Always Start With A Plan

Imagine you are frustrated with the way a project plan is coming together, it is not what you envisioned. You have a meeting scheduled today with a colleague who is working on the project with you. Instead of thinking through your talking points you start the meeting by sharing your frustration. This can result in making the situation worse AND you risk making an enemy.

Always start with a plan. Think about why you want to talk to them and what you hope to accomplish. Write that down!

Think about why the relationship is important. Start with words that express how you feel. Even if the person is someone who dislike, and you have to work together you can start with – I want to talk to you because we are coworkers and I want the time we spend working together to be the best it can be. Write down your opening line and your taking points. Say those opening and closing lines out loud few times.

Need some ideas for ways to start the conversation? Ask me for my Opening Lines for Difficult Conversations.

Worried about an upcoming conversation?

When it comes to communicating with people at work, communication is hard. The good news, you can choose your hard. You can choose to be angry, frustrated or upset. You can choose to ignore or avoid. You can choose to use foul language. None of those choices will move the conversation forward or get agreement on next steps. Instead choose to be curious, listen for understanding and find areas of agreement. One of the reasons I created my online course was to give people a way to choose to do something hard and be successful.

How much time do you spend worrying about an upcoming conversation? Worry never solved anything. My course gives you a way to stop the worry and have the conversation. You’ll have a framework for success. Is there someone at work you find it hard to talk to? Then this course is what you need. Click the link below and order The 3 P’s to Mastering Difficult Conversations today. Choose your hard, choose to have the conversation.

A Shift In Attitude

A recent client told me the biggest challenge she has when it comes to communicating with her direct reports was their attitude. This isn’t the first time I heard a comment like this from my clients. It is interesting how often we blame the other person for a situation we can control.

Since the only control we have is over our own attitude, my advice to her was to think about how to change her own attitude. As Douglas Stone reminds us “The single most important thing [you can do] is to shift [your] internal stance from “I understand” to “Help me understand.” Everything else follows from that.”

Think about the next conversation you will have with one of your direct reports. Shift your internal dialogue from “I understand” to “Help me understand”, and see what happens.

Post your results here.

Do you dread a leading performance conversation?

Do you ever lie awake at night worrying about a conversation that needs to take place? I used to… but not anymore! Once I learned to be curious.

When I first became a supervisor, if I had to talk with an employee who wasn’t performing, I’d lay awake the night before and play worst case scenarios’ over and over again. Until I realized the approach to take was one of curiosity. As Douglas Stone reminds us in his book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most “Difficult conversations are almost never about getting the facts right. They are about conflicting perceptions, interpretations, and values.”

Once I began asking questions instead of making statements statement the conversations began to change, and performance was improved.

Asking questions that start with the word “what” get a better response then questions that starts with the word “why”. Questions that start with “why” can put people on the defensive. For example, “why were you late”, is asking someone for an excuse. Instead ask, “what is makes it hard for you to be on time?” This question allows you to come from a place of curiosity and proceed with a problem-solving discussion.

Shift from asking why to asking what in your conversations this week. Come back and post your experience here.

The toughest lesson I’ve learned as a supervisor was to avoid stating my opinion and ask a question instead.

In June of 2012 I took a new job and had a team of 7 direct reports. During one of the first meetings I had with my team we were discussing the process used to respond to client voice mail. At the time all calls were answered by an automated system. We were meeting because over the last several weeks we had customer complaints that calls were not being returned and appointments were not being scheduled. Was this the fault of the system or was one of the team not doing their job?

I began the meeting by outlining what I thought was the solution. No discussion took place. Everyone said – OK that’s what we will do. The problem was I didn’t know all the steps involved. A better course of action would have been to open the meeting with a probing question. Probing questions start with what as opposed to why. When you start a conversation with a what question it allows people to open up and share their experience and ideas. When you start with a why question it puts people on the defensive. We did resolve the issue, but it took a couple more meetings and a few more customer complaints. We would have solved the problem sooner had I started with a question to solicit input from the team and not my opinion about what needed to be done.

Would you like my free guide to effective questions to ask during meetings? Comment below and I will send it your way.

3 Point Check List for Focus

Life is full of distractions that can take us away from working on our goals. That is why as David du Chemin, photographer, author, adventurer reminds us: Guard your time fiercely. Be generous with it but intentional about it.

This blog post will give you 3 ideas to implement to help with focus.

Ask why? Goals give us the opportunity to define what we want. The most important question to ask when setting your goal is why do I want to do this? We need a big enough why to continue to do the work required to reach the goal, after the excitement of setting the goal leaves us. Not every task associated with accomplishing your goal will be fun or easy. Coming back to your why helps you get those mundane jobs done.

Keep your goal visible. Post your goal on a sticky note at your desk or workstation, as wallpaper on your computer monitor or written on the white board in your office. Keep your goal in front of you as a reminder of where you want to be or what you want to become.

Avoid multi-tasking. 98% of us can only concentrate on one cognitive task at a time. Close out all the programs on your computer except the one you are using to work on your goal. Silence your phone. E-mail and social media will wait until you’ve finished your work. You can return calls or texts. Research done by Gloria Mark at the University of California; Irvine found that for every interruption it takes us a little more than 20 minutes to regain our focus.

What would add to the list? Post it here.

3 Fool Proof Mindfulness Tips for Busy People

Mindfulness, once an obscure Buddhist concept, is now a popular practice in our modern world. Why because mindfulness has been proven to improve your ability to be aware of how you think, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your working memory. Yet when I recommend the practice to my clients they often complain, “I’m too busy to take time out, be still, and meditate.” In response I encourage them to incorporate the following into their daily life.

Start small. Focus away from your computer, tablet, or phone screen on an object close at hand. Maybe you look out the window at the clouds in the sky or maybe a shadow on your wall. It doesn’t matter use something that is as close to nature as possible. Set a timer for 60 seconds, sit or stand still, and focus on the details of the object. Avoid focusing on the thoughts as enter your mind, just bring your attention back to the object. When a minute passes notice how you feel before returning to your previous activity.

Create a Mindfulness jar. You can buy one on Amazon or make your own. All you need is a clear glass jar, like an empty jar that had pickles or mayonnaise in it. Then fill it with water, dish soap and glitter of glitter glue. 

Set a reminder. Use your calendar app, fitness tracker or Apple watch and set a reminder for the same time every day. You can practice the activity previously described or focus on your breath. There are a number of techniques to use when focusing on your breath from counting to breathing in one color and out another. If you’d like the audio I created for an online course on breathing, just ask for it in the comments below and I’ll send it your way.

Take small consistent steps to increase your awareness of the present moment. Many times people avoid starting because they think it has to be for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Harvard University researchers observed that short sessions of meditation practiced with consistency improved the regions of the brain associated with memory, learning, emotion control, self-awareness and perspective.

3 Best Ways to Live With Intention

A new year is often time for reflection. We take a look back and think about what we want to be different in the year ahead. We create new plans, new goals and begin with hope for a new future. We know things don’t always go as planned, our goals aren’t always achieved and sometimes our hopes are dashed. Yet we celebrate a new year with anticipation that this year can be different, can be better. One of the ways to make this happen is to live with intention. As Kristin Armstrong, three-time Olympic gold medalist reminds us: We either live with intention or exist by default. Make 2021 your year to live on purpose.

Here are three ways you can build intention into every day: practice gratitude, mindfulness, and focus. I will cover each of these in the next three posts, this post I’m going to focus on gratitude.

Even when things are at there worst look for things to be thankful for. One small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day. Begin your day by acknowledging what’s going right in your life and the people you appreciate. Recite out loud affirmations such as:

I am so thankful that the universe is working for my greater good.

I am grateful for another chance to live my life.

I’m grateful for the air I breathe and the blood flowing through my body.

I appreciate the help and support of the people who have helped me along with way.

Take a few minutes right now to create and write down a few gratitude affirmations that appeal to you. Next put them in a place you where you will see them shortly after you wake up in the morning so you can repeat them as you begin your day.

I’d love to know one or two of the affirmations that you create, post them here and begin 2021 by being intentionally grateful.

What change will you make in the new year?

As we mark the end of another year, one filled with challenges and anxiety, we anticipate 2021 will be better. It will be better if we follow the advice left on an Anglican Bishop’s tombstone in the basement of Westminster Abbey. It reads as follows:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change. So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country, but it too seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first, then by example I might have changed my family, from their inspiration and encouragement I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I might have even changed the world.”

As you think about the next 12 months what is one change you can make to create a positive difference in your life? My one change is to incorporate a meditation practice at the end of my workday. I’d love to know what your one change will be, post it here.

What is your response to a red light?

What is your response to a red light? Is it something like – just my luck, I am always stuck in traffic, if that person ahead of me would have been a little faster…? Or is it something like this – great I can take a moment and relax, look at the sunshine, or the rain drops on my windshield, I can take a breath and give thanks for all the good things in my life.

If your response is like the first one, adopt the attitude of the second, for our response is a choice and the more times we choose to be frustrated and angry the more we are frustrated and angry. If we choose peace, calm and gratitude our lives become filled with moments of serenity.

Years ago I clipped the following out of a magazine:

If I Had My Life Over by Nadine Stair

If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously.

I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

Let me know how you respond to traffic lights? Post here.