Sunday, March 29, 2009

Speaking Beyond Your Fears

I won't say anything about time evaporating, as it's the end of March, but we blink and it's gone.
So the way I look at it, I have to make the right choices in real time.

I'm always amazed at how people put things off to "One day" or "I'll do it later" and they never really get to it. I have more people come to me not wanting to have any regrets. Well, not regretting anything is easier than you think. Just do things, don't just think about them. Change your focus in conversations and look at life as a clean canvas to paint the most glorious picture on. Close your eyes, see it and then make it happen!

People are putting things off because of the economy, because of lack of resources or not enough time. thing is, you can't buy back time. You can ask yourself (and answer) the question "When is the right time?" But while you do that, look at the ramifications of putting it off for the 'right' time as well.

And while you're at it, remember along with every choice you make, every conversation you have will shape your future.


Everything you share is processed by the person listening through their own story. Speak to what they fear most, and they'll fear more. Focus on what you fear the most and you'll fear more, for you and the other person on the other side of the conversation. If you start the conversation complaining about the economy and the difficult working and living environment, everything you say from that moment on will be filtered through that first sentence.

There are people thriving in these less than optimal times. Why? Because they see beyond the immediate and each choice on its own to what they want to create and grow into for their future.
Those people are successful people.

It's not about ignoring what's happening in the world; it's about choosing your place within it.
I love this quote: "I endeavour to be wise when I cannot be merry, easy when I cannot be glad, content with what cannot be mended and patient when there is no redress." - Elizabeth Montagu

Puts things in perspective, don't you think?

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome 138th country subscriber from the Dominican Republic!

***Book to take note of: Unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology fills that void.Visual thinking is one of the most powerful ways to get the point across, when done right. This book is a must have for anyone who has to get the point across in a memorable, powerful way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top Ten Sleep Thieves

A colleague of mine Ramiro Ponce wrote this piece which I thought brilliant.

With his permission I am honoured to share it with you. Please share your insights and perspectives...

Next time someone desperately comes to you asking for some “sound advice” during hard times, beware. The person may be suffering from “Sleep Thieves”.

The” Top Ten Sleep Thieves”, as I call them, are derailed, tempting thoughts/behaviors we all have during hard times of perceived or real loss - times of anxiety and stress. Far from being abnormal, they are very natural ways in which our mind tries to deal with uncertainty when there are no clear signals or direction indicators “outside” about what’s best to do in the face of it (uncertainty).

Overcoming them usually requires increasing self- awareness, and some kind of re-framing of the context/situation, re-sizing it and daring to ask for help. Phrases like “There's life after “X” - fill in your organization-, “there are more fish in the sea” or questions like “what's the worst that could happen? are colloquial, practical ways to stimulate this re-sizing of the problem. Almost always immediate relief is experienced because we touch base with reality again.

The arguments presented in the "Reflection" part of the section below may be useful for you when you –as leader or team member - are confronted with questions which look for certainty in uncertain times. E.g. "Look, they're offering me this job, but I'm afraid to leave now. On the other hand, things here are just worsening. What should I do?" Because anxiety caused by uncertainty doesn't necessarily decrease with certainty, you must NOT answer the question, but rather stimulate the other person to look for the indicated context.

For example, you could answer: "Well, what would you say your scenarios are? Leaving / Staying? Things go wrong / things go OK.? Try mapping your options on a 2 x 2 table, analyze them and decide".

When the Thieves are active, day to day managerial interventions of this type can make all the difference between the success or collapse of the transition process in the organization. Of course the concepts underlying the “thieves” presented here are not new. But systematizing them in an accessible, practical, and usable way may add real value to you in your daily role as a coach, leader or team member.

Thieves and Reflections

1. Rush decisions: “I’d better leave at once…”
Reflection: What if things improve around here? Imagine scenarios, don’t decide immediately

2. Extreme “Love”: “I won’t be as capable as I’ve been here at any other place…”
Reflection: There’s life after “X” (this organization)”. Write down your skills inventory/look outside

3. Clogged brain: “I can’t even think…my mind is in blank” …”
Reflection: What’s the simplest scenario I can visualize? Start with ANYTHING.

4. Dejection: “What’s the use of going on?”
Reflection: Has giving up on oneself ever brought something good to anyone? Begin picking up your own pieces. Pay attention again to those “little things” (personal appearance, punctual again, and so on)

5. Hostility: “I won’t strain myself anymore... to hell with all this…”
Reflection: Is this the way I want to be remembered here? How you leave is more important than how you arrived.

6. Detachment: “This is business as usual…no need to be dramatic”
Reflection: It’s OK to feel and be even-tempered. It’s not OK to be indifferent and lower one’s performance.

7. Denial: “Me?... I’m just trying to help!”
Reflection: Dare to ask your team mates: How do you see me? Am I sometimes part of the problem? Ask for specific examples.

8. Bargaining (with life, God, your boss…): “If they only gave me more money, training, time…”
Reflection: Is there a chance to drive forward sensibly if you look always at the rear mirror? Go; move ahead, even if the scenario is far from ideal.

9. Temporarily going down: “Maybe it’s me, I’m not good enough. Oh my… oh my…”
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • How did I get out of similar situations?
  • Who can help me?

10. Control Need “I have to turn this around (on my own)”.
Reflection: Is this really under my control?
Look around you, verify common symptoms of loss in other people, find a shared positive goal.

Ramiro Ponce is ICCO Board Member, Executive Coach, Engineer-Psychologist and develops leaders and their teams throughout the Americas.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Taking Stock of What's Happening

There’s a lot going on these days. People are stressed, no two ways about it. I’m observing a ‘tired’ group of executives whose staff are looking to them to ‘fix’ things. Well, no one has a magic wand, or… does everyone have a magic wand?

It’s the latter as you are your own magic wand.

It’s time to take stock of what’s happening that’s within your control and perspective and make necessary and wanted changes accordingly.

“Stress is the body and mind’s response to any stressful pressure that disrupts the balance in the mind or body. It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment. As a response, stress expresses itself as resistance, tension, strain or frustration, that throws off our physiological and psychological equilibrium, keeping us out-of-sync and stressed-out.” - Doc Childre and Howard Martin

What magnifies stress even more is when one dwells upon that which upsets them in the first place, rather than creating a future they want. If you dwell on that which you don’t want, you will continue on that downwards spiral.

So what are some key points to that magic wand?
  1. Stop doing what you don’t want to do. I’m not talking about your job. I’m talking about every day things you got talked into or felt you were obliged to do. Do things because you really, really want to do them. When it comes down to it, if you stopped doing things out of obligation, chances are most people won’t even notice anyways. Doing things you don’t want to do depletes your energy and when you’re stressed you don’t have a heck of a lot of extra energy to waste.
  2. Guess what I’m about to say! Start doing what you want to do. Fill a part of your days with things you love to do. When you’re doing what you’re passionate about you’ll be energized, optimistic and a downright pleasure to spend time with. Know what that’ll do? People will want to spend more time with you and if you’re having fun, stress flies out the window.
  3. Speaking of which….find someone you want to spend time with and visa versa. That goes for just being, ‘playing’, talking, mentoring, sharing and brainstorming. That best friend, partner, reality checker…someone who will accept you at your best and worst and visa versa. It’s been proven if you don’t have that close friend and feel like you’re in this life on your own, you’ll be wearing the problems of the world on your shoulders. Why in the world would you want to do that?
  4. Don’t let doubting Thomases talk you out of your dreams and while you’re at it, make those dreams really big! It’s hard to be stressed when you’re working towards your dreams.
  5. Need less. I’m not saying want more. That’s different. Needing things because you want them is a whole other ball came. Wanting things and being able to have them now and then is a gift. Needing them and being unhappy until you get them will shift the focus away from what you truly have right now…and to appreciate it all.

There's more but I think this will give you a good head start.

I’ll leave you with this….

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” - Hans Selye


Donna Karlin