May 18, 2022

The Heart💖Centered Connector

The Heart💖Centered Connector

How do you support your growth and the development of your people?
Effective communication is at the heart of every connection according to Meredith Bell. She supports business leaders who are committed to:

🪜taking action
🪜making the shift from knowing to doing

Join me in conversation with Meredith Bell, the author of 3 books, Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Publisher of Assessment & Development Tools for the workplace.
🎁 For more about Listening Like a Pro:

Heart💖Centered Connector Meredith Bell, is an author who is purposeful about growing strong leaders, teams and creating tools and opportunities for peer coaching made simple.   

What Intrigued Me

00:05:27 The qualities Meredith Bell admires in men today in the corporate world today.  

What Inspired Me

The qualities Meredith Bell admires in women today in the corporate world today. 

About the Guest

Meredith Bell, author, speaker, podcaster, Co-Founder and President of Performance Support Systems, Inc.

📚 My Strong for Performance book:

About the Show

Podcast Host: Life & Leadership: A Conscious Journey with Dr. Michelle St Jane

A podcast for Global and Re-Emerging Leadership creating community/tribe, a circle of influence, transcendency of compassionate leadership in the world and wider universe. A unique destination for learning about Leadership + Conscious Stewardship + Legacy.

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Intro: You're listening to Life and Leadership: A Conscious Journey. The podcast that shares wisdom and strength. Join your host, Dr. Michelle St Jane's weekly conversation on how to have a positive impact for people, planet, and the wider world. If you want to live a life of intention, to be proactive with your time and bring your vision for the future to live one today at a time, you’re in the right place at the right time. Let's get started. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:00:39] Meredith Bell is the author of three books, entrepreneur, speaker, publisher of assessment and development tools. She hosts the Strong Performance Podcast. She interviews business leaders who are committed to their own growth and the development of their people. 

She is the co-founder and president of performance support systems, a global software company, providing assessment and development tools for the workplace they're 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.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:01:17] Meredith Bell, thank you for joining me. I'm looking forward to sharing all your wisdom, strength, and ideas. 

What is your motto?  

Meredith Bell: [00:01:26] I decided that I was going to be known as the Heart💖Centered Connector because so many people have told me any combination of those words over a period of time. 

I have a purpose statement:

To serve and love profoundly

so, others appreciate their value

and maximize it.

That's a mouthful to say to people when meeting them. One of the things I do want them to know is that I am here to be of service. So being Heart💖Centered and wanting to connect others with other people, other resources that may be of value to them.

Meredith Bell: [00:02:09] That's what really drives me. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:02:11] I love how you show up in the world. What do you most value in your work colleagues?  

Meredith Bell:  [00:02:15]  I have my two business partners that I've worked with for over 30 years now. We just have this deep love, respect, and trust with each other. Over the years, as you can imagine, we've really discovered our individual strengths and how to leverage those. 

Meredith Bell: [00:02:34] One of the things that I think we're really good at is acknowledging each other. Expressing appreciation for the unique skills or talents that each one of us brings to the table.

There are things I don't enjoy doing. Things I'm not as good at. 

I have a business partner who is. So, it's one of those things where I think a key, we each brought, a high level of emotional intelligence, to the table. When we've had differences over the years, which, you know, like any relationship you're going to have differences. We can work through those because there's this foundation of mutual trust and respect and at the hub of it all is communication. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:03:15]. I really appreciate how you show up. One of the questions that you're often asked, “why communication skills are hard skills and not soft skills?

Meredith Bell: [00:03:26] Because they're not easy to do. I think it's a misnomer to call them soft skills, because if you cannot connect effectively with another person in the way, each of you interacts with each other, you're going to have trouble getting things done. You're going to have trouble at work, producing the results that need to be produced.

Meredith Bell: [00:03:47] Or at home living a fulfilling, enjoyable family life. they're hard because most of them, Michelle, have not been raised, learning how to do those skills well. 

We have these established patterns that sometimes don't work that well for us. Any time we need to make a shift from how we've been doing something to how we need to do it now is hard because we physically have this wiring in our brain that has to be overcome, if you will, by another pattern that becomes stronger than that existing one. 

That's hard. It takes practice over time, it takes patience with ourselves and patience from others until we make those improvements. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:04:33] Absolutely. I come from a Welsh heritage, so I have the gift of the gab. But my biggest learning has been to move into listening conversations. Which was really driven by my careers and the corporate world, but also by my children and grandchildren.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:04:48] What quality do you most admire and women in the corporate realm? 

Meredith Bell: [00:04:52]   I have to say that acknowledgement of their own strengths. A willingness to speak up on behalf of themselves. I grew up in a generation where women were not as acknowledged. Unfortunately, that's still true in many places today.

Meredith Bell: [00:05:11] For someone to be willing to speak their truth, not in an abrasive way, but in a strong, positive way, so that they are standing up for themselves. I just think that's huge. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:05:24] What qualities do you admire in men today in the corporate world? 

Meredith Bell: [00:05:27] Something that you alluded to, which is listening, not feeling they have to be show boats, not the right word, but dominate, be the winner.

Meredith Bell: [00:05:37] Willing to listen and acknowledge other people's perspectives and points of view. Also being sensitive to others. Whether they are contributing or not. Making sure, in other words having their radar up so that they're paying attention to everyone and picking up what people are feeling or not saying and encourage them to speak. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:06:02] Tell us, what does it look like to be a truly powerful listener? 

Meredith Bell: [00:06:07] For one thing, you're not waiting for your turn to talk. That's too often what listening becomes. You miss so much, if you are mainly waiting for somebody else to stop talking so you can. To be a really good listener means you're taking in everything, not just the words the person is saying, how they're saying those words.

Meredith Bell: [00:06:31] It's a visual exchange: 

What do they look like? 

What do they sound like? 

What's their body language. 

You're getting the entire picture. Not just those individual words. 

You're also checking to make sure that you're understanding what the other person really is saying. Too often we make assumptions that we've got the message.

Then we respond based on what we think we heard instead of checking. 

Having this humble approach, to just check with the person, too often Michelle, I think people think listening is passive. 

I'm sitting there letting the other person go on and on. That's not it either skillful listening is checking in with the person to clarify and make sure you've got what they've said up to a certain point.

Even asking a question, “so is that what you meant when you said this?” 

Just to make sure you're getting it. Those kinds of interactions I think are so important. 

The beauty of that approach is the other person then: 

Feels heard, 

Feels understood and valued. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:07:36] Absolutely. Building on what you've just said, what words and phrases do you think are most overused? 

Meredith Bell: [00:07:44] “What I hear you saying is…” 

That's a phrase that was around when active listening became very popular and there are different ways of saying something similar. What I think we want to do in communication is simply be ourselves, be natural. 

To use a phrase like, “well, it sounds like you're really upset about this” because another aspect of listening well is being empathetic to get the feelings that the person is conveying, whether or not they state those feelings.

Meredith Bell: [00:08:17] Again, checking to see what it is that we interpret the person is saying to see if we're on track.  

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:08:25] Having had a career as a lawyer involving contentious issues, I have often encouraged my clients to use the word, “I understand” because it is very hard to argue with this phrase and it can be very affirming if someone's open to that.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:08:38] Meredith you've authored three books. Would you to speak to the latest one, Connect With Your Team

[00:08:44] Meredith Bell: Connect With Your Team and Peer Coaching made simple were created at about the same time, because connect with your team is all about the top 10 communication skills. What we decided to do was simply provide a practical guide for people.

Meredith Bell: [00:08:59] There's no fluff. There's no theory. 

Here's what listening is. 

Here's how you can do it. 

We give some dialogues. 

Here's what it doesn't look like or done. 

When it's done poorly, here's what it looks like and sounds like. 

When it's done well. 

We realized that you can't just have someone read a book. It's important for them, when they're practicing skills, to have support, because anytime you're trying to change your behavior, It's not easy.

Meredith Bell: [00:09:26] That's why we wrote the Pure Coaching Made Simple book. So, people could work with partners as they're trying to improve a communication skill and have someone else who's not just holding them accountable, but being a real support to them, offering encouragement and actually practicing some of those communication skills as they're being a peer coach

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:09:48] Having accountability buddies can be key. I know when I'm showing up, if someone's there wanting to know, “how have you done,” or “can you tell me how.” I'm prepared! 

Frustration clearly that's a part of human life. Personally, with my sense of humor, I like to turn frustration into fun. What do you suggest to help people keep people motivated to learn? 

Meredith Bell: [00:10:09] One thing is just to recognize we all have to start somewhere. If we think, “all right, it's natural for me to revert back to the other way because it's the one I've used for so long. It's my automatic response.” 

I think one way to avoid being frustrated is simply being honest with other people and saying, “I really want to work on being a better listener, especially when it comes to interrupting. I know I've done that in the past.  I really want your help with that.” 

In fact, this is something my two business partners and I worked on together because one tended to interrupt. We just use things like a stop sign saying, “don't interrupt.” Or simply saying, “please let me finish. 

Asking others for their support, I think is a key element because then you feel like you're not in it alone. You're not having to try to be perfect.

Meredith Bell: [00:11:03] They know that you're simply working to make improvements and they can be a nice gauge for you. I think just realizing too often, and you know this Michelle, we tell ourselves stories, we have these thoughts and then when we believe these thoughts like, “oh, this is so hard.” 

We start acting as if that thought is true. When in fact it's just a thought. 

To reframe how we approach making a change as this is going to be fun. I'm going to treat it as a game. I'm going to win some rounds. I might lose a few, Overall, I'm in it to play my best and give it my best shot. I just think that the way we think about it and frame, it makes a huge difference in how we actually behave in the world.

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:11:50] I do not have to play secretary to the story in my head. I'm like, “let's test the evidence on that. Let's verify let's have a conversation.” 

Thank you for bringing up interrupting. I use a tool called mute being a serial interrupter whose mind is going at a hundred miles an hour. Turning on/off the mute button stops me interrupting overly. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:12:15] You have a tool ,to quote your website, “sounds ambitious, for companies economically provide coaching for everyone at all levels?” I mean that’s a challenge. 

Meredith Bell: [00:12:28] Well, it is because they can't afford really to bring in a coach for every person. That's why we have our two books together, the Connect With Your Team and The Peer Coaching, because anyone can learn to be a peer coach

It doesn't require certification. 

It simply requires a willingness to be of help to someone else as they're working to make improvements. 

There are some basic skills.

Meredith Bell: [00:12:52] What is required? We've learned over the years, you can't just hand someone a book or two and say, “okay, start using this.” 

There needs to be someone in the role of a facilitator, like an internal champion. Who's keeping this going, who's kicking it off. 
 Then helping people work through the process. Even giving them an opportunity to talk in a group fairly often.

Meredith Bell: [00:13:18] On frequent intervals just check in and see how things are going. It is definitely possible to do this. Part of it is incorporating or involving people who are interested in, willing to participate, because I'm sure you've seen this yourself over the years. You get a lot better result when someone is raising their hand or willingly saying, “yes, I'd like to be a part of that.” as opposed to mandating everybody.

Meredith Bell: [00:13:47] Do this. It's always good to start with a group that's enthusiastic. Then they help spread the word to others. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:13:55]  You have been on an amazing journey, author, entrepreneur, just across many levels. What has been your favorite part? 

Meredith Bell: O[00:14:03] The relationships I've been able to form. I love meeting new people.

Meredith Bell: [00:14:09] I love forming relationships that last over time. Some of our clients who use our software products have worked with us for over 20 years. I've been able to watch their children, grandchildren, we've become good friends. They're not just someone who buys our products and does business with us.

Meredith Bell: [00:14:28] I love that aspect of what I do. I'm really all about relationships and bringing value to others. Whether it's an idea that I might share, whether it's a book or a product. 

I just have thoroughly enjoyed having a positive impact. On the lives of other people and see them improve their own lives, both at work and at home. 

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:14:53]  Your words are wonderful.

Dr. Michelle St Jane:  [00:14:55] Meredith, I will have your social channels, websites, everything in the show notes. Any final words you'd like to share with my global audience? 

Meredith Bell: [00:15:05] I would just say one of the key skills that I feel is so important in our book that gets overlooked is expressing appreciation.  

Meredith Bell: [00:15:15] Too often we get so busy. We overlook saying something positive to another person to let them know what we value about them as a human being or as a contribution that they've made. 

I just take issue with any manager that says, “well, that's what we're paying them for. That's what they're supposed to be doing.”

Meredith Bell: [00:15:35] All human beings have a need to be acknowledged or recognized. I'm not talking phony craze. 

I'm talking about genuinely looking for opportunities to notice when people are doing things well. Then to comment on it, people will do this when someone takes time to do this for another human. 

It can last forever.

Meredith Bell: [00:15:58] It's something they carry with them. It helps build them up to want to give more of themselves. That would be my closing thought. Look for opportunities to affirm the good that others are doing.   

Dr. Michelle St Jane: [00:16:11] I appreciate how you show up in the world and your contribution and gift of knowledge Meredith. 

Meredith Bell: [00:16:18] Thank you.

Outro:  Dr. Michelle St Jane is a conscious steward as meaningful leadership in the world and the wider cosmos. Tune in every Thursday for real talk around life, leadership, and your conscious journey. Be ready to create and cultivate your dreams and wholehearted desires. Your support is valued. Please follow, subscribe, leave a review and a rating. More importantly, share with your connections.

Reach out.  I am interested to hear from you. 

Do you have a topic you'd like to explore? It would be great to have your feedback.

Dr. Michelle St Jane

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Meredith Bell

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Meredith Bell is 💖Centered Connector, author of 📚 My Strong for Performance book, speaker, podcaster and Co-Founder and President of Performance Support Systems, Inc.