Consistent Consistency

I will be consistently consistent in my commitment to consistency.

Say that ten times fast. Or at least say it once a day. Okay, maybe once a week. Commit to saying it at all.

It’s the time of year that we all reflect on what has happened in the past year and what we want in the coming. We create resolutions. We write goals. And, yet, come February, we find ourselves in the throes of guilt around those very set goals and resolutions. I think it comes down to a couple of reasons. One is consistency. The other is a compelling reason to change.

This week, I’ll speak to the first… “Hi my name is Linda. I struggle with consistency.” Growing up, I used to make fun (and she’ll tell you I did) of my sister the scientist. When we were finally “adults” and out on our own, she was very systematic and methodical about her life. She knew what she was eating, had shopped for it and knew how her entire week would play out from wake up time to bedtime. She was consistent. She planned for it. Just like you would with any experiment. You can’t just jump in with all variables and expect to have a measurable outcome. It was so different than me. I was in professional theatre, single, running around from night to night. I was having FUN. That was my measurable outcome. I wasn’t planning. How BORING, I thought (and yes, judged a bit as we do in our 20s).

Ah, how the tides have turned. I long for a week of knowing what we will eat on Wednesday. I long for several constants and limited variables. And while I have gotten much, much better at organization and planning overtime, it’s only partially in my DNA. I have to work at it. After all, you don’t come out of college with a degree in economics and a side order of fine arts without feeling the constant pull between analytical living and free lovin’ creative lifestyle. And, yet, it’s what makes me really happy and good at what I do. I mirror my clients who live this constant friction between structure and creativity… it’s the magic of entrepreneurial kinetics and innovation. As I would coach any of my clients, it’s not about becoming who you aren’t, but about becoming the best of who you can be, authentically. And, if you shifted a little to the left or a little to the right, what would be the benefit of doing that? When I do have a diet consisting of more consistency, I literally feel the benefits… less anxiety and stress, higher sense of what’s possible and downright empowerment. It’s refreshing and when I practice consistency, I’m always happy I did.

So with you as my “accountability partner,” I am committing to consistency. Check in with me. Ask me how I’m doing. My first step is the monthly meal planner that I’ve created (especially since I’m traveling three times in January!). My sister would be proud.

Check in with me and see how I’m doing. Am I managing my constants and minimizing my variables? Hmmm… maybe dropping sciences in college wasn’t such a good idea after all… To each of you, I wish you a very Happy New Year and best wishes for a consistently brilliant life!

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The Gift of Pad Thai Time

Really. Just 7 minutes? Who couldn’t find that time, right?

I am constantly on the go as many entrepreneurs/wives/mommies/aunts/
sisters/daughters are. Whether I’m supporting my business or others, I find 7
minutes hard to find.

As a coach, I ask myself what I would ask a client, “Is that really true? Can
you really not find 7 minutes in a day to relax and do nothing?” And as a client
responding, I would have to say no. It isn’t true, but it’s certainly become a
bad habit… being constantly on the go until my head hits the pillow.

This was pronounced today when I was granted 7 minutes. Not because I chose
to take 7 minutes, but because that is what the box of my frozen Pad Thai said
it would take to cook it thoroughly. Three minutes stir. Three minutes take
out. Wait one minute. You would have thought I was asked to stand there an
hour if you had seen how impatient I was.

In fact, I found myself having this internal dialogue:
Linda, what’s wrong with you.? Just relax. It’s just 7 minutes.
Yeah, but maybe they just put 7 minutes, but it can really cook in less time.
Maybe I could cook it in 5.
Consider it a challenge to wait the whole 7 minutes. Wait. Relax. Breath. Enjoy
the break.
Okay…
Hmmm…
Well, what do I do with this 7 minutes? I could check my email.
Maybe I’ll call home and check in.
How about dinner? I haven’t planned anything yet.
I can’t wait for time off with my family. Wait, I haven’t planned anything.
Will we kill each other?
I’m really cold right now, I wonder if I should step outside for some sun. No,
I’ll stay inside. In or out, I can’t decide.
Is my lunch ready yet?
Really?! Seriously?! 5 ½ more minutes?!
STOP. ENJOY THE GIFT OF TIME TO DO NOTHING.

You may find my internal dialogue mildly insane or maybe even relatable. I
found that during the summer, I made a very conscious effort to get up early
and mediate or, at a minimum, take brain breaks during the day. Just like any
diet, it takes practice and conscious discipline. Since a very busy fall kicked
into gear, I lost my gift of time. And my brain suffered.

So, what’s the impact? Well, I’m a bit moody. Tired. Foggy. Did I say, tired? My
brain is giving me all the signs that I’m not getting enough oxygen.

Per Visual MD… “Your brain is your body’s single largest consumer of oxygen.
Although it represents only about 2% of your body’s weight, it utilizes about
20% of your body’s blood. If they don’t get the oxygen they require, brain cells
start to die in minutes. That’s what happens during a stroke.”

Okay, got it. My mother almost had a stroke. My grandmother and my two
aunts did; all to devastating outcomes.

So, I’m about to go spend time with my family, away from work, away from
email. I already got my early Christmas present from my husband (thanks for
the boots babe!) And now, I’m giving myself a gift. Everyday, I am scheduling
at least one section of Pad Thai Time to STOP. RELAX. BREATHE. As soon as I
finish this post, it’s going on my schedule. But first, I may indulge in another 7
minutes.

How do you maintain time to breath? What is your best advice?


From Little Leaders to Excelling Executives

Guess the age of the coaching “client” for this discussion:

Me: “You know your sense of humor? Sarcasm can be really fun and enjoyable. People tend to enjoy wit. How are people responding to you when you are sarcastic?”
Client: “Well, I get lots of laughs in the moment.”
Me: “Okay, so what do you think they think after the ‘moment’ has come and gone?”
Client: “Well, I’ve been told that I’m kind of a jerk.”
Me: “How do you want to show up as a friend or leader? What impression do you really want to make?”

This was a literal coaching conversation I had two weeks in a row; first with the 7-year-old boy, next with the 45-year-old executive leader. For whom was the consequence more painful? When would you like to learn that lesson?

For those of you just getting to know me, not only am I passionate about talent in the business world, but the talent that’s developing in my own household. As I spoke earlier about strengths, one of mine is “connectedness.” A key part of that strength is the idea that “Things happens for a reason. I am sure of it.” I strongly believe that there is no chance or coincidence that I should be raising two children while I’m in the midst of coaching leaders.

Now, not to oversimplify the topic and say that all leaders are basically children who either choose to behave or not based on the consequences. I like to think we’re more evolved as adults. But, what I will say is that whether I pick up “Good to Great” or “Managing your Strong-Willed Child,” is sometimes dependent on the topic and challenge, not necessarily the age of the coaching client.

After all, as a parent, aren’t I leading my children to behave in a way that creates the greatest return for them as humans? Isn’t that what you try to do with people you lead?

As a leader, you are inevitably a coach as well. If you have “little” leaders in your household, remember that they are fodder for your coaching practice.

Practicing open-ended questions and creating dialogue? They’ll give you a run for your money.

Trying to really understand what situationally motivates each person you lead around adopting a new policy? Ask and determine what makes a 9-year-old motivated to follow a new house rule.

Trying to get everyone behind change? Move a family of four across the country and practice your communication skills throughout.

At the end of the day, we’re all humans in different states of evolution. Effective communication and leadership is likely just as important, if not more so, out of the office than inside the boardroom. What similarities have you noticed?  What tips do you have for “developing” little boys into great adults? (Thanks, I can always use extra help in that area!)


Four Quick Tips for a “Can-Do” Culture

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.


Strengths

Welcome back from the holiday, and back to work, and TGIF! This week I wanted to talk about strengths, and the importance of becoming aware of, and leveraging your personal strengths.

In today’s society it is common for people to focus on overcoming weakness instead of embracing strengths. It starts in childhood, and continues on into many professional workplaces. In school when grades are given, most parents (77% of them in the U.S*) focus on a student’s lowest grades, and believe that those are the areas that deserve the most time and attention. That very statistic popped into my mind when I saw that “C” in science on my son’s report card in the midst of all A’s (which, by the way, I never had the science gene either!).

Instead of taking the time to help a student develop more in the areas that they have shown strength, we spend that time combating weakness. We all know, however, that someone who was not good with numbers in early education, will likely never be a great accountant, just like someone who is a poor writer, will probably never write a novel. Yet, we are all forced to spend time in the areas that we are poorest to obtain an “education.” Just think how different things would be if instead of spending all the time getting tutored and studying to pass your calculus test (which you still only got a C on), you spent your time focused on honing your strength?

So much of our culture idolizes the “one-in-a-million” stories where people triumph over their lack of natural ability, you know the “Seabiscuit” type stories where hard work and determination conquer all. Many people adopt the attitude that if they try hard enough and work hard enough, they can accomplish anything. Honestly, we can’t all accomplish anything we want if it’s not in our natural skill set, but we can all be the greatest at what we already are. Shaq is a great basketball player, but did any of you see the movie Kazaam? No matter how hard he tries he will never be a great actor (and might I mention how happy I am that he didn’t keep trying for an Oscar). To quote the Internal Consistency Blog, “Overcoming weaknesses is great for story telling because it demonstrates perseverance, determination, and passion. However these qualities don’t have to be married to overcoming obstacles.”

I’ve seen this mindset play out at the workplace in the lives of some of my clients. Take Melissa for example. She is a star director in her company known for delivering on time, with great results and solid relationships. Oddly, she didn’t feel like a “star.” She felt like an imposter, a failure. She had been promoted to a director overseeing an area of which she had no interest and literally, no “strength.” Because she was a great leader of people, she was able to lead, but her passion fell very short and she kept trying to fall in love… hard to do that with a weakness. Once she accepted that she was NEVER going to have strength in and passion for QA, she felt liberated! She stopped beating herself up as a “failure” for not loving QA, and was able to focus on another area where she could truly leverage her strength in building solid relationships… business development. And, not surprisingly, her results far exceed what she was able to do in QA.

Shifting your focus and energy to your strengths can be a powerful movement. Not only does investing in strengths make for a more positive workplace and happier life (people who focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general*), but it can help us be more resilient. I know that one of my strengths is “Adaptability,” and when hard times hit me, I know I can use adaptability coupled with my other strength, “Positivity,” to accept the change and look for a positive Plan B. My strengths help me move through and past the rough patch.

In full disclosure, my other three strengths are “Learner,” “Empathy,” and “Connectedness.” No wonder I have strength in and love coaching so much!

I strongly urge you to really think about what your strengths are and take action in developing them. I also want to encourage you to embrace the strengths of others, your friends, your children, your co-workers, what are they really great at bringing to the table, and how can you encourage them to do that more?

What is your biggest challenge with overcoming weakness or developing your strengths? Please share your stories and thoughts with me in the comments section, and please be sure to link us to your blog/facebook/twitter!

Enjoy the weekend. I think I’ll be leveraging my other strength in cooking up a storm!

 

*From Strengthfinders 2.0 by Tom Rath, a book I frequently use with my clients, and recommend to you as a resource for finding and developing your strengths. You can buy it here: http://astore.amazon.com/wwwglasstalec-20/detail/159562015X