Making the Right Decision

image taking controlI was discussing an upcoming training with a client the other day when she informed me that one of the key employees wouldn’t be able to make it. If we didn’t present the training on our previously planned date, it would have to be postponed for some time. I immediately responded that we should postpone the training for a couple months until everyone can be present.


My client responded by disagreeing with me and insisting that we go ahead with the training. My first thought was that she just didn’t understand the whole situation. Surely, she could see how her thinking was wrong. However, as I continued to truly listen to her reasoning, I began to change my perspective. I actually began to see why her thinking made sense. She did understand what we were trying to accomplish and had already given the dilemma much thought.


I was speaking from my experience, my knowledge of the situation and from my vantage point. I was making my best judgment. However, she shared new information, and made the case as to why this was the right decision. After receiving additional information, I agreed to moving forward with her plan.


So remember when I said that I listened and realized that in light of some new compelling information, I might be incorrect? That’s where a lot of leaders fail in their quest to be successful. They are strong in the concept of making decisions and leading the team, but might not be making the BEST decision because they just won’t listen.


Here are a couple principles to think about next time you are in this situation:


Someone else might have a better idea and that’s O.K.

So here’s the truth: Sometimes it’s not easy for leaders and influencers to like other ideas better then their own. Leaders are confident in their actions. However, leaders can LEARN to step back and truly listen and respect other’s opinions and judgments. This skill can be developed with constant practice.


Focus on the best outcome, not on who had the best idea

Focus less on being right or wrong and more on what the best outcome is for the team. Drop the ego and ask yourself: Will this decision accomplish our goals? Will this decision get us to where we want to go? How will we see the results that we desire?


Truly listen to others when they share their opinion

If I had not actively listened to my client, I would have still been stuck on my original assessment. We would have postponed the training and it would have been the wrong decision for everyone. However, once I heard her additional information and put it in context for this situation, I realized that I didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. Actively listening means that I am able to get outside what going on in my own head and what my needs are in the situation. I am able to take a birds-eye view of the situation and see the objective facts.


Think about this the next time you have a discussion and there is a decision to be made. Consciously step back and truly listen to the reasoning. Don’t let emotion and ego get in the way of you reaching the best outcome.

Forced Changes

image railroad tracksI was sitting in a local coffee shop with my tea trying to focus on my work. However, focus was an uphill battle for me. You see, trying to work when something is “going on” around me is quite difficult.


Let me explain.


I believe the way my mind works has a lot to do with my childhood. I have a memory of being with my parents in the car at a stoplight. My mom looks over to the couple next to us and she starts talking.


“It looks like they are not getting along. Look how he is trying to avoid her and she is trying to talk to him. I can tell she is getting very frustrated and this has probably been going on for a while. Why doesn’t he just look at her so that she’ll feel better. I can tell that she is very sad about the situation and is very upset. I bet that they’ve been married for a while and look how uncomfortable the kids look in the back. They look so unhappy. Why can’t parents just realize how it affects their kids”?


Now, I remember thinking:

  1. I can’t understand why she cares about the strangers next to us.
  2. When I look over there I see nothing.
  3. How she can weave a whole complete story in one minute?

Now back to my story. I’m sitting in the coffee shop trying to write a proposal. This is just detail work and not my favorite part of my job. However, I am trudging through it so I can say that I’ve accomplished one more thing. Next to me is a woman and her daughter. When I sat down, I saw the woman wiping her face and for a minute, I thought she was crying.


As I work, I try not to think about her but this is very, very hard. You see, I guess my brain is just wired to pick up on other’s emotion. I try to sneak a glance and I see her wiping her face again. She is talking in hushed tones to her adult daughter. I also notice that she does most of the talking while the daughter listens. I sneak a quick glance at the daughter but I don’t catch much. I can’t really hear the words but the tone is serious.


I force myself to focus on my work and stop being my mom. I hear the words; “I helped you out of debt already.” The other words I hear during the conversation is the following, “ you need to make changes in the way you live your life.” The emotion is all one-sided with daughter being stoic. The last thing I hear before they leave is Mom saying, “I think that I have done too much for you in your life”.


I thought about this for a while after they left. There are times that (to a lesser degree) I am the mother in this scenario. I catch myself wanting the companies that I work with to desperately make CHANGES more than THEY actually want the changes to happen. I find myself wanting coaching clients to make CHANGES more than they actually want to make them happen. I sometimes think that if I keep talking, that the change will happen. Maybe I can WILL it to happen.


But that’s not the way life works.


I think that we are all guilty of this at some point in life and we can waste a lot of energy worrying, persuading and trying to make these CHANGES happen. We do this because we want to control our world and a loss of control is not a good feeling.


I think it’s about time for you and me to accept the fact that we have no control over others desire to change. We have control over just YOU and ME. We can lay it out there for others but the ball is in their court.


So let it go.

Phone Addiction

image on phoneI noticed something interesting this morning when I finished my exercise class. As I walked over to grab all my stuff and go home, I took a good look at all the other people getting ready to leave. Instead of talking to each other and discussing the class and life, every single one of them was staring down at their phones. There were 5 people lined up against the wall, all engrossed in their smartphones.


This made me chuckle and think about another incident that recently got my attention.


I attended a wedding with my whole family. I was so happy to have everyone together to celebrate this joyous occasion. After eating, I pulled everyone out on the dance floor. For a good 45 minutes, we laughed and danced like crazy to the music. Suddenly, I looked over to the closest table to the dance floor. There were about ten people at the table, all in their 20’s. Every single one of them sat silently, staring at their phone.


No one engaged in conversation and no one looked up from their phone. Honestly, it was the strangest and saddest thing I had ever seen. In fact, I pointed it out to my son, who quickly snapped a picture of it on his OWN phone.


There we were, engaged in the moment, celebrating this big event. However, instead of being in the “here and now”, the group of 10 were isolated with their technology.


There’s a story about a CEO of a large billion-dollar company that decided to change his policy for their weekly tactical meetings. As each member of the leadership team entered the room, the CEO motioned for them to place their phones in the box he was holding. He reported that the first meeting didn’t go too well. The team was fidgety and irritated with the change in rules. However, over time he found that the team’s conversations became more meaningful, and the team became more effective and productive. They were focused on NOW.


Do you realize how powerful it was to have all that talent in the room with no distractions?


I have definitely noticed this issue in my last couple of training presentations. When working with a small group, participants will inevitably utilize their smartphones to check email, etc. during the training. Even when I make a point to ask employees to stay off their phone, there are always a couple of offenders.


There are two reasons why this is happening. First, it is no longer seen as bad manners to interrupt what you are doing to check or be on your phone. Second, this behavior has become such a habit that we have difficulty changing this wired action. We are compelled to reach for our phones without even being aware that we are doing it.


I’m unsure how this smartphone behavior is going to manifest in the future workforce. In some ways, it helps us accelerate business, but in other ways, it’s a total distraction, a drain on our productivity and a barrier to creative problem solving.


I believe what’s needed are some boundaries with smartphone usage. Leadership must role model good behavior and have expectations that there are times where usage is off limits.


Organizations want engaged, creative, productive workers and that comes with eliminating the distractions during work. The best work comes out of people that can truly focus on the task at hand.

Quick Judgments

smiling pugLast week, Miles the Pug and I were on our usual walk in the neighborhood. As I turned the corner, I noticed that the neighbor’s two dogs were in the front of their house on their electric fence. They barked and snarled incessantly at the two of us as I opted to walk on the other side of the street.


I love dogs but those two have always put me on edge. They’re much larger than Miles and appear to be extremely territorial. To put it mildly, they always seem ready to attack.


Anyway, we walked to the front of the subdivision and were finally on our way back. As we got closer to the house with the snarling dogs, the barking became louder and louder. For months, I’ve walked on the sidewalk close to these dogs, trusting the electric fence. This time, I veered out into the street. Call it sixth sense, but those two were making me very nervous.


Suddenly, the bigger and angrier of the two ran full force toward us in the street. I had Miles on a retractable leash and in my panic, I didn’t lock it. There I was, screaming and frantically trying to pick Miles up before he became an appetizer for this dog. The dog targeted Miles by the neck while I chased the two in circles, trying to pick up my dog. Finally, I got ahold of him and began to run, with Miles trying desperately to wriggle out of my arms.


When I got home, I checked every inch of Miles to see if he had any bite marks. I couldn’t find any due to his agile circle moves. I was shocked that I couldn’t locate one bite. The next day, I informed the owners, who didn’t seem that surprised or concerned. The evil dog ran out and came to give me numerous kisses and love.


Two days later, I was walking Miles when we ran into the dog being walked by his young owner. The young man stopped to apologize profusely and as he talked, I noticed his dog was on a tight leash. As he explained himself, his dog obediently stood still. Out of nowhere, Miles the Pug lunged forward to attack the dog, barking and growling. I was shocked and embarrassed.


Now there’s a reason that I’m sharing this story. There’s a lot to learn by analyzing the way Miles and I reacted to this situation. This experience is not very different from how we often react to workplace conflict.


Sometimes we make assumptions about situations and relationships that just aren’t true.


From my vantage point, I saw Miles as the victim and the snarling dog as the bully. I assumed that Miles couldn’t defend himself in such a situation. However, Miles actually handled the dog’s aggression in the best way possible. He put the dog on warning that he was not going to go down easy. I was shocked by this reaction from him.


Conflict is a common occurrence during Change Initiatives in the workplace. There are times when we tend to label and categorize situations and relationships because it makes it easier for us to understand. One person is the bully and one person is the victim. If one person is guilty, than the other person is certainly innocent. However, it is rarely that simple. Often, situations and people can be very complicated.


Peering from the outside, it is often difficult to see the nuances that make up conflict within relationships. It never is as straightforward as it initially appears. Each individual in the relationship plays a part and needs to take responsibility for that piece.


So the next time you see conflict brewing between two individuals, try to refrain from making quick judgments.


Life is rarely explained in black and white terms.



Running on Autopilot

image autopilotIt really isn’t that hard to believe that it happened if you understand the logic behind habits. There I was, struggling as usual to get out of the gym and make it back to my house in time. I knew that I had about 20 minutes to get completely ready to leave for an appointment. Deep in thought about my next appointment, I grabbed my keys that were in the cubby above my jacket and picked up my phone. Doing what I always do when I get in the car, I put my foot on the brake, hit the button to start the engine, and dropped the keys into my purse.


Four days later, I was searching my purse for something, when I found a set of strange keys. I stared at them for a while, trying to think up a logical reason as to why they would be in my purse. I came up empty.


Terrified that I had taken them from someone at the last store I had visited, I ran back to talk to them. They had never seen the keys. I imagined someone, somewhere, was being held captive without his or her keys. I traced and retraced my steps to try to solve the problem, but I just didn’t have the answers.


The next day, I went to the gym early in the morning, as I do every Monday. I mentioned to the worker that I had a strange set of keys in my purse and I sensed they belonged to someone here. I could tell from the look on his face that I had solved the mystery. Apparently, someone went to grab their own keys and found they were missing.


Now, when I do something stupid like this (and it truly was dumb), I have this need to dig down deep and figure out why. How did I not recognize that I was holding someone else’s keys? Why don’t I even remember reaching for the keys in the cubby and leaving the gym?


The answer lies in habits and patterns that we form in our life. In the book, Mindgym, Octavius Black and Sebastian Bailey explain that there are four different states of mind: thinking and critical, which are internal, and engaged and autopilot, which are external. Thinking and engaged are helpful states that allow you to navigate your life, while critical, negative thinking and autopilot states are harmful and stand in the way of you being successful.


Suffice it to say, I was in autopilot when I grabbed keys that didn’t belong to me. I was in autopilot when I dropped them in my purse without looking at them.


You depend on habits for 40% of the actions that you have throughout your day. Habits enable you to perform numerous tasks without exerting as much brainpower. Habits also are the reason that change is so difficult for you. They are deeply ingrained patterns that you do without giving it much thought.


However, in a week where I lost my umbrella, left my sweater at a restaurant AND took someone elses keys, maybe it’s time to rethink my autopilot habits and become more engaged in my surroundings. It is very possible that you might need to give thought to the patterns in your life as well.






Leaving the Puppy Out

image destroysMy son came to visit last weekend and brought his 6-month-old Golden Doodle puppy. We went shopping and spent way too much time picking out the perfect new toy and collar for the puppy. He had both of these items destroyed within minutes.


This puppy has a history of chewing objects that are not his toys. I’m talking about shoes, newspapers, magazines and pretty much anything that he can get his little paws on. You have to keep an eye on him at every moment because he gets into trouble pretty fast.


Anyway, my son and daughter-in-law have tried, with mixed results, to leave him out in the house when they are gone. They feel bad that this energetic puppy is being kept in his small crate all day. I can understand how they feel.


My daughter-in-law called me on her way home from work last week and told me that she was anxious to see if their puppy had been good all day. She informed me that she had left him out. I replied with an “uh-oh”. I envisioned the mess that was probably waiting for her. I didn’t doubt for a minute that there was going to be a cleanup in her future.


To make a long story short, the puppy didn’t let me down. The photo she sent me told the whole story. The couch was strewn with a variety of shoes that the puppy had methodically pulled out of the closet. I recognized my son’s dress shoes. I couldn’t see up close, but I’m pretty sure that some of those shoes were no longer wearable.


Right now, you’re probably thinking that this could have easily been avoided. You would have known better and it would have never happened to you. However, we’re all guilty of “leaving the puppy out” now and then.


You know that employee you continue to trust to manage the team even though they have let you down numerous times in the past? How about that friend that has been in your life forever and you continue to be shocked when they disappoint you? Or the co-worker that repeatedly frustrates you when you stick your neck out for him or her— yet you still go back for more? Sometime in your life, you have been guilty of this. You want to trust them, you want to believe that this time they mean it and they will change— but all too often, you are let down. You wash, rinse and repeat many times over.


You want it to work much more than they do.


It’s a wonderful human quality to believe in someone. However, sometimes we want others to change more than they want to or more than they’re ready for. We set them up for failure by continuing to give them rope to hang themselves with.


The only person that you have the right to be mad at is YOU. You need to take control of this situation. Stop expecting different outcomes with the same scenario over and over.


It’s time to take responsibility for what’s not working.


image clockI go for a long bike ride with my husband every Sunday— weather permitting. At this point in the season, we’re now up to about 65 miles each time we ride. We don’t always leave at the same time, but we do follow the same route on the bike trail each week. When we get past the turn-off and to the overhead pass, I always search for Tennis Man.


Every week on our route, there’s a man that volleys against a concrete wall. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I search for Tennis Man as soon as I turn the curve. No matter the time, he never lets me down. He must be practicing for hours.


Last week, I noticed that he started waving to us as we approached. He yelled hello and commented on how long we had been seeing each other. I hadn’t realized that he looked for us as much as we look for him.


Passing Tennis man had become one of the things that we counted on. We knew that once we passed him, we had a certain many miles to go to get to the next landmark. Seeing him always gave me a sense of comfort— something that I could count on. In fact, when Tennis Man was missing, things just didn’t seem right.


Seeing Tennis man had definitely become a part of our weekly routine.


That’s exactly the role that having routines can play in your life. They become something that you count on, something that actually gives you a sense of comfort. In fact, when you change that routine, you can feel like something important is missing. The problem is that often we carry routines in our work and private life beyond their expiration date.


What do I mean by that? I am referring to those routines that are mainstays in your lives, but no longer serve any sort of purpose. You simply continue to do them because you always did them. You keep them because they give you continuity in your life. On top of that, having them makes you feel good.


However, they can sometimes hold us back from our goals and finding success.


Maybe you have a routine of getting up in the morning and sitting in front of the computer to mindlessly check your social media. Maybe you have a routine of going out with the same group of friends every Saturday night. Maybe one of your routines is coming home and turning on the television after a long day of work. Or maybe, your routine is eating the same lunch at your desk every single day at work.


Some of your daily routines have been a part of your life forever and you don’t give much thought to changing them. The point is that some of your routines are positive actions in your life and move you toward success. However, some of your routines stand in the way of you achieving the very goals you are working toward. That knowledge doesn’t occur to you on a daily basis but if you took a birds eye view of your life, that is what you might see.


I am asking you to take that step back, and do an inventory of your daily life. Make a list of what your typical day consists of— work and play, and honestly decide whether your routines are pushing you closer or farther from your goals.


Make sure that you daily actions align with what you strive to achieve in life.

Bad Habits

chain bad habitsMy husband recently had business in Virginia for a couple days and I decided to go along with him. I was a bit nervous to take this trip because I had two big projects looming over my head. However, the chance to ride my bike up and down the mountains held great appeal. If I was going to take the time to ride, I had no choice but to be extremely productive all day Friday. I planned on spending the day making progress on my massive to-do list.


I exercised early in the morning, changed my clothes and went downstairs in the lobby of the hotel to find a place to work. I spied the perfect desk away from the activity of the lobby. I unpacked my bag and got organized. And there I sat, for the next 4 hours. Slowly, but surely, I worked my way through two big projects with incredible focus and speed check this. By the time I stopped for lunch, I marveled at what I had accomplished.


I took a 10-minute walk, found a place to eat and continued to work. Two more hours flew by and I couldn’t believe how much progress I had made.


When I got back home, I gave thought as to why I was able to accomplish so much. It truly was amazing. After doing some thinking, I surmised that my unbelievable productivity was due to habits.


Being in a new environment enabled me to break the habits that had become so routine at work.


Let me explain further. According to author Charles Duhigg, the habit loop is a three-part process— a cue, a behavior and a reward. The cue signals your brain to go into the automatic behavior. It triggers the whole process. The routine is the behavior that takes place and the reward is pleasure for your brain, helping it remember the loop. Habits make up 40% of our function during the day. They enable us to take part in these behaviors without much energy and while not being mentally aware. Therefore, many of my usual distractions during the day that drastically decrease my productivity are really just my habits— bad habits.


For example, when I’m working at my desk at home, I get up numerous times to go to the kitchen and get a drink or something to eat. I’m sure you can imagine my reward for this behavior. At home, I also interrupt what I’m doing numerous times to check my email. I get a great rush every time I hear the ding of another message. My reward is the endorphin rush. When I’m working at my desk at home, I interrupt what I’m doing numerous times to go on social media or to check on the dog.


However, I didn’t do any of those things in this new setting. I just worked. In this new environment, my usual routine, which unfolds without much thought, was interrupted and I changed my habits. Actually, I should say that I changed my bad habits.


If you’re struggling with being productive in the workplace, give some thought to some of your daily habits. When we work in the same place every day, we acquire routines. Some of them are positive, but I’m pretty sure that some are also negative and get in the way of you being productive. Of course, being honest with YOU is the first step to making some much-needed changes.


images brain pictureAbout 10 years ago, I was knocked off my feet with a horrible case of the flu and pneumonia. I ended up missing three weeks of work. We’re talking about three weeks of not even being able to pick my head up off my pillow. I ran a fever daily and could barely eat anything for weeks. Yes— it was really, really bad.


Anyway, it was my daily habit to drink a Diet Mountain Dew around lunchtime. I loved Diet Mountain Dew, especially because it gave me a great caffeine kick. I consistently kept Mountain Dew in my house and not a day passed where I didn’t consume my beloved elixir.


The day that I came down with my dreaded disease, I drank my usual Diet Mountain Dew. I became sick shortly after that. Three weeks later, after I had semi-recovered, I tried to reestablish the habit of my daily Dew. However, when I walked over to the refrigerated case and reached out my hand for the Mountain Dew, something strange happened. I was overcome with a horrible feeling. Suddenly, Mountain Dew was extremely unappealing to me. The thought of drinking it made me feel nauseous. I closed the case and walked away. I’ve never had a Diet Mountain Dew since. I have tried, but the same feelings have stopped me in my tracks.


Apparently, the neurological pathways in my brain strongly linked my ill feelings with my favorite drink. It was now ingrained forever in my brain. My memory now immediately registered the sensations that I had experienced during this time and my miserable feelings of sickness were intertwined forever with Mountain Dew.


The other day, I was working out at the gym when a woman stopped me. She told me she was impressed that she always sees me at the gym when she herself struggles to even show up. She liked the way that she looked when she worked out but it certainly wasn’t enough motivation to get her there. I immediately understood how to solve the problem.


You see, being motivated by your appearance is not enough to keep you going back to the gym. The true secret is in finding the exercise experience pleasurable. If you link bad feelings to working out, you’re doomed. It’s as simple as that. However, if you work out hard enough to release endorphins in your body, you will begin to like the feeling you have when you’ve completed your workout. You will create new neurological pathways that link working out with your reward: feeling good. Therefore, you’ll be more inclined to do it again.


Consider what this concept can do for you in other parts of your life. What improvements do you need to make? Take a minute and consider the feelings that you conjure up when thinking about your needed change. What’s the first feeling that comes to mind? Now, create a positive reward that you can offer yourself as soon as you have completed this task. The first time will not be easy, but if done over and over again, you will begin to reap the benefits.


Do you find yourself procrastinating on any number of tasks? Whatever it is, take into account the sensations that you link to this responsibility. You can take control of this when you learn to link good feelings and sensations to your responsibility.


Just remember the Mountain Dew.






images dandelion


I worked at my desk for way too long and I couldn’t concentrate anymore.  On top of that, it was 85 degrees outside and I was itching to enjoy the beautiful weather.  I decided that I would go for a quick walk to clear my head. As I walked outside the front door and looked around, I marveled at the front yard. It was as if I was seeing it for the first time.


I noticed that there were some weeds cropping up in one of the flowerbeds, so I decided to delay my walk and take care of it.  I looked around and noticed the lush green grass and the flowered trees. As I neared the front of the house, I spotted it.  There, in the middle of a nicely manicured bed, was the biggest weed that I had ever seen. It had a very thick stem and a large yellow flower. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the flower/weed was at least 5 feet high. If you’re wondering if I’m confused and that it really was a flower, I can 100% assure you that it was a weed.


As I stepped over to the gargantuan weed, I wondered how I had missed it for so long. Much to my dismay, this 5-foot behemoth was not hidden behind bushes.  This flower/weed was not obscured from any vantage point in the front yard.  How was it possible that this weed went unnoticed by me?


I grabbed it and yanked hard, pulling it out of the ground. I ceremoniously carried the weed to the trashcan and threw it out.  On my way, I looked around to see if anyone was watching me.  In my mind, I wondered how many neighbors had obviously noticed the weed and were taking bets on when I was going to finally do something about it.


As I went for my walk, I wondered how I could have left my house numerous times during the day and driven back into the driveway without ever noticing the obvious. I mean, it was HUGE and in plain sight. I decided that the reason that I didn’t see the weed was because I didn’t want to see it.


As humans, we are wired to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. If you think about it, everything in life comes down to these two things.  Let me tell you a secret— I don’t like working in the yard.  To me, it’s a pain. I’ve been putting off planting my flowers and other yard work for sometime now. As I thought honestly about this, I realized that I hadn’t noticed the obvious because it was painful for me.  I avoided looking at the yard at all costs. This way, I didn’t have to feel any pain or discomfort and could go about my life. Yes, this sounded like denial to me.


As I faced the music, I made a commitment to change this negative pattern.  No matter how much progress you make in handling issues in a proactive manner, now and then, you can easily revert back into negative patterns from your past.  So here’s you’re wake-up call— is there something in your own life that you’ve been conveniently avoiding?  Are there some weeds that you need to attend to in your own garden?


I have faith that you’ll take the steps to move forward in your life.