Tuesday, December 26, 2017

5 Ways to Be Mindful in 2018

What is Mindfulness Anyway?

According to Ellen Langer, author of several groundbreaking books on Mindfulness, the term Mindfulness is the opposite of Mindlessness, which involves automatic, habitual thought that is most frequently associated with behaviors of people who are distracted, hurried, multi-tasking, and/or overloaded.

Conversely, mindfulness means being continually aware and dialed into the moment and those participating in our moments. It is an "attunement to today's demands to avoid tomorrow's difficulties". This mindset creates an openness to new information (creativity), an awareness of multiple perspectives (empathy and insight), and a quiet mental room in which to explore and examine what would otherwise be performed on autopilot (critical thinking).

Adopting a habit of mindfulness in the workplace simply means approaching everything on your list and in your day in a thoughtful, objective, and holistic (tasks/goals and people/relationships) manner. It requires that you mentally "check in" on what is happening within yourself and around you. Here are 5 ways to make 2018 your most mindful year yet.

1. Check Your Pace

There are a lot of problem solvers out there who go right into fix-it mode. This approach gets results and therefore reinforces a mindless pace that is riddled with the blind spots of an overly outcome-centric approach. To be mindful doesn't mean being slow or ineffective. Rather, it is a mental check-in that thoroughly assesses the situation to determine the most balanced and effective method and pace for accomplishing the task at hand. Mindfulness is an assessment prior to an action. Instead of moving at the speed of the culture or others demands, mindfulness provides a stop gap that helps us focus, increases our energy and allows us to more skillfully apply our talents. Without this mindful pace check-in, we miss important details and fail to understand root causes, almost guaranteeing a reoccurrence of the issue. Mindlessly, we might actually make the problem worse.

2. Check Your Control

Keeping up with an intense workload is a common cause of mindlessness. Conversely, practicing mindfulness snaps your brain out of autopilot by reexamining everything you had previously accepted as part of the necessary evils of the job. Simply put, how much are you managing your environment and how much is it managing you?  It's not a matter of controlling your time; it's merely a matter of learning HOW to do it. A good technique for creating a mindful work pace is to start by assessing how you currently schedule your days. Are you booking yourself too tightly or committing to unrealistic deadlines? Push back on timelines that don't feel balanced or necessary and be sure to schedule chunks of time in between meetings to process and plan around what you've heard. (For more info on this click here)

3. Check Your Plate

Should everything that is on your list actually be on your list?  This is where you check-in that you are asking for help when needed, not assuming the problems of others instead of coaching them to do it themselves, and having the confidence to push back on a task or deadline that either doesn't belong with you or will cause undue stress to accomplish it in the time allotted. Are you delegating enough? Stay mindful of what you take on, what resources you'll need, and what commitments you'll need others to make for you to be set up for success, not stress. (For more info on this click here)

4. Check Your Engagement

Studies show that 60% of the US workplace is disengaged. Non-engaged employees have essentially ‘checked out.’ They sleepwalk through workdays. They put in time but don’t approach their work with energy or passion. You can imagine how this results in a mindless approach to work and coworkers. One of the EQ skills is Self-Actualization. This is feeling fulfilled by the work we do, a sense that we are utilizing our strengths and talents to add value. If you want to be more mindful, ask yourself why your work is unfulfilling and what it would take to re-engage you? Consider if your motivation drivers are being met and if not, have a conversation with your manager about what you need.  

5. Check Your Attention

One huge benefit of increasing your mindfulness is your memory will improve. Being fully present in meetings allows your brain to focus and process what is happening in a more permanent way. To keep yourself attentive, make mental notes of what people are wearing, what body language they are presenting and the interpersonal dynamics of the room. Notice details that you would otherwise miss if you were multi-tasking.

If you struggle to find the time to think, then take this opportunity to stop and awaken to another option. A mindful mindset is counter to our modern world and will take practice. Start by taking one thing on your plate today and mindfully assess it with fresh eyes. Less stress, more fun, collaboration, and meaningful impact....you never know what else you might discover.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

21 Quotes to Inspire Your Holiday and Your Life

As we wrap up 2017, our team is counting our blessings. Thank you for your continued support and interest in the work we do, and your commitment to being stronger leaders and building stronger organizations that serve others. We are very grateful for the opportunity to know you, support you, and correspond with you on your own journey to success. We have collected this series of quotes to leave you with some inspiration (and a smile) as we look toward the promise of a new year.

On Giving:

"What do we live for, for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" 
-George Eliot

"If every American donated five hours a week, it would equal the labor of 20 million full-time volunteers."
-Whoopi Goldberg

"Your luck is how you treat people." -Bridget O'Donnel

"Giving whether it be of time, labor, affection, advice, gifts, or whatever, is one of life's greatest pleasures."
-Rebecca Russel

"Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving."
-Erma Bombeck

On Family:

"One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family."
-Jonathan Safran Foer

"The family is a haven in a heartless world."
-Christopher Lasch

"Family makes you who you are and aren't."
-Marcelina Hardy

"I said to my mother-in-law, "My house is your house."  She said, "Get the hell off my property!" 
-Joan Rivers

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
-Jane Howard

On Happiness:

"Happiness is good health and a bad memory."
-Ingrid Bergman

"For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears."
-John Lennon

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."
-George Burns

"Happiness is not a goal, it is a
-Elenor Roosevelt

On Learning:

"If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of."
-Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

"Do not get obsolete like an old technology, keep innovating yourself."
- Sukant Ratnakar, Open the Windows

"The mind is just like a muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand."
-Idowu Koyenikan

"Everyone you meet knows something you don't know, but need to know. Learn from them."

"Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others this is possible."
-Cadet Maxim, U.S. Military Academy of West Point

On New Beginnings:

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
-T.S. Eliot

"Every sunset is the opportunity to reset."
-Richie Norton

"Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there's a big disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don't know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don't know."
-Pema Chodron

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."
-Oprah Winfrey

"May all of your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions!"

-Joey Adams

Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Elusive Engagement

The dictionary definition of the word engage is to occupy the attention or efforts of a person or persons.  In the performance world, the concept of engagement refers to employees' willingness and ability to contribute to the company's success; people's desire to give discretionary effort in their jobs.  
The real challenge in achieving engagement is that what engages us today, may not be what engages us in the future. And what engages me may be very different from what engages the person sitting in the cubicle next to me.
What this means is that organizations and leaders have to be very nimble, creative and individualized in how they continually re-engage workers to the work they do.
The individualization component ends up being a very thorny issue. Employment law requires "equal treatment" so most organizations end up following a black and white, by-the-book, written-by-lawyers policy that disallows individualized compensation, reward, recognition, perks or incentives. So what is a leader to do?
Old school managers throw their hands up and stop trying, leaving employees to figure out for themselves how to stay self motivated. Progressive leaders roll up their sleeves and find ways to maintain the spirit of the law, while equally meeting the needs of unique employees.
Does it take more effort? Yes.
Does is require creative thinking and challenging ineffective policy? Yes.
Does it pay off? Well, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost US businesses as much as $350 billion a year. So this is not just about employee satisfaction, your choice may come down to employees who make meaningful contribution to the organization or actively sabotage it.
Daniel H. Pink, in his book DRIVE discusses the death of our old notions about motivation and worker satisfaction and challenges us to consider the ways to meet the needs of today's employees while still keeping that labor attorney happy. The best approach to getting the best performance and engagement "emerges when people have autonomy over four T's: their task, their time, their technique, and their team."
According to Pink, autonomy is where it's at. Too many of our workplaces and institutions assume that employees need to be told what to do with laundry lists of job duties and procedure manuals, and supervisors who focus too much on controlling the work of others and too little on providing freedom of choice.
Tune into what natural motivators exist in your employees - do they get excited about solving difficult problems? Do they spend extra time to coach or mentor new employees? Do they put in extra hours when a contest is in place? Once you know their preferred four T's, you can begin to match the level of autonomy you offer with the activities that trigger their intrinsic motivation.
The good news is that engagement can't be bought. Even with limited (or no) budgets and resources to put toward traditional reward systems, you can still keep a highly engaged workforce. The things that drive the greatest loyalty and commitment in your employees cost you no money. Just remember: a one-size-fits-all leadership style fits one. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Month in a Minute

Happy holidays!

We had a busy November with travel and events throughout the month. I had one interesting experience while speaking at the AICPA Women’s Global Conference in Chicago. In the middle of my talk, the side doors to the ballroom directly next to the stage suddenly swung open. A hotel employee began to wheel in a large cart filled with high stools. Apparently, the session after mine was going to be a panel discussion and this employee decided to come in early to set up. He seemed oblivious to the fact that a session was still in progress and a full ballroom of people were watching him. I tried to maintain my focus and keep talking, hoping he would just quickly and quietly take care of his set up. Within a minute, I hear a shout from the hallway (which startled both him and me) so we turned to look and a small group of hotel employees were gesturing him to get out of the room and come back into the hallway. He paused, and proceeded to load back up the three chairs he set on the stage and slowly wheeled his cart right back out of the room. It was hard not to have a little chuckle with the audience, as my topic was on situational awareness and employee engagement. Someone had told him to set up for the panel, and by golly, that is what he was going to do.

Clockwise from top left:  An interview by the lovely Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, AICPA Chairman; the "ballroom" mentioned above in Chicago; Women's Harbor Forum, Portsmouth, NH; Steve Friedlein and me at SNHU; Speaking at Fidelity Investments; Can't go to Chicago and not have deep dish!
In one of the fancy hotels I visited this month, I was in the ladies room at the sink, ready to wash my hands. I waved my hand under the faucet to start the water and the sensor wasn’t working. So I moved to the next sink and the same thing happened. Annoyed, I moved to the next one and still no water. I started wondering if there was something wrong with the water in the hotel when a housekeeper came in. I mentioned that the water wasn’t working and she walked over to my sink and turned the knob.