Articles in Category: Blog

Above the Fray or Head in the Sand?

Written by Michelle Braden, CEO Posted in Blog, All Posts

Above the Fray or Head in the Sand?

A few years ago, I was working with a leader who was a department head as well as a member of the organization’s executive team. This leader had a healthy department with positive attitudes, good communication and strong relationships; however, several of the other departments within this organization were not so fortunate. There were many challenges going on in other departments from high turnover, continued gossip, poor communication and lack of trust, just to name a few.

When the conversation would turn to the challenges other departments within the organization were having, this leader would often say, “I am taking the high road and choose to stay out of the drama”. At first blush this seemed very noble; however, the challenge was that the “drama”, so to speak, was real and the other teams were quickly becoming dysfunctional.

 

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Dr.Seuss Strategy

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

For strategy, Dr. Seuss said it best…. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose...”

When I first started working in strategic planning, this became my favorite quote. Meetings were a sea of vague but lofty strategic terms. Discussions focused on visionaries who could see and define a future the rest of us could not. I cringed at critical assessments such as “she can’t think strategically” or “he doesn’t have vision”. I was frustrated by the conflict between this elite view of strategy and my values that each individual has insights to contribute to future planning. I see this collaboration as the very essence of a leadership planning model.

My work is energized by a much simpler and more basic view of what is important for effective strategy…an engaged team that understands and contributes to a common future vision. In one of my favorite books, Being Strategic, Erica Anderson has a quote “Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future”. This simple definition in a complex world of business, knits operations and strategy into cohesive future direction. If you can create actionable strategy that your whole team understands, you create communication to power your organization.

So how do you actually build effective strategy? Like any team effort, diverse thinking builds a better product. Committing the time and effort for the process is critical and well worth the investment. Invest your time for strategy in the following ways

  1. Solicit input from a broad group of constituents – include time for surveys, brainstorming, and research to fuel creative thinking.
  2. Revisit and refine your Mission – The mission statement can provide a bright light for your planning, so take the time to work with it.
  3. Actively listen to your clients – Remember why you exist and who you are serving. Don’t rely on dated input and information. Bring in new opinions.
  4. Define 3-5 high level goals, themes, or objectives for dynamic progress – Be sure to take the time to synthesize to this manageable number. This focus is critical for action.
  5. Define process checkpoints to discuss and measure progress. A great strategic plan that is left on the shelf is meaningless. Inclusive strategy needs to be reviewed regularly to stay on course.

The business world of today is powered by diverse teams. Success is driven by passion, commitment, and a plan. Strategy is the plan to energize and empower the people in your organization “in any direction you choose”. Hats off to Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel for saying it best. Use your strategy to “steer you in any direction you choose”.

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Coping While in Limbo

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog, All Posts

How to Manage Yourself During Life Transitions

Life is filled with change.  Most of us will experience quite a few significant life altering changes in our lives and careers.   Perhaps it’s a promotion, a new career path, a move to another city or the birth of a child.  Transition is part of life.

These CAN be very exciting and welcome changes, however I’ve noticed that they all come with that “waiting period”.  I dread this “limbo” because more often than not, I’m not fully in control of the situation but I can’t move forward till circumstances or decisions outside of my control are to be made.   I feel the most anxiety and frustration in my life during these unavoidable limbo periods.

  • Waiting for that position to open up so I can apply.
  • Waiting for our employer to determine where we will be stationed next.
  • Waiting for the opportunities of my next career to begin to come to fruition.

I have to imagine I’m not the only one that finds it difficult to be patient.  However, I’ve learned that the more I fuss, or worry, or try to push the decisions and circumstances, the worse I feel.  And strangely enough it seems like that limbo period is longer and more painful that if I had just let things unfold.

But let’s face it… I’m probably a little too ‘type A’ to just sit back and wait, so I’ll share with you some of the ACTIONS I have taken that do actually help to manage the stress of limbo and maybe make it just that much more tolerable.

Prepare – Do what you can to be ready for that change.  Study and get that next degree or certification.  Build your network and be open to the opportunities as they present themselves.  Use this time wisely, because just waiting for the apples to appear won’t help when you haven’t planted the seeds.

Contingency Plan – In circumstances where there are factors or decision out of my control – I have found that if I plan for the 2-3 circumstances that COULD happen I felt more content to just wait and see which scenario comes to fruition.   Knowing your bases are covered not only gives you ease that you can handle what ever comes your way, but it helps to keep your mind occupied while you wait!

Focus Inward – As I have moved from one career or one stage of life to the next, and found myself in the  ‘development stage’ of that next step, one critical and rewarding ACTION I could take was to be more self-aware.  Ask yourself:  What did I learn from this previous career or stage in life?  What did I love?  What did I hate?  What would I do more of? What will I change in the next stage?  Take stock and set yourself up for a more informed and mindful next step.

Self-Care – Take time during this transition to take care of yourself.  When we are stressed, we feel the effects physically in our bodies and minds. Keep up with, or start, a regular self-care routine that included a healthy diet, regular exercise and plenty of water.  It’s often the first thing that we forget but is so critical to ability to cope with that stress!

Spend Time with your Passions – Do more of the things that make you happy.  What are the things that make you light up? Deliberately spend more time doing these things when in limbo.  Your spirit will be fed and you will have less time to worry.  Explore those things you never had time to or wish you had.  You might even find a way to incorporate them more regularly into your next big stage in life.

Limbo can feel terrible because it’s a time of inaction and waiting for the next big thing… these ACTIONS, while not changing the situation, make good use of that time by lessening stress and focusing on what you CAN do!

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Random Acts of Kindness and Influence

Written by Michelle Braden, CEO Posted in Blog, All Posts

I was recently at one of my favorite coffee shops, grabbing a cup of coffee, before hitting the road for a long drive. The shop was unusually busy that morning, which was not that big of a deal, other than that it took a long time and I was in a hurry.

I was having a great time "people-watching", as several of us waited with baited breath for our morning cup of joe. There was one woman in particular that stood out to me. We didn't speak to each other nor did I observe her talking to anyone else. She stood out to me because she had a sense of peace about her.

About the time I was trying to figure out what is was about her that made me feel this way, my drink was called and I was snapped out of my trance. I reached for my drink to discover it was very hot. I looked around but there was no sleeve for my cup, went to the condiment counter… no sleeves there either. I even tried to get a worker’s attention, again, to no avail. I was scurrying around looking for a cup sleeve and noticed this woman was watching me. I smiled and said, “I am trying to find a sleeve for my coffee… it is really hot.” She smiled back and that was that. I decided to give up the search for a sleeve and run to the restroom to wash my hands before leaving.

I left my coffee on the table right outside the restroom. When I came out, the lady was gone, but next to my cup of coffee, was a sleeve for my coffee. In that moment, my heart was warmed by the kindness of a stranger…. Nothing major, it didn’t even cost her anything, but it was just thoughtful.

I walked to my car and could not stop thinking about how such a little gesture brought so much joy to my hectic morning. Kindness is “indulgent, considerate or helpful.”1 This lady was all of these things. She was also being something else she didn’t even realize. She was being influential. Influential means “the act of producing effects on the actions, behaviors or opinions of others.” In that moment, and for the rest of the day, the kindness of a stranger influenced me to want to share kindness with others. I focused on just that for the rest of the day. In fact, she influenced me so much, I am writing this blog about it.

What about you? Have you ever had someone do something simple for you that had lasting impact – a random act or gesture of kindness? As leaders, it is important for us to remember the value in simple, arbitrary acts of kindness and the long-term effects they have to influence others.

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Mental Tattoo: Set a Date for Success

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

I love the mystery of how the brain solves puzzles. One day a problem can be so complex that you can’t see your way through…then suddenly after a good night’s sleep, a new idea appears and a whole new view presents a solution. What was insurmountable yesterday, falls neatly into place today. Personally, I love how this gives me hope that (and an excuse for) a good night’s sleep.

So, when I heard the idea of a mental tattoo, I loved it! The concept came from a website that I stumbled on called Paid to Exist, by Jonathan Mead. To give yourself a mental tattoo, you set a date for when you will accomplish something. Just write it down on your calendar. It’s a mark, a commitment on your calendar to complete something. By making this simple action, you tell your brain to start thinking about the steps to accomplish that commitment. By setting a mark, your brain actually continues to work in the background, to solve the challenge of how to get it done. How cool is that?

So many of my “to do” list items are really looking for a date to happen. They never get written down, never find a home in a busy schedule. I wonder if this might work for me. I plan to try two types of mental tattoos. First, one of those annoying things that I keep meaning to do and never get done. Ugh. But maybe that will move it off the list. Second, I want to put a big life-size challenge on my list. Something aspirational that I want to accomplish in a year. What comfort there might be in knowing that I could look at a calendar a year from now and have accomplished something I thought was insurmountable. Could it work? Well if I don’t give it a try, it’s probably not getting done. So, what have I got to lose?

When I was in college, our basketball coach had us lay on the floor and visualize the ball going in the basket. He cited a study that proved this type of visual exercise measurably improved shooting percentages. At the time, I just chuckled... and my dismal shooting percentage did not improve.

More and more, I think life is about believing you can… and you will. So, today I’m writing something on my calendar for a year from now…with a smile on my face. A mental tattoo-- give it a try.

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