You Can’t Go Through Life as a Cardboard Cutout

I recently saw the movie “Railway Man,” a powerful and moving story about a World War II prisoner of war who confronts and ultimately forgives the man who tortured him. Much of the movie was very hard to watch but the ending was worth it.

Do you find yourself drawn to stories or experiences that tap into your emotions or do you tend to avoid them? Compartmentalizing our feelings can help create a sense of control and maintain our sanity. Our challenge is opening up those compartments and dealing with the anger, grief or whatever we locked away. Movies, books, art, music, and nature can be safe ways to release those feelings. If we go through life as a cardboard cutout with no emotions, something might escape when we least expect it.

I invite you to find a healthy emotional outlet this week and share your story with someone…

The Devil is in the Details

When we hear “The devil is in the details,” we are reminded not to overlook something small that could have a big impact.  When I work with leaders who are detail oriented, they often struggle to let go.  That becomes even more difficult when their boss expects them to have the details at their fingertips.

How do you find the right balance?

  • Set an example – What kind of leader do you want to be?  A micromanager or a big picture thinker?
  • Weigh the risk – What is the worst that could happen if you said, “I can get that information for you.”
  • Push back appropriately – “Based on my assessment of the information provided by my team, I recommend the following…”

I invite you to stretch beyond your comfort zone and trust your team to handle the details, and then manage your boss’ expectations.  You might help him or her become a more effective leader in the process!

 

The Mask

Do you ever feel like you have to put on a mask when you get to work?

As you move up in an organization, it can be challenging to adjust your behavior without losing yourself.  Leaders are expected to fit in with their peers while demonstrating the ability to offer differing opinions.  Here are some suggestions for achieving this delicate balance:

  • Know your blind spots:  be aware of the things that may derail your effectiveness and learn how to manage them.
  • Choose your battles:  voice your opinion when it really counts rather than disagreeing just for the sake of making a point.
  • Channel your personality:  if you have a wicked sense of humor, use it appropriately.
  • Identify what you’re not willing to change:  know your core values and demonstrate them consistently.
  • Ask for feedback:  find someone who will give you honest, objective input about how you’re doing and ask for it on a regular basis.

It is possible to be the same person at work that you are at home.  Instead of masking your true identity, I encourage you to reveal the relevant aspects of your identity to each audience. 

Listening Has Value

Do You Hear What I Hear?

As the Christmas carol says, “Do you hear what I hear?”  If we’re honest, mostly what we hear is ourselves talking.  Telling others what we think they should do or how they should feel or what we have accomplished since our last holiday letter.

What Am I Doing?

In our results-oriented world, it is easy to focus on delivering value by doing something.  Although we think we’re helping by offering solutions, our spouse, colleague or friend may just want a sympathetic ear or a brainstorming partner.

Giving a Gift

This holiday season is a great time to give the gift of listening.  That means:

  • Keeping our mouths shut and holding our advice until we’re asked
  • Emulating Nelson Mandela and focusing on the person who is talking as if there were no one else in the room
  • Restating what was said so the other party feels heard
  • Expressing empathy

I invite you to give this gift generously and often and reap the benefits of improved relationships.

Catch Them Doing it Right

Reinforcing the Right Thing

If you have ever read a book on parenting, you may remember this advice, “Catch them doing it right.”  It was a great reminder that we shouldn’t spend all of our time correcting our children when they make mistakes or misbehave.  We also need to focus on reinforcing the behavior that we want.

Motivational Tool

This is also great advice for leaders.  When I meet with a new coachee’s boss to discuss their 360 feedback and development plan, we talk about how to help the coachee change behavior.  Holding them accountable is the first key to success.  The second is letting them know when they demonstrate the desired behavior.  Unsolicited positive feedback can be a great motivator when the coachee isn’t  sure whether she is making any progress.

Gratitude

At this time of year when we take a moment to remember our blessings, I am grateful for the opportunity to know and learn from so many wonderful people.  I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is filled with all the things you enjoy.

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.