Friday, June 29, 2012

You Are Not Your Behaviour

Sometimes late at night I watch cheezy TV. When I was a kid I used to watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leech. (I know, don't judge me! Especially if you know what I'm talking about!)

My latest thrill is the Real Housewives of Vancouver. I admit it, I'm curious how the rich of Vancouver live. Growing up on the West coast, I always felt that we were down to earth people and had our heads screwed on straight. Of course, as I've gotten older I've come to realize that there are *ahem* "interesting" people wherever you go. Even here in my dear, beloved city.

I get sucked in to reality shows like the Real Housewives of Vancouver every so often. Yes, the drama (drama, drama!) is addicting. It pulls me in and hooks its talons into me. But as I watch the events unfold and listen to the women talk about each other, vent and argue with one another, I am actually enthralled by human nature itself.

We have such a strong desire to be loved (by others and ourselves) yet so often we react with incredible fear and aggression against it. We are afraid to let go so we react with fearful behaviour. It's a vicious circle. We create boundaries of power. We bully and victimize each other. We martyr ourselves and separate ourselves into "Us vs. Them" teams.

We fight with each other because we fear change. So many of us are in a fearful holding pattern and yet we don't even know it. No one is immune to this by the way. No one. You could have a PhD in psychology and still be holding onto certain behaviours in a certain relationship of your life and not even notice it. You could be a revered preacher of love and acceptance but when it comes to one particular person in your life, you are stuck. You could be retired, you could be in your 20's, you could be a parent, a mom or a dad. It is human behaviour.

But it is not the talented little genius soul inside you.

Behaviour is NOT YOU.

Behaviour is learned. It is a reaction to past experiences of pain and hurt. Our behaviour is a choice and it can be changed. We can replace bad behaviour with constructive behaviour and still be US.

I believe we have the power to learn and grow through our relationships. In fact, I believe that is why we are here on this crazy roller coaster ride called life: to love, to learn and to grow. The people around us are vehicles to help us evolve with the seasons of life.

I'm not saying growing and learning and changing behaviour is easy. H#ll no! It's messy and filled with drama. It takes hard work and deliberate effort.

And you wanna know what the clincher is?

You can't do it alone.

It's gonna get messy people. It's gonna be tough. But we're gonna get through it together.


Photo courtesy of http://www.slice.ca/Shows/RealHousewivesVancouver/Gallerylanding.aspx?Title_ID=273301&coll_id=6442451006#4

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Art and Soul of Us

Everyone can be an artist because everyone HAS an artist hidden inside them. Really and truly there are only four things that make an artist an artist.

Step 1: Find a medium that speaks to you. Raku pottery, ballet dancing, sewing, photography, video game design, radio or television interviewing or reporting, heck, maybe even teaching or managing people turns your crank, the list of options and mediums to choose from goes on and on. It takes time, determination and courage to find something that clicks and speaks to your soul. You will need to try new things and not be afraid to go back to something either. I learned photography in a darkroom and on film but I didn't really start to love it until everything became digital.

Step 2: Hone in on your chosen medium, learn from it, read about it. See what other people do. Try what they've tried. Develop your skills. Develop your craft. Push yourself, challenge yourself. Become curious. Ask questions. Explore. Try something new, find out what works or make it up as you go along. PLAY...

Step 3: Express yourself. Find out what you love about your medium and your craft. Do what you love. Develop a style, a look or a way that makes sense to YOU. Make it your way. Combine ideas. Change it up. Make new connections.

Step 4: Share your gifts and your talents with the world. Show your art to people. Ask for feedback. Create a dialogue. Open people's eyes. Touch people's hearts. But more importantly, bring your own heart. Because the reason we do art (of any kind) is to let the light of our little genius heart and soul shine onto the world.

So let that artist within you shine through, the world can always use a little bit more beauty.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do You Label Yourself an Optimist?

A CultureLab article recently asked the question: Can you train yourself to be an optimist?

This label is really starting to annoy me.

Each of us hovers around a certain energy frequency somewhere in between the negative and positive opposite ends of the spectrum. Our daily emotional state is always in flux around this point and our perspective is also always evolving too. Over time, our life experiences also push and pull us in either direction along this continuum. How we feel and how we see things are interrelated but what's more important is that nothing is static. Instead our emotions, our perspective and our overall energy is constantly in MotiOn.

Who cares if you're labelled an "Optimist" or a "Micromanager" or a "Perfectionist" or even "Lazy". Labels are static and suggest no movement. Labels wrap us up in a tidy little box until we suffocate inside from all the judgement and self limiting beliefs they cause.

Labels make us believe "Once I become that, THEN I will be happy."
Labels make us believe "I only know how to be THIS."
Labels make us believe "I could never be THAT."
Labels make us believe "I would NEVER be THAT."
Labels make us believe "I am this, I am not THAT."

Labels fool us into believing a state of being is permanent, when in fact, every emotional perspective is temporary and fleeting. All living things are energy. Energy is vibrating movement. Movement is either destructive or constructive. Humans are both blessed and cursed because we are able to choose which direction to move. 

All we need to do is pick a direction and take action!

So move, call, email, tweet, blog, message, write, dance, photograph, groove, sing, talk, yell, holla, whisper, stretch, wiggle, hop, reach, push, pull, swim, bike, jump, leap, bounce, swing, roll, walk, run, skip, drive or fly...!

And leave that label behind.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Being Self Aware can Stunt Your Growth

I am confused.

There is a general theory that people can be categorized into different personality types. There are many different models to promote this theory, dating all the way back to the Ancient Greek idea of the Four Temperaments. In the business world we talk about True Colors or the Insight Discovery Wheel. In the end it's about gaining a greater understanding of ourselves and those around us. It fosters self awareness and compassion for others. These are pretty good things.

So what's confusing me?

Well Brian Tracy, a well known leadership expert, is big on getting people to be responsible for their own actions. He says being responsible or, able to respond, means we are able to choose our actions and reactions. Our behaviour is a choice.

So learning about our own personality type is important because it confirms our inner voice and the nature of who we are. BUT, it often becomes a licence to sidestep the responsibility of choosing our actions and this can not only damage our relationships with others but it can defeat our own personal growth. "I can't help it, this is just who I am," effectively shuts down a relationship that needs to evolve and stunts an opportunity for personal growth. Boom. Conversation done. Defeat. Game over.

So now I'm in search of what's beyond this limited self aware attitude. Now I want to know, what ACTIONS I can take that will still be true to myself but will foster a constructive relationship with myself and those around me.
___________

When I was in teachers college, we went to class after class after class where the instructors talked at great length about the qualities of a great teacher. By the end of our program though, we felt like we still didn't know HOW to teach. We wanted strategies to follow, tips and tricks to try. We wanted ACTIONS.

So we all went out and bought Barrie Bennett's book Beyond Monet and Harry Wong's The First Days of School and signed up for Make and Take Workshops left right and centre. We armed ourselves with any strategy we could find that might help us survive our first year. We traded tips and tricks during recess, we planned and prepared and marked all weekend, every weekend. Finally, low and behold, we made it to June.

And then we crashed and burned on July 1st.
___________

Although I dearly miss teaching Kindergarten in the bittersweet way we will forever cherish our first love, I never found full time work or the opportunity to establish a stable career. So I began a long and challenging evolution to rebirth myself into something just as valuable and just as soul fulfilling. During that time I wrestled with personal demons, fought professional battles within myself and allowed financial weights to stifle and suffocate me. I struggled to maintain confidence in myself but then, somehow in the midst of all that, I caught a glimpse of how my little genius soul is meant to breathe life through my being and I realized that only I can confirm value in who I am meant to be. It took a long time to be able to visualize a future that's exciting and interesting once more.

Now I am ready to move forward in a constructive way. There is no need to fight myself anymore. No need to stop me from being, evolving and growing. Deconstruction was messy, ugly and painful. But now the darkness is lifting and there is peace resonating from within me. It's getting stronger every day as I construct a future for little ol' me and my little genius soul.

Finally I know who, what and where I want to be. Now I'm on a quest to find out HOW to make it happen...

...without burning out or burning bridges.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Motivation and Mantra

The mantra for achieving success and pursuing happiness has evolved over the last few generations.

In the post industrial, modern world people believed: If you work hard you will achieve success.

Then it became apparent that not everyone who worked hard became successful so the mantra had to change. Surely those successful people are just lucky. So the mantra became: If you work hard and with a little luck, you will achieve success. 

But it's not helpful to leave luck up to chance when you're trying to become successful so people tried to figure out how to leverage luck. They found that by thinking positively, visualizing and believing in success they could create more lucky opportunities. So the mantra became: If you think positively, visualize it and believe in your own success hard enough, you will attract success. 

Surely THIS is The Secret to having and living a successful life...?

Well, it's half right. Let me put it this way: If you are not successful, does it mean that you do not believe hard enough? That you do not visualize and meditate well enough? Maybe you don't actually want it badly enough. In fact, we often go even further to suggest that if you aren't successful, it means you CHOOSE to be a victim of your own negativity. That you WANT to be a loser. 


So even though the concept pokes some fight into us, it still leaves us hanging and searching for success.

Why? Because success is about ACTIONS. The whole secret mantra forgets to stress the action. You can't just visualize your way to success, and you can't just visualize harder tomorrow. It's the marriage of the vision PLUS action that equals success.

So now MY motivating mantra is Get Up Offa That Thing and Get into Action girl.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Optimism and Denial

When I'm feeling low and in need of a pick me up, I certainly don't call up the friend with the perky voice who says, "You should save a little extra every month. I always do! Don't worry! Just be happy!" Because I know full well she lived with her parents until she was 30 and never had the reality of bills, rent or groceries to slap her upside the face. I can't deal with that level of shiny, naive optimism when I am trying to pull myself out of the depths of despair. It's called denial and it's how I ended up here in the first place people. 

While I realize that Naysayers and Negative Nelly's are not welcomed forces at the dinner table or the board room table, (hey, I don't invite myself when I'm in that state either) optimists have their own level of inappropriateness as well. I know I'm not alone in this thinking because Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the dark reality of optimism in her talk, Smile or Die. (Check out this version of her talk animated by Cognitive Media  for the RSA.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Genius Little Soul desperately seeking YOU

Why on earth do we refuse help when we need it?
Are we too proud?
Are we afraid that if we accept help we would have to admit that we need help?
Do we even really know that we could use help?
Why don't we see it like we see higher education - an investment in our future and a way to leverage ourselves to the next elevation?
Are we just not opportunistic?
Have we been taught like good little girls, to not to take too much?
Do we like being martyrs and victims?
Are we afraid of failure so we keep ourselves disadvantaged so we don't have to take responsibility for being a failure OR for being a success?
Do we refuse the help so we can blame it on that other thing, that thing that is not ourselves?

WHATEVER IT IS, IT IS RIDICULOUS. Plain and simple, it is MESSED UP.

And it's time we smartened up people! 

We have no idea how many people in the world, how many communities, families, women and children in our future hinge on our success today. We don't know how many people there are out there who need us to pull ourselves out of bed today, get our sh!t together and be what our souls are meant to be. We have no idea of the people in our future who could be served by our spirit's Genius.

So how dare we refuse to fight for our Genius Little Soul! This precious, passionate and curious thing that resides in us and connects us to the Universe. How DARE we NOT go kicking and screaming through life, fighting to protect and nurture our soul so it can have a voice and an earthly vessel. How dare we starve our Universal Genius and tell it that it does not matter, or that it's not important! How dare we refuse to give birth to it and release its glory and kindness and compassion and curiosity and LOVE upon the world. How dare we keep this Genius Little Soul of ours selfishly locked up, suffocating and cancering inside of us.

For the truth is that our Genius Little Soul is the key to unlocking someone elses Genius Little Soul 

and THEIR Genius Little Soul is the key to unlocking another's

and another's...

And so on and so forth.

For ever and ever...

amazing.



Photo courtesy of Monarch Butterfly Information

Monday, May 14, 2012

Managers: Can You Answer Yes to These 3 Questions?

Any one of us can fall into the micromanaging trap if we're not concentrating on the right things. Micromanaging behaviour is motivated by the fear that your team is not good enough. It can happen to us all at one point or another. Sometimes we forget that our team is highly skilled and trained or we lose sight of the value each team member brings to the team or, we doubt they are personally motivated in their role. Catching and changing this behaviour is sometimes tough but well worth it -your team will thank you in spades. (Read: heightened productivity and stronger engagement.) Start with the following 3 questions.


Ask yourself:
1. Am I confident in my team's talent's, skills and abilities?
2. Do I believe each person brings value to the team's work?
3. Do I trust that each of them will do great work?

Answering these questions helps to get to the bottom of any issues you may be having internally about your team. If you can't answer yes then you need to dig deeper. After you've done some self evaluation, evaluate your company.


Take a look in the company mirror:
1. Did you hire effective and talented people? (I hope you would always say yes here, but it's necessary to ask.)
2. Did your onboard training deliver a blueprint for success and tools to help them be successful? (Remember: Training is not about what was delivered, but what was understood - training may need to be tailored for different learning styles, different department systems, etc.)
3. Does your company support a variety of professional development options (ie: coaching, mentoring, technical training, team development, personal development, etc.) so you can leverage your team's strengths in various ways, maintain their engagement and keep everyone up to date? 

If you can't answer yes to those questions, get some feedback from your team.


Ask your team:
1. What's become easier/more challenging since being hired?
2. How effective was the onboard training program for preparing you for your role?
3. What kind of professional development (from the list above) would be helpful in your role today?
4. How can I empower you to do your best work?

Rebuilding trust and believing in your staff is absolutely necessary to ending micromanaging behaviours. It's also the key to building an empowered and engaged team. When you ask questions you move from a critical and competitive mindset into a collaborative mindset.


Want more? Find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not me, it's you. No wait, actually it's us.

If I haven't said it before, that Sharlyn Lauby over at HR Bartender is right on the money!

Today on her blog post she included a venn diagram of the Ideal Employee Trifecta: Motivated, Happy and Engaged. Each are separate entities yet each relate to one another.

Then I read a post on the Switch and Shift site about a manager who advocates for employers to engage only the productive "goal scorers."

I have issues with this.

First I think about all the goalies and defense men that would disagree with the idea that only goal scorers are productive...

Next I wonder how a team would maintain motivation and productivity if the coach were to only mentor the goal scorers. Isn't that called favouritism? And isn't that one of the most effective ways to break team morale, heighten employee disengagement and crush productivity?

And then let me confess that I used to teach kindergarten and if I had ever said to a parent, "I'm sorry, I'm not coaching or mentoring your child because she is not a goal scorer." I would have been blacklisted by the PTA and all the parents in the community.

Despite all this, I understand the Switch and Shift author's concern. He wants to make sure we're accounting for productivity in addition to engagement. Employees on his team have to prove their goal scoring value before he'll consider coaching and engaging them. This is the "you go first" mentality; a.k.a "It's not me, it's you."

But on Sharlyn team she knows that as the leader, she signed up to be at the front of the line and that means she goes first. She suggests we "let employees own their career."  So she takes responsibility as a leader and seeks to remove the dis-empowering actions that sometimes exist in management. She recognizes that it may not always be you, instead maybe just sometimes, it's us.

People are certainly responsible for their own happiness and it is up to them to bring their best, motivated and productive self to work. I would argue that most employees start out happy, motivated and engaged with a new job and that management's reactions to empowered, productive and engaged employees is what determines sustained employee engagement. Management can fail to leverage their staff's talents or coach and mentor them to the advantage of the company. Management can remove barriers to productivity or disregard initiatives and innovations their team suggests about how the work could be done better, faster, cheaper, etc.

So it's not only you. And it's not just me. It's US.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Every Job Can be Engaging and Empowering

Every job, yes EVERY job, can be engaging and empowering. And every job should be too.

We all have skills and talents no matter how niche or unique. And we all have ideas about how our jobs could be more efficient, easier, faster, more streamlined, more focused, bring in more dollars, get better customers and give better service if we were just given the opportunity.

I'm not sure if you've ever watched Undercover Boss but it is one of my favourite shows. Every time I watch it's the same great story of a boss learning how to engage employees by empowering them to share their ideas and talents.

The show starts with management concerned about something. They believe their employees don't care about company profits or about running an efficient and successful business. They think these things don't matter to their employees. Often they think the employees are to blame for the company's struggles so they go undercover to sniff out the problem...

In every episode the employees say the same things about their company's management: Management doesn't get it. They don't care. They don't know what we go through. We don't matter to them.

So the employees talk amongst themselves, especially with the "new employee" they're training. Because of course, this "new employee" is curious and open to hearing their thoughts. As the CEO listens, he hears new ideas and new ways of working. He uncovers solutions to existing problems and new innovations to forge alternate business opportunities, support disenfranchised customers or bring in more profits. And how amazing is it that these solutions have been there all along, right in his own workforce. Possibly even riding the same elevator. All he had to do was ask... and then listen.

See what I mean? What a warm and fuzzy, feel-good reality show.
What? You think it sounds too much like a fantasy?

Well then, what do you think happens to all those great employees after the fact? I've often wondered. Once they are given permission to be empowered at work and once they complete the training some of them are offered, do they still stay with the company? Many probably do, at least for as long as they remain engaged and empowered in their role. And yes, some probably move on after a while to take the next step in their career path.

But is this kind turnover really a cause for concern in the grand scheme of things? Company problems were solved, profits went up, customers were impressed and most amazingly, an employee's life was forever changed for the better because someone saw the value they could bring to the world and empowered them to share it with the company.

I'm not sure about you, but the last time someone with authority at work told me I was valuable and gave me an opportunity to share my idea with the company, I was on cloud 9.

For weeks.

And I showed up on time.

I stayed late.

And took short lunches.

I'm sorry, tell me again Mr. CEO, what was the problem you were worried about?


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Check and Curb Bullying Behaviour


HR Bartender posted a thought provoking piece about the difference between a tough boss and a bully. I believe that someone who is exhibiting bullying behaviour is certainly motivated by fear. But interestingly though, bullying is about actions and behaviour -it can be changed. It doesn't need to be a permanent label.

It takes a lot of compassion, support and coaching from those close to the bully. Of course it also takes a willingness from the person exhibiting the behaviours to recognize that they want more positive relationships in their life. When pressed, they usually they do wish for more friends, more love and more respect -it's human nature. It's just that a bully didn't learn constructive people skills, instead they learnt only destructive personal skills. When I was teaching public school I heard powerful stories of how students in classrooms banned together to save the bully from their own bad behaviours. While I'm not advocating you instigate an intervention, just know that with the right tools and the right support, we all have the power to change and effect change. As always, the best place to start is with ourselves.

Here are some ways to check for bullying behaviour and how to curb it if you see it in yourself or another...

A bully acts from a place of self serving and negative fear and needs full control in order to avoid ending up in the fearful place.
A tough manager acts from a positive vision and believes in his teams ability to reach that vision together.
Focus on the positive vision -where do we need to go and how can we get there together? 

A bully is focussed on external power, oppression, authority and control over others because they don't have authentic power within.
A tough manager has self worth and also wants others to have self worth, self esteem and be empowered too.
Focus on your own strengths and talents -what do you and each person on the team bring to the table? 

A bully is compelled to diminish the success and inner wisdom others have because they fear it competes with their own external power.
A tough manager will congratulate others successes because they know it contributes to the good of society as a whole and does not take away from their own inner strength and power.
Everybody deserves recognition for a job well done -what did you do well today and how can you show appreciation to those around you today?

A bully doesn't take responsibility for their part or actions, they blame others.
A tough boss will take responsibility for their part and their actions and will look for the lesson in a challenge to help them and their team become more successful.
We're in this together -what will you do differently next time so we can be more successful?


Success happens when we have the courage to learn from each other, support one another and collaborate together.

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Spite of Ourselves

Spite is a passive aggressive act. Instead of dealing with an issue head on, a person intentionally acts to annoy, irritate or frustrate the other person. Then when the other person reacts with the intended frustration or irritation they gloat with satisfaction at their destructive power and the other person's emotional outburst.

Spite is one of the most destructive behaviours. The individual enjoys the power and authority they feel for actively forcing another into weakness and turmoil. I think people learn this behaviour as kids when they are forced to "be nice" to a sibling or person who they believe doesn't deserve it. It's a way of secretly weilding power over another person yet still playing within the rules. "What? I didn't do anything Mom!" Spite is a destructive, not constructive, way to gain a sense of equalibrium and leverage a sense of authority over another.

So how do we curb it?

I think we have to deal with the perpetrators underlying feelings. We have to have the uncomfortable conversation and find out why the spiteful person feels as though they are in a comprising position. Then teach them alternative ways to deal with their emotions. And with the victim, we need to teach them alternative ways to manage their emotions. They need to know how to stand strong, weather the storm, brush off the debris and carry on. Because without a reaction the spiteful person gets no satisfaction.

So now, what are alternative, constructive ways of dealing with, and managing our emotions?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Do You Break the Micromanagement Cycle?

Inc.com has an interesting article that discusses 10 things entrepreneurs should never micromanage. One of the things listed is employee,s time, but I can think of many other things that shouldn't be micromanaged. In fact, my question is what exactly SHOULD be micromanaged...?

Being overly concerned with the minutia of how a job is completed speaks more about ourselves and less about the skills of the person doing the work. Once you delegate you also must let go. Some say this is about trust and that micromanaging reflects a lack of trust. While I agree, the question remains, how do we stop the cycle of micromanaging?

Once when I was home from University, I remember offering to vacuum. Even though my mom said yes, she proceeded to follow me around the house to point out how to vacuum the front hall, what to do with the floor mat at the entryway and how to dump the whole lot into the trash at the end. I remember our *ahem* "discussion" going something like... "Mom, seriously?! It's not rocket science and besides, I'm pretty sure I learnt how to vacuum from you." (And I am pretty sure that "discussion" was far less polite than I remember it now.)

You'd think I would have learnt just how damaging micromanaging can be. Yeeaahhh right.. Just yesterday I caught myself saying to my lovely man that if he'd just clean the kitchen to the same standards that I did I wouldn't have to harp after him about cleaning the kitchen. (Again, this is my polite, blog memory speaking.)

And that's when it dawned on me. We can break the cycle of micromanaging by focussing on a common understanding of success and delivering better training. We need to be honest and up front with ourselves and our team if we have specific requirements.

To me a clean kitchen is dishes stacked at the sink (even if they're dirty,) the counter wiped, dishrags and tea towels hanging straight and all cupboard doors closed. That's only 4 things. Not a terribly long list but with the way I can carry on about the state of the kitchen I can see how he might as well give up before he's even begun.

Training is simply teaching someone what behaviours are necessary to be considered successful in a certain situation. If we have very specific requiremments for success, we had better be ready to explain those behaviours with a solid checklist, excellent reasoning and a strong training program. Even though we train a lot, (ie: we train our kids to make their beds, we train the dog not to bark at the neighbour,) sometimes it's necessary to call in the big guns like Nanny Joe of Supernanny or Ceaser Milan the Dog Whisperer.

So next time you realize you're reaching for the micromanagement pistol, don't shoot yourself in the foot. Reassess your training program instead: Is your team fully trained to reach success... without you? Do you need to bring in the big guns instead?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everyone is Important, Just Not Here

Knowledge is not proprietary anymore. It is no longer exclusive. If you can get on the internet, you can learn anything you want to know. If knowledge is not proprietary anymore then everyone can learn to be an expert.

And then there's this other amazing thing about the internet: everyone's opinion can be heard now. Anyone can start a blog, email their opinion, send in their idea, "Like" or "Follow" something. Everyone's opinion has some merit even if we don't agree with it. It's all just feedback you see.

Let it be known that the internet has made your opinion valid and showed you that your voice is important. So feel free to say what's on your mind and make sure your voice is heard. Be empowered!

Just don't do it at work, where you spend 40+ hours every week of your life. At work you represent a financial burden to your employer and your opinion is only as important as your status.

But that's not your workplace, is it?

Your employees are engaged... aren't they...?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Turn Fear into Growing Pains

Fear.

It's so highly personal and intricate that we often don't know what's triggered it even in ourselves. We try to run. We try to hide. But sooner or later, it demands our attention. We are human and in order to participate in the life we've created with others, it's necessary to grow. It is necessary to step out of our comfort zone and let go of the fear or be left behind. Change or be changed. Address fear or fear will address you.

We all live in our own little bubbles of fear. Some more than others. The trick is to be aware that it exists and know what how it acts so when it bumps around in you, you'll know what it is. It's just fear. It's just your little childish ego inside telling you that there's something scary out there in the path ahead.

Fear makes us do crazy and insane things. If we don't deal with our fear, our fear can become anger. And that depth of fear makes us victims of ourselves. We start blaming others and our situtation. We feel out of control. We're liable to do anything to avoid that fear and satisfy the anger. If you're like me, luckily you just try to tidy it up and organize the crap out of fear. (Don't even THINK about leaving those socks there!) But if I continue to avoid dealing with my fears, there's no telling what I'll do over time. I may drop everything and move across the country (been there) I may end a relationship (done that) or force myself into such a tizzy that I end up being terminated from work. (Yup, that was me too.) Fear may feel like a storm but NOT dealing with fear creates a sh*t storm.

So some fear is ok. In fact, it's vital to our survival. It draws a line for us between what's safe and not safe. It's hugely valuable. But also not rational. Fear holds us back from participating in the life we've hoped and dreamed of.

So the next time you feel fear. Pause. Ask yourself, "is this holding me back from participating in my life?" If yes, then scrape together some compassion for yourself, reach out for another's hand and move forward anyways. Better to weather the storm now before it becomes a... yup, you got it.

Turn fear into growing pains.  And now I have a headache.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Leadership Conundrum

Question:
What do we do with leaders who assume people will follow them and the people who used to follow them but who now question authority and are lead by their own passions and talents instead?

Leadership training is a self focused endeavour. It shows the participant how to manage their time and their behaviour to make goals and act with integrity. Rarely does leadership training describe how to manage others. Instead it is assumed that the participant will become so successful that others will look up to them and their superior position of authority.

Leadership assumes people will want to follow. Follow directions, follow orders, follow mandates and missions. But for the last 20 years or so we've been teaching our children the value of thinking critically. This often leads a person to question the rules and question the authority. They want to know "why?" Why are we doing this? Why am I doing this? It's a question of passion. People don't do something just because it's required or mandatory anymore. They are driven and motivated by passion and meaning. They want to know if what they're doing has meaning and more importantly, if they do that, will it bring meaning to their lives?

We've also taught the recent generation of graduates that they are uniquely talented. That they have special skills that must be nurtured and utilized. The new generation doesn't automatically respect and look up to the leader because they believe the leader is no more talented than them. They certainly don't look to the leader to tell them how to apply their own special talents and skills. They feel confident that they know how to do what they're doing. They are lead by talent. Their own and their leader's.

Answer:
Leaders need to help their people find meaning in their work and let them do what they're talents lead them to do.

Don't be Afraid of the Ugly

How do you react when things get ugly?

I am the kind of person who needs to talk it out. I need to be able to say my piece and ask all my questions until I get it all sorted out. My warning label should read: TO AVOID EXPLOSION, LISTEN TO IT TALK OR LET IT WRITE IT OUT.

At home this means I definitely contribute to "things getting a little loud" especially if I believe I'm not being heard. I'm learning to reign myself in and training myself to notice my triggers asap. It's led us to try the safe word technique...

If someone is about to blow up we call out the safe word so the other person can also become aware of our emotional state. It immediately halts the argument and draws a boundary line in the sand. We re-adjust, re-focus and continue the discussion acknowledging the other's parameters. We trust and respect each other and that means we are willing to let things get a little ugly from time to time because we know it's part of life's balancing act.

Life is messy and ugly sometimes because we are continually negotiating and pushing our boundaries. We want to stay safe so we can survive but we are also compelled to grow and thrive. We are organic beings after all. Just like plants and animals. Our relationships are not only for companionship, they are also there to help us learn who we are and help us grow into the people we want to become. Positive relationships help us grow and push us out of our perceived safety zones. But relationships are often messy because growing is messy business. Often we need a good, swift kick in the pants to change our ways. Most of us drag our heels and don't come without kicking and screaming. It's tough being a human!

When it comes to the workplace and our relationships there, we certainly don't turn off our learning button. (I can tell you from experience, it does not work that way!) So how do we act when things get ugly at work? How do we negotiate our need to feel safe with our need to grow as human beings at work? It doesn't really matter who or what pushes our buttons, it's how we react that matters.

We probably don't react with the same candor that we show at home because the level of trust and respect are not the same. Probably for good reason too. There ain't nobody at work who needs to see my mascara stained face or hear me slam the cupboard doors! Not that anyone at home does either. But it's all part of me learning to be the best me I can be.

So when things get ugly at work how can we recognize it for what it is -part of us learning to be us- and not be afraid of this human learning process?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Entitled to Responsibility, Truth and Integrity

This week the Canadian government made some changes to Old Age Security but only for those born after 1962. The Globe and Mail published an interesting read this Saturday called "Two Solitudes" that highlights some of the key differences between Baby Boomers and their Gen X and Millennial offspring.

In the article describing the Boomer point of view, author Margaret Wente notes how Boomers have had it easy compared to those of the adult Gen X and Millennial generations. They've had relatively cheap higher education, a multitude of job opportunities even for those with just a basic high school education, job security with regular raises and fully stocked benefit packages, affordable homes and real estate, affordable health care and many publicly funded social services.

Funny how those Boomers have had everything in life including their retirement future even though we can't afford it, yet they still seem to point the finger at Millennial workers for being the entitled generation.

Certainly as children Gen X and Y's were well looked after. We were given every opportunity to prepare for a successful life: extra curricular activities to become well rounded individuals and learn how to work well with others, critical thinking skills in school to teach us to be smart and think for ourselves, and yes, even trophies for effort because we each have special talents that make us unique and participation is half the battle.

But by the time we became adults the rules had changed. In fact, each time we planned, prepared and showed up at the playing field, not only did the rules change but the game itself had moved. Each time we've had to go back home to grab different gear, a different uniform and load new directions into the GPS. Did we fail? Not exactly. But we have failed to succeed.

We now know that self esteem is not a gift, it's the reward. The result of learning through failure and feedback. And just being special doesn't mean I have the skills to deal with a failure to succeed. If I didn't learn these lessons as a kid under the wings of my parents, I'm certainly learning them now. In fact, I'm thankful for the uphill battles I've fought recently because I've learnt a whole lot more in the process.

I've learned that job security, is a fallacy. Trusting an organization or an institution to look after little ol' me is both foolish and dangerous. Only I am truly responsible for me and those in my care. But being responsible also gives me rights. The right to choose the game I play.

Responsibilities = Rights

But wait, there's more. Not only am I responsible for myself and have the right to choose which game I play, I've also learned that I have the responsibility to participate fairly, truthfully and with integrity.

Responsibilities = Rights = Responsibilities

If I'm doing my best to participate truthfully and with integrity, I expect others to as well. Sometimes I think Gen X'ers and Millennials should come with a warning label: Will challenge authority if responsibility, truth or integrity are broken.

Entitled? Damn right. Entitled to Responsibility, Truth and Integrity.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Life Skill: Know How to Order What You Want from the Life Menu

I believe in making my own choices.
Choice = freedom

When we let other people make decisions for us we give up responsibility. If we give up being "able to respond" we leave ourselves in a position not to act, but to blame, complain or criticize if things don't go in our favour. But the choice was always there. We simply chose not to respond but to let someone else respond for us.

Of course there are always things in life that we did not choose. Unexpected things that weren't listed on the menu. I didn't choose this boss who just transferred into my department, I didn't choose to get laid off work, I didn't choose to get into that fender bender. All true. In these cases, it's how you choose to respond that makes the difference. 

"Waiter, this wasn't what I ordered! ...was it?!"

 This is actually a pepper fly, a fly made of pepper to season your soup!
A funny idea made by Taiwanese designers balance wu and chin yang in 2009.
See more pics at Design Boom's page.

Then there are also situations where we are not the sole choice maker. Let's say we have a lovely significant other who we want to share our life with. Or maybe we are part of a really great team at work that we want to keep working with. Maybe we are planning a family reunion this summer and there are lots of cooks in that kitchen...

How in the world do we make sure everyone gets some choice? How do we ensure that everyone's needs are met? How do we ensure that one person doesn't make all the choices for everyone else? (I mean seriously, a family reunion...?! If your family is anything like the families I know well, SOMEbody is sure to get their panties in a knot about SOMEthing!)

Well folks, it's all about negotiating boundaries and working together to find a middle ground while respecting other people's boundaries. (Yep, again.)

(Well that SOUNDS fine, but you don't know my Aunt Marg...!)

Yep, it's a tall order folks! This means I better understand what my needs are (for the event AND for working together to plan the event), I better be clear about these preferences when I'm talking to you and I better know what I'm willing to compromise on.

I'd like a soy, no foam, extra-pump, medium hot, grande chai tea latte... What would you like?

Question: Are we crazy or strong?

As the saying goes, change happens when the fear of the status quo becomes greater than the fear of change itself. As humans, we put ourselves through incredibly difficult situations. But we persist until fear becomes too great and we decide that change is better. It makes me wonder:

Where is the line between coping with a situation and becoming resilient because of a situation?
When are we pushing on despite difficulties and when are we rising to meet challenges?
Is there a difference between holding strong and growing strong?

I am confused. And concerned. Concerned for the well being of people who choose to take on seemingly insurmountable challenges.

What might be my breaking point is not another person's breaking point. While friends of mine might be interested in training for and running The Death Race (a 125 km marathon through the Rocky Mountains of Canada) I wouldn't last more than 10 kms. Why would anyone be crazy enough to push themselves to the brink of breakdown in a marathon like that?!

Does that make me a weak person or a wise person? Are they a strong person or a crazy person?

My grandfather made the choice to live a better life when he immigrated his family to Canada in 1958. But sometimes I wonder if it was actually a better life for my grandmother who suffered bi-polar depression living and coping in Edmonton so far away from her parents. Who knows.

Then there's the parent on the ferry the other day who let his 5 year old daughter scream, cry and carry on with a wicked temper tantrum in public without reacting. I wonder if this parent is rising to the challenge of raising his child by employeing a technique he's heard of or if he is simply coping. Who knows.

As I write this, I am thinking about family and friends who are faced with life altering challenges. While I feel for them I also want to shake them out of their routine like the 3 spirits in Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol did. I want to get them to their breaking point before something even more drastic happens in their lives. I worry about them. I know that there are friends and family out there who have wanted in the past (and maybe even now) to give my head a shake and get me to wake up and smell the coffee too. Who knows.

Such is life.

Change doesn't happen until the status quo becomes more scary than the change itself. We will never know what another person's breaking point is. I can only be sure of my own breaking point and my own boundaries. And even then, my own boundaries are re-negotiated each time I encounter new experiences and new people enter my life. I make new choices and choose my behaviours and actions anew every day. It's tough work being a human. Changing all the time, negotiating boundaries all the time... Sheesh! (No wonder those tequila shots went down so easy last weekend... har har)

So I guess my question is:
Am I coping and holding strong because I'm afraid of change or am I thriving, growing strong and becoming less afraid?

Monday, March 12, 2012

More Wise Words

"It's so easy when I want to - but so much more difficult when I have to." Unknown

"We have 2 ears and 1 mouth in order to listen twice as much as we speak." Unknown

"Do what you've always done and you'll get what you've always got." Unknown

"No need to be great to start, instead just start to be great." Unknown

"Regrets over yesterday and fear of tomorrow rob us of today!" Anon

"We were not primarily put on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through." Peter De Vries (American Novelist)

And from Henry Ford:
"I think that much of the advice given to young people about saving money is wrong. I never saved a cent until I was forty years old. I invested in myself - in study, in mastering my tools, in preparation. Many a man who is putting a few dollars a week into the bank would do much better to put it into himself."

ps: I've tried to track down the authors of these quotes, if you can help, let me know!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Training + Development = Great Strategic Investment

As a Training and Development professional, I am often asked about the ROI for workplace learning. They want to know, "Is learning really that valuable to my business?"

Well...?

Well, yeah!

Learning = Success and Growth (aka: Greatness)

Is success valuable to your organization? Is growth?

Companies either have a mindset for success and growth or they don't. It's a shame for those that don't because time marches on and the options are simple: move with the times or eat the dust from the competition.

Both training and development are neccessary; one supports success and the other supports growth.

Training defines boundaries so people know what's safe and how to be successful.
Training helps people learn how to behave or complete tasks correctly.
Effective training is task specific, timely and positively reinforces behaviour.

On the other hand,
Development expands our boundaries so people can grow and become better.
Developing people helps them learn new and better ways to behave or complete tasks.
The most effective development is personally relevant, inviting and playful.

So, what's the return on an investment in learning? Answer: Success and growth.

What's your strategy for success and growth?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Feedback: It's an Art

I opened up my email this morning to find two articles that show just how invaluable it is to learn the art of giving feedback. One article was about performance reviews at work and another cautioned against a performane review concept called 360 Degree Feedback (feedback from several points of contact around your professional role, ie: feedback from your manager, your team, your partners in addition to self evaluation.)

In the first article, author Kimberly Roden suggests depersonalizing feedback. So instead of "You didn't do the dishes," she suggests saying, "The dishes weren't done." It's a small shift but it may be just enough of a shift to garner the other person's participation rather than provoke their defenses.

The other article written by Dr. Wendell Williams shows exactly how important it is to have a smart process and skilled execution when delivering feedback. He argues that asking too many questions to a large group of people doesn't give useful feedback. Yes, agreed. I certainly would not ask my dentist for feedback on how I deal with change. The point is to fish for quality not to dilute the issue by quantity. Getting feedback about one issue from a group of invested people can be very valuable.

Sure there's an art to implementing a program such as "360 Feedback," but there's also an art to delivering feedback to anyone at any time or place. But then, it's all neither here nor there if we forget that "Application Trumps Information." How we act on and apply that information is more important than how we get the information in the first place.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wanna be Pigeonholed? Try Politics!

The other day I received a letter in the mail from my Member of Parliament asking me to participate in a questionaire. As one who delights in giving feedback, I was tickled. Answering was annonymous and the return postage was paid so it was a cheap investment on my part.

As I completed the questionaire, I thought about the lack of interest in politics these days. How people say that the young generation (am I still part of that generation?) doesn't get involved, that they're not engaged. I thought about the term Millenials and how it's often synonymous with "tech savvy." As I answered questions about my interest in military efforts overseas and local tax concerns, I also thought about diversity and community.

And then it dawned on me. Identifying with a political party will pigeonhole you.

For a generation now we have taught the merits of diversity and collaboration. That there is no I in team and that Together Everyone Achieves More. But when it comes to politics we still subscribe to an old mentality; there is only one leader, with one agenda and if you support the party you are required to believe and accept their whole platform. If you go out on a limb to support a party you risk the notion that you might be pigeonholed.

Remember clicking the facebook "like" button on some embarassingly silly website only to realize that everyone in your newsfeed can now see it? Cr@p!
Remember the last time you forwarded an email to a friend but then it turned out to be a farse? Doh!
Remember when the cool kids in high school invited you to sit with them at lunch but the unwritten rule was also that you could no longer hang out with so and so? Yeah, I called bs too.

But let's be honest folks, that's politics now. If I "like" your political party it means that everyone of my friends now labels me with your brand. I'm not sure I'm ready for a committed relationship. I also don't want to look foolish if I share a story about you and then you either change your mind or don't actually do what you say you're going to do. It muddies up my integrity. And if I saddle up next to your party platform will I end up being conflicted about supporting at least a few agenda items? Probably!

Political parties are a silly, old notion. I don't think that creating new political parties or trying to find agenda items and platform issues that appeal to the younger generation will fix things. I think political parties make it harder to get involved, and more difficult to take a stand. And ultimately the thing is, we all know it takes a diverse team to be great, not just one political way of looking at things. I don't want a leader who says it's my way or the highway. I want a leader who will ask his constituents what to do. I want a leader who leads me and my community, my province and my country -not their party- to greatness.

So, wouldn't it be great if I could "like" my local MP office without claiming a connection to a political party and their agenda? Wouldn't it be great if we could participate issue by issue and if there wasn't an implication that just because I agree with one issue, that it doesn't mean I agree with all the issues?

Jeremy Fisher sings "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." But I'd like to choose what I stand for and not have it imposed on me by a politcal party thanks.

Life Skill: It's All About Negotiating Boundaries

Think of your relationships with the people in your life (at work, at home, even at the grocery store) as continuous lines of connection. Like a tether between you and them. A relationship tether. Negotiating relationships with those around you is about figuring out how close or how far you want to be to them on that tether connection. How close are you going to let them come to you? How close to them do you need and want to be?

Humans want to be safe. That is our innate need. It's baseline survival.

Each of us has determined by our past experiences what feels safe. And we are continually monitoring our current situation/environment/relationships to make sure that they feel safe to us. Growth requires us to break out of our comfort zones to expand our view of safety. We determine which direction to grow and how and when we feel safe enough to step out of our safe zone.

People are continuously stepping in and out of their comfort zones and continuously negotiating with their inner selves if they are safe. We are continuously drawing lines in the sand to mark our safe zones depending on each new situation, each new person we meet and each new environment we come into. We need to become more aware of this process of assessing safety and drawing lines in the sand.

If a boss comes up to you and yells at you in front of your coworkerss, you probably wouldn't feel safe. This is because they stepped over your line in the sand that stands to separate the two of you. Now you feel attacked. Invaded. First thing's first at this point, you need to repare yourself and redraw your boundary. Then you have the obligation to your self to let your boss know he overstepped his bounds and that you would like to draw his attention to that boundary. You need to push back on that tether to move him back to where you are safe again.

But let's say he doesn't "get it." Let's say he continues to cross the line and invade your side of the tether. What do you do then? Well, you can cut the tie or you can move your own self back on the tether. Create space or distance and erect a stronger boundary so you are further away and more secure from his attacks/advances.

We are continually negotiating the boundaries on our tether line between us and those around us. Being able to be aware of our own boundaries in the many different situations, with many different people, in different environments is challenging at best. But being aware that this process is going on, not only for you but also for them, and then being able to navigate the conversations that are required participate in this process is half the battle already won. Perfecting this is an art form and will take more than our lifetime...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Quick Tip: Macro/Micro Checklist - A Great Tool

The other day I met a woman who had just hired her first company employee, an assistant. She noted that it was difficult to work around the fact that her assistant was more of a clock puncher than an independent thinker who was able to anticipate what needed to be done. I offered her my usual, go-to, quick tip training idea that would help her assistant take ownership of her job: The checklist.

When done properly a checklist works great to relay job tasks for anyone in any situation. It defines the parameters of a job and gives the employee the freedom to work independently and take ownership of their job. Here are some the other reasons why I promote checklists:

  • It can eliminate the desire to micromanage staff and help define job relationships.
  • It can improve employee engagement.
  • It is a simple tool that's easy to update with the needs of the job.
  • It's a concrete list of what an employee does every day.
  • It's a concrete list of technical processes.
  • It can take the pressure off performance meetings because the focus is on collaborating on the checklist.

The trick however is to keep the checklist concise, organized and based on action verbs. Not everyone can do that right away, but even so I like to suggest it as a go-to training tool because even a badly written checklist is better than nothing!

If you see merit in my checklist suggestion and you want to take it further, know that there are two kinds of checklists. One can be used to define broad functions of a job. I call this a Macro Checklist and it looks very much like a To Do list. It allows the employee to ask, "Gee, did I cover everything today?"

Checklists can also be used on a micro level to help an employee complete a specific and detailed task. Using a Micro Checklist, the employee can walk through the list items to ensure they complete every detail correctly and in the right order. This is very useful in technical situations, when an employee is learning a new task or when a detailed task is performed infrequently.

For a new employee, a Micro Checklist is a lifesaver. They can rely on the checklist to tell them what to do while allowing their brain to be free to learn and remember HOW to do things. As an employee learns the ropes they will need less and less detailed instructions on how things are done. Over time they can shrink or join items on the checklist that they have memorized and no longer rely on. This moves a Micro Checklist into being a Macro Checklist.

To implement Macro/Micro Checklists, I suggest using Excel to write checklists because in Excel you can hide rows if you don't need them. By combining Macro items and Micro items into one Excel document you can access both at all times. I start by using the left column to list a heading (or Macro item) while listing all the Micro items indented in the next column.

Here's a quick example of how to combine the Macro/Micro Checklist:
Notice how each item starts with a verb and special notes are brief and in brackets.

1. Wash laundry
  1. Separate clothes into categories (Lights/whites, Darks, Coloured)
  2. Fill washing machine with 1 load
  3. Add detergent (one capful)
  4. Close machine lid
  5. Turn nob to appropriate machine setting (usually: "Normal Wash")
  6. Pull nob to start machine
2. Drop off mail
3. Buy Groceries

In this example more items could be added to "Wash Laundry" (once the machine has finished washing the laundry, it needs to go into the drier) but you get the general idea.

A collapsible Macro/Micro Checklist is a great tool. Now go forth and conquer!!

Rant: Teachers are like CEO's

As I write this teachers in British Columbia, Canada have voted with 84% affirmative support to take legal strike action on Monday. There are talks about legislating teachers back to work and there are marketing campaigns from both sides of the debate (Government vs. The Teachers Union) that do more to muddy the waters than clarify things.

BC's Ministry of Education has a plan...

But wait, let's clarify:
   Goal = an idea to work towards
   Plan = detailed actions on how to get there

The "plans" on the Ministry of Education's site are old school, top down, management visions; they are not actual plans. Dear Ministry of Education, what do you think you will accomplish by employing old strategies to old problems in old ways? We have heard these plans for change before: re-assess curriculum, address teacher accountability! These are not new ideas for change.

(Quick! Somebody form a committee and commission a report! It will be money well spent because the report will be so cumbersome that no-one will have time to read it! In fact, by the time schools get around to deploying some of the idealistic recommendations, there will be a new government in charge and those reports will be old and outdated! Money well spent indeed.)

Old solutions applied to old systems does not give new results. But dialogue is good and so I applaud the Ministry for open sourcing ideas on one small part of their website. They are opening up lines of converstation and that is good. New solutions are bound to surface on this site.

My innovative solution for improving the system? (I'm so glad you asked!) I am in favour of full time administrative assistants supporting small groups of teachers with administrative tasks. (Not an earth shattering idea, but a NEW idea in education.) The role would be different from Teachers Assistants that currently exist to support students who have special needs. Having a dedicated Administrative Assistant would enable teachers to delegate work that a teacher doesn't necessarily need to do and a parent volunteer can't do. They could be interns. New teachers possibly. Maybe the role could serve as the final year of their teacher education degree program.
If you told a CEO that he was going to plan and facilitate 6 hours of back to back meetings every day, 5 days a week, every week in addition to his regular duties (managing his staff of 30, meeting company goals and  keeping pace with what others in the industry are doing,) the first thing that CEO would do is hire an assistant! If a corporate manager needs an assistant to do their job effectively, why wouldn't a small group of teachers benefit from an assistant? Someone to book and organize field trips, research instructional materials for the next project, look after lunch milk and pizza day money, track down the bean bag bin when it goes missing from the gym, prepare for a complex lesson demonstration... I could keep going but I think you get the point.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Great Quotes

Saying no is saying yes to something else.

Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behaviour does.

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.

Don't be so emotional in your life that it hurts you, but don't get too practical that it hurts others.

Life Skill: Read Between the Lines. Better Yet, Be Open and Honest

I often check in with CareerHMO for great career tips to help me refocus my career path. The other day I received their weekly email blast. It was so on the money I couldn't resist reposting it here.

J.T. O'Donnell, the CEO of CareerHMO suggests that employers, like employees, are just as guilty for using pat words or phrases to glorify and sell during the recruitment scenario. An employee uses certain phrases on their resume to help them appear to be the best candidate for the position and the employer also uses certain phrases in a job description help sell the position to the employee. As with most things in life, it's important to read between the lines to understand the hidden meanings. With tongue in cheek, J.T. lists what these job descriptions really mean.

"Motivated team-player – Looking for someone who needs a job badly enough that they'll put up with lots of unmotivated, annoying people from whom you'll have to get buy-in on almost everything you do.
High achiever, driven to succeed – Must be a complete brown-nose whose sole mission in life is to please and impress management.
Customer-focused – Can take a lot of abuse from clients AND management and still act pleasant.
Resourceful, independent self-starter – Since we have absolutely no time or resources to train you, we expect you to figure everything out for yourself… quickly.
Attentive to details – We have strict policies and procedures and won't hesitate to blame you for everything if you make a mistake.
Flexible, enjoys multi-tasking – We are unorganized and change corporate directions daily, so you'll need to be able to clean up our messes and do jobs that A) you weren't told about in the interview, and B) aren't trained to do properly – all on a moment's notice.
Agent of change – You'll be responsible for implementing a bunch of stuff we've been unable to make happen with a group of people who are digging in their heels and refusing to convert.
Works well under pressure – Our management team considers everything urgent and is going to micro-manage you daily.
Solution-oriented – We are going to give you lots of messes to clean up and expect you to figure out how to handle them without our direction and with a big smile on your face, even though we aren't going to give you any resources or support to get it done."

She goes on to note that "there are no perfect jobs or perfect employers" and this is absolutely true. I've given up on expecting perfection in a lot of areas of my life. Most notably areas where people are involved. (Don't get me wrong, I am still -and always will be- in love with a perfectly clean bathroom!) But when people are involved there is just no possible way to achieve perfection. Here's why:

People are continuously evolving. Just when you think you've got the other person figured out, or just when you think you've figured yourself out, something changes -life happens- and new challenges present themselves. New obstacles or frustrations come to light. It took a long time, but I finally was able to adjust my attitude and see my professional life from a different perspective. I'm no longer searching for and expecting to find a perfect situation to land into, instead I'm seeking out situations where it is possible to work towards and co-create empowering work relationships.

This has lead me to seek out strategies and processes that can help me navigate and negotiate my professional relationships better. (One great online workshop I've found is from Chrissy Scivicque from Eat Your Career. She talks about Intentional Relationship Design -consciously and cooperatively, openly and honestly, co-defining the structure of relationships.) In fact, most of the strategies I'm learning can help with ALL my relationships because it all boils down to being transparent, open, honest, self aware, authentic, curious and compassionate.

This is exactly the direction the recruitment relationship needs to go. The recruitment relationship is the dating phase of a professional relationship. Interviews are all about courting. A solid and strong relationship where both parties feel valued and valuable is built on trust. Trust is based on truth. So of course, any information that is misleading or not truthful will eventually come to light and poke a hole in the future trust of that relationship.

Everyone, even HR recruiters, needs to understand that our actions are an equal half of the equation when it comes to defining the type of relationship that will develop. Think consciously about what kind of foundation you need to create to develop the type of relationship you want. The question becomes, "Am I behaving in a way that will lead to just a one night stand kind of relationship? Am I behaving in a way that will lead to a passive aggressive relationship riddled with miscommunication? Or, are my actions setting the foundation for a trusting and growing relationship and the possibility of a long future? Am I being truthful and honest?"

It's great to hear people point out fallacies and untruths. The dialogue or communication between the employee and the employer needs to be as open and honest as possible from both sides, at all levels and at all stages of the relationship. Corporate (north) America on the whole is maturing and growing right now. We are negotiating better relationships with those in power. I see evidence of these growing pains all over the place. Occupy is not new. It's part of the process of maturing and growing relationships.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Life Skill: Why Collaboration is Good for the Workplace

"Change is hard when it's done TO us, much easier when it's done BY us."     
This comment was posted by member on a LinkedIn thread.

This belief supports the need for collaboration in the workplace. Working together has it's challenges, yes, but the whole is so much greater than the parts. The outcome is so much more than what could be imagined by one individual. When people are involved in the creation of their own futures, they buy in. They become invested. They become engaged. But true collaboration in the workplace is tricky.

On the one hand it requires a different kind of leadership. Leadership with a vision for more than industrial, factory-style workplaces where people are required to fit into simple box job descriptions.

Watch this awesome whiteboard animation adapted from a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert. His ideas about how education is like a factory can be used to describe workplaces that are also stuck in old ways. Workplaces that are avoiding or ignoring collaboration.

Then watch this whiteboard animation, "Where Good Ideas Come From" produced by the same company, Cognitive Media. This presentation is about collaboration and how innovative ideas are generated. It is from a talk given by Steven Johnson who wrote Everything Bad Is Good for You (which I haven't read but maybe I should...)

Research: Finding Personal Value

I am on a quest to understand personal value. I've searched online and one of the first sites I found lists 7 stages to understanding and uncovering our personal value. Here are my notes from reading these 7 stages, along with some of my own personal thoughts and interjections.

"Self-Awareness"
  • How do you see the world and, more importantly, how does your presence impact the world? (Huh. I thought I was self aware but I never thought of this second side of things - how we impact the world.)
  • Do not judge your impact. There is no reason to minimize your impact or fear your own impact on others. There's a great quote about this by Marianne Williamson:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
  • Some people don't even know that they have an impact on others and the world around them! (Gosh those people are irritating!)
  • Do you know how you're viewed and why? If people's perception of you matches the impact you are trying to make, you are being authentic.
  • Accept your ability to make an impact, be amazed by it and then learn how to develop it and direct it in ways that you want.
  • "Your very existence is changing the world. That is valuable," says the website.

"Self-Worth"
  • We are worthy because we have come into being. This connection to Creation is what makes us worthy. Not our good or bad actions. Not our good or bad qualities. (Those of course are judgements made by man.) We come into this world 100% worthy and nothing can change that. A diamond is still a diamond even if it is dirty and caked with mud.
  • (A little voice inside my head is calling out "We're not worthy!" like Mike Myres and  Dana Carvey in Wayne's World...)
  • When we oppress our feelings or deny, ignore or judge our emotions, we cover up the light or energy connecting us to Creation. 
  • Self-worth is a foundation, a solid core. It is the strength to take on life's lessons and challenges and the knowledge that we deserve life's gifts.
  • Marianne Williamson also has an interesting quote from a post called Feminine 2.0 on her blog:
"Women should be the keepers of the conscience of the world. We are keepers of the internal flame - the light of humanitarian values and the primacy of love - and our greatest power lies in keeping it lit." 
"Self-Esteem"
  • Seek out and earn self esteem - not from posessions, other people or good deeds done, but from love earned from oneself.
  • Self esteem is the evaluation you make about yourself. The story you tell about yourself. Arlene Dickinson from the CBC's Dragon's Den writes in her book Persuasion:
"...take a hard look at your own narrative. Think about how you'd tell your life story to a Hollywood producer, how you'd explain the highs and lows. Have you cast yourself as a victim of circumstance? If so, maybe your story could use a rewrite, starting with a lead character who has choices-and sometimes makes the wrong ones."
  • The site also suggests that self esteem requires honesty with ourselves; clarity of thoughts and feelings about our life. (What is my story?)
  • We also need to understand our responsibility (Are we willing and able to respond.) What CAN we be responsible for?
  • I also think that for perfectionists, we need a degree of compassion here. Be honest with ourselves but not overly critical. We are not responsible for everything. One website on Self Esteem suggests that healthy self esteem is "having a balanced, accurate view of yourself."
"With healthy [Self Esteem] you are confident and think positively about your strengths, abilities, accomplishments and physical appearance. You like and respect yourself despite your faults but also don't overvalue your strengths. You recognize your basic worth as an individual yet don't think you're better or worse than others."
  • Finally we need to be able to trust ourselves:
"Can you rely on yourself? Are you in your own corner? That's what trust is all about. Knowing that whatever life throws at you, you will deal with it. Maybe not as elegantly as you would have liked. Maybe not as easily as someone else. That's okay. Trust is knowing you can cope."

It seems to me that these 7 things are like optimism - learning about them and incorporating them into our lives happens organically. Being optimistic and having healthy self esteem fluctuates with life and our experiences. Sometimes we are optimistic and have healthy self esteem. During those times we have a strength about those ideas in us. We eminate those values. Other times however, we need to lean on others because we have briefly forgotten these values or have just gotten temporarily lost or bogged down with life's lessons. But if we take care to exercise these values and keep them in our lives like we know to properly exercise our bodies we will stand a better chance at weathering the storms around us.

More on the following in future posts:
"Self-Love"
"Self-Confidence"
"Self-Respect"
"Self-Realization"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Question: What is Personal Value?

What is value?

What does it mean to have value?
What does it mean to be valuable?
What does it mean to give value or bring value?

Dictionary.com definitions I like best:
1. relative worth, merit, or importance
11. (Ethics) any quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself
12. (Fine Arts) a degree of lightness or darkness in a color

17. to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance
18. to regard or esteem highly
Synonyms: "Worth" implies especially spiritual qualities of mind and character, or moral excellence

Bringing or giving sounds very business-like. It implies an exchange of something. A reciprocity most often found in business relationships. Do I have something to give? The general consensus is yes, everyone has talents and abilities that that can contribute to society. The trick is to discover and develop those talents and abilities, put them to good use, increase those opportunities over time to bring your professional value to the world. Well what if you cannot find a way to give those valuable traits to the community - what if you cannot find a job? What if you are unable to do that job because of some accident or some unforseen circumstance? Are you still valuable?

The question of being valuable implies that someone else sees value in you. Although it inherently makes us feel good to be thought of as valuable to someone else, this sense of value should not be at the heart of our own sense of self worth. Their beliefs are entirely separate from our own selves and have the potential to change. If our value is based solely on another's belief that we are valuable, and if they change their mind for whatever reason, then we must change our selves to meet their approval and become valuable once again. While we can change our actions and those actions may change their beliefs about our value, ultimately we have no control over their beliefs. The fact that we do not control their sense of what is valuable shows that being valuable to others is not the strongest foundation of self esteem.

But what does it mean to posess value? What does it mean to know that we are valuable not for what we bring in terms of talents and abilities and not just because we are special to others? What does it mean to have value? Not because of who loves us or because of how we contribute day to day. This is a personal question, an internal quesion. No-one else can give us the answer.

It feels akward to say "I am valuable." When a statement doesn't reflect an inner thought or belief, it creates conflict. It's what makes this positive statement or affirmation so darned weird. If it's true that knowing and understanding one's own value brings peace to the soul and serenity to a person, then I certainly do not know or believe in my own value.

Knowing I am valuable to others brings me a feeling that I am loved and appreciated for who I am. Whoever that may be. But it shouldn't be the reason I feel valuable because I do not posess that value.

Knowing that I bring value through my talents and abilities makes me feel confident and sure of my contribution to the community at large. Whatever those contributions may be. But it also shouldn't be the reason I feel valuable. What if I am unable to contribute those gifts to society?

What if someone else told me that the gifts and talents I posess are not valuable. Whoa. Double whammy. Where do I stand then? Guh.

So what IS personal value?

What is my personal value?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life Skill: With SMART Goals She Can GROW

There are a million kajillion tips and tricks out there to help focus and improve personal development. Check out any self help, corporate training or personal coaching website and you are bound to run across a handful. There is so much content out there that even training guru Thiagi suggests that you don't need to recreate content in this You Tube video. Please note: It's an extremely long video but very interesting. Especially the part where he discusses developing and facilitating a leadership training workshop in just three days (approx 48 mins into the video.)

Although I'm not new to this adult learning, corporate training business, I am stepping up my game and spending a lot of time reading and processing lately. My biggest concern with all this content? How will I ever remember all of the great ideas that are out there when I need them??

And let me just take a moment to share how astounded I am to realize that many of the corporate training ideas (or adult learning practises) I've uncovered lately are the same ideas that I learned how to use while teaching kindergarten a few years back, go figure. All I really need to know I DID learn in kindergarten. Huh! How do you like them apples! But I digress...  

I wish somewhere there was a list of all the useful learning tips and tricks ever imagined, all in one place. Can someone please get on that? I want a searchable database of all the learning ideas and tools teachers, coaches, instructors and learners everywhere might ever need. All in one place so I never have to think, where did I read about that great idea? Was it in my Mum's dusty file folders from her 30+ years teaching public school? Or was it online and did I save it to Evernote? Or was it an idea I saw in a book written by someone I don't remember the name of now...?

In the absence of the learning tools database that someone out there must surely be working on, I feel the need to list two tools here. Both have been around the block to school and back a couple of times already but that's fine, if they're helpful at some point down the road, I'll thank myself.

I first heard of SMART goals in the corporate world over a decade ago and just today I ran across the GROW model of problem solving/goal setting. Here they are... The "Coles Notes" version.

S - make Specific goals
M - make them Measurable
A - make them Attainable and Accessible
R - make them Relevant to the task/problem/person at hand
T - make them Time bound so there is an end date to aim for
E - Evaluate the progress, pitfalls and success once the time has ended
R - Re-evaluate and if hopefully Reward yourself

G - define the Goal
R - understand the Reality of the current situation
O - pinpoint the Obstacles and discuss the Options
W - confirm that there is a Will to change and figure out the Way forward
S - celebrate Success