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Loving Mentoring and a Mentor Who Loves

Through sport, I learned the value of having focus, a goal I wanted to achieve.  I took that learning into my life and business.  In business, goals became my ‘game of competition.’  I was competing against the goal I set.  Who would win?

In setting goals, I often overextended, got lost in my own goals with a ‘what do I do next’ yell at the back of my throat!  Many, many times, I failed.  Through one of my failures, and perhaps a little serendipity, I discovered a mentor.  The first piece of advice my mentor gave me; set yourself up for success – not failure!  You have way to many goals!!!! That was the best advice I could’ve received.  It was like she innately knew I was an ‘over-doer’ and overdoing was working against me rather than for me.

From that point on, I felt I could breathe because I had someone in my court, someone who had my back, who believed in me.   I felt completely supported and cared for in my business.  I still had failures, however, my recovery was much quicker because I could tap into my mentor for help in figuring out where I went wrong.  I loved my mentor and to this day would do anything for her. If you look at people who have found great success in their lives, most of them have two things in common, they were mentored and they give back.  One of the most visible mentor relationships was between Oprah Winfrey and the late Maya Angelou.  “She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life,” Winfrey said. “Mentors are important and I don’t think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship,” she added.

Having a great role model, I started practicing mentoring in my thirties and have been mentoring ever since.  What I’ve discovered is mentoring is a win/win situation.  The more I mentor, the more I learn! I grow in my profession as I support others growing in the profession.

Raising leaders through the practice of mentoring is a lot like raising kids- you invest, you guide, you advise and most importantly, you love.  A mentor, an experienced and trusted advisor, someone who believes in you when you’re not sure you believe in yourself, is a powerful alliance to have.  The key word is trust. Creating a trusting mentoring relationship means creating a safe environment for your mentee, where no question is a stupid question, or where they can spill their guts, if they need to and share how they fell flat on their face, knowing they will not be judged, you will still be there, guiding, advising, and believing in them.

The title of this blog is Loving Mentoring, which I do to the depths of my heart and a Mentor who loves.  In my email newsletter this month, I share the following thoughts;  “Love is such a bold, unspoken word, especially in business.  Why?  What is it about love that we are so afraid to talk about? Perhaps it is because we put limits on what love is.”   I love the relationships I have with people I mentor.  It was apparent that there was love in the Winfrey/Angelou mentor relationship.  What a privilege to walk alongside with someone on their journey, sometimes listening, sometimes guiding, sometimes advising, but always loving the person and supporting their deep desire to grow, to learn, to master being a professional, and grow as a human being.

We all have something of value to offer to those who are coming behind us or are even working alongside us.  I encourage you to consider sharing your value through being a mentor.   It is the gift that keeps on giving….. both ways!

 

Intentional Living; Re-Setting Your Focus

If you’re like me, you set intentions at the beginning of the year (some call these goals, desires, dreams, vision, etc.) and then you put yourself into the doing!  What I’ve found is the more intention I set, the more I get into the doing, the more I create, the more I may experience loss of focus!  I get overwhelmed trying to manage everything I’ve created.  When that happens, I know I have to re-set. Another reason for a re-set may be a life ‘happening’ that has an impact that you could not foresee.

Whatever the cause, the effect is requiring you to reset your focus.

So how do you actually ‘re-set?’  Wouldn’t you love it if we could just turn ourselves off like our computers or phones and re-boot in order to re-set!  While we are more complicated than an on/off button, there are a few key elements in a re-boot that we can follow to re-set our focus.

Go Dark-what this means is silence your world for a bit.  Yes, I know you have a million obligations, responsibilities, people that count on you, and I encourage you to find a way to go dark, even if it is for a short period of time, for reflection.

Reflect on where you are now and where you want to be at the end of the year.  What gap presents itself?  What new focus do you need to establish?  When I did this, I realized that I was pouring myself into some work activities that were going to take time from where I wanted to be by the end of the year.  They weren’t critical to my intentions or focus.   So, the next step would be what I call App Clean up.

App Clean-up-what this means is get rid of the things in your lifpc-power-button-1515567e that are of no use to you in your current focus.  They are only creating roadblocks to where you want to be by the end of the year.

Think about the apps on your phone and how easy it is to get lost in them.  Relate that to activities that you participate in that are more of a time suck than a time serve.  These are the apps you need to delete!  Once those are deleted, you open space for clarity of purpose.

Power up-what this means is you are re-set with a clear focus, you have done your app cleanup to support yourself and you have solicited support systems that will keep you focused and living an intentional life.

If you are feeling out of balance, overwhelmed or uninspired, do a reset.  We are in the fourth quarter of 2017!  This is the perfect time to reset your focus and get clear on what you want for yourself for the rest of the year. It is also a perfect time to start thinking about what intentions you will set for 2018.

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Leadership is a Practice, not a Role

For over 35 years I’ve had the opportunity to be in leadership roles, and that’s not even counting the years I served as the eldest of 5 siblings.  Now there’s where I really began to understand what it means to be out front.  Let me share with you, its not all fun and games!  However, I took on my leadership roles with vigor and responsibility.  People could count on me.  Through my ‘leadership role’ experiences, I came to understand what leadership really is-a daily practice.

We practice many things on a daily basis, which turn into habits and routines – some serving us and some not!  Many of those habits and routines are directed toward the tangibles in our lives; taking care of our bodies, our homes, our families, our work.  However, our behavior and the way we show up in the world is largely driven by the intangibles; the way we think, the meaning we make of things, what we believe and what’s important or of value to us.  It is in the intangibles that I have found my leadership power and the ability to influence others.  Over the next few writings, I want to share these practices with you because they have had such a positive effect on my life and my relationships.

Leadership Practice #1 – Own what is yours to own! 

What is my contribution to the situation I’m in?  Sometimes it is so painful to turn the spotlight on self.  To demonstrate this practice, let me share a recent situation I found myself in.

Recently I bought a car.  Prior to purchasing the car, I’d been in a two week tornado of work catching up from being on a half months vacation.  Going to car dealers and dealing with the ‘sales pitches’ was not on my top ten list of things to do.  However, my car had broke down twice on vacation and I travel a lot for work so it had to be done.  I was in the stress pot of wo991F9CF7-rk; impatient, and generally just wanted to get the whole ordeal over with.  I made a hasty choice!  I bought the car and the next day had to drive 150 miles for work.  I quickly realized the seats were not right for me, in fact they really irritated my sciatica.  Aghhh, so here I was with a car that was not going to work for me.  I started down the road of what was the dealership going to do for me.  I was the victim and the car dealers were the ‘mean guys.’

After a week of wasting time trying to get the dealer to do something, I woke up.  No one twisted my arm to buy this car.  In fact, our sales guy was great.  No pressure, just service.  I made the choice to look for a car when I was stressed and very tired.  I made the hasty choice to purchase the car.  Now, knowing I had a problem with the seats, what could I do?  Solution came much quicker once I took ownership.  The seats will be ‘re-foamed’ by a company that specializes in car upholstery and my bum will be happy!

I have found that when you take ownership and practice it on a daily basis, you get to solution and the positive side of life much more quickly.  Can you imagine how our world would change if everyone engaged with Leadership Practice #1?

What Really Robs us of our Time and Energy?

Things that rob us of time and energy…..one of the most common topics that come up in coaching!  I often assess my own use of time as my ‘endless energy’ now has a definitive end-which is about 9 pm every evening! I’ve also learned over the years that I can’t manage time-time is what it is.  I can only manage myself within the time I have.  External demands will always be there. If we are alive, we can count on this!  What happens in our external environment we have very little control over.

What we do haveClockInGrass control over is what we believe about those external demands. For instance, if I believe that I have to be available 24/7 to serve and keep my customers, well I won’t have much of a life!  That belief is robbing me of time and energy.  I can choose to let go of that belief and create a new one: I believe I can best serve my customer when I’m physically and emotionally healthy. This belief is aligned with something I value (health) and makes it easier for me to design my life to match this new belief.

I like to call our Values and Beliefs our OS-operating system.  Values speak to what is core to us, what is really important.  Beliefs come from the meaning we make of our experience, or we inherit them or are taught them through different groups we’re a part of.   We can change our beliefs if they no longer serve what we want for ourselves.  So if you feel robbed of your time and energy, start asking yourself,  “what belief am I operating under and what value am I not honoring by giving my time and energy to this?”

Here are a few common ‘beliefs’ that rob us of our time and energy.

I believe I have to say yes, especially to my boss, partner, kids, church, volunteer organization, whew! If we say yes to everything outside of us, we are saying no to us.  We overextend.  We act as if we’re kids that have been let loose in a candy store.  Sure it is fun to grab hold of and eat all the candy you can, but we all know what we will be cleaning up if there is not stopping point! We just cannot be all, have all.

Antidote: Try on a new belief-I believe if I say no to ____________ then I will have more time and energy for what is really important to me.   Learn the word NO, or a variation of it.  Having the ability to say no to saying yes to everything is empowering.  In order to say no, try prioritizing according to your values.  Get in the habit of asking this question: If I say yes to this, what am I willing to say no to.  This is a great way to keep you from overextending.

I believe I can do 10 things at once and that will make me more effective with my time.  Much research has shown that multitasking actually robs us of time and energy.  To be honest, I still buy into the belief that when I have more on my plate I get more done because I can multitask.  Sure I can do a lot at the same time but it really does cause an internal stress that translates into lack of energy.  I am in the process of changing this old belief system.

Antidote: Practice presence and mindfultasking.  Being mindful of the present task I am working on is a challenge for me because I really do want to do 3 things at once.  However I am already experiencing a shift in bringing tasks to completion.  Turn off your notifications, your email, step away from the phone!  Present Mindfultasking-try it for a while.  You wont be disappointed.

I believe it is a selfish waste of time to spend time on myself when so many others need me.  Who hasn’t fallen into this trap at one point or another in their lives?  Self care, self nurturing, self love, translated into selfishness.   Perhaps you were taught to serve, serve, serve and in that serving there wasn’t time to honor and care for your life.  Or maybe we were taught through our own life experiences that we were not worth caring for.  This is one area where I have seen deep pain in the human experience. It is our inability to be okay with self care that we set ourselves up for lack of energy and time.  We age more quickly and we limit what our bodies can do for us.  Our bodies, our minds, our spirits need to be fueled, need to be taken care of the same way we take care of others, our homes, our cars, our jobs, etc. So how do we turn this belief system around when it may be deeply ingrained?

Antidote: First, create a new belief: I believe when I take care of myself, I have more life to give, and that the giving is selfless because my needs are met.  This was the belief I tried on and then I began the work of designing my schedule first around my self care knowing that then my serving would be more selfless.  What I am discovering is I have just as much time as before but much more energy!  It has taken some getting use to in prioritizing my self care…..a work in progress, however I will say that changing my belief about self care has had the greatest impact on my life.

Remember, your operating system is your values and beliefs.  Becoming aware of your beliefs and if your beliefs are supporting you and what you value will help you to make empowered choices of how to use your time and energy.

3 Ways to Condition Your Brain for Mental Gymnastics

Mental Gymnastics?  Think about all the flipping, twisting, jumping, swinAustralian artistic gymnast, Lauren Mitchell, performing a layout step-out on the balance beam during the 41st World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in London, United Kingdom, in 2009.ging, flying, and the list goes on, that you see when you watch a gymnastic event.  Then think about what happens in your head when you have A LOT going on-enter mental gymnastics.  When we are not use to ‘performing’ mental gymnastics we can enter into overwhelm and shutdown ending in a paralyzed state.

For twenty-five years of my life, I coached the sport of gymnastics.  In the gym, I quickly learned that when a gymnastic skill is broken down into smaller parts of the whole skill the learning was much quicker.  I also discovered the value of skill drills, having the gymnast repeat the smaller part over and over again (they hated this!) until they didn’t even have to think about what they were doing.

To draw the correlation, when we are on the precipice of change, growth, or overload, the WHOLE of the mess is too much to comprehend and think about at once.  So here are three things you can do to train your brain to perform mental gymnastics.

MAKE THE INTANGIBLE THOUGHT TANGIBLE

I call this the ABCD method-A Brain Clearing Dump!  When you make the intangible thought tangible, it allows you to tap into your senses to help you actually deal with the mess.  Writing things down, you tap into your sense of touch.  You can see your thoughts, which may help you articulate them better to someone, then tapping into your hearing.  You have de-cluttered your head.  Now you have room for strategy and creativity.  This would be like setting up the gymnastic equipment in a gym for the gymnast to do their work of performing.  Your gymnastic equipment is your tangible list of thought.

SORT AND CATEGORIZE; BREAK INTO SMALLER CHUNKS OF THOUGHT

Looking at your list of thoughts, ask yourself,  ‘what goes together?’  Or take it from the perspective of  ‘one of these things does not belong with the others’.  (Feel like you’re on Sesame Street?).  Then name the categories in a way that it makes sense to you.  There is power in this process because without really knowing it you are conditioning your brain to make mini-decisions, mini-choices.  Sorting and categorizing gives you the ability to see, move around and play with your mess of thought.  Before you know it, you have conditioned your brain to be a bit more agile, flexible and powerful in making choices and decisions.

ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS

Have you ever experienced a situation when you are trying to remember a person’s name, a name of a song, or a place and you just can’t bring it forward?  But the whole time you keep saying to yourself, what was the name of that ____________, oh well, I can’t remember.  Then perhaps an hour later, a day later or even a week later out of nowhere the answer pops in your head? Your brain never stops looking for the answer to an open-ended question.  Using what, how, and where questions allow your brain to work for you.  Ask the question and let go.  I have found if I’m patient and pay attention, the answer always presents itself.

These three practices, as simplistic as they may seem, allow you to condition your brain for the really big mental gymnastics that happen in life events such as changes in job, family, lifestyle, health, relationship, and much more.  It’s often the simple practices that create the biggest shifts.  Practice these and do a mental flip….don’t flip out!

Creating Your ‘Starbucks’ Experience: 4 Area’s to Define Your Unique Work Experience.

starbucks

When I think of ‘Creating an Experience’ I think of Starbucks, a company that sells coffee.  However, Starbucks does not just sell coffee, do they?  Starbucks is a company that created an ‘experience’ of coffee.

So much so, that many coffee companies followed suit in creating aesthetic and service ‘experiences’ that left the costumer wanting to come back for more.  Creating atmosphere  and service which tie coffee to conversation, learning, relaxation, friendship, laughter, as well as a mix of human needs and emotions.  Brilliant!  It is no longer about coffee but about the ‘experience’ of purchasing the coffee and what that grants us.

We have all heard of creating ‘customer experience’ which I believe solidifies the relationship between service provider and customer and enhances both the service and relationship.  Working with varied service providers, I’ve witnessed first hand the success of a ‘customer experience’ focus.

Starbucks focused on four factors to create the Customer Experience: Atmosphere, Quality Coffee, Customer Service, and Partner (employee) Satisfaction.  It is the fourth factor that I believe impacts all the rest.  It was the belief of then director of marketing, Howard Schultz (now chairman and CEO), that happy employees would lead to higher customer satisfaction.[1]

Yet, many service providers rarely focus on creating an experience for the ‘internal customer’, the company partner.   In my way of thinking, this would be like expecting a car to run with no maintenance performed and no gas in the tank!  I believe there has to be a balance of in and out focus.  Meaning, if the company is all output to make sure your costumers are having a wonderful experience without paying any attention to the experience happening with the company, people will lose steam.

I became fascinated with the idea of creating a ‘customer service experience’ for myself that left me feeling happy at the end of the workday?  What would it look like? What kind of work environment would keep me wanting to come back for more?  How could I create an experience that would tie my work to the things I value and want as a thread through my life’s fabric-whether I’m in my professional life or personal life?

I explored these questions and set out to create my own ‘Starbucks’ experience. What I discovered was not only have I created an experience for myself, but also my productivity increased as a result!  Happy employees (even if you are your own employee!) create higher customer satisfaction!  I’ll share with you the 4 area’s I took into consideration:

Atmosphere

What type of atmosphere do I prefer to work in?  Am I more focused in silence or do I prefer background noise?  Do I like to listen to music or does it distract me?  Do I like the ‘cave’ feel or a lot of light?  What about color-do I like a lot of color in my physical space or a more subdued palette?  I often work virtually in between appointments.  I started paying attention to the spaces I was drawn to work in.  What is in those environments that I could duplicate in my office?  What type of art am I attracted to? What in my life makes me feel good?

This really helped me to set my office up as a ‘feel good’ place to be-not just a place to do work.      It is full of color, books, music, a whole wall white board (creativity) and lots of light! Every day I get to experience my life in my office instead of just doing work in my office.

Energy

Here I started with the question-What energizes me and what depletes me?  Humor and Inspirational stories really energize me.  One gets me enjoying the moment and the other offers me a broader scope of life.  In creating my customer experience, I make sure I allow break time to experience both-which are readily available through youtube, social media etc.

The other question I asked was; what are my energy patterns? How can I create my work experience around my energy patterns?  While energy patterns are a real science-learning how to work with them is truly an art!

I have a lot of mental energy in the morning so part of my created work experience was scheduling my heavy ‘thinking’ work in the morning as much as possible.  When I made this shift, I found that I began enjoying this part of my work much more because my energy was aligned with my task at hand.

Productivity (Managing self in time)

What do I most enjoy doing in my work?  What is like nails on the chalkboard to me? How do I manage my time and what tools do I need to set myself up for a great work experience? What do I need to do or have that would best serve me during my work hours?

The answers to these questions led me to hiring an Administrative Specialist and having her manage some new tools that are allowing me to have a great work experience!

And I also consider her ‘work experience.’  The great thing is that I hired someone who gets how to create a ‘work experience’ for herself.  She is in her zone and I am in mine.  High productivity and happy people-what could be better?

Celebrations

I was never the type to celebrate.  I dreaded holidays, parties, and most anything that had to do with celebration.  In my work, I focused forward-everything was a check off the list and I was onto the next…..until!!!  I was given some feedback on how my lack of celebration was hurting others as well as myself.  Not recognizing accomplishment, growth, life changes, keeps everyone in a space of ‘never being good enough’!  While this was never my intent, I could clearly see the impact.  It was hard to hear and was the greatest gift given to me.

Now part of my created work experience is celebration.  I celebrate when I reach a goal, experience growth, accomplish a feat I did not think I was capable of, or just because I can!  I have a number of ways I celebrate-both large and small.  I’ve also embraced celebrating others I work with and walk with in life.  Party on!

I encourage you to create your own unique work experience.  Don’t wait around for others to do it for you-take ownership of how you want to experience your workday! You won’t regret it.

[1] National Business Research Institute Inc. [US]; https://www.nbrii.com/blog/the-customer-experience-starbucks/

Practice to Mastery

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Gymnast on balance beam

For 25 years I coached in the sport of gymnastics. I will share with you the one thing that differentiated a top athlete from a mediocre athlete was showing up for and participating 110% in deliberate practice. And the research backs this up. In The Harvard Business Review, an article titled “The Making of an Expert,” clearly demonstrates that the research “revealed that the amount and quality of practice were key factors in the level of expertise people achieved. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born.” [1]

Whether it is sport, business, or life there are certain principles of growth that are universal. Deliberate Practice is one of those universal principles. Within deliberate practice, there are certain guidelines:

  • Practice what you are good at and what you are NOT good at.
  • Break it down and be deliberate about practicing that one thing until you have it mastered.
  • Be patient with the investment of time and energy.
  • Have a support system of a teacher, coach, mentor, etc.
  • It takes 10,000 hours of practice to realize mastery.

What do you want to master in your life? What one area do you would want to grow and develop in? What one area, if changed, would impact the rest of your life? For me-it is my eating habits. Once you determine an area, do some pre-work before you jump into practicing-so you know what to be deliberate about in your practice.

The Practice

What is practice? To do or perform habitually or repeatedly. We have all heard it before-“Establish a new routine that matches what you want, practice that routine and become consistent in the practice.” And yet, one of the most consistent complaints I hear from people is “I just can’t be consistent!” If I can’t be consistent, what hope do I have to incorporate this new practice?   The reality is that you are always practicing…and are probably pretty consistent at what you are practicing.

If you go to work, come home, have dinner and watch a few tv shows-you are consistent in practicing this routine! If you do something different every day you are consistent in variety. Recognizing that you can and are consistent is the first step to understanding how to change your undesirable habits into desirable habits and then to establish a structure to hold the practice of those habits.

The issue is breaking the consistency of one practice and transitioning into a new one. In Charles Duhiggs book on the ‘The Power of Habit’ he addresses the Habit Cycle of Cue, Behavior, Reward. The Cue is also known as the ‘trigger’ which precedes an action and ends in a pre-determined reward. By becoming aware of the trigger, you can strategize new behaviors/rewards. I will demonstrate this by using my example of eating habits.

What do you want for yourself that you are not already experiencing?

I want to eat healthier.

What consistent routine do you currently practice around eating?

My practice is that I grab eat. I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack after dinner. I sometimes have a glass of wine with dinner.

I sometimes just eat a snack in place of dinner.

If I am home working, I tend to snack in between meals on un-healthy snacks.

I also consistently grab snack type foods when I am tired.

What do you believe you can change or not change?

I don’t believe I can change my grab eating — it is too engrained in me.

I do believe I could plan better and pre-make healthier food that I can ‘grab’.

I believe I am aware of my triggers (tiredness) and could acknowledge the trigger and re-condition myself to either drink water or grab a pre-made healthy snack.

Looking at what you believe you can change, what will you commit to doing?

I will commit to planning ‘healthy foods’ for the week and making them on Sunday to have to grab and re-heat during the week.

As a gymnastics coach, practice was not only mandatory for advancement, but it was a safety measure against injury. I had a standing rule that a gymnast had to perform a skill 10 times in a row technically correct before they could move to the next skill level. You can imagine the grumbling! However, we rarely experienced serious injury in the gym. How does this translate to life? With the above example, every time I did not follow my protocol (planning/preparing on Sunday), it would be considered a ‘fall’ and the count would restart. I may be at 6 weeks of doing it and took a fall! Back to #1! The point here is that at the point of 10 weeks of practicing my new commitment consistently, I am more grounded in the practice and my risk of injury (not eating in a healthy manner) is minimized.

While you can use this guide of powerful questions to help you self coach and self discover, remember that experts have a strong support system of teachers, coaches and mentors. If you are ready to make a change in your life and you are in transition, give me a call, I will support you in new practices to make that happen!

 You are what you practice……and you are always practicing something!

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” – Matt Biondi

 

 

[1] Harvard Business Review; July 2007, The Making of an Expert; K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, Edward T. Cokely