which labels do we want to discard? Why?
  • What labels are yearning to put on our forehead… next? Why?

Failing Better: Please Help Me Fail

Failing happens. Helping our teams to learn from failure can be one of the most vital aspects of our role as leaders. Even when the situation seems devastating, how we show up can make a tremendous difference in someone’s growth.

John Maxwell talks about this well in “Failing Forward.” In fact, I have bought many copies of his work, and have shared them over the years when the time seemed right. I have also used the concepts to help recover from my own mishaps.

Failure is the key to success. Many so-called “failures” are just steps along the journey.

But what about when we really screw up?

Here’s my first big leadership memory on the subject. It was over a decade ago a pivotal moment in my leadership development. It happened in my pajamas.

I hadn’t slept all night. I was completely stressed because I had to terminate several employees that morning for integrity violations. I fully agreed with the decision, but that did not make it much easier. I ran approaches to the meeting in my mind all night long nothing I could think to say seemed right.

Then, my husband poured me a cup of coffee and said, “look, if I was going to be fired, I would want to be fired by you.”

That was it.

I completely changed my approach. I threw away my imaginary script and just showed up.

I met with each person. I listened with my heart, and then I fired them. But then, we talked deeply about what they had learned dreams, hopes, talents, skills and next steps. I don’t know what those guys are up to now. But I do know that at the end of each meeting, I heard the same reaction, a real “Thank you.”

Since then, I have had the privilege to support many small and big fails (and consequently many small and big wins).

Stuff that can help:

  • Stay calm
  • Be calming
  • Ask a lot of provoking questions
  • Ask some more questions (look for patterns)
  • Ignite confidence
  • Listen for a clear recovery plan
  • Establish a time to check-in