Category Archives: Thinking

Stay, Damn it!

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One of the things that we’re learning in my leadership class is the concept of “stay.” Stay means having something that it’s important to you (your “stake”) and sticking with it through the highs and lows. Through the uncertainty and difficulty. It means keeping your focus when everyone around you knowingly or unknowingly seeks to divert you.

I’ve found the concept of “stay” useful in my runs. Yesterday, for example, I was only a half mile into my planned four mile run and I wanted to stop. But I was determined not to quit. I reminded myself that the first mile is the hardest, and told myself to stay with it. By Mile 2 I was feeling great. Then I hit another low just before the three-mile mark. It was hotter than I expected, I was getting tired. I wanted to walk the rest of the way home. “Stay,”  I told myself again. I slowed a bit, I tinkered with my breathing rate, adjusted my gait, and was back in the groove for the last mile.

“Stay” also comes in handy for the final miles of a long run.  For sticking with a training schedule, and yes, in those final 6.2 miles of a marathon.

What tricks do you use to “stay” when the going gets tough?

Aside

This week’s email featured an essay from Harvard Business Review by Umair Haque on leadership called “How and Why to be a Leader (not a Wannabe).  I enjoyed reading it, especially because Haque touched on the subject of love and … Continue reading

Asking for Help

In my leadership program we’ve all been given the challenge of asking for help in the two months between retreats — to stretch out of our comfort zones and ask for assistance in situations where we might not normally be inclined to do that. And also to notice how we feel about asking for help as we do this.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that I’m terrible at asking for help. Interestingly, so are many of the other people in the class.  And the reasons are all strikingly similar…

We are having trouble asking for help because we don’t want to seem weak or vulnerable. We have pride in our competence, we don’t want to admit that we might need help.  We’ve been taught to be independent and that there is shame in being needy.  We don’t want to be a bother to others or we believe ourselves unworthy of being helped by others.  We don’t want to take their valuable time or think we might be asking for too much. We may worry about rejection. We hire help, but we often won’t ask for it from the people closest to us. And sometimes we just don’t know what to ask for.

A 2008 study found that people routinely underestimate by 50% others’ willingness to help them.  In short, people are more likely to say yes to requests for assistance than we think they are.

I’m trying to remember that asking for help can be good for me and for the person I’m asking.  Asking for help creates connections and broadens possibilities.  I might learn something completely new or experience a new perspective. And asking for help gets easier with practice.

I’d welcome your thoughts on asking for help… it is easy or hard for you and why? Do you have any good resources on asking for help?

Here’s to Those That Matter!

I’ve had some time to think this past week and have a lot swirling in my head.  I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write however, perhaps because a head cold is clouding my brain.

So for today, I’ll just post this reminder to turn off that internal (or external) voice of judgment that might be telling you who or what you should be or do or say, and instead to just be true to yourself — and ever grateful for those who matter in your life.

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Our Agreements

I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.

Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults.  Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.”  We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations.   Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.

The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  • Don’t Take Things Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
  • Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
  • Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I have work to do on each of these.  For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others.  I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way.  And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming.  I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me.  And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!

How Matters

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Someone posted this cartoon on Facebook recently and it made me laugh. And groan. Because we’ve all been there. Victims of meetings that got called because someone didn’t know how else to move a project forward or solve a problem.

I saw a statistic recently that said there are 11 million meetings in the U.S. every day. Who know if that’s accurate or how it was calculated… but  most professionals report spending 50% of their time in meetings and say that half of that time is wasted. Yikes! That’s a lot of lost time and money. There are a lot of bad meetings out there. Meetings with no preparation. Meetings without agendas. Meetings that don’t respect the time of the participants and don’t have a clear purpose. Meetings where half the people in the room (or more!) are distracted by their electronic devices or sit passively watching bad Powerpoint slides.

Some weeks I feel like I spend all my time in meetings, and it’s enough to make me really appreciate the good ones.  As meeting participants we need to get better at demanding more from our meeting organizers.  We need to start asking:

  • Why am I being invited to this meeting?
  • What are the objectives of the meeting?
  • Will we be getting an agenda in advance?
  • What preparation is expected of me?

And for those of us who organize meetings, we need to commit the time to preparing for the meeting, to creating thoughtful agendas with clear desired outcomes, shortening our meetings and actively seeking ways to engage the participants. We need to invite people to our meetings in a way that says “Come, you are welcome!” and makes them eager to participate. We need to actively manage our meetings to ensure that the desired outcomes are met and make sure the appropriate follow-up occurs.

I saved a quote called “How Matters” recently that applies well to organizing meetings, but don’t know who wrote it (if you do, please let me know in the comments).

How matters.
Who you invite matters.
And how you invite them.
How you come together matters.
What you talk about and how you talk about it matters.
Where and how you start matters,
As does where you go next,
And how and where you end.
How matters.
Perhaps more than we think.

What do you do to maximize your “how” of running meetings?  Please leave your comments below…

An Invitation to Re-examine ‘Busy’

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I read a thought-provoking post on the subject of busyness recently that got me reflecting about this subject a bit.

Everyone seems to be “busy” lately. In fact, it seems to have become the “go to” answer to the perennial question “how are you?”  “Busy,” we say, to anyone that will listen. We’re really, really, busy — crazy busy in fact. We’ve got lists, demands, obligations, expectations and we’re never done with them. We’re important because we’re busy. And we’re needed. We’re so busy that we’re stressed and tired and never have enough hours in the day to get everything done.

I don’t know that many of us have thought about the impact of this one word on ourselves and on others. In addition to projecting self-importance, “busy” accomplishes a number of things. “Busy” sets up a wall between people that’s hard to get past. When someone tells you they are “busy” it sends the message not so subtly “don’t ask me for anything” or “don’t make any demands on me.”  “Busy” keeps friends and colleagues at arm’s length and says “I really can’t be here for you right now.”  It minimizes the opportunity for connection. “Busy” is also a bit dismissive and vague. How different would it be to say,”I’m great and I’m working on some really interesting projects right now.”  That’s a conversation starter — whereas “busy” tends to block further inquiry.

To be sure, every one of us has times when we’re trying to finish a project or meet a critical deadline and we’re legitimately flat out. But you know what?  With all of the busyness, each and every one of us finds the time for what is most important in our lives.

I have a lot of projects and priorities. I have lists of my own that I will never finish. But I don’t want to be that person that’s too busy to take the time to really connect or to pause for the things that matter.

I invite you to join me in consciously letting go of “busy” as a lifestyle choice.