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Archive for the ‘Food for Thought’ Category

I’ve been told on more than one occasion, by more than one person who knows me well, that my expectations for myself are extremely high, and these people are correct. They are. I’m sure I could tell you all kinds of reasons for why that is, but in terms of Strengths, I attribute it to having Maximizer as a dominant theme. Folks with high Maximizer have high expectations and work hard to make something strong into something superb.

I spent today with a team of fairly young leaders from a company I’ve been blessed to work with for the last several months. Today was our first workshop and it was a FULL day. As the day came to an end, and I packed up all my materials, I felt the too familiar “let down” feeling that I often experience after workshops I facilitate. I suspect part of it is the actual physical disconnect that comes when one has been fully engaged, mentally (and for me empathetically), with a group of bright, interested, interesting individuals for an extended period. I suspect the other part is the process of my internal self-assessment; the desire to determine how well I served them, and often find myself wanting.

You see, I can always think of one or two things I could have done more effectively to connect at a deeper level, to serve more effectively, to facilitate more new insights, to offer more new perspectives. I am fully aware that my opportunity, at that point, is to make note of these insights so I can implement them in the next workshop. What I strive for is to be able to have those insights earlier, to be able to adapt as I go through the actual workshop and improve in the moment.

Here are today’s two reminders:

You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame. And, just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

I don’t usually use a lot of tools in my workshops. Yes, there’s high quality content, thought-provoking questions, facilitated discussions, group coaching, and exercises that will help bring the key lessons to life for the participants…but I typically don’t use a lot of worksheets, forms, etc. In my experience, often creating the space where some of these deep, meaningful, perhaps uncomfortable conversations among key team members can take place is the greatest value I can offer.

About a month ago, I had another leadership coach observe me in action. Her feedback included a recommendation that I enlist more tools; although she admitted to having a bias for tools. Today, I enlisted a lot more tools…and while some worked well, some didn’t resonate with me or the team I was serving. The day was too full…we all needed more room for the free-flowing discussion. We needed longer breaks. I needed to remember that just because I had access to the tools didn’t mean I needed to use them today.

What I’m most thankful for, at the end of the day, is that we walked through the “Today was great because ___________, and would have been even better if _____________” feedback exercise and they were candid with me about worked and what didn’t. I have their perspective on how to serve them better in the future. I look forward to having that opportunity.

In the meantime, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to work with and serve them today.

 

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I have an idea for a new business. I dream about it. I talk to other people about it; tell them I own it already, in fact! I write advertising for it in my head. I can see it with crystal clear vision. I’m tempted to order furniture and other supplies for it. So far, it’s only a domain name I have purchased, but have yet to make real in any other way.

What held me back, you ask? Well, I’ve never ventured into the realm of commercial real estate. This business will require some space; some unconventional space at that. I didn’t know anything about leases, utilities, insurance, etc…and that held me back for a bit; until a recent phone call with an entrepreneurial inner circle I belong to, when I shared my vision and what was stopping me moving forward, and one of the women shared how commercial leases work.

Voila! I had an entirely new level of understanding. Here’s where I was and where I am now.

Driving around the locations I think might be appropriate for my business, I look at buildings for lease. One, in particular, has a sign on it that says “$6-8 per square foot.” I assumed — without investigating — that meant $6-8 per square foot PER MONTH! For 1000 square feet, which is too small for my needs, that would be at least $6000 per month!

I thought it was insane. After all, I don’t live in Manhattan, London, Paris, or the like! I wondered how that could be and how small business could afford it. There’s my ignorance on full display.

I was enlightened on Monday, that those kinds of lease rates are typically based on a 1-3 year lease agreement; the cost is per year, not per month! With that new understanding, I quickly did some preliminary math and discovered I can afford commercial space without too much concern over being able to cover the rent.

The result: I’ve already spoken with a developer who specializes in renovating vacant buildings, as well as a commercial realtor and will be looking at a few spaces next week. I’m not just jumping in; first I will do some market research to ensure there is indeed demand for what I want to offer and also to determine appropriate price points for the service.

My point is this: I was allowing fear to hold me back. Fear that I didn’t have the resources necessary to even move forward. Fear that I lacked something fundamental that would keep me from success. Fear that what I would learn about leasing commercial space would tell me my dream wasn’t going to become a reality.

And think of the very simple thing I needed to do that would allow me to understand what was really involved: All I needed to do was pick up the phone, call a commercial realtor, and ask a simple question — how do lease rates work? That simple.

So what is holding you back today? What simple step could you take to increase your understanding of something that would move you forward in whatever you are striving to achieve?

I encourage you to simply take a deep breath, and do the thing you think you cannot do. You just may literally astound yourself!

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I started drinking coffee in high school. It was the thing to do, right? After all, my parents started every morning with a fresh pot, and it always smelled so good. Even today, I love the aroma of good coffee beans or coffee brewing. However, my coffee drinking habit changed dramatically a couple of years ago.

Well, it changed the first time about 8-½ years ago, when my husband and I decided to start a family; I switched to decaf at that point, and have not switched back. But I digress…about two years ago, I was still drinking my two cups of decaf every morning; one while getting ready to leave for work, and one in the car on my 45-minute commute. It was a strongly ingrained habit, part of my daily ritual, prepared for and completed each day fully on auto-pilot (without any thought given to this practice…oooof!).

One day, however, it all changed, and I don’t know what the catalyst was, exactly, unless it was related to my deepening thoughts around how I was wasting my life energy, time, and talent in a dead-end corporate job where I was in the wrong role and my true talents (growing people) were not appreciated nor desired. Those thoughts led me to thinking more about everything involved in that job — including the daily commute of 45 minutes each way — and what changes I needed to make in my life. After all, it’s not a dress rehearsal; this is the only one I get and I am determined to make the most of it!

In that process, I actually tasted my coffee one morning. Yes, actually was conscious, attuned to, and thinking about what my coffee tasted like and I realized it didn’t taste like anything! At least nothing yummy, anymore (I had cut out the sweetened, flavored, non-dairy creamers for other reasons…and was just down to coffee with skim…blick!). I thought, perhaps, I’d just made a bad pot (not particularly specific about the amount of beans I would grind each time). So, the next day, I considered the flavor, again. Still “blick!” And I decided there was no reason to keep drinking it. I cleaned out my coffee maker, stored it in a cupboard, and that’s been that.

However, I do still enjoy a caramel latte on occasion. And in the last month, I’ve had occasion to order one in a coffee shop where I was actually at a table, rather than on my way out the door. On both occasions, I received my latte very pleasantly presented in one of those short, wide, over-sized coffee “bowls” coffee shops are want to use, and my immediate reaction was irritation! That’s right, I was not delighted, but irritated!

Skilled barista’s are particularly talented in all things coffee, and one of those skills is filling those “bowls” right to the rim. Nice to not get shorted on a high-priced beverage, but maddeningly impossible to move it without spilling some of that precious liquid, leaving a sticky mess. It also requires one to actually stay in one place, carefully sipping (at least at first) one’s drink. I had forgotten to request a “to-go” cup; my fault.

The result? I was forced to pay attention to my latte and how I drank it. I sipped it slowly and carefully, so as not to spill. I took the time to drink it at a leisurely pace, actually tasting all the flavors. I watched people in the coffee shop around me. I breathed. I relaxed. I savored the moment and the latte…and when I did allow myself the time to do that, rather than hurrying on to whatever was next on my to-do list, I was intensely grateful for the oversized coffee “bowl” with liquid to the brim. It reminded me I’m not in a race, and busy doesn’t equal productive, nor does it equal time spent on things that truly matter.

My questions to you, faithful reader, are these:

What part of your life are you not “tasting,” not fully experiencing?

What habits do you  practice on auto-pilot and how are they serving you (or not)?

What are you missing because you don’t take the time to savor the moment?

I would love to hear from you…use the comments box below and let me know what you come up with.

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I facilitated a couple of workshops, discussing communication fundamentals and the dynamics within a particular team, yesterday. I had invited an observer into the second session, as we are considering doing some work together and she wanted to see me in action.

Afterwards, as I always do, I asked for some feedback. Her response? She noticed a drop in my energy level at a couple of points during the two-hours she observed. It was true; my energy level did drop and I was acutely aware of it. In “Strengths” terms, one of my dominant strengths had not served me well and I ended up in the “basement,” because it wasn’t on my radar, which would have allowed me to think ahead to how I would adapt when the moment hit.

The basement is where we go when our strengths are not used to full, positive potential, or when they are overused. In my case, it was Empathy, which my #8, so lots of influence on me at that level. I tend to really pick up on and identify with the tone and emotion in the room, and yesterday, there were a couple of people who seriously checked out for a portion of the session; in a small group, it’s painfully obvious to everyone around. I allowed myself to get sucked in…Not what I consider a top-notch performance for myself.

So, after receiving the feedback, I thought it through during my hour-plus drive home. Then, I spent some time discussing it with a Gallup Strengths Coach today. We talked through why it happens, how I can be more prepared for it, and what steps I can put in place to guard against allowing myself to end up in the basement, again.

It always comes full circle for me: Self-Awareness allows us the opportunity to think and act with intention, which makes it more likely we will achieve our desired outcomes.

I am thankful for the awareness and the choices I now have as a result.

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Practice!

What’s the question, you ask? The question is: How do I…? (you fill in the blank)

As a coach and mentor, I’m asked this question frequently by the people with whom I am blessed to work. The “blank” — whatever it is they are trying to do differently or learn — varies from person to person, or is sometimes the same. And, truth be told, are some of the same questions I have asked my mentors and coaches, even myself, on numerous occasions.

Having gone through an interesting reflection exercise recently, creating a success timeline for my life through an in-depth study of Think and Grow Rich (by Napoleon Hill), led by two of my mentors, Paul Martinelli and Roddy Galbraith, I realized that the answer to the question is: Practice.

Yep, it’s truly that simple.

Whatever it is, we must simply move ourselves into the action of being and doing. For example, if you find yourself lacking patience and desire to become more patient (this is one I’ve been working on for some time), you must practice being patient. This requires a level of awareness thru which you can recognize the signs and symptoms of your becoming impatient, having the ability to think into it, and make different choices about how you respond (thoughtfully and with focus on achieving a desired outcome) rather than simply reacting (typically, emotionally and immediately…with little thought given to the outcome).

Perhaps it’s learning something new we desire. This begins with a desire to learn, followed by some level of belief we can do it, and some understanding of, at least, the fundamental principles that govern whatever it is. For example, once I wanted to learn to ski. I had the desire, believed I could learn, and had some knowledge of the basics. Then, I hired a skilled, patient, instructor, with whom I spent the day. I won’t tell you it was a quick, fun, or easy process. There was growling, frustration, and tears involved (and to be perfectly frank, probably several swear words!) — on my part, not his. But, eventually, I figured it out and was able to get on and off the chair lift and make my way down the bunny hill, and stop, effectively. To actually master skiing would require my spending a lot more time, effort, and energy practicing…

I think often, as adults, we wish there were some faster, easier, less painful way to acquire new skills or change behaviors; almost as if we imagine there’s some greater being who will bestow upon us — with the swoosh of a magic wand — that which we desire, without our having to do anything to make it happen. Alas! It’s not to be!

We must practice. We must reflect and hopefully learn something from our reflection that we can apply to the process to improve the next iteration. Then, we must practice some more.

If you have the opportunity to observe children, I encourage you to do so, and while you’re doing that, think about this: There was a time when we didn’t know how to do any of the things we do, many of them effortlessly, today. As children, we didn’t necessarily think about how hard it might be, or whether we would fail, we just tried stuff. And we kept trying until we mastered whatever it was. We practiced.

Practice something today — intentionally — and see if it doesn’t make a difference. Then come back and post a comment so we can all learn with you.

 

 

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If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll be aware that I started doing DDP Yoga nearly a year ago. It’s a DVD-based program I do at home, and have loaded on my laptop so I can yoga when I travel, as well. One of the routines is called Red Hot Core. It’s a little more than 12 minutes of core work that will leave you feeling as if your abs will never move, again!

So for 11 months now, I’ve been doing DDP Yoga fairly consistently three times a week. I’ve added in time on my stationary bike (up to 53 minutes from the 30 I started at, and at a higher level of resistance), and do my best to hit the local Pilates class at least once a week.

Today, I did two of the DDP routines — Fat Burner and Red Hot Core. I haven’t done RHC for a while, but today I did the entire routine, start to finish, with all of the reps of the various moves, without stopping. THIS IS A FIRST! Not to say that my abs weren’t twitching and trembling and threatening to “charlie horse” in the middle of it, but I did it.

I did it. All of it.

It was, as one of my mentors, Chet Scott, would say, a burst — the result of consistently doing the work, day in and day out, mundane mostly, but sticking to it because you know it’s the right thing to do…and eventually, you get the pay-off.

Funny how things work; I received this blog post in my email just a bit ago…It’s from Chet, about the burst. Today I saw the pay-off (at least in one area of my life). Hope you enjoy it.

My question to you is this: What are the mundane things you know you need to do to achieve your heart’s desires? Because that is how you get there…doing the mundane day in and day out until you have manifested your desire into being. If your desire is strong enough, if it burns within you, you will sustain the activities required to get there. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

Stick with it…you’ll see results. It will be worth it. I can speak from experience.

 

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I can’t participate in that training. My company won’t pay for it. 

Have you ever said that? I know I have, back before I realized my personal development is 100% MY responsibility. Now I know that the money, time, and energy I invest in developing me is the BEST investment I’ll ever make in my life…and the dividends are beyond amazing!

I was foolish enough to limit my learning, and by extension my potential, based on what my employer was willing to pay for. Looking back, I feel so silly. You see, I’ve learned that if you want to reach your potential, your development is your responsibility, no one else’s. And if you choose to leave it up to someone else, be prepared to live the life they design for you. When I was in that mode — leaving my development up to someone else — I ended up in some places that held no interest for me and were so far from my strength zones it wasn’t even funny!

I spent two full days in Excel training because my boss at the time, an engineer masquerading as an HR person, used Excel for everything and thought I should be an expert at it, as well. It didn’t matter that my official area of expertise, at the time, was corporate communication, and unofficially, people development! I still have the “keyboard short-cuts cheat sheet” the trainer provided, but none of it makes much sense to me.

Many years earlier in my career, I spent three months plodding my way through a web development/programming course because a different manager thought I should be responsible for all aspects of our organization’s web site — content (which made sense, based on my position), design, and the technical operations. Never mind that we had a fully-staffed design group and a web developer on staff. It was a life-sucking three months.

At both of those times in my career, my level of awareness about my potential and my responsibility for my growth obviously wasn’t very high. I didn’t realize I had choices about what I learned and how I applied it. I didn’t realize it was ok for me to spend  money on my own development (beyond all the books I bought and devoured on a regular basis). Today, I can guarantee you, I wouldn’t be wasting a moment of my life’s energy on such folly; not only do I know my passion, purpose, and calling with great clarity, I also understand my growth is my responsibility — I get to drive this bus and I am on a journey!

This self-imposed constraint was brought to my awareness last week when I sat next to a delightful young woman on my return flight from a speaking engagement in Phoenix. A recruiter for an engineering firm headquartered in Charlotte, NC, she was studying for her SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) Professional in HR accreditation exam on the plane, which opened the door to a great conversation. 

As it turned out, she was taking the exam of her own accord; her employer wasn’t even aware she was studying for it. She planned to use her success with the exam to begin a conversation about her future with the organization and the opportunity to branch into other areas of HR beyond talent acquisition. She was confident that by investing in herself and taking the initiative to study for and earn her PHR would send the message that she has a lot more potential and drive than they might recognize.

My question to you is this: Whose responsibility is your development? 

In the past 2.5 years, I have invested enough cash to have purchased a new Volvo XC60, and countless hours in learning, with coaches, mentors, and others in like-minded, growth-oriented communities and programs. I can honestly say that the person I was at the beginning of 2012 very nearly no longer exists in comparison with the person who is typing this blog. My life is extremely different, fuller, more satisfying, with great promise to continue getting better each day.

I don’t say this to impress you, but to impress upon you how important it is to take responsibility for your development, financially as well as regards time and energy. It will open doors for you that you probably can’t even imagine today. It will change your life in amazing ways.

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