Friday, January 31, 2014

Happiness Journal? Where do I start?

Earlier this week a team of us at work showcased a TED talk for our colleagues as a jump start to a rather large technology implementation project.  We plan to show many of these as part of our change management strategy.  The first was a talk by Shawn Achor on the subject of happiness at work.

You can see that here:

One suggestion on how to increase dopamine, which helps us to achieve more, is to journal once a day about a positive experience. Journaling about positive experience allows your brain to relive it.
But what if you've never written in a journal before?

For many of us, starting something can be overwhelming. The options seem limitless.  At first, journaling might seem forced and awkward, but after time and regular practice, it will become easier.  I’d like to share an idea that can help you get started journaling. 

There is a method of self-reflection I was introduced to by a LinkedIn colleague and have found it to be invaluable.  It’s most helpful on days when I don’t know what to write.  It’s call Naikan.

Here is how the Morita School explains Naikan:
Naikan is a Japanese word which means "inside looking" or "introspection." It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to look at ourselves, our relationships, and our actions from a new perspective. Reflecting on our lives through the lens of Naikan often transforms long held but inaccurate beliefs about our lives. In turn this perspective will often give rise to feelings of gratitude, indebtedness, and responsibility.

This description appears in the book “Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection” by Greg Krech:
Naikan was developed in Japan in the 1940's by Ishin Yashimoto, a devout Buddhist of the Pure Land (Jodo Shinshu) sect. His strong religious spirit led him to practice mishirabe, an arduous and difficult method of meditation and self-reflection. Wishing to make such introspection available to others, he developed Naikan as a method that could be more widely practiced.
Naikan broadens our view of reality. It's as if, standing on top of a mountain, we shift from a zoom lens to a wide-angle lens. Now we can appreciate the broader panorama - our former perspective still included, but accompanied by much that had been hidden. And that which was hidden makes the view extraordinary.
Naikan's profound impact resulted in its use in other areas of Japanese society. Today, there are about 40 Naikan centers in Japan, and Naikan is used in mental health counseling, addiction treatment, rehabilitation of prisoners, schools, and business.
Naikan is simple to learn.  It is based on three basic questions:      
1. What have I received?
2. What have I given?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused?
Used creatively these questions can shed light on the hidden aspects of our relationship to all things; on the fundamental nature of how we view our life. Ultimately Naikan is a dedication to the truth. Not the self-centered interpretation of what we believe, but a search for the actual events of our lives as they might be experienced by those around us. This truth, though sometimes daunting, is also liberating.

A more thorough explanation about Naikan and retreats can be found at:

At first glance the third question might seem to go against the science that Achor speaks about in his lectures and books.  However, in spirit, it does not.  In the first and second questions, look for the positive first.   The third is about a reality check – accountability.  Follow up the third question with: “I will                     going forward.”  This helps propel you into a positive direction.

Whether or not you use this method is not important.  Getting into the habit of journaling is the desired goal.  This method that I introduce is just one way of getting started.  Good luck and let me know how it goes! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

“Stop Trying to Coach Me!” - 7 key ways to identify when coaching is not the right thing for your direct reports

I recently taught coaching skills classes for some leaders at my organization.  In some of the feedback I received, someone brought up a challenge she was having with one of her direct reports. She was having a tough time recognizing when it is appropriate to coach and when it is not.

I’ve coached for so long, that it kind of comes naturally to me to know when I should put on the coach hat. For others who aren’t used to using the techniques, it can be more confusing.  On top of that, it’s a lot of fun to use a new skill ALL the time,  especially, when you see how effective it can be when working with direct reports. Plus, there’s the urge to want to want to practice coaching all the time.

It’s important to remember that coaching is just one of the arsenal of leadership skills, and not the only way to work with your team.  Not all moments are coachable, and not all people are coachable. Your employee needs to be in a receptive mindset in order for coaching to work.

Below, I’ve listed a few instances when coaching would not be the right approach at first, but how the situation can become coachable moments later on.  

1. Urgency – Threat: Coaching takes time and you don’t always have it.  If you are in a threat situation or there is an urgent need to work fast, you will have to be direct.  There is always time for coaching once the crisis is over. As a matter of fact, coaching would be a great choice to use for a crisis event post-mortem.  At this point you can do a lessons learned, including what worked, what didn’t, what would we do differently and finally, what can we do to anticipate in the future to avoid crisis mode. It’s all about balance and determining what is or is not a crisis.  More often, we treat things as crisis even when they aren’t. 

2. Victim: When your direct reports feel and act powerless they will be unable to commit to an action plan. When people feel they have no power to change they won’t do anything.  They will spend their time  making excuses rather than taking action.  At this point you will need to show them what is possible by turning the victim mentality around.  Find places for them to have small wins and perhaps a collaborator who has a pro-active mindset.

3. No Sense of Ownership: Something goes wrong and they blame everyone and everything.  You will hear phrases such as: “It’s not my job,” “That’s not my area,” “I had nothing to do with it.”  Accountability belongs to someone else in their eyes.  It’s similar to “victim.”  The difference is that a victim accepts responsibility and feels unable do anything.  Someone who has no ownership feels that they aren’t responsible.  As a leader it’s up to you to either make them see their part or assign it to them.

4. Capabilities Gap: You will create a lose-lose situation if you try to coach someone in an area where they have no skills or knowledge.  It can affect esteem and make you frustrated.  Since coaching is about discovery, you can deflate your direct reports if you continue to question in an area where they just don’t have the answers…yet. When you find people are at a loss for solutions and they’ve exhausted resources trying to find answers, this may be the time to either teach or get them the training they need.  With that said, coaching can identify the need to increase skills and knowledge. 

5. Limiting Beliefs: What you believe to be true is true.  Belief systems will hold them back.  Whether it’s a belief about themselves, the team, the department, or the organization, or even about the world.  Biases make us incapable of opening our minds to possibilities.  If you run into this stumbling block there could be fit issues.  Review whether this person has the right values to be on your team or at the organization. 

6. Lack of Self-Awareness:  If you ask questions about how he feels and he says he doesn’t know, it could show a lack of self-awareness.  (Or it could be honesty, see below.)  If he can’t see how he contributes to problems and wins, then it’s time to share your point of view about what you see in your direct report.  It’s up to leaders to give feedback and to share expectations.  When you give feedback, it’s best to stick to observable behaviors and how you interpret those behaviors.  This might help spark the conversation.  You also may want to consider using outside coaching services by someone who can assess the situation objectively and give insight..

7. Lack of Trust and Honesty: If your direct report doesn’t trust you then you will never get honest answers.  Work on the trust first before trying to coach.  Plain and simple.

There are more examples out there and these might be some of the easy ones to spot in your busy day.  If anyone has other scenarios, please share!

With practice and time, it will become easier to spot and take advantage of a coachable moment!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Visionary or Dreamer?

I'd like to say my leadership style is visionary.  However, if I really think about it, I'm a dreamer.

What's the difference?  Not sure if there is one.  Is a visionary more grounded in reality?  Doubt it.  Media always label great leaders as visionary because they think outside the box and then make things happen despite the odds.   Maybe that's the clue.  Visionaries take action?  No. Wait.  They take the right action steps.  Movement is action and not achievement.  The right action is calculated and done with the end in sight.

If think back to myself in high school and I apply the reasoning above, then I remember myself as a dreamer. Although dreams are important, wrong action or the lack of action has lead me to where I am today - and it's no where near the dreams I had as a kid.  If am to reflect on why I didn't achieve my dreams and why I did or did not take action towards those dreams, I'd say the largest impact was the people and distractions I've been surrounded by over the years. (Facebook being the most recent!)

No judgement.  It just is. 

As I take a quick self-assessment.  I dream of the future but my actions are rooted in the present.  With three kids, a husband and full time job, it's hard to not to be in the present.  This, however, is my example of influence.  I make decisions base on them - not just myself and my dreams.  The day to day, can be a dream killer.  Doesn't mean I have a bad life, it just means that I'm not doing what I can do to achieve all of my life goals.

If I really want to achieve.  I need to get clear on what my dreams really where all about when I was in high school and create new ones that are based in the past, today and the future.  Then I need to take action and surround myself with those that will get me there.  No excuses.  Plan some steps, even if they are small and then take action.  Limit distractions.

Dreamer or visionary...time for me to be visionary.

What do you think?  Do you struggle with achieving dreams?  What do you think holds you back?  What do you think of my differences between dreamer and visionary? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fagiddaboudit! Have we already forgotten 9/11?

I find it sad that we only think about 9/11 and how precious all of our lives are one day a year.  On 9/11/2001 our world changed but, only for a brief moment.  In that moment we became kind and caring.  We stopped honking horns and yelling at people to get out of the way.  We took life a little slower. Everyone was polite.  The motto “Never Forget” had become the rally cry.   

I’m sad and not just for those who lost their lives and the family members but, for those who forget 9/11 the other 364 days a year…myself included. 

  • When the US still has a population the size of Canada that lives in poverty – we forget
  • When there are children in the US that go to school hungry because they have no food in their house – we forget
  • When an American man in a turban gets extra attention at the airport – we forget
  • When Wall Street bankrupts America – we forget
  • When a young black man coming home with his straight A’s from school gets “stopped and frisked” – we forget
  • When a mom is asked to not breast feed in public – we forget
  • When we spend more money on war than on education – we forget
  • When Americans say “I’m not paying for my neighbor’s healthcare” – we forget
  • When people pay more attention to a woman dancing on a stage and it gets more press than important world news – we forget
  • When some people stand in line for hours to get the latest iPhone while others have to stand in line just to get food – we forget
  • When there is no equality in marriage - we forget
  • When people seethe with anger over petty things – we forget
  • When an American citizen can’t vote because they don’t have to have a state ID – we forget
  • When we allow our civil liberties to be violated in the name of security - we forget

Not to exclude myself – I forget, too

  • When I blast drivers who cut in long lines of traffic – maybe they are late for a life changing event – I forget
  • When I criticize helicopter parents – I forget
  • When I roll my eyes and huff-n-puff over the person with a million questions as I wait behind them in line – I forget
  • When I make a list of complaints about my life instead of counting my blessings– I forget

A zero-sum-game full of self-serving greed and hatred is still alive and well in our country.  For myself, I worry too much about what I want instead of focusing on what I have in my life.    

I’m sorry victims of 9/11 but I still don’t think we’ve learned a thing.

Feeling a little pessimistic today - perhaps, I need to go read Anne Frank, she found beauty in a sad time.  I'll find the beauty again and will remember to live life and give life - everyday.  If I forget...remind me!