Cultivating Gratitude

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How many times have you said thank you without actually feeling… well… grateful? Muttering thanks to the person who held the door for you earlier, the barista who made your latte, and even your sign off “Thanks!” on all your emails can sometimes ring hollow. The sentiment, and most importantly, the good feelings you have behind the words are lost.

Honestly, if you did keep track of “moments of gratitude”, you would have a dozen things to be thankful for just in that morning on your way to work!

Don’t worry. You don’t have to keep track of ALL of it. How about five things? That sounds almost doable, right?

Putting your problems in perspective by focusing on the positive is the first step in overcoming them. And, there’s so much more. Here are some more unexpected benefits to starting a gratitude journal:

1. Good things DO happen and you finally have the “receipts” to prove it! A gratitude journal is literally your important paperwork of life.

2. You keep only memories that bring you joy. Have you ever gone through your old teenage journals and think … “What was I so upset about?! I had free food and wifi!”? If you want a happy life, record only the happy memories and let the bad times slip into oblivion along with your high school locker combination.

3. It’s the perfect way to end your day. Who doesn’t want to have their stress levels lowered right before bed? Skip the Tylenol PM and grab your gratitude journal instead.

4. Your future self will thank you. This is a little bit meta, but by writing out what you are grateful for now, you give your future self something to be grateful for. Gratitude is simply happiness you recognize at a later date.

5. You will find that you go through life extra attuned to “gratitude inspiring” events. How cool is that?

Starting and maintaining a gratitude journal sounds daunting, but it is so worth it. Here are some handy tips and tricks to get started.

1. Keep a small notebook and pen next to your bedside table. You can later invest in a fancy personalized journal. Whatever you have on hand will do just fine.

2. Write – don’t type. Research shows that the physical act of writing is soothing in and of itself.

3. Take a moment to think through what you are grateful for today. Just today. It may not make sense to anyone who is reading it, and that’s okay!

4. Stay the course. This isn’t a journal of events. This isn’t a place to write out your frustrations. Stay positive and keep out the negative.

5. Keep it secret. Don’t share it with anyone. It will only stymie your true thoughts and feelings. Your gratitude journal is a judgement free zone.

Are you ready to smile at the end of every work day? Keeping a gratitude journal is a hidden life hack for being healthier, happier, and more productive.

Try it!

 

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Meditation Isn’t What You Imagine

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No, you don’t need to be sitting quietly in a candle lit room, or listening to Tibetan chimes downloaded from iTunes. While it does sound amazing to go to a wooded retreat to reach inner peace, it isn’t necessary — or very likely for that matter.

The reality is that you spend most of your life following the same routine, but somewhere in the chaos you need to find a little peace. The good news is that self-care through meditation is easier than you think!

Pay attention to your breath

Try this. As you breathe in, count to 1 in your mind; and as you breathe out, count to 1. Breathe in — count 2. Breathe out — count 2. Continue all the way up to 10, and then go backwards back to 1. If you get distracted and lose count, just start over.

Funny how once you get your mind involved in the process of breathing, it takes up a lot of mental bandwidth! That’s because breathing is your true “life’s work” essentially.

Be mindful

At the office you are busy prioritizing your thoughts for the deadlines coming up. Often you are still mentally putting out the fires of yesterday at the same time. Meditation quickly and efficiently allows you to leave regrets in the past and anxiety in the future, where they belong.

It only takes a couple minutes to focus on the here and now. When you get it right, your breath becomes a center of soothing calm. That is meditation through mindfulness.

Find your trigger

There is no wrong time to listen to your breath. But in the beginning, it’s a good idea to pair it with something you do everyday. It could be while waiting in line in the parking garage, or taking the recycling out. You can do it while conditioning your hair in the shower!

Practicing meditation daily and consistently develops a powerful habit for mindfulness. It forms like any other habit. You have to do it daily, even if it is just two minutes a day.

Meditation in practice

The beauty of your practice is that it is ready for when you need it most. When you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the size of your inbox, frustrated by an important document lost, or the gnawing anticipation before public speaking, you can instantly transport yourself to the tranquility of your practice.

Find your zen! And go there whenever you please!

Let’s talk about self-care

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“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, please put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”

Flight attendants diligently remind us to suppress our instinct of wanting to help others before helping ourselves. After all, how can we help anyone while running on literal fumes?!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the how, when, where, and why of self-care!

Don’t embrace the grind

Smart leaders make self-care their priority because they know it enhances productivity and success in themselves and others. Ignoring self-care mimics a state of oxygen deprivation: you make messy mistakes, and things inevitably grind to a halt.

The World Health Organization estimates stress related illness causes a loss of 300 billion dollars a year in workplace productivity. Often defined as “Presenteeism”, you are technically at work but your health problems choke any attempts at true efficiency.

On some level, you already know this to be true. Your job feels like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. Your body and mind are screaming to be tended to as you plow through the work day.

Self-care feels like another thing to do in your already overscheduled day.

Yes, you know that ideally you wouldn’t scarf a burger at your desk or shun sleep to respond to that one last email. And wait, wasn’t there a meditation app you’ve been meaning to download? It all feels like too much! Even the things that are supposed to help.

Taking care of yourself ends up going from #1 on your list to falling somewhere between organizing your desktop and getting your tires rotated.

Put yourself first

In this series, we explore what it means to put your oxygen mask on first.

How do you make it a habit? How can you quickly integrate it into what you are already doing? And most importantly: how do you know you are doing it right?

Don’t worry – you got this! For now, just take a moment to put your own mask on… and breathe.

Prepping for Fall

Screen Shot 2017-09-01 at 2.52.24 PM.pngCa you believe that it’s ALREADY September 1st?

We can’t!

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about You in 2017 and the words you were going to use for this year.

Now that we are jumping into fall, let’s take some time to look at those words or phrases you chose and think about what else you want for the rest of this year!

Step 1: Grab your calendar and block off 30 minutes

Step 2: Look at the word you chose for your professional life. Write down a couple of ways you’ve seen this word show up in you (purposely or not!). Now, write down a couple of opportunities you might have to grow in that area in the coming months (only 4 more full months of the year!!!).

Step 3: Look at the word or phrase you chose for your personal life and do the same reflective activity.

Step 4: Look at the hobby or interest you wanted to grow or expand on. Did you have a chance to? If so, AWESOME! If not, look at what you could do in the next few months to accomplish that. J

We find that just after the fun and chaos of summer is the perfect time to take some time to reflect and reset on what you are hoping for the rest of the year!

So, You’ve Got a New Job- Part 2

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 9.39.29 AMPreoccupied with the exciting possibilities of your new role, you’ve totally forgotten that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step – your first day. But not to worry – we’ve got your back! These tips are sure to keep you cool under the pressure of what to do when you’re new.

The Commute

During the interview process, your trusty GPS guided you to your new office in just 15 minutes. However, your route may have been contingent upon the time of day and weather. A drive at 1 pm on a sunny Wednesday could be much shorter than one on Monday at 8 am during a torrential downpour.

A good practice is to take a trip to the office beforehand to make sure you’ve accounted for traffic and detours. By testing your hypothetical drive, you can feel confident in the fact you’ll arrive at work early rather than late.

If your preference is to crank up Pandora while you get ready for work, you may have to put down the air guitar and devote a few minutes to listening to your local news or radio to find out if there are any road closures, accidents, or inclement weather that could impact your driving time. You and Pearl Jam can thank us later.

The Attire

You know those papers and/or booklets you received when you accepted the position? It serves well to read them, as these documents are often the keepers of clandestine information related to your new role.

Read your employee handbook thoroughly and carefully to ensure you’re in-line with your organization’s expectations. Of course, you’ll dress professionally, but your interpretation of sandals may be Birkenstocks, while your company’s expectation of sandals is open-toed dress shoes.

The Layout

While interviewing, you parked in visitor parking and stopped at the front desk to indicate your arrival. Easy, right? But now that you’re “official,” you’ll have to park in the fourth deck and ride the elevator to the 17th floor. Yikes!

No sweat. You’ve gained an extra fifteen minutes from properly planning your commute and can navigate your way to your new desk like a boss. An east and west elevator, or stopping to ask for directions from passersby, will be a breeze rather than panic-inducing since you’ve got time to spare.

The People

During your interview, you were congenial, charming, and attentive. Let’s let the good times roll! You’ll be inundated with new names and faces all day, so be just as authentic and personable as you were when getting the job as you are in keeping your job. Scientific research suggests that our facial expressions influence our emotions, so smiling and being pleasant when meeting your coworkers will serve both you and your new crew well.

Displaying a positive, can-do attitude not only signals to those around you that you are receptive and capable, it also breaks the ice when asking job-related questions. Those gray skies of uncertainty will clear up when you put on a happy face.

Well, look who’s survived the first day? Go you! You’ve given yourself a head start on fulfilling the expectations of your new role just by putting your best foot forward on day one.

That Moment When You Want Your Team to be More Creative

That Moment When You Want Your Team to be More Creative

Have you ever had that moment when you’ve been sitting and listening to your team and you think, “I just want something more… something outside the box – something creative!”

This week we have Coach Keiko Akiba to share with us her thoughts.

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 9.57.16 PMWhen you’re sitting in the middle seat and watching how your team is working, you may ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help my team become more creative?’

And – what does it really mean to be ‘creative’?

You may think that creativity is a special talent that only some people have and others don’t have. But the next time you pass a park, you’ll see children making ‘play’ from seemingly nothing. It’s amazing how children create new games by making up their own rules without any equipment in the playground. They are free to explore and enjoy imagination and creativity!

Creativity is a gift that we all have naturally. However, as we grow older and learn what we ‘should and shouldn’t’ (or ‘the rules’), we unconsciously bury the creative mind deep inside of us.

So – what this means is that your workplace is full of hidden creativity!

What if we could unbury it just like peeling off the outer layer of an onion?

And how can you, as a Manager, help?

Start with these 3 “Let Go’s” that you can start doing now to spur your team toward creativity!

  1. Let Go of your judgement

Often, managers tend to have judgements or assumptions toward their team members and may underestimate their capability. However, these judgements may not be reality and it could make the team feel defensive and demotivated. So, try to let go of your judgement and fully trust the team, letting them know that you are here to support them.

  1. Let Go of the reins that you keep holding

Imagine a horse running freely across the field without any control by someone. What does the horse look like? When you keep holding the reins too tight, it often limits the actions and new perspective. People might feel pressure and less freedom by being too controlled. This is not where creativity is developed. Let go of the reins and let them explore and enjoy new possibilities!

  1. Let Go of your stereotyped behavior

It goes without saying that following the tradition and rules is important, and you may feel safe to stay inside where you are. But aren’t you curious to see what’s available and what will happen if your team gets off the existing path and does something different from stereotypical behavior? They will naturally use their creative mind and find something inspiring along the way!

That Moment When You Need Someone To Go The Extra Mile

That Moment When You Need Someone To Go The Extra Mile

We know it all too well. You gave the new project to Joe to run because you needed his expertise to really knock this one out of the park!

You don’t just want Joe to “work” on the project, you want him to invest in the project and do what you’ve seen him do so well.

But, HOW do you actually get Joe to do that on this project?

This week, we’ve got Coach Bill Koch with us to share some of his best insights.

So, without further adieu…

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 10.48.00 PM“I often work with clients on the fast track. They have been ‘rock star’ individual contributors with deep expertise, domain knowledge, and amazing abilities to get things done. That track record for great performance gets rewarded with promotion into positions of management and leadership where one is expected to motivate and inspire a team. And this is right where some of the best and brightest people feel stuck – often for the first time on their fast-paced career trajectory.

In coaching conversations, I often receive questions and quotations such as:

  • ‘I know how to perform, but not how to lead.’
  • ‘I feel more comfortable doing than leading.’
  • ‘Management would be fine if it weren’t for all the people problems.’
  • ‘This is hard…I’m not sure I want this.’

Beyond such anecdotal indicators, I have analyzed data from a large body of client 360° evaluations with feedback data collected from Bosses, Peers, and Direct Reports. Among 50+ business competencies that are measured through this 360 instrument, these are among the most frequently rated as Opportunities for Development:

  • Getting Work Done Through Others
  • Motivating Others
  • Managerial Courage
  • Developing Direct Reports
  • Directing Others
  • Building Effective Teams

See the theme here? It’s about leading others. How to manage Direct Reports is one of the toughest challenges because it’s often new to us. Think of leadership skills as an underdeveloped muscle. We need training and exercise – maybe a personal trainer too.

Even more challenging – how do we get a Direct Report to “step it up” and go the extra mile? Should we use a carrot or a stick? Do we demand and command, or can we inspire and attract people to provide peak performance? The answer is “yes” – depending on the situation. It’s art and science. And new leaders need to practice becoming nimble and able to use multiple methods depending on the business need.

What does great leadership look like in your organization? When were you inspired to do your best work? Think of those experiences as you consider what you ask of your team. How can you inspire and motivate your Direct Reports to do the extraordinary?

There are times when leaders must make critical decisions in the face of looming deadlines, limited resources, and organizational demands. These events call for swift action. Think “military threat” kind of situations. The leader takes charge. But this behavior must be reserved for critical situations. “Command and Control” is not for daily use.

Great leadership is about developing people, building a team, and fostering a caring connection that transcends the workplace and the work at hand. It means making a personal investment in others. And it pays dividends in the form of commitment to the company from people who feel a part of the organization. It’s because the leader makes them feel welcome, valued, and appreciated.

What can you do to ‘step it up’ if you expect more from your Direct Reports?

  • Frequent 1:1 developmental conversations
  • Taking a personal interest in your Direct Reports
  • Making sure the work you assign is meaningful
  • Setting clear goals and objectives with your Direct Reports
  • Welcoming feedback on your leadership performance
  • Fostering a supportive team environment that’s friendly – maybe even fun!
  • Recognizing great contributions in front of other members of the team
  • Rewarding good work at the time it is performed

Leaders who invest more effort in these areas will find that their team is in step and capable of doing great work. Your Direct Reports want some autonomy to do things in their own style. The leader is responsible for setting the expectations and objectives so that individuals can flourish in a way that contributes to objectives you establish for the team.

Ask yourself if you’re creating an environment that makes people want to go the extra mile to perform at their best for your organization.