We Choose Our Moods

“I’m just in a bad mood.”

Sometimes you know why. Things didn’t go well at work. Something didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped. Someone said something that didn’t sit well. The boss is in a bad mood. You name it.

Sometimes you don’t know why. You can’t put your finger on it. You just know it’s there.

Either way, the bad mood creeps into your being, seeps into your thoughts, causes you to tense up, be on guard, see the world through a dim and shadowy lens.

We like to think we haven’t chosen this bad mood. We like to think it just happened. We like to point to external circumstances. We can justify the mood: “If you only knew what’s going on in my life, you’d be in a bad mood, too!”

Circumstances are realities. Moods are choices. Yes, we might slip into a bad mood inadvertently. But we don’t have to stay there.

Moods determine our perception of how much control we have.

Recognize that the mood is likely because something in your circumstances is not what you want. You aren’t happy with the “reality” of what’s going on in your world. You have evaluated the circumstances as wrong, bad, scary, unfair, etc.

A negative evaluation invites negative emotions—emotions that will deplete your ability to think strategically, creatively, innovatively, collaboratively. You are now at a disadvantage. The circumstances are now on top of you instead of you being on top of them. Like being on a teeter-totter with a 1,000-pound gorilla, you’re stuck up in the air, powerless to do anything because of the imbalance of weight.

The paradox is that if you choose a different (good) mood, you have greater power, greater weight, greater grounding. And from that good mood, you activate a different part of your brain, your body relaxes, and you engage with the circumstances (and life) with greater ease.

What mood will you choose?

What are your strategies for leaning toward a good mood?

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Tension—Is It Expanding or Contracting You?


Where are the tensions in your life? How do they show up? Are they masquerading as…

* Relationship conflict (differing opinions, methods, values)?
* Perceived lack of resources (money, time, ideas)?
* External forces (such as bosses or customers) that want you to do things with your time that don’t seem meaningful to you?

Tension is defined as an external force applied to an object to stretch or extend it. If we push against the tensions in our lives (e.g., differing opinions), we contract and shut down. We feel threatened by opinions that are different from ours. We become smaller or quieter in some way…we lose our truest voice.

If we allow the tensions to stretch and shape us, mission accomplished. We are bigger, stronger, deeper, more solid. We are more ok with who we are, and ok with others being who they are.

Move with, and not against, the tensions in your life.

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Are You Coaching a Micromanager?

Confession: I just micromanaged a relationship, and it did not end well. Here are some insights from my experience!

What is micromanaging?

It’s insisting on things being done our way because our way makes us feel comfortable, safe, and in control. It makes us feel like we can know what the outcome will be. It’s a way of managing stress, or perceiving that we are managing the stressors of the unknown, ambiguity, risk.

He has gotten where he is because he’s been successful doing it his way. And yet, this is also an opportunity for the micro manager to grow as a leader who knows how to tap other peoples drinks, different from his, to bring something bigger and could be accomplished on his own.

What are the unintended consequences of micromanaging?

When we micromanage, we diminish others. We send a message that says ‘you aren’t smart enough,’ ‘my way is better,’ or ‘I don’t trust you.’ Or, we send a message that says, ‘hierarchically, I am above you, better than you, more powerful than you.’

When we micromanage, we also diminish our options. We see our one way of doing things, which shuts down our creativity, brainstorming, and engagement with others to hear their ideas and solutions.

How to use coaching skills to move forward.

First, apply compassion. The micromanager (whether you or your client) has good reason to micromanage. Our motivations are often bathed in good intentions. We want to help. We want to be thoughtful. Or maybe it’s that we want others to trust us and have confidence in how smart we are.

You may ask, “What if I am older and wiser and more experienced than the person I am trying to micromanage?” In these situations, apply curiosity. Ask the other person, “What are your thoughts about [x]? … How would you approach [y]?”

When coaching a leader who is micromanaging, use active listening. For example:

“I hear some concerns about letting them do it differently than how you want it done … like they’re not respecting you in doing it your way … or it’s not going to be as efficient done their way … and you’ve got these deadlines that you’re juggling.”

Ask several curiosity questions, and leave plenty of silence and space for reflection and answers between the questions. For example:

* Sounds like you want it done your way. …

* What are the risks of having them do it a different way? …

* How would you manage those risks? …

* What message are you wanting to send when you tell them to do it your way …

* And what message do you think they are actually receiving? …

* How is that impacting things?

Letting go of control increases your options, deepens relationships, and empowers the people around you!

Our next Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach program begins September 7th. Contact Rachel Grima at Rachel@theacademies.com or 559.547.8200 if you are curious to learn more!

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How To Handle Uncertainty

How do you handle uncertainty? How do your clients handle uncertainty?

Uncertainty comes in all shapes and sizes:

> Will there be enough paycheck at the end of the month?

> Will we make our financial goals at the office?

> Will so-and-so fly off the handle when I deliver negative feedback to him?

Uncertainty is often fraught with worry, anxiety, and worst-case scenarios. We can project into the future an outcome—usually negative—for how the situation will resolve.

And as we project negative into the situation, we subtly tell our brain to be on the lookout for those negative things. And, voila, the self-fulfilling prophecy takes effect.

In coaching, support your clients to learn how they best manage uncertainty. Here are a few ideas:

> Reframe the uncertainty as “opportunity.”

> Visualize yourself being successful in the various ways the situation might play out.

> Brainstorm how your strengths support you in walking through the uncertainty.

> Use mindfulness and observational techniques, such as “I am curiously noticing that I’m projecting a negative outcome for the future. I am now choosing to envision a positive outcome.”

> Breathe deeply. Breathe again. One more time.

Try on a few of these ideas today for any uncertainty you’re facing. Enjoy!

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Hanging on to the Negatives?

Do the people you live with, work with, or coach cling to negativity? If so, there may be a few reasons they do. Consider these possibilities:

Payoffs: What are the payoffs of negativity in someone’s life? Perhaps it’s a sense of martyrdom, or maybe the person enjoys being the center of attention because of the drama associated with negativity.

Perceptions: The perception that they won’t receive the empathy or relationship we need from others to feel heard, supported, or significant.

Comfort zones: If negative emotions are the norm, shifting to positive can be uncomfortable and scary. Emotions are part of our human nature, both positive and negative. But elongating negative emotions is a learned behavior, which, thankfully, can be unlearned!

Confusion: We may be confused about how long it’s “acceptable” to experience negative emotions—the bigger the trauma/loss, the longer it can take to recover.

If negative emotions are hanging on too long, be reflective and curious about whether any of the above may be at play. Negative emotions should never be cuddled, cherished, or treasured because they end up draining us of our ability to think clearly, feel good, and take strategic action.

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Using 3 Brain States to Connect with Others

I watched an interesting video by educator Becky Bailey who discusses “three states of the brains” that impact our behavior. She outlines them and their functions as follows:

Survival State: This is the brain in “freeze” of the proverbial fight-flight-freeze response. It is concerned with survival—protection, safety. When we are in survival state, we are not engaging the smartest part of our brain.

Emotional State: This is the brain in the “fight-flight” mode. Our emotions hijack us from thinking clearly in this state. We say and do things that we later regret because emotions have gotten the better of us. We are often thinking of ourselves in this state—preserving our reputation, protecting our financial resources, defending our rights, etc.

Executive State: This is the brain in “flow-flourish” mode. Here, the prefrontal cortex is engaged, such that we think more clearly, creatively, and collaboratively. However, if we do not feel safe or emotionally connected, our executive state kicks into plotting, scheming, and protecting.

With an awareness of these three brain states, we can better understand how to connect with others, whether they be family members, coworkers, bosses, employment interviewers, clients, etc.

To address the Survival State in others, help them feel SAFE:

How do we help someone feel safe? It’s tough, because we cannot control the other person’s thoughts or feelings. But we can use body language, tone of voice, facial expressions that will cue the person to sense that they are safe with us.

To address the Emotional State in others, SERVE:

We serve others by understanding what their needs are… and, to the degree it is appropriate for us to engage, serve them in meeting those needs. For example, if interviewing for a  job, asking the interviewer: “What are your top 3 priorities for this position in the nex 6 months?” or if speaking to an employee, “What resources do you need to complete this project on time?” This conveys that you will add to and not drain the relationship.

To address the Executive State, SOLVE:

We solve by being strategic, collaborative, and action-focused. Strategic involves being curious about the bigger picture, as opposed to having a narrow-minded, myopic view of the situation. Collaborative means to engage others’ strengths in the process—e.g., “Jane, I know you’re great at Intellection—what ideas have you been chewing on about this project?” Action-focused involves taking actions, which can include thinking differently, managing mood better, and/or executing on ideas.

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4 Positives of Negatives

The “negatives” in our lives—negative circumstances, people, thoughts, feelings, habits—are rarely things that we would choose or embrace. And yet, they show up. And the longer we try to ignore them, the longer they tend to stay.

If we flip the negatives upside down and look for the positives in the midst of them, we can diffuse and dissipate the effects of the negative. Here are four ideas to reframe and flip negatives into positives:

 

Clarification/Motivation

Negative emotions often tell us that something isn’t right or that something is missing that you personally value. For example, if you have a boss who is pressuring you to work a lot of overtime on a regular basis, you can notice your negative emotion of anger or frustration as a flag that says, “wait a minute; I need to set better boundaries for myself because when I don’t, it affects my resilience, creativity, health, etc.”

Evolution/Solution

Maybe you’ve felt the negative emotion of embarrassment or shame from a mistake you made—perhaps you felt you did not do your best or you did not measure up. With the Evolution/Solution idea, the negatives could be an invitation to learn a new skill or try out different behaviors.

Rejection Protection/Course Correction

Many of us have experienced the pain of not getting a job we wanted. This can often be life leading and guiding us toward a different path. For example, if someone does not get a long-hoped-for job promotion, perhaps it will be the impetus to pay attention to another long-held desire, such as starting a business.

Activation/Generation

Negatives can be a reminder, cue, or trigger to activate or generate positive emotions. For example, if you have a coworker who complains a lot, use the person’s negativity as a cue for your own positivity—to feel gratitude, love, pride, etc.

Enjoy!

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The Brain Science of Not Having People on Your Side

 

When our coaching clients feel excluded, or not part of the “in” group, the same region of their brain is activated as when they experience physical pain.

So whether your client bumps her shin into the corner of a coffee table or bumps her ego, the same part of her neocortex—the dorsal anterior cingulate—will light up. So says professor of social neuroscience John T. Cacioppo in his book Loneliness.

That means that when your client doesn’t make the interview short list for her dream job or her boss quietly omits her when it comes to asking for ideas and opinions from the team, your client’s brain will light up with signals that say “I am in real pain.”

What else happens when we experience that feeling of not being accepted? Cacioppo’s research reveals some sobering impacts:

  •    Our cognitive capacity diminishes (more so for strategic thinking than for memorization of rote information).
  •    Our emotions take a dip (or crash).
  •    Our behavior reflects less concern for the future consequences of our actions, and is more interested in immediate gratification.
  •    And all of these things actually change the way our DNA is expressed, such that it impacts our immunity and our heart health.

In other studies by sociologist Robert Weiss and social psychologist Roy Baumeister, research participants who were purposefully manipulated to feel disconnected and excluded were:

  •    Less willing to donate money to a student fund,
  •    Less willing to offer to help a stranger following a mishap staged as part of the experiment,
  •    More inclined to take irrational, self-defeating risks,
  •    More prone to procrastinate, indulging themselves with pleasurable tasks when they needed to be studying for upcoming tests
  •    More apt to over-eat (in a study by Cacioppo, it was discovered that the calories of fat consumed increased by 2.56 percent for each standard deviation increase in loneliness as measured by the UCLA Loneliness Scale

What’s a coach to do? Consider the following:

  •    Be that person to your client—be on their side (yet with radical candor); believe in them!
  •    Share some of the biochemistry science with your client behind what happens when we don’t have people on our side
  •    Explore who the client’s “bone marrow buddies” might be … or how to cultivate them
  •    Collaborate on self-compassion exercises the client can use to avoid self-sabotage!

Enjoy!

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Brain-Based Techniques for Success: Which paradigm is your client operating from?

Which paradigm is your client operating from?

As you know, using a brain-friendly approach in coaching is a passion of mine. I’ve heard from many people in our coach community who report an increase in confidence, competence, and compensation when using the brain-based techniques.

One of my favorites is discovering which paradigm your client is operating from. Is it a paradigm of “Threat” or is a paradigm of “Safety”? The graphic below outlines the differences between Threat and Safety. In Threat/Defend mode we perceive that we don’t have enough, that life is unfair, that things are broken, and more. In Safety/Create mode we perceive that we do have enough

What’s the default for you? For your team? For your clients? For your family members?

Tip: Tap into gratitude to quickly tip the scales from threat to safety!

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Never Ask Your Job Search Client THIS Question

“How’s your job search going?”

Seems innocuous enough, right? And to be sure, some days it may be a safe question. But more likely, it will elicit a number of emotions and thoughts that can put the client into the Red Zone (that state of fight-flight-freeze-frantic-fearful-frustrated). The question may lead to the client…

> Getting defensive

> Feeling shame

> Berating him/herself

Instead, here’s a suggestion for a different type of question that a colleague of mine at the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business came up with recently:

“How much of an opportunity have you had to focus on your search?”

The question can bypass or alleviate the potential for the defensiveness, shame, or berating. From here, the coach can follow with comments/questions such as:

> You’re in the right place now… let’s look at how to get some traction going.

> What’s worked best so far? … let’s look at how to leverage that and add any other strategies as well.

Enjoy!

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Dealing with Downward-Spiral Memories

Memories can appear from out of nowhere. The brain can bring them up in 1/16th of a second. We may see, smell, hear, think, taste, or feel something and it mysteriously serves up a memory that discourages and derails us.

When that memory is negative, consider this sequence of steps so that it doesn’t undermine you or keep reoccurring:

Greet It
Don’t deny or tamp down the negative memory. Note that “greeting” a memory is very different than “welcoming it with open arms”! Simply be reflective and aware that the memory is there.

Give it a New Label—Positive, Compassionate, Developmental
Relabeling negative memories can help keep them from re-appearing. It’s as if the old memory will stay there until you do label it with something positive, compassionate, and developmental in nature. Perhaps this is because the brain has a positivity bias. If you refuse to re-label the memory as positive, you’re working against your biological nature. Once the label is positive, the memory doesn’t need to keep coming back.

For example, the old label might be: “this situation was embarrassing.” The new label might be: “This situation is where I learned that I was only trying to protect myself by turning to [name the ineffective behavior], which didn’t really give me what I’d hoped for. I now know that I can respond differently if that happens again.”

Giftwrap the Re-labeled Memory
Now that the memory is no longer negative, wrap it or cushion it with a positive emotion, e.g., gratitude, peace, love, etc.

Go to a Strength
Finally, handpick one of your core strengths that you’ll lead with if similar triggers re-appear that originally caused the negative memory. For example, if Strategy is one of your strengths, what will your strategy be for responding to triggers.

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Listen Responsibly! Heroin & Music Effects On Brain

Do you have a song that just sends you into the stratosphere?

I have a few…several from Adelle’s latest album…several from Maroon 5…several from Il Divo…and a number of classical pieces. When I cue these up, in a matter of seconds, I’m bouncing, smiling, and soaring.

And now we have scientific evidence of why that’s so.

Researchers at McGill University used a drug that dulls the ‘hedonic’ system of the brain, blocking specific opioid receptors—the same receptors that are excited by heroin.

They then played music to test subjects—pieces that would normally be described as their favorite songs—but with the opioid receptors blocked, the test subjects responded with little emotional reaction. “It’s not doing anything for me,” said one test subject, even though he knew he loved that particular song.

Bottom line: the phrase, “music is my drug,” is true.

So, be responsible and pump up your play list … on your next coffee break, on your commute, as you begin your next team meeting. A happy brain is a brilliant brain!

#ListenResponsibly

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How to Exit the Hamster Wheel of Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance—the discomfort that comes from holding two competing beliefs—can create a stall or standstill for your coaching clients.

It might show up in forms such as…

> A client who wants a career in the arts but has family/spouse/parents who are pushing for medicine/engineering, and yet the client wants to honor these people
> A client who knows he/she should be networking, but doesn’t make time for it
> A client who wants to work for Apple or Amazon or Goldman Sachs, yet doesn’t have the experience/competencies/GMAT to compete.

From a coaching standpoint, it’s important to stay curious and compassionate, and first observe the dissonance, such as:

> “The tension is there…you are leaning toward x career yet want to honor your parents.”
> “I get it…you know that networking is important yet how to find the time isn’t totally clear yet.”
> “It’s like it’s not adding up…you want X, while the recruiters want Y (a GMAT score of…).”

After naming the tension and getting some input from the client, follow with action strategies:

> “Let’s talk about how to reconcile that.”
> “Let’s explore some ways to make that happen / take control.”
> “Let’s strategize on how to lessen that gap / create a bridge-job plan.”

This helps the client to take steps to reconcile the dissonance and exit the hamster wheel!

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Evidence That You ALWAYS Have What You Need

I often say “You have everything you need, right now.” Sometimes, that statement can be hard to wrap our heads around because we are so conditioned to look for the MATERIAL evidence that we have what we need. But “everything you need” encompasses more than just the material. It is our thoughts that lead to the creation of the material, so let’s start there.

Think about your STRENGTHS. They are evidence of the ever-present “everything you need” in this world. Strengths are signs that we have what we need already, right in front of us, right here, right now. Strengths give us the tools to create, to strategize, to take action.

Whatever you might be facing today, look to your strengths. One of them will equip you to create the inspiration you need, the ideas you need, the action you need to take.

For example, here’s how a few different StrengthsFinder strengths apply if you are looking to dig yourself out a downward spiral:

>> Connectedness – “one who seeks to unite others through commonality” – Someone with the Connectedness strength could reach out to others to connect, refresh, and recharge.

>> Analytical – “one who requires data and/or proof to make sense of their circumstances” – Someone with the Analytical strength could objectively analyze his circumstances to recognize that one or two set of circumstances should not cause his viewpoint to be “universalized” to all circumstances.

>> Input – “one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use” – Someone with the Input strength could look up research studies on motivation, optimism, or future-mindedness to jumpstart motivation.

What strength will be your focus today?

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Julia Child Wasn’t Always Julia Child

I watched one of my favorite foodie movies this weekend, Julie & Julia. Based on Julia Child’s start in cooking and intertwined with blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child’s first cookbook.

Several lines in the movie caught my attention:

“Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child.”

If you’ve been stirred to do something big but think to yourself, “who am I to …” — remember that everyone who is famous today was not born famous (save a few royals or the progeny of a movie stars).

They all started somewhere. When Julia Child got married, she could barely boil an egg, or at least that’s what was portrayed in the movie!

“You have no real talent for cooking.”

This line of dialogue in the movie is attributed to a Mrs. Brassart, the head of the French cooking school Julia attended.

There will always be naysayers in our lives—people who think small, people who are jealous, people who are threatened by you.

When you encounter them, simply recognize the fear and scarcity in their thinking, consider whether their concerns might give you ways to improve, and then move on.

Julia Child loved food. Go do what you love. And you’ll be famous—or at least admired by yourself, as well as those who watch you do what you love.

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The Danger of “UNIVERSALIZING” Bad Circumstances

Universalizing is a process where we take one “bad” situation and allow it to seep into every circumstance. For example,

“I tripped over the dog this morning … the whole day will go badly.”

Or, “My manager was abrupt with me this morning … no one likes me.”

Or, “My team isn’t pulling together … I’m never going to be a great leader.”

If you (or the people you work with) have a tendency to universalize unwelcome circumstances, learn to isolate the situation. If something went “wrong,” name 10 other things that went “right.”

What we focus on grows. Your brain, at this very minute, is engaging in synaptic pruning.”

> The things that are focused on (e.g., the universalizing of all that is wrong) create synaptic connections that are strengthened and added to.

> The things that don’t get focused on (e.g., all the other good things that we don’t articulate or contemplate) get marked by particular proteins—those synpases in the brain are then “pruned.”

You’ve heard that “perception is reality.” Indeed, it is. Because our brains create more beliefs that support what we focus on.

Start universalizing the good, and you’ll experience more good!

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You Are Perfect. Right Now.

“I missed two items on the exam.” I heard this from a coaching student last week. He smiled and went on to say, “the perfectionist in me wanted to get 100%.”

I asked him, “How is missing two even MORE perfect than getting a perfect score?” This led to an interesting conversation that uncovered these possibilities:

> Perfection is present everywhere. Right here. Right now.

> Unexpected or unwanted circumstances cause us to learn, which causes us to grow.

> There is always more growth to be had. If we are not growing, we are stagnant, atrophying, boring.

> Perfection cues our brains to focus on: “I am enough. I have enough. There is always enough.”

> When we focus on the “enough” that surrounds us, we feel safe.

> Feeling safe allows us to feel better, which allows us to think better, which allows us to behave (take action) better, which allows us to get more of what we want.

How are your unexpected or unwanted circumstances actually “perfect” for you today?

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Share Your Message. Someone Needs to Hear It Today.

I have heard from several coaches recently who say they hesitate to blog or post. Why? Here were their reasons:

> “I don’t have anything new to say.”
> “I’m not as experienced as other people.”
> “There’s so much competition out there.”

At the root of these concerns is a sense that “I am not worthy … I am not enough … I am not needed.”

Seriously? Can you imagine saying those things to a client? You would never! So don’t say them to yourself either!

Get out there and share your message of hope and wisdom. And, if you DO have something to say that’s similar to what others have said, consider this:

> It’s the truth and needs repeated.
> You have a different sphere of readers than your colleagues.
> Your unique experiences shape your perspective, which shapes the way you say things.

I am writing today to repeat something you may already know but need to hear again:

> You are worthy.
> You are enough.
> You are needed.

Now get out there and share what’s on your heart!

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Invent A Holiday

pexels-photo-249209 (2)If you were to invent a holiday, what would you celebrate?

We just finished Valentine’s Day, and there are more holidays and celebrations on the 2017 calendar, to be sure.

I wonder how people came up with holidays in the first place! In some cases, the holiday may have formed out of simple moments of gratitude that grew over time (e.g., Thanksgiving). Others might be more intentional, such as with the loss of a magnificent person whom we want to remember (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr.).

If you were going to create a holiday or celebration, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL IT?

How would you celebrate it?

How would you make sure it didn’t become commercialized, filled with obligations and expectations?!

Chances are that your holiday is rooted in a VALUE that is important to you. When we pay attention to our values, we live in gratitude and creativity and ease. When we ignore our values, we find conflict and stress and frustration.

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How to (Literally) Create Good Coaching Chemistry

Glass-flasks-chemistry-lab-get-what-you-expect-expectationsIt is life-changing to have someone in your life who “gets you.” Someone who sees you and understands you and believes in you.

Tom Rath, in his book, Vital Friends, studied homelessness and was curious about what allowed some people to conquer such dire circumstances, while most did not. His research was eye-opening. Rath discovered that the homeless people who “made it out” had an answer to the poignant question: “Who in your life expects you to be someone?”

Take a moment right now and bring the person to mind that best fits this description in your life—someone who believes in you, expects you to be someone. Now, take the next 60 seconds to bask in the good feelings of remembering the impact this person has had on your life. Feel it in your bones. Feel it in your soul. Let it wash over you like a wave.

Congratulations. You just released oxytocin into your system. And you probably feel better as a result.

So is this just all warm-and-fuzzy nonsense? Science tells us otherwise. In various studies, oxytocin has been shown to:

  • Ease stress—Anxiety, stress and depression abates after injections with oxytocin.
  • Improve our ability to interact with others—Inhaling oxytocin significantly improved the ability of people with autism to interact with others and also reduced autistic individuals’ fear of others.
  • Foster generosity—Individuals who inhaled oxytocin were 80 percent more generous in deciding how to split money with a stranger, and the hormone seemed to affect their sense of altruism as well.
  • Induce sleep—Oxytocin released in the brain under stress-free conditions naturally promotes sleep. (And, let’s be honest, most of us don’t get enough of this!)

The other important brain-friendly consequence of oxytocin is that it relaxes us. Our body language loosens up, the tension in our face drains away, and our smile warms into a natural Duchenne smile. The people we are interacting with “read” all of this in both subconscious and conscious ways and, in turn, let down their guard, as well, creating more authentic and transformative coaching conversations.

Dose yourself with some oxytocin today and notice the difference it makes in your coaching connection!

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Make “V” Day, “Me” Day

brain heart shaking hands aligned coherence 123rf 15817148_sValentine’s Day – “V” Day – is good, right? It’s an opportunity to remind those around us of our love and appreciation.

But this Valentine’s Day, I’m also inviting myself to do something a little different. Instead of it just being “V” Day, I’m also making it “Me” Day…by loving myself.

This is NOT just about self-care, like having space to do the things that feed my soul.

This is more about absolutely loving who I am, how I’m wired, what makes me special. It’s about giving me the forgiveness and grace to not have it all figured out, to not be perfect, to not shame myself for the areas of my life that I haven’t gotten a gold star on.

That spells LOVE. Complete love. Real love. And the more I apply it to myself, the more I am filled to overflowing, and the more it spills out to those I live, work, and play with… such that they don’t feel the strictness by which I judge myself also morphing into an unspoken judgment about them, as well.

When we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, it sends the subtle message that we expect the same of others, even if we deny it. It’s an unintended consequence of shaming ourselves.

So this “V” Day, don’t forget to do a little lovin’ on yourself!

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Why Your Client’s “To Do” List Isn’t Getting Done

As a coach, you’ll find that most clients come to you with a goal. They also come with the expectation that a “To Do” list of strategic actions will be the bridge between where they are now and where they want to be.

And that is true…to a degree. The people you coach do need a “To Do” list to DO the things that will get them from point A to point B.

What’s also true is that they need a “To BE” list. Why? Because if they have a To Do list and the To Do list is not getting done (which is very likely, right? … they would not have come to you in the first place if they were already getting their to-do’s done), then we need to get at the root of what is stalling the To Do list!

First off, at the top of the To Do List, let’s add “Think differently.” Or better yet, “Feel differently.” When we feel differently (e.g., better), we think differently (e.g., better).

Then, create a To BE list. Here is my personal “To BE” list:

  1. Inspired.
  2. Self-Compassionate.
  3. In flow.
  4. Curious.
  5. Collaborative.
  6. Unrushed. And patient.
  7. Resilient.
  8. Self-Compassionate. (Yep, listed that twice on purpose.)
  9. Assured (that everything is working out for me.) Everything!
  10.  Grateful.

Start with yourself. What’s on your To BE list? Then try undergirding your To Do’s with your To Be’s and see what happens!

Enjoy!

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We All Lose When Your Brain Goes into “Duality” Thinking Mode

theacademies-ec067ae8-0708-4955-8f79-89d327ba61a6-v2Is your Brain in the mode of “Duality Thinking”? Duality thinking sounds like, “me vs you,” “us vs. them,” “one group vs. another.” We see Duality Thinking played out in teams, in business, in families, and more.

When you engage in Duality Thinking, you’re concerned about something that’s very different from how you are. Our brains are wired to see differences as threats, which only increases our sense of Duality, which down-spirals us into feeling more threatened.

The minute we feel threatened, we diminish our capacity to see different viewpoints. And we send off subtle signals in our facial and body language that we are a threat to others. Others then pull back, and the snowball of threat and defensiveness and disengagement snowballs.

The opposite of “Duality Thinking” is “Unity Thinking”: commonalities, shared humanity,  “you win means I also win,” “I win means you also win,” a universal abundance that is more than enough for all.

With Unity Thinking, we operate from a place of safety and curiosity. Our curiosity causes us to recognizes that someone simply thinks differently than someone else.

Don’t be threatened by someone being different from you. Be curious about the commonalities. And when it comes to reconciling two very contrasting thoughts, we can find unity in our shared humanity.

It comes down to the value of human life. If we can agree that the value of human life is the proverbial plumb line, that’s where we can reconcile differences, so that everybody wins.

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What Experience Is Shaping You?

03potterswheel400x282I started teaching a new coaching class recently, geared toward coaches in university/B-school settings. Co-facilitating with Ellen Bartkowiak, we did a fun icebreaker, asking this question:

What was your first job (beyond perhaps babysitting) and how did it shape you?

Everyone had fascinating answers, and I’ll share mine here.

I was 16, between my junior and senior year of high school, doing admin office work in a cantaloupe-packing shed. A few nights before the harvest season began, the shed mysteriously burned down (perhaps related to the fact that the company and the union were at loggerheads?!). The company was able to find a backup facility 10 miles away, but it was woefully antiquated, which meant working long, long hours, seven days a week. Some nights we didn’t finish until 9 or even 10pm, and then you were expected to be back the next morning around 7. The overtime pay was great, but it was exhausting.

My takeaway: I learned an agrarian work ethic that taught me about grit and served me well all these years as an entrepreneur. Sometimes too well. There have been days when I didn’t know when to quit. Thankfully, I have started to learn that pushing-pushing-pushing isn’t always the right answer.

We all have circumstances that shape us. Let each one shape you gently, so that it serves you, rather than you serving it.

What about you? What was your first job and how did it shape you? Tell us in the comments!

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The Next Time You Get an Urge To Say “BUT” When Coaching Someone, Don’t!

When you’re having a coaching conversation with a leader*, notice how many times he or she uses the word BUT. And then, notice how many times you use the word BUT.

When you hear BUT from your coaching client, in essence, that person is saying, “I like my way better.” Or, the underlying message may be “I don’t have time to do this” or “I don’t know how to do this” or “I’m afraid it will impact my reputation if I do this.”

And, when you hear yourself say BUT, in essence, what you are saying to the other person is: “You’re wrong. I want you to think like me. Agree with me. Do it my way.”

And then human nature takes over within the other person, and his/her brain says, “I don’t want to be wrong, or look like I’m wrong, or look like I’m too stupid to think of what you just thought of.”

So instead, try out one of these ideas the next time you get an urge to say “BUT” to one of your coaching clients:

“I hear that the frustration that so many things are getting in the way of achieving this goal of yours. It’s as if 90% of the pie is getting allotted to what’s getting in the way; and 10% of the pie is getting allotted to what you want differently. What might happen if you gave even 10% more to the what-you-want slice of the pie?”

Another coaching technique is to notice whether you, as the coach, are experiencing frustration about the client’s litany of yes-but’s. If so, consider this honest and authentic approach:

“Jane, I hear you. I hear your roadblocks and frustrations. It’s the predominant story-line—the star of the show in this Broadway production of your life. You came to coaching because you had some new goals. I could sit here and remind you of those, and I could hope that those reminders would put your goals back to center stage. That’s where I would personally love to see the storyline go.

“And, perhaps the more important question is, how do YOU remind yourself of what you really want? How do YOU make those goals the star of the show, instead of just an incidental extra?”

Remember: When coaching, never resist the resistance! Instead, be curious about it, explore it, and see what it is masking. It’s often a clue to great progress.

* This technique works regardless of the relationship, whether as a coach coaching a client, a leader leading a team, a manager managing an employee, a facilitator facilitating a workshop, a parent parenting a child, a spouse/friend relating to a spouse/friend, etc.

—Coaches: Join us for the next Certified Executive & Leadership Development Coach training program, starting November 2nd! More info: www.theacademies.com/celdc

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Coaching Strategies for the Employee Who is Not Ready for Promotion (But Thinks He/She Is)

climb-corporate-ladderIf you’re coaching employees within your organization who want to get promoted yet aren’t quite ready to get promoted, what do you do? The situation may stem from an employee who is a Millennial that wants to see promotions happen fast, or the employee may be someone who’s been with the company a while and feels that seniority should qualify him/her for a promotion.

And yet, something is missing—a skill set, a breadth of experience, a level of professionalism and discernment—that the employee either doesn’t see or doesn’t agree with. Assuming that motives, strengths, and interests for getting promoted have been discussed, consider some of these coaching strategies:

Coach using ICF #3 Establishing Trust:

[connect, show that you truly ‘get’ them] “I hear you when you say that it’s your turn, your time. And I hear the frustration that it’s not happening quickly enough.”

Note: It’s critical that you NOT follow this connection with the word BUT, as in “but your manager has a point” or “but you need to be patient.” The BUT basically says, “let me show you where you’re wrong” and destroys the connection you just made.

“Sounds like you’re fed up with getting plenty of opinions! What do you not want to hear at this point?”

Coach using ICF #7 Direct Communication:

“You mentioned your manager said you were ‘not ready’ and that you ‘just need more experience and to hang tight.’ What does ‘hang tight’ look like to you… [and] what does it look like to your manager?”

“Your response to the manager’s delay is also part of what he will be evaluating in terms of your readiness. What do you want him to see? … What would cause him to trust you? … What would cause you to trust him?”

Coach using ICF #8 Creating Awareness:

“How do you interpret his statement of ‘you’re not ready’?”
“And, how do you think your manager interprets that statement?”

“Sounds like you are interpreting this as punishment! What do you notice when you go there? … If you could play with giving him the benefit of the doubt, what does that open up for you?”

Coach using ICF #9 Designing Actions:

“So you’ve got a manager who is, as you say, ‘bad at developing people.’ How do you not let that get in the way of your success, without burning bridges or doing something rash?”

Learn strategies like this and more in our Certified Career and Talent Development Coach program. Starts Tuesday September 20th! More info at www.theacademies.com/cctdc

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Life’s Vice Grip, or Life’s Hugs?

2 little girls hugging happy friendship self-compassion 123rf 35601053_lHave you or your clients ever felt like Life had you in a “vice grip”? A vice grip is something unpleasant that you (or your clients) would love to get out of, and yet you can’t!

For example:

  • Uncertainty of any kind!
  • Bills that need paid and not enough money.
  • A relationship that’s causing angst.
  • A job that is killing you, but feeling like you can’t quit.
  • New skills that need mastered without the hope you can learn it all.
  • Important projects that need done and not enough time, focus, or energy to finish.

The vice grip can feel like an intersection of uncertainty, pain, fear, lack, and loss of control. You want things to change. You want it to be fixed. Or you wonder if it’s possible to be fixed. Or you wonder if anyone even knows what you’re going through, or cares.

Being a student of emotional intelligence, I’ve been acutely aware of how my current vice grip is causing me to react (I’ll skip the details—suffice to say that I can claim several of the bullets above … and I’m probably in good company!).

I vacillate between being nervous and scared, then kicking into action to control whatever controllables I can, then back to being nervous and scared, then wondering if things will work out, then back to being nervous and scared, then taking action, etc. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.

In the midst of all of this, I stumbled on an article about why hugs are important. Hugging allows us to relax, and enables us to be more resilient. The writer suggested an exercise, for example, that when a spouse comes home from work, the other spouse should greet the partner with a full-frontal hug—and hold the hug long enough until each feels the other relax. (Absent a spouse, look for a friend, family member, or even a pet to try this out—it works!).

And then I saw a bigger-picture connection. Maybe life’s vice grips are really Life’s full-frontal hugs—circumstances allowed into our lives that cause us to hold tight to our values, tap into our strengths, believe it will all work out . . . and relax.

And like the full-frontal hug exercise, we must hold on until we relax. And with that relaxation, we find the calm-connect and energy-action to meet the possibilities in front of us. With gratitude. With creativity. With perseverance. With love.

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Let the Problem Solve You

domino effect 123rf 5000396_sLife can be an unending series of challenges—often referred to as “problems.” On the work front, our problems may center on how to reach a revenue goal, how to find the right talent, how to resolve conflict, or how to find more time in the day.

It feels good to rise to the occasion and resolve an issue. Logical creatures that we are, we engage our brains in solving the problem. For example, when conflict arises because of a lack of communication, one “solution” might simply be to share the information more systematically. Continue reading

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A Positive Perspective on the Rat Race

man maze 123rf 12001021_sThe Rat Race usually conjures up images of a draining work routine, devoid of purpose and rife with pressures to deliver or be ditched.

No fun. And not good for our brain-body health either.

Here’s a different take on the Rat Race—one that could actually strengthen your brain health, as well as your work-life-leadership success.

UC Berkeley neuro-anatomy researcher Marian Diamond has studied the impact of the environment on brain development, and the likely link between positive thinking and immune health. Some of her research is described in Betty Friedan’s book Fountain of Age.

Diamond placed one group of rats in bare small cages by themselves; others were placed in larger cages holding 12 rats, with many objects and mazes to explore, climb in and out of, and manipulate. All were fed the same diet, but the “enriched environment” rats had the added element of tender loving care from the laboratory researchers. And, they had the objects in their cages changed every week.

Not surprising, the “enriched” rats showed a significant increase in the size of the brain in every dimension.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The maximum life span of a rat is 1,000 days, compared to 100 years in humans. Apparently Diamond’s rats in the bare cages rarely made it that long. But in another experiment, she took 766-day-old rats (equivalent to 75 human years) from the bare isolated environment and moved them into the enriched environment.

These geriatric rats became significantly smarter in learning how to make their way through a maze. Upon their death at around 900 days, their autopsied brains (despite the deterioration that had already taken place) showed increased thickening of the cortex compared to the isolated rats in the bare cages.

Too often, we perceive the ever-changing demands of our work environments as negatives—“it’s a Rat Race.” But what if the opposite is happening? Those demands and complexities can actually make your brain healthier (and cause you to live longer) when the perspective is that these are opportunities to:

> rise to the occasion and solve problems,
> connect and collaborate with others, and
> navigate through novelty using your strengths and creativity.

The next time you’re feeling stuck, embrace it as an opportunity for brain health and longevity!

NEXT BRAIN-BASED COACHING CLASS STARTS TUESDAY APRIL 26TH! www.TheAcademies.com/cbbsc/ or call 877.659.3769

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Be Like Einstein—Flunk Your Weaknesses

12891697_10207254038884206_6491111703156921347_oEinstein was brilliant, as we know. So brilliant that at the age of 16, two years earlier than his classmates, he sat for entrance exams to get into the prestigious Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich. But he flunked. Sort of. He excelled in the physics and mathematics segments, but he failed the non-science subjects.

Why is this relevant? We don’t need to… be well-rounded. We need to be brilliant. And brilliance comes when we do what we’re best at.

Friends, colleagues, and fellow executives:

* stop trying to be good at everything
* stop beating yourself up for not being good at everything
* stop comparing yourself to others (unless it totally inspires you)!

* start spending more time in your sweet-spot of strengths
* start using those strengths to determine how to off-load or lessen the importance of other tasks
* start acknowledging and enjoying your strengths … notice how they support you in making decisions … hand-pick one of your strengths to lead with as you take on an upcoming task.

There is a widely quoted saying about Einstein. He was once asked how many feet are in a mile. Einstein’s reply was:

“I don’t know, why should I fill my brain with facts I can find in two minutes in any standard reference book?”

Now there’s someone who knew how to play to his strengths and not get distracted with the detritus of details.

Enjoy your brilliance today!

www.TheAcademies.com | 877-659-3769

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50,000 THOUGHTS A DAY?

decisions concerns 3d white man 123rf 11949811_sEver try to tame your thoughts? There are reports on the internet that we think some 50,000 thoughts a day, apparently according to the National Science Foundation, but I haven’t found the research to back that up.

It did get me thinking though (okay, there’s 1 thought…only 49,999 more to go today). Our minds are incredibly distracted. Right now I’m thinking almost simultaneously:

 

> I hear my dog snoring
> The wash needs put in the dryer
> I’ve been sitting too long
> I need to stop & eat some protein (is that 1 or 2 thoughts?)
> I should be writing curriculum
> Maybe I am writing curriculum and just don’t know it
> I’ve been sitting too long (x2)
> I wonder when my husband will get home

(only 49,991 or 49,990 to go)

When we’re too distracted, we lose sight of what’s most important. We don’t make meaningful choices. And life is about mindfully meaning-making. Ergo, too much distraction = a dead life (is that an oxymoron)?

If we want alive lives, we need to focus. And the focus must be on the right things.

If we could make a great deal of our “50,000 thoughts a day” ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, ABUNDANCE, we would see abundance, feel abundance, live abundance. Abundance of creativity, time, relationship, resources, solutions, provision. Now there’s a thought.

What focus would make you feel alive today!

 

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Ask: How is This Tied to My Decision Making?

brain bubble maybe_ 123rf 37575287_sStuff happens. And it’s easy to think that things are just random incidents. Maybe so. Maybe not.

I was reading an article recently on the 7 Daily Habits of Great Leaders. One of the “habits” was to “Be Vulnerable”—specifically, own your mistakes. One of the best questions the author suggests in this regard is . . .

“How is this tied to my decision-making?”

Interesting question.

If your team member doesn’t deliver in the way you expected her to, “how is this tied to my decision-making?”

Maybe you didn’t explain expectations clearly. Maybe you need to work on accountability. Maybe you need to train differently. Maybe you need to look at putting the person into a role that better suits his strengths. Maybe you need to let the person go if all of the above have already been tried. Maybe…

If your prospective customer says ‘no,’ “how is this tied to my decision-making?”

Maybe the decisions could be that the customer will say yes down the road, maybe it’s not the right customer for you, maybe your explanation of relevant benefits could be tweaked, maybe it’s an opportunity to trust that the right customer is around the corner. Maybe…

Of course, never beat yourself up over the “Maybe’s.” Be curious, be reflective, and be experimental in how you might do things differently.

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_fberti‘>fberti / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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A Free Technique for 7% More Brain Power

meditating-brain zenUp your alpha waves! A recent study from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine found that introducing a low dose of electric current can enhance the alpha brain wave activity and boost creativity by 7.4%.

+7%

Forget the $40/bottle jelly fish supplements for a “sharper mind.” Just be mindful.

While the UNC researchers used artificial electrical stimulation to boost creativity, you don’t need to go to a laboratory to make it happen. Fortunately, there are other less-invasive methods. The researchers identified meditation and mindfulness as effective. Both are free and easy. Well, maybe not so easy.

We are easily distracted. This is actually a learned state. We have learned to allow our minds to hop, jump, skip, float, and flit from thought to thought to thought to thought. All. Day. Long.

Answer: Meditate.

If meditation is outside of your norm, start small. Spend 1 minute (now, or very soon) continually drawing your attention to the word “abundance.” Ignore that you probably can’t entirely focus on “abundance” for a full minute (just yet) … make any distracting thought a gentle cue to come back to the thought of “abundance.”

calming-mind-brain-wavesTry it. Just 1 minute. Then notice what you notice. Most likely, a greater awareness of abundance.

Research reveals that meditation adds to the cortical thickness in your brain, which enhances your ability to connect different pieces of information in new and creative ways. Voila. You just made yourself 7% smarter/more creative.

 

Photo credit: http://www.freemeditation.com/articles/2009/09/10/calming-the-mind/

 

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Life Change Lessons Learned from Daylight Savings Time

10930116_10207131958432271_8184802817037398513_nThe clocks changed one week ago today. Do you notice it still? Chances are you did for the first day or two, but by now, you’re probably in the swing of things. You barely notice that getting up at 7am (or 6am or 5am) is really getting up at 6am (or 5am or 4am) on your body clock, right?

Why is it the new norm? Three reasons:…

1. It’s a small change – It’s just 1 hour. Not 2 or 5 or 8.

2. It’s a social norm – Most of North America, Europe, and the Middle East observe it. If you don’t ‘get on board,’ you’re living in an alternate reality.

3. You’ve accepted it – You’re not fighting yourself every hour of the day or reminding yourself each morning, “it’s really 5am, even though my alarm clock says 6am.”

What if we did the same with other changes we’d like to see in our lives? Take being happier (we all want that, right?), for example.

1. Small change – Start small. For example, pause at 9am and 9pm each day to feel/experience 90 seconds of gratitude.

2. Social norm – Surround yourself with people who are happy, who study happiness, who research/write about happiness (check out Applied Neuroscience Institute on Facebook as a start).

3. Accept it. Lovingly – Stop judging yourself for not having mastered whatever change you’re after. Start accepting where you are as “enough” and “abundant,” right now.

What do you want your “new norm” to be?!

www.TheAcademies.com

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Your Brain on Questions: Curiosity or Quiz?

1545806_10207036248919593_7460408307154491847_n

Consider these two types of questions when it comes to talking with your colleagues, employees, managers, friends, and more. Each type of question has a very different impact on how our brains respond!

Invite Curiosity Questions:

  • Open ended. Starts with “What” and sometimes “How?”
  • Releases dopamine and other “happy” neurochemicals.
  • Helps keep the brain in a flow-flourish state (Blue Zone).
  • Invites the brain to find new answers that might not have been there before or were buried and had not come to the surface.
  • When “new dots are connected,” insights come and an upward spiral begins.

Avoid Quiz Questions:

  • Close ended. Start with “Why” “Can” “Will” “Do” “Have you?”
  • Releases stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin.
  • Helps put the brain in a fight-flight state (Red Zone).
  • There is a race in the brain to find the “right” answer, and if he/she doesn’t, there is a subtle or overt sense of failure or worry about being “less than” all the other people who supposedly have figured it out already.
  • The downward spiral deepens.
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3 Things Employees Never Want to Hear from their Internal Career Coach

Do you coach employees who want to get promoted…but aren’t?

Frustration, anger, confusion, worry can begin to plague the employee. When people are experiencing these emotions, there are a few things they do NOT want to hear!

Such as,

  • “Just be patient”
  • “You just need to network more”
  • “Think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective”

Although these three comments (e.g., pieces of advice) may, indeed, be important, they may not be helpful. So what’s a coach to do?

Exercise Compassion

  • Notice your response to the situation separately from the employee’s response to the situation. When we keep ourselves out of the fight-flight zone, we don’t exacerbate the situation.
  • Think/feel “compassion” versus “crisis.” Compassion allows us to be more present, engaged, and intuitive about how to be and what to say. (Note: The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University and other compassion researchers note that different neural networks light up in the brain when we focus on compassion vs crisis/problem-solving; we are more strategic and big-picture oriented with the former, and more problem/threat-oriented with the latter.)
  • If you are silently making negative judgments, such as, “this guy is really over-reacting,” bring yourself back to compassion by silently saying to yourself something like, “this is really important to him; he’s doing the best he can at this moment; he’s come in to talk about it, which is a good thing.”
  • A simple acknowledgement can be helpful, e.g.,: “I hear the weight of this. You were really counting on that position coming through.”

Never Resist the Resistance

Resist the urge to cover over, tamp down, or ignore the emotions!

  • “I hear the frustration, and I’m not going to tell you to ignore it. That emotion is a signal to pay attention to, so that you can do something constructive from it.”
  • “Frustration is often a sign that we feel like we don’t have control… [and later ask] which elements of this CAN you control?”

Ask Questions

  • “What do you NOT want to hear right now?”
  • “What do you need to be your best right now?”
  • “What’s the difference between responding to this and reacting to this for you?”
  • “How do you want to move forward?”

The next time you encounter frustration, anger, or other negative emotions from a coaching client, resist the temptation to cover over, tamp down, or ignore the emotions!

Certainly, don’t leave the client wallowing in negativity, but as part of the process, recognize that these emotions can be valuable “data points” that can be clues for how to move forward!

————-

Interested in more ideas like these for coaching employees? Our next Certified Career & Talent Development Coach program starts Thursday, Feb. 25th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Do You NOT Want this Year?

The start of a new year is an opportunity to clarify what you want. You probably gave some thought to goals, and there are some who probably went so far as to commit them to paper and share them with an accountability partner.

Whether you established goals or not for 2016, give some thought to what you DON’T want for the new year.

I’ve chosen a pretty big “let-go-of” list—one person laughed out loud when she heard it! … as if it was impossible! I don’t blame her. My list is a lofty one, and includes items that society has subtly and overtly taught us to do for decades. Here’s my “Big 3” let-go-of list: Continue reading

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Be Strengthened by a Mighty Heart

We say that people who do amazing feats (like ice-climbing) are brave and courageous. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. uses the phrase “a mighty heart.”

When you experience the sensation of an upspiral—that sense of optimism, possibility, hope, strength—you create a chemical cocktail within your brains and body that floods you with “positive” neurochemicals. You become more calm, creative, resilient, and strategic. You shift from “fight-flight” into “flow-flourish.”

You can easily change your internal chemistry by simply focusing on what you want. If you want to feel more hopeful, pause for 60 seconds to stretch slowly, take a deep belly breath, close your eyes, and—to the deepest degree you can—feel a specific positive emotion (e.g., hope, gratitude, love, peace, etc.).

Doing so will slow your heart rate, release a concoction of “happy” neurochemicals (such as dopamine or serotonin), increase blood flow to the “smart” parts of your brain, and cause you to both think and feel better (and even live longer).

May the days of your 2016 be met with a mighty heart!

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Atop my Christmas Wish List Is…

What’s on your wish list this season? Techno-tools? Trendy gadgets? Time with family?

I’m dreaming big these days, so high atop my wish list is . . .

WORLD PEACE!

And if I can’t have world peace, I’ll go for individual peace. Peace is:

  • The absence of worry, stress, and fear.
  • The absence of excess adrenalin that robs our immune system of resiliency.
  • The absence of a cluttered, unfocused, fragmented mind.

Why is peace my ultimate gift? Because . . . Continue reading

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People Bring Both Their Brain and Body to Work-Pay Attention to Both

brain measuringThe business world worships brains! It revels in the brain’s ability to quantify, analyze, sequence, strategize, execute. A big brain is brawn in the business world.

But people don’t just bring their brains to work—they bring their bodies, too … which brings us to an important piece of anatomy that every coach should be aware of.

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Job Search Strategy-Balancing Mindset & Mechanics

Got coaching skills? And now looking for more mechanics?!

At The Academies, I’ve stressed the importance of balancing the M&Ms—the Mindset & Mechanics—in order to accomplish goals:

     Mechanics = developing and executing great strategies.

     Mindset = thinking and feeling optimistic, buoyant, resilient.

Here’s a quick M&M tip/technique to share with job seekers that balance both Mindset and Mechanics.

TIP: Our brains don’t enjoy realizing we’ve been wrong or uncourageous, so if you tell a job seeker that they need to double or triple their networking time, they may nod their heads obediently but their brain may be saying “I can never do that” or “I don’t even want to do that!”

An M&M Technique

If your client is hesitant, that’s when the “incremental increase” technique can come in handy. Ask your job seeker client to draw a pie and divide the pie into wedges that represent where he is spending most of his time in the job search. It may look something like this first graphic, with the greatest amount of time spent on searching online postings and tweaking the resume.

Tweaking Time Spent in Job Search - Before

Next, ask the client to shift those pie slices to show just a 5-10% increase in the areas that would give him the most leverage. For example, reducing the time on online postings by 5-10% and increasing the time talking to real human beings by 5-10%!

Tweaking Time Spent in Job Search - After

Small increments create big results. We can easily solve for 5-10%. If your client increases 5-10% each week, in a month, there will be 20-40% improvement!

More tips on how to improve your client’s job search strategy here!

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Overworked & Underwater? An Unlikely Fix & Free Solution

I’m a movie fan and recently saw “90 Minutes in Heaven.” It’s about a man in a horrific car accident who was hit head-on by a tractor-trailer rig. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident occurs on a narrow bridge, which blocks up traffic for hours. One of the people in that line-up of stalled cars is an ex-Vietnam medic and pastor. He asks the EMTs if he can pray for the dead man… and does so. Miraculously, the victim (Don Piper) comes back to life, after 90 minutes of being dead.

The remainder of the story chronicles Piper’s excruciating recovery. In the hospital, he is given a push button that allows him to self-dose himself with pain killers, presumably morphine.

hospital button pain relief morphine dopamine drip 123rf 27365148_sSo here’s the connection for our own lives as executives and leaders. We were designed with our own “morphine button.” For alliterative purposes, I call it the “dopamine drip.” Our body’s natural neurochemicals—such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins—can flood our systems and enable us to feel better.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to push that button! Instead, our attention is drawn to

  • our lengthy to-do lists,
  • the misunderstanding with a team member that just happened,
  • the worry about whether we’ll meet next quarter’s budget numbers, and more.

If we were to pause throughout the day—even in the midst of the crisis du jour—and hit our own personal “dopamine drip,” we’d find that:

  • the to-do list is shorter than we thought (or doesn’t all need tackled today),
  • the misunderstanding can be resolved (and might even be a blessing in disguise), and
  • the budget numbers can be tackled (often with more energy and creativity).

Hit the dopamine drip yourself, and see what you notice.

One quick way to dose yourself with dopamine is to take 60-120 seconds and read a short article or watch a video on a topic that fascinates you.

How do you hit the “dopamine drip”?

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Coaching Insights What the Pope’s Visit Taught Me about Change

pope-francis-coming-to-america-2015If you watched the news lately, you know that the Pope visited America last week. I have a different faith tradition, yet truly appreciated seeing him conduct mass at Madison Square Garden, talk to Congress, feed the poor.

But something less-publicized is what really impressed me. Apparently the Vatican recently decided to honor Martin Luther. You remember that little spat back in the 1500’s that led to Luther being excommunicated? Five hundred years later, Luther’s name will be given to a prominent hilltop square in Rome. Talk about unity. I imagine God is smiling about that!

The Coaching Application

This made me wonder… what are the things that we believe today that we might not believe tomorrow? What are today’s stories, myths, frames that we have created, hold dearly, and cling to tightly when, come tomorrow, we will think differently about?

What does it take to be open? Here are my personal musings on the subject:

  • A sense of gratitude – a sense that we are wired from birth to be curious and continually learn, evolve, and shape our reasoning
  • A sense of peace – a sense that we will be okay if we explore and adopt new beliefs, even if others around us see things differently
  • A sense of love – a sense that we are being cared for by God, with a daily invitation to see more clearly the love that is surrounding and leading us

What are the new beliefs taking shape in your brain? Happy pondering!

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Anatomy of an Insight From Rattled to Receiving

Ever struggle with needing an answer to a perplexing situation?

As coaches, we love those moments when we (or our clients) have those “ah ha” moments. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to have “ah ha” moments in the presence of stress.

In brain-friendly coaching, there is a sequence that our brains go through when we move from “needing an insight” to “getting the ah-ha” to “being able to act on it”:

Anatomy of an Insight

Here’s how each of the rows plays out:

  • Really Want: The need for insight often starts with the lack of it, meaning we need something—a question solved, an idea sparked, a material need fulfilled. This is the “really want” in the first row of the diagram—there is an unrealized goal, a predicament, a challenge.
  • Rattled: With the lack of an answer, we often find ourselves racking our brains, stressed, and slipping into scarcity mentality. This, of course, shoots cortisol through the system, causing us to think even less clearly and creatively.
  • Relax: To invite insight, it’s important to relax. To breathe. To shift into flow-flourish instead of fight-flight. Studies have shown that people solved problems better when they were in a higher positive mood. From here, we can use a metacognition technique, a process that puts us into an Alpha Wave state, where we block out external stimuli and reach inside for answers.
  • Receive: Often, the insight will come as a result of being in the Relax phase. With the insight, new neuro-connections are made. Relief and hope ensue, with their accompanying rush of positive neurochemicals, and we feel energized.
  • Respond: To solidify the new neural pathway, we must respond to the insight. We can write it down, talk about it, draw a picture of it, sense it with our various senses, visualize it, and describe it in greater detail. And voila, new options are created.

What’s your favorite way to calm your brain and get into that relaxed state? How do you help your clients do so?

Here’s to the ah-ha’s your brain is waiting to reveal!

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Career Coaching Motives and Motivations for Management

If your work includes career coaching inside organizations, you’ve likely had coaching conversations with individual contributors who are looking at getting promoted to management.

Oftentimes, employees equate longevity or seniority with moving into management, but that is not necessarily the case.

Consider some of these coaching topics when having the “I-want-to-get-promoted-to-management conversation!”

Motivation:

What is the employee’s motivation for being in management?

  • Is it primarily the financial rewards?
  • Desire to develop others?
  • Greater influence?

When coaching, we need to get to the root of why this new position is meaningful.

Strengths:

  • Which of the employee’s strengths prepare and equip them for a management role?
  • How have they already been using these strengths to manage, if even informally or organically?

Expectations:

  • What are the employee’s expectations of the manager’s role?
  • How will that differ from their existing role?
  • Will there be longer hours?
  • Greater responsibility?
  • Greater risk?
  • More politics?

What do all of those changes mean to the employee?

Challenges/Concerns:

  • What are the gaps between where the employee is and where the employee wants to be?
  • How do the influencers within the organization perceive the employee?
  • Is he/she too inexperienced? Too soft? Too brash? Too naïve?
  • What are the organization’s unspoken concerns that may be difficult to unearth?

Game Plan:

If management does makes sense for the employee, what does the game plan going forward look like?

  • Who are the advocates that need to be engaged?
  • What is the timeline?
  • How does the personal brand need to change or shift?
  • What are the skill sets that need emphasized?
  • What are the wins that need to be had and communicated?

Moving into management can be a fantastic developmental opportunity for employees. Bottom line: When you find the meaning in the midst of it, you’ll find the “lever and fulcrum” to change the employee’s world!

“Give me a lever long enough
and a fulcrum on which to place it,
and I shall move the world.” ~Archimedes

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MBA Career Coaching – The Fall Calendar Crunch

It’s crunch time. I hear from MBA coaching colleagues that their Fall calendars are filled with back-to-back student appointments, employers on-campus for info sessions, student prep for the national MBA conferences, and more.

My first summer job during high school was as a secretary for a cantaloupe processing facility. When the temps heated up to 100+ degrees, the melons had to be picked, processed, and refrigerated immediately or they’d rot in the fields. We put in 14+ hour days to keep up with the workload.

When the days are long, with no end in sight, how do you not just survive, but thrive? Here are a few coaching thoughts from our MBA coach certification program:

Lighten your share of the load:

How balanced are your conversations with students? If it feels like you’re “pulling teeth” to get students to contribute to the conversation, reset expectations. If it feels like you’re the “vending machine” dispensing direction, suggestions, and to-do lists, pull back a bit and ask a few more questions.

For example,

  • “I’ve been doing all the talking, and yet this is about you and what you want. What thoughts are coming up?”
  • “How are you uniquely equipped to make this happen?”

Listen for Energy:

Like a Geiger counter, listen for energy—whether a lack of energy or lots of energy.

  • Noticing areas where the student is blasé or nonplussed tells you there isn’t much motivation there.
  • Hearing where the student has passion for an industry or enthusiasm about a past success tells us there is potential motivation there.

Here’s a fascinating quick video on why energy and emotion is important for decision making.

Leverage your own Strengths:

We emphasize that students use their strengths in their career choice and job-search strategies. We can also be intentional about our strengths during this stretch season. For example, consider a “strength du jour” strategy for each day the week, such as

  • “Individualization” today—”my individualization skills allow me to see what makes each student tick”; or,
  • “Maximizer” tomorrow—”my ability to find shortcuts will help students with their job-search strategy.”

Deloitte noted that among worldwide top-performing teams, the ability to use one’s strengths each day was the #1 success factor (data shared in keynote presentation at the MBA Career Services and Employer Advisory Council conference in Dallas, June 2015).

Wishing you time to “eat your Wheaties,” as well as enjoy the journey, as you run the Fall marathon!

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Career Coaching – A Subtle but Subversive Yes-But To Be Aware Of

When coaching clients through career change, we can encounter a lot of different yes-but’s from clients, such as, “I don’t have enough time, confidence, money, support, etc. to make a career change.”

Here’s another “yes but” that may be more subtle: identity.

The topic of identity can range from feeling insecure to not wanting to upset the status quo to struggling with pride. One of these statements may capture how your clients are feeling:

  • I just don’t have the confidence to move ahead. I can’t imagine myself doing something new–I’ve been a _____ [fill in the blank] my whole life.
  • I’m just not sure I can be really good at this!
  • I have feelings of unworthiness–I just don’t deserve to pursue this new direction. People will likely think I’m being presumptuous and wonder, “Who is she to think she can do that!”
  • I am being pressured by parents, family, or colleagues to pursue a career course that just doesn’t fit with who I am.
  • I am being pressured by parents, family, or colleagues to NOT change . . . it’s as if I’ll upset their status quo if I change!
  • I’ll inconvenience my _____________ (spouse, children, family, friends, colleagues) if I pursue that course of action.

Ideas that you might explore in career coaching:

Perpetual Progress: As members of the human race, we are meant to grow throughout our lives, not just during school and college years! (Fun neuro-nugget: Our brain size stops growing once into our twenties, but the development of new neural connections can happen into our eighties, nineties, one-hundreds.)

  • Ask: So you’re in your 40’s now. What did you not think was possible in your 30’s that has become possible today? How about in your 20’s? Teens? What opens up for you from that trajectory viewpoint?

Themes, Not Titles: When our identity is rooted in the significance of being a purposeful human being and not based solely on what we do for a living (the lie of “I’m valuable because I’m an attorney/manager/engineer”), we can make greater progress.

  • Ask: “Absent the typical titles, who are you at your core, essence, being? How does that ‘you’ show up in some of the career directions you’re considering? How does that bring value to the people who would benefit from that part of you?”

Enjoy!

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A Neuro Nugget to Increase Open-Mindedness

open minded brain zipper yes 123rf 16948941_s

As coaches, how do we support clients to be more open-minded?

In a word: curiosity.

First, a neuro-nugget on curiosity. The right hemisphere of our brain is responsible for taking in new information, connecting it to other things we know, and more. The left hemisphere organizes the information, distributes it into memory, and routinizes it (aka habit).

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Career Coaching: What’s Beneath the Change?

Clients come to us with a variety of career goals—a promotional opportunity to win, a major career change to navigate, and so on.

Underneath any of those goals is a common theme:

Transition

Some transitions are welcome; others arrive uninvited.

Some are obvious:

  • Graduation from college and time for a first “real” job,
  • A divorce that requires returning to the job market,
  • The need to get away from “the boss from hell”

Others are more subtle: Continue reading

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Models and Frameworks

I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to ideation. Chewing on ideas, building frameworks, creating models, crafting mnemonics, finding ways to connect-the-dots… It’s one of my God-given strengths. And it comes in handy, since I’m often writing curriculum, books, and blog posts.

Model-making can also become one of my weaknesses when I inadvertently (or not so inadvertently) fall in love with my model and hyper-focus on it, to the detriment of my clients.

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Indecision on an Important Decision? Some Wisdom from Ikea

I helped my daughter get settled in her first apartment recently. As an out-of-state student who lived in the dorms the prior two years, she didn’t have a stick of furniture to start with. Translation: time to visit Ikea!

girls-mom-couchWe met up with her new roommates and the roommates’ parents to tackle the enormous showroom floors at Ikea. Here’s a picture of all three roommates (and all three moms) testing out a couch that we settled on.

After navigating the IKEA warehouse area and checkout, we crammed all the heavy boxes into the car in the midst of Texas humidity, timidly drove the tollway in an unfamiliar rental car with now-limited rear-view mirror visibility, and eventually dragged our 80-pound boxes up several flights of stairs. Ugh!

Then the fun began: figuring out how to put it all together. I have to admit, my daughter was a champ—much better than I was. She and her roommates and one of the dads did the lion’s share. At one point during desk assembly, everyone was stumped on how it was supposed to go together.

 

That’s when my daughter said something that was simple but profound:

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Cortisol Creep–The Subtle Signs of Fight-Flight

brain temperature cortisol creep 123rf 20043998_sUgh.      #sigh      “Seriously?!”

We’ve all had these thoughts float through our heads at one time or another. We might not pay much attention to them or consider how they affect us. And yet, science tells us that they do affect us.

Mark Waldman (author of one of Oprah’s “Must Read” books, How God Changes Your Brain) explains in a TEDx talk that if you were to be put you into an fMRI machine and shown the word “NO” for less than one second, it would “release more stress neurochemicals than can possibly be good for your body or your brain.”

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Every Thought is an Affirmation

Affirmations not working?!?! Consider this: Every silent thought or spoken word is an affirmation! Yes, every time we think a thought or open our mouths to speak, we signal our mind and body with positives or negatives.

If our thoughts are negative, we have affirmed to ourselves that those thoughts and feelings are true. For example, have you ever heard these negative thoughts from an out-of-work job seeker? Continue reading

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Pretending at Positivity? 3 Brain-Based Coaching Exercises to Test

blog 1A colleague recently brought up an interesting question. She wrote: “I am finding [my new brain-based client] to be very optimistic…perhaps unrealistically positive. What’s a coach to do when she senses the client may not be telling herself the truth?”

Here are three suggestions for coaching exercises:

What’s New?

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Coaching Leaders Out of Fight-Flight and into Flourish-Flow

Do you coach leaders and executives?

If so, you probably already know that they face a great deal of stress. Part of our job as coaches is to help calm the leader’s frazzled and fragmented brain so they can refocus on a vision and tap into strengths-based strategies to move forward.
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Brain Coach: Mind Your Freedoms

brain handcuffsIt’s the 4th of July weekend as I write. I’ve often imagined that the veterans who fought overseas for our FREEDOMS might look at people like me who got to stay home, safe and sound, and think, “you have no idea.” And they’d be right.

As I journey deeper into understanding brain-based coaching, I also often find myself saying, “I had no idea!” I am only beginning to unlock the FREEDOM OF MIND that is available in an ever-increasing upward spiral! For example: Continue reading

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The Coach’s Secret Weapon—Powerful, Priceless, Free.

How do you feel today? If you’re “up,” you have a good chance of being creative, on-task, and resilient. If you’re “down,” you are more likely to be unfocused, enervated, and unsettled by doubts, worries, and frustrations. Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Does Optimism Mean You Have to Be Happy All the Time?

3Does optimism mean you have to be happy all the time? As humans we experience a wide range of emotions. On the negative (“minus”) end of the spectrum, those emotions can include worry, fear, anxiety, hate, worry, frustration, bitterness, jealousy. On the positive (“plus”) end of the spectrum, we have love, joy, peace, gratitude, hope, and happiness. Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Span & Subtleties

logo-cbbs-coach-150x150For many years, I wasn’t aware of how “routinized” my ability to worry, catastrophize, and feel guilty had become! It was a habit that I hadn’t realized was part of my daily life. And with every worrisome thought, I caused a chemical release in my system that took me even further into a subtle but impactful state of unsettledness, second-guessing, and insecurity. Continue reading

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Brain Coach: Optimism Squared–Speed & Sustainability

brain coach 4I’ve been on a journey of becoming more Optimistic over the past few years. I’ll admit that, for many years, I lived with a tendency toward feeling “guilty” and even a bit “fearful” about getting everything done or having the business I needed to make ends meet—I was often the first to: Continue reading

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Relegated to 2nd Class Success when You’re Carrying a 1st Class Ticket?

plane-and-ticket2I’m writing this from 30,000 feet, aboard an American Airlines flight as I head to Dallas to see my daughter. I fly First Class whenever I can (the benefits outweigh the cost) but when I went to book the ticket a few months ago, I saw a $169 deal on a seat in the main cabin that was just too good to pass up. Continue reading

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