Where is the Squirrel?

Do you ever feel like the puppy in the photo above?  He’s so distracted that he can’t see the squirrel on the other side of the tree.  I felt like that as I drove to the recent International Coach Federation conference in the Texas hill country.  Luckily, one of the first exercises was to set our intention for the weekend.  Since I was bringing a lot of distractions with me I decided on something I could remember:

Positive  —  Open —  Present

At the first check-in most people admitted some challenges with maintaining their intention, even though we had several opportunities to practice techniques for increasing awareness and staying mindful.  Not surprisingly, this was more difficult as the day wore on.  At our final check-in the next morning, I realized that practice had made it a little easier to stay Positive and Open  …which enabled me to stay Present.

I  brought home some visual reminders of the positive things I want to focus on so I wouldn’t go right back to:

Negative  –  Closed —  Distracted

If you’re like a distracted puppy, what will help you stay focused and present?  How will you put that into practice in the next week and beyond?

Self Knowledge is Power

English author and philosopher Francis Bacon, an advocate of inductive reasoning in science, wrote, “Knowledge is power” in 1597.  This phrase has come up with many of my clients recently in a new form: self-knowledge is power.

One of the first steps in coaching is creating awareness of strengths, motivators and stress behaviors, typically through a personality assessment and confidential feedback from colleagues.  The challenge then becomes what to do with that information.  I often tell my clients, “You don’t have to agree with all of the feedback but you can choose what to do with it.”

Knowing …

  • your strengths gives you the power to resist buying into destructive comments from an undermining co-worker.
  • what motivates you gives you the power to pursue a role that makes you look forward to work every day.
  • what triggers your stress behaviors gives you the power to stay calm and in control when your brain wants you to do the opposite.

What do you need to know in order to be your most powerful self?

“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!

Virtual Team Building

Two clients contacted me recently to explore options for virtual team building because travel bans and budget constraints are making a difficult situation even more challenging. They want to go beyond standard conference calls to bridge the distance between people in multiple locations.

Video calls are another option that can create a more personal connection. In the same way that we set ground rules for an in-person team building session, the team needs to decide how they will interact on calls. Here are some things to consider in making this an effective tool:

Include an icebreaker activity to help people get to know each other. Check out 50 Digital Team Building Games

  • Determine how to ensure everyone’s participation
  • Constructively voice differences of opinion during the call rather than afterward
  • Define the boundaries for confidentiality
  • Establish accountability and timelines for action items

In between calls, pairing team members on special projects or initiatives can create camaraderie. Rotating the responsibility for leading the call is a great way to develop new skills and generate different ideas and approaches. Find more ideas at HBR Making Virtual Teams Work.

Improve Your ROI

Try this exercise:  close your eyes and count to 20 slowly.  Sounds easy, right?  Do it again and start over every time you are distracted by another thought.  That is much more challenging for most of us.

The Power of Adrenalin

How long can you go without checking your phone?  Studies have shown that we get addicted to the jolt of adrenalin when we hear the text or email message notification.  When I lead team building sessions or facilitate a meeting, the participants agree on whether to turn off or silence their phones.  Some of them get the shakes – like they would if they had to give up coffee for a day.  I find it hard not to check mine every time I stop at a red light, even if I’m enjoying the song on the radio.

 40 Percent ROI

We have trained ourselves to expect distractions.  We think we can’t function without them but what do they cost us?  Research indicates that productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent when people switch tasks.

 Stop whatever else you are doing and think about that – you could be 40 percent more effective if you focused on one thing for a defined period of time.  Where else can you get that kind of ROI?

Achieving Your New ROI Goal

We know all this and yet we still do it.  Why?  We have to create a new ROIReturn on Intention©. What better time to do that than the beginning of a new year?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Identify one thing you will do differently.  Be as specific as possible and avoid saying what you will not do. Write it down where you will see it often.  It could be, “I will sit through five stop lights without checking my phone.”
  2. Write down when you will start and how often you will do it.  “I will start tomorrow and continue for the next week.”
  3. Describe the benefit you will get from doing this.  “I will be able to enjoy what I’m hearing on the radio.”
  4. Find an accountability partner.  “I will ask my coach to check in with me every Monday by 9:00 AM if I haven’t emailed her about my progress by Sunday at 5:00 PM.”
  5. Recognize potential derailers.  Notice what gets you off track and find a solution.  “I’m likely to forget when I’m in a hurry so I will leave five minutes earlier for my meetings.”
  6. Reward yourself.  “I will add a new song to my favorite playlist when I achieve my goal for the week.”

 I invite you to test this approach to improving your ROI and see how it affects your productivity.

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.