April 8, 2020
Here are tips for working from home and for leading your newly virtual team. If you missed PART ONE, here it is: LINK
In Part One of this two part article, we met Shelby, a senior VP of IT leading a newly remote workforce and team. We also talked about some of the challenges of teens who are now doing school from home while parents work. The key message: There is no way to circumvent our feelings about this global pandemic – there is only facing it, feeling and forging on.
Part Two includes some tips for working at home. Read on – share your own ideas in the comments and keep finding that sonorous harmony of balance – where you can.
§ Don’t expect perfection in this season.
§ Create your space – and be creative about it.
§ Productivity is equal parts mindset and organization.
April 7, 2020
This week is our third of being home together all day every day. Except for the runs, walks and bike rides around the neighborhood, and the herculean effort that getting groceries now is, we are all here. In our corner of the global we – it’s truly not so bad – our household is made up of twin 17-year-old boys and me. They like each other and me. I like them too. We all get along pretty well – and we love each other enormously. Our house is big enough and we are fairly well supplied. Still, we had a midday explosion of teen emotions and parental frustration just the other day ….. The solution we came to appears later in this missive.
I actually started writing this article during the first week of Colorado’s “social distancing” guidelines, meant to flatten the pandemic curve (two weeks ago now?) Thank goodness we have now taken to calling it “physical distancing” instead. I had spent considerable time that week speaking with clients and colleagues – most of whom have leadership roles and responsibilities for teams that were now scattered to their own homes. I was hearing so much frustration and agitation that I wanted to share it, and share some ideas with you. I will still do that here. First, I want to divulge what happened that stopped the piece from getting out the door way back then! (It’s amazing isn’t it, how long two weeks can seem in this age of daily change isn’t it?)
First, let me introduce myself, I am a single mom in my 50s with three boys, a homeowner, happily in a committed relationship and the founder and President of a leadership development company. I have employees and clients and colleagues and I happen to be recovering still from a knee surgery due to a ski accident earlier this year. I work from home quite a lot, when I’m not traveling and speaking and conducting on or off-site workshops and retreats for clients. But usually, when I’m working, I’m alone in the house. I don’t usually – or I didn’t usually – have twin 11th graders also conducting their busy lives from home all week long too. So, while I was writing about the frustrations and insights I was witnessing from my clients and colleagues – my own frustrations, anxieties and insights were mounting here at home. And I was ignoring them. At first.
I would sincerely like to say that my meditation practice and decades of personal and professional development work toward leadership and strength had me hit the ground in this new reality without a hitch. However, that’s not true.
“It’s already the end of January and I feel like I’m catching up on last year still!” Sabrina said. She continued to explain that no matter how much she tries to schedule time to catch up and then relax, she finds all the little bits of space get filled up in her life and she feels stretched too thin. Does that ever happen for you? I know it has for me – a lot! Maybe there is another way to relate to time and energy?
Years ago, I had the great pleasure to spend several weekends with the entrepeneur’s guru, Robert Allen. He devoted one segment of the weekend to the idea of spinning plates. “If you are to have multiple streams of income successfully, you will have many projects going at once” he said. “But, how do you do it?” someone in the audience behind me asked.
Bob replied, “First you must handle the big rocks.” (Email me if you want to know more about this ‘big rocks first’ concept – I’ll send you something on it!) “And then, it’s a process of spinning plates.” He then demonstrated what it might look like to have 8 or 9 plates spinning on pole as you dance from one to the next to keep them spinning. It was a hilarious pantomime from the stage that was frantic and speedy and while funny, was exactly the frantic energy that Sabrina was talking to me about. This was a metaphor for how to run a lucrative business with multiple streams of income; or how to lead a company as a busy executive overseeing many departments. For more than 10 years I too ran my business and life this way. My kids were one plate, exercise another, and projects A, B and C were yet more plates. I got very good at spinning plates. I was out of my mind. I mean I was literally out of my mind. Every moment I spent spinning a plate, I was already thinking of the next plate coming. I was not relaxed. I was not present with what I was doing right then. I dashed about from one thing to the next thinking if I simply managed my white space well, I would get more done. I imagine that Bob Allen was more clever than I was, and that he didn’t dash about. For me, it wasn’t until much later that I started to understand how to properly use ‘white space.’
There has been a lot of discussion about the ROI of professional coaching. The attention to ROI of coaching tackles this issue from a number of angles:
And, lest you imagine this discussion only happens in the corporate context of coaching, let me assure you that it is not the case!
The questions “Does coaching work?” And specifically, “Will it work for me?” are ubiquitous among all people thinking about supporting themselves and the achievement of their goals with coaching.
Last week I was interviewed in a series focused on women in leadership. The interviewer – an intrepid young woman by the name of Kouros Alaee asked me this obvious, but not simple question: Why is leadership important?
Why even have a conversation about it?
Wow! What a GREAT question!
In social science parlance (my own personal training ground), there are levels of analysis:
Macro, Meso and Micro. So, to answer the question, “Why is leadership important?” my mental autopilot scans through these levels. At what level do you mean ‘why is leadership important’? What is your interest in having that question answered?
The macro-level answer might be that we have failures in leadership everywhere we look! (Check out our national political scene). And, where we haven’t got leadership failures occurring, we have plain leadership gaps! Most importantly, we attribute most of our business and social dysfunctions to these very leadership failures and gaps. That makes leadership very important!
At the meso-level, leadership is a critical strategic planning consideration. How will we prepare our future leaders to be effective at stewarding our political, economic and social organizations? If we could design training that would teach high potentials to be effective leaders, we’d have a more robust internal succession plan. This might be especially top of mind inside executive teams with great responsibility, and inside family businesses, foundations or teams with long standing employees who are not yet ready to powerfully advance the mission of the organization. Leadership is critical to talk about because there is something important to do to repair the failures and fill the gaps that cause dysfunction.
Savannah is the definition of resilient. She’s has averaged more than 7 painful surgeries per year for the last 7 years. Once a vibrant athlete, today she is facing another round that may permanently rob her of the use of both her arms. She experiences constant pain.
Yet, her mantra is “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is Optional.” So, she smells the roses, notices the birds and bees, loves her dog and feels great compassion and a powerful urge to serve, truly every day.
Today Savannah had a breakthrough that I would consider a miracle of anti-fragile (see AntiFragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb). She asked the question: What would it take to actually thrive instead of just not give in? What lies beyond resilient?
I asked her what message she might want to leave the world if she had a chance. At first her message was, “Don’t be a victim” no matter hard it gets, don’t succumb to self-pity.
Today, as she considered that not giving in is resilient, but what would it take to be Anti-Fragile? If resilient is getting up when we are knocked down. What lies beyond resilient?
Perhaps anti-fragile means being grateful for the clarity and growth that being knocked down brings. Savannah sometimes has to search deeply for gratitude for her pain. At times it’s challenging to be grateful about the possibility of never sitting atop her beloved horse again. Her gratitude must be for whatever gifts lie in that possibility while she doggedly remains committed to this present moment.
When Savannah is able to facilitate the sprouting of new hope in an encumbered soul, she is grateful. She is able to serve because of her journey, precisely because she has been knocked down.
That’s anti-fragile. Gratitude for the struggle is anti-fragile.
Anti-fragile is one of the keys to truly, deeply ownership in your life. Deep ownership requires us to forgo blame, be committed to transparent truth, and the fortitude to choose love over fear over and over again. Anti-fragile is only possible if we are willing to truly step into deep ownership of our experience of life. When we get to bear witness to the powerful, vulnerable, humble spirit who seeks to be anti-fragile, we are deeply blessed.
To your inspired journey.
“I’m really bad at relationships!” Jesse said.
This statement of incontrovertible fact was Jesse’s explanation for why he dropped off the grid. During this last week he quit communicating with the important people in his life: the co-workers and employees who were waiting for him to get supplies to them, the incredible woman he had just met and made plans to see last weekend (but didn’t), his best friends from California who were coming into town for a gathering next month. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, or let anyone down (he told himself). In his mind, ‘I just stink at relationships.’
As if that were the truth.
As if that explained everything.
After nearly 30 hours of conversations with this mid-level manager, over the course of our relationship, one thing was evident to me about Jesse. He is very good at conversations. He is smart, introspective, kind, and thoughtful. He expresses himself very well. And, the relationship takes place in communication. So, what really was the problem here?
How can one be good at one thing (conversations), and not good at the other (relationships)?
Here’s what Jesse couldn’t see:
Jesse lacked clarity about what was really driving his avoidant behavior. Jesse was living from a victim place (both consciously, and unconsciously). And Jesse remained in this disempowered place because he was in fear.
So what is there to do? Jesse at least couldn’t see any options.
Whoah – hang on to your hat!
There is a lot of stress and challenge ping-ponging around our world these days. The leadership call is screamingly loud to remain grounded; to come from the clarity of deep ownership, truth and love. I’m hearing from clients that ordinary stressors are harder than ever to navigate:
None of these challenges is out of the ordinary, and yet, an ordinary response to them will not promote a thriving outcome.
How do we amplify thriving?
We live in times of tremendous abundance and security. So, why do we get so upset about things that in the grand scheme of things are not so serious? And more importantly, how can we get free from the stress of it?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying that we should all become serene, even-tempered gurus who never get upset about anything. Trouble shows up when we feel out of control. When the upset has us, then we’ve lost our power to really resolve the problem. What follows is an exploration of how to powerfully take ownership – even when we feel completely trapped.
Upset would be ok if only we didn’t feel so stuck and miserable when it happens! Then again, just yesterday my son said to me, ‘Ain’t no appreciating the sunshine if it never rains.’ Well, he has a point!
Still, I think we thrive when we feel free. I might be upset for a while, but when I’m ready to stop being upset, I want to have the freedom to shift. Don’t you? Take a moment and jot down the kinds of upset you would like to be free from.
James, Section Chief of Real Estate Procurement explained that he had transformed their district office into a lean productivity machine. His boss and team praised him repeatedly for how much their office accomplished. Their office produced maps and designs for their customers faster than any of the other 17 offices around the US. Now that the transformation had occurred, James was in charge of keeping it going.
At Austin’s American Grill a few years back, I had lunch with then CEO of Otter-Box, Bryan Thomas. During his tenure, he helped take Otter from a small start-up that made it possible for hardy Coloradoans to be serious extreme sportspeople, who are tech-sporting geeks too —- to a company that serves tablet and smartphone owners worldwide. Otter Products is now worth over a Billion USD, has multiple sites and over a 1000 employees. How did he do that? What was his vision? His particular obsessions, he told me, were customer service and culture. Service and Service – External Service (customers) and Internal Service (culture). That captures most everything doesn’t it? Strategy, communication, executive presence, fun, implementation, and emotional intelligence skills can all be understood as part of external and internal service.
So, what is required to support this focus on service?
After a time he asked me about what I do too. My response: When a leader is hitting on all cylinders, great at strategizing, organized, able to delegate, successfully managing life – at home and at work – gets things done, what’s the one thing that person still cannot do for Himself? Herself?
Most leaders don’t consciously have an answer for that. The very most extraordinary leaders however, know this:
No matter what business skills and leadership maturity s/he has, one cannot effectively be one’s own Sounding Board. What does a sounding board do?
A wonderful piano player recently explained to me that if we placed two Steinway Grand Pianos side by side on a stage, one with a sounding board, one without…. the one with a sounding board will sound like angels crooning, spirit on the air, magical and musical. The one without a sounding board will sound dead.
Leaders are like that. The one with a confidential excellence coach will lead powerfully, getting more done, more quickly – with a team that achieves more, more quickly – and with greater joy.