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?


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...


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?