Move Your Body, Move Your Thinking

March 1st, 2013 § Leave a Comment

The cognitive benefits of physical activity are well known and incredible. In addition to the positive impact of vigorous exercise you can actually shift your thinking in the moment with minimal movement. Our minds respond well physical movement. Don’t worry, I’m not going to advocate interpretive dance at your next project meeting, but you may be amazed by the results you get just by getting out of your chair. This is effective whether you are alone, on the phone or in conversation in person.

Here are 3 tips to try when you’re feeling stuck or struggling to see a problem in a new way.

1. Stand up
It sounds silly but I am regularly amazed by what changes for a client when I suggest that we try standing up for a minute. First of all, new ideas tend to flow and secondly, we don’t sit back down for quite a while. The simple act of standing up can break your cycle of thought and shift your thinking. I use this most when someone is sounding like a broken record.

2. Take a break and leave your desk
Often when we decide to put something aside and come back to it later, we stay in our chair and check email, surf online or start some other project. When we come back to the initial problem or topic it looks no different. Instead, try getting up and going to get a glass of water, a snack or a quick chat with a coworker. Then come back to the issue and notice what you see differently.

3. Take the issue for a walk
Walking or even running with and issue in mind is a great way to shift your thinking. It’s helpful for a number of reasons. The change of scenery can provide a perspective for example. Another reason is that exercising is known to improve your mood and a more positive mindset opens the mind up to possibilities it can’t access in a neutral state, let alone a negative or frustrated state.

What other tips do you have to help move your thinking by moving your body?

I would love to hear from you if you try any of these tips. What did you notice?

Competing vs Cooperating Interests

February 27th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Do you move through your days in competition with the people around you or in cooperation? Chances are that it’s probably a combination of these. When in conversation with others do you listen to understand and find common ground or to identify differences? It’s very easy to get caught up in a battle of competing interests without even realizing it’s happened.

Consider the last meeting you were in. Did you spend more time trying to figure out how to convince others of your viewpoint or trying to understand the viewpoints of others? In your personal relationships are you keeping score of who is putting more effort in or are you focused on being grateful for what you get out of the relationship?

You always have a choice.

If you are feeling frustrated or at odds with someone at work or in life here are some questions to ask yourself:
What is it that they want/need from me?
What am I curious about?
If I stand in their place, what do I see when I look at this situation?

I suggest writing out the answers to these questions, or saying them aloud to yourself if you prefer (the latter may sound crazy but some people think better out loud even if they are alone). When you do so, what do you notice? What is different? What is that compelling you to change about your approach with them?

The Imperfect Fear

February 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Perfectionism isn’t a positive character trait. It’s a debilitating result of the fear of imperfection. That fear, like most emotions, is completely irrational. You are human and therefore inherently imperfect – regardless of what your mother says. No one is perfectly symmetrical on their left and right sides. You might have a crooked tooth, an annoying cowlick, or a serious disability. Perfectly imperfect as they say.

Now, I am all for honouring and even harnessing emotion to raise our performance and engagement to a new level but the fear of imperfection is powerfully disruptive. Fear is a reasonable response to danger. It kept our ancestors alive and alert to risks to the species. While some healthy fears can keep us safer today, it may not be a very useful response to a situation that is missing the pressure of life and limb.

What is particularly concerning about the fear of imperfection is that it keeps us from starting in the first place. This is sometimes labelled as a fear of failure but I think it’s far more serious than that. The fear of imperfection is especially bad because it points to an expectation that is unattainable.

What are you holding back from out of the fear? What would excellent look like instead? What permission do you need to give yourself to get started?

Ask For Help

February 24th, 2013 § 2 Comments

Asking for help is an important step toward real success. And yet, it’s one of the most difficult things for many of us to to. Why do we have such a difficult time asking for help?

Perhaps this sounds familiar. First you fool yourself into thinking about the other person and how you don’t want to burden them. Then you tell yourself that they will say no or, even more awkwardly, reluctantly say yes because they have so many other more important things to do.

Mostly I’m not buying it. I think we aren’t asking for help because we feel like we are supposed to accomplish things on our own. Western culture teaches us this at an early age as we celebrate the individual succeeding against all odds. But those heros had help along the way. Consider the Oscars spectacle that ran tonight. No one stood up and thanked themselves for being so great. They all had a long list of people who were there when they needed it to make their project happen.

My brother-in-law helped me assemble a new cedar playhouse for our kids to play in today. In the assembly instructions they listed all the tools required to complete the job. One of the tools listed was “an adult helper”. We need to be reminded of that more often.

Where Are You Going?

February 24th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Much like Hannibal Smith, I love it when a plan comes together. Unfortunately, they often don’t. It is critical to create a plan to get from point A to point B but more important than that is to know what point B is. You might be frustrated with where you are at in your life or career and feel like you should be further along than you are. But further along to what?

You can’t change this moment but you have a great deal of control over your future if you choose to. What do you want your life to look like in 5 years? What does it look like? What does it feel like in that place? This image is more powerful than any plan.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan the path to get there. Even if the plan never materializes the way you’ve laid it out, it will still be time well spent. At some points you’ll know the way there and at other points you’ll be finding your way as you go. In both cases you can use the clear image of what you want to pull, push and inspire you there.

So whether the plan comes together or not, where will you be?

Just Thinking Out Loud Here…

February 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Are you an internal processor or an external processor? Why does it matter?

There is a key difference between internal and external processors that creates a lot of imbalance and tension on a team. If you are an internal processor you have probably been frustrated in meetings by the rest of the team talking over each other. You need to think things through before you’re reddy to share your thoughts.

That can be very difficult in our “fix everything” culture.

The external processor needs the conversation in order to think. Over the course of a conversation the external processor may change their minds several times and they think the situation through. This is critical to their ability to fully form their thoughts.

Therein lies the challenge. The internal processor needs silence or space from the conversation to make sense of the issue and come to a resolution while the external processor needs to engage the other(s) to think it out.

So what?

If you can gain more awareness of how you process information you can see how the conversation needs to play out to meet everyone’s needs. And always remember that the other person maybe just as unsure about how the conversation is unfolding as you are.

Are You Coachable?

February 22nd, 2013 § Leave a Comment

There are no bad coaches, just un-coachable people. Ok so that’s really not true. Throughout my career I’ve heard managers refer to some employees as being un-coachable and they resign themselves to this judgment.

I believe that everyone can be coachable at some point just as anyone could be un-coachable at any time.

What we’re really talking about is a willingness to be open to awareness and a commitment to do something with that awareness. There is one absolute with coaching in my experience; the cliche that you will get out what you put in. If you have a high level of commitment and resilience, you will get a higher level of results.

5 ways to know if you are coachable (or, no)

1. You are open to challenging and direct feedback
2. You have a willingness to try some changes and work differently
3. You are freely making the choice to request services
4. You are willing to do extra work/practice outside of the coaching conversation times
5. You are able to give yourself permission to experiment and possibly experience small failures

If you can answer yes to most of these questions, then you are probably in a good place to take advantage  of coaching.

What Are You Tolerating?

February 21st, 2013 § Leave a Comment

“You get what you tolerate.”

As I was doing the nightly clean up of my daughter’s trail of chaos, I was reminded of this quote from Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott – a leadership lesson from a preschooler. Why am I doing this? It’s amazing how long you can let something go on that really isn’t acceptable. This is true with children and also with staff, coworkers, customers, etc.

What are you tolerating that you shouldn’t be? What are you getting as a result? What is the result you want?

This shouldn’t be mistaken as a promotion of micro-managing. It can be quite damaging to relationships of any kind to be too hands-on. The reality though is that some things that seem small and insignificant from time to time become habits that reduce your effectiveness. Nothing is going to change until you stop tolerating the behaviour.

What can you do differently to start getting the result you want?

While I’ve focused here on the behaviours of others, it’s worth gaining an awareness of the behaviours and habits of your own that you are guilty of tolerating. They can really sneak up on you. What are you tolerating from yourself? What impact does that have on those around you?

The Leadership Imperative

February 20th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

Whether or not you have a leadership title, you have a leadership role. The ever increasing demands on time and productivity mean that organizations need to be nimble enough to shift priorities and resources quickly. They also need to rely on individuals at all levels to take on more responsibility and autonomy, even if they haven’t realized it yet.

This reality is calling on you to step into a bigger leadership role regardless of your title. If you’re not developing leadership skill and perspective, you will fall behind the pack.

Given this new and emergent reality, what’s getting in the way of you doing so now? Far too many teams are populated with people who are just waiting to be told what to do.

Here are 2 recommendations to learn more about this topic:

Letting Yourself Down Shouldn’t be an Option

February 18th, 2013 § Leave a Comment

This month I’m trying an experiment – writing a blog post a day for 30 days.Over that time of few things have become clear. For example; sticking to a commitment can be a rewarding experience, and sometimes the the commitment is the only thing that pulls you through.

There are times when it is worthwhile to push through and do something because of a commitment to yourself, regardless of how trivial it might seem. My sense is that those are the moments that make the difference in the long-term and re-enforce change.

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