• Read AN AMERICAN TURKEY IN LONDON

    Leadership

    AN AMERICAN TURKEY IN LONDON

    A tribute to culture shock and why it never pays to make too many assumptions, because ASSume makes a ‘you know what’ out of u and me… For this weeks blog I’m doing something a little different as a tribute to Thanksgiving, and sharing a funny, creative piece I wrote a number of years back about living in the UK. My first Thanksgiving there I attempted to cook a massive turkey in an ill-equipped British kitchen. When I read the piece the other day, it reminded me that culture shock is indeed very real, and how our assumptions can often get the better of us. A perfect theme for a leadership blog, as we often jump up the “ladder of inference” to our detriment. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it! The Most Difficult Task The most difficult task I’ve ever taken on, despite scaling the misty summit of Kilimanjaro and even ascending the higher passes of Everest, was cooking a Thanksgiving turkey in a tiny, ill-equipped English kitchen. To be fair, it was a rather large turkey. Much larger than I’d anticipated when I placed the order. Still relatively new to the UK, my mental kilo to pound conversion math was frankly a bit shoddy.    My first Thanksgiving in England was a bust. I’d been living in the UK only a couple of weeks, and having no friends, my English boyfriend Gareth took pity on me and hastily invited his mate Paul over to our little flat in Surbiton, a suburb of London. Paul brought his girlfriend Nikki, a tall, anorexic-looking woman with razor sharp features and a wry, forced smile. The feast was held in the living room, which had been rearranged to create some resemblance of a dining area. We dined over bland, half cooked Brussel sprouts, as Gareth insisted that I salted food too much, and a couple of anemic Cornish game hens. I learned that day, turkey just wasn’t “done” in the UK. If you really were, as they say, “mad keen” to have it, you went down to the butcher shop and placed an order many weeks in advance.  Luckily there was plenty of booze, which Gareth and I didn’t hesitate to indulge in. Paul joined us in the liberations as Gareth and I proceeded to tell the drunken and somewhat inappropriate love story of our first meeting on a crowed Grecian beach while Paul appeared interested and Nikki pretended to be, as she pushed her food around on her plate and took polite sips of prosecco. A few hours later, we bade them adieu, and I was rather proud of my first makeshift British dinner party. I asked Gareth to call them again for another meetup, but he never heard back. This year was going to be different But this year was going to be different. To start off with, I had real friends. Not just people I vaguely knew from the office or Gareth’s friends who […]

    November 23, 2022

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    16.5 min read

  • Read Awareness is great, but don’t forget to act

    Well Being

    Awareness is great, but don’t forget to act

    For years, I chased the big insights.  I think many of us do.  Particularly if we fall into the category of someone who is super interested in personal development and mistakenly intent on “fixing” ourselves (I stubbornly argue there is nothing in you that ever needs to be fixed) the insights are like gold and can often feel addicting at times.  Perhaps we feel lighter for a while, our perspective has changed.  We can feel our growth.  We might start to recognize that we’re showing up differently as opposed to embracing that old bad habit.  And then we have a day where we are faced with all the old problems, and we fall into the trap yet again.  And we may start to wonder, how did I end up here?  Didn’t I already learn this lesson?  I thought I had figured this out, why am I back in the same place? Development can and will be messy This is why I often tell folks when they contact me for a consult that development is a messy business.  Some days it can feel like you’ve taken one step forward and then two steps back.  I use the word “feel” for a reason because in my experience the trajectory is typically up, even though it’s never a straight line. I say this because I’ve noticed a trend in myself and human beings in general, who can make great strides through new insight and shifting patterns of awareness, but often lack taking action that will help to reinforce that new insight. Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean.  I start to recognize how important it is to be grounded in my body daily.  I recognize the power of yoga in my life.  And then I get busy, and for a few weeks I fool myself into thinking it’s not as necessary as I thought, and I stop doing it.  And then I wonder why I’m feeling so restless all the time.  Why I’m feeling disconnected from my purpose as a coach and trainer, and everything starts to feel more like a daily grind.  I wonder why I’m snappier at people.  Why I’m confused about the things that really matter in life. Or perhaps I recognize that part of the “problem” with myself is the lack of compassion I have for myself.  Because of this I can’t hold appropriate boundaries with friends or family members, as I’m always needing and chasing for their approval.  Or I dimmish my accomplishments thinking they’re not good enough, which ultimately steals my joy or keeps me from trying something new.  I get the whopping insight, perhaps even heal some old childhood wounds with the help of coaching or therapy that caused the deficit in the first place.  And then a few months later, wham, bam, I find myself in the soup again.  The insight has flickered out because I’ve forgotten to make it a practice.  I mistakenly assumed that was just “fixed” now.  Don’t forget to act […]

    November 9, 2022

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    4.5 min read

  • Read The Cycle of Change

    Change, Leadership, Well Being

    The Cycle of Change

    The other day I decided to step down as an organizer for a women’s group I founded several years ago.  The decision was a long time coming and was bittersweet.  It was a fantastic experience, and yet intuitively I knew it was time to move on.  I think years ago I would have held on longer and pushed myself to muddle on.  Quite often the things we take on become a big part of our identity.  Sometimes the hardest decision to make is when to let go. The 4 Cycles of Change And this got me thinking about the cycle of change, which I often refer to as a deck of cards.  And when you think about how a game plays out, there are 4 phases: The Shuffle Phase of Change Shuffle – in this phase we’re wondering what game we want to play.  We’re thinking about the options that might be on the table.  Perhaps we’re thinking of transitioning our career or learning something new.  There’s often excitement, but there’s often a lot of fear, a lot of trepidation.  What if I make the wrong choice?  What if I make a mistake?  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if I embarrass myself?  We may find this phase to be exhilarating if we’re focused on all the possibilities and opportunities that may manifest, or our inner saboteur may be rearing its ugly head.  Or both at the same time.  We may find ourselves paralyzed by inaction as we are overwhelmed by the possibilities. The Deal Phase of Change Deal – in this phase we’ve chosen the game we wish to play, and we start to signal our intent.  We are making our first move, so to speak.  A lot of excitement again potentially, and a lot of potential for inner turmoil.  But the difference is we are now committed.  We are taking action, the ship is starting to move in a certain direction, although the path may not be completely known.  In this phase we might feel quite unsteady, some days we might feel like we’ve made great progress and other days maybe we feel we’ve gone backwards.  Our emotions will most likely be a mixed bag – there will be wins and successes as we start to make our moves, and there will be setbacks.  The choice of how we ultimately respond to these is up to us. The Play Phase of Change Play – in this phase we are all in.  We’re playing to win, to succeed, we’ve defined what success looks like.  We know the drill, we can handle the inconveniences that may come along the way.  Of the 4 cycles, this is the one that is the most stable.  The problem with the play phase is that sometimes we stay too long.  We may have a tendency to overplay our hand.  We might find ourselves eventually becoming bored, stagnant or lacking purpose or meaning in our endeavor.  Maybe we crash and burn.  But we hold […]

    November 4, 2022

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    4.6 min read

  • Read Silence Really Is Golden

    Leadership

    Silence Really Is Golden

    Yesterday I was teaching a leadership class, and we got into an interesting conversation about zoom, and given the fact that so much happens in the virtual world now the question was:  How do you effectively engage with people in a virtual environment and create meaningful connection? My leaders were voicing their frustrations about the lack of “real” connection in the virtual world, and how you get team members who are on the quieter side to speak up, to participate, to engage, particularly in a group setting. “I’m often looking at a screen of black boxes with people’s names.  I ask if there are any questions when I’m finished sharing my thoughts, and it’s just crickets.  And then I just move on to the next item.”  The scary sound of silence The dreaded sound of silence.  The awkwardness of it.  I remember when I first started facilitating, I was afraid of it.  What if I ask a question and it doesn’t land?  What if the participants aren’t getting it?  What if they think I’m a fool who has no idea what she’s talking about?  When I first started out, I tended to rush through the content, because awkward silence was scary.  I would fill it with my worst fears about my performance.  I would imagine folks were thinking horrible things about me, the material, or the learning experience.  I was afraid of silence.  And to be frank, I think most people are. We’re not used to silence We live in a busy world, full of notifications, full of ims and dings and the next thread on slack to respond to.  It’s not often you hear silence .  I doubt we’re even used to it anymore.  There’s often a tv playing in the background in the airport, the radio or podcast we listen to in the car, even in my old office in Houston CNN was always running on the monitor in the background.  Noise is everywhere. Silence is a gift And then another participant in my class shared something interesting.  “You know, my manager brought me in the other day to facilitate a team session for a group that he warned me in advance was often quiet.  He told me they probably wouldn’t have any questions.  They wouldn’t engage.  So I thought hard about how to approach them to get a different result.  I started off the session slowly and methodically and told them that I’m comfortable with silence.  I’m not in a rush, we can take all the time we need for this experience.  And then I sat back and patiently waited. And the questions kept coming, 8 in total, when they’ve never asked one before.” The story didn’t surprise me.  Probably the hardest thing for me to learn over the years as a facilitator of learning was to embrace silence.  To learn to love it, and to use it like Erika did in this story effectively.  Because the truth of the matter is, there is magic in silence […]

    October 28, 2022

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    4.2 min read

  • Read What really motivates your team?  Hint:  It’s not money.

    Leadership

    What really motivates your team?  Hint:  It’s not money.

    It’s not the things we often point to “I’d never thought to think about what motivates the people on my team,” a leadership participant of mine said recently on a course I was delivering.  Interestingly we often think we know, so we don’t bother to do any deep reflection on this question.  More money.  More kudos for the things we do.  More power, perhaps a promotion, advancing another rung on the org chart. These are the typical answers I hear when I ask that question.  The reality is different.  Let’s take money first, that’s the one I hear most often.  Despite what you might think, money isn’t a motivator for people.  However, it can be a de-motivator if pay is not fair or up to market rate.  It’s what organizational psychologists often refer to as a hygiene factor.  Once people are paid at market rate, an increase in pay does very little to affect an employee’s overall level of engagement or motivation. I see this quite often in my career coaching practice.  Folks will come to me for career coaching and say things like, “They offered me a bunch more money to stay, and I was excited for about a week.  And now I want to leave again.” The 4 Key Drivers of Motivation So, money isn’t the answer to the question.  But if it’s not money, then what is?  Motivation really boils down to 4 key things that in my experience, often get overlooked at a managerial level.  And this is worth paying attention to considering Gallup has estimated that 70% of the reason an employee quits their job has to do with their boss: Purpose:  How connected am I to my work?  Is it serving a higher purpose?  Is it creating tangible value?  How is my work serving my values? That feeling of connection, that sense of purpose in what you do is valuable.  And it’s the number one thing that people want when they come to me for career coaching, particularly when they’re looking to transition their career.  I hear all the time lack of purpose or connection to something.  As a manager, your job is to help people see that their work matters.  To help connect the dots and help your team see their contribution to the bigger picture. Recognition:  To what extent is my work and contribution valued by others?  How is my work recognized?  Is it in a way that is meaningful to me? The interesting thing about recognition is that it can look very different to different people.  It might be in public.  It might be in private.  The point is that as a manager, it helps to ask to understand how your people like to receive it.  Cultural influences can also affect this, I remember back to when I worked in the UK.  I noticed that most Brits shied away from public recognition, like in a team meeting or a team setting.  Whereas we Americans often like our horn to be tooted […]

    October 20, 2022

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    4.4 min read

  • Read How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk

    Leadership

    How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk

    The last few weeks I’ve taught a number of courses on time and priority management for busy professionals.  One topic that often comes up is the matter of saying no at the office.  I often wonder if it’s because I’m based in the South, where we place a special emphasis on “being nice” and “sugar coating” things.  And yet it comes up over and over again no matter what part of the US or world I’m working in.  Questions like: How do I say no to a colleague who needs help, especially one that I like?  Or what about a stakeholder who always thinks their deliverable is the most important and is constantly trying to add extra tasks to my already full plate? Our mindset around saying no is Key I often hear concerns about guilt and what will other people think about me if I don’t help them.  There are a lot of folks that inadvertently fall into the approval seeking trap.  Many of us never develop the strong boundaries in childhood that we need to get us through life, and it rears its ugly head as we get older.  And it really is a trap.  When you’re stuck in it, you often experience what I call the “Plight of the Martyr,” where you’re constantly solving problems that are urgent for others but ultimately not important to you.  And your key priorities fall to the wayside as a result.  Think about that continuous improvement project that you’re constantly putting on the back burner.  Or perhaps you’re wanting to get back in shape and find yourself sitting at your desk toiling away on an urgent deliverable for someone else and decide to skip that yoga class yet again.  What’s interesting is that for some people (myself now included) saying no is not super difficult.  When I ask folks who have an easier time why that is the case, they often explain that they value their time.  They realize their deliverables and priorities are just as important as others.  They also recognize that taking the monkey constantly off another person’s back isn’t a great way for them to learn.  That is itself is an interesting reframe, because we often believe we are helping but in many instances, we could be hindering the growth and development of the person asking the favor. Ultimately it comes down to judgement.  We do live in a society where reciprocity is valued, and it might make sense to say yes to a request when you recognize you might need a favor down the line.  However, if you decide that saying no is the right option, then consider the following technique as a viable option that could save you heaps of valuable time. Use the AIM Framework to say no A – Acknowledge the request.  “I can really tell you’re in a bind and I know how important this report is to you and your team.”  When we acknowledge we are in effect repeating back that we’ve […]

    October 6, 2022

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    4.5 min read