Inspired gratefulness. Where does it come from?

Roughly thirty-five years ago today, I experienced a day that in most instances might be one of the happiest days of a person’s life. However, within twelve hours, what perceivably to others looked like a delightful situation turned out to be the most nightmarish year of my life. Yes, I’m going to leave you wondering what happened. Spoiler alert, there is a much better ending than anyone would have thought there would be.

My point is that today is a day for me to be reflective.  Instead of dwelling on a particular day and year of my life, and that I would have at times rather erased from my memory, I can now look back on it with perspective that time has granted me. In fact, I can tell you that as I think about that day, I can now be inspired from the experience. I’m also confident that some of you reading this article might have had a similar feeling about one of your experiences. I hope you do.

When I hear the words inspired and gratefulness, I think of them as being great word partners. The word inspired can be interpreted quite differently by individuals, and so can being grateful. Both are often influenced by circumstances, some of which are in your control. While perhaps others might not be.

Gaining perspective based on the influences of other people, time, places or your attitude can all contribute to whether you feel inspired each day. Being grateful can also be impacted by your perspective, mood or potentially circumstances you may not realize you have more control over than you give yourself credit.

An example of what I am referring to is based on a true-life story of a 7-year old boy and his Mom who are both homeless and living in southern California. Their circumstances were documented by a west coast reporter. As I read through the story, there were so many instances for the Mom to re-write the narrative of how she and her son’s life were playing out that year. However, the challenge was that she was not willing to accept advice or help that could have changed their short and long term circumstances.

Although the Mom and her son were homeless, it didn’t mean that they were not grateful. They were grateful for people attempting to help them, but the Mom was not inspired to be able to move beyond her circumstances to improve her and her son’s life at that time.

Do I think the Mom could have been inspired or have found inspiration to change her circumstances? Potentially, but since untreated mental illness was identified as part of the reason the Mom could not, or chose not to change her situation, they both suffered from her lack of her ability from her circumstances to make good decisions.

Circling back to the earlier part of my story, I have learned over the years to find inspiration from places I never imagined. My personal history of the anniversary of today’s date is one of those places. Having deep perspective on my experience, and the year following that day, I know I wouldn’t have achieved all of the milestones in my life had I not endured, and come out the other side of where I was thirty-five years ago. For level setting, my situation did not personally involve a mental health challenge, chemical or physical abuse challenge. That’s all I’ll share with you.

However, from my experience, I am able to provide you with some inspirational suggestions based on a particular year in my life, as well as the cumulative years following it. I hope that some of them will inspire you.

  • We know time does not stand still, so always use the benefit of looking towards the future to envision how your circumstances can and will be different if you allow them to be.
  • Ever since I was young, I have had at least one domestic animal. Sometimes it was simply a small frog I captured outside and placed into a shoebox for thirty minutes to observe and admire it. Pets can provide unlimited inspiration, as well as motivation for you on a daily basis.
  • Depending on where you live, you will have different access to being out in nature. However, even if you live in a city, most of them have at least one park you can enjoy. The point is to get outside every day for a minimum of 5-20 minutes to experience the numerous benefits of being in fresh air.
  • When you are outside, take time to notice and admire the amazing beauty of nature. It will also serve to remind you of how your inside surroundings are typically far less interesting than what you can observe when you are outside.
  • Seek out people who make you smile, laugh or remind you not to take yourself too seriously. These people and their gift to help you do this, are like medicine for your soul.
  • Everyone knows we need to take good and sometimes better care of ourselves. When we ignore the signs of us not doing this, the effects can be negative and cumulative. However, it is possible to reverse most of the things we might be doing which don’t contribute to increasing our personal health (e.g., diet, exercise, sleep).
  • Helping someone else serves multiple purposes to inspire and motivate us. One of the things it does is to take our mind off of ourselves. When we help someone else, it also makes us feel better. When we care for others, this generally contributes to doing so. 

My list of suggestions could go on and on, but the intent of providing you with some ideas is to kick start your mind to thinking about other things you can do to help you to be more inspired and grateful on a regular basis. Enjoy the daily journey of making this happen for yourself, and indirectly others.

Tags: #Advice #Inspiration #Motivation #Business #Grateful #Howtobegrateful #Howtogaininspiration #Beinggrateful

Uncertainty and decision making


Let’s face it. Most people when asked if they like uncertainty will tell you they don’t. If asked to choose between the two, they will more often favor decision making. However, both of these topics can make people uncomfortable, yet they don’t have to. So, who are the people comfortable with both, and were they always this way? Can you be one of them?

Learning how to embrace uncertainty versus fearing or dreading it isn’t something which comes naturally. When we think of the concept of uncertainty, we often wish that we could definitively know what the outcome will be. When we can anticipate or predict the way anything will turn out, it also gives us a sense of comfort, or perceivably more control. Although some people don’t mind being surprised by an outcome. Especially outcomes that have a higher potential to be a positive one.

Although I am not an actuary, a significant percentage of outcomes mathematically will have roughly a fifty percent chance of a favorable outcome. So, why do we as humans tend to ere on focusing on the potential for a negative outcome? One of the reasons we do this is to protect ourselves from disappointment. If we expect the outcome not to be in our favor and it is, then we are happier about the results. Another reason we think negatively, is that we are not confident enough in our abilities, planning or circumstances to warrant the outcome we would prefer.

What if you could alter the way you think and embrace uncertainty? Part of being able to do this will involve re-training the way you think. This isn’t easy to do. Yet it can be incredibly gratifying to achieve being able to do this, even occasionally. To begin down the path of embracing uncertainty, one of the factors I noted above was to become more confident in your thinking this is something you can do. Let’s start there. Can you do this? Yes, this is a rhetorical question, as I know you can.

As you already know, our subconscious mind has a great deal of power. When we tap into it, and we suggest to ourselves that the outcome of any scenario will be favorable, we begin laying down the path for this to happen. Have you ever tried doing this? I’m sure you have, but potentially not all of the time. Consider a time you didn’t do this, and how much energy you put into thinking the outcome of your situation wasn’t going to be in your favor. Yet, it was. What if instead you could have channeled that wasted negative energy into something else? For one thing, you would have been less anxious, more fun to be around, and likely have had more energy to appreciate the positive outcome.

Let’s switch gears and focus on decision making as something you enjoy doing, and do well. For those reading this who feel they have mastered the art of decision making, consider how you could or would teach others how to do this. If you are in the category of needing to learn how to make better decisions, I have some suggestions on how you can go about doing this.

  • I recently met a woman who uses a method of visually thinking through her decisions. What she does is to draw a square box. In that box is the topic related to her decision. Around the box she places other boxes that have words or phrases that either support or don’t support her topic. This is similar to a pro and con list, but it is using a different visual representation to help you think through your situation.
  • Now would be a good time to consider putting together either an informal or formal board of advisors. It doesn’t have to be a big group, and it should be people who you know, and can rely upon to give you input from an objective position. Not necessarily what you want to hear, but a more neutral or alternative way of thinking about the outcome of your decision.
  • Depending on the type of decision you are making, is it possible to do research, or more research on helping you to determine an outcome? Perhaps a positive one?
  • Part of becoming a decision maker and mastering this concept, means you will become more comfortable with relying upon your gut instinct. Start slowly if you are uncomfortable with doing this, but think about what your first thought was. Then think about whether it is based on fear, or has merit for being a good decision.
  • When you vacillate on your decisions, you typically do this due to lack of confidence in your ability to decide. You will know you have mastered the art of decision making, when you stop vacillating on your decisions.

Yes, life is full of uncertainty, and we would be hard pressed to live a day without having to make any decisions. So, given the reality of this, the best course of action for ourselves is to embrace uncertainty and decision making, and to become pros at both of them. Let’s get you started today!

Tags: #Business #DecisionMaking #Uncertainty #EmbracingChange #Marketing #Sales #Leadership #MakingDecisions

Why I don’t waste time criticizing people.

People who are constantly criticizing others are typically insecure and because of this, they focus their attention on other people instead of being reflective about themselves. When you come across someone like this in the office, steer the other way, as they probably have already taken on the reputation of being a negative person, and who wants to be around “Debbie Downers”? No one, and it is not advisable to be around them, as others could also perceive you are this way too. However, what if you have tendencies of being overly critical of others and do not realize this?

Let’s take a virtual walk around your office and come up with some scenarios of interactions you might be having with others. The first scenario takes place in the morning shortly after you have arrived at work. You exchange your pleasantries with others, or so you think, as you may not have realized you provided negative commentary on an interaction you just had with one of your other colleagues about what they told you they did over the weekend. Did you need to be judgmental about what they did and share your opinion with others? Let’s say…, you did not.

The next scenario involves talking with one of your colleagues post a meeting you were both in. Instead of providing constructive feedback or potentially something positive about the meeting and the person who was running it, you criticized the person for how they delivered the information, and about how you did not like the meeting format.

Another interaction which is ripe for negative people to spread their criticism is during the afternoon walk around the building. These walks are generally short walks, and can be highly refreshing and opportunities to have upbeat conversations. However, if you are an overly critical person, you tend to leverage this interaction to share your negative commentary on whomever you have recently interacted with. Does this sound like you, or someone you work with?

If you are “the” person who is highly critical of others and do not realize this, there are ways to determine you are behaving this way, and to course correct on this type of behavior.  Here are ways to first recognize you are behaving this way:

  1. After interacting with someone, think about the conversation you had with them. Did the conversation involve passing judgement on another person in a negative format?
  2. Consider the interactions you have had the last few days. After the interactions did you feel better, neutral or worse after you spoke to your colleagues? If you felt better or neutral, was there a positive outcome from the conversations you had, or did you simply feel relieved about sharing your opinion on someone?
  3. If you had to rate your conversations with others like you were rating a restaurant on Yelp, what rating would you give yourself and why?
  4. Are there situations or people who “trigger” your overly critical nature? Begin to recognize whether these are routinely happening, or only periodically.

and here are some tips on how to stop being overly critical of others:

  • Write down positive things you can share and say about others you work with, then sprinkle these positive expressions into your conversations with others. Did you notice if the person you were sharing this information with reacted differently?
  • Create a list of the typical things you converse with others about. Categorize these topics and take a look at what percentage of them are critical versus being constructive or positive. Do this exercise for one week to work towards changing the conversational type of exchange you have been having.
  • Ask someone you are friends with outside of your office if they think you have tendencies to be overly critical of others. If they are a true friend, they will be honest with you and tell you that you are. Do not be mad at them for being honest with you, and instead thank them for their candidness.
  • Challenge yourself to work towards being a less critical person, and check your progress from week to week to see if you recognize you are decreasing your negative commentary about others or situations.

No one sets out to be overly critical of others, and sometimes behaving this way is also a result of picking up this bad behavior from observing others who might be doing the same thing. The trick to becoming less critical and ultimately more fun to be around, is to acknowledge you might be this way, and then to work towards overcoming this bad habit. Once you become less critical of others, you will become a much happier person when you are conveying complimentary comments about others versus the negative verbal exchanges you are accustomed to expressing.

How are your people management skills?

Thinking back to the first time I was responsible for managing someone, I remember feeling a tremendous sense of being the best boss possible boss I could be. This of course was despite my limited experience in this area. However, when I factored in thinking about the myriad of opportunities to practice managing someone, while being the boss, it became less of an intimidating situation. Perhaps for both of us.

Fast forward in time close to thirty years since having first managed the person I was referring to. The fact I recently heard from this person after three decades was an incredible moment, and not one I expected to occur. What was even more surprising was the fact this person sent me a thank you note for being their boss! It goes to show you there is no time limit on thanking someone, and this is a topic I have previously written about.

In the note from the person I first managed, they shared with me that I was a highly supportive and nurturing boss, and that they were surprised I took a chance on hiring them. They also commented on how hiring them changed their life, and influenced the career direction they ended up pursuing. I never knew any of these facts until recently. My point is that even when I was a freshly minted boss, it was possible to have a positive impact on managing someone and their career.

Until I received the email via a LinkedIn message from this person, I had not considered how early in my career my people management skills would continue to be an asset to both me, and the people I have had the responsibility and honor of managing. Being completely honest, there were times when I recall managing this person that I was unsure of whether I was able to properly guide them. However, each time I felt that way, I had a conversation with myself to remind me that managing someone is actually a two-way process. This made me feel much better when I acknowledged that I was only half of the equation and the outcome results.

When I stopped to consider where I sourced my own people management skills from, I would have to say some of them were modeled by my parents. For the first five to six years of my career, I also learned through observing my bosses how to manage others. Of course, some of my bosses were far better at people management skills than others. Understanding both optimal and sub optimal ways of applying or learning these skills will serve you equally well.

Below are some of my acquired and own methods for how to improve your people management skills.

  • This can apply to both work and life situations, and is a foundational piece of advice to launch from. I know you have heard this before, but it’s not always practiced as well as it should be. Without exception, always treat the person you are managing the way you would want to be treated.
  • People are constantly surprising us with what they do and say. Sometimes this is a positive experience, but if it’s not, consider asking the person “Why did they do or say what they did?” When you ask someone to provide insight to better understand their behavior, it generally offers a teachable moment for you to help them see how they could have handled the situation differently.
  • How often do you praise someone? Often times managers neglect considering how a simple thank you, or positive acknowledgment of a small accomplishment can make someone’s day.
  • Have you considered what adjectives people would use to describe your human engagement skills? Sometimes our perceptions are quite different than the reality of how we are appearing to interact with others. Chances are if this is the case, you may not be aware that this is an area for course correction. If this is a problem area for you, it could also be why you have not, or might not advance into upper management roles.
  • Consider what you have done either in the past, or recently to improve your people management skills. Have you proactively worked on being self-aware of the importance of doing this?
  • Think about people who you would classify as having naturally gifted abilities in managing other people well. Is it possible for you to be mentored by them? Remember the importance of having a mentor, and this applies to all stages of your career. 
  • There are tremendous benefits granted to those who master being highly skilled people managers. They are often fast tracked in their careers, are more satisfied professionally with their roles, have a larger professional network to tap into when they need to do so, and are considered for roles over other people who might be more qualified technically, but are lacking in their human management skills.

This is a rich and ever evolving topic. It is also a subject that you will always benefit from any investment you make in yourself to improve how you interact with others, either personally or professionally.

Tags: #Success #Mentorship #PeopleManagementSkills #Business #Howtodevelopyourpeoplemanagementskills #Business #Sales #Management #Leadership #HumanResources #HumanCapital #Tipsonhowtoimprovepeoplemanagementskills #Strategy

Managing up. Do you know why to or how?

When I first started my career, the thought of moving up to a higher level wasn’t something I was thinking about. This was due to the fact I was more concerned about mastering the work related to the role I was in. As the years progressed, I became more aware of the career advancement of others. However, at that time, it was a mystery to me about how they moved ahead in their career.

The fact I didn’t have someone mentoring me during the first decade of my career is what I would attribute to being one of the greatest missed opportunities. Although, at that time, I wasn’t aware that having a mentor was an option. If I had realized this, the approach I took towards managing my career would have been significantly different. For one thing, I would have stayed on track to pursue a career which involved having more creativity infused into my daily role.

The expression that we have a 20/20 perception from our rear-view mirror may not be entirely accurate. My reason for suggesting this, is that we often forget or edit out some of the details that contributed to the outcome of the experience. Both good and bad ones.

When it comes to managing your career from a fully intentional approach to doing so, one of the first factors I noted above is that you should seek out counsel from someone to help you to do so. Your arrangement does not have to be overly official, but it should be with an individual who has successfully navigated the type of forward progress you are seeking.

There are numerous ways to get ahead in your career, and no one perfect way of doing so. That’s the good news. The downside is that you should consider whether moving ahead and up to the loftier roles in your career are really where you aspire to be?

Many of the leaders I have worked with have often noted that some of their best years of their career were when they were either individual contributors on a team. The teams they preferred working on were ones that were fully integrated, interdependent and focused on a single goal of achievement.

Now let’s get back to addressing whether you are interested in managing your career to higher levels, and how to go about doing so. The first step we covered already, but is worth repeating. Do you truly aspire to climb up to the highest levels of management? The second matter, also worth repeating, is to address ensuring you have a mentor or someone to guide you in the process of moving up in your role.

The third critical factor to consider is whether you have set yourself up in a role that will allow you to progress. Some roles have clearly delineated paths to the top, and yet the top level for the role may not take you to where you want to end up.

Here are some suggestions for how to go about managing your way up the career ladder.

  • Consider whether a lateral move may in fact provide you with additional experience you will need to progress to the next level.
  • Is your boss aware of your interest in moving up?
  • Do you have the type of boss who will support helping you to move up in your career? Not all bosses are “pro” you.
  • In addition to your mentor, seek out others either inside your company, or within your industry who have successfully navigated their way up to a role you desire.
  • Once you find someone besides your mentor to help you with your upward career movement, ask them to help you map out both the timeline and steps to take to accomplish this. In other words, have a written plan in place.
  • Applying a well through strategy to your upward mobility career plan will also be crucial to your success formula.
  • Often timing plays a large role in when opportunities avail themselves, and sometimes your experience may not match where you need to be to make a move.
  • There is an “art” to moving up in an organization. One of the most critical portions of the artistry of doing this is to hone your influencing skills. Consider how much experience you have with influencing others, and think about the outcomes of your influence.
  • Besides having your boss support you, have you put together your other “support champions”? These people will play a role in helping to drop both verbal and written endorsements for you as you are plotting your forward progression.
  • Your “support champions” should be a blend of people at different levels, as having a balanced group of people supporting you will serve you better than only being supported from top level executives. However, some people choose strictly to only manage-up to others in higher roles.
  • Managing across is also a technique to manage-up, as you will need and want to be supported by the colleagues who will eventually be reporting to you. Don’t underestimate the value of this.

Patience is a hard trait to master, and it will take a combination of patience, timing, support and a solid plan which needs to be executed well to get you to the level you ultimately desire to be at. Good luck with the process, and let me know if you need my help along the way.

Tags: #Business #Career #Success #Productivity #Management #Mentor #CareerAdvancement #ManagingUp