Shhhh… Listen!

Posted on September 30th, 2013 in Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Some of the greatest leaders that I’ve known and certainly some of the greatest leaders in history have had many skills.  The one skills they all have is the invaluable skill of listening.  Listening, taking in everyone’s opinion, and synthesizing the best outcome is an incredibly valuable skill for any leader.  The ability to communicate a shared vision is extremely important when it comes to being a good and effective leaders, however, the only way to figure out what the shared vision of the group is is to listen!


Listening is more than just the ability to sit and listen to someone speak about whatever it is they are speaking about.  It is the ability to engage the person you are listening to, ask questions, gain information, and show the person that you actually care about what it is that person is saying.  The key is to be an “active listener.”


According to there are several “key elements” to being an active listener.

The first step is to pay attention.  Giving the speaker your undivided attention is not only polite, it will help you get the most out of the communication you are having with the person.  You will hear every word and be able to take in the most information possible. Without that information you are at a disadvantage in correctly interpreting their intended message.  Mind Tools says to look at the individual directly, put aside any distracting thoughts, don’t mentally prepare your rebuttal (be natural and spontaneous), avoid environmental factors, and pay attention to body language.  These things will help you pay attention to and communicate with the speaker.


The next step is to show that you are listening to what they are saying.  This should be done using non-verbal communication.  Things like nodding, smiling and other facial expressions, your posture being open and inviting, and encouraging the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” and “uh huh” will keep that person engaged and show that you are listening to what they are saying.


Providing feedback is also extremely important.  This is not to be confused with providing your opinions on the issue.  According to Mind Tools “Our personal filters, assumptions, judgements, and beliefs can distort what we hear.”  As a listener, your role is strive to understand what is being said.  This may require you to reflect and ask questions.”  Using phrases like “what I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying” are great ways not only to show that you are listening, but it will also help you synthesis the information in your own head.  Asking questions to clarify certain points will also help.  Make sure you stop to summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.


Suspend all of your judgements of the speaker’s comments.  Interrupting wastes time and frustrates the speaker.  Allowing the speaker to finish each point before asking questions is extremely important.  Make sure you do not interrupt with counter arguments, as this will dilute the speaker’s point.


Lastly, respond appropriately.  This model is meant to be respectful and understanding.  You as a leader are gaining information and perspective from the people you are trying to lead.  “You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.”  Be vulnerable and genuine in your responses; people want to feel like they are communicating with a real person.  When you do offer your opinions, make sure you do it respectfully and appropriately.  Make sure you are treating the other person in a way that you think is respectable and a way that you would like to be treated.


Listening is an extremely important part of leadership.  If your followers do not think that they are being listened to, you will find that you are leading nobody but yourself.  Sit down with the people around you, ask for their opinion, and listen to what they have to say.  You might learn something.

Until Next Time,


“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” -Bryant McGill

My Conversation with Corey Ciocchetti

Posted on September 18th, 2013 in Perspectives on Leadership by John Jensen

Guess what day it is!  GUESS WHAT DAY IT IS!

I had the opportunity to speak with a man by the name of Corey Ciocchetti.  Corey is an Assistant Professor of Business Ethics and Legal Studies in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.  Corey graduated with a law degree from Duke University School of Law, a Masters degree in Religious Studies and two Bachelors degrees in Finance and Economics from the University of Denver.  Corey is also a very inspirational speaker that speaks at many different engagements (retreats, conferences, universities).  Corey is also the author of the book Real Rabbits: Chasing An Authentic Life.

Last week on the leadership blog I spoke about choosing a leader that you admire and emulating them.  For Corey, that leader is Benjamin Franklin.  Corey says that Franklin’s rags to riches story is inspirational.  He also states that Franklin was always willing to make a stand and “ruffle people’s feathers.”  All the while maintaining his stature of being “well respected” by those around him and many people around the world.

In Corey’s book, as well as in many of his presentations, he talks about a champion racing dog named Cash and his owner.  “They are sitting on the porch one night and the dog says ‘I don’t want to run anymore; I think I’m going to retire.’  She says, ‘why would you do that at the peak of your career?  Look at all that we can have.  Are you hurt?’

‘I’m not hurt.’

‘Do I mistreat you? I didn’t think I did, but did I mistreat you?’

‘No you treat me wonderfully, you always have.’

‘Are you too old?’

‘No, I still have some race left in me, I’m not too old.’

‘Then why won’t you race?’

‘After running and running and running, all my life,  I finally realized those little white rabbits I’ve been chasing are fake.’”

Corey says that dogs and animals can’t rationalize things, much like humans can.  Things like chasing fake rabbits are not fulfilling for humans, because “we have the ability to seek things.”  Corey believes that if all you do is seek money, someone will always be richer than you are.  And deep down no one, in their heart, wants that.  People want things like family, friends, and relationships.  He says that people want a bunch of things, but if you put certain things first than you won’t be happy.  You will always chase and chase and never catch it.  That kind of behavior leads to depression.

This all brings up the question of “what exactly does it mean to be living an authentic life?”  Corey answers, it is to figure out exactly who you are “and then be that.”  He says “Don’t let the world pressure you into do things or who to be… That’s wrong.”

Corey says we as students need to understand the motivations of peer pressure and that those things are not in your best interest (things like drinking or cheating in class).  You must resist those pressures, because at the end of the day “you are what you habitually do.”

In Corey’s presentation he shows a clip from the film “Any Given Sunday” where the main coach speaks about who life and football are both a game of inches. (Click here to watch).  Corey says that this is the most valuable clip that he has in his repertoire.  Corey says, “look at the things he is saying.  Life is the six inches in front of your face.  Too often we look to our past and to our future, but rarely do we live in the moment.  The clip is profound and true.”

One of Corey’s presentations focuses on reclaiming our generation from the negative stereotypes and beliefs that our elders have.  In order to defeat those stereotypes, Corey says that our generation is “very smart.”  Our brain power has increased.  However, “motivation and desire is just not there.”  He says that in the current economy, market, and state of the world a lot of young people find themselves thinking “what can I do?”  He says that bad behaviors are taking away from valuable time that we have to make a difference.  “That kind of stuff is killing your generation.”  He says our generation is making a difference in certain areas (technology and social media).  However, interpersonal skills, working in teams, and taking initiative is extremely rare.  He says that when brain power mixes with poor motivation, it becomes this negative perception of our generation.  There is truth behind it!  “You are geniuses, but lazy.”

Switching gears, Corey and I spoke about his advising style he uses when he is working with students.  He says that he will never meet someone halfway on an issue.  He says that if you visualize this style, you have two arrows pointing at each other, making them clash.  This leads to awkward compromise and tension between the two parties.  Instead, he suggests meeting someone halfway, and then going the whole distance together.  “If you work together, the results are better.  Never meet halfway on the things you value.”

In the past I have often spoken about the importance of associating yourself with the right people.  Corey has an idea that is most easily described as “2+2=5”.  He says that this idea is all about synergy.  In this metaphor, “everybody is a two.  If you put the right two together you will get more than just 4.”  He says that good leaders are good at finding a bunch of twos and then adding them together and getting more.  He says to wait until you find your five.  “Your perfect two will make you better and lead to your success.”

“Leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve their goals and dreams.  A real leader can inspire other people.  If you figure it out, your job then becomes to teach others.”

I wanted to take this chance to thank Corey for taking the time to speak with me about leadership and living an authentic life.  Corey is a truly inspiring individual and I strongly suggest watching some of his presentations on YouTube.  Also, please take a moment to “Like” his Facebook page here.

Until Next Time,

John Jensen

“Authenticity is key.” – Tim Kaine

10 Things A New Student Leader Should Know

Posted on September 3rd, 2013 in Perspectives on Leadership,Tips and Secrets by John Jensen

Welcome to the 2013-2014 Academic Year!  I am very excited to once again be back on the Leadership Blog to share with you different views on leadership, as well as tips, lessons, and important skills necessary to be an effective and positive leader.

To start off the academic year I would like to start by sharing with you 10 things that a new leader should know about leadership!  These suggestions are in no particular order and are from different leadership experts, leaders on campus, or myself.


  1. Take Chances – (Brian Goetsch ’13) Taking chances is an extremely important part of being a leader.  The drive to take a chance and take a risk is what sets leaders aside from everyone else.  A leader is willing to challenge the process and put themselves out there.  Take the risk of speaking up in the first meeting of your student organization this semester and in class!
  2. Don’t Assert Dominance – (www.fierceinc.comAccording to the blog at Fierce Inc. “Let’s say you go to your team with a brilliant idea and instead of singing your praises, they push back on it. What do you do? If your answer is to get defensive or pull the “I’m the boss, so there” routine you’ll see less and less people speaking up and more and more people tuning out. There will be times, in your career as a leader, when it is important to let those whom you lead know that you are the boss and you’re not messing around. However, when you assert dominance in the heat of the moment it says one thing: you can’t be trusted.”
  3. Relationships are everything – George Washington once said “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.”  Surrounding yourself with individuals that are going to build on what you contribute and lead to joint success is extremely important.  Successful leaders have a core network of other leaders that are skilled individuals who help them to succeed.  Without other leaders and without followers there is no need to lead.   A leader that does everything of their own will is likely to make mistakes, anger others, and lose their status as a leader relatively quickly.
  4. Listen – Listening to others and making sure that other/variety voices are being heard is an extremely important part of being a leader.   Take the time to talk to others, ask open ended questions, and really listen.  Don’t be afraid of asking for advice or assistance.  No one will see you as week, in fact they will probably thank you for taking the time.
  5. Quick/Little Wins – This is something I touched on in my blog post describing my interview with Dave Kelly.  Look for little wins in your organization to help build up their confidence and your status as a leader.  Leadership does not equal position.  Becoming a leader can be as simple as being the one who volunteers to set up chairs before an event, giving your opinion in a meeting, etc.  Little wins will strengthen you for biggeropportunitities  in the future when you decide to run for a leadership position in your organization.  Do not expect to walk in, do nothing, and get elected; there is no meaning behind a win like that.
  6. Know Your Role Model – Choose a leader that you admire and try to emulate that person.  I think this is best described in Conan O’Brien’s commencement speech at Dartmouth in 2011, “Way back in the 1940’s there was a very funny man named Jack Benny.  He was a giant star and easily one of the greatest comedians of his generation.  And a much younger man named Johnny Carson wanted very much to be Jack Benny.  In some ways he was, but in many ways he wasn’t.  He emulated Jack Benny, but his own quirks and mannerisms, along with a changing medium, pulled him in a different direction.  And yet his failure to completely become his hero made him the funniest person of his generation.  David Letterman wanted to be Johnny Carson, and was not, and as a result my generation of comedians wanted to be David Letterman.   And none of us are — my peers and I have all missed that mark in a thousand different ways.  But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.  It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.”  The drive to be like a leader you admire will make you unique, but will also help you create your own definition of leadership.  In the process you will find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
  7. Chase authentic success – (Corey Ciocchetti) This is an idea that we are going to delve into sometime soon in a future blog post.  You should be chasing a life “filled with genuine contentment, strong personal relationships and a solid character.”  Don’t do something just to add it to your resume or to make the most amount of money.  In other words, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.” – David McCullough Jr.
  8. You are a servant.  By choosing to lead you are part of something bigger than yourself.  For a perfect example of servant leadership please read the blog post “Being Mr. G” from June 18, 2012.
  9. Start With Why – (Simon Sinek) Knowing the values, mission, and purpose of your organization is perhaps the most important aspect of leading a group of people.  I strongly encourage you to Google “Simon Sinek Golden Circle” and learn about how people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  If you don’t know why you do something, what you do becomes meaningless.
  10. Quit the things you don’t care about – Don’t waste your time or the time of others by wasting your time with things you don’t care about.  If you aren’t having fun with what you are doing and you don’t believe in the mission of the organization than anything you do is meaningless.  Joining an organization just to build your resume is a terrible reason to join.  It can be a reason, but not the only reason.  Enjoy what you do!

I hope this helps you start off your leadership journey!  If you have any questions about leadership you may contact me at or come to the Student Involvement Office in the UC.


“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” -Nelson Mandela