Déjà vu All Over Again

Do you ever get stuck in a vicious cycle that’s not producing the results you want? I’ve been there, more often than I’d like to admit. I can be having a civil conversation with a colleague. Suddenly, we’re at odds. How did that happen…again? And how can I prevent it from happening next time? 

I don’t think I’m particularly unusual. Many of us are stuck in cycles that feel like“déjà vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra put it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Amping Up Your Inner Champion

Am I the Only One Who’s Had This Experience?

 Do you second guess yourself when you’re faced with a new challenge? 

 Have lots of ideas but hold back and then criticize yourself for your ideas and for the fact that you held back? 

 Is your inner critic ever-present no matter how politely you ask him to mind his own business?

 If you answered a resounding “yes” to any of these questions, you’re in good company. Read more to find out what to do about it.

Add That Special Sauce to Your Team Culture

Ben, Keisha, and Dana are mid-level leaders in a large nonprofit that conducts environmental research. They have comparable positions in the company so they sometimes meet to touch base and compare notes. Today, they’re meeting two days after a day-long team building retreat the senior leadership has organized to strengthen team alignment. This is the second such retreat so far this year. They are having an honest conversation about the impact of the retreat.

Read more for their perspective and for additional suggestions about positively influencing team culture.

How Top Leaders Grapple with Thorny Dilemmas

Would you rather breathe in? Or breathe out? Quick, pick one! Okay, now you’re stuck with that decision…

Kind of ridiculous, right? Obviously, you need to breathe in and breathe out to stay alive. And yet we often confront thorny dilemmas as if we must choose one way forward.

As a seasoned leader, you’re lucky to get the problems other people haven't solved. Many of these have no clear cut, “one size fits all” solution. They tend to be multi-faceted and messy. 

Making headway on these kinds of problems calls for another way of thinking. You might call it “both/and thinking.” It’s also been called “Polarity Thinking.”

Read more to find out how Polarity Thinking helps top leaders grapple with thorny dilemmas.

Communicate Clearly for Reliable Results

The other day, one of my coaching clients shared something thought provoking. Here’s what she said:

“My team complains that they don’t always know what’s expected of them. They don’t say it flat out, but I get the sense that I’m not always clear in my communication. Sure, we have detailed job descriptions and an official org chart. But expectations are communicated day-to-day in response to changing circumstances. That’s where I need to get stronger.

How can I get better at communicating my expectations to the team?”

Great question. Is that something you wonder about, too?

How to Jump-start Stalled Goals

Can You Relate to This?

In the last days of 2017, did you set a goal for yourself? 

Maybe it was big, like a juicy promotion. Maybe it was a proposal for an exciting new service that you intended to pitch to your boss last February. 

Whatever it is, it was super important when you set the goal. Yet here it is, the end of 2018 and you haven’t gotten traction. Every time you’ve thought about tackling it, you found other things to distract you from working on it. 

Does that sound familiar? Or is it just me?

Simple Practices That Work Wonders to Improve Teamwork

What keeps you up at night?

If you have teammates, it's most likely one of them. Maybe it’s more than one person. You lie awake thinking about Jennie. How did you avoid addressing her tardiness yet again? And what are you going to say when you do? Why does Warren regular undermine you at staff meetings? And what can you do about it?

Many of my coaching conversations are about working in teams. But it doesn't have to be that difficult. Sure, you've got to address serious team issues head-on. But fostering a positive team culture can help reduce negative team interactions in the first place.

3 (Almost) Magical Tricks to Zap Stress, Solve Conflicts, and Ease Through Life

Remember this scary experience from childhood?

You hear a sound. It’s not loud but it’s unfamiliar. Your heart starts to beat faster. You think you should go investigate but you’re scared. What if it’s something really bad?

As grown-ups, we experience the magic trick, too. 

Perhaps you get yourself worked up about a conversation with a colleague that you fear will turn into a conflict. You even put off having the conversation to avoid the conflict. Then you think, “How ridiculous, just do it!” And all at once the tension is gone, the conversation goes smoothly and you even have a laugh together. 

How does that happen? 

Suddenly, the sound is gone, and the air feels familiar again. You feel calm and safe.

It’s like a magician appeared and waved a wand. “How did that happen?” you may wonder. The magician eyes you slyly and says, “Sleight of hand, my dear. Anyone can do it. Do you want me to teach you?”

Stop Telling Your Friends How Busy You Are!

Sound Familiar?

Imagine this…

You’re at the airport, heading on a last minute business trip. You’re distracted, mulling over the meeting agenda. Another part of your brain is angsting over what you’ve forgotten in your haste.

Waiting in the security line, you notice an acquaintance standing nearby.  It’s someone you’ve had a couple of intriguing conversations with, and you’re curious about getting to know him better.

He makes eye contact, then asks, warmly, “What’s up?”

Without even thinking, you blurt, “I’m soooo busy!”

The 4 Best Ways to Get Your People Excited About Doing Their Job

Charlotte’s Conundrum

Charlotte dreads her upcoming meeting. She has to give performance feedback to James, one of her longtime employees. He’s frequently late on project deadlines; each time he has a different—and plausible—explanation. But there’s a pattern affecting his relationships with his co-workers and she has to deal with his behavior.

Quick Fixes and Cat Treats

Are you guilty of taking a “ready, fire, aim” approach to the problems you face? It’s not uncommon, especially when you experience strong pressure to find solutions quickly.  Being solution-oriented is a good thing but that’s often equated with taking action without really understanding the nature of the problem.

The thing is­—and you’ve probably experienced this—when we jump to solutions too quickly, we might make the problem go away in the short run. Unfortunately, it often comes back again, along with a whole host of unintended consequences that make matters even worse.

Build a New Habit & Achieve Your Goals

It’s that time of year when we often review our accomplishments and set goals for the coming year.  It’s a natural time to wind down, take stock and do some reflection. Maybe you have a challenging new fitness goal in mind, or want to up your game as a leader. Or it could be that you’re determined to start saving for the anniversary trip you’ve thought about for quite some time.

Whatever your goals, it’s easy to get derailed midway between aspiration and achievement.  To be honest, it’s easy to get derailed before even getting started.

3 Keys to Coaching Up

“I love everything we’ve been doing together but I wish somebody was coaching my boss. She could certainly learn some of these skills!” exclaimed Diana.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“She’s just impossible. She never listens to me when I go to her with a problem, she just tells me what to do and then goes back to checking email.”

“That sounds frustrating. What have you tried?”

“Tried? Are you kidding? I’ve had to come up with major workarounds so I can get things accomplished without dealing with her. It’s hopeless!”

The Twitter Feedback Challenge

First, a confession: I have no idea how to use Twitter. Actually, it scares me. What will happen if I put a hashtag before a phrase? What’s this about “retweeting”? What the purpose of retweeting and where does it go? 

Prompted by a news story in which the commentator stated that Twitter is the best way to propagate a message across all social media, I decided to figure out how to use it.  

The other morning after breakfast, I logged onto my account (yes, I do have an account!). To my surprise and consternation, I discovered there are 20 people following me. Who knew? And what is my obligation to them? That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I have no idea how it happened!

But I digress, slightly. My theme for this post is actually how to give good feedback in 19 words or less.

Avoid Falling Back on Old Patterns

Does this sound familiar?

You’re part of a team, family or group that works well together, for the most part. But you’ve got some relationship dynamics that could be improved.

Maybe you avoid conflict but then let unsaid thoughts and feelings fester. Or habitually find yourselves in a blame-defend dynamic.

Whatever the dynamics, if you could successfully address them, you’d all be getting along great, and you’d accomplish wonderful results together.

But, there’s a catch.

The Secret to Successful Delegation

Everybody in a leadership role knows the importance of delegation. If you’re doing everyone else’s work, you’re not doing your own. Plus, well thought out delegation is a surefire way to develop your people. You need to give them a chance to try new things and grow professionally.

From a purely self interested perspective, effective delegation gives you a chance to recover, work reasonable hours and get to your kids’ sports games.

If the benefits of delegation are so well understood, why is this the topic of a lot of my coaching? Why do leaders report that delegation is such a challenge for them?