Posts Tagged ‘Coaching’

Five Simple Ways to Develop Your Child’s Emotional Self-Regulation Skills

Article contributed by guest author Stephanie Pinto.

We’ve all seen those kids in the supermarket who meltdown when they aren’t allowed to have some lollies. The children who appear to bully others because they are so unhappy. The teens who mope around because they didn’t get invited to a party, and “it’s like, the end of the actual world”. For some of us, maybe that’s OUR kids. Maybe it was us when we were younger.

My point is, everyone has difficulties managing big emotions at one time or another. Even as adults we often need a friend’s shoulder to cry on, or a partner to confide in. We just cannot always solve things on our own. And hey, that’s okay.

Building emotional intelligence in kids requires a solid foundation of being aware of one’s own emotions. This allows them to start learning how to manage them appropriately. Let’s look at five simple ways to develop our child’s emotional self-regulation skills.

1.     Co-regulate to self-regulate.

We must allow our kids to co-regulate first – this means we allow them to stumble and trip, whilst navigating their emotions. We can’t expect them to regulate big emotions on their own. Be there for them when they need it. Allow them to cry and be upset – but come from a place of teaching and supporting. Show them ways to cope. Brainstorm how to solve the problem. Help them sit in the emotion without judging or hurrying. Hold space by allowing the flow of anger, frustration, or whatever is coming out. And tell them you will figure this out together.

2.     Model emotional regulation for them.

We are our kids’ best teachers. They watch us, without even realising, and pick up traits and habits that we display. Are we showing behavioural self-control ourselves? If we are modelling volatile, snappy behaviour when stressed, how can we expect our kids to keep calm? I like to model emotional language during and after emotional events too. “Wow I am getting so frustrated with this!”, “I was pretty embarrassed before, I think that’s why I snapped at you”. And of course, apologising. “Sorry buddy, I was feeling disappointed with something else, and I accidentally ignored you”. And lastly, modelling how you deal with emotions, goes a long way to helping kids learn what to do: “I know what I need, space and quiet time to calm down”.

3.     Develop their self-awareness.

At a really early age, we can teach our kids how to be aware of their body, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Use parallel talk to help map out what they might be feeling or thinking. “Wow seems like you’re feeling overwhelmed”, “I can see you have lots of energy in your body right now”, “Looks like you’re starting to get anxious and jittery?” When we talk about what is going on for our kids (parallel talk) it helps them to identify it in themselves as they grow. It may seem unusual but kids won’t notice. With time you will start to notice your child monitoring their own feelings and what’s happening in their body – and this shows good self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

“Kids can actually be quite creative in finding their own calming strategies.”

4.     Brainstorm coping strategies.

Explore and build a toolkit of coping strategies for your child to use when they are feeling stressed. Kids can be really creative with finding ways to calm themselves, but initially they may need some prompting to discover strategies. Google has an amazing array of coping strategies posters available. Feel free to get creative and make your own with your child, cut and paste, colour in and list 10 to 20 things your child loves to do. Keep this somewhere handy e.g. on the back of their bedroom door or on the fridge.

5.     Making Mistakes is OKAY!

I include this in many lists and articles I write because it is so powerful! We must actively teach our kids that making mistakes is NOT bad, it is actually GREAT! Even as adults many of us fear getting something wrong and the judgement that comes along with that. When we can’t make mistakes, our creativity, happiness and confidence are stifled! Let’s celebrate mistakes that our kids make, and model being okay with our own errors or mishaps too. This allows our kids to better regulate negative emotions when things go wrong.

Which one of these 5 top tips will you use with your kids this week?

Tuning out that critical, inner voice

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I get the amazing opportunity to teach courses in emotional intelligence each week, to brilliant students from around the world. It is a humbling experience, yet oddly, I feel confident in doing so. I mean, sure, I still get nervous, because I so want to impart the class content in a way that inspires them to action, but I think it’s a healthy nervousness which keeps me prepared. But there was a time when the thought of teaching these classes gave me the sick pit of dread. After listening to a workshop this morning about rewiring our inner dialogue, by my talented colleague Grant Herbert, I reflected on how I was able to move from a crippling fear of public speaking to thriving from it.

And this is where where I want to say thank you to all of you who attended Pathways Church. It was you who gave me this confidence to defy what the voice tried to tell me. Ron Johnson asked me to share my story as part of his sermon one week and I heard myself saying yes, though everything in me wanted to say no. I’d never spoken in front of a large group of people, let alone a church. “You’re not a speaker, you have nothing of value to share, you’re not good enough”, the inner voice whispered. Soon after, Christopher J. Bloom asked me to take a shot at presenting the announcements/communion each week at services. Again, I said “Sure”, but inside I felt like shriveling up in my comfort zone and running away to a deserted island to hide. Before that first service, I sat out in the car, having a full-blown panic attack in front of my kids, and cried. Who am I to speak to this great people of Yours? “You are going to sound dumb, they will be bored, you’re not cool enough, you’re not worthy–you’re not even a good church girl!”, the relentless inner voice chanted. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, but those inner voices sure know how to play into that human weakness of ours.

Legs all weak and noodly, stomach sick, I remember walking up on stage in front of about 1,400 of you, self-conscious and shaky, feeling like an idiot, fully aware that the presenter who preceded me in weeks past was a professional (and funny!) comedian. Was I going to trip in my new thrift store heels? Is that a coughing fit I feel coming on? Was my zipper zipped? As I opened my mouth with a shaky, unsteady voice, glancing discreetly at the notes scribbled on my hand, the words fast-blurring as my nervous sweat stealthily trickled down my palms, I croaked out a feeble attempt at a slightly-humorous, self-deprecating story, to get a laugh and warm up the crowd to the sermon’s message.

Pathways Church, you laughed. You laughed, you nodded, you responded, and afterwards, came up, hugged me, and told me how much you could relate to what I said. And then the next week you did it again…and the next, and the next, and the next. I went from dreading the experience to almost enjoying it. Chris smugly grinned, knowing he was right about me all along — I could do it, even though that inner voice persistently told me otherwise.

My friends at Pathways Church, it was you who encouraged me to defy my inner voice and squeeze through the iron bars it so desperately wanted me to cower behind, to the point where I actually looked forward to getting up in front of you and sharing my mishaps and mess-ups, my mistakes and maladies. sometimes inviting a smile, sometimes evoking a tear, in way which I think helped us all feel connected, something we all longed for and needed. I know I did.

So thank you to all of you who encouraged me with your consistent, warm responses as I stumbled over my words, said things I later regretted, and learned, slowly, to stop listening to my negative inner dialogue and create a new story. It’s because of you I feel confident doing what I do today. Thank you for that.

What limits is your inner voice placing upon you? What is one thing it says you can’t do, which maybe you can? How much longer do you plan to listen to it? Maybe it’s time to rewire what it’s saying, from an “I can’t” to an “I can”.

Offering kindness: An innovative way to lead

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Not sure about you, but I’ve never once been inspired by someone’s angry, political rant. Oddly, I’m not moved to action by someone shouting at me to do/not do something. Accordingly, when someone hurls insults, calls names, or attempts to shame…again, strangely, I don’t find that motivational. Over the years, I have changed my viewpoint and actions exactly zero times as a result of that sort of behavior. You? Maybe I’m just stubborn that way.

Here’s a thought: If you really want to influence the way someone thinks, convince them that your way is best, or lead people into action, maybe consider a different approach.

Do something kind for them.Tell them what you appreciate about them, in detail. Thank them for who they are. Forgive them of past wrongs. Anonymously send them money with an encouraging note. Pray for them (all the while asking to see how you might be ‘off’). Send them a gift in secret. Treat them to coffee, or dinner, and when you’re together, do nothing but ask open-ended questions and listen. Offer respect. Validate their differing point of views, even if you don’t agree. Encourage them.

And if that’s just asking too much, consider getting out and doing something wonderful for someone else today…not by yelling, ranting, or condemning, but by showing active love. It’s kind of hard…especially when times are tough…but we can do hard things.

Yes, be smart. Be wise. Be alert. Be discerning. Be shrewd. And be kind.

Then, when you stop for a moment and glance behind you, you might be surprised by how many followers you have, looking to you to lead them, wanting to know more of how you think and learn from you.

Or, keep shouting into that social media megaphone, attacking and demeaning. It’s a choice we each get to make.

No matter how many shut downs, lock downs, viruses, conspiracies, quarantines, curfews, scandals, wars, and rumors of wars, that’s one freedom no one can take away.

Letting go

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Over the years, I have struggled with giving up things I loved…my spacious home filled with cherished stuff, financial security, my church, a job that paid well with benefits, someone to provide happiness for me, and all the privileges which came along with that lifestyle…because I had to. Instead, I’ve had to figure out how to live in a very small space, secure remote work, accrue some debt, get rid of most of my stuff, live on a very limited income, learn to enjoy my own company, develop a personal relationship with God, and find joys in the simple things. Now that I’ve let it all go, and choose this lifestyle, it no longer feels like a struggle, though to many I may seem poor.

But it sure makes the transitions called for during a times such as this a lot easier. Other than the need for a mask, and a deep compassion for those who are without food, are scared, and have lost jobs and loved ones, life without many of the typical conveniences feels normal to me, and oddly, I feel thankful for the rough times which led me here.

Crazy-thinking, I know.

I get it, right now it feels really hard. Because it is. But sometimes letting go of parts of life-as-you-know-it can be a breath of much-needed fresh air if you allow yourself to breathe it in and fill your lungs. With a mask, of course, for now. And down the road, without it all, you may just find a place of peace and joy you didn’t know was possible.

I’m not negating the struggle getting there. We’ve never faced something like this and losing beloved things like career, savings, freedoms, security, health, and loved ones is painful–terrifying, even.

But things may just turn out all right. On the other side of this, your life may look a lot different than what you dreamed or planned…and you may even ask yourself, “How did I end up here?!”, like I have, countless times. Yes, it will be a different life…but maybe, just maybe, all right.

Change is so hard for us humans, but it’s not going anywhere. Let today’s struggles give you the strength for the next wave of change which will hit, once this one ends. Keep your chin up. This is hard…but we can do hard things. You got this.

Because you never know, you might just like that place you find yourself on the other side.

We get to choose

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.
We’ve all had to modify our habits and behaviors in the past month, and because of this, it’s become increasingly important we tend to our emotional wellbeing.
 
Giving up routines
It’s hard to let go of our normal routines, especially routines we enjoy. It can be frustrating, annoying, and depressing. This disruption to our normal routines can be confusing and scary and _______ (fill in your own adjective). And many feel downright restricted, for good reason. Some of us can still get outside — some can’t. Some of us have huge houses to roam — some are cooped in very small spaces. Some of us get to work — some are getting paid not to work — and some can’t work at all. Some of us are financially sound — some are struggling to pay rent and feed our families. Some of us are alone — and some feel overwhelmed by all of the family members at home under the same roof. Some of us are sick in hospital beds — and some are still enjoying health. Some of us don’t know anyone personally who has succumbed to the disease — some have lost dear, loved ones.
 
How will you respond?
Noo matter our differing circumstances, we are in this together. We have all had to modify our lifestyles to some degree. And despite what some can do and what some can’t do, we have one thing in common. Choice. Choice as to how we respond to this upheaval of life as we knew it.
 
One choice is to let ourselves be filled with fear, worry, and dread, allow negativity to take hold, and complain, gripe, and blame. Many go down this path, and they can — it’s their choice. However studies show that consistent stress, fear and worry can take a toll on our bodies. If continued, it can wreck our immune systems and mental health — and have a negative affect on everyone we interact with.
 
Another choice is to choose emotional wellbeing. It’s not always the easiest route. It takes considerable effort to fight against the natural tendancy of negativity when times are hard.
 
This month I watched a video of a man who ran a marathon inside his tiny, dark apartment living room. Can you imagine the monotony of running ’round and ’round your kitchen table for 6+ hours? And think about being his neighbors in the flat below! I saw that a neighborhood conducted a socially-distanced dance party. I saw quarantined individuals singing from their balconies. I watched a dad who made his daughters laugh uncontrollably (and drove his wife crazy) by acting like a dinosaur every time his girls said the words, “dinosaur dad”. I’ve seen a boy smiling as he rides his bike outside my window every afternoon. I’ve witnessed moms getting creative with crafts to keep their kids occupied. I’ve participated in video conversations where people shared things they’re grateful for. My neighbors have been gardening. One friend has been riding her horse. Another friend initiated weekly virtual happy hours with her colleagues. My daughter-n-law, who was sick with coronavirus, got a new puppy, and shared the photos of her laughing at his antics, which brought us all joy, despite the extreme discomfort she was in.
These people, as many around the world have done, have chosen to find joy despite their negative circumstances.
 
Yes, times are difficult. We face so much uncertainty and it’s easy to let fear creep in and take hold. But have you ever been one to choose the easy route? Think back on all of your own past success, accomplishments you are really proud of, great and small. Was it easy to get there? Did it really take no effort? You can do hard things. You’ve done it before and you can do it again. We all have and can.
 
Finding Joy
What do you like to do? What makes you laugh? What makes your heart sing? Yes, I know — you most likely can’t do these things, right now, in exactly the same way you did before. But are there ways you can modify a bit and still make them happen? Maybe it’s a video chat with your best friend. Of course that’s not as good as being with them in person — but at least you can see their face and hear their voice. Maybe it’s opening your window and letting in some fresh air — even if you can’t go outside. Maybe it’s practicing yoga in your tiny apartment — not as good as your class at the gym, but better than nothing? Maybe it’s watching a funny movie at home instead of the theater. Maybe it’s getting creative with the limited food staples you have and coming up with a new dish…even if it turns out badly! Maybe it’s grabbing a pencil and sketching what you see from your front porch. Maybe it’s writing encouraging notes to friends to cheer them up. Maybe it’s having family members take turns creating a ‘restaurant night in’ so you feel like you’re still eating out.
 
And maybe it’s learning to find joy in the little things which may have gone unnoticed up until now.
 
The choice is ours
Again, we can choose negativity. We get that choice. But our emotional health is vital during times such as this. So I’d like to encourage you to fight the tendancies toward pessimism. See if you can’t try at least one thing today which will lead to a positive outlook, even if it’s just for a moment. If you can’t muster anything up, simply write down a few things you’re thankful for. Then try it again tomorrow, and maybe extend the time you spend doing it. Each day, increase the number of things you write down, and begin looking in all the nooks and crannies of your life for more. Share these with others so they, too, can benefit from your walk toward improved an improved emotional outlook and possibly be encouraged to do the same.
 Choosing positivity is not being naieve, or silly. Trust me, we still will remain very aware of the trying circumstances which surround us all. Things like this aren’t something we can just block out.  This is tough, maybe one of the toughest things we’ve experienced. But despite what’s going on around us, most of which we have no control over, when we choose to engage in joy-producing activities, we can at least begin to exert energy toward the thing we have control of — our own emotional wellbeing.
We get to choose.

Reflections

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” — Margaret J. Wheatley

Making time this holiday season to reflect on the past year may feel like one more item to add to your ever-growing to do list, and the last thing you have time for.  However, stopping to reflect may be one of the most important things you do amidst the holiday hubbub.

Reflection simply means to give deep thought to something.  It’s not a fleeting, in-passing glance back, and isn’t to be confused with the goofy, quirky “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handy on NBC’s television comedy, Saturday Night Live.  Reflection consists of stopping what we’re doing, pausing our current thought stream, and purposefully remembering past events, considering why they happened, how they happened, and pondering the outcomes.

“There is no greater journey than the one that you must take to discover all of the mysteries that lie within you.” – Michelle Sandlin

In a research study of employees in call centers, compiling the efforts of Francesca Gino, Giada Di Stefano, Bradley Staats, and Gary Pisano, it was discovered that employees who spent 15 minutes at the reflecting about lessons learned at the end of the day performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not. [https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it]. In the world of academia, researchers found the significance of reflecting on the student’s learning is undeniable . “It can naturally activate further engagement with learning material, deepen learners’ understanding of the topic and reinforce independent thinking and in that way create an effective learning environment.”[https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329203590_Theories_on_Self-Reflection_in_Education].

Reflecting is a positive choice any time of the year, but is especially beneficial as we wrap up the past 12 months and look ahead to 2020. Making time to reflect can add value in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • Forces us to slow down during a hectic time of year
  • Makes it possible to celebrate our achievements
  • Promotes gratitude
  • Helps us determine the things we don’t want to repeat in the coming year
  • Births creative ideas, helping us plan ahead for what’s next
  • Inspires others to reflect on their own lives
  • Connects us with those around us by remembering those who helped us along the way

As educational reformer John Dewey noted: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Need some ideas on which aspects of this past year to reflect on?  Consider some of these, for starters:

  • What went well?
  • Where did you miss?
  • What ‘made your heart sing’?
  • What made you laugh?
  • What scared you and why?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • What (and who) inspired you with hope?
  • Who helped along the way?
  • Who do you wish you would’ve spent more time with?
  • Which accomplishment made you the most proud?
  • How did you overcome a particularly difficult challenge?
  • Who did you help?
  • What do you wish you would’ve done more of?
  • Who are you most grateful for?
  • Which activities were the best use of your time?

Most likely, reflecting on the above questions will prompt you to think of more questions of your own to reflect upon.  If you like to write, consider using a journal to document your thoughts, or record your responses on a voice recorder, or have an in-depth conversation with a trusted friend or colleague.

Doing so will help direct you toward a successful year ahead.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” — Peter Drucker

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!

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.

Stop, look, and listen

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from little five-year-old Marta. As if her sparkling brown eyes, quick smile, and cheeky, baby-like face weren’t enough to win me over–because they were. But it was a competency of emotional intelligence she possessed, which, without a word, made her one of the brightest kids in the classroom.

Wisdom of a child

In the inner city school where I was teaching, standardized assessment scores were low, graduation rates were astonishingly poor, and for most students, English was the second language. Marta arrived the first day of kindergarten equipped with a backpack, hair neatly braided, wearing clean, pressed clothes, with a smile so bright you couldn’t help but beam back. It was obvious that she was well taken care of at home. However my co-teacher informed me that she didn’t speak a word of English, nor did her grandparents, who were her caretakers.  “Good luck with that!”, she said with a hint of disdain.

I made efforts toward effective communication with Marta, even though at first I could tell she didn’t understand a word I said. I used a lot of gestures and exaggerated facial expressions. However, Marta didn’t miss a beat. She was earnest and intentional. Before she’d take any action, she’d stop, look around her, and listen with riveting concentration. I could see her studying my face when I spoke, was quick to nod though I could tell she didn’t fully understand, and flashed her bright smile whenever I grinned. She constantly watched the kids around her: in the morning as they put their coats away, at her table group as they worked on their papers, and in the afternoons during story time, always following along just a step behind, mimicking their behavior. She seemed tuned-into the difference between the children who behaved well, and those who did not, and readily emulated the actions of those who made good choices. She was a quick learner.

Marta, I came to learn later, demonstrated an incredible amount of situational awareness. Within weeks, her comprehension of English, both verbal and written, progressed at astonishing speeds. By the end of the year, you never would have guessed that it was not her first language, except for some pronunciation variances which she adeptly picked up from her grandmother’s strong, accent-laden diction at home. Her ability to tune into what was going around her had a direct impact on her success as a student.

What is situational awareness?

Situational awareness is a competency of emotional intelligence and one which is effective in determining our ability to influence and lead others well. It’s the ability to read social cues, pick up on political currents, and determine norms in family, social, and business gatherings. Those who are good at it are able to detect crucial social networks and understand the political forces at work. They can accurately pick up on the guiding values and unspoken rules which are in play, and are able to make use of formal and informal dynamics.

Those who struggle with situational awareness can sometimes find it difficult to get things done in various social settings, and can be caught off guard when social and political situations arise, whether it be at home or in the workplace. They can be offensive without realizing it and unwittingly act in ways which are inappropriate. They miss on being aware of the emotions of those around them and can find many social situations (and the people involved) frustrating.

Unaware, unsafe.

Not being aware of what’s going on around us can get us into trouble. For most workplaces, a lack of situational awareness can lead to potentially dangerous situations. In the world of aviation, for example, staying aware of surroundings can be the very thing which helps avoid system failures and crashes.  “One of the greatest risks a pilot has when faced with a problem is that the pilot is simply not aware a problem exists. Loss of situational awareness is like the boogieman sneaking up behind you—danger is imminent, but you are pleasantly unaware of it.”  [http://langleyflyingschool.com/Pages/Human%20Factor–Loss%20of%20Situational%20Awareness.html]  In the construction industry, situational awareness is equally important. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor reported that fatal injury rates among construction workers was almost three times that of all occupations.  In a white paper distributed by workzonesafety.org, it was noted that, “Loss of situational awareness undoubtedly contributed to many of these worker accidents. Situational awareness is a worker’s ability to capture cues and clues from what is happening around them, then being able to put them together to mean something, and predicting future events, especially potential risks/threats.”

Distracted drivers – a lack of situational awareness

Cell phone use is proving to be a large contributor to our inability to remain conscious of our physical surroundings, no matter how good we think we are at multitasking.  It’s known that multitasking impairs performance. Studies have shown that even just listening to words being spoken on a cell phone decreases brain availability for other tasks by 37%. [https://www.workzonesafety.org/files/documents/worker_distraction/fatigue_e-device-use.pdf] At any given point in a day, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while driving. In 2017, the National Safety Council reported that “cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving, and one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.”https://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cause-of-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html]

On the home front

While not honing your situational awareness can prove to be life-threatening, in our home lives, missing on the dynamics of what is going on around you can be detrimental to building strong, healthy relationships. Take the all-too-typical example of an overworked parent who is too busy to notice his kids are showing signs of going down a ‘bad’ path, whether it be skipping classes, lying, stealing, cheating, illegal drug use, etc.  By not being alert and tuning into what is going on in his teenager’s day-to-day, negative habits can quickly form and leave the parent feeling blindsided. “He was such a sweet boy,” the dad will lament, shaking his head sadly remembering when his child was six. But he’s not six anymore — he’s 16 and somewhere, 10 vital years had passed without the parent picking up on the signs of change and being aware — and assertive — enough to respond in a way that encourages the connection kids so long for. In extreme cases, where one or more of the parents is narcissistic (tuning into self and missing on reading and responding to the emotional cues of others), “clinical experience and research show that adult children of narcissists have a difficult time putting their finger on what is wrong…filled with unacknowledged anger, feel like a hollow person, feel inadequate and defective, suffer from periodic anxiety and depression, and have no clue about how he or she got that way.” —Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201105/the-narcissistic-family-tree]

Office politics and situational awareness

At the office, a lack of situational awareness can take on the form of office politics, a word that most consider ‘dirty’. However, engaging in the goings on at the office actually can have an advantage. In a Forbes.com article, Bonnie Marcus writes that a “lack of attention to what’s happening in the workplace can be extremely dangerous.” After being passed over for a promotion she felt she rightly deserved, she noted, “I didn’t pay attention to what was going on in my company. I avoided office politics and was therefore totally ignorant about how the decision for that VP job would be made. And what’s worse, I  failed to nurture important relationships with the people in corporate who had power and influence over my career.” [https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2017/04/04/what-i-learned-about-office-politics-that-changed-my-career/#393293266168]. In a study done by Jo Miller, founding editor of Women’s Leadership Coaching., Inc., where she asked 169 employees how they handled office politics, she found that “20% said they try to ignore it, and 61% said they play the game reluctantly and only “when necessary.”” In her article, she quotes Nina Simosko, a leader in technology strategy at Nike, Inc., who says, “When it comes to office politics, there is no way around it. Once you start working with a team you are going to experience it. I am not a fan of politics, but I have learned that ignoring them can have negative consequences. It can determine whether you are successful in your career or not.”[https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-avoiding-office-politics-could-hurt-you-more-than-you-know]. In another article, Jo writes, “An author and careers expert, Erin Burt notes, “Avoiding (office) politics altogether can be deadly for your career. Every workplace has an intricate system of power, and you can — and should — work it ethically to your best advantage.”[https://beleaderly.com/cant-afford-ignore-office-politics/]

It begins with self-awareness

So how do we develop this vital competency of emotional intelligence?  Situational awareness begin with self-awareness, as well-stated, here:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” –Richard Feynman

In order to be aware of what’s going on around us, it’s vital we tune in to our own emotions throughout the day and allow them to provide insightful information into how we’re doing.  Try it right now — how are you feeling? Can you put a word to it? Can you trace its origins (why are you feeling that way)? Can you–in the moment–recognize you are feeling that particular emotion and then, choose to manage your behavior in a way that is mindful of that emotion?  Easier said than done, but it can be done.  If you struggle in this area of self-awareness, consider employing a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to offer some help.

Tips to improve your situational awareness

Try following these 3 tips to increase your situational awareness.

Stop. Many of us move in a frenzied cacophony of activity, one crisis spawning the next, and rarely take time to slow down, let alone stop and take notice of our surroundings. Set a value of paying attention to what is going on in your social and work settings. If needed, set an alarm to sound throughout your day to remind yourself to stop what you’re doing, for the simple purpose of tuning in to what is going on around you. In that moment, breathe. Notice the details that you may have missed without this much-needed break. How are you feeling?  Why are you feeling that way? How are those around you feeling?  Why are they feeling that way? Attempt to connect the dots — does what you see happening around you make sense? Does it “fit” into the context of the moment and feel “right”? Knowing the history and political currents of your environment can help you answers these questions.

Look. Have you ever talked with someone, only to realize later that you never really looked at them? Maybe you were in a conversation while scrolling on your phone, or answered their questions without looking up from your computer screen. It’s a good practice to develop your ability to see what is going on around you. Make a point to look people in the eyes when they’re speaking. Try to read the emotional cues they may be offering — or hiding.  Now look around, beyond that person. Notice who is in the room and what they’re doing, and how they’re interacting with others. Notice what has changed in the last few hours while you were preoccupied and determine why it has changed.

Listen. We can learn so much from others if we’d just up our listening skills. The people in our lives can clue us in on what’s happening, below the surface. Learn to ask open-ended questions, and try to remember some of the personal details they may share. Not good with names? Jot them down if needed, along with their unique identifiers (she loves cats, he has 3 kids, etc.), so you can refer to them the next time you chat. Questions like, “How are you really doing?”, “How did you feel when that happened?”, “Why do you think that occurred?”, and “What were you most proud of in that moment?” are a few examples of questions which can take your conversations a little deeper. Tune in as they describe people or situations they found to be effective–or ineffective. Invite them to coffee, or lunch, and learn how they operate, what their values are, and what their hopes and dreams may be. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify the characteristic and behaviors of individuals are successful within the organization.

What Marta taught me was that no matter our hurdles, we can choose to learn from those around us to become more situationally aware. In doing so, we’ll not only help protect ourselves from potential pitfalls of being unaware, but enable our ability to learn and grow as we move toward success.

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”  — Stephen Covey

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.

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