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The desire to inspire

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

My very first boss made me laugh. Hard. As in, sometimes I’d have to leave the room to regain my professional composure because of one of his antics. And not only was he funny, he was a clear communicator, and praised my work with specific encouragement. He complimented me in front of others and took an interest in my personal life.  He and his wife treated me like family. In return, I was more than happy to work long hours, putting in extra effort whenever I could, and even babysat his children on numerous occasions in my free time.

He was an inspiring leader.

And in being so, I was motivated to develop a strong work ethic. We accomplished a lot of great things together. He made work fun and engaging and others were envious of my job.

Are you familiar with the attributes exercise? Take a moment and think of a person who has been an inspiration to you. It could be a mentor, or a teacher, a parent, or a friend…someone who has made an impact in your life. Jot down their name, then list the qualities about them that you admire most.

Now look at the attributes you wrote down.  Do these fall under IQ, intellect quotient, or EQ, emotional quotient?  It’s most likely that the attributes you noted are a competency of the latter, social + emotional intelligence. These competencies– self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management — have a powerful impact on us.

One competency of emotional intelligence that has far-reaching effects on others is inspirational leadership.  It’s that ability to mobilize individuals and groups to want to accomplish the goals set before them. It comes in many different shapes and forms, and there are various methods (humor, being one) that feed inspiration. People who are inspiring are able to articulate goals clearly and stimulate enthusiasm for a clear, compelling vision. They have the ability to bring people together and create a sense of belonging. They know how to create  an emotional bond that helps others feel they are part of something larger than themselves.  They are able to invoke a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting and something people want to be a part of.  Does this describe you?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Each of us is capable of increasing our ability to inspire others.  But there are some hurdles that can slow us down.  Which of these tends to trip you up?

  • You don’t have a clear vision for the future of your team/organization
  • You lose the big-picture view of the organization and get lost in the weeds
  • You aren’t a good team player
  • You are not passionate about your work or those you work with, thus aren’t able to create a sense of passion in others
  • You too often think your opinion is more important than others’ opinions
  • You tend to think work should be a “one-man-show” … you lead, they follow
  • You … (fill in the blank with your own stumbling block)

What’s great about emotional intelligence is that these competencies can be learned and developed.  If you’d like to become more inspiring as a leader, finding a social + emotional intelligence coach can be an asset.  As well, consider these tips:

  • Figure out what your vision is for your personal life as well as the vision of the organization you work with. Not sure?  Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?  What is my company passionate about?”
  • Learn to put words to that vision and articulate it in a way that expresses your feelings around the vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status-quo.  Be creative; come up with fresh and innovative perspectives.
  • Ask yourself what you admire in a leader (the above attributes exercise will help!) so you can develop your own definition of inspirational leadership.
  • Open up high-level discussions to include your team members and value their input as substantive and valuable.
  • Look for ways to create opportunities for ownership in your vision with your team members.
  • Give specific compliments and don’t hold back praise for work well done. Most people thrive on kind words.
  • Avoid micro-managing, and give capable team and group members latitude to move things forward without needing your stamp of approval on each step of the project.
  • Evaluate if you are living in integrity — do your actions match your values? People are inspired by those who live out their belief systems in their day-to-day activities.
  • Keep it fun.  People like to laugh.  A sense of humor can go a long way in creating an engaging work environment.

Here I am, twenty five years later, and I still remember the gift of inspirational leadership my first boss bestowed upon me. And now, as I lead my own teams, I find myself trying to emulate his style to hopefully inspire those I work with.  Inspirational leadership has far-reaching effects that can carry over to the next generation of employees. Let’s all commit to taking a step forward in this competency this week.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

A jump-start to personal power

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Personal power is a competency of emotional intelligence, and for some, can be a difficult one to embrace, especially if you’ve had a history of not speaking up.  But it’s never too late to stand up for our values, no matter how inexperienced we are at it.

I sheepishly admit I have never hooked up the cables to jump start a car battery. Whenever mine has died, someone else has done it for me. But there was a young college-aged girl standing by her old, beat up Chrysler at the rest area this morning looking worried so I offered to help.

As we lifted the hood to look for her battery, which surprisingly was not in plain sight, a skinny, greasy-haired man came over and laughed, making a snide comment about girls trying to do things they can’t. I noticed he hooked the first clip to the wrong car…if it matters… I thought it did. I questioned it and he retorted , “You really think you know more than me?” I hushed not because I felt dumb but because I really didn’t want to touch any of the car parts and was glad he was getting his already-dirty fingernails dirtier. But then he looked me up and down and said, “By the looks of you you’ve probably never used a tool in your life.” I bit my tongue, not really seeing how any tools would be involved in this, but when he next made a rude comment about my dress, my pre-coffee-slept-5-hours-in-the-car brain took the wheel and I said, “You’re being rude and derogatory, and you need to stop”. His eyes flashed and he said, “Fine, good luck jumping it yourself”, threw the cables on the ground, and stomped off.

I apologized to the girl for chasing off our only help but said being spoken to that way is not cool. She nodded and said he was making her feel uncomfortable. So we googled the make of her car since she didn’t have a manual and together found the elusive battery ports, hooked it up (switching around the cable he’d put on), and following the online directions, had her car running again in a few minutes. We high fived and I smiled and jokingly said, “We’re rock stars!,” and she agreed.

One small step for man, one giant leap for womankind.

Then we each got in our cars, bonded by our shared success, with a new notch of confidence under our underused tool belts, and headed down the freeway in opposite directions, two solo female travelers making our way home.

How to live a beautiful life

Article contributed by Amy Sargent
Someone told me yesterday that my world sounds so easy, so fun. She even went on to say she wished she had my life.  I took it as a compliment–as it was–but I had to laugh. My life, really? If she only knew…!
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
It’s all about perspective. I don’t lead any more of a charmed life than the next (nor am I any worse for the wear than the next).  I am simply learning the art of reframing. Like when we snap a photo of a beautiful nature scene, and notice it’s not centered, or an unwanted object is marring the setting, we open our photo editing software and crop to get a new perspective. In reality, the undesirables are still there but we’ve reframed it, so our focus is on the beauty instead of the blemishes.
We must do the same to live a beautiful life.
This month I’ll admit I’ve experienced an enviable lifestyle. I have drunk in the scandalous scent of lavender and lilacs, watched the orange-pink sun rise in the morning’s first light, and squinted in the glimmer of sun rays dancing on a shimmering lake. I have heard the sweet harmonies of my daughter’s voices and watched their speedy legs run across the finish line to victory. I’ve spent enjoyable evenings with dear, sweet elderly women and laughed at their stories of days gone by. I’ve relaxed by the turquoise pool at my cozy apartment, baked warm, fresh homemade bread and enjoyed drinks on a patio with a dear friend. I’ve spent quiet, peaceful alone time on a long morning run contemplating life and the exciting options spread before me. I received a surprise refund from my cable company. On Mother’s Day, I hiked along a sparkling stream with my girls and saw two magnificent moose in the wilderness of a national park. Yes, it’s been a month to be coveted.
Yet in this very same month, I inhaled a lot of second-hand pot smoke (not my favorite thing in the world), which wafts up from our inconsiderate neighbors below. I could only get a glimpse of the sunrise for the tall concrete buildings that block my morning view, and watched discarded Styrofoam cups floating on the surface of a dirty lake. I heard my daughters declare they felt ugly and watched them cry with disappointment after not performing as well as they’d hoped in their races. I’ve spent exhausting evenings with frail, old ladies who admitted they are ready to die. I lived in a cramped apartment with an overcrowded pool full of screaming kids and slept in a too-small twin bed that made my back ache. I baked my own bread in attempt to save money because I was worried about bills. I felt lonely, doubted my purpose in life, and felt fat while attempting a slow morning run. I got a notice that I owed more than I thought on a credit card bill.  On Mother’s Day I spent the entire morning alone while my girls took their stepmother out to brunch.
Same month. Same events. Two perspectives.
If we only tune in to the ugly parts of our lives, which we all experience from time to time, what an ugly life we’ll lead!
Realistic optimism is a competency of emotional intelligence and something we can all learn. It isn’t about pretending tough times don’t exist or being a naive Pollyanna; it’s learning to hone in on the positive and not on the parts of life that drag us down.  It’s easier to do the latter, trust me, as I’ve spent hours, days, and weeks over the years wallowing in my miseries. The difficulty of our struggles can feel so heavy that they diminish our ability to see clearly. But no matter how dark it may look, remember that right alongside those woes is a world of wonder. To ‘see’ requires a shift of focus.
I have friends whose daughter is in a battle for her life, and in each moment they don’t know if she is going to make it. I have another friend who has lost use of her legs, racked with pain, and can’t get outside to see the pink blossoms on the springtime trees. Yet all three of these saints somehow remain positive and joyful. Their noble, hope-infused mindset inspires me beyond words.
“Life is like a sandwich! Birth as one slice, and death as the other. What you put in between the slices is up to you. Is your sandwich tasty or sour?” — Allan Rufus
As you tumble out of bed on this fresh, new morning, and begin to go about your day, get out your editing software! Refuse to let the negatives define your day or even worse, your life. Of course your trials are heavy and difficult. I know. But beauty and blessings are right there too, light and lovely, awaiting your discovery. Now is as good as time as any to begin to learn how to reframe so you can get busy living a beautiful life.

How can I help?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

They bought me a car.

It happened a number of years ago, as I was putting myself through grad school, going to classes at night and on the weekends, working two jobs during the day, and somehow trying to find time to spend with my three kids as a single mom. Times were a little tough financially though we always found ways to make ends meet and have fun while we were at it. We’d driven our tired, old red Subaru, “Bessie”, into the ground. She was limping along, radiator problems and engine troubles, and was held together by duct tape in several places on the bumper. Some dear friends of mine found out — friends I had known in college and hadn’t seen for 15+ years — and called me up one night and said, “We’re buying you a new car.  Go out and figure out what you want, then let us know. We’ll cover everything.”

Who buys someone a car?!

The simplest way to explain it would be to say that servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire power, wealth and fame for themselves.” — Kent Keith, former CEO of Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Have you ever met those people who just seem to think of others first? Those that want to make a difference in others’ lives and pursue opportunities to impact others for the better? Having a service orientation is a competency of those with strong emotional intelligence. People who possess this amazing quality anticipate, recognize, and meet others’ needs. Not only do they notice when someone is in need — they respond. Those who are strong in having a heart to serve others seem to understand what others are lacking before the need arises and have an uncanny ability to grasp the perspective of others, quickly, and readily take action to help. They creatively look for ways to make others’ lives more comfortable — and do so with a willing attitude.

I want to be like this.

Many of us, on the other hand, tend to focus on our own objectives most of the time. We don’t exactly want to go out of our way to help someone and often think, “This isn’t my problem”, or, “They should’ve made better choices so they wouldn’t be in this predicament”. If someone needs our help, we may offer “easy-way-out help” — solutions that don’t require a great deal of time, effort, or money on our part. We tend to not want to go above and beyond for others, unless there’s something in it for us.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens

Why would we want to develop an attitude of service? One reason is that it simply brightens the other person’s day…and not just theirs but of those around them! For example, if someone at the bus station doesn’t have enough money for a ticket, and you step in and buy them one — most likely they’ll tell their friends/family later that day about the awesome thing that happened to them today, spreading the cheer. Give the check-out lady a compliment on how you appreciate your positive attitude and most likely she’ll exhibit that positive attitude with the next customer — and the next. Helping your coworker on a task which feels overwhelming to them will relieve them of the stress they’re carrying and result in less stress they bring home to their loved ones. Doing kind things for others can be the very thing that turns someone’s bad day into a good one. And knowing we’ve turned someone’s day around can only lift our own spirits.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” — Maya Angelou

Another outcome of having a heart of service is that it transforms us. Servant leadership helps us switch from an outlook of lack to an outlook of abundance. In Nipun Mehta’s article Five Reasons to Serve Others, published in YES magazine in 2012, we learn that when we begin to serve others, we discover the “full range of resources” at our disposal — not only financial gifts but our time, presence, and attention — and can begin to discover  opportunities to serve – everywhere — enabling us to operate from a place of abundance instead of scarcity. Abundant-thinking helps us build trust more easily, welcome competition, embrace risks, and stay optimistic about the future…all great qualities for a leader to possess.

In Robert Greenleaf’s book, Servant Leadership, he outlines ten principles of servant leadership.  Which of these could you stand to improve in?

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of others
  10. Building community

You may not feel you are wired for service oriented-leadership, but there are simple steps you can take to enhance your relationships with an attitude of service.

  • Become a better listener.  Listen for meaning and suspend your judgments and opinions unless asked. Most people are longing to be heard and understand — just tuning into others when they speak can help with that.
  • Be available. Carve out time in your schedule to “be” with others, simply enjoying the time with them. And put down that phone while you’re at it!
  • Offer compliments. Kind words are such a gift! A proverb says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Be on the lookout for sincere compliments you can offer another.
  • Make a giving list.  Think of the people who you regularly interact with — and ask yourself, “How can I help?” Jot down their names, and beside their name, write down one thing you could do for them to satisfy one of their needs, hopes, or dreams. It could be buying them their favorite coffee or inviting them to lunch.  Then go do it!
  • Keep your promises. You might not think of this as a way to give to others, but being true to your word, reliable, and someone others can count on is an act of service in and of itself.

I felt like the luckiest and most-loved girl in the world the day my friends bought us the car. Their kindness had a powerful, positive impact on our family, and ever since we have looked for ways to give back to others, so they too can experience the joy we did. You may not ever have the financial means to buy someone a car…most of us don’t…but we can find small and simple ways to serve others in our everyday lives.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”  — Albert Schweitzer

5 Habits That Let Emotionally Intelligent People Adapt To Anything

Article submitted by guest author Harvey Deutschendorf.

The ability to stay flexible and open-minded in uncertain times isn’t just a personality thing. It also depends on what you do.
5 Habits That Let Emotionally Intelligent People Adapt To Anything

[Photo: Jurica Koletić/Unsplash]

Adaptability has always mattered in the workplace, but with automation on the march and many industries experiencing major upheavals, it may be a more crucial skill now than ever. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or the CEO of a company, knowing how to cope with change and uncertainty is pretty much nonnegotiable.

By now it’s hardly news that emotional intelligence is key to thriving in the future of work, thanks to the habits and behaviors it encourages. Here are five that highly emotionally intelligent people tend to practice–which anyone can tap into in order to adapt to change.

 

 

1. THEY RECOGNIZE WHEN THEY’RE GETTING TOO COMFORTABLE

When confronted with change, most people decamp back to their proverbial comfort zones. It’s a natural first instinct–staying with what you know–not to mention the easiest. But over the mid- to long-term, it can make you rigid and inflexible.

Emotionally intelligent people aren’t immune to this knee-jerk reaction. They simply tend to more aware when it’s happening. That’s the crucial first step toward overcoming the urge to stay with the tried-and-true and move instead into uncharted territory. After all, awareness precedes any possibility of action. Simply knowing your typical behavioral patterns and emotional drivers gives you an advantage in dealing with sudden new variables.

Brené Brown put this aptly in her 2015 book Daring Greatly: “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement,” she writes. “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

If you can’t first recognize when you’re clinging to cozy habits–and, in Brown’s words, “engage with” your discomfort at the idea of changing them up–you’ll never find a way to break with the old.

2. THEY ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Change brings up feelings from both ends of the emotional spectrum: excitement and anxiety. In their just-published book The Power of Vulnerability, authors Barry Kaplan and Jeffrey Manchester point out the obvious perils of the latter: “The fear will tug at your sleeves and attempt to pull you back into a spiral of second guessing.” Their advice? Don’t try to suppress that anxiety. “Acknowledge it, be thankful that the presence of the emotion keeps you grounded, and then move through it.”

No one adapts to change and uncertainty by trying to ignore how it makes them feel. Recognizing your negative emotions is the prerequisite to managing and moving through them successfully. Not sure just how to do that? Here are a few ways to start.

3. THEY SOLICIT AND CONSIDER MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES

Instead of insisting on their way or looking for just one right way, emotionally intelligent people understand that their own point of view is merely that–and they aren’t discouraged by the knowledge that their beliefs have inevitable biases and limitations.

Grasping this reality is essential for considering new ideas, including those that may be totally contrary to whatever you’ve believed in the past. Needless to say, adapting to change requires approaching new and untried initiatives with an open mind, and a willingness to take risks on them. (It’s one reason why recruiting expert Yewande Ige recently shared with Fast Company that she asks every job candidate, “Are you willing to be wrong about your opinion on the world?”) Instead of increasing friction in the workplace, emotionally intelligent people serve as the lubricant for ingenuity to flow more freely in fast-changing times.

4. THEY READ NONVERBAL CUES

Amid any change, there’s likely to be resistance that can sabotage the process if it isn’t dealt with. Some may want to be seen as being open to new things and yet feel very differently inside. Emotionally intelligent people intuitively understand how group pressure might compel others not to voice their misgivings. So they try to predict wherever unspoken reservations might be lying dormant, then draw them out productively.

This takes an awareness of verbal nuances as well as nonverbal cues. It might sound like an odd habit for cultivating adaptability, but making a conscious effort to practice reading others’ body language can help you home in on and address what what your coworkers are feeling. This won’t just sharpen your own emotional intelligence, it will also help you win your colleagues’ support so you can all adapt to new circumstances together.

5. THEY DON’T REACT HASTILY TO SETBACKS

Anyone trying to succeed in a fast-changing environment will encounter surprises, setbacks, and failures. They key isn’t avoiding those obstacles, it’s handling them effectively. Emotionally intelligent people don’t automatically revert to the old way of doing things as soon as a new approach falls short. Instead, they typically avoid reacting until they’ve had a chance to think things through and decide how to move forward. Often doing nothing (for now) is better–and more difficult–than doing the wrong thing too quickly.

The key is being able to sit with a problem long enough to think through the best way forward. It takes patience, composure, and listening skills to bring everyone together and come up with a solid group consensus. Instead of looking to lay blame for setbacks, they’ll be focused on solutions.

 

How to experience holiday cheer when you’re single and alone

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

The telltale signs of the holiday season are here – colorful, twinkling lights, shoppers bustling, melodic music in every store, people smiling, and laughing, holding hands and kissing, joy and peace everywhere you look. It sure is lovely. But is this your reality?

As much as we may long for the picture-perfect scene from a Currier and Ives painting, honestly, it can be a tough time of the year. More accurate may be a slowdown in business causing financial strain, which can lead to frustration, worry, and depression, and boy do these have an impact on our relationships. Arguments over petty issues, impatience, and ugly words we can’t take back are so easy to fall prey to when we’re stressed. Before we know it, the merry Christmas season can become a time of fights, loss of love, breakups, and marital strain. Which doesn’t exactly make for a holly jolly Christmas.

In an article printed in the Healthline newsletter, the author writes:

Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.” (Holiday Depression, https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays#1). And what is the biggest predictor of holiday depression? Social isolation.

Maybe you’re one of those people who is blessed to be in a healthy, happy relationship, surrounded by positive friends and family. If that’s the case, I’m so glad. Really. It’s the ideal, without doubt. Enjoy it, relish it, and continue to be thankful for the riches that abound around you.

But if you’re one of those who finds yourself alone, the holiday season can be difficult. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, uselessness, lack of purpose, and just plain sadness can envelope you and before you know it, you find yourself on Team Grinch. Personally, this season I’m experiencing the delightful duo of empty nest syndrome and a painful breakup, and I’ll just say that decorating the tree this year wasn’t exactly what we see on the Hallmark channel movies. Replace the perfect, smiling couples in lovely Christmas sweaters, falling in love as they hand each other ornaments, with this picture-perfect scenario: a weary, single mom struggling with the tree base, (the tree only tipped over twice before I got it up!), lights in tangled knots and missing bulbs, throat tightening over each ornament that reminded me of earlier days with the kids, a glass of wine in hand with tears streaming down my face. I wonder if Mr. Currier and Mr. Ives would’ve like to paint a picture of that?!

I don’t tell you this to evoke pity. I have a blessed life. I have three lovely children who adore me and try to get home on the holidays. I have an extended family that supports me and a daddy that holds me as the apple of his eye. I have an engaging profession, brilliant colleagues, dear friends who love me, a safe place to live, all the necessities of life, and a whole lot of positive thinking. As alone as I feel at times, I know that it is temporary. The pain of loss will eventually move along and be replaced with joy soon enough. I’m not negating the hurt – it’s tough and I’ve let my share of tears flow. But I know this won’t last. However, not everyone can see the light at the end of the dark, Polar Express tunnel.

If you’re one of the charmed ones this season, surrounded by loved ones, please take a moment – or two or three or ten – to be on the lookout for your friends who may be struggling. Please, especially check in on your single friends. Invite them over for dinner, take them out for drinks, buy them a cute pair of snowman socks and drop a surprise gift at their doorstep. Think of things you can do to make sure they feel loved, included, and cared for. It’s easy to take it for granted when you’re not alone, but remember many single people don’t have that special someone who is thinking of them this time of year, and if you don’t look out for them, no one will.

 “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

And if you’re one of those of us who are alone, you’ve got some homework, too. Sorry, but you don’t get to wait around for someone else to reach out to you. First, be sure to tune into how you’re feeling. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how you’re feeling, in the moment, and to use that information to manage behaviors. Don’t hide from those feelings of sadness, desperation, anger, or disappointment. Don’t bottle them up – instead, let them serve you. Our emotions are terrific indicators of what’s going on inside, so listen up. This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re grieving, grieve. If you’re hurting, hurt. If you’re worried, worry. Pretending we don’t feel the way we feel won’t get us anywhere. Experience your emotions– cry it out, punch your pillow, journal, write that email then delete it, whatever you need to do that’s safe and non-damaging to express how you’re feeling – then get up, wipe your tears, and get out. Spending too much time alone in social isolation will increase feelings of depression and increase your awareness of being alone.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” – Daniel Goleman

I know you don’t feel like it (the pulls of Netflix are strong), but you’ve got to make yourself get out, with the purpose of getting the focus off yourself and onto others. Slip into a fun holiday dress or tie. Stop in the coffee shop and buy a stranger a drink. Sign up for a social event with groups like Meetup to meet new friends. Volunteer at the food bank. Take a walk along the brightly-decorated downtown streets. Press $10 in someone’s hand and wish them happy holidays. Buy gifts for your friends and take the time to wrap them in beautiful paper with ribbons and string. Invite a friend to a movie. Host a holiday gathering at your house…and if you’re short on funds, ask everyone to bring an appetizer or drink to share. Wear a silly Santa hat and make people smile. Build a snowman. Leave an extra-large tip for the waitress. Go to the Christmas parade. Invite some friends to go sledding. Find an outdoor ice skating rink and wobble around on blades. Attend the local tuba concert (yes, these exist!). There are so many fun events around town this time of year just waiting for you to enjoy! I know, it’s not what your dreaming of, being cuddled up by the fire with that special someone as Bing croons Silver Bells, exchanging gifts from Jared’s. I get it. But getting out and around others and doing fun activities will do wonders to lift your spirits and get your focus off yourself. Sure, you’ll cry again when you get home, but at least you’ll get a reprieve from the self-pity and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season with others for a few moments.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.Charles Dickens

I can only recommend the above activities because it’s what I’m doing this holiday season. I’m still sad, and alone, but am having bits and pieces of fun in between the tears. And my outlook for the future is getting brighter with each strain of Baby It’s Cold Outside I hear.

Of course, if you are feeling depressed and/or are experiencing overwhelming negativity, thoughts of inflicting harm to others or yourself – or suicidal thoughts – seek professional help immediately. Don’t mess around with that one. Sometimes we can’t pull ourselves up out of the slump alone and we need the help of others. No shame there – but don’t hesitate if your pain has taken a turn down a dark path. Get help.

Whether this is turning out to be the best holiday season ever, or looking a little bleak – we can all experience the joy of the season with a little extra effort in looking out for one another, reaching out to others, and living outside of ourselves. Whether you’re alone or with that special someone, you can practice kindness, a giving heart, and selfless love this season. Why not give it a try?

 

The New Workplace: Where Meaning And Purpose Are More Important Than Ever

Article contributed by guest author Renelle Darr.

(Published in Forbes [September 2017]:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/09/13/the-new-workplace-where-meaning-and-purpose-are-more-important-than-ever/#42e3c21f5a46)

 

More than ever, people are wanting more out of work than money. They want more meaning and more purpose. They want to be to be able to see how their contribution to the workplace makes a difference. Purpose and meaning is a two-way street where an employee is encouraged to bring their full set of values and strengths to work and, in turn, the organization supports the employee in using those values and strengths in service of its mission. For that reason, it is not only social enterprises that can provide purpose for employees, or that should. Research has found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are much more likely to stay with their organizations.

In order to shift our work environment to one that has more meaning, there are some pivotal employee essentials that must be accounted for by employers to enable such a transformation. In my 20 years of consulting on organizational strategy, I have observed what happens when these conditions are in place and the ramifications and limitations when they aren’t, which helped to develop the following framework.

Imagine a pyramid: The first element is a foundational requirement for the item above it. From the bottom up, wellness, emotional intelligence, conscious leadership and transformed cultures build toward the creation of an employee who gets more from their work than simply a salary — a sense of meaning and purpose.

Wellness

Many organizations have embraced wellness in some way, whether partnering with their health insurance carriers and offering employee wellness programs or providing pedometers that monitor daily steps. Other more advanced organizations are offering meditation, yoga and access to nutritionists and personal trainers. Health and wellness are basic essentials needed to bring our full selves to work. It fuels the energy to be our best and to continuously improve.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as a set of behaviors that enable “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” It is nearly impossible to improve our emotional intelligence without wellness (adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition, etc). Emotional Intelligence 2.0 co-author Travis Bradberry found that emotional intelligence skills account for 58% of performance in all job types and that 90% of high performers also exhibit high emotional intelligence.

The most important aspect of EQ is self-awareness. Awareness of self (emotional self-awareness, accurate self-knowledge and personal power) is the launching point for individual transformation. Awareness holds the key to success in aspects of managing relationships such as building trust, visionary leadership, innovation, teamwork and many more. Self-aware leaders understand their triggers, their strengths and their weaknesses, which allows them to navigate many complex situations and more easily grow and develop themselves. It is cultivated through mindfulness, learning and intentional self-discovery (such as personality assessments). We must truly know ourselves and our own purpose before we can lead others and the organization with purpose.

Conscious Leadership

Highly self-aware, emotionally intelligent leaders are then able to make a shift to conscious leadership. Consciousness and competence move together: As leaders become more conscious on the inside, their outer competence grows to enable them to navigate complexity, make better strategic decisions and deepen professional relationships. They are able to move from operating in a more reactive state where decision-making is not shared and obedience is required to sharing authority and operating from a place of inner purpose where their values, talents and strengths are guiding the contributions they make to an organization.

This type of leadership is required to create lean, innovative, visionary, agile, high-fulfillment organizations and cultures. Leadership is shared: The leader takes responsibility for crafting the vision, involving others in the vision and helping them connect how it enables each teammate to fulfill their personal purposes collectively. The culture consulting work I engage in is always most successful when preceded by work that helps ensure the executive team is self-aware and operating at a more conscious level.

Transformed Cultures

Humans who embrace wellness, emotional intelligence and conscious growth become leaders and employees capable of working in new ways. Conscious leaders are able to look at the strategy and processes within an organization and begin shifting them by flattening hierarchies and empowering people to bring all of their gifts, talents and values to work. Conscious leaders are able to construct work as a place to truly grow and develop. It is these types of cultures where employees not only find meaning at work but produce extraordinary results.

The Way Of The Future

Recently, I facilitated a board and executive team strategy retreat for an organization where I’d been coaching and consulting the executive team for almost a year around emotional intelligence and conscious leadership. The quality of connection, strategic discussion and new possibilities that emerged were truly transformational.

Of pioneering organizations who have made such shifts, Frederick Laloux wrote, “They show how we can deal with the complexity of our times in wholly new ways, and how work can become a place of personal fulfillment and growth. And they make today’s organizations look painfully outdated.” Many organizations spend little time in onboarding on the company culture and relational training for new employees. Many organizations still have large top-down hierarchies which prevent employees lower in the hierarchy from making decisions they know the most about since they are closest to the work. And many organizations still do not provide meaningful development for employees. These current processes get in the way of purpose. In 50 years we may shake our heads that we ever actually ran organizations this way.

Where does your organization fall within the pyramid? How will you make these shifts in order to be part of the changing nature of work? Will yours be one of the organizations people shake their heads about in 50 years?

 

 

A time to let go

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

Do you have someone in your life you’re not speaking to? That one you haven’t forgiven, or let go of the hurt they inflicted? The one that said the mean, hateful words behind your back, or who fired you without cause, or who offended you by their selfish actions? Broken relationships sit in our stomach like a sick pit and can leave us handcuffed to some pretty ugly emotions.  Listen, the pain you’re feeling — it’s valid. The hurt that comes from a friend is probably one of the worst. And the feelings that accompany that hurt are no fun to deal with — loss of appetite, listlessness, depressed, sad…you probably have your own set of feelings you can add to the list.

And while we can’t fix all relationships that end…we can choose to forgive the hurt and let it go.

Is it time to let that someone in your life off the hook?

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”  — Carrie Fisher

For some, the word forgive has religious overtones, and reminds us of a nicety we learned in Sunday School. “Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” But the word simply means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.  Simple, right? Just stop feeling angry and resentful. Easier said than done, I know. I mean, they hurt you.  It was uncalled for. Out of the blue. Done in a very poor manner, in a way that may have embarrassed you, or in what felt like a personal attack on your personality or character.  The natural reaction is anger or resentment and that is completely normal. Our next step (and often a healthy next step) is to close off that friendship, at least for a time being, to reduce any chance of further hurt. This is a normal way to protect ourselves and a stage of the grieving process when a friendship is lost.

But how long you get to hang on to the hurt and resentment? Of course there is no formula, no time table, that works for everyone. The time it takes to heal and forgive is going to vary with each of us. But know this — the longer we hang onto the hurt and resentment, the more comfortable we get with those feelings, and the harder it is to let them go. It can easily become our new ‘safe place’, like a cozy blanket we curl up with on the couch. It is warm and comforting and keeps us insulated from the pain. But it also can keep us on the couch and prevent us from moving forward. You’ll know if you’re settling in with it. You’ll play back the situation where the hurt happened over, and over, and over again. You’ll hear yourself talking about it to others — often. You’ll have pretend conversations with the person in your head, finally saying all the things you wish you could’ve said to them in the moment.  And then — you’ll do the same the next day. And the next. And the next. And I get it. Again — it hurt, and hurt, well, hurts! But the longer we wait to let something go,  the more comfortable it’s going to become, and the harder it can be to release those ugly feelings.  The thought of forgiving can be frightening. I mean, what would we do if we reconciled? Would we have to get our lives together and move on? Possibly stop using it as an excuse and take some steps down a new path? And what would we talk about to our friends at the holiday party?!

The process of forgiving would be so much easier if the person came to you first and said I’m sorry. Got down on their knees even and begged you to forgive them. Sent you flowers.  Wrote you a long letter telling you how they so much wish they could take it back. Gave you money. Bought you a vacation. Announced to the world how wrong they were and committed to being forever in your service. Sometimes that happens. But sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, do you carry the anger and resentment until they do? Or…is there a different choice?

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” — Robert Brault

Change is hard. Forgiving someone is hard. Life is hard.  But we can do hard things.

Emotional intelligence allows us the ability to read how we’re feeling in the moment, and manage our behavior appropriately. Most likely you’re very aware you’re mad at this person. Pat yourself on the back — that is a good start and your emotional self-awareness is keen. But how is that behavior part going for you? How is holding on that anger and resentment working for you?

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”  — Shannon L. Alder

The holiday season is a time to connect with loved ones, new and old. It’s a time of celebration, and laughter, and joy. Carrying the pain of a past hurt only dampens the holiday cheer. What a better time than this season to make the choice to let something go? Of course there will be those who have made choices that deem them unhealthy to let back into your life. You’ll need to determine the level of connection you maintain with the person depending on the safety and health of that person. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you now become best friends. But you can be free of the pain they caused. The choice to yours–to forgive, and be free.

It’s a tough thing to do, but the freedom you’ll feel on the other side will be worth it.  Is it time to give it a try?

I hope you do.  And if not now — maybe soon. Either way — at some point give yourself this precious gift of freedom. It’ll be the best gift you’ve ever received!

Wishing you the happiest of holidays.

Insights from a Year of Daily ‘Gratitude Journal’ Entries

Article contributed by guest author Dennis Hooper

We are approaching Thanksgiving, which means that Christmas is coming fast! It’s a special time of year for pausing and feeling grateful for our many blessings!

In October of 1863, during our bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln issued an executive proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving, to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It was not a new concept, as a day set aside for giving thanks had been celebrated in a variety of locations for years. Lincoln and many others hoped that an officially sanctioned NATIONAL holiday would contribute to restoring peace to the suffering disunited states.

As we approach Thanksgiving this year, would you be willing to experiment with setting aside a small amount of time EVERY day to express your gratitude for some unique aspect of your life? I started doing that a little over a year ago. I was deeply grateful for the experiences in my life to that point–and for the opportunities that I imagined still lie ahead for me!

This article has two purposes. First and primary is to encourage you to start a gratitude journal and work to keep at it for a significant amount of time. The second purpose is to provide a report on what the experience has meant to me–the two key insights that a year of daily reflections has provided.
Long-time readers may recall a similar article from years ago, 2006 to be precise. (You can find “The Gratitude Journal Challenge” on my Article Archives–address below.) Every day for a month, I acknowledged five items in my life for which I was grateful. Identifying 155 items without repeating any was quite a challenge, yet I found it both doable and deeply enjoyable.

In this recent effort–begun ten years after the first experience–my intent was to identify one item a day for a year. I expected to write about half a page each day; most entries wound up being longer.
Now, let me advocate that you consider starting a gratitude journal with the guideline being whatever you define. You can do five a day for a month, one a day for a year, or anything else you so desire.
Would you like to start in a fun way? Gather family and friends to watch the classic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As soon as the movie ends, invite everyone to share examples of gratitude, affirming each other with enhancements and additions.

As the energy wanes, announce your plan to start a gratitude journal, explaining your intentions. Ask others to consider doing the same, to include perhaps periodically sharing what each of you have highlighted, appreciating your gratitude together.

Now, let me share my two overarching observations from a year of daily contemplations. First is that we’ve all been blessed with an amazing abundance of gifts that we did not earn, yet we’ve quietly accepted and treat as if they are entitlements. This awareness resulted in another article you can find on my website, “I Don’t Deserve This.”

My second recurring source of gratitude includes the many friends and family members who have meant so much to me throughout my life. I’m considering sending a hard copy of this article in my Christmas cards this year, highlighting my appreciation for the recipients. I am deeply grateful for both the good times we’ve shared and the hard times during which we grew together!

If you choose to generate a gratitude journal, I welcome you sharing your dominant insights with me. Maybe you’ll affirm these two. Maybe yours will be different. However, I can almost guarantee you that your daily outlook will be more positive than it is now.

That’s the point I want to make as I close. Yes, I’ve shared two content items that kept coming up for me from my daily reflections. However, what’s even more remarkable is that the process of daily focusing on blessings transforms over time from a challenge (“I can’t think of what to record tonight!”) to a contemplative choice (“Which one will I record tonight?”).

I won’t go so far as to say that “gratitude” becomes a habit. I will say that even in the most troubling of days, you’ll pick out blessings for which you are appreciative. Will your resulting attitude be one filled with more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control? Give it a try and send me a note, telling me how it has worked for you. I can assure you in advance, I’ll be grateful!

What the world needs now

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“What the World Needs Now Is Love” was a song recorded in 1965, made popular by Jackie DeShannon. The chorus lyrics are as follows:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

While there is no doubt in my mind that this world could use more love, I would like to propose one minor change to the words:

What the world needs now is emotional intelligence, sweet emotional intelligence,
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is emotional intelligence, sweet emotional intelligence,
No not just for some but for everyone.

Of course, it doesn’t have the same ring and flow of the original, but with reports of yet another mass shooting, and violence of varying degrees from domestic fights to conflicts at the international level, can anyone disagree that this world could benefit from a little more emotional intelligence? Imagine a world where we all could be aware of our how we’re feeling, whether negative or positive, and respond accordingly, managing our own behavior to have a positive impact on others? And add to that the ability to read how others are feeling, in the moment, and manage those relationships appropriately, improving competencies like communication, empathy, conflict management, teamwork & collaboration, just to name a few.  Can you dream with us about what a different world this could be?

Those of you who have been trained in emotional intelligence coaching are out there helping others realize that behaviors, especially negative ones, CAN be changed, and that we can ‘grow up’ in our social + emotional intelligence (S+EI). I have no doubt that you are making a positive impact on the clients, teams, and organizations you are working with to make this world a better place. We thank you and applaud you for your dedicated efforts to this cause.

But it’s not enough. As the lyrics of the song confirm, it’s not enough for just a few to possess emotional intelligence. It’s not just for some…it’s for everyone.

Help us spread awareness of the importance of S+EI and the positive impact it can have on our lives so everyone can benefit from it. Tell your friends and colleagues about it, share the articles we post on social media, and encourage those you know to start doing the work needed to change poor behaviors and raise our levels of S+EI. Present a workshop about it to your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club. Write a blog about it. Talk about it with friends over dinner. Teach your children about it. Offer to give a talk at a local school. Take an assessment with your spouse and work with a coach to improve your relationship. Share one of Daniel Goleman’s books written about it with a coworker. Recommend S+EI coach training to other coaches you know, or if you haven’t already, consider taking it yourself. Have a trained professional come in and speak on it at your next company luncheon. The more of us who are actively involved in raising the awareness levels around S+EI, the more people can be aware of their own and others’ emotions, the more people who can start doing the work to manage behavior to create healthier, happier lives.

Sound too heavy? Maybe so. But we at the Institute happen to be big fans of social + emotional intelligence and place great importance on its relevance and impact upon our world. And the more people that can help with this the better. Contact us with questions or to learn more about how you can measure your own S+EI, or about becoming a certified S+EI coach, and join in a cause that can make a difference.

No, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone…

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