Archive for the ‘Self Management’ Category

5 Ways to Build Confidence as Parents

Article submitted by guest author Brian Baker.

Self-esteem can be very tenuous. As parents, when our children fail it is easy to take it personally. The same principles apply to parents building confidence as to children who are developing confidence in themselves.

Building greater confidence and self-esteem takes practice. But, the results are well worth the time and effort. Stronger confidence benefits you in every area of your life.

Using these strategies will help you and your children develop greater confidence and self-esteem:

1.  Learn from mistakes and failure. It’s okay to fail. Failing is part of the learning process. This improves decision-making skills, enables one to think through long-term results of their choices, and accept feedback about their mistakes without feeling like a personal failure.

  • Parents are also learning something new with each child. The process is the same – you learn from mistakes and failures.

2.  See mistakes and failures as tools for success. Confidence comes from learning to trust our instincts, skills, and abilities. It is gained over time through both success and failure. It requires taking risks and dealing with consequences.

  • The more skilled our children become in making the right choices, the more confident they become.
  • If you regularly use mistakes as a tool for success, when your kids do fail or miscalculate, they learn that it was the thinking or process that was faulty, not the person. The same applies to you as a parent.

3.  Never stop learning. Parents are teachers. Your job is to prepare your child to be a successful young adult. It starts day one and never ends. You are not always going to get it right – nobody does.

  • Like your child, you learn as you do things and improve as you learn. Chances are that you’ll feel inadequate at times and make mistakes.
  • Own it. Be open about your mistakes and talk to your child about the lessons learned. They will benefit as much from your candid discussions as anything else you do.

4.  Think positive thoughts about yourself. If you struggle with low self-esteem, it’s important that you get help with that. Seek out a therapist if you need to. Your behavior and how you treat yourself is what your child absorbs.

  • If you stand in front of the mirror making negative comments about your body, berate yourself when you make a mistake, or judge others when they don’t meet your standards, your child will do the same.

5.  Learn to let it go. Move forward after you discuss lessons learned – yours and your child’s. It is information that you will use to calculate choices in the future.

  • If you dwell on it or label yourself, your child will do the same. “I made a mistake” can become “I am a mistake” if internalized. Get help if you need it. Perfectionism leads to additional challenges that neither of you need.

Practice these techniques daily with your children. The more you practice, the easier these behaviors become. Once they become a habit, you and your children are well on the path to having an automatic process that supports greater confidence and self-esteem each day.

 

What Services Do Servant Leaders Provide?

Article contributed by guest author Dennis Hooper.

Sometimes leaders ask if I help organizations understand and implement “servant leadership.” Maybe the individual has heard of the concept but can’t imagine how it functions, considering his or her current beliefs about leadership. I love exploring existing perspectives with inquisitive people, helping them see a more effective model and allowing them to adjust their leadership behaviors.

The most common image of leadership involves the traditional pyramidal hierarchy. Developed centuries ago, the corporate organization chart clearly identifies what portion of the empire each leader controls. “These people work for me” is the operative mental outlook. Within this framework, many leaders find it hard to consider “what can I do to serve them?”

So, let’s start thinking about servant leadership by representing the organization through a different model. Imagine how we might use a tree as a more appropriate organizational metaphor.

Visualize that the individuals who do the work on a day-to-day basis are the leaves. They are supported by the branches, which are the organization’s managers and supervisors. Top management is the trunk supporting the branches and leaves and delivering water and nutrients up from the roots. The trunk and branches provide substantial support for that portion of the organization where the “real work” is accomplished. When the winds of change blow, the trunk and roots provide stability, keeping the tree anchored firmly. The tree’s extensive root system collects revenue from customers, and the trunk delivers the needed capital equipment, raw materials, tools, and supplies to the leaves.

Through this simple paradigm shift, many individuals are immediately able to better understand the concept of servant leadership. The trunk and branches function collaboratively to ensure the health and growth of the twigs and leaves. A tree is a living organism; if any part becomes diseased, the life of the entire tree is in jeopardy.
If the organization remains healthy, the parts that do the “real work” are pushed higher, competing favorably with surrounding trees for sunlight. Growth, through increased production and reliability, is a natural desire among those doing the work. The trunk and branches grow only as much as is required to deliver the resources needed by the growing numbers of leaves.

Pyramids were never intended to grow; they were designed as tombs! Trees, however, are alive and beautiful. With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, “I think that I shall never see a pyramid lovely as a tree.”

Now, let’s consider the real-time services that you provide when you function as a servant leader. Let’s start with you as entrepreneur, gathering resources and sending up the first shoot. Leaves are added as survival seems viable. Growth occurs quickly in those first few years as the tender seedling seeks sunshine and manages to avoid consumption by insects and herbivores.

Once the organization matures, you as leader provide opportunity, resources, a healthy work environment, and clear expectations. Depending on the surroundings, you communicate direction so that everyone is empowered to achieve the inspiring vision of robust growth. When problems arise, you listen and collaborate to eliminate obstructions and obtain needed resources.

You offer coaching, feedback, respect, and expanded responsibilities. You inform everyone of the organization’s results and you invite new ideas. You offer encouragement, hope, balance, and clarity. You tell the truth. You plan so last-minute requests rarely occur. You keep promises that you’ve made. You ask people what they need, and you work to provide it.

Lest we take this model too far, let’s acknowledge that those doing the “real work” are accountable to your authority. However, the leaves rarely need to be reminded why they exist. They realize that their role–processing sunshine, water, and nutrients–is a critical function for the success of “the tree team.”

As a servant leader, you support and empower those who do the “real work” of the organization!

8 Essential Components of Personal Transformation

Article contributed by Brian Baker.

Today we are talking about personal transformation. These 8 strategies can help you become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

1. Identify your core values. You won’t be happy if you create a big change that puts you in conflict with your values. Most people have never really taken the time to identify their values. Take a day to consider the values that are most important to you. Write them down.

2. Create a vision of the future. Think about the end result of the transformation you want to make. What would that look like? What direction would you like your life to take? Is your transformation reasonable for you? For example, you might not be able to make a trillion dollars, but you could still build great wealth.

3. Determine why. Why do you want to make this change? Create a long list of reasons why you want to transform. Get excited and dream big!

4. Identify the qualities and skills you’ll need to develop. If you want to transform your body, you might need to learn more about exercise physiology, nutrition, and develop some discipline. Consider what it will take to accomplish your transformation.

5. Identify the resources you’ll require. Do you need a personal trainer, gym membership, and a blender? Maybe you need money and a life coach for your transformation. Figure out the resources you’ll need.

6. Make a plan. Start at the end and keep working backwards until you reach a step that you can do today. Avoid worrying about every little detail of the future and work in the moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

7. Audit your plan. Imagine following your plan and note how you feel at each step. You’re bound to feel some emotional resistance at one or more points. If you didn’t, you would have made the transformation long ago.

a. It’s important to address each of the issues that creates emotional discomfort. You’re likely to quit if you don’t.
b. Either come up with a plan to work around those issues or just relax and let the negative feelings go.
c. You’ll know you’re in a good place when you find yourself chomping at the bit to get started. Procrastination is a sign that something is awry.

8. Don’t quit! This is the most challenging part for most people. You fail if you quit. You can’t fail if you don’t. Keep on going no matter how bleak things seem. You can always do better tomorrow than you did today. A little bit of progress each day or week is all you need.

Start your transformation today. Build a vision and create a plan. Stay the course until you’re satisfied with the changes you’ve made.

The pursuit of “perfection” can lead to “procrastination”

 

Article contributed by guest author Stephanie Wachman.

Striving to be perfect has its good side, but let’s be honest: perfectionism, paradoxically, can paralyze us and zap productivity. It often leads to missed opportunities, blown deadlines, massive stress, and frustration with ourselves and others. If we can learn to tame the voice in our head that says, “It’s still not good enough,” then we can free up our minds and schedules to conquer other important tasks and initiatives. The net result of “perfection” is usually “procrastination”.

If you have a pattern of blowing deadlines or not starting on a project, ask yourself why you are holding off. From my experience in working with professionals I have heard three consistent answers.

  • I’m not sure what I’m doing
  • I don’t know where to start, and
  • I’m not sure it will be good enough

By holding off on starting a big project or by frequently missing deadlines, you are actually sabotaging yourself and your success. Ask yourself if you have a pattern of behavior that causes you to hold back on delivering work on time.  Some of us are willing to accept the consequences of being slapped on the wrist for a blown deadline then the risk of turning in work we think is “imperfect”.  I refer to this predicament as Perfection Paralyses.

Although you won’t find this syndrome in the official book of psychological disorders, this is a real problem that’s not easy to overcome—unless you are perfect.

The pursuit of “perfection” can be an elusive ideal as “perfection” is hard to define for ourselves but ultimately leads to procrastination.

4 tips to overcome procrastination:

Sometimes good is good enough:  In some cases, doing a good enough job is the right choice, especially when you consider the consequences of not meeting your commitments.

Find a starting point: When you are overwhelmed with the task at hand, start by making a list of all the things you have to do pertaining to the project. Drill down as far as you can go and then pick one item to start with.  Often, we just need to get started somewhere in order to get the work flow going.

Set a timer: Blocking a short period of time on your calendar and setting a time for it will help you with focus. Make it into a challenge, where you play beat the clock.  I often say that if you are really blocked then start with 20 minutes and just begin with brainstorming.  This will warm up the mind and get thoughts flowing.

Ask for help:  If you have taken on a project that is more than you can handle or you are truly not equipped to do it, then find someone who can help you.  It might even be a colleague who isn’t in your office. Asking for help can be a lifeline when you need it most.

Getting past procrastination and the consequences that go along with it will help you improve your work performance as well as decrease stress.  Leaving things undone can increase the amount of frustration and disappointment you have in yourself. The good news is you can overcome it by being deliberate in how you take steps to get beyond it.

Sinking Boats and other lessons in Resilience

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Conlin.

As I close off another summer and prepare to send my boys back to school for another year, I remember some lessons that I relearned that are reminders or what is important to all of us on resilience.

This summer, I spent a lot of time at my cottage. It’s beautiful up there and more so because my father, who passed away in 2017, built the entire cottage including most of the furniture. I have fond childhood memories of our adventures and time together as a family each summer at the cottage. I’ve always noticed that at the cottage, everyone is more relaxed and life is full on food, games and swimming in the lake which is pure heaven. In July, I decided to buy a new boat for our water access cottage. I was also getting pressure from my boys to get a bigger motor to use with skis, knee-boards and tubes up there for even more fun so I caved in and made the purchase. I brought the boat up with my boyfriend who is a seasoned cottage owner so I didn’t bother getting involved in the whole boat launch prep. We went to a new boat launch and everything seemed to be working well. I was left with the boat in the narrows to drive a very short distance to the marina while my boyfriend parked our car few miles away. Unfortunately, we had forgotten one very important thing….to put in the plug! So I found myself mysteriously dragging on the bottom and then beating myself up for being an incompetent driver and not navigating well and then blaming myself when I heard a thud and knew I had damaged the motor somehow. I finally got out of the narrows somehow but my boat was dragging oddly at the back. I managed to get to the marina dock but was shaky. We loaded up and I was to too embarrassed about my driving to tell my boyfriend that the boat was dragging. The whole way over to the cottage I was silently cursing myself for wrecking the boat. When we docked and saw all the water coming in, we quickly figured out the real problem. We took immediate action and got the bilge pump working, drove the boat around the lake until massive amounts of water drained and then found a plug in the glove compartment. We realized after trying to fit it in many times that it wasn’t the right plug. Luckily, we managed to plug the holes with some of my Dad’s old plugs in his shed but had to take the boat back to the dealer to fix the prop and get a proper plug the next day as it was still taking on some water. The dealer paid for the prop damage because he realized they hadn’t fitted the plug properly but told us to always check the plug before we launch.

Good advice!

What lessons did I learn from this adventure? Well, isn’t it true that most of us jump to making false assumptions not only about ourselves but about others in a stressful situation. Also, why are we so hard on ourselves when things go wrong? Is there a way to reprogram our thinking to better manage during times of crisis, conflict or problems? We all have these so called garbage thoughts but the secret is to not listen to them too much or at least talk back to them. As Business Professionals we receive a lot of negative feedback at times and it can be draining and often we start beating ourselves up when we hear negative words from others. Too much work, too little, difficult staff, difficult client, deadlines etc. all add to our stress cooker day. And then we go home and face home challenges with kids, parents, chronic health issues, lack of time etc.

How can we navigate more successfully?

One word-RESILIENCE.

I have spent years becoming more aware of my thinking patterns and how they impact my performance. During the boat launch adventure, I was aware of my negative thinking so was able to review it objectively and learn from it quickly instead of holding on to the negativity. I went back to the cottage and relaunched the boat successfully the following weekend to gain skill, reinforce a positive outcome and gain confidence in my ability to manage as a new cottage owner. In other words, I learned from my failure. I was even in a way grateful for the failure because it taught me to be careful and I have taken more time to learn about boats and boat launch techniques for next year.

To be resilient we need to stop beating ourselves up and instead be more aware of our thoughts, emotions and actions and work to course correct them for a more positive outcome on a regular basis.

What do you think is the single most important factor in success as a Business Professional-Resilience?

This one soft skill is what I believe has made me successful over the years despite huge upheavals in my life the past 10 years and something that you can work on each day for more success in work and in life.

Here are a few key ways to boost your own inner resilience to achieve more Success this Fall:

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  1. Catch your negative thoughts – When you become aware of a negative thought, ask yourself – Is this true? Often it is not true. Even if it is true, ask yourself, is there a way to create a positive outcome or accept the reality of a situation and learn from it without beating yourself up. In the past, I have had very demanding clients. Sometimes, they would be extremely critical and I would start to feel badly about myself. I would question my abilities. However, as I have learned this technique, I have consistently been able to separate fact from fiction. Instead of reacting or retreating because I felt badly, I have learned to respond to the comment or situation with confidence to improve the outcome every time. A way to do this is to move from an emotional state to a rational state and write down the key elements of the situation and how best to respond. For example, a client decided he hated all our work for no reason. He was negative about everything. It hurt yes but I caught the negative quickly. I responded with empathy for his frustration but then wrote a detailed note full of facts on what we had done so far, a comment on what our expectations are from him as a Partner (yes you heard it! Don’t let anyone disrespect you-EVER) and facts on the project, recommendations and an action plan. In short, I regained my power in the relationship by standing my ground and not letting my own negative thoughts weaken me of impact my performance. He started responding more positively and we successfully completed the project to his complete satisfaction.
  2.  Believe in yourself – Yes, sometimes we screw up. Sometimes, we overreact, say dumb stuff and do dumb stuff. So what. We are human. Any solid relationship that can’t take a little humanness, isn’t worth it. Be real. Believe in yourself and know that you are doing your best. When you aren’t doing your best, give yourself a kick in the butt and do your best. When we hear bad news or miss revenue targets, we sometimes go into a performance slump. The number one reason we stay in a slump is because we stop believing in ourselves. So always believe in yourself. When you screw up, pay attention. Why did it happen? Did you get off track somehow or were you not paying attention to signs from a candidate or client? A vital soft skill which I teach others to cultivate is self-awareness and other-awareness. I have saved and made many placements using awareness and honing this skill. If we are caught up in doom and gloom, we exude that instead of the confidence we need to be successful. So when you make a mistake, consider it a lesson or a redirection and keep going confidently towards success.
  3.  Fail and fail again – Life is about falling down and getting back up. It’s hard to become resilient if you never fail. Failure hurts but that pain teaches better than success. Failure hones skills, teaches humility, gratitude and strengthens are resolve. It helps us become resilient. So don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Tell others. Learn from your mistakes. None of us are perfect and the concept of perfection is impossible to achieve. We need to teach our kids and others to strive to improve every day while celebrating what we have accomplished already. Success comes from trial and error and those who are too afraid to step outside their comfort zone will not be able to achieve the success they seek. I love telling stories and my best stories come from my so called failures. My screw ups and mistakes turn into fodder for humour and lessons. Laugh at your failures then get up and try again!
  4.  Stay healthy – Working hard takes energy. Resilience comes from a healthy mind, body and spirit. It can be fun to party once in awhile or gorge on junk food, but a consistent neglect of your health will impact your performance over time. Contact me for easy tips on boosting energy and getting a better sleep.
  5. Learn – Adopt a continually learning mindset instead of staying fixed in your ways. Do this at both work and home. Find hobbies or passions your enjoy out side of work. For me, it’s ever expanding vegetable garden challenges, new recipes, my upcoming podcast series or finding time to practice a language skill and have been teaching my boys basic life skills that they will need like cooking, cleaning (yes, this one is a struggle…J) and cottage maintenance. Always work to improve your skills at work as well by learning more about tools, trends, and ways to better interact with clients and others. I have found that learning new skills builds our resilience muscle. As a Business Owner, I have worked hard to expand my revenue streams in Talent Solutions with growing divisions in RPO, Leadership Coaching and Training, Corporate workshops, Transition services and speaking which makes each day exciting and highly engaging.

I am getting ready to speak at NAPS again this Fall in Texas for their Go Big or Go Home conference. My talk will go into more detail on how to be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Resilience is key to our success and a soft skill we can all develop.

A reflection of integrity

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

When you look into the mirror, who do you see? I don’t mean the color of your eyes, how pointy your chin is, or how amazing your hair is looking today. I mean the deep down you, who you are on the inside,  the who of your who. The real you. Can you see this person in your reflection, or is he or she hidden, masked, or adulterated in a way that the real you is not recognizable?

In other words, is the life you’re living matching up with who you are on the inside, resulting in living a life of integrity?

For many of us, our naked soul is a little too uncomfortable to gaze upon for very long, so after a quick glance, we look away. Others of us are afraid to look at all for the pain the reflection may reveal. If only we could all could learn to live out who we truly are, accepting the things we can’t change, and making shifts on the things we can, so that who we see (and who others see) is an accurate representation of the life we’re living. That, I propose, is living a life of integrity.

Defining Integrity

Integrity is often described as doing the right thing, especially when no one is watching, or living in a way that’s trustworthy and honest, or having strong moral principles. I’d like to offer another aspect of integrity: Living in a way that aligns with who we truly are, so that our reflection, both in our eyes and in others’, and the life we live, is a match.

At one point or another we all have experienced flow — that place of oneness, where we’re completely absorbed in what we’re doing, where the time seems to fly by. Years ago, my middle daughter would come home from school, pick up her guitar, and hours later (though it only seemed moments for her), would look up with surprise at how much time had passed. It’s a good feeling to be in flow. However, often we find ourselves in relationships, jobs, and ways of living that don’t align with who we are. You know when things are off. You find yourself filled with dread, discouragement, and feel disillusioned. You wonder how you ended up here, and wonder, “Is this really all life has to offer?” You feel stuck, and can’t see a way out.

Learning to live our lives in conjunction with who we are takes courage, vulnerability, and insight. It takes emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how we’re feeling, and how others are feeling, in the moment, then manage our behavior and relationships appropriately. To accurately reflect who we are, living in integrity, we need to know ourselves and understand the emotions we are feeling.

Knowing Yourself

Self-awareness is the first quadrant of emotional intelligence. If I were to ask you to tell me about who you are, how would you answer? Would you start by describing the work you do?  Or maybe that you’re a parent, or ‘married to…”? Or would the question throw you off completely and leave you without words? Try to look beyond the roles you perform. Make a list of qualities about yourself, ones that you feel define you well. Try journaling and see how easily the words flow. Now share this list with someone who knows you well. Do they agree? Would they describe you the same way? What descriptors would they add? Close friends can help alert us to any blind spots we may have in our self-awareness.

Emotions Check

How are you feeling, right now, in this moment? Can you put words to it? Too many times we’ve been told to leave our emotions at the door, however our emotions can serve as dear friends who are willing to offer understanding into what is going on in our world. Learning to tune in to our emotions can help us better know ourselves and better know how to reflect who we really are. Emotions provide us with valuable insights into the triggers that cause us to act the way we do. A good practice is to check in, on the hour each hour, by quickly jotting down how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it. At the end of the day, look back on these emotions you felt and notice if they affected your behavior, and if so, how. Keeping track of how you’re feeling can help you begin to recognize your triggers which result in behavior that doesn’t benefit you. Once you know your triggers, you can begin to choose how you want to respond vs. letting your behavior come under a hijack of your emotions.

Values Check

What is important to you? Make a list of the first things that come to mind. It may be job, family, spirituality, beauty, friends, success, money, health, just to name a few. There are no wrong answers. If you’re not sure, try putting it this way: What things make your heart sing? What things cause you to feel strong positive emotions, and which things  make you smile and leave you with lasting joy? What activities create a sense of flow for you?

Time Check

How are you spending your time, and does it match up with who you are? Take a look at last week’s calendar. What did you spend most of your time doing? For most of us it’s work, because that’s how we sustain our lifestyles of choice. But how are you spending your time outside of work? Our calendars are a great record of how we are prioritizing our lives and what we are placing emphasis on. Do you like what you see? If not, what shifts could you  make to spend more time doing the things you value? Even small shifts in our schedules can bring about a better sense of aligning our daily actions with our values.

People Check

Now take a look at who you spend your time with. It may be your colleagues, your family, and friends. Maybe a few strangers here and there. Are you happy with whom you’re spending your time? Are you spending enough time with those you love most? If not, what shifts can you make to allow that to happen? Try listing out the people you value most, and note how much time you’ve spent with them in the last month. If you’re not satisfied with how much time is spent with those closest to you, what can you do to remedy that?

Regarding Shame

One hurdle to accurately reflecting who we truly are is that 5-letter curse word, shame. It’s defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” [https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+shame&oq=definition+shame&aqs=chrome..69i57j35i39l2j0j69i60l2.2538j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8]. Some of us have made choices we’re not proud of in our past, and allow them to define who we are. We forget that our choices are not who we are — they’re what we’ve done. You can be a very good person and have made some poor choices in your past. The key is to separate out your actions from your being, and to realize that you have a choice going forward to decide upon better actions, behaviors, and paths.

Learning to let go of the past and forgive yourself can take some hard work. Finding a social + emotional intelligence coach or a counselor may be a great place to start in working through some of the past. Once you feel you’ve made amends with yourself, (and possibly those who you may have hurt in the process), you can then decide to step into a new direction.

Living in Alignment

Now that you know yourself a little better, here are some questions to ask yourself to see if your actions are lining up with your character. If you answer yes to any of these, it may be time to make some shifts.

  • Do you feel the need to hide any of the choices you are making? Which ones? From whom do you need to hide? Why?
  • Are you afraid others will find out something you’re currently engaged in? What consequences do you fear?
  • Would you be proud to tell others about the choices you’re making?  Why or why not?

As we see ourselves more deeply and clearly, by tuning into our emotions, living out our values, using our time well, and spending time with those we love, and learning to let go of shame along the way, we can begin to look in the mirror and see the person we want to see — the one we truly are. Learning to reflect this person in our day-to-day actions can enable us to begin to live the life we want to live…a life of integrity.

Why Empathy Matters

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Not feeling it

She theatrically shared her sob story, voice cracking from the flood of emotion, complete with a long, pregnant pause to regain her composure. I squirmed uncomfortably in my hard, metal seat and inwardly rolled my eyes. Oh, the drama. The presenter struggled through her testimony and I struggled with listening–caring. Her situation seemed easy to me, and not worth the eruption of emotional energy she was giving it.

I turned my head toward my colleague with a smirk, knowing she’d share my lack of enthusiasm at this flagrant show of sentiment. I was surprised to see she had a big, fat tear trickling down her cheek. She quickly brushed it away and reached in her purse for a tissue. As I looked around, I noticed others in the audience sniffling and dabbing their eyes. They, like my colleague, were feeling what the speaker was feeling, displaying compassionate listening skills.

I was not.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to sense others’ feelings and take an active interest in their perspectives and concerns. It’s that ability to put yourself in another’s shoes and respond in a way that creates connection and understanding within your relationship. People who are good at this are able to tune into a wide array of emotional signals. They can sense underlying emotions that the other may be trying to hide. They show sensitivity to how the other is feeling and respond in a way that makes the other person feel understood, valued, and heard.

Those of us who aren’t so good at it tend to be judgmental and stereotype others before we have all the facts. We misunderstand how others are feeling and are quick to evaluate their actions based upon our criteria–not theirs.  As a result, we tend to act in a way that may crush another’s spirit and come across as indifferent or uncaring, which can cripple a relationship.

Before you cast your judgment upon me for my obvious lack of this vital competency of emotional intelligence, know that it reared its ugly head at a time in my life when I was younger, more focused on myself and my needs, with an inability to understand what others were suffering–mainly because I hadn’t lived much of my own life yet. Research shows that when we are in comfortable situations it is more difficult to empathize with someone else’s suffering. “At a neurobiological level – without a properly functioning supramarginal gyrus – the part of the brain that decouples perception of self from that of others  — your brain has a tough time putting itself in someone else’s shoes.”[https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy] .

“Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.”  — John MacNaughton

Little did I know that just around the corner, I’d soon be in dire need for the empathy I didn’t yet know how to offer others.

Empathy is vital

Learning to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and meaning, without losing the ‘as-if’ mentality — as if the same thing could happen to me — is a skill that is valuable to the health of our relationships.  It enables us to “share experiences, needs, and desires between individuals and providing an emotional bridge that promotes pro-social behavior.” [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513638/]. Empathy leads to helping shift behaviors which benefit us socially. “When people experience empathy, they are more likely to engage in pro-social behaviors that benefit other people. Things such as altruism and heroism are also connected to feeling empathy for others.” [https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-empathy-2795562].

Empathy is considered the missing link when it comes to strong connections in our families, schools, and workplaces. “Without empathy”, says Julie Fuimano,  certified coach, writer and speaker, “people tend to go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. We are so limited when we only see our own perspective. Without taking a moment to assess another, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions which leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale, and broken relationships.” [https://www.healthecareers.com/article/healthcare-news/the-importance-of-empathy-in-the-workplace].

It wasn’t but a few short months after that conference that my own set of struggles–which all of us encounter in this thing called life–began to take me down. My emotions were a raw, raucous roller coaster of highs and lows, and I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.  I couldn’t see my way ahead and my days became filled with pretending and my nights filled with worry. I noticed some friends started avoiding me. They’d tell me they were there for me, and some even went so far to say they were praying for me, but they sure didn’t want to hang around me.  I felt alone and questioned my self-worth.

“If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view — as well as your own.” — Henry Ford

Oh, what I would’ve given for someone to assure me, “Of course you’re feeling that way. I get it.  And it’s OK.” Where were all the empaths when I needed them?! It was as if no one really cared. It’s not surprising that only around 20 percent of the population is genetically predisposed toward empathy, based upon a study published in the Brain and Behavior journal. [https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322189.php].  The good news, though, is that empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence, a behavior, and can be learned, even if we our natural tendencies don’t lend toward us shedding tears.

8 Ways to Increase your Empathy

  1.  Work on your listening skills. Listening is key to empathy, so practice quieting your mind when others are talking and really tune in to what they are saying, both verbally and non-verbally.
  2. Go beyond the words. When someone is speaking, search for the meaning behind their words, body language, and approach, to figure out what their underlying purpose and concerns are.
  3. Stop what you’re doing. When someone approaches you to share their heart, try to stop what you’re doing by looking at them, turning away from your computer, and putting down your phone.
  4. Find the emotions. What is the other person feeling?  Try to name the emotions they are experiencing and connect them to your own emotions.
  5. Paraphrase.  Check your understanding of what’s being said by repeating back to them what you think you heard.  “What I heard was…” or “It sounds like you’re….” are great ways to paraphrase what they said.
  6. Withhold judgment. Even if you agree with nothing that was said, try to be supportive of their viewpoint by letting them know you value their opinion.  Let them know that though you may believe differently, you still respect them for the way they are feeling and thinking.
  7. Think back. Reflect upon a time when you were hurting, or struggling with a tough situation.  Do you remember who helped you find your way?  Who was it who made you feel heard and understood, and what did they do to make you feel that way? Attempt to emulate their behavior as you work with others.
  8. Remind yourself that we’re all in this together.  It’s rare that someone close to you can go through a rough time without it affecting you and others.  Consider doing a compassion meditation to develop a greater understanding of how similar we all really are.

My own empathy has grown and developed since those heartless days. And though I have a long way to go, I can say that after years of work, I’m now often the first one crying in the room. If you struggle with empathy, see if you can’t choose just one of the above steps to start practicing this week.  After a few weeks, move on to another step, and so on. Journal about each step and reach out to others to talk about your progress. It takes work, but if you want to have meaningful, deep relationships, and make an impact on others as a leader, it’s a trait worth developing.

How to Better Manage Your Stress

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Do you know anyone like this?

“Stress level: extreme. It’s like she was a jar with the lid screwed on too tight, and inside the jar were pickles, angry pickles, and they were fermenting, and about to explode.”  —Fiona Wood

It’s a great visual. My brothers and I used to come home from school on hot, August afternoons when Mother was canning bread and butter pickles. They were angry pickles. The acrid odor of vinegar engulfed the entire kitchen and we’d sprint, eyes watering and throats tightening to keep from gagging, out the back door in pursuit of a breath of fresh air. The thought of being around a jar of fermented pickles ready to explode today is enough to send me running.

Imagine your stress-induced emotions as acetous pickle juice just waiting to explode from a pressure-filled jar. Maybe it’s how you’re feeling right now…as if you’re on the brink of detonating into an eruption of anger, or find yourself jetting quickly toward an emotional melt-down. Prolonged stress can do that to the best of us. And while stress most likely won’t be going away any time soon, we can learn to make choices which will help us better manage it.

The Negative Impacts of Stress

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but if we don’t learn to get a handle on it, it can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. Based upon results of a stress study done by the American Psychological Association, 66% of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress, and 63% experience psychological symptoms. Because our natural stress response is not designed to be continually engaged, we must find ways to shut it off.  Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that prolonged stress disrupts the balance in the brain, throwing off the normal cadence of brain cell communication. (https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-stress-affects-mental-health/) A study done by Columbia University Medical Center researchers found that negative impact of stress could be likened to smoking more than five cigarettes a day! (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2250106/Stress-bad-heart-smoking-cigarettes-day.html).

“Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.” — Kris Carr

Your Stress Triggers

Developing awareness around your stress triggers is a good place to start.  Grab a journal, ask yourself these three questions, and note your responses:

  • Which situations occur on a regular basis which cause you to feel stressed?
  • Which people in your life could you name as sources of your stress?
  • Which circumstances turn routine situations into stressful situations? (For example, do you feel more stressed when you haven’t eaten, or when you’ve overeaten? How does sleep (and a lack of) affect your stress levels? When you let your worries run rampant, do you find you’re feeling more stressed?, etc.).

If you can become aware of your triggers, there’s a good chance that you can avoid escalations, shifting behaviors before they turn toxic.

What are you feeling?

Do you recognize what stress feels like in your body? Those who have strong stress management skills are able to detect rising stress before it reaches a dangerous level. Physically, you may experience headaches, fatigue, or shoulder pain. Other common symptoms are stomach aches, excessive sweating, back pain, and a racing heart. Behavior-wise, you may find you are taking a habit to an extreme, like overeating or excessive smoking. You may find you’re short-tempered, grinding your teeth, or driving too fast. Emotionally, you may find you are bothered by unimportant issues, getting the cry-feeling more often, or feeling depressed and dejected. Cognitively, you may have trouble thinking clearly, or struggle to translate your thoughts into clear words. You may find it hard to concentrate or find yourself more forgetful than normal.

Learning to recognize how stress rears its ugly head in your body is something you want to tune into.  Next time a stressful situation arises, take a moment to notice what you’re feeling and write it down.

“Everyone has the ability to increase resilience to stress. It requires hard work and dedication, but over time, you can equip yourself to handle whatever life throws your way without adverse effects to your health. Training your brain to manage stress won’t just affect the quality of your life, but perhaps even the length of it.” –Amy Morin

Stress Reduction Techniques

Though you may not be able to make the stressful situation or person go away, you can learn how to control your own responses. Here are some techniques you can try to reduce the feeling of stress. Which of these could you undertake, in the moments when stress arises?

  • Practice gratitude.
  • Take long, deep breaths.
  • Exercise.
  • Get some extra zzzz’s.
  • Remind yourself that this too, shall pass.
  • Rediscover your sense of humor and laugh.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Meditate.
  • Become a realistic optimist and focus on positive outcomes of the current situation.
  • Have a good cry.
  • Forgive…yourself and others.
  • Eat healthy food and resist junk food/stress eating.
  • Do something you find to be fun.
  • Slow down.
  • Practice boundaries (learn to say no when needed)
  • Forgive others’ poor behavior.
  • Refuse to let irrational ideas and thoughts swim around in your head.
  • Visualize yourself in a peaceful place.
  • Pray or other spiritual practices.
  • Quit procrastinating and tackle some items on your to-do list.
  • Call a friend who is able to put you at ease.
  • Fill in the blank (what works for you?) __________________________.

Create an Action Plan

Now that you’re aware of your triggers, understand what you’re feeling, and have a few techniques to use,  it’s time to create a plan. Grab a journal and write about these prompts:

1-The stress symptoms I need to notice and pay attention to are:

2-My current stress triggers, including both situations, people, and circumstances, are:

3-How do I currently deal with these stressors?

4-What’s a better way I could respond to these stressors?

5-What is one technique I can incorporate to remind myself to engage in stress management, as I begin to recognize my symptoms?

6-When do I anticipate the next stressful situation to happen?

7-What will I do when it occurs?

If you’re struggling with creating an action plan, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you.

I get it–changes are hard–but remember the jar of pickles. Who wants to be splattered by pungent negativity every time you lose control of your emotions? Sure, it’s tough to adjust how we respond to the stresses of life, but well worth the effort to learn to open your jar of emotions slowly and carefully so you and others can enjoy its contents.

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” —Steve Maraboli

 

A lesson in emotional intelligence–from the critters

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

I built a little pond on my plot at my community garden last year. I’ve put a lot of loving work into it, gathering and arranging rocks, purchasing a bubbling solar fountain, and nudging plants to life around its perimeter. I collected cattails from a nearby stream and replanted them along with a few lily pads and other water plants. One of my neighbors even put fish in it which we both feed.

So you can imagine my frustration arriving every day to discover the rocks have been thrown in, plants are torn up and knocked over, and the pump is disassembled in pieces at the bottom of the pond. The foam pump float has been ripped apart, full of tiny fingernail imprints. Grrr! Who would do this?!

My garden neighbors have a wild child whom I caught several times last year playing in my pond, throwing rocks, trampling plants, etc. The parents would yell at him to get out but he paid them no mind. So my assumption–of course–was to blame this hellion for the daily destruction. I know it’s a small thing in the big scheme of life, but I found myself getting really cranky that these parents would not discipline their child enough to keep him out of other people’s stuff! All the ‘facts’ matched up: he is an unruly kid and needs to stop.

Just when I had developed a real attitude about the poor little kid (and his parents), I read an article about the damage that raccoons can do to a garden pond. Raccoons! And as I started looking a little closer at all the signs, I see now that it is obviously one of these masked critters who is the culprit and not the little boy! Especially because the parents assured me (yes, I spoke with them) they haven’t even brought him to the garden this summer! Here I spent a few stressful weeks dissing on these parents and the kid, in my mind, and even talked to the garden manager about it, in my ‘kindhearted righteousness’. So imagine my chagrin at the realization.

Which got me thinking…

Sometimes we make negative judgments of people when we really don’t have all the facts. We think we do. But we don’t. We create a story in our mind based upon our views and outlooks and determine it is the truth…when it’s just not. It’s easy to do. And it’s hurtful. And wrong. And it’s a good way to ruin relationships and assure our hearts will become bitter.

Have anyone you’re judging today based upon YOUR set of facts? Someone you KNOW is in the wrong, and has bad intentions…so you think. What if…what if you’re wrong? What if there’s a different perspective, some whys you might not be aware of, some facts you haven’t noticed, which are missing from the narrative you’ve so carefully crafted? I’d like to encourage you to learn from my mistake…and let’s all take a lesson from the critters. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Quit pointing the finger. Accept that maybe your own closed mindedness may be the real ‘bad guy.’

I’ve got some apologizing to do.

Then I’m going to forgive myself.

Then I’m going to go water that garden.

Why It’s Important to Create a Safe Place to Fail At Work

Article contributed by guest author Lindsey Leach.

This past week I found myself, yet again, in wonderful conversations with other leadership and organizational development professionals – actually multiple. I still have to pinch myself when I remember I am one of those professionals now #impostersyndrome. This past week’s discussion was focused on student and adult learning via a panel of four professionals in the space. They were asked questions on challenges they are currently facing with students, how we can better serve a variety of students as they enter the workforce, and how education is changing as we speak. So, naturally, I got inspired.

After the panel, we got into small groups to collaborate. We ended up chatting about what are the right questions to ask candidates during an interview to determine if the individual truly has the skills and abilities that meet the role responsibilities and current needs of the company. Everyone tends to project (or tries to) their best selves during an interview, so how do you dig deeper? How do you figure out if they mean what they are saying or are full of it and simply telling you what they found online to be the best way to answer? It’s natural to study up on a company/job you are interviewing for, but are you applying for the right reasons? Are you the right fit? What makes someone the right fit? Every job and company differs.

I’ve accidentally done this because, as an introvert, I used to think I needed to fit into a box that I believed to please the interviewer. I’m a recovering people-pleaser in every area of my life. I was also down a road in life that I thought I was passionate about, and fast forward, I was walking down that road for the wrong reasons. Subconsciously, I believed being introverted was not acceptable in most work environments. There’s a lot I could get into there, but I want to stay focused on the topic at hand. I tend to highly commit to my work with passion and immense work ethic. If I don’t know how, I’ll figure it out. If I’m terrible, I keep trying. Truth be told, often that mindset can become unhealthy without proper balance and awareness. Great work ethic and the ability to adapt to personalities and situations in order to problem solve and create something exquisite is something I am proud of. I found my balance in being true to who I am, my core values, and following my own true north. I value my alone time equally to my sincere, meaningful relationships, meetings, and collaboration time with the beautiful people in my life. I thought it wasn’t okay for me to value my needs as an introvert, which is so beyond the truth and a belief I no longer hold. It feels so good to have released those thoughts and expectations that NO ONE but me was ever actually holding. It was always okay for me to be me. I just wasn’t in the best position or at the best company for me and my needs. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who do don’t mind. I’m grateful for all of the missteps that got me here because without them, I don’t know how I would have ever found what was right for me. It’s certainly more about the journey than the destination.

I’ve also found my balance in challenging myself to do what I love most, with incredible and healthy people that I learn from daily, and still find my peace in processing alone thereafter. You’re okay, and I’m okay. Introverted is okay. Extroverted is okay. Everyone is okay.

While putting myself in a box in order to take a stab at making everyone else happy, I discovered some interesting external factors that impacted me. I was quick to blame myself, but it takes two to tango. What I was reminded of in the small group discussion about interview questions this week was that there must always be a space and opportunity to fail when you’re learning and growing. I think this is indefinite, but especially as a young professional. Often I was put in situations without training and essentially told to sink or swim. “Fake it ’til you make it” were often words to live by. I’ve always found this interesting, and disheartening. Now, granted, these positions weren’t a fit for me and they weren’t utilizing the skills I wanted to regularly, but when your company is actively not giving you anything but benefits, paycheck, a ping-pong table, and a promotion here and there….often now, new generations will only put up with that for so long before they are bored or just the opposite, over-worked but unsatisfied. Their managers don’t understand what they need or want, and often they’ve never asked. Or if they have, the person hearing the question lacked trust in themselves and their leader and therefore, wasn’t honest and was looking for that promotion outside the company.

I don’t want the threat of “I’ll get fired if I fail” looming over my every last move while simultaneously being told to go figure it out with little or no training. I want the space and opportunity to learn and know that if I fail, no one died and they are ecstatic you took the risk to try. The feeling will still sting, but that also means you care about what you do. You failed, but you learned and are better for it. AND the company gave you the proper tools and resources to feel set up for success and supported. I understand some professions seem not to allow for this space. I’m not discussing that particular kind of work here. As humans, we make mistakes all of the time. I know, as a recovering perfectionist, that’s a hard sentence to read, accept, and swallow.

I am investing myself, my time, and my best efforts into the company I so choose. I want the company to also invest in me, or I might as well start my own business and create that for myself plus have freedom and flexibility. I believe this to be why leadership and talent development are key and so pivotal to success. That investment is much like a relationship. I choose you every day, and you choose me. We choose each other. We both are choosing to be the best possible version of ourselves each day with the understanding that neither are always going to be perfect.

Neither are going to grow without learning experiences and ups and downs. I tink you’ve already heard me say nobody likes anyone perfect anyway. 😉

I wanted to get into HOW you create space for mistakes, but this article became longer than I anticipated….so look out for a Part 2 on this soon! Ciao!

#foodforthought #thoughtfulthursday #introvertuncensored #creatingspace #failingisokay #roomtogrow #investment #impostersyndrome #safeplacetofail #bestversionofyourself #bestversionofourselves #workinprogress #millennials #introvertisokay #extrovertisokay #leadershipdevelopment #organizationaldevelopment #collaboration #inspiration

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