How To Escape a Funk

Uncategorized Oct 21, 2020

Most of the time I am relentlessly optimistic. My inner wonder woman emerges when I start to feel beaten down, reminding me of my resilience and my ability to positively impact my little corner of the world. Typically, I find joy even when times are dark.  Plus, I love to laugh.

But, Sunday, I woke up in a funk.

Call it pandemic blues.
Call it post-debate, pre-election anxiety. 
Call it uncertainty-overload.

I don’t know about you, but when I am in a funk, I take it out on myself. My inner voice gets mean: I am not doing enough. I am not valuable enough. I am not a good enough friend or leader or ... whatever. I am letting people down. I am letting myself down.

Here’s the thing: I would never, ever in a million years talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself. I see the good in others, even when they are struggling. I believe in the importance of self-care and self-compassion, and I know it’s necessary to feel things deeply, even the bad...

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Productivity and the Second Burnout

Uncategorized Oct 14, 2020

If there’s one thing many people had to grapple with this year, it’s the idea of getting comfortable with discomfort. But even as we adapt to the continuously changing world, there’s an aspect of that discomfort that’s remained constant: The world isn’t totally “open for business,” and we can’t predict when it will be. And beyond this, there are many things—businesses and ways of doing business—that won’t ever return.

 In many ways, it’s this persistent, low-grade discomfort that’s actually the most difficult to bear, because it’s so easily hidden and rarely discussed. It’s a quiet discomfort—not showy or on the surface like the radical shifts of the early pandemic days. 

So how do you navigate that discomfort while still forging ahead toward your goals? By addressing it as the leader you are.

With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, we’re all buckling...

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Productivity and Leadership

Uncategorized Oct 07, 2020

Too often leaders feel as if productivity and leadership cannot coexist. 

They equate productivity with getting the job done or accomplishing the mission.  It has to do with meeting deadlines, coming in under budget, delivering to the customer and managing all the tasks that come their way.

If they recognize that their job-to-get-done IS to lead the people, then leadership becomes another set of tasks to manage.  Those tasks include things like getting to know the people, collaborating with them on decisions and helping them develop.  

And to a large extent this is correct.  All good ideas eventually break down into work, so knowing the traits of a good leader HAS to break down into tasks to be accomplished eventually.

Getting to know your people requires meetings to be set up or time carved in your calendar to walk around and chat.  Collaborating with a team to make a decision requires a lot more time that just making the...

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The Power Within

Uncategorized Sep 30, 2020

What if instead of envisioning politicians and CEOs as the ultimate models of leadership, we recognized the power within each of us?

Here’s the thing about leadership. It has nothing to do with fancy titles or positions of authority. Leadership is something we all can do, because it's about how we treat each other and how we show up. With each act we take and decision we make, we have the power to make a positive difference in the world around us.  

Take Star Wars, for example. I remember watching it the first time and I was mesmerized from the start – family loyalty, alien beings, beloved robots, light sabers, the powerful and brilliant Princess Leia, good vs evil, the will to never give up.

All these years later, Star Wars continues to captivate people of all ages. Beyond the creative characters, groundbreaking special effects, and incessant marketing, Star Wars inspires us because, at its core, it is about a group of everyday people who become heroes by standing...

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The Four Types of Mentors

Uncategorized Sep 23, 2020

There is a general consensus that having a mentor is a good thing, even a critical thing, for a person as they move along in their career.

By the same token, it is encouraged that we, as leaders, mentor the next generation.

But what exactly does it mean to have a mentor or be a mentor?

Like most words in the English language, the definition of a mentor is as individual as the person who is seeking one. 

My research into what people expect from a mentor indicates that there are four separate categories: sponsor, skill builder, motivator, and advisor.

The Sponsor

The mentor as a sponsor has three distinct functions: increase visibility, foster networking opportunities, and operate as an information broker.

Typically, a mentor is in your organization (or in your same industry) but holds a higher ranking position than you do.  Because of this, they have a different peer group and access to information that might not be available to you.

In one client's...

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Procrastination: Innocent or Guilty as Charged?

Uncategorized Sep 16, 2020

I am not a felony procrastinator, but I do practice misdemeanor procrastination. 

My rap sheet is a mile long for minor infractions on tasks that I know I should do but feel hard or uncomfortable, or tasks that are just unpleasant. Because I keep putting it off, the task starts to grow in my mind, getting bigger and harder and more unpleasant. As a result, I avoid it even more.   

I even have a category in my task manager titled Eventually. I don't want to forget about these things, but I still haven't committed to doing them.

These open loops, as Jack Canfield calls them, suck up time and energy because you're thinking about them all the time!

Take my kitchen buffet for instance.

It's right inside the most-used door to the house.  The top catches all the things we have in our hands when we walk through the door.  The two cupboards and four drawers have become the place to put school supplies, power cords, cables, dog stuff, misc. stuff,...

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GASP! When You Don't Know the Answer

Uncategorized Sep 09, 2020

Let’s face it: We are smart people. We wouldn’t be considered professionals if we weren’t. We were hired to have good answers, and we usually get paid good money to provide those answers at the appropriate time.

 

But every now and then, someone throws us a curve ball. Or something comes from so far out of left field that we are left wondering “where in the heck did THAT come from!?”

 

How we handle those moments can make or break our credibility for the future, so tread carefully.

 

Sarcasm is usually not appropriate, as tempting as it might be.  So refrain from the “does anyone have any good questions?” response! Or the “do I look like the budget guy?”

 

Perhaps a “can you help me understand what’s behind that question?” answer might be more helpful. Let them do some talking, which helps you understand more context AND gives you a few seconds to think.

 

Or the...

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My Leadership Journey and My Ah-ha Moment

Uncategorized Sep 02, 2020

 

Someone asked me recently how I ended up in leadership development when I started with an engineering degree.

The answer is simple, yet complicated and has to do with a key leadership skill.  It is self-awareness.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of my self-awareness was based on hindsight and reflection!  It was only later in my career when the true self-awareness hit me with an ah-ha moment.  Ever since then, career decisions have been easier.

Here's what I mean.

My organization had four branches: research, development, engineering, and an operations arm.

My first ten years there was as a practicing engineer in the research areas of vehicle electronics and then (briefly) software. 

I didn't enjoy embedded software systems very much, so I quickly took the opportunity to move to the development area, where I was doing mostly project lead work. I stayed there for eight years handling bigger and bigger projects until boredom and an ethical dilemma forced me to...

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Positivity During a Pandemic

Uncategorized Aug 26, 2020

We are entering the fifth month of the pandemic in the United States where working from home, social distancing, and wearing masks is now the norm.

It's easy to see the downsides.

I haven't hugged my mom in five months, I've put on a few pounds, I worry about my family and friends a lot more.  I worry about MY future a lot more.

The list could go on and on.

It's easy to feel like there are no upsides, but there are. You just have to look for them. If I look, what are my upsides?

I rescued a German Shepherd when having a German Shepherd was literally on my bucket list. 

I got to ease into retirement from the Army a little more smoothly than expected because I was working from home the preceding two weeks anyway. 

My daughter gets to have an extended stay with her previously long-distance boyfriend, and that has been great for their relationship.

Frankly, the pandemic has allowed me to set up my new business better, because I had the time.  While other...

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Meditation: The Science Behind the Recommendation

Uncategorized Aug 19, 2020
Meditation to the brain is like a shower to the body – a way to cleanse and renew

Meditation.

When we hear the word, it’s hard not to conjure up certain images.  These vary from robe-clad monks and their Gregorian chants to hippies sitting in the lotus position repeating “Ohm” over and over again.

The truth is that meditation includes both those things but so much more!

I hope I don't have to tell you if you shower regularly you'll be a more effective leader.  I DO think more busy leaders need to shower their mind more regularly to be a better human.

In case you’re not involved with a regular practice yet, let me appeal to that logical brain of yours.

Here are 9 scientific reasons (with links to the actual studies) why everyone needs to start meditating today:

Meditation and Your Physical Brain

Most leaders know that to be effective, the brain must be in peak condition. Not many leaders realize, though, that meditation can change...

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