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Making Noise vs. Making an Impact

Picture of Erica Neal

Erica Neal

Erica was born & raised in west Texas, graduating from Permian High School (the school from “Friday Night Lights”). She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Finance & Economics from UT Permian Basin. After college, she moved to the DFW area and began her career in finance by working for a large investment firm. She learned the basics of running a financial practice but also saw large holes in the company’s planning process from early on.
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Making Noise vs. Making an Impact

Being the eldest child in a family of 5 children, I learned some key leadership skills very early in life. Obviously with that many kids running around it was not uncommon for chaos and messes to run rampant. As the ringleader, I usually held the responsibility of making sure the clean up process was thoroughly completed. Beginning in the early stages of life and progressing throughout my middle school, high school and even into college years, there were words of wisdom engrained into me repeatedly. Always leave it better than it was when you found it.

As a child, that meant picking up toys and clothes even though I wasn’t the one who got them out. In middle/high school it was helping my coaches, teachers or youth group leaders clean rooms and gyms after events. The words of this statement have stayed the same, but the meaning has developed over the years. In my adult life moving into my career and parenthood, leaving things better than how they were found transitioned into connecting with people and leaving an impression that would impact them moving forward. There is an old adage that everyone is fighting some battle you know nothing about and in making a conscious effort to connect with people I’ve found nothing but truth in those words. When we take time to stop talking and start communicating with others, the opportunity for learning about each other widens. Being able to positively impact another person is not unilateral.

 Positivity is contagious so if you’re able to spread it to others, you either have developed it within yourself or will eventually catch it. In business growth and networking that type of impact carries weight and is not easily forgotten. When we’re looking to network with others and create synergy, the best place to start is showing you have a heart for people and are genuine. There are a few dynamics in our world and overall business models that need to be changed and I have personally found those adjustments to be effective in connecting with others to leave them better than when we first met.

Being Loud Vs. Being Heard

The millennial generation is unique in that we experienced life and childhood before technology and smart phones but were still young enough when it was introduced that our daily lives and surrounding world has forever changed. Social media is an incredible platform for keeping up with friends and family as well as seeing the latest trends, funny cat videos and “news” (let’s be honest, the term news is used loosely nowadays). With all the great things social media has to offer, there have been some…… we will just say “interesting” developments in our expression of thought. Personally, I am amazed at the quantity of experts I am connected to through social media and how many subjects they are fluent in.

 I’m sure most people see the same type of rants on Facebook as I do. You know, the ones that start with “I’m just going to say” or “If you don’t agree with me on this topic you can unfriend me” and are usually longer than this entire article. I do love the utilization of our first amendment and the passion that is so apparent in the posts, pictures and shares seen across all media platforms. However, there is a serious lack of impact in the social media rants alone. Of course, I have taken interest in others’ points of view but I’ve yet to hear of or encounter anyone who has converted their beliefs or ways of thinking due to a “Rant Alert” post they read online. There is a degree of separation from facing the issue when using virtual mediums. We are able to voice our displeasure with as many capital letters as we deem fit without ever really facing opposition other than a couple snarky comments that can easily be deleted or blocked.

 Even at networking events, we’ve all seen the person who talks the loudest and has the most to say without allowing anyone else to get a word in edgewise. But speaking to the masses can be effective, if done correctly. Some of the greatest leaders initiated entire movements through speaking to groups but those interactions re very different from the social justice posts we all scroll past. When great leaders speak they do so in a way that they are actually heard and their story can be told therefore creating the largest impact. Being the loudest voice on social media with the longest posts and most condemning pictures may grab attention, but to truly make change is to acknowledge the other sides’ point of view as valid and propose why your solution can solve their problems too. We cannot discount another person’s problems just because they put a drag on accomplishing our own goals.

 Stimulating change in any area starts with breaking down walls of defense. You will never be heard by someone guarding their selves from not being acknowledged. Once it is communicated that their fears and concerns are valid and will be addressed as well, communication can begin to flow and you can be heard. And when I say heard, I mean your problems being felt by others and your solutions striking passion within them so you can all move forward. Communicating to be heard as opposed to getting attention does not mean every person will hear you. There will always be those too caught up in their box to ever see outside of it.

 But who wants to work with those kinds of people anyway? When connecting with potential business partners, investors or other connections, everyone has previous experiences that drive their defense mechanisms today. Impactful speaking stems from the power to bring people to hear your side and see your truth. When you’re able to do that, you create the strongest team with members who understand one another and have unified their goals.

Listening vs. Waiting to Respond

My day job is in a very male dominated field. I have no problem with working around men and have created multiple friendships and partnerships along the way. But there is an interesting dynamic that I’ve noticed occur repeatedly. During a group training or round table conference there are multiple questions and talking points brought up which often stem from other questions or talking points brought up by someone else. This brainstorming scenario is amazing and creates the opportunity for new ideas and learning. The problem is nobody ever hears the new ideas or learns because they start talking while the other person is still finishing their thought. Then the original speaker realizes they’re being interrupted so they have to speak even louder to make sure they’re heard. You can imagine the compound effect this situation succumbs to (it’s honestly fun for me to sit back and watch in silence for a while). Obviously, that is not an environment that ends up in much productivity. How can you ever strive to learn anything from anyone if you’re talking the whole time and don’t even know what the other person ends up saying? In the words of my darling grandmother, “we are given two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak”.

 For those that know my history in my financial planning career, my first job at a large investment firm was a bona- fide nightmare. However, I like to acknowledge what is gained and the lessons learned from every experience. My manager was the only female manager in our branch, and she was amazing. Although the “financial planning” content was rock bottom, the people skills I learned from her have continuously come into play. One lesson in particular was to always let the person you’re speaking to finish their whole sentence before responding. In fact, she would count two “Mississippi’s” after their last word to make sure they didn’t have more to say. I have personally implemented this practice and the result is incredible.

 Sometimes people are external processors and speak as they’re thinking through the conversation. What’s interesting is because they’re actively thinking as they speak, the direction of their words usually changes along the way because as they think, they talk their self into their final perception of the topic. I urge you to try this. Actively go into a conversation with someone and consciously make an effort to speak as little as possible and never before the other person has completely stopped. First of all, allowing someone else to speak actually releases chemicals in their brain that makes them feel good. They will associate that good feeling with having spoken with you. More importantly, when you listen to someone else speak you’re able to hear their thoughts, feelings and motivation.

 Understanding these elements of a person provides the information needed to establish a mutual connection. There is no better way to find out if there is potential synergy between people than measuring whether their values are in alignment or not. If they aren’t, that is ok. Remember, you do not have to work with everyone to be successful! Success comes from working with the right people toward a common goal. To find those right people, just shut your pie hole and figure out what others are all about.

Making Noise vs. Making an Impact

I know this action item sounds very similar to “Being Loud vs. Being Heard” and yes, they are related but we are going to take it one step further. Once you are able to stop being loud and actually connect with people to have your story heard, there still has to be action taken to move forward. There are so many people who are great at speaking and connecting with others but never achieve the goals they preach. They have attractive charisma and an interesting story to tell but they don’t stimulate any real change or impact in their field. These personality traits are helpful for networking and drawing a crowd, but what is done from there is the most important. Impacting others and creating change does not have to be bred from charisma.

 For example, Mother Theresa and Bill gates are some of the greatest leaders who changed to world forever but have not been labelled “charismatic”. They saw problems and opportunity for making a difference, so they reached out to have their solutions heard, then took action steps to make change happen. True leaders are not sitting high on their horse barking orders at others as to what should be done. No way! The most impactful people are in the trenches, facing the obstacles head on, alongside their devoted team focused on achieving the goal. I’m as guilty as the next person of seeing and hearing about issues in real estate or even in the world and thinking “it shouldn’t be that way” but never making moves to bring everyone back on track.

 We all know that actions speak louder than words, but have we truly digested how that dynamic effects our business? Shouting your dreams from the rooftops and inspiring others to join your cause are great first steps, but when you finally move into the material, real life changes your value and credibility are solidified. If there is something you are passionate about, dive in deep to figure out what makes it tick. Ask questions, attend seminars, read books, do what you need to learn as much as you can so that you can embed yourself to solve problems and improve situations. Too often issues are seen on the surface level, receiving just enough information for little birdies to chirp angrily about, but never understood so thoroughly that the root of the problem can be established and ripped out of the ground. In all honesty, I have a black thumb and killer of even the most low maintenance plants.

 But if I know anything about gardening its that if you pull weeds without being sure to extract the root, you’ve done nothing but waste time. Soon enough, the weeds and grass will resurface causing more problems than before. Another example is seen in the medical world. How many people actually treat the symptoms of their pain and problems as opposed to making lifestyle changes for true results? I’m not against necessary medication by any means, but the point is when we know our goals and understand how to pave the way to success it must be expected hurdles will arise.

 And when your faced with obstacles, your passion and determination are the only momentum to continue to drive you forward. The most impactful changes have been made when the most dedicated rise from the ashes. There are those that will say what they want and tell everyone their amazing dreams. Then there are those that will walk the walk and put their words into motion. I’ll let you ponder which of those people is most likely to obtain their goals and impact multiple circles of others around them.

In today’s world, there is no shortage of “social justice warriors” and “brand ambassadors”. There are plenty of people who make their opinions known through a variety of mediums. Like I mentioned, the utilization of freedom of speech and the passion demonstrated is a beautiful thing to see. But time and time again the lasting impacts made result from people understanding how to communicate to be heard, listening to others for meaningful connections and choosing to make movement instead of just making noise. It takes time, it wont be easy, but it is definitely worth it. For you and for those in the wake of your change.

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