Need a crystal ball?

Many people right now are more focused on the future than they have been. For some, the future always seemed to present a clear path forward. However, right now, we are living at a time when at best, our current future is in a state of limbo, or perhaps as clear as mud.

Uncertainty can evoke a heightened sense of anxiety, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, the present time with our future outlook in the state it is presents us with an opportunity. An opportunity to reframe, reconsider and reimagine how we would like our future to be shaped. The fact most people in the US are in some form quarantine right now, allows us to have contemplative time we do not ordinarily have.

I have always been fascinated with people who are classified as futurists, as they mesmerize me with the way they describe the “what if” or “what could be” happening in the future.  I’m not a futurist, but have been often classified as a “creative” or “muse”. Coming from a lineage of inventors and creatives in my family, I am using the downtime I have now to retool a number of things in my life. I consider this time a great gift, and one that I encourage others to perceive as well.

Yes, many people right now are clearly suffering. Statistically around twenty-five percent of our country has lost their job. Neither of these are experiences people normally want to have. However, having a different perspective on what is happening to all of us collectively right now, as a society is one of the gifts this time period is bestowing upon us.

It’s easy to be negative during times of despair. However, this is precisely the time when we all need to dig a little deeper, with the intent of finding the “silver lining” we can all benefit from seeing.

If you are struggling to imagine how your life could be better right now, given the fact you might be in a situation you never imagined being in, here are some suggestions on how to take back some control in your life.

  • Although most of us are not allowed to go anywhere except for the grocery store and pharmacy, it doesn’t mean we can’t go anywhere. Or, perhaps not physically. However, it does mean if you have internet access, there are amazing websites that offer ways for you to experience virtually what they have to offer. As an example, here is a link to twelve virtual museum tours https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
  • I don’t have any musical talent, but many people do. If you do, consider sharing your gift of being musical with others by inviting them to a virtual “concert”. Starring you! Don’t forget to invite me please.
  • A number of people have talents that lend themselves well to sharing with others (e.g., drawing, painting, DJing, cooking, sewing, code writing, wood working, sculpting, physical fitness instruction, repairing things). This list could be an enormous one, so I’m asking you to consider how you can share your talents with others. Although I don’t consider my writing to be a special talent, I do consider it something I can at least share with others.
  • Many people are living alone right now. Consider giving them a call, or perhaps Zooming with them for a virtual chat to engage with them socially. Both parties will gain enormous benefit from this. Make a list of people you can queue up with each week to do this, and consider doing this even when we are not quarantined.
  • If you are someone who has been called a “futurist”, consider sharing your outlook with the rest of us who would love to hear about how you are perceiving our future to be shaping up.
  • If you are not an organized person, this is the perfect time to take back some control in your life. I literally started with the top drawer in my bedroom dresser. I liked the results so much, that I continued to organize the rest of my drawers. Now I love opening up the drawers and seeing how organized everything looks!
  • Reach out to people on LinkedIn, or in any of your social networks that you have always wanted to reach out to. It could be for the purposes of learning more about the career they are in, or to plant the seed to connect again with them once our world gets back to our “new normal”, and we are all back at work.
  • Although you may have lost your job, there are still many people who are working. Ask them how you can help them and offer to do something for them with the extra time you have, especially people working on the “front lines” of our pandemic. It could be offering to go shopping for them, walk their dog or make something for them.
  • Think about your future differently. You have the time to do that right now. Write down, draw or talk to someone about how you would like to reshape or head the direction of your future in. You have nothing to lose doing this, and possibly everything to gain.
  • Take time to let others in your life know that you appreciate them. Write them a note, tell them, send them a video expressing how you feel positively about them. Yes, they will appreciate you doing this, and you could start a positive chain reaction and be the example for others to do this too.

We can all use a dose of positivity in our lives right now. Despite the fact many people’s circumstances may appear to be bleak, I can assure you this situation is only temporary, and we will at some point be back to a place where this time is a distant memory. Make the best use of the time you have right now. I know I’m trying to do so, so please join me in doing that too.  

 Tags: #pandemic #optimism #inspiration #business #hope #motivation #leadership #quarantined #imagination #future #crystalball

Vulnerability. What’s your level?

Is being vulnerable something which comes easily to you? The majority of people you ask this question will tell you it doesn’t. This is actually a curious situation, because when you break down what it means to be vulnerable, you are actually being your true self. So, why would this be so hard to do?

As we are growing up, we experience situations which have outcomes which may not be desirable. In my opinion, it is after we have these experiences that we place an invisible protective wrapper around ourselves to help prevent this from happening again. It’s like a band aid that provides some cover, but not ultimately the actual full protection we might desire from having the negative experience impact us again.

Another way to look at why we are less comfortable with being vulnerable, is to understand we might not have enough role models to demonstrate how to be this way. Role models which can clearly demonstrate how it’s actually a far better way to show up in life. This is versus having a false veneer of ourselves, that so many of us present to the world. You’ve heard the expression of someone being “fake”, or not genuine. When someone is called out for being this way, its other human beings recognizing another person not being who they truly are.

When you stop to think about yourself and whether you allow yourself to be perceived as a vulnerable person, at what point in your life did you begin to wrap yourself in a protective veneer? The kind which prevents the world from seeing who you truly are?  

Let’s face it. Being vulnerable can be a scary concept. It can also potentially put you in harm’s way. However, it doesn’t have to, and that’s simply one way and perception to consider.

What if we did have more role models who showed us how being vulnerable wasn’t scary? That being vulnerable is a well-regarded, strong and respectable way to live your life? How about considering whether being vulnerable also presented you with more opportunities in your life and career? Would this change your mind on your perception or behavior of being vulnerable?

Many leaders will agree that allowing themselves to be vulnerable has changed how they lead others. They will also offer from their experience that it wasn’t until they opened up, and showed their vulnerable and what I will refer to as “human-self”, that they became impactful, authentic and purpose driven leaders. The type of leader that people want to follow, and have genuine respect for.

Anyone who is an expert at something, will agree it took them an enormous amount of time and practice to get to that level. So, the same rules would likely apply to mastering the concept of being vulnerable. Right? Perhaps, but not necessarily. The reason for this is that being vulnerable is really about being truly who you are. This shouldn’t be hard to do, but in fact it appears to be harder for more people than you might imagine. Am I calling you out on this? Or, someone you know?

If you feel like I am calling you out and exposing you for not being vulnerable, you need to know something. I’m doing so because I am coming from a place of being highly vested in wanting to help people with being more like themselves. Isn’t this something you would rather be? Instead of always feeling like you have to pretend to be someone else? I would imagine this must be exhausting to have to feel you need to act this way. Versus being vulnerable and your true self.

Anyone who has been following my writing for a few years, or who might also be a writer and speaker, knows the risk we take when we express ourselves via our written, or spoken words. It can be simultaneously frightening and freeing. Especially if you are speaking from your heart, or about aspects of your life that others may not know about.

Personally, for me, there are two distinct times in my life when I felt incredibly vulnerable, and they occurred two decades apart.  The first experience was when I became divorced at the age of 23. I had only been married for one year, but I felt like the biggest failure in my life had occurred. The reality is that if I had I not gone through this experience at such a young age, I wouldn’t have found my current husband who I have married to for close to 30 years.

The second time I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable was when I shared with people in my first book, Wisdom Whisperer, that I was dyslexic. I always was afraid of telling people that I was dyslexic. Why? Because I was concerned about how they would perceive me, and that because I had a learning disability, that I was different from them. Even worse, was that people might feel pity for me. Or, that I was not capable of achieving great things in life because of my disability.

In reality, when I shared and revealed my vulnerabilities with others, that it opened up conversations I would not have otherwise had. Upon sharing my experiences with others, they seemingly felt compelled to share one of their vulnerabilities. I was incredibly grateful for this. I also felt accepted for who I was, what I had been through, and that I did not have to hide behind the wrappers that I had continuously placed around myself to protect me from what I perceived to be my two greatest vulnerabilities.

Since I customarily provide suggestions on how to do something, and in this case it would be about how to become more vulnerable, I will share these with you if you ask me for them via my email: kathymurphy@me.com  However, today I am ending this story by asking you to do one thing. That one thing is to rate yourself on your vulnerability level (e.g., 1-5, with 5 being the highest). Be honest with your assessment, and if you are not at either a 4 or 5 level, please reach out to me for suggestions on how to get there. This is my belated “Valentine’s Day” gift to you.

TAGS: #Vulnerability #Howtobevulnerable #Advantagesofbeingvulnerable #Beingvulnerable #Leadership #Dyslexia #Dyslexic #Divorce #Motivation #Tipsonhowtobevulnerable

Values. Can you name yours?

Although we all have them, our values may not be something we think about on a regular basis. In fact, if I were to ask you to list what your values were right now, could you do so without hesitation?

When we are placed into the position of thinking about and then naming our values, I have seen some people be able to do this within minutes, while others have taken in excess of over an hour to convey them to me. I’m not exaggerating the timeline on this, and I was impressed by both the speed at which someone could tell me their values, as well as the care in which people took to deliberate on what they are.

I think of values as providing us with guidelines on how we conduct ourselves, make decisions and prioritize how we allocate our resources (e.g., time, attention) based on having clearly defined ones. Having them can simplify our lives, and shouldn’t cause conflict, but sometimes they do. Particularly when your values are not in alignment with others.

When our values are misaligned with those we interact with (e.g., family, work, team), it can cause high levels of stress. Conversely, it can also quickly lead to deciding about how to reduce or eliminate the stress by providing you with a clear path forward when you are not willing to compromise your values. Yes, the outcome of your decision may not be in your favor, but there are circumstances where a middle ground of compromise may not present itself.

As I think about the people in my life who have clearly stated, or I could guess what their values are based on their actions, I wonder if they realize how they are broadcasting them? Of course, the values they have are ones I admire. Otherwise I would not be associating with them, and I have had to disconnect from some people in my life whose values were not in alignment with my own, and I guarantee you have done the same.

One of my friends wrote about a micromanager boss he had. Upon reading about one interaction he had with this boss, it brought back a PTSD flashback to several of these types of bosses I have unfortunately had. In my opinion, there is no room for this type of management style.  It is incredibly harmful to both the individual experiencing it, and the effects can cascade beyond the person who is being impacted. What type of value would be represented by someone with micromanagement characteristics? Not one I am supportive of, and due to their actions, and my own values, I easily made the decision to part ways with the bosses who behaved this way.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to consider what your values are, I encourage you to do so. In fact, there are a number of suggestions I have to offer you to make going through this exercise well worth your time. Here they are:

  • Are there consequences to the type of values you have? If there are, consider how you will negotiate a forward path, or whether your values will continue to provide you with challenges that you are willing to confront and accept the outcome from.
  • Commit to writing down what your values are. Your list does not have to be exhaustive, but it should have between 3-10 values noted.
  • If you know what your values are, have they changed over time, or have they remained the same. If they have changed, what were the circumstances which caused them to change? Honestly consider whether your values were enhanced or degraded?
  • Most people strive to simplify their lives, even if it is only in some areas of it. Knowing what your values are will help you to achieve this.
  • No one needs to know what your values are. However, I have found that when I have shared mine with others, they are honored with the fact I did so, and all of them either reciprocated with what theirs were, or said they were inspired to think about being able to express theirs with ease.
  • Your values can be informally woven into conversations. For instance, expressing your values can serve you well in situations where you need to be able to articulate information about yourself when the questions or conversation you are having does not offer direct questions which would allow you to express this information.
  • Consider how expressing your values in an interview might work in your favor. If they don’t, you will be fortunate to learn this early on that you will be out of synch with your potential boss and company.
  • In personal scenarios, you can learn a lot about a person by asking them questions that will have them reveal their values. You can either ask them directly what their values are, or indirectly via other questions that will reveal this information (e.g., What are your thoughts on XYZ?).

Knowing what your values are can be a source of strength, and provide a clear path to helping you to make decisions of various levels of importance. You should also be proud of your values. If you are not proud of them, that’s a whole other topic which I’ll write about another time.

TAGS: #Business #Teams #Success #Values #DecisionMaking #ConsequencesofValues #Micromanagement #Management

Asking for favors and not reciprocating?

Don’t get me wrong. I love helping people, and when someone asks me for a favor, the majority of the time I say yes. However, when I was recently asked a favor by someone, and then a second and third one, curiously there wasn’t any offer by the person to reciprocate. Not even a verbal one. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this pattern, had the third “favor” not followed the second one so swiftly.

Yes, there can be a fine line between helping others, and getting taken advantage of. However, it doesn’t have to be this way, and this is the point I am conveying. I want people to become more aware of when, how often and what type of “favors” they are asking for. More importantly, I want them to also be cognizant of the fact they can offer to do something in exchange for the favor they are asking.

Returning favors do not have to be equal in value. In fact, they should be in alignment with something that you can easily do for the person who granted you the favor of your original request for help.

When I began thinking about the imbalance of favor requesting, I was beginning to see a pattern emerge. I also started thinking about who was asking for these favors, and why I was their choice of who they requested. For clarification purposes, all of the people who have requested favors from me are business-oriented favors based on my expertise. So, it made sense for people to request them from me.

The common thread by people who were asking for favors was that they trusted me. They also knew I would not disappoint them, and that they could count on me to help them with their request. My hope from all of the favors I have granted other people, is that if in fact I am not the recipient of a returned favor, that they pay the favor forward to someone else. Although, once in a while it would be refreshing to unexpectantly experience reciprocity.

If you are at either end of the spectrum when it comes to asking for or doing favors for others, I encourage you to think about whether there is a middle ground? Perhaps this doesn’t matter, and in full disclosure, the majority of the time, I experience a sense of joy in helping others, and more so when we have a balance in our lives. This pertains to requesting and doing favors too.

To stir your brain around whether you fall into one category or the other, I believe it is fair to acknowledge that people who are doing lots of favors for others know they are in this category. So, my suggestions below are intended to benefit those who may not have recognized they are in the category of always asking for favors. Or, that perhaps not reciprocating as much as they should be.

  • Everyone needs help from time to time. However, are you always asking others to help you, when in fact you could do (fill in the blank) yourself? This pertains to both your personal and professional life.
  • In the last week, how many favors have you asked from other people? If you don’t know, consider keeping track of the amount of favors you ask for. Then take a look at the list a week later.
  • Upon reviewing your list of requested favors, were you able to reciprocate any favors for the requestors? Or, could you do this in the near future?
  • Consider why you are always asking for favors? You might not in fact have realized this is something you might be chronically doing. Hint – this isn’t a behavior that many other people have a high tolerance level to engage with.
  • When you asked someone for a favor recently, did you ask them if there is something you can do in return for them? Not everything in life has to be quid pro quo, but it would be beneficial and score you some karma points by at least asking if you can help the person you have asked to help you.
  • There are times in everyone’s life when they need more assistance than others. Although consider whether you are in one of these phases, or if your life or professional circumstances appear to be dictating you are more often needing support via favors from others. If this is the case, there are likely other contributing factors which have placed you into this vicious cycle.
  • Think about the last few people you asked favors from. Now consider reaching back to each of them and asking them what you could help them with that would make a difference for them. They might not be able to provide you with an immediate answer, so let them think about this. The most important part of doing this is to follow-up and reach back out a second time to see if they came up with a way for you to return a favor for them.

Doing favors for others can be really therapeutic, especially given the fact the Pandemic world we are living in right now is causing extra stress and burdens in many people’s lives. Because of this, please do your part to be on the end of granting favors and reducing the amount of favors you are asking from others.

Tags: #Favors #HelpingOthers #Business #Success #Leadership #CareerAdvice #Mentoring #PersonalDevelopment #BusinessTips #Reciprocity

Why do we follow leaders?

I’m not known for talking about politics, and in fact I don’t talk about them for obvious reasons. However, similar to business and sports team leaders, the people in these positions all play an important role in our society. Although their respective assents to their leadership roles are generally remarkably, and curiously different. 

Take for example just about any CEO or leader of a sports team organization. Or, a head sports team coach. If you were to ask them where they went to leadership school, most would look at you oddly. Why? Because there are limited ways for leaders to obtain their skills from an educational perspective. Skills that are truly meaningful.

In other words, leaders learn how to lead from actual experience of leading others. Not by simply reading about how to lead others. I’m not disparaging the wonderful leadership books out there, I’m just stating that I have yet to come across a leader who said they learned everything they needed to become an amazing leader via reading about the topic.

Similar to a trade role (e.g., plumber, electrician, welder), leaders gain the majority of their skills by practicing and applying them in a physical way. Although trade persons are highly skilled, they do not have to master the soft skills that effective leaders need to gain. Unless of course they are the owner of the company. Then I would place those individuals in the same category as business and sports team leaders.

The most impactful skills that leaders need to acquire and master are ones which are more difficult to measure. I’m referring to the skills of communication, influence and emotional intelligence (e.g., EQ). Granted I want to stress that the EQ skill isn’t something one can learn, as this is one of the skills in the innate category. You are either fortunate to have lots of it, or not enough for your or others liking. Having common sense is also one of the beneficial skills the top leaders possess. However, it’s one of the other skills you either have, or you don’t.

Of course, all leaders start out as followers. The interesting factor to consider is at what point is the cross over to leadership made? Depending on the type of leadership role, it could in fact take years before someone steps into that role. However, we have all seen instances where an individual is placed into a leadership role they are ill prepared to take on. Everyone suffers when this occurs. With a few exceptions.

One of the exceptions is that the newly minted leader is supported by others to buffer their learning curve. The supporters will play the role of advising the majority of the new leaders decisions, until they reach a point when they can make more of the decisions on their own. However, without this arrangement in place as an exception, the new under prepared leader will experience a steep and often painful learning curve themselves, and for those they lead. I guarantee you have seen this. Perhaps you have even had the misfortune of being led by this individual? The good news is that most of these ill prepared leaders will be filtered out, and replaced by an actual experienced leader. Although not always.

At what point do people know they are ready to lead and make the crossover into leadership? Below are some ways you will know when the time is right for you to make this leap.

  • Gaining experience takes time. Most leaders will need a minimum of a decade worth of experience to have had enough opportunities to learn, and to have made enough mistakes along the way to be effective when they step into their role. With this said, having 15-20 years of experience is even better.
  • You have had the opportunity to learn about multiple facets of the business, or acquire deep knowledge about the sports team you are leading. Additionally, you have had a minimum number of roles (e.g., 2-4) to provide you with insight only gained from having exposure to critical functions which impact the company, or sports team you will be leading.
  • You are at a point where you are able to mentor others.
  • People you respect and who are in leadership roles begin seeking you out for advice or your opinion on how to handle different situations.
  • You are able to see the big picture, and can effectively communicate strategically as well as persuasively to your peers and leadership members above your current role. 
  • You have made enough calculated mistakes and recovered from them without tarnishing your reputation.
  • Others trust your judgement and are comfortable with letting you make critical decisions, as you have solid track record for demonstrating this.
  • Not everyone who can step into a leadership role wants to do so. In fact, many shy away from the enormous responsibilities that go along with being the leader. It’s not a role for the faint of heart, or those who have difficulty with making, sticking to and applying decisions to be carried out effectively.

Moving into a leadership role is a privilege, and not one to be casually entered into.  In fact, I can tell you that you will intuitively know when you are ready to take on becoming the leader. If you can’t trust your gut instinct with this decision, then it’s not likely your time to step out of the follower role yet. 

Tags: #Business #Success #Leadership #Teams #Sportsteams #Headcoaches #Sportscoaches #Coaches #Headsportscoach #HeadSportscoaches #Strategy #Management #BusinessManagement