• Read Be Careful Who You Put on a Pedestal

    Authenticity, Mindfulness, Well Being

    Be Careful Who You Put on a Pedestal

    The last few weeks have been interesting ones – for a good chunk of March my husband and I took a vacation with my parents to Africa to go on safari.  I’ve been in a reflective place since then, thinking about the fun and excitement of the trip, but also thinking about how far I’ve come in my relationship with my parents, particularly with my father.  Family relationships can be tough, especially parent – child ones, and then there’s the added aspect of how we as children tend to put our parents on a pedestal.  It’s hard not to, when you think about it.  I’ve lived it, many of my clients have lived it, and while well intended, there are several unintended consequences in doing so.  It manifests in a lack of decisiveness when it comes to things like career choices, life choices, increases codependency and can really muddy the waters where clear thinking is concerned. When I think about the impact this had on my life, it’s profound.  It’s hard to just “be,” when you’re so busy trying to be someone else’s version of you.  Inadvertently and unconsciously, we give our power away and when we do we grow increasingly resentful of the other person.  Why can’t he see me for who I am?  Why can’t he appreciate me for the person I’ve become?  We feel pushed or compelled to do things out of family obligation and anger and resentment builds and builds.  Left unchecked it can completely poison the relationship.  I thank God it didn’t in the case of me and my dad.  When I truly think about it, for many years I was playing the part of the victim who had to do what he said without any choice in the matter, and my dad was the persecutor in our dynamic.  The more the anger built, the more I distanced myself from him – my tactic was to isolate myself rather than fight.  Over the years I’ve worked hard to pull him down from the pedestal I created.  And it’s important to note that I was the one that created it. Pedestals keep us from being able to truly love Putting others on a pedestal isn’t fair in two ways.  It’s not fair to yourself, because in effect what you’re doing is giving your power away as you seek approval and validation from the person on the pedestal.  But it’s also not fair to the other person.  It puts pressure on them, it creates unrealistic expectations that they need to live up to.  It creates a sense of division, of separation.  And the greater that sense of separation, the harder it is for love to enter the equation.  The harder it is to see that person for the truth of who they really are – a flawed, messy, beautiful human being, doing their best, worthy of unconditional love all the same.  That’s how I see my Dad now.  And I appreciate him for who he is, just […]

    April 3, 2024

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    6.3 min read

  • Read Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

    Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, Well Being

    Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional

    The title of today’s blog is a quote that has been attributed to many notable talking heads, including the Dali Lama.  And it’s the events of last week that really brought it home for me, as in the wee hours of Friday morning, when I should have been peacefully sleeping, I was awakened by a massive migraine attack, complete with nausea and all the fun things a migraine can throw one’s way.  The bottom line – it was an unrelenting 24 hours of hell.  And not just on the physical front.  Especially not only on the physical front.  In-between unsteady trips to the bathroom my mind was awash with anxiety.  What’s going to happen to all my client appointments tomorrow?  Cancelled.  What’s going to happen to my blog I need to finish and get out by the end of the week?  Not happening. What if this wrecks my business?  Clients are going to think I’m unreliable.  How am I supposed to plan and manage my engagements when something like this can strike without a moment’s notice? What if this puts undue stain on my marriage?  Me being up keeps him up.  How much can my husband really take?  It left me drained, emotionally and physically, but also quite reflective.  Because at some point, in the midst of all the strife, strain and obsessive worrying, I realized I had a choice.  Not a choice of whether I get to have migraines – unfortunately I don’t have that kind of power!  But a choice on what perspective I get to take on the situation.  And it’s the perspective I take that leads directly to how much suffering I must endure. What does it mean to suffer? To break this down, let’s think about what suffering means.  It’s worth noodling on this considering the Buddha said many a time that “life is suffering.”  On the surface of it, not the most upbeat way to view our journey around planet earth.  But it depends on how you look at it.  I’ve often defined suffering as “resistance to what is.”  Resistance creates pressure.  And pressure creates stress.  And so, when folks enter my virtual office these days and say things like they’re burned out and stressed out, I believe them.  They are.  But I also say the solution lies not so much in having more time in the day to address a never-ending list of to-dos, but more in the way we manage our energy relative to the problems life throws our way.  Because unfortunately, like it or not, life will throw us problems.  That’s the one thing we can always count on.  The real problem is we think we shouldn’t have problems.  And therefore, we spend a lot of time resisting said problems, which creates a lot of suffering. Recognize any of these? If only I’d had a better childhood, then I wouldn’t be navigating all the difficulty I am right now. They were wrong to fire me.  If they had really valued me, […]

    February 26, 2024

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    5.5 min read

  • Read The Beauty of Grace

    Emotional Intelligence, Relationships, Spirituality

    The Beauty of Grace

    I’ve been noticing a trend in popular culture lately as it pertains to relationships.  Evidently, we live in a toxic world, full of narcissistic people who don’t deserve to have our friendship or our comradery as colleagues.  We are often told by various self-help guru’s and other talking heads that we need to cut these people out of our lives. You know the kind of problem people I’m talking about.  They’re the selfish, difficult ones who don’t respect boundaries.  Who take and never give.  And the most appropriate response is to ghost them, particularly if it’s a personal relationship.  Ghosting a colleague or a boss at work is a bit tricker but many of us find ways to “work around” problem people or secure our escape in other ways, perhaps by changing departments or jobs. The problem is, it’s just not this simple.  And there comes a point at which you can’t keep avoiding problem people, trust me I’ve tried.  I’m not in any way advocating tolerating abuse, but there’s a difference between abuse and dislike.  There’s a difference between abuse and valuing different things.  We can put up wall after wall after wall, but the interesting thing about life is that it will keep sending you the same challenges over and over until you rise to the occasion and look more deeply inwards at what is really going on.  Grace under pressure I’ve known my friend Morgan for years.  She’s the amazing artist type, somewhat erratic, flies by the seat of her pants, creative and fun. I’m not, and that has been a point of contention over the years, especially as it relates to timeliness and honoring appointments.  I expect her to agree to a time to meet and be there at that time.  It doesn’t always happen.  And so the tension had grown and grown in our relationship – I was becoming increasingly resentful of her tardiness, and I made it personal.  That she didn’t respect me, that she didn’t care, that she didn’t give a damn.  We had fought about this in the past and I just didn’t have the energy to re-engage, plus, she’s a better fighter than I am.  I was ready to walk away from the relationship. So the other day I showed up for a walk at 8 am, the agreed time, and I rang the door and I waited.  No Morgan.  I called.  No answer.  I waited about 5 minutes and then I left.  I went and got gas.  I was looking at my phone, deciding which yoga class to go to instead, and I saw her name pop up.  Normally I would have avoided the call – she lost the opportunity to walk with me, she can bear the consequences, and this friendship really is on its way out.  So be it. Instead, I took the call and told her I’d come back to walk after I got the gas.  Why did I do it?  I’m still not sure.  But I […]

    February 8, 2024

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    6.8 min read

  • Read How to Manage the Emotional Impact of Change

    Change, Leadership

    How to Manage the Emotional Impact of Change

    I’ve got to restructure my group, it’s a mandate from the top.  Three are going to have to leave.  I know how I’m going to make the decision as to who stays and who goes, but I don’t know what to do about the emotional impact on the group as a whole.  How do I manage the emotional impact of change? It’s a question that came up in a group coaching session this week.  An organization I’m working with currently is undergoing a profound amount of change.  The tone on that call was somber.  She wasn’t the only one facing this challenge. And the answer to the question?  The answer is there is no easy answer.  And that’s tough, because most of us who are in leadership positions got there because we’re good at solving problems.  We’re type A people who know how to get sh#t done.  Our tendency to be able to jump in and fix things is what has gotten us to the point we’re at, it’s our success formula so to speak.  Utilize Compassionate Empathy for Managing the Emotional Impact of Change Managing the emotional impact of a reorganization or a significant change isn’t something that can just be easily ticked off a to do list.  And this causes significant stress for a lot of leaders because in essence we feel helpless.  In our ignorance of how to deal with the situation, we often end up ignoring the problem.  Which makes things even worse.  The bottom line is you don’t “fix” emotions.  You hold the space for them gently.  You acknowledge them, don’t try to rush people through them and don’t try to change them or make them go away.  You let them be.  Leading with compassionate empathy can be tricky.  It’s not the same as pity or sympathy, where we feel sorry FOR the other person.  It’s about allowing yourself to feel WITH them without taking the responsibility for solving their problem on your shoulders.  In practice it looks quite simple but it can be quite difficult to do.   3 Steps for Navigating Change with Compassionate Empathy 1) Create a safe space.  Maybe this is a 1:1 rather than a team meeting.  You might ask, “How are you feeling about the change?  How is the impending reorganization personally affecting you?”  Ask a few open-ended questions and then wait. 2) Embrace any awkward silence that may arise.  This can be excruciating if we’re not used to it and you might be tempted to fill the silence.  Don’t.  Trust me, they’ll eventually speak.  And then deeply listen.  Listen for the tone in their voice, listen for the specific words they’re using.  Are they sad?  Anxious?  Angry?  Resentful?  Listen for the emotions present in what they are saying, even if they don’t name a feeling. 3) Acknowledge and validate what you’re hearing.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with their interpretation or how they’re processing the information.  “It makes perfect sense that you’re frustrated.  This is the […]

    December 8, 2023

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    4.8 min read

  • Read The Scary Side of Success

    Emotional Intelligence, Leadership

    The Scary Side of Success

    One of the practices I often have leadership trainees do at the beginning of a session is to check in with how they’re feeling.  I use a wheel of feelings that has 70-80 different emotions listed. And you may be wondering why – what would be the point of taking up valuable time to talk about feelings, especially when there is so much content to cover?  Just get on with it! We often ignore emotion The problem is just that.  We often ignore what we’re feeling, push it down, disregard it and just get on with it.  But the feeling still comes with us.  And what we don’t acknowledge often comes out sideways.  Let’s say the crap hits the fan because of a recurring problem with a customer.  A problem that you told them was fixed.  Now you’re in a bad mood because you’re going to have to eat crow with your stakeholder and then you find yourself in a difficult conversation with a direct report to address the issue. You get triggered and can’t maintain your cool.  Now you’ve alienated your direct report, and the customer is mad, and the problem still isn’t fixed.  Doh! Or perhaps the feeling isn’t anger but stress and pressure.  I’ll use myself as an example for this one.  Over the past few months, I’ve been sicker than I’ve been in ages.  It’s been extremely stressful coping with that while trying to keep all the plates in the air spinning, and I’ve been worried about my body’s ability to bounce back – something that has never troubled me in the past.  I’ve been carrying so much heaviness in my chest and feeling utterly exhausted.  I’ve found myself sighing out loud multiple times a day.  And I kept ignoring it because I had too many things to do.  Foolishly, I was ignoring my own advice.  I looked at the feelings wheel the other day and decided to finally lean into it, rather than push the stress and overwhelm to the side. We push stress aside at our peril I’ve often been told that I’m very good at maintaining a façade.  That I appear to have everything under control, I appear super calm on the surface, and I never need to ask for help.  But looks can be deceiving.  I started writing down a list of all the things that have been stressing me out over the last year – and it ended up being a very long list.  A lot of it related to work, some to family, some to friends.  And a lot of the work-related things were positive.  More clients than I could handle, different types of work, expanded scopes, more interdependencies, expanded projects.  But even the good stuff can bring stress.  And yet I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge it, because the mindset of a coach should be that this is all so wonderful, and I should be positive all the time.  I should see everything as an opportunity and never have […]

    October 6, 2023

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    5.1 min read

  • Read The doing versus the being of listening.  There are no shortcuts if you really want to connect with people.

    Communication, Leadership

    The doing versus the being of listening.  There are no shortcuts if you really want to connect with people.

    “My boss says all the time now, ‘I hear you,’ when I’m telling them something.  But the problem is, do they really?  It feels like they’ve been on a leadership course, and this is something that they’re trained to say.  Is this the case?  Is that what you’re teaching people these days?” I don’t blame her for being upset.  When I hear things like this, I want to bang my head against a wall.  It’s a perfect example of hearing something in a leadership class, and then applying it on autopilot as a box tick exercise.  People aren’t stupid, and they can always smell when someone isn’t being authentic and is just going through the motions.  I’ll just say the things they tell me to say.  And that will get the result I want. Wrong.  Leadership skills aren’t meant to be a crash course in manipulation.  And even though I often say leadership is more about who you are being than what you are doing, there are still so many folks who show up to a course looking for a quick tip or trick that will miraculously transform a relationship without putting in the hard work. The doing versus the being of listening Let me explain what I mean by doing and being. Doing – is about developing leadership skills and practising them until they form new habits. It takes persistence, practice, and hard work.  These could be skills pertaining to having feedback conversations, listening skills, performance conversations, delegating tasks, coaching, giving presentations, time management.  These are some of the skills related to successful leadership and we must practice them, as the more we practice the more leadership competency we build.  Practice makes better.  Being – is a journey of leadership self-exploration. When we are more self-aware and accessing our Learner Mindset we can manage our well-being, build stronger relationships, innovate, and deliver higher performance levels.  Being is about how you are showing up.  Are you just going through the motions, or do you really care about your employees, the team, and the work product?  If you value things like integrity, is that visible to others in our behaviour?  Would others describe you as a person with a high degree of integrity?  The question I often ask leaders to explore this aspect of beingness is “Why on earth would anyone follow you?”  It’s meant to be provocative, because there is often a disconnect between how we want to be perceived and how our beingness is landing with others. So back to my participant’s question.  One of the skills that I often illustrate is acknowledging and validating what you’re hearing another person say.  That goes way beyond parroting a phrase like, “I hear you.”  Here’s what I said to that participant:  “It sounds to me that you’re frustrated.  And it makes perfect sense that you would be because I’m hearing that authenticity is important to you.  You wonder whether your boss is paying attention, or just parroting something they’ve been told […]

    September 14, 2023

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    4.1 min read