Ask hard questions.

I’m always amazed when someone has an opportunity to ask a question and they pass on doing so. In some respects, I look at doing so as being granted a gift, but I feel I am in the minority with this type of thinking. Which brought me to thinking about the reasons people don’t pursue something which I believe offers them so many advantages.

One of the most helpful things I learned when one of my professors was to ask what is referred to as the five W’s and one H. The W’s cover who, what, when, where and why and the H covers the how. If you were to apply asking any of these six topics in any given scenario, I would like to believe it would naturally lead you to want to pursue the other five topics. The first question would be like an appetizer to queue up the person you are speaking with to warm up to additional ones. This is independent of whether you start with the “who” and establishing the main character you will be conversing about.

When you are the person who is asking questions, consider an additional benefit you gain from being in this position. You get to practice your listening skills. A skill from my perspective which is highly under rated, yet an extremely valuable one to master. In some ways, I liken listening to being a bit of a lost art, and this was brought into sharp focus for me this past week. The focus of being a good listener was something I was repeatably hearing about. This is in the context of people noting to me that they found it difficult to be a good listener. This didn’t surprise me, but it did present me with a fabulous opportunity to ask them why they found listening to be difficult to do?

The responses I heard in terms of why listening was difficult to do had a wide range of reasons. A few of the reasons included finding it difficult to remain present and to intently listen. A second one was that they were easily distracted and a third one was that they wanted to interrupt when they knew they should continue to listen.

Another reason which came up to support why people don’t ask hard questions, is because they are afraid to do so. They are also fearful they will ask the wrong question, or make the person feel badly with the question they are asking. This reason was followed people expressing the possibility of not wanting to hear information they would rather not know. In probing to learn more about the prior reason, a number of people expressed that they believe they might not be able to handle either responding to, or knowing how to process knowing the information conveyed.

Instead of asking a hard question or a series of them, I have witnessed that some people will do whatever possible to avoid doing this. Most of the time this isn’t going to benefit them, although in their minds they think it’s their best option. However, avoidance is going to add to making any scenario unnecessarily more stressful. Why? Because of the choice or perceived strategy to avoid doing so isn’t going to make many circumstances better or different. I’m also certain you can think of one or two examples yourself when you chose to avoid asking a hard question or series of them.

One of the numerous responsibilities people who are in a leadership or sports coach positions have is to regularly ask others hard questions. Questions which often begin with “Help me to understand why…” Asking this type of open-ended question seems simple enough to ask, but as I mentioned earlier, sometimes people don’t want to know the “why” explanation. Consider this a situation of the concept of “ignorance can be bliss”, but I believe having more knowledge and an understanding and appreciation of a situation is far more valuable. This is independent of how difficult it might be to queue up the initial “hard” conversation to occur. For me personally, I have found that one hundred percent of the time having a “hard” conversation and asking difficult questions was entirely worth it.

If you are wondering how to pursue more comfortably asking hard or uncomfortable questions, here are some examples to help make your approach to doing so easier.

  • The saying “timing is everything” is a factor you will want to think about, as there will be far more ideal times and places to have a difficult conversation with someone. For example, if someone is emotionally charged, you will want them to become less so. Also consider having a conversation in a place that affords privacy and will not embarrass them.
  • Make sure you have a person’s full attention when you intend to have a serious conversation with them, and or a quiet place that will have fewer opportunities for distraction.
  • If possible, write down ahead of your conversation the questions you want to ask the person.
  • Providing someone with an opportunity to know ahead of time that you would like to have a serious conversation with them can help them to get into the mindset of being ready to respond to your questions. Although conversely, it can also be anxiety provoking, so ideally let the person know that the conversation you are going to have with them is intended to be beneficial for them. It usually is, but there are exceptions.
  • Practice asking the hard questions before you do so. This might seem like over engineering, but I can assure you that doing so will put both of you more at ease because you won’t be hearing the hard questions being stated audibly for the first time.
  • Preface your conversation by letting the person know you are asking the hard questions that your intentions are not to be punitive, but to help you to better understand how you might be able to support them as a leader or sports coach differently.
  • By asking hard questions, you can also gain the benefit of hearing a perspective from the other person you might not have considered. Having additional information from asking hard questions can serve both of you well.

When you get to a place of having mastered being able to ask hard questions, it will help to support your growth and leadership journey, and it will allow you to be a more effective and impactful leader. Perhaps even a touch more empathetic too, when you hear the “why” and other supporting facts following the questions you are posing.

TAGS: #Leadership #Communication #Sportscoach #Motivation #Business #Professionaldevelopment #Sales #Management

Driven by pain?

I have personally been battling with back pain for a while, and in 2016 I had back surgery to help remedy my ruptured disc challenges. My surgeon told me the surgery might not be a long-term solution, but he did say it would help to relieve the pain I had from also having a chipped disc piece in one of my back nerves. Yes, this was extraordinarily painful, and I wasn’t certain I could make it via the waiting process to have the surgery, let alone the recovery phase of it. Although the silver lining from this experience is knowing I can tolerate more pain than I ever imagined was possible, but this was never one of my goals in life.

Post my surgical experience I was treated with incredibly addicting pain medication and physical therapy to help me recover. Having been an athlete, I knew I could tolerate the physical therapy, but the pain medication proved to be harder to battle. The good news is that I was able to successfully wean off the pain medications, although I certainly would have been in less pain agony during the tail end of the healing process. However, I learned a great deal from having gone through this experience. Especially since my professional role at that time made it difficult to take the full amount of recovery time off, but that I was given and needed.

Going back to work post my surgery far earlier than I should have been isn’t something I would recommend doing. I wasn’t trying to be a hero doing this, or to set an example for anyone, as I was reluctant to doing so. Despite my reluctance for returning to my role early, there are positive take aways I learned from this experience. One of them is that no on can ever appreciate what level of pain you are experiencing. Namely because everyone has a different level of pain tolerance. Since I am not a medical person, my comment is solely based on my own knowledge, and I’m not aware of whether there is an actual measurement available to determine a comparative analysis of people’s pain tolerance level.

A second thing I learned about living and working with extreme pain is that it is exhausting. This is because much of my energy was directed at simply trying to get through the day with the unrelenting pain I was experiencing. Also, while trying to mask the reality of my pain by having others think, I was tolerating it well. I wasn’t, and being inauthentic about how I was feeling was something I wasn’t accustomed to experiencing. However, I didn’t want to make other people feel badly for me. I was also aware that plenty of other people had far more difficult challenges than what I was experiencing (e.g., loss of limbs, being burned, becoming unable to speak, walk or hear), so this was also another reason I was able to proceed forward each day because I knew I would eventually become better.

As I’m writing this story today, another thing I learned when I was experiencing great pain; and unfortunately, like I am today, is that doing something for others can be a wonderful distraction. This includes work, and if you are an athlete, continuing to train in your sport at the level you can do so is a good distraction. Even if it means you are only capable of serving as a spectator of your team. Likely with the goal of coming back to experiencing a full recovery so that you can participate at the level you are accustomed to either in sports, or your work profession.

Being an entrepreneur means I must work via my pain. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, and in fact, I feel fortunate to know I can manage through this period, as I’m hopeful it is simply a temporary setback. At least that’s the plan I intend to proceed with. What I’m doing today may or may not be inspirational to you, but I do have some suggestions below for those of you who might be able to relate to my current pain scenario, and how to turn a negative scenario into a positive one.

  • Have a longer-term outlook in any given situation to help you to look past and work through the pain or setback you might be experiencing currently.
  • The power of our minds is tremendous in terms of helping us to deal with and get to a place where we are not experiencing excruciating pain. Today I am channeling the power of my own mind to help me not be as focused on the pain I am experiencing, so I can accomplish more than I expected to without this approach.
  • Proceeding through the pain, if you are not doing more damage to yourself, isn’t always recommended, but sometimes it is required. You’ll know when this is, and when you should back off from this approach.
  • Seek expert advice on suggested times for actual rest or complete abandonment from what you normally are doing if your condition requires you to do so. Don’t set your healing process back unnecessarily. I’ve done this, and it’s not worth it, and suggestion number one supports this.
  • Appreciate that you will have limits to what you can do when you are attempting to work via your pain as both an athlete or businessperson or leader. Your limits might be greater than you think, but sustaining the limits and tolerance to your pain shouldn’t be driven by trying to impress anyone.
  • Pain is something almost everyone will experience in their lifetime. We can look at it from the perspective of setting us back, or we can take on a new perspective of better understanding what we can learn from it. Perhaps we need to be more patient, slow down or care for ourselves differently than we have before?

Although I’m realistically in a great deal of pain right now, I have an interesting sense of peace knowing that writing can be cathartic. Even better, hoping that at least one person will benefit from me taking the time to write this story today, and working through my own pain to accomplish doing so.

TAGS: #Business #Motivation #Communication #Leadership #Sports #Athlete #Pain #Management #Sportsteams #Tipstodealwithpain #Persistance #Leader

Have you done enough?

When was the last time you considered whether you were truly pushing yourself and striving to get to the next level? The next level in any capacity in terms of working harder towards reaching or achieving something you may not have thought you could? Or, perhaps doing something well beyond what you have ever done to help another person?

Recently a dear friend of mine was extremely medically unwell. To the point both of us were concerned for her long-term well-being. However, we also both felt that despite doing everything we could to support one another, nothing seemed to be helping. This scenario also included medical support, but even this didn’t seem to be enough. Watching my friend spiral downwards was incredibly difficult to experience, especially because I felt so helpless in terms of feeling that I could help to make any type of positive impact.

For me personally, the experience of feeling helpless is one of the most frustrating emotions. Particularly since I feel I am the type of person who is hardwired to always do whatever I can to support and help other individuals. Yes, even ones who seemingly resist for no valid reason for doing so. These types of people are difficult for me to fully appreciate why they won’t accept help, but I do understand at a core level why they are resistant. Although this doesn’t make it any easier for me to contend with. One of the contributing factors is stubbornness, or what some others might refer to as being too proud to accept support in any scenario.

The reference to my medically unwell friend does have a silver lining, yet it has taken close to half a year to get to this point. However, with extreme persistence and support from myself and multiple other people, my friend is now back to a place where her health isn’t compromised. Even better is that she told me that she feels fifteen years younger now based on the care and support she has received. Yes, small miracles do happen, and her situation is a genuine example.

As my friend was going through her medical turmoil, I kept asking both myself and her what else I could be doing? I was sure there was something else I could do or research with the goal of being able to offer making her feel better, but it never seemed to be enough. Now that I have perspective of what I was able to do during the “perfect storm” of my friend’s medical challenges, I unexpectantly received feedback from her directly several days ago. What she told me was that what I was helping her out with while she was critically unwell, did provide her with the support she needed at the time I was involved with her care. I’m honored to now know this, although I didn’t ever expect to know or hear this confirmation. However, hearing it did make me feel that I was able to do enough to support my friend when she really needed help.

In terms of applying my question to you about whether you have done either enough for yourself or others can certainly pertain to both your personal life, as well as your professional life. For those of you who are leaders or sports coaches, you are highly aware and accomplished as well as skilled at helping others. Your ability to do so is one of the reasons you have risen to the level you have risen to, and I want to personally thank you for all you do to support others. I also simultaneously want to have you consider whether you are investing enough support in your own self or professional development, as it is common for people in your role to always put others well-being ahead of yours. I’m certain you realize this, but acting on this is an entirely different situation, and I would like you to factor in making sure you turn the proverbial “helping others mirror” around to yourself from time to time.

Since many leaders and sports coaches especially struggle with helping themselves to do enough to continue their own journey of being the best at what they do, and in support of others, below are some tips for you to consider applying to yourself. In the next week or two, with zero excuses about why you can’t do this, please attempt 1-2 of the suggestions below. I know you can do this, and I’m fully confident you will be better off for doing so.

  • Please step off the “guilt train” of thinking you don’t have time to invest in taking yourself to the next level of whatever it is you want to accomplish.
  • Think about what if you don’t invest in yourself and the potentially negative impact this will have on those who depend on you and lead when you have maxed out on your ability to help them.
  • If helping and leading others is something you do naturally, think about how much additional energy and joy you will gain from being able to stretch and take your leadership abilities to the next level.
  • Start with the end goal of your quest to be able to do more for others, and yourself. What does this look like? Who else should or can be involved, and what is your timeframe for putting this into place and seeing the results of your self-investments of leveling up?
  • Although you may not think you can do more, I guarantee you can. This is supported in lots of clinical research which is focused on what our bodies and minds can accomplish when we think we have reached our maximum level of output. The net net of this is that as humans we typically still have approximately 20% more capacity and energy than we think we do.
  • Ted Lasso is one of my favorite and inspirational Netflix Shows, and I frequently remind myself to adopt his mantra in the show and to “believe” in being able to accomplish anything I set out to achieve. This also applies to helping others too.

This week’s post is slightly off the path from what I typically write about, so I would be honored with hearing your feedback and letting me know if and whether some of these suggestions helped to make a positive impact on you doing enough for yourself, others, or both.

TAGS: #Business #Sports #Motivation #Sportscoach #Coach #Leader #Leadership #Leaders #Sales #Tipsonhelpingothers #Impact #Inspiration #Teamdynamics #Management #Professionaldevelopment #Personaldevelopment

Doing things the hard way? Or not.

There is an expression which alludes to the fact you need to struggle to truly appreciate your accomplishments. I don’t agree with this type of thinking, but I have encountered numerous people in my life who think this way. I’m not suggesting that you don’t have to put in lots of work and effort towards reaching an accomplishment, as you typically do. However, I’m curious about why some people think of achievement in a negative manner.

From my perspective, working towards an achievement can be highly motivating, and going through the process of reaching your end goal can be something you can look back on with pride. Yes, even if you required help from others to reach your accomplishment. In fact, for me personally, some of my greatest moments of pride and achievement are associated with the collaborative work with others. There is something about working together towards a common goal which I find very rewarding. Perhaps you have experienced this too?

During a conversation I was having with a person I highly value having in my life, I was surprised by a comment they made. So much so, that it prompted me to share this conversation with you, as I would like you to have a similar outcome they did. This is versus the outcome they were heading towards, and which was going to put them in a negative loop and essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy of not being able to succeed at what they were attempting to do. Even though verbally they appeared to be completely committed to doing so.

The goal for this person was to set aside time each day to work on a professional development project. One which required studying and mastering a new software program language, and that would take lots of focus and dedication to complete. As this person was telling me about their plan in terms of how they were going to go about accomplishing their goal, I was immediately struck by how difficult their plan sounded. Although I also attempted to keep an open mind to consider they perhaps thought their plan was appealing. Or so I thought.

When I followed up with this person several days into their “plan”, it was obvious it wasn’t working, as they had not even started working on it. Were they just telling me something they thought I wanted to hear? Or did they really believe they were going to begin and commit to their plan? A plan that if they followed it through would put them in an entirely different place professionally, and which would open many new possible and intriguing options for them. Yes, procrastination was at the core of why this person wasn’t proceeding with their plan, but it also had to do with the fact they were attempting to do something the hard way. Without realizing there were alternative options for proceeding forward which would have been more appealing.

Procrastination is a state most of us have experienced at one point in time or another, and some people seem to be more challenged by this progression hinderance than others. Many times, when you ask someone to explain why they procrastinate, they don’t have any solid or rational reasons why they do. This contributes to further complicating their ability to move forward, because they go into a state which I’m certain you have either experienced, or seen someone else in. It’s the experience of being “stuck”. It may appear to anyone not in this scenario that the person is being unreasonable, or perhaps even lazy with behaving this way, but people who are experiencing this legitimately feel this way. A way which contributes to making it more difficult to proceed, versus the process of beginning to do something, and then completing it.

Even the most accomplished people at some points have experienced procrastination, or an aspect of doing something when they were working towards an accomplishment and thought to themselves, “There must be an easier way to do this.”  If you or someone you know who a leader, sports coach or any other achievement-oriented category, and who is doing things the hard way, below are some options to think about to help you or them to find more ways to strive towards accomplishment with greater ease.

  • Have you ever considered the real reason you do things from other people’s perception the hard way?
  • Do you go through cycles of procrastination, and if you do, is there a driving force contributing to this cycle, and if so, a way for you to break this cycle? Perhaps with the support of someone you trust who will help to keep you accountable?
  • Think about one of your biggest accomplishments. What were the contributing elements which allowed you to proceed forward, seemingly without any struggle?
  • Who do you know that appears to accomplish anything with ease? Would it be possible to ask them for advice on how they do this?
  • Not everyone is wired the same way in terms of achievement levels they desire to reach. What level on a scale of (1-10), with 10 being the highest level are you comfortable with maintaining?
  • If your achievement level is lower than you would like it to be, are you willing to put in more effort, without the effort being overwhelming to reach a higher level of accomplishment, and doing so in a manner which is realistic and will offer you enough of a reward at the end to remain motivated towards a successful completion?

Appreciating the fact that there are going to be people who think that you need to struggle and do things the hard way for it to be worth it, I encourage you to consider thinking about why you, or others need to orient themselves this way? If you had to rationally explain your reasons behind your thinking, could you do so objectively? I hope you will be willing to think of an alternative way of accomplishment, and enjoying the process being much less frustrating, easier and which will encourage you to do more for yourself, or others with your new approach.

TAGS: #Leader #Leadership #Coach #Sportscoach #Achievement #Motivation #Success #Procrastination #Tipsonhowtoaccomplish #Accomplishmentips #Business #Sales #Management #Professionaldevelopment #Teams #Teamdynamics

Not having the time, but making it.

I get it. You are busy and can’t even imagine adding one more thing to your list of to do’s this week. Some of this may be due to your poor time management, over committing to people and projects you should have said “no” to, or a plethora of other reasons which contributed to your current schedule overload. I’ve even seen people who panic when their schedule has openings in it. What’s worse, is they feel the need to fill these time gaps at all costs. Sound familiar?

Most will agree that time is one of our most precious assets. We also don’t have any guarantee of how much time we have, so I’m amazed by have cavalier and yes, irresponsible some people can be with the use of their time. Sure, some people’s time is dictated by circumstances beyond their control, but the fact is we have more control over our schedule than we might like to admit. Consider someone you know who seems completely in control of their schedule, isn’t in an anxious state about it, and appears to be one of the most productive people you have met on the planet. Yes, these people do exist, and no, they are not as I like to refer to as “unicorns”. You just might not be familiar with them.

Some of the most impressive leaders and sports coaches I have seen that are in control of their schedules appear to accomplish more than most people they might be compared to. Do they have some special ability or superpower which enables them to do this? Not really. So, what is it about them that distinguishes them from other people who barely seem to be able to accomplish one thing per day? I’ll call it “intentional planning”. They are highly aware of how and why they are investing in their daily calendar, and this contributes to their ability to seemingly accomplish anything.

One example of “intentionally planning” your schedule might include appreciating your various energy levels via the day. Depending on whether you are a morning or evening person, I have seen some leaders and coaches color code their schedules based on what their energy level for that time of day will be. For instance, most people are not at their peak level of productivity between the hours of 2-5 pm, but we know that these are also hours which we need to work with. Or not? If you must work and be productive during this time block, consider what you can do to maximize your output. Perhaps you schedule time to focus on doing strategic or highly focused work during this time, and not be involved in meetings. Unless the meetings are well organized, there is an agenda, have a purpose and the expected outcome is well understood upfront. If you are accepting meetings without this type of structure, this is where you can be guaranteed to not be constructively investing in your precious time management.

There are certainly activities that may not be “agenda appropriate”, but when they are, and an agenda is not constructed, saying “no” to this type of meeting or activity will garner you new time back on your schedule. Perhaps time that you can now “make” to accomplish or do something more desirable or productive.

Making time for other people is one of the categories I factor into my schedule on a weekly basis. Not only because I believe it is important to do so, but also because some of this time is oriented towards helping another individual, or a group of people. You might call this mentoring or volunteer time, and I do have to limit the amount of time I can invest. However, being intentional about this offers me the opportunity to consider doing this and being what some have told me “generous time giving”. With this said, I’m a big proponent of giving back to others, as I have had plenty of people who have contributed to helping me to get to where I am professionally.

We all know that there are certain times when we will need to make time for others, but can’t seem to figure out how to accomplish this. Some people might also be thinking, I don’t even have enough time for myself. Guess what? Whose challenge is this? Yes, this is a rhetorical question, and I’ve lost patience with people who don’t take ownership for their own schedule and routinely say this. If you are one of these people, or know someone who appears to have this conundrum, below are some ideas for you or them to consider helping with this challenge.

  • Yes, I’ll grant you there are times in our lives when we will have more time to apply to others, and that we may feel deprived of not having any “me time”, but I guarantee if you look and work hard enough, you can find at least 30-60 minutes per day to accomplish this.
  • Have you considered mastering the art of creating agendas for either the meetings you are attending or scheduling? I literally took a two-day course on how to do this, and it was truly life changing, and I was able to gain more time back on my schedule as a result.
  • Although this may seem counter-intuitive, when we take time to help others, it will give us more energy and motivation. Energy and motivation we can then re-invest in ourselves.
  • Be honest. How would you rate your time management skills? In my experience, I would give most people a C, and this would be a generous grade. What can you do to enhance your time management skills? Yes, starting today.
  • If you took the time to intentionally plan out your schedule for an entire month, and to do so in meticulous fashion, allowing for some flexibility, and including “time for others”, as well as yourself, how would that make you feel? Could you give this a try?
  • Not being morbid, but what if you knew how much time you had on this planet was down to the last day you would be here. Would you invest in your time differently? Yes, I intentionally chose the word invest, as you should consider your time as a precious investment.

The next time you tell someone you wish you had more time, or that you don’t have any time, I’m hopeful the tips above will provide you with an opportunity to re-think and remove or reduce saying this soon.

TAGS: #Leadership #Leaders #Motivation #Timemanagement #Strategy #Personaldevelopment #Sportscoach #Teams #Sportsteams #Communication #Awareness #Professionaldevelopment #Business #Productivity #Teamdynamics