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Overworked? A People Pleaser’s Guide to Saying No

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Balance, Boundaries, Individual, Leadership, Women | 0 comments

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

“I have more work than I can possibly do, my team is stretched to the breaking point, and the requests keep coming,” said an executive coaching client in a large tech company, her eyes welling with tears. She was not the only one to whom I gave a tissue this week.

Overwork is widespread in the U.S., and research indicates that it is bad for people’s health and productivity.  An excessive workload can be caused by many different factors—a demanding organizational culture, poor planning, failure to delegate or a lack of adequate staffing. But often times, it is exacerbated by an inability or unwillingness to say, “no.” People pleasers (you know who you are) hate to let down their colleagues and will sacrifice their own well-being to avoid causing disappointment. If they don’t develop their “no” muscle, they are likely to burn out or make themselves sick. Here are some strategies for people pleasers:  

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What Can Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes Teach Us About Feminism?

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Culture, Leadership, leadership, Women | 0 comments

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, critics and feminists are reflecting on the story of the now infamous CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes. The focus of the HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood In Silicon Valley, Holmes captivated the imaginations and tapped into the greed and hubris of the (mostly male) investor class. She raised over $600 million and took her investors for a ride that ended in disgrace. Her failed product—a fast, cheap, comprehensive blood test using only a finger prick rather than a blood draw—would have been miraculous if it had worked. But it didn’t, and she knew it. She hid its flaws and is now facing federal fraud charges. Her very public rise and fall have some calling her a feminist anti-hero.

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Phrasing Matters: How To Be A Constructive Critic

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Feedback, Leadership, Uncategorized | 0 comments

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

Are you great at spotting the flaw in the plan? Do you default to criticism rather than appreciation? If so, you could be bringing down the motivation on your team or getting a reputation as a complainer, and it may be time for an intervention. You have valuable insights to offer and it’s important to offer them constructively.

Negativity bias refers to our brain’s greater sensitivity to negative information than to positive. This trait is valuable because it helps us detect potential threats and correct problems. But, when not managed well in the workplace (or at home), it can lead to an over-expression of critique. Its impact is then compounded by the negativity bias of the listener. It can be demotivating, suppress creativity, damage relationships and impede performance. Research suggests that the highest performing organizations have a ratio of higher than 5:1 positive to negative comments.

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How To Take Charge And Navigate An Unexpected Change

Posted by on Mar 27, 2019 in Career change/Job search, Change, Change | 0 comments

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

Sometimes you need a push. You may not know you need it—you may even resent it—but a push helps (sometimes forces) you to change and can ultimately take you in a good direction. We coaches love to talk about inspiration and lofty goals, but the truth is that many people don’t take action until the status quo gets uncomfortable.

There are two forces that bring about action and change: pull and push.

  • Pull is what draws you forward and positively motivates you. It is a vision, a shiny object, a yearning, goal or aspiration. You reach for it because you want it. Pull is a bright future that excites us, sparks us and calls us to action.
  • Push is what drives you and necessitates action. It can be an external event or an internal discomfort, dissatisfaction or frustration. Push is a force that makes the here and now untenable and requires action.
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Scary Schedule? How to Regain Control Of Your Calendar

Posted by on Mar 6, 2019 in Balance, Culture, Getting Things Done, Individual, Management | 0 comments

This post first appeared on Forbes.com.

“My calendar is out of control! I have so many meetings that I can’t get my work done.”

This sentiment has become increasingly common among managers and leaders. The need to work collaboratively and cross-functionally has led to a proliferation of meetings, and in many organizations, where calendars are visible to all, colleagues feel free to schedule meetings at any open time. People wind up with chopped up days, back-to-back meetings and, oftentimes, no idea as to why they have been invited. The result? Participants are often late, unprepared and disengaged.

But perhaps the biggest cost for professionals is that they find themselves in low-priority meetings, rather than doing high-value work. Their calendars drive how they spend their time, and other people are at the wheel.

In order to take control of your workload, you must take control of your calendar. This involves playing defense by setting boundaries and saying “no.” More importantly, though, it requires upping your offense by proactively scheduling time for high-priority activities. (more…)

Choosing Delight

Posted by on Mar 3, 2019 in Happiness, Individual, Mindfulness | 0 comments

Choosing Delight

Ross Gay’s Book of Delights is an invitation. Starting and ending on his birthday, the poet wrote an essay a day about the things, people and events that struck his delight – a smile from the person selling him a bus ticket, a song on the radio, his garden, a turn of phrase, fresh lychees on sale, a high-five from a stranger. With each essay, his poetic riffing sweeps you up and carries you away on an infectious tide of delight.

During this year, Gay found that, the more he practiced this discipline – this constant alert for delights – the more delight he found. His life still held sorrow, fear, pain and loss, but his delight grew. The world around him started to call out to him “Write about me!” Delights abounded, and his ability to see them expanded. His delight muscle strengthened. (more…)

Tell Your Story as a Novel from Different Points of View

Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in creativity, Individual, Perspective | 0 comments

Tell Your Story as a Novel from Different Points of View

Stories have power.

We humans are narrative creatures. Our stories anchor us to our identities and help us understand ourselves. When we are in a new relationship, we dole out our stories as a way of inviting someone to know us, and if you’ve been with someone for a long time, you know his or her stories by heart. We tell children stories to teach them values, like persistence in the Little Engine That Could or generosity in The Giving Tree. History, we know, is written by the victors, who all too often erase inconvenient or unflattering chapters. And leaders and influencers know the power of a compelling story to move people to action — whether to get buy-in on a new strategy, to motivate a team to execute on a plan, or to spur the electorate to vote. 

And yet, great leaders know that as powerful as stories are, they can also get us into trouble, especially when we get too attached to them. (more…)

Overwhelm: Top 5 Excuses for Not Asking for Help – Debunked

Posted by on Feb 11, 2019 in Coaching, Individual, leadership, Team Collaboration, vulnerability | 0 comments

Overwhelm: Top 5 Excuses for Not Asking for Help – Debunked

Overwhelm. We’ve all seen it and many of us have been there. That feeling that the demands are coming at you like a tidal wave and and you’ve got to use every ounce of energy to keep afloat. When it gets really bad, you are paddling so hard to keep from drowning that you don’t think you can afford to reach out for a life raft. Here are some of the most common excuses for not seeking help (and why they are misguided):

 

Excuse number 5: “I don’t want to look weak.”

True leadership strength is not about doing it all yourself or being perfect. It involves building and motivating a strong bench. Delegation is an essential part of this. So is acknowledging your weaknesses. Don’t kid yourself that others are unaware of your limitations. Better to acknowledge and embrace the contributions of others. In addition, modeling collaboration and mutual reliance helps to prevent burnout and covering up mistakes.

Excuse number 4: “I’d love to work with a coach, but I just don’t have time.”

Prioritizing your own development is both a long-term investment that will likely start to pay dividends right away. Besides, working with a coach does not typically involve much of a time commitment beyond your normal work week, because most of the learning and change happens on the job – first through developing self-awareness and then by trying new approaches and behaviors. You can find 60-90 minutes for a coaching session every other week.

Excuse number 3: “Everybody else is working hard; I don’t want to burden them.”

This excuse sounds noble, and may even feed some vision of yourself as hero or martyr. However it’s healthier to cultivate a we’re-all-in-it-together attitude on your team and share the burden. But what if everyone really is maxed out? In that case, you need to take a hard look at prioritization and resources. Do you have multiple #1 priorities? Decide which really matters most and allocate resources accordingly. Ruthlessly prioritize and invest in hiring if needed.

Excuse number 2:  “It’s easier to do it myself than to explain it to someone else.”

This excuse is like your wedding tuxedo – you can bring it out only for very special events, like when you’re on on a super tight timeline, or if it won’t take you more than 30 minutes. Otherwise, this pseudo-efficiency rationale often masks perfectionism or control-freak-ism. The only way to build other people’s ability is to give them work they don’t already know how to do.

And the number 1 excuse: “I can handle it.”

Guess what? You’re not really handling it. The cracks are showing. You’re not doing your best work or making your best decisions, you are taking your stress out on others, and your colleagues are getting worried and/or pissed. Even if you are managing to keep afloat, your approach doesn’t scale. Better to admit it sooner before you do some real damage.

Climb aboard the life raft and set your course for calmer seas.

7 ways to increase positivity in your more challenging work relationships

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in Coaching, compassion, Conflict, Relationships, Relationships, Resilience, Team Collaboration | 0 comments

7 ways to increase positivity in your more challenging work relationships

Relationships are one of the defining elements of our work life. When we have great colleagues whom we enjoy working with, it’s easier to get things done, and work is a happier experience. However, when we have a colleague with whom we have difficulty, collaboration becomes harder and work is less fun. Sometimes it gets so bad that we quit. But does it need to be that way?

Much like in a romantic relationship, you can’t change other people. But you can change your own behaviors and mindset and thereby change how you relate to the other person and to the relationship. Taking a cue from John Gottman, if we want to improve a relationship, we need to increase the number of positive interactions and shift the ratio of positive to negative interactions (his ideal is 5:1). There is a kind of basic math at work. A relationship consists of shared experiences and communications, some positive and some negative. Each positive interaction adds to the well of positivity and resilience and each negative depletes. And the one thing that we control is making our own positive contributions.

Here’s how: Think of a person – we’ll call him Ned – that you find it challenging to work with. Maybe it’s so bad that you have begun avoiding him. Try the following ways of making deposits in the “good will bank.”

  1. Find something to appreciate. When we have a negative feeling about someone, our confirmation bias makes us filter the data to seek out further evidence of this negative impression. Instead, actively try to notice Ned doing something right. As my dear old dad says, everybody has something to praise. Note: this can be a private act of appreciation but even better if you voice it.
  2. Do something nice. Studies show that acting generously increases the giver’s happiness. Bring Ned a latte to your next meeting, offer to pick up lunch for him when you go to get your own,  or just offer him a piece of gum. Even something small like a smile or a joke or a thank you increases the positivity and resiliency in a relationship. What are the things you would do naturally if you had a good relationship with Ned? Do those things. Here are some more examples:
    • Ask Ned about his weekend or his pet gecko and listen; ask a follow-up question.
    • Thank him for something he did.
    • Share something about yourself.
    • Say something nice about him to someone else.
    • Say “please” and “thank you” in your emails to him.
    • Acknowledge his hard work or contribution.
    • Acknowledge his need, want or point of view, even if – no, especially if – you have to say no.
    • Invite him to coffee.
  3. Seek alignment. Find something you have in common and it will increase your sense of connection. What do you and Ned agree on? Maybe you’re both committed to hitting your OKRs. Or you both want to get the deal done. Or you’re both Giants’ fans. Find something you agree on and connect to him.
  4. Find compassion. Often a person’s unpleasant behavior is the result of something hidden from us – pain, insecurity, suffering. Next time Ned says something that triggers you, and you feel tempted  to say, “What a d**k,” instead try softening and saying, “I wonder what is bugging Ned.”
  5. Refrain from negativity. Don’t complain or gossip about Ned. It may feel good in the moment, but it multiplies and reinforces the negativity.
  6. Be proactive.Though your instinct may be to avoid Ned, the result is that you are often reactive or behind the curve, which only exacerbates the friction. Instead of waiting for him to ask you for something, anticipate and offer to help before he is in need.
  7. Adopt a growth mindset. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from Ned?’ You can always learn something.

The key here is that you are not trying to change Ned, you are simply trying to change how you are in relation to him and to the relationship. You are testing if changing behavior and thoughts makes your experience more positive or tolerable. Maybe it will have an effect on Ned and maybe not. Try these over the course of a couple of weeks and see if your own attitude shifts. Even if the other person doesn’t respond in kind, chances are you will notice a change.

You can’t tell by looking at me …….

Posted by on Jan 28, 2019 in Boundaries, compassion, grief, Happiness, Individual, psychological safety, vulnerability | 0 comments

You can’t tell by looking at me …….

We all wear masks. They consist of the parts of ourselves that we gladly show to others – qualities, attributes, feelings, and experiences that we choose to reveal in a given setting. We also have parts of ourselves that we don’t talk about or show. Maybe because nobody asks. Or maybe because we don’t want others to see or know those parts – the parts of us that are vulnerable, sad, angry, broken, tender, imperfect, or just private. Maybe we don’t feel safe. Some of us are more comfortable showing vulnerability, some less. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a mask – in fact, it is entirely appropriate to filter differently for workplace colleagues than for family or close friends. However, our masking becomes a problem when our life fails to provide any space where it is psychologically safe to reveal more of ourselves and to seek connection, comfort, guidance or help. (more…)