It Might be a Train

Have you heard the expression, “That light at the end of the tunnel might be a train?” For a lot of us who work in the energy sector, the impact of the rapid drop in the price of oil has felt like being hit by a train we didn’t see coming. The ripple effect on other industries hasn’t started yet but the forecasters tell us it won’t be long.

So what do we do now? Hunker down and play it safe or find ways to be creative?

It is easy to keep doing what works when times are good. In the face of an unexpected setback, our first response may not be stepping out of our comfort zone. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that any experience, good or bad, can lead to creativity if it pushes us outside our normal thought patterns.

If you use this opportunity to think creatively about your business, your team or yourself, how might you ride that train through the downturn and be well-positioned for the recovery?

“No Thanks”

Are you tired of people telling you to be thankful this month? You already know that is important. What about saying, “no thanks?” This isn’t about the second piece of pie at Thanksgiving dinner although it is about resisting temptation – to saying “yes.”

Do you keep saying “yes” to everything you are asked to do until you are so overwhelmed that you can’t do any of it well? I’m not discouraging going above and beyond to exceed performance expectations. I am encouraging strategically prioritizing the things to which you say “yes.”

How do you say “no thanks?” In this month’s issue of Fortune the CEO of Priceline Group shares this advice: “It is far more important (and difficult) to decide what you are not going to do than what you are going to do. Try to replay every direction in the negative: We won’t do X, Y, and Z. Focus and simplicity are a workforce multiplier.”

Try (politely) saying “no thanks” to one thing to which you usually say “yes” and see what happens. Enjoy the holiday and the pie!

Managing Expectations

I just returned from a weekend in the Colorado Mountains which was a great escape from the dog days of Houston’s summer. One of the activities, a bicycle ride that was billed as mostly downhill, ended up being eight miles of hard pedaling into a strong wind. Good workout but not what I expected – the bike rental guy over-promised and under-delivered. Thankfully, the reward was a burger and a beer!

While under-promising and over-delivering should be the mantra of every salesperson, for corporate leaders who have to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders, it may be more important to promise and deliver as accurately as possible.

Some people are flexible enough to adjust to unexpected changes easily. Others need advance notice and time to buy into the changes in order to support them. If one of your team members seems resistant to change, consider how well you managed their expectations. Did you tell them it would be a tough journey and give them a chance to ask how best to prepare? Or did you gloss over the challenges and just focus on the reward?

Being aware of how you react to change can help you adjust to others with different needs. If you can take unexpected changes in stride, you will have to work extra hard at being patient with those who can’t. If you are someone who is frustrated by surprises, let others know to give you a heads up whenever possible.

See if you can spot someone this week whose response to change is similar to yours and someone whose style is different.

The Next Chapter

I heard a great quote last week: “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.”  I learned that Michael McMillan, author of The Power of Teamwork, originated it.  He explains on his website that, “Growing from our past is productive… attempting to live there isn’t.” 

Many of my clients are high achievers with very high expectations of themselves who tend to beat themselves up over their mistakes. For those who have taken the Birkman assessment, you have a high Challenge score.  If this sounds familiar, you probably already know that you function best in an environment that provides challenges and opportunities for personal accomplishment.

Here are some suggestions for getting to the next chapter:

  • If you find yourself ruminating over something in the past, write down what you learned and how you will apply it in the future.
  • If things become too routine, seek out some new challenges.
  • Rather than automatically blaming yourself when things go wrong, identify what you can control and address that.

What will you learn from the last chapter of your life that will help you begin the next one?

 

How Can You Help Others Handle Loss?

What is My Role?

Recently, I have been very aware of the impact of loss on family members, clients and friends who have lost loved ones or learned of a terminal illness.  While I knew this was an inevitable part of life, I struggled to understand my role in these situations.  In some cases, it was to provide comfort in a very personal way.  In others, it was to offer a prayer that comfort would be provided by someone else.

 

Five Stages of Grief

Have you wondered how to help a friend or colleague who has suffered a loss and is dealing with profound sadness, confusion and fear of what lies ahead? You may be familiar with the five stages of grief as defined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

They point out that not everyone goes through all five stages and may not experience them in this order, but it can be useful to have some idea of what to expect.  The website grief.com has good suggestions for what to say and do.

 

It’s Not About Me

One thing I have learned is that focusing on the other person rather than myself helps us both.  I invite you to keep that in mind when someone you know is grieving.

Don’t Push Me!

My trainer kept saying, “Come on, you can do this!” even though I told him my foot wasn’t rehabbed enough for jumping.  The more he insisted, the more resistant I became.  I will push myself pretty hard, but not to the point of potentially doing damage.

How Much is Too Much?

Because he wasn’t getting it I questioned my own approach to pushing my coaching clients beyond their comfort zone. It is one of the toughest things I have to do, but discomfort is sometimes necessary to stimulate behavior change.

Stretch Without Breaking

Leaders also have to find the right balance when pushing their team members.  The best way to provide challenges that will stretch people without breaking them is to invest the time to learn:

  • What motivates the person
  • What de-motivates them

Where to Start?

A personality assessment like the Birkman is a great starting point, so let me know if you would like to explore how to add this to your leadership toolkit.