Have you ever found yourself in a situation where these thoughts run through your head…
I can’t, no I can, I can’t, come on… yes you can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
For those of you who know me, you may think I’m a risk taker. I’ve done several things in my life that would indicate as such… signed up for study abroad when I knew it was riding on me raising $5,000 I didn’t have as a student… walked into the president’s office, basically saying I was “smart” and that I was the right person to move to London… moved my family with my husband to Austin when I had the “perfect” set-up in Seattle and Starbucks… starting my own business. I spend my life and career encouraging others to take risks EVERYDAY. Risk taking is my name, until I met my match… Space Mountain.
From left to right…
MIDDLE ROW: Coach #1: The calm, zen coach who talked about enjoying the stars inside as you zipped along. ME: Yes, that’s me. The risk-taker. Yes, my eyes are fully shut. Yes, I am gripping the bar. Yes, I am… smiling.
FRONT ROW: Coach #2: Yes, that says “Adrenaline” on his shirt. He planned that face and promised “epic fun.” Coach #3: Reminding me… Come on, the kids want you to be part of this fun.
This was THE MOUNTAIN of TERROR in my mind. I know, for many of you, this is such a tame little ride. How silly. But for me, so many things would surely go wrong that this was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. I have never been a physical risk taker and the list of con’s made perfect sense…
- Malfunction. For Pete’s sake, this ride is ancient after all.
- It’s dark in there. When I am flung from the malfunctioning seat restraint, it will take HOURS to find my body.
- Oh, and not to mention, my poor, poor, little children.. I need to protect them. It’s not just about me.
- It was my first time to Disney and wouldn’t this be the first time it all broke down?!?
Reluctantly, I got into the line with the kids (who by the way, had NO concern in the world). As each minute passed, we inched closer and my heart started beating a little faster. I was a leader of this team about to embark on a dangerous mission, I had to remain calm and keep smiling. My other leader, my husband, was curious about lunch… how could he be so calm? Did he not know what was ahead?!?! We might die in there!!!
Well, as you can see from this post… die I did not. I did go into the Mountain. I did ride the ride. And this is how I was able to survive…
- I was surrounded by those who didn’t have the irrational fear I did. They had experience and the knowledge. They knew it was not only safe, but could actually be fun.
- I stepped out of my fear and envisioned what it would be like at the end of the ride. I would get to celebrate with my team, my family, about a first that we all got to share together.
- My kids will see a role model, conquering her fear and that will be a powerful lesson and encourage them to do the same.
- I listened to my coaches and thought about what they said, “MOM… there is a four year old getting on this ride. Get a grip.”
As a leader we step onto our own roller coasters everyday. Whether it be a new position, a complex project, that colleague we can’t seem to get along with… It may be scary and you might be fearful of the outcome, but challenge yourself to take the step. Surround yourself with the right support… other leaders, experience, knowledge, coaches… and just do it!
As I approached that ride, I thought most about how amazing it would feel for me to conquer a fear that I’ve always had. And it was. So much, that I actually rode twice.
Let me know how your ride went…
Boom, ba-boom, boom, ba-boom… that car was vibrating. The music was cranked up to 11. The person inside was singing, I mean singing full out. Hands a wavin’, interacting with the audience, singing at the top of the lungs, belting like Aretha… it felt really good.
Yeah, that was me. I admit it. And while I risked being seen by unsuspecting neighbors who may now think twice about play dates with the Hill boys, it was worth it. I felt so happy. All of my favorite songs were playing and while these artists were perfectly competent to sing on their own, I’m certain their performance was just a wee bit better with my help on Tuesday morning.
I’ve been accused before of being “that person.” You know, the person who shows up to work that is overly positive. “Good morning everyone!” And while one might think that is an admirable trait, some might tell you that it didn’t work for them.
Take my ex-coworker, now good friend, who I’ll refer to as “Gena.” When we worked together at Starbucks in Creative Services in the late 90s, I would commonly get in around 7 (hey, I’m a recovering farm girl). “Gena” would arrive around 8:30 or so, a sane time by most people’s standards. She would turn the corner heading toward our space and I can only imagine what was going through her head…
“Damn, there she is. She’s already here again. Isn’t everything so happy, Miss Happy Pants? Keep your face down… don’t make eye contact… oh wait, it’s too late… she’s… coming… towards… me. Here it comes. Brace yourself.” GOOD MORNING GENA!
Poor Gena. I never gave her a chance. I was consumed with my emotion, not taking into account that maybe it was too much for her.
This all came to mind when I was talking to someone yesterday about how as a leader, whether we are talking to a peer, a direct report or a boss, we need to “meet them where they are.” Where is that person emotionally? How are they feeling? And if someone is really stressed, how being overly positive can actually make things worse. It can also be equally bad if the person is overly positive and so are you and you about to embark on some critical thinking. Think you might have some blind spots?
Next time you meet someone, take a minute to calculate where that person is emotionally on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being miserable, 10 being jubilant. What are you about to do and where do you need him or her to be? As a leader, how can use your emotional knowledge to lead someone to a productive place, not force him or her there with a GOOD MORNING!
This morning, however, I’ll be cranking to 11 because I’m meeting with Kevin Leahy, the brain trainer, who is well over 15 on the scale of positivity at ALL TIMES. We’re meeting for coffee at 8 am (although he suggested 7… Love that guy!) for a little brainstorming about the brain, a perfect reason to be overly positive.
Have a great Friday everyone!
I had an amazing opportunity to go to California this week to work with a group of entrepreneurs. Only, this time, the coaching was for me, the entrepreneur.
It’s the ole case of “the cobbler has no shoes.” Well, I’m taking the time and working on my business. It’s exciting, exhilarating, overwhelming and did I say, exciting?! It is amazing to be building my business while I work as an executive coach with others on how to manage their leadership through growth. It’s provided me some incredible insight and learning.
On the plane ride out there, I was gazing out the window as we were heading toward our descent. I’ve always loved observing the clouds. It’s otherworldly. Peaceful. But, there it was. In the midst of all these pretty, airy, white clouds, there was a streak of a very dark cloud. The darkest cloud I’ve ever seen (my picture doesn’t do it justice). It was the only one.
What makes a cloud so incredibly dark, almost black? Yes, we know that it means that it might produce rain, but why is it dark? It has everything to do with how deep and densely packed the water particles are. In general, the color of a cloud depends chiefly on the cloud’s relationship to the sunlight.
Wow… that’s deep. The color of a cloud depends chiefly on the cloud’s relationship to the sunlight. Does that apply to humans as well?
As I walked into the room the next day, I found myself in a room of white clouds. “Hi! How are you?!” “How have you been?” “How is business?” and there it was, plopped down in the middle of the room. Heavy, weighted, energy draining and about to release some precipitation from the eyes. It was the dark cloud.
This woman was a mess and I wondered, what would happen if she released this negative energy. Would she become a white cloud? What could get her there?
As humans, when we see the dark cloud, our human nature provokes us to reject, walk away, maybe even judge, “What’s her deal?”
What I observed over the two days is what I would challenge all of us white cloud leaders to do. Resist the urge to walk away. Step up as a leader, reach out, listen, empathize. Build a relationship to sunlight. Allow the space for the release.
Next time you see the dark cloud, what choice will you make? Tell me what you do when you encounter a dark cloud in the comments section below, and be sure to link me to your webpage/blog/facebook/twitter/etc!
Welcome back to the real world after the holidays. Still working on your goals?
Recently I talked about the power of consistency and it’s impact on reaching your goals.
There is also power in writing a goal that is “SMART”… Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. That is critical to achievement.
The other reason I mentioned for keeping up goals or resolutions is a compelling reason to change. As humans, it’s pretty simple. We are motivated by pain or pleasure and we need to think about what the gain will be if we accomplish our goal.
Have you also invested the time to write down the costs if you don’t achieve the goal and benefits when you do? What’s it worth to you? It’s this type of visualization that is often missed. If you can’t truly think through the value of achieving the goal and really see it, will you actually achieve it? You don’t have to be Einstein to know that “What you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.”
Psychologists speak frequently about the power of visualization when it comes to exercise, weight loss, etc. In fact, one interesting study discussed in Psychology Today on everyday people by Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. Dr. Yue reported that there was a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym. Interestingly, the group who didn’t and only conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5%)!
A SMART goal might look something like this… I will improve my engagement and relationships by scheduling lunch twice a month off-site with a direct report and focusing on purely on connecting and how we can support one another.
Next step… why? Why not? Visualize it. Imagine what things will look like when you achieve your goal. Engage all of the senses. What are you seeing? Hearing? Feeling? For the goal above, your visualization might sound something like…
By spending more time together, my direct reports will get to know me as a person, not just “the boss.” The air of tension and straightening of backs when I enter the room will go away and instead, people will be relaxed and in the rhythm of their work. I will start to understand what motivates each person, what is important to them inside and outside of work. With a stronger relationship, there will be more effort towards making each other successful and achieving the goals. I will see higher engagement and the company will profit from this. And ultimately, I won’t be as stressed and feel confident that we’re all on this team together.
Review your goals daily, if not weekly as that helps with consistency. PLUS review your compelling reason… read your visualization along with your goal. How has visualization helped you? Let us know.
Do you know the difference a few words can make in your environment? Whether it’s in the workplace, at home, or with your friends, positive, active communication can have a huge impact in the happiness of the people around you. And it’s FREE!
With my strengths being “Adaptability”, “Positivity”, “Learner”, “Empathy”, and “Connectedness” I am naturally inclined to communicate positively. I am instinctually more positive and am motivated to make others feel positive as well.
However, this skill or inclination doesn’t come easily to everyone. Perhaps one of your strengths is “Deliberative,” and while you are great at making sure every detail is covered, and have naturally good judgment, you are also careful to not give too much praise. Or maybe you have strength in “Focus” and where that can be great for keeping everyone on task, it might inhibit you from automatically taking the time to slow down and acknowledge accomplishments along the way.
And for many of us, our conversations focus around getting right to solutions as quickly as possible. While your analytical or deliberate thinking is a great strength and a needed part of any organization, it can hinder positive communication.
Today I offer you a simple way that you can help your culture be one of “can-do” people who want to work with and for you. I warn you, that while I say this is “simple,” I do not mean easy. For many of you, doing this on a regular basis will take practice, but the ROI for your company culture is there. I promise.
Firstly, you need to be an active participant in any communication you’re having, positive or negative. Most of us are familiar with passive positive communication (whether we are aware of it or not). It consists of the sweeping general positive interactions we have, such as your husband or wife commenting, “That’s nice,” and moving on to another subject after you tell them about your great day of work. It’s the “atta boys and girls”… why bother?
Passive negative communication is a little less obvious, and has a surprisingly large impact on morale. It means essentially ignoring what the other person is communicating to you, and it’s easy to do when you’re busy, focused, or tired. We’ve all had the times when someone told us something, and instead of reacting at all, we gave an “uh-huh” and kept doing what we’re already involved in. This can easily make someone feel like they aren’t important and can lead to them losing interest in communicating with you at all.
Here are four quick tips to consider:
- Don’t say no, say when. If someone is interrupting work that can’t be interrupted, stop to nicely say, “I’m sorry I am right in the middle of something and I really want to listen to what you’re saying. Would you mind giving me five minutes to finish this, so I can give you my full attention?” Of course, you need to be sure to follow through or you’re still being passively negative.
- Ask yourself if you need to point out something negative before you do. As leaders, we are working with other people toward a goal, and sometimes it can be easy to gloss over when one hurdle is jumped, by pointing out all the hurdles left in the race. Chances are that your coworker hasn’t lost sight of the finish line, they are just excited about what they have accomplished, and outwardly appreciating that will help them have the energy and motivation to jump the next hurdle, not make them forget it’s there.
- Be specific. The impact of a general “good job” is very minimal; especially if that is largely what people hear from you. To make this statement active, take the extra time to be specific. For example, when you compliment me on this blog post, think about what part of stuck out to you as especially good, and compliment that, such as, “Good job giving an example of how to be actively positive, I know that will be really helpful when I talk about my team’s progress on Monday.” Adding in this specific lets me know that you took the time to read my blog, and you appreciate what impact it has had, and it will make me excited and energized when I go to write for next week. (Thanks in advance!)
- Practice. Consider practicing with kids. Want some honest feedback and reaction to your words? Practice with your kids or borrow the neighbors’. When Billy says, “Hey I got an A on my Book Report!” Instead of “Great work.” How about, “That’s great! What did you like most about your report? What do you think made it so successful.”? You might even have a full conversation with an otherwise resistance teenager.
What are some examples of positive, active, communication from your life? The more examples we share, they easier it will be for us all to find a way to fit positive communication into our daily interactions, so please share an example in the comments section.