Meredith Bell is an expert in leader and team communications. We talk about how to see yourself as a leader, traits of an excellent leader, ways to creatively resolve conflict, and new performance habits to help you excel.
🌱 2:54 The importance of having that distinction, that inner stance that you are not just a solopreneur but a leader of your business
🌱 8:08 Traits of a truly excellent leader
🌱 9:36 Tips to balance your business (especially if you're an over-giver)
🌱 13:41 Creative ways to resolve conflict
🌱 28:16 Valuable learning lessons from being able to pivot
More About Meredith:
Meredith Bell is co-founder and President of Performance Support Systems, a global software company providing assessment and development tools for the workplace. Their award-winning software and books guide leaders and team members to make the shift from KNOWING to DOING. The result is permanent improvements in the way people interact with each other at work.
Meredith is an expert in leader and team communications, the author of two books, and the host of the Strong for Performance podcast. She has worked with thousands of business leaders, Human Resources professionals, and Learning & Development executives to successfully implement her company’s tools. Meredith co-authored her latest book, Connect with Your Team: Mastering the Top 10 Communication Skills, with her business partner, Dr. Dennis Coates. In it, Meredith and Denny provide a step-by-step how-to guide for improving communication at work.
Connect with Meredith:
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[00:00:00] Kc Rossi: Meredith welcome to the show. I am so excited to dive in with you. We were talking off camera here that we're feeling in the groove and we're going to trust our intuition with the highest intention to serve all of the listeners. I'm very excited that we're on the same page as far as service intuition and connection.
[00:00:23] So thank you so much for being
[00:00:25] Meredith Bell: here. Oh thank you for having me, Kc. I'm really looking forward to our conversation.
[00:00:30] Kc Rossi: That's awesome. So you have been in the. Field of teams and communication for many years. So I'm really excited to go under the surface and really eliminate some of the things that not only make a great leader, but some of the key ways that we can communicate.
[00:00:49] And the first question right off the bat, because many of our listeners are solopreneurs and healers and oftentimes. Think of themselves as leaders. And so [00:01:00] my question to you is do you think as entrepreneurs that on some level that we are always leading?
[00:01:08] Meredith Bell: Absolutely. I think it's really important to have that.
[00:01:14] Distinction and take that inner stance that I am the leader of my business, because it has an impact on how we think about our clients, how we think about prospective clients, how we think about presenting ourselves and showing up in the world. And so if I say, oh, I'm just. The owner, our language is so important, I'm just a solo preneur as opposed to yes, I'm the owner of this company and we serve.
[00:01:45] And so looking at what our leaders do. Is sets them apart. And one of the key things is they are influential, they influence others, including [00:02:00] themselves, to take certain actions that help. Lead to the goal that they have in mind. And so if we think of ourselves as I'm the one responsible for my business to lead my company into this future, I think that helps create an exciting vision of what's possible.
[00:02:23] And. Another aspect. Of course, that's my area is this whole thing of communicating, as a leader, we are responsible for communicating clearly and directly to those who are, let's say in our world that we would like to influence. And that's whether it's our clients, our, vendors we work with.
[00:02:45] Most people that are solopreneurs also contract with someone at some point. So you've got a team of people, whether they are on your payroll or not, that are important to the success of your business. And so if you think of yourself as being a [00:03:00] leader of that group and how can you work with each of them individually?
[00:03:05] To achieve the goals that you have set. I think that all of that is essential in terms of our frame of mind, the mindset we carry into our business,
[00:03:16] Kc Rossi: beautifully sad and mindset is so crucial. And just when you reframed the way that we speak about ourselves or introduce ourself and had such a tremendous.
[00:03:27] So much more power and the second way that you phrased, I am the owner and so forth and so on. So thank you for that distinction. I'm curious since this is your field, why do you think some are afraid to claim that label of.
[00:03:44] Meredith Bell: Oh, that is a huge question that we all wrestle with because I think part of it goes down to this, imposter syndrome, who am I to, and we question our abilities instead of, [00:04:00] claiming.
[00:04:01] And I speak to this, from experience because I started out at myself as a solo preneur, and I've struggled at different times. Every time I've taken on something new, I struggle with saying I am this. And so I think that's a key. Piece that we somehow think we have to still do something else in order to qualify to call ourselves.
[00:04:26] But instead I love, and there are so many people out there now that I think wisely say this, think about if you look into the distance at your future, and imagine that and bringing it to you, where do I need to come from? In order to be this person now. And so it's simply thinking about how do I need to be in order to state what I'm saying.
[00:04:54] I'm not saying fake it till you make it at all. I'm not saying claim, something falls I'm [00:05:00] saying recognize the talents that you bring today because we tend to underestimate them. We tend to discount and say, everybody knows that when they really don't. Totally. And so I think that's a critical piece of getting past all the junk.
[00:05:17] We tell ourselves the stories we have in our heads and questioning them, questioning those thoughts and saying, is that really true? And looking to people who know us already and finding out what strengths they see in us, so that we. Step into those in a bolder way. I just think there are too many of us.
[00:05:41] And I speak for myself that sometimes play small, just aren't giving ourselves enough credit for what we know and what we're capable of doing.
[00:05:51] Kc Rossi: Yeah, it's so very true. And what's coming up for me is this is such an opportunity to heal a deep wound, not only on a personal [00:06:00] level, but on the global collective, because so many of us, especially women wrestle with this exact same thing of not shining as bright as we can not seeing ourselves in the way that other people see us, our strengths, our beauty, and all of the glory and wisdom that we carry with us.
[00:06:18] And so I really think that it's such an opportunity for us to go first. That's also really the sign of a leader, right? We're brave enough to be the first ones to take action. And then that has this positive ripple effect that inspires people to do the same. So I think this is such a valuable conversation.
[00:06:35] So thank you so much, I'm curious what you consider an excellent leader to be.
[00:06:45] Meredith Bell: The word servant leader is overused. It is, has a connotation, that some people think, oh you're a doormat. I think of servant leader is really a person who is, who [00:07:00] recognizes their role is to serve others. And by serving others, And this may sound like a strange word for the workplace, but truly loving other people, seeing their potential, their value, and then doing everything you can to elevate them.
[00:07:19] So they believe in it themselves. And that. Instills in them, the desire to perform at their highest level. To me, that's the ultimate of what a leader does is has this positive impact on people, not by the force of their words or their, being directive, but recognizing each person on their team as unique and always asking themselves, what can I do to help this person?
[00:07:50] Realize their potential and take that genuine interest in them. That's a human being. That's beautiful.
[00:07:59] Kc Rossi: What a way to [00:08:00] live your life. Not only to act as a powerful leader in business, but if you bring that into your family, if you bring that into your relationships, what an incredibly powerful way to live your life.
[00:08:11] I want to circle back to the word doormat stood out to me, especially because this week I did have some. A listener, give me some feedback of a powerful awakening that she had after listening to understanding your deep why. And that was that we are more than just to be a mere caregiver and to look at everyone else's needs other than our own.
[00:08:35] So when you talk about servant leadership and then the flip side of when it's not done effectively, that sometimes we can feel like a doormat. I'm wondering what suggestions or tips that you have. For that leader that tends to be that giver sometimes an over giver at their own expense. What are some of the strategies that they can implement so they can stay balanced and really embodied [00:09:00] business without.
[00:09:01] Meredith Bell: Oh, Kc. I love that question because this is another one I've had to learn still learning, because I think one of the things givers get so excited about being able to do for others, it's in our DNA. And so one of the things we have to do is slow down enough to say, is this serving me as well?
[00:09:22] Am I taking care of myself? If I say yes to this. Is that really serving me and the greater good, because sometimes we want to please other people and not disappoint them. And yet it requires us to just start getting in the habit of also asking, is this something that is right for me? Is this something where I'm taking care of myself?
[00:09:49] If I say yes to this, if I can answer. Yes, because it's fulfilling, it's, the right thing to do. But if it's just because somebody might not like my decision [00:10:00] or they might object to it. Cause sometimes we're afraid of confrontation. If we really take an honest look and say, is this taking care of me at the same time that it's taking care of this other person, it makes us count ourselves.
[00:10:15] In the process.
[00:10:16] Kc Rossi: That's amazing. Literally we need a post-it note on our computer to remind yourself of that, because I think it's pretty rare that we turn it around and have that self inquiry when it comes to our decisions, when it comes to, looking at self care as something that's a graceful act and not self.
[00:10:36] Meredith Bell: And, I think we have to get away from that term selfish and think of, and replace it with self care. Because when we think of taking care of ourselves, we're taking into account our mental, physical, emotional, health. And so sometimes you could call it selfish, but to me it just sits better and it makes more sense to be.[00:11:00]
[00:11:00] I'm taking care of myself here. I'm counting me because I will tell you if we don't do that, what happens is we start resenting other people, we resent we take on that victim mindset, look at what people are doing to me. Look at they're not appreciating me. And we get into this negative loop that does not serve us or others.
[00:11:25] So the more that we take care of ourselves, The better equipped we are then to serve and really give to
[00:11:33] Kc Rossi: others. Yeah, absolutely. You hit the nail on the head. I am an Enneagram two, which is that giver and that caregiver. That's amazing. Love it. I love it. And the flip of over-giving tends to be resentment, but it's wait a second.
[00:11:47] I'm writing this. I'm the one replaying this loop. The fact is when we become aware of that, we're empowered now to recognize it and make incremental changes. So it's really exciting work. I'm [00:12:00] loving this conversation. Really curious. Cause I know you do a lot of powerful work with teams and even with people, like you mentioned that maybe on the solo preneur journey, we still have to navigate a lot of relationships in order to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round.
[00:12:15] So what are some suggestions and ways that you find to creatively resolve
[00:12:21] Meredith Bell: first of all, I think, again, this might sound like a repeat, but the idea of how we think about it, because so often, we think of conflict as bad. And I think women may be more likely to do this than men. I'd haven't done any studies on this, but just my experience shows women are more conflict avoiders or, want to be the peacemakers and that sort of thing.
[00:12:50] But I think if we reframe it, as we simply want different things on the surface, you want this, I want that. So there's a difference in [00:13:00] what we want. And I think a key thing in conflict, or if we just think of it differently as okay. We have a difference of desires here, as opposed to have a difference of opinion, because in opinions, you're not necessarily changing someone, but if you both want different things and you take different actions, that's where the conflict comes in because you want to do this.
[00:13:23] But I prefer that. So a key element of working through that is listening first and being willing to find out. What is behind the persons want what, in other words, why is this important to them and not in a threatening way of, why challenging it's curiosity? And I think that's a key element of resolving differences is looking at this ad.
[00:13:53] Understanding each other and respecting that each person has a right to have [00:14:00] what you know, to have what it is they say they want. But if it involves both of us or a team of us, we have to work through that. And my feeling is that ideally collaboration is where it ends up, meaning that we don't give, we don't each give a little bit to compromise.
[00:14:20] We don't give in because. And if it's, especially if it's something important to us, because then the bear exhibit builds in again, and we don't try to do a lose or, or we take all and they lose that. Doesn't build Goodwill either. So the idea of each person stating why is this important to them and then agreeing, maybe there's another way.
[00:14:42] Besides the two ways we think are the only ways right now, and being willing to get curious and creative. To brainstorm other possible ways to approach this situation.
[00:14:56] Kc Rossi: That's fabulous. That's really amazing. It's that? What else? [00:15:00] Mindset? What else? What else could it be? It's the multiple pathways and being that agency that you can just choose, you can choose to create a path that's not really there.
[00:15:10] And I think that back to effective leadership, I really feel like it is that bravery it's they are the change makers and they're the trailblazers that are just. Hey, it's not just choice a or B. It could be CDE, F G like we're, the artists here are getting to paint on the blank canvas and make it however we want.
[00:15:29] So I really love that. And yesterday I was speaking with a woman and she's higher up in our organization and manages a team and she is responsible for different reviews that come up and those reviews are linked to. Income raises. And she was telling me whatever challenges. And she said that it was a glowing review.
[00:15:49] She had promoted this individual on the team to a senior VP. It was like a really great review. And then in the kind of needs work column, it was probably phrased better than. [00:16:00] It was, if you could provide your reports to me without grammatical errors, that would be really helpful because I wouldn't have to go through that before I passed it along.
[00:16:08] And the woman started crying and she was really upset that she had any kind of negative feedback on her review at all. Even though she got a promotion and a new title. And so we were talking through this and I'm really curious on your take when we're talking about like conflict resolution and also being able to receive feedback.
[00:16:29] And be okay. Not 100% glowing. We know that it's not about perfection. We know that in order to continue growing, there's going to be some times where there's going to be a look, a needs work column. So let me know your thoughts on that. Oh,
[00:16:42] Meredith Bell: that's I love that. We have this book, my business partner, and I wrote called connect with your team.
[00:16:49] And it's about mastering the top 10 communication skills and receiving feedback is one of those. And it's receiving both constructive and positive feedback, but of course, constructive [00:17:00] feedback is where we run into issues. And part of it is taking things personally in terms of interpreting the feedback as a.
[00:17:12] A character flaw on our part when it's simply information. And so the, it goes back again. In fact, in each chapter, we talk about the the moment to recognize here's what you know is happening. So I need to receive feedback, but then also what mindset do we need to bring to this moment? And the mindset needs to be one of gratitude.
[00:17:35] And openness, which most people get defensive and start justifying and explaining and defending if they get this feedback. But instead to, first of all, proactively ask for it in the form of a question like this and this, even for our solo preneur to go speak with their vendors and other partners. What's one thing I could do differently that would make your [00:18:00] experience working with me even better.
[00:18:03] 'cause, you're not, you're not asking for criticism there. You're really opening the door and inviting them to tell you something because we all have blind spots. If we would just recognize that everybody already knows the things that we could do better, but we don't ask. And so they don't tell us, except in situations.
[00:18:23] Performance review perhaps, or when it's really causing problems, so to openly ask for it. But then once somebody is telling you to listen closely, so you make sure you understand exactly what it is they're trying to communicate. So you clarify, you check, you do not. Justify it offer an explanation defendant, none of that, because you want to invite this kind of input in the future.
[00:18:52] And your response in that moment is going to determine how safe people feel. Being honest with you. So if [00:19:00] you thank them, which is huge, just say, thank you. I did not realize that, a lot of times we feel like we can't show our imperfections to others. They'll respect this less when in fact the opposite is true.
[00:19:14] If we will own. Our vulnerabilities and our flaws. It makes us human and relatable to other people. They find us more attractive, not less when we're willing to do that. So to thank them. And then if it requires it even apologize, if you said, or did something that was hurtful to someone else. To say, I apologize.
[00:19:39] I did not realize my words have that impact on you. I would have never, said that in that way, if I had known that was how it was going to be received. So you're not blaming them for how they took it. You're owning the fact that you had a part in this and then thanking them. And if it's a behavior, they [00:20:00] really want you to change.
[00:20:01] Then you decide in that moment, am I willing to commit? To making a change. And if you do say it all I'm going to work on being better and then ask for their support because that's key, it just say, Kc, I am literally going to work on not interrupting. Let's say. And so if you catch me doing it, please just say I wasn't finished yet or something.
[00:20:24] That's a cue for me to know, oh, I'm doing that. I need to be aware of it because when we commit to changing a behavior, if it's a habit, we've had a long time isn't going to happen overnight. And so it's incremental these changes and knowing that we have the support of the other person and we've actually enlisted them to help us, gives them a role to play.
[00:20:46] In that and gives them permission to give us additional feedback.
[00:20:50] Kc Rossi: I can immediately feel that if you approached a situation like that, with the way that you just explained and more more than a tactic, it's [00:21:00] really this philosophy that you're living out, it is really your way of being and working through.
[00:21:04] Life and the workplace, there is no space for a defensive reaction. It feels so gentle and open. It's really working towards the same thing. And I feel like it can be extremely relationship strengthening. All of a sudden, I feel like I could have a bond with you now. I trust you. You've seen. And I really want to please you and I can feel that you really want to please me.
[00:21:27] So I'm loving that connection at dovetails into a question I had down before, which is why are old patterns so easy to fall back into? And you mentioned, like this isn't going to change overnight. And really started getting me thinking about what can you do to implement new skills?
[00:21:46] For a long-term performance.
[00:21:48] Meredith Bell: Yeah. I think one of the things that people just don't realize, even people designing training programs, Kc, where they have the most spectacular event, [00:22:00] but then there's no followup and no behavior change happens. And the reason is that. Most of us, don't give enough appreciation for the fact that the brain is hardwired for all the habits we have.
[00:22:15] And what that means is there are actual physical, certain circuits in the brain for these different habits that we have. And so those have been established over time and to create a new one, if you want to think of it, like having a super highway already, and now you're starting construction on a dirt road.
[00:22:35] It's going to be bumpy and uncomfortable and painful at times. And you're going to think, man, I need to switch lanes and get back over here on this easy road, the one, so well, and so the key is that practice and more practice. If you think of a sport, trying to learn a sport, like changing the way you hold a golf club or a tennis racket.
[00:22:56] And what that takes in terms of a coach to help [00:23:00] you and guide you and repetition and practice. There's all this that goes into that kind of a physical movement. It's really the same for our thinking and behavior. We'd have to rewire it for that new behavior. And that's why. Support groups like the 12 step programs or WeightWatchers all of these rely on people helping in supporting each other as they're trying to make a change.
[00:23:25] And so recognizing that it takes a while, it takes many repetitions to get that circuit wired in the brain. And so the practice on a regular basis is key. You're going to get a lot better if you practice it multiple times a day or a week than you are once a month, like going to the gym
[00:23:44] Kc Rossi: for sure.
[00:23:44] And I want to underscore what you said, because it's so valuable. And it was really a two prong approach in addition to committing, to wanting to make a change. Knowing that it's going to be a slow process because we're building new pathways, totally speaking my [00:24:00] language. But I think the other two pieces that are foundational and really key to the success of any type of change is a coach or a support, some kind of mentor that is traversed, the journey that you yourself are looking to do so they can shine a light on the potholes.
[00:24:16] And then the big piece is that collective consciousness of a support group as well, holding the sacred space. For the same goal and understanding that we may fall, but it's about getting back up and that they're going to be there to help you along the way. To me, that's like the trifecta of really being able to traverse challenging territory.
[00:24:36] I'm curious of your
[00:24:37] Meredith Bell: thoughts. Absolutely. It's really hard to make a change on your own. If it's a significant change and a habit you're trying to change, even eating habits, if there's someone else that's working on the same goal as you are, it makes it easier. Having that accountability piece is so important.
[00:24:57] And I love the definition of [00:25:00] accountability. That means count on me, so it is. This kind of a hovering threatening sort of thing. It's I'm next to you. I'm walking alongside you to help you stay on the path. And I think that's an important. Piece of, someone knowing I'm going to be checking in with this person, I'm going to be getting support from, a peer coach or guidance from a mentor, or, a coach I'm paying for their services.
[00:25:29] But knowing you've got people that care about your success, I think is really important for staying. And making that long-term commitment for champions.
[00:25:39] Kc Rossi: And it goes back to what we were originally talking about at the tip of the episode and that's relationship because having that genuine relationship where you have that ally, really knowing what your path is holding again, that space for your.
[00:25:55] It really, it has so much power that cannot be underestimated. So I'm loving [00:26:00] that. I'm so curious because I know that you've been in this space since 1987. And when I see that longevity one kudos to you because that's huge. That takes an awful lot of perseverance. To being that I started my official journey 1990, and I know how many times I had to.
[00:26:20] As times have changed as digital marketing has gotten so very popular. I'm wondering if you would share with us a behind the scenes of when you've had to pivot over all these years, what was it like for you? Yeah. Walk us through that process.
[00:26:36] Meredith Bell: I can my very first pivot was ever leaving the field of education because I had always envisioned myself being a teacher.
[00:26:44] And when I got bored in the classroom doing the same lessons, I moved into central office work and. Couldn't deal with the bureaucracy and the politics. And so that's when I made a leap of faith. All your listeners [00:27:00] should take heart because I had no background in business. I didn't have a single course in business or any experience, but yet the thing that I had always been really interested in when I was doing training for teachers was this whole thing of interpersonal skills.
[00:27:18] How will you relate to each other? And so I thought, I think I can use my speaking skills to present at local, organizations and talk about what I do and get booked into doing training programs around communication. So that's what I did. Digital marketing didn't exist back then, as we didn't have any internet, so it was a whole different world.
[00:27:43] But one of the key things that also happened is in 1990, I met Denny coats. We were both solo preneurs had our own businesses for a while and we started collaborating on some things and decided. Our values were aligned [00:28:00] and we thought we would put our two businesses together. It just made practical sense.
[00:28:04] And first we rented space together in an office. So like moving in together before get married. And we found, we were compatible. We shared an admin assistant and it just made sense at a certain point to just work together. And we added a third partner at that time that we merged our business.
[00:28:24] Businesses and she ran everything else. So the three of us have now worked together for 30 years. Wow. And so that's, something I'm really proud of because there aren't very many people that can say that and say, I love them dearly.
[00:28:39] Kc Rossi: Absolutely. And that is such a Testament that you walk your talk.
[00:28:43] I mean that you can still have the longevity. Relationships that span the test of three decades of time. Now the one gentleman, he's the one that coauthored the book that you referred to. I'll make sure to put a link in the show notes for folks that are interested in connect with your team [00:29:00] mastering the top 10 communication skills.
[00:29:02] I'm sure we all need a copy of.
[00:29:05] Meredith Bell: The other interesting pivot was in in the early nineties, we were doing work with a variety of clients and we wanted to start incorporating 360 degree feedback as a part of leadership development programs. But there weren't many choices back then, and they were all very expensive and also very rigid.
[00:29:24] They had this one set of questions. You couldn't deviate from it. And we thought that doesn't work for us. So we decided to. Create our own. We hired a software developer who created one that we introduced in 1994. And at that point we made the shift from being consultants to being a software company that was also brand new.
[00:29:46] So anyone that's concerned about starting something new with not knowing everything, just jump in, you learn it as you go, because we didn't know anything about being a software company, but we knew that was an important direction because. [00:30:00] People were interested in this whole technology.
[00:30:03] And we had a really good solution and we have clients now that have worked with us using that program, which of course has evolved over the years. Some of them have worked with us for more than 20 years. That's incredible.
[00:30:16] Kc Rossi: Absolutely incredible. Where can listeners on learn more about that software tool, your work, your books?
[00:30:25] Meredith Bell: One easy place. Our website is grow strong leader. Dot com and the homepage has a video showing how that book connect with your team can be used with another book called pure coaching made simple so that you can have a peer coach supporting you as you work on those interpersonal skills. And then we have a link to our products from that page.
[00:30:46] Kc Rossi: Very cool. I'll make sure to drop that in the show notes as well. And you're such a pleasure Meredith, it's been really fun having this conversation. It's obvious that you Excel at communications and I'm really looking forward for people to give us their [00:31:00] feedback and let us know about this episode, what they're most excited about implementing for their own self and their team.
[00:31:07] And I'm wondering if you were going to leave some bright light wisdom today, what would you like to share?
[00:31:13] Meredith Bell: We talked about receiving constructive feedback. I would just like to encourage everyone to think about how can you look for opportunities to. Positive feedback to others to express appreciation, because one of my core values, and I think it's probably yours too.
[00:31:31] Kc is we want to help elevate others whenever we interact with them. And so if we can look for opportunities to express our genuine appreciation for something specific that someone has done. It's amazing. Most people, no matter how successful they become, they value that kind of input because it helps them increase their value in their own [00:32:00] mind when we recognize their value.
[00:32:03] And we're willing to tell them what.
[00:32:06] Kc Rossi: A hundred percent. And I would really like to give this invitation for everyone to challenge themselves, to give that feedback today to someone, because I don't think we realize the power of our words and how much it can completely be this healing balm for the one receiving it.
[00:32:23] And it really creates that positive ripple effect. So I love that you left that and I would like to leave it as an actionable step for the listener so they can literally just. Go for it and make somebody's day today. That's great. Yeah, that's awesome. Meredith, thank you so much. It was really, truly a pleasure.
[00:32:41] Meredith Bell: Thank you, Kc.
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