Explore how to increase self-awareness and create sustainable change.

“I had every intention of getting that document to you by the deadline but I always have too much on my plate.”  We all want extra points for good intentions when we don’t follow through on a commitment but we aren’t so generous when a colleague makes excuses for repeatedly missing the mark.

Habits Hold Us Back

Making excuses is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s 20 habits that hold us back.  Goldsmith doesn’t let us off the hook when we blame others or say, “That’s just the way I am.”  Who is responsible for how much is on our plates?  We are.

How Can We Change?

If we want our colleagues’ respect, we have to align our intention and execution.  To do that, we need to look at what’s getting in the way.  Some possible obstacles could be:

  • Selfishness – thinking that our priorities supersede everyone else’s
  • Habit – it can be hard to change if we’ve gotten away with something for many years
  • Accountability – we need help doing what we know we should

I invite you to consider excuses you might be making and why, then make a plan to change that behavior and find an accountability partner.  Practice, repeat, practice, repeat…

team recognition

Most of us have struggled at some point with understanding and connecting with people who are very different from us.  Team orientation versus individual advantage is one area in which that can be particularly difficult.   Those who are very focused on team success might be uncomfortable around someone who asks, “What do I have to do to get promoted?” or “When should I expect my next raise?”  Such questions could trigger a judgmental thought like, “Don’t they care about the team?”

Both And

It can be helpful to recognize that these individuals may be asking for more feedback.  They can care about the team and be motivated by knowing how they contributed to the team’s success.  For these people, the team leader needs to provide individual as well as team recognition – both “me” and “we”.

Me First

A personality assessment like Birkman is a great tool for helping us be aware of our own needs and triggers, so we can stay out of judgment and focus on helping team members get what they need.

You’ve tried to explain your point of view and the other person just won’t listen.  You know you’re right so why should you waste time asking what they think?  If this isn’t you, you have probably experienced a communication breakdown with someone who takes this approach.

Do Your Homework

The first step in resolving a communication breakdown is taking time to reflect.  While this might make some people uncomfortable, feelings are involved.  The Gottman Institute recommends considering the following:

  • Feelings: Examine how you felt
  • Realities: Explore your perceptions, what you saw and heard and what you needed
  • Triggers: Identify previous experiences that might have escalated your reaction and why
  • Responsibility: Acknowledge your own role in the communication breakdown

Move Forward

When you’ve completed your homework, try utilizing The Imago Dialogue format to move the conversation in a new direction with these tools:

  1. Mirroring what you heard
  2. Validating the other person’s perspective even though you may not agree with it
  3. Empathizing with their feelings


Be an MVP

You can be a Most Valuable Partner if you practice MVE (Mirroring, Validating and Empathizing) using this script:

  • Agree on a good time to talk
  • Mirror: “What I heard you say is…Do I have that right?”
  • Other person says “Yes” or corrects your statement
  • Validate: “That makes sense”
  • Empathize: “I can imagine you might be feeling…” This List of Emotions can help.
  • Other person says “Yes” and/or shares other feelings – none are right or wrong
  • Ask the other person whether they are ready to practice MVE or agree on another time in the next 24 hours

As with anything new, this approach takes practice.  You’ll know you’re getting better when your goal is to understand the other person’s perspective – not to defend your position – and when both parties feel heard.

Summer means vacation for a lot of people and I’m hearing from many clients that they are really trying to unplug.  They know it can be tempting to check email and get sucked right back into the work vortex.

Play is Essential to Mental Health

Corporate Wellness Magazine reports that 84 percent of workers surveyed experienced at least one mental health challenge over the past year, including stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.  The need for play to improve mental health is more important than ever.

How to Make It Happen

Think about how you felt after a really great vacation – relaxed, recharged, reconnected to yourself and others.  How can you recreate that feeling more often?

  • Connection – Even introverts can benefit from gathering regularly with friends and family. All humans need connection to survive, as well as time alone to think and reflect.
  • Exercise – Exercise, especially outdoors, can improve both mental and physical well-being. Organized sports are a great way to combine exercise and connection.
  • Hobbies – Spending time doing something you enjoy puts deposits in the self-love bank. Consider trying something new to stimulate creativity and improve brain health.

Whether you’re planning a vacation or a weekend, what is one playful thing you need to recharge and how will you make it happen?

I’ve always struggled with disappointment from unmet expectations.  I’m still on the journey of learning to accept things I can’t change because I’m hardwired to make things better.  Since I can’t control all the variables that affect my expectations of what  “better” looks like, should I give up hoping for it?

The Difference between Hope and Expectation

Hope is a positive feeling that originates within. It is related to a desire that something might happen.  Expectation is a similar desire but primarily depends on others to be fulfilled.  An example would be hoping someone will attend your party versus expecting her to come and then being upset when she doesn’t.

How to Avoid Disappointment

In her newest book Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown identifies a way to reduce disappointment while remaining hopeful:  examining and expressing our expectations.  When we share the movie playing in our heads about how we want something to go, people have a better chance of meeting our expectations.

I invite you to examine your expectations and share them with others.  Then let go of those expectations and hold onto hope.  As my coach Grace Durfee suggests, “Leave room for something better to happen by not getting too fixed on your desired outcome.”

One positive thing during these long pandemic months has been the opportunity to listen to podcasts while walking in my neighborhood.  On a recent cold, sunny day I was encouraged by the concepts outlined by Katherine May in How Wintering Replenishes.  She writes in her book, “Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season.  It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.  Doing those deeply unfashionable things—slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting—is a radical act now, but it is essential.”

Ways to Re-Energize

After a very busy fourth quarter in which I enjoyed facilitating several in-person team events, new ones have been postponed until the omicron surge declines.  As an action oriented person, it’s hard for me to go back to “winter” mode of Zoom calls.  Here are a few ways I’m trying to make the most of this opportunity to re-energize myself:

  • Scheduling conversations instead of texting
  • Doing one thing at a time
  • Keeping a gratitude journal

A Season of Life

Wintering is a season of life as well as a season of the year.  Katherine May says, “We have seasons when we flourish, and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones.  Given time, they grow again.”  How are you growing during this season of your life?