What We Must Know About Body Language

by Terry L. Sumerlin

A young lady, dressed in business attire, enters a restaurant. Waiting to be seated, she leans slightly on the hostess stand as if it’s been a long day. When she’s seated, as per her request, it’s at a table as far away from the other guests as possible. She orders, eats her dinner and reads — without saying anything to anyone but her server. Well, that’s not exactly true. To anyone who notices, though not verbally, she says a great deal. She’s not rude. However, through body language, she says: I’m tired. This is my down time and I want to be left alone to eat, read and unwind.

This illustrates the first thing most of us need to know about body language. Every time we are in the presence of others, we are communicating by this very quiet method. It is unavoidable.

We tend to think that the easiest way to avoid saying the wrong thing is to just say nothing. There are times for all of us when that would certainly be an improvement! However, the best way to really avoid sending the wrong message is to always be conscious of what we say and do. Facial expressions, gestures and posture send a message, apart from anything we might or might not verbalize.

This leads us to the second thing we need be aware of regarding body language. It can be, and often is, more powerful than words. In fact, when our words and body language convey conflicting messages, guess which message is received.

To answer that question, call to mind something you might have observed at a meeting or conference. The speaker tells you from the podium that he is excited to be your speaker. Yet, there’s no smile, no eye contact and no gestures. The speaker appears far from relaxed. Do you believe that he is excited? After all, that’s what he said. But his actions say something different. His actions say that he lacks confidence or that he is scared to death.

Let’s transfer that concept to communication both in and out of the workplace. It’s a nice thing to tell friends, employees and customers that you appreciate them. However, they are more likely to believe your words if they see the smile on your face, the acceptance in your eyes and the warmth in your posture.

This conflict between body language and words, and the power of the former over the later, is something that has been observed by animal trainers. They say that oftentimes the main reason some amateur trainers have little success in training pets is because the animal is confused by conflicting messages. The voice says one thing and the body language says something else. The animal instinctively ignores the words and obeys the body language. People often do the same thing. For that reason, we need to be sure that our body language always matches our verbal communication. If they don’t match, our words are going to lose the battle between the two – every time.

The third thing we need to keep in mind is that since communication is a two-way street, we must always be monitoring the other person’s body language as well as our own. For instance, if the other person tilts the head, it might mean he/she doesn’t understand or doesn’t agree. If she looks at her watch, it might mean she is pressed for time. In that case, now might not be a good time to talk. For effective communication, we must listen and look for what is said, and then we must adapt accordingly.

Finally, we must not to jump to hasty, erroneous conclusions regarding the actions or mannerisms of others. Body language is best assessed contextually and as a total package, rather than when isolated.

By itself, the fact that the arms are crossed may not mean anything other than that the room is cold. It doesn’t always mean a person is unapproachable or defensive. It might, but it also might not. Similarly, one might wink because of a nervous tick rather than because he’s flirting. During a program one might raise her hand to straighten her hair, rather than to ask the speaker a question. Common sense is always important to accurately determine what message someone is sending.

LEADERSHIP TIP: We are always communicating by what we say as well as by what we do. To communicate effectively, always be conscious of the message we and others are sending, whether by words, actions or both.

Posted in communication skills, leadership skills | Comments Off on What We Must Know About Body Language

Our Communication Vehicle

“Words are vehicles upon which thoughts travel.” Audiences have heard me say that for years. I’ve been unable to find the original source of the quote. So I have sort of made it my own.

The words conjure up, in my mind, a vivid image. Let’s see if they do the same for you.

Think with me, if you will, of your dream car. For some, it might be the car they now drive. For others, ownership of a certain dream car might be just that — a dream. Regardless of whether you now own it, or would like to, get a clear picture of that car in your mind.

Now let’s transfer that picture to a type of vehicle that provides transportation for thoughts. For that, would we want a clunker or a dream vehicle? Keep in mind that the automobile we drive every day can only get us from point A to point B. A vehicle of thought, on the other hand, can take us to fulfilling business and personal relationships, as well as to positions of influence. Those things being true, what might a dream “vehicle of thought” look like? Using the letters of the word “car” as an acronym, let’s build our ideal vehicle of thought.

First of all, let the “c” in car stand for clarity. Mark Twain said: “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.” It’s also the difference, many times, between being understood and being misunderstood.

Along this line, I’m reminded of the story about the first sergeant who told his new recruits: “I want you to put on a clean pair of socks every day.” One young recruit discovered at the end of the first week that he couldn’t get his boots on. Some folks require more clarity in communication than others, but basic clarity must be standard equipment on all communication vehicles.

It must also be equipped with the ask-for-feedback package. Thus, the letter “a” stands for ask.

As a writer, I know that I do not always choose the right vehicle for my thoughts. So, I have a wonderful editor, Paul Smith, who gives me feedback on everything I write. Sometimes I’m surprised when he tells me what a certain phrase conveys to him. It’s not what I had in mind at all.

For all of us, whether we’re writing or speaking, it helps to ask others if we’re being clear. More specifically, before we take part in an important meeting or conversation we should ask our spouse, friend, co-worker, supervisor (or anyone whose opinion we value) if what we plan to say is clear and proper. Also, when we are face-to-face in conversation, and the other person has a puzzled look on his or her face, we should politely ask, “What is your understanding of what I just said?” Most importantly, we need to habitually ask ourselves before speaking: “Is what I’m about to say clear and is it going to come out as intended?”

Not only should clarity and asking for feedback be part of the standard equipment of our communication vehicle. It should also be equipped with responsibility. The “r” in car should serve to remind us of that.

Of all the things our society needs, a sense of responsibility would have to be at the top of the list. Many don’t want to be responsible for much of anything.

As an illustration, we’ve all heard folks say that they are self-made. Of course, when such a claim is made it is always with reference to success — “self-made success.” Have you ever heard anyone claim to be a self-made failure? No one wants to accept responsibility for that.

Similarly, few want to accept responsibility for communication failure. Yet, it too is “self-made.” How could it be otherwise? (There are certain exceptions involving the other person.) If I’m the one talking, I’m the only one who could possibly be responsible for what comes out of my mouth. Knowing such, and consistently applying that knowledge, should keep my C-A-R from crashing. And when it does crash, I’m generally the one who is “liable.”

LEADERSHIP TIP: Always keep your vehicle of thought well maintained, and all its equipment in proper working order.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter. Please add the following notice: For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysleadership.com

Posted in communication skills, leadership skills, people skills | Comments Off on Our Communication Vehicle

When Not to Talk

by Terry L. Sumerlin

I was asked if so-and-so is still alive. When I answered “yes” for the millionth time, the response was the same – for the millionth time: “Well, I’m surprised one of his ex-wives hasn’t killed him by now.” The fact that the fellow’s daughter happens to be one of the exes might have biased him, and stirred his emotions, just a tad. However, I wondered why we must go through the same song and dance every time he sees me.

I’d had enough! First of all, I don’t care how many ex-wives my acquaintance has, nor is it any of my business. Also, and more important, I feel it is just as bad to listen to gossip as it is to tell it. So I decided to put a stop to it with a simple suggestion: “Why don’t you give him a call and take that up with him?” It suddenly got very quiet.

From a moral point of view, gossip is an ugly thing. But our primary focus here is not moral, religious or theoretical. It’s practical because of the impact such talk has on organizational morale as well as relationships.

Although, as we all know, you and I would never engage in this destructive form of speech, perhaps some gentle kick-on-the-shin reminders about gossip would be in order. Keep in mind, though, what Ronald B. Zeh said years ago: “The gossip of the future may not be a backbiting, nosy, tongue-wagging two-face, but a super-megabyte, random-access, digital interface.” Gossip can be spoken or written.

The first thing we need to remember is what this form of speech says about one’s character. Though we will grant that sometimes what we say about others is not as much a matter of character as it is carelessness, we need to give more thought to what we are about to say and then sometimes just not say it. It’s so easy to drift from simple, innocent, harmless conversation about others into that which is harmful and should not be repeated, even if it’s true. Some folks just talk too much, and should be more careful about what they say.

On the other hand, deliberately telling or repeating that which we know to be harmful to another’s reputation strongly suggests a character problem. This, by the way, is vastly different from saying what must be said about someone, saying it to the right person and saying it for the right reasons. That’s responsible action, and requires courage. The other is irresponsible, abusive and cowardly.

Another thing about gossip is what it does to the reputation of the one who makes it a habit. It makes that person someone who can’t be trusted. It tells others that anything said to him or her, even in confidence, is not secure. It also says that if that person will gossip to you, the same person will gossip about you. As a result, trusting a gossip becomes a huge issue in relationships and business.

Gossip also indicates a lack of emotional and/or intellectual maturity. Those who are comfortable and secure with themselves don’t feel the need to tell things about others in an attempt to tear them down. Rather, they are inclined to say things that build them up. In this respect, they’re genuine leaders!

With regard to maturity and how it impacts what we talk about, it might be good for everyone to keep in mind what Socrates said: “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”

Finally, slander can come back to bite us. What makes its way to our ears, and then is repeated by us, can just as easily make its way to the ears of those who will take action.

Notice that for the first time I used the word “slander” in place of “gossip.” It has legal connotations. Slander that we have spoken, and is then repeated back to us, could be very embarrassing. It could be worse than embarrassing when repeated back to us in court.

LEADERSHIP TIP: Before speaking, carefully consider the what, the how, the why, the of whom and the to whom.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter. Please add the following notice: For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com  

Posted in communication skills, leadership skills, people skills, self improvement | Comments Off on When Not to Talk

How to Really Listen

by Terry L. Sumerlin

“I heard that!” Often we say this when we strongly agree with something that has been said, or when we know something to be true. My question is, “How often do we really hear that?”  In order for us to really hear what is being said, we have to really listen. How do we do that?

One requirement for really listening is really respecting the person speaking.  Showing respect to the speaker can be difficult sometimes.  Perhaps you have noticed how much easier it is to listen to some people than to others. There are those whose body language, tone of voice or word choice is distracting. And then there are those who never seem to get to the point.  We’ve all been in the rather challenging position of trying to listen to someone ramble on endlessly, when the speaker at last attempts to sum up the interminable yarn by saying, “Well, to make a long story short….” You want to scream, “You missed that opportunity an hour ago!”

Aside from the fact that some talkers make it hard for us to be good listeners, leaders nonetheless show respect by listening well to everyone.  That doesn’t mean everything everyone says is as gold, or that we must give everyone our attention forever. But it does mean that they are fellow human beings, and that we can learn something from everyone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”  I don’t think Emerson was saying that everything others might teach us is correct or that it is to be imitated.  From others we might learn what not to accept or practice.  But we can still learn from them.  Knowledge and wisdom come in all forms, but only to those who show respect by really listening to others.

Taking this thought a step farther, respect will lead us to be focused listeners. Among other things, this means that– without texting, e-mailing, Facebooking or anything else– we give the speaker the greatest compliment of all: our undivided attention.  Too often, not understanding is not a hearing issue.  It’s a focus issue.

Focusing involves eye contact and concentration.  It also involves awareness of distractions.  In addition to the technological distractions just mentioned, there are also those having to do with environment, prejudices, self-conscientiousness, stress or anxiety.

We might also include in this list those thoughts we are preparing to express in response and the urgency we feel to express them.  This feeling is a real listening challenge with many.  In fact, it has been humorously said that most would not bother listening at all, were it not for the expectation and hope that when the other person is through talking it will be their turn to talk.  Awareness is necessary before one can successfully eliminate this “urgency” and all other distractions that can affect our listening focus.

Once we become more aware, we are in a frame of mind to step up our focus by interacting with the one who is speaking.  This might involve such actions as leaning in, nodding, rewording various statements, smiling or interjecting one or two word responses of agreement and encouragement. We might also ask questions like why or how, in order to draw ourselves in and the speaker out.  These conversational tools help us to forget about ourselves and to focus our attention on the person talking.  These tools are the essence of effective listening – and class!

LEADERSHIP TIP: Effective listening starts in the heart, and spreads to the eyes and ears.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter.  Please add the following notice — exactly as follows:  *Reprinted with permission from Terry L. Sumerlin. © 2016 Terry L. Sumerlin.  For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com             

 

 

Posted in leadership skills, listening skills, people skills | Comments Off on How to Really Listen

Getting Real about Optimism

by Terry L. Sumerlin

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Positive or negative? “Yes,” you say? Good answer, because most of us are not entirely one or the other.

On the other hand, we have all run across those who are somewhat like the little old lady I heard about. She said, “I always feel bad, even on days when I feel good, for fear I’ll feel worse tomorrow.” It would be hard to say much that might help such folks. For the rest of us, perhaps some observations regarding optimism might be helpful in our daily lives.

First of all, let me say that a lot of junk has been said about optimism and a positive attitude. I suspect that I’ve said a lot of junk on the subject. Speakers often leave the impression that, with the right attitude, one can accomplish anything. That’s not true!

Just suppose, for instance, that a very optimistic, non-athletic, six foot, fifty-something guy, suddenly decides to become a professional basketball player. Suppose he gets a professional basketball player as his coach, trains very hard every day and strongly believes in his goal. He even visualizes stardom and imagines that he can hear the roar of the crowd as he makes the game winning shot in the final game of the NBA finals. We know that no amount of work, visualization or optimism is going to take him where he wants to go. Aside from size and lack of talent, the fact is that young men play professional sports.

Based on such, could we say that attitude doesn’t matter? Actually, it not only matters, but there are times when it matters a lot to each of us.

For instance, it mattered a lot to me five years ago. That was when I had surgery for cancer. Believe me, I needed and wanted an optimistic surgeon.

Don’t get me wrong. Optimism wasn’t all I was looking for in a surgeon. But, answer this: Was I looking for a highly trained, eminently qualified surgeon who was not optimistic? I certainly didn’t want to be operated on by someone who would say to me just before surgery, “Terry, I sure don’t have a good feeling about this.”

My point is that optimism doesn’t equip or qualify one for anything he or she is not already qualified to do. Nor, by the way, does it change facts. However, it does equip one to do all the things one is equipped to do much better than pessimism.

That being the case, two things come to mind. The first of these has to do with how to maintain a more optimistic attitude.

To accomplish this, we must always be vigilant regarding what goes into our minds. Whether it involves what we read, hear from friends and co-workers or listen to on TV, our thoughts are constantly being affected positively or negatively.

I like to say that I’m so optimistic that in our house we have snooze button on our smoke alarms. However, throughout the day, my mood can and does change very quickly, as a result of all the (mis) information we’re subjected to. I’ll bet the same is true for you. For that reason, we must all pay attention to our mind food. Junk food for the mind produces junkie thoughts – which produce a junkie life!

The other thing that comes to mind is how a positive, optimistic attitude toward people enhances our people skills. My author friend, Geoffrey Tumlin, has a formula that I like very much. He says, “Good communication = Good relationships = Good life.” If communication is that important, what about the importance of having the right attitude toward people as a proper basis for communication?

People who like others, and who try to believe the best of others, convey optimism in conversation. That is true even in difficult situations. Conversely, those who are pessimistic and negative about life in general rarely have good communication skills, good relationships – or a good life.

LEADERSHIP TIP: Remember what the right attitude cannot do, but most of all, remember what it can do.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter.  Please add the following notice — exactly as follows:  *Reprinted with permission from Terry L. Sumerlin. © 2016 Terry L. Sumerlin.  For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com             

Posted in encouraging positive attitude and proper training, leadership skills, self improvement, success attitudes | Comments Off on Getting Real about Optimism

DARTing Past Fear

by Terry L. Sumerlin

I was not exactly paralyzed by fear. But I was very uneasy. Yes, afraid!

I had thought about giving it a try for a long time. After all, people of various ages, from all walks of life, use it regularly, and have for a long time. Major cities thrive on it. But I could not convince myself to check it out – alone.

I have given it a try with my wife, though. In such cases Sherry is always my navigator, someone I can depend on when the system makes no sense. With her I know I will not get hopelessly lost.

What am I talking about? Metro type trains and subways. San Antonio, where I grew up and lived for 45 years, doesn’t have such. And Lavon, Texas, where I now live, certainly doesn’t have it (as well as a lot of other metropolitan type things). But nearby Dallas has DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit). Along with other destinations, DART goes to the airports from areas all around the Dallas Metroplex. So recently, I got to thinking about the advantages of airport runs from the nearby town of Rowlett.

Sherry wouldn’t have to deal with Dallas traffic to and from the airports (twice) to get me there and back. That’s assuming I didn’t drive myself to the airport, and then have to find a parking space. That can be a nightmare – and very expensive.

The train seemed the logical alternative. Logical, but scary. It’s a long trip, with several transfers, involving lots of room for error. What if I miss my flight? Can’t get to my speaking engagement on time? Am sued for breach of contract? Blackballed in the speaking industry? Fear causes us to imagine all sorts of ridiculous things.

Finally, I put my fears aside and took the plunge. Sort of. One morning Sherry and I took the DART train and bus to Love Field Airport and back. We took the exact route I was to take in a few days, as a stress-free-type rehearsal for the real thing. Then, when the day actually arrived for my flight to Oakland, I was equipped with prior experience, along with a cheat sheet (“DART for Dummies”) from my wife, to insure my success.

Though I was as nervous as a cat, it was a successful adventure. As my speaker friend, Ron Hoesterey, would say: “It was not a problem to be solved. It was an adventure to be enjoyed.” It was fun.

Without having to worry about driving in traffic, I tried to settle back and watch Dallas come to life, as we glided along at sunrise. What was once scary actually became a piece of cake.

What does all I’ve said have to do with you as a leader? A lot!

You see, everyone has fears that involve things outside their comfort zone. We must recognize such in ourselves and others.

Also, in the same way that my wife bolstered my confidence and helped me become more comfortable with a new situation, we all need help, and we can help one another, to cope with life’s challenges.

Additionally, my experience illustrates the need for a plan and experience (even rehearsal) to overcome fear. Resultant success can help us build the confidence necessary for us to take on greater challenges.

In my case I felt confident enough that, after arriving in Oakland, I hopped on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), and explored much of Oakland and San Francisco. Did I know what I was doing? No! Was I scared? Yes! But I also had a great time.

Success not only has its own reward, in terms of confidence gained. In my case there was an additional reward. True to what Sherry had written at the bottom of “DART for Dummies,” when I stepped off the DART platform at the Rowlett DART Station, a beautiful woman did pick me up to take me home.

BARBER-OSOPHY: I completely agree with Helen Keller. “Life is a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter.  Please add the following notice — exactly as follows:  *Reprinted with permission from Terry L. Sumerlin. © 2015 Terry L. Sumerlin.  For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com        

Posted in leadership skills, positive attitudes, self improvement, stress | Comments Off on DARTing Past Fear

HOW TO DEAL WITH WORRY

by Terry L. Sumerlin

Do you ever worry? I’ve had people tell me that they never worry about anything. I’ll take their word for that. However, for the rest of us, worry can be a problem.

We tend to worry about similar things, such as health, careers, family, money, relationships and cars. Yes, I said cars!

Right now, as I sit in the Catalyst, the coffee shop for the historic General Morgan Inn in beautiful Greeneville, Tennessee, I’m worried about my car. I know, worry can cause insomnia, high blood pressure and hair loss. (I think I’m in the clear on one of those side effects!) But when I see the “check engine” light on a car with less than 30,000 miles, I worry.

The light has gone on and off for the past 2,500 miles, from Lavon, Texas to Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. to Greeneville, Tennessee. I’ve had it checked twice, and I’ve had the sensor replaced once. On our long anticipated once-in-a-lifetime road trip, the light has been the proverbial fly in the ointment.

But, alas, some good has come from this pesky fly: I get to reflect on how I’ve dealt with my worry, and I get to share my findings with you.

Many years ago, when Al Smith was governor of New York, he had a way of dealing with worrisome issues. He would say, “Let’s examine the facts.” That’s what I’ve tried to do with regard to my car.

Fact: I’ve been assured TWICE that we will make it home, with no damage to the engine. Fact: I’m told that only when the light is blinking is there a serious problem, and it has never blinked. Fact: we’ve made it this far.

Imagination, on the other hand, says the light is going to start blinking, and the car is going to blow up immediately. We will be left standing by the side of some lonely stretch of highway in the middle of the night, waiting to hitch a ride with a serial killer.

Truly, the most powerful nation in the world is imagi-“nation.” So, the first thing I would share on dealing with worry is to silence the imagination and to just deal with the facts. I would even suggest that, as I’m doing now, we write these facts down. This step greatly serves to rein in a wild imagination.

Another thing that has helped me in dealing with the emotional state known as worry is motion. Sherry and I have been so busy having so much fun that “the light” is often forgotten. A light on the dash of our car meant nothing while we were in motion, viewing the Washington Monument, Mount Vernon, Monticello and Montpelier. Always remember, motion (of any kind) will change emotion.

Perspective can also pull you out of a state of worry. The engine light and car mean nothing at all compared to the sacrifices that are represented by Gettysburg or the Lincoln Memorial. In fact, by making such a big deal of such relative trifles, I feel a bit ashamed.

We have so much to enjoy in this life and so much for which to be thankful. Most of what we worry about doesn’t ever happen anyway. Let’s make it Job #1 to enjoy all the relationships and good things that DO happen.

BARBER-OSOPHY: Eliminate most worry by grabbing hold of the real moment and letting go of the remote possibility of the worrisome maybes.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter.  Please add the following notice — exactly as follows:  *Reprinted with permission from Terry L. Sumerlin. © 2015 Terry L. Sumerlin.  For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com        

Posted in leadership skills, positive attitudes, problem solving, self improvement, stress | Comments Off on HOW TO DEAL WITH WORRY

A STORYTELLER’S STORY

by Terry L. Sumerlin

It was a very busy, but incredibly good day in the Alamo City. It started at 4:30 a.m. After looking over my speech notes and reading for a while over some very strong coffee, I stepped through the door of our adjoining rooms to enjoy room service with my daughter. Amanda had accompanied me on the drive from Dallas.

Following our wonderful breakfast, I gathered up my things and took the elevator down 26 floors to the lobby of the Rivercenter Marriott. Shortly, my ride arrived and I was whisked off to the meeting place where I did the keynote for a retreat of supervisors and managers for the city of San Antonio.

Following the presentation, and after some rest back at the hotel, the incredible day continued as I met my good friend, Chris, for a light dinner. We had not seen each other in a few months, and were eager to chat. Since we share similar interests, it was great to reconnect.

As we talked, Chris told me about a fascinating experience he and his wife had recently enjoyed. It involved a celebrity.

Chris said a friend called one day and asked if he and his wife would like to hear Rudy Ruettiger, of the movie Rudy, speak that very evening. After Chris said they would like that, his friend asked another question. How would they like to have dinner with Rudy before the speech? So the two couples and Rudy had dinner together.

Rudy is quite a storyteller. So, I enjoyed immensely hearing Chris tell about Rudy’s experiences.

One story especially caught my attention. In fact, it has been on my mind ever since Chris told it. The story involves a time when Rudy’s daughter was asked to sing the national anthem before a Laker’s game.

On game day the family arrived several hours early in order to check out the Staples Center.
As they were looking things over, they noticed a lone player who was practicing shot after shot. “That’s Kobe Bryant!” Rudy excitedly told his family. “I’m going to go out there and meet him.” The security guards were not as excited about his idea as he was.

“No one interrupts Kobe while he’s practicing,” they said. “Oh, I’m not going to bother him,” Rudy replied. “I just want to say hello.” No way was he allowed on the floor.

Rudy came up with another plan. From the seats, he shouted, “Hey, Kobe, it’s Rudy!”

Kobe stared in unbelief at the man behind the voice. “Rudy?” he yelled back. “Rudy Ruettiger?”

“Yeah,” came the reply. “Rudy Ruettiger!”

In an immediate expression of profound admiration, Kobe walked over, stuck out his hand to Rudy, and said, “You are my hero!”

He then said that when he was a teenager growing up in Italy, basketball was not going well for him. Then one evening his dad had him watch the movie, Rudy, with him. To Rudy, his daughter and his son, Kobe said, “That movie changed my life.” A hero for many had met his own hero.

Perhaps neither Kobe nor Rudy are your heroes. I don’t know who your heroes are, nor do I need to know. That is beside the point I wish to make. My point is this: heroes matter greatly, even to those who have achieved great things. In fact, many have achieved great things because they had certain heroes in their lives. Not only that, but because of their heroes many have also been able to face some of life’s greatest challenges.

My friend Chris is that kind of hero to me. We are both survivors of the same type of cancer. Several years ago, when this wonderful friend and oral surgeon found out I was scheduled to have the same surgery he’d had, he opened his heart and his busy schedule in order for me to pour out my intense fears and concerns, and for him to candidly and compassionately answer all my questions. He inspired me with courage and hope. Though Chris’ life has taken a different path from Rudy’s, to me he is a hero simply because he cared enough to make a huge difference in my life. That doesn’t require a big name – just a big heart.

Heroes come from all walks of life, but they have one thing in common: they all matter to others. We, each of us, matter to someone. We may not always know who that someone is. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we be good heroes to others, and that we choose our own heroes wisely.

LEADERSHIP TIP: Be careful who you greatly admire, and be well aware that someone, somewhere greatly admires you.

Feel free to reprint this article in your organization’s newsletter.  Please add the following notice — exactly as follows:  *Reprinted with permission from Terry L. Sumerlin. © 2014 Terry L. Sumerlin.  For over 25 years, leadership author and conference speaker, Terry L. Sumerlin, has been addressing audiences throughout the U.S. and internationally. www.terrysumerlin.com

Posted in encouraging positive attitude, leadership skills, people skills, team building | Comments Off on A STORYTELLER’S STORY