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In a recent coaching session a client shared a secret:  “I realized that the reason I haven’t been very productive since my move is that I don’t have anyone I can really talk to,” she said.  “I have work friends and attend networking events, but I don’t feel a deep connection to anyone.”

All the Lonely People

Loneliness is officially a public health crisis.  According to a 2018 survey, 22% of adults in the US and 23% in the UK say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, feel left out or isolated.  The number of single-occupant households is growing in Denmark, Germany and Canada.  Britain was the first nation in history to appoint a minister for loneliness.

As technology continues to make it easier to do things without interacting with each other, why should we make the effort?  Humans have survived because our brains are wired for connection.  There are serious physical and emotional consequences to spending too much time in isolation.

Less Judgement, More Listening

What should we do?  As Amy Banks points out in Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationship, “when you’re judging, you’re not listening… if you’re not judging, you can listen more and feel calmer,” which makes interacting with others much easier.  The author of Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration in Harvard Business Review recommends teaching people to listen so that judgment can give way to curiosity and people can value others’ perspectives as much as their own.  Brené Brown challenges us to “listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

Listening is the secret to the deep connection that creates nourishing relationships.  How can you claim this for yourself or offer it to someone else today?

A very results-oriented CEO, frustrated with what she perceived as a direct report’s lack of commitment, felt she had to choose between empathy and effectiveness.  This CEO has been working hard to embrace the concepts in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ , especially the idea that people are doing the best they can.

What Does That Really Mean?

We went back to the source for clarification: “Assuming positive intent does not mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change.  It’s a commitment to stop respecting and evaluating people based solely on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing.”

Set Boundaries for Ourselves First

If a team member isn’t meeting expectations, it’s the leader’s job to have the tough conversation and hold that person accountable.  It is possible to do that with empathy but here’s the surprise – we have to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves first.  When the CEO acknowledged that her direct report’s best wasn’t good enough, she made the decision to let him go.  Defining that clear boundary for herself meant she didn’t have to choose between empathy and effectiveness.

What boundary do you need to strengthen to be both empathetic and effective?

How would you celebrate a major career milestone?  On the tenth anniversary of launching my practice, I am celebrating your inspiration, encouragement, and the privilege of sharing this amazing journey with you.

What’s Next?

I am also looking forward to what the next ten years will bring — leveraging thousands of hours of assessment, coaching, team development, and facilitation with clients across 18 functions in 70 companies and helping to cultivate courage through the Dare to Lead™  work.

Here’s to You!

My first blog post was about removing barriers to career success and that is my celebratory toast to you:  when you look forward may you see the path to the best version of yourself.

I first saw this Lewis Carroll quote in a high school guidance counselor’s office.  The poster featured Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit checking his giant pocket watch before running madly toward a mysterious hole in the ground.

Spinning Plates?

As someone who has always been in a hurry to get things done with maximum efficiency, I need to be reminded to slow down.  Even as I write this I’m operating at warp speed to juggle competing priorities and too-short timelines.  And sure enough, a few of my spinning plates have tipped a little too far for comfort.

Breathing Technique

If you’re also running around with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, let’s take a collective deep breath – using the 4 square technique taught by yoga instructors and Navy SEALs and included in Dare to Lead:

Imagine moving around the 4 corners of a Square

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your stomach, for a count of 4
  2. Hold in the breath for a count of 4
  3. Slowly exhale all the air through your mouth, contracting your stomach, for a count of 4
  4. Hold the empty breath for a count of 4
  5. Repeat until you feel calm – in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4

This will help us avoid that mysterious hole in the ground!