Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bee the Driver (no, this isn't a typo)

I went out in the back yard like I always do to check on Cleo and Jack. My hound hunting party was generally obedient staying out there by themselves, but they’d erupt every now and then in a barking frenzy at some real or imagined foe. I swear Jack would create something to bark at just to stir things up.

Every day this week a large black bee was waiting on the screened-in porch, pasted against the tiny metal squares as if they were a honeycomb. I presumed he somehow flew in and did not know how to get out. I envisioned him trying to press his way through the screen and arrive at the outside by osmosis. I also invented an alternate story that he perhaps had a death wish and had come there to die. Either way, I thought he was foolish.

Day after day he didn’t move, or if he did, just fidgeted around in the same space. Day after day I left the screen door to the backyard open hoping he’d get the message.

Tonight, I heard Cleo and Jack starting to agitate and went outside on the porch. The bee was gone. I said out loud to them, “Maybe that bee finally realized that the door was open.” And then I became still. Isn’t this where I was too?

Maybe the bee and I both got the same message tonight. In the absence of a full-time job, having been downsized four months ago, I had been trying to take my five-year old part-time coaching, training and communications business full-time. But I had been thinking too small and neither seeing nor accepting my current reality.

I was tempted to spend a lot of money to go away on a retreat with other entrepreneurs to play a bigger game. I also contemplated ditching the dream and going back to full-time work for someone else. Then I realized the door was already open for me right here.

• I was already an entrepreneur and had been earning income at it for several years. In fact, I teach a course I helped develop on entrepreneurship for small business start-ups for God sakes!

• I was already on track to triple my coaching and training income this year over last year. The fact that I made very little last year didn’t matter!

• I was already doing much of what these gurus and self-proclaimed experts were doing, and I knew what else to do. I just had to make space and focus, structure and specificity for it. I also realized I had high-quality support I could tap into, for free.

• I already had the confidence to make this work. It didn’t matter that I had seriously bad days, cloudy clarity and was juggling other major changes in my life. Somewhere in me, I knew I could do it. I have killer tenacity.

• I already had relevant skills and experience I could leverage from 25 years of consulting both internally and externally, working in the communications and learning field. And I had accumulated almost 200 coach training hours and a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential. I had worked with hundreds of clients and coached more than 1,000 hours.

(It just occurred to me that I have now created my “Reality Check” list and will re-read it every day.)

So the bee and I finally realized that the door was open. Maybe he had to work through a limiting belief first about the screen or about himself. Maybe he had to just sit still for awhile and listen, plan and recharge. Whatever the reason, I know, in time, I will also find my way through…I intend to create a buzz and design something to bark at!

The invitation is "open" for you to share your tales of inspiration. What insights have you received that keep you moving forward?

To your best life,


Renee

Friday, December 25, 2009

What happens when a career coach loses her job?

Well, why should I be immune? About five weeks ago, I was finally cut loose from my cocoon of almost 13 years. I was "downsized" from my technology communications and learning job. (Actually, that word doesn't sound so bad, kind of like I lost weight!) After the initial shock (It's really happening to ME!), it wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be. You see, I was ready to leave, more than ready. I had been languishing, feeling invisible and underutilized for years within my department, in a career that no longer fit the me I was becoming. I was still there because I had bowed to conventional wisdom and had resigned to stick it out until retirement. After all, I had a mortgage to pay and a son to support. Why rock the boat?

And then there was the coaching and training work I got to do outside my department, as part of the company's organizational development (OD) community. When they laid me off, my main regret was that I would have to leave THAT work; emotionally, I had already left my technology day job long ago. My next thought was, "How ironic, the career coach now has to coach herself." And then, "I'll be such a better coach having gone through what my clients are experiencing."

OK, so it wasn't a conscious choice. The universe got tired of waiting for me for over five years to take my coaching business full-time, and arranged it for me. Still, I was now out of the nest (prison?) and living authentically, in alignment, during so much more of my day than before. I could follow my own bliss more freely, something I 'd been telling my cllients to do for years. I was free to do what I love to do, coach, train, speak and write full-time.

This incredibly wonderful thought has staved off the panic that would normally accompany such an event. In fact, I've found courage in it. Better late than never. Almost overnight, I made the shift from hanging on to letting go. There was something about having no safety net that made me take a big leap. About that time, I also received some pretty powerful spiritual and other help from others (You know who you are!:))

I am now ready to take on or give up whatever I need to do to hold this here, because I've seen first hand the paralyzing and detrimental effects of fear. I've been outed. As a result, I've risen to the challenge and become more bold, creative and resourceful. And it's not only OK...it's essential to believe and trust in myself. Because I'm whom I'm leaping toward.

Sometimes we are so resistant to change (afraid and living in the fear), we forget to open our eyes and actually look at it (examine and live in the benefits). I found a photograph taken years ago when my son was just a baby. He was jumping into a swimming pool and I was attempting to catch him...except my eyes were squeezed shut! I was afraid of an object hurtling at me, yes, even him. Just yesterday, my now 18-year old son and I were in the backyard and I knew what was coming...snowballs, lots of them. This time, I noticed a different response. With eyes wide open, I was able to deflect the onslaught with courage and humor. And I realized how I had grown.

I wish you all courage, creativity, resourcefulness and fun this year in fulfilling your heart's desires.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Taking the "OW" out of OverWhelm
How many of us wish we could take charge of our day, instead of the day taking charge of us? Now that summer is in full swing, there may be a whole new world of things to get done! What to do? Here's some tips for taking the "OW" out of overwhelm:

Make a list of absolutely everything you have to do, right this minute. Get it all out of your head onto paper or onto your computer. Lighten the burden you've been carrying around. Clear and calm your mind. Hello? Sit down and just stop for a minute. Take a deep breath and let it all go.

Many people multi-task really really well. While that's certainly an admirable quality, some of us over multi-task. In fact, we can't STOP multi-tasking! This takes you away from being present. Not being present prevents you from being fully effective in the moment. It's a trade-off.

Are you a jack-of-all trades, master of none type person? Or are you a "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well" person? Your style determines your approach to tasks, how deeply and carefully you complete them and how much time you allot to each one. There's only so many hours in a day, so choose wisely. Review your standards and assess how realistic they are.
What's your number 1 priority? Write that down and let it guide you when evaluating all else you have to do (better known as a goal).

Where do you need to be flexible in your life? What fixed commitments do you need to work around? Understand what you can and cannot change.

Then get a blank monthly calendar with lots of room around each date. Look at one whole month at a time(your big picture may be bigger, maybe a whole year at a time). Write your tasks and corresponding rewards (very important!**) on old fashioned sticky notes.

Place the notes on the appropriate days on the calendar for the month. If you have many on one day, you may also have to include start and end times. Mix, match and move them around in different scenarios to see the opportunities.

It's OK to alternate between doing some tasks that you have to do, and some that you want to do. **You don't have to get all the "have to's" done before you can do the "want to's." Create a balance. Treat yourself kindly:

Going beyond is as bad as falling short. Chinese Proverb

Keep moving forward. Small, large, it doesn't matter. What matters is each action acts as reinforcement and helps you stay on track. Readjust your expectations to fit reality. Create a "No Judgement" zone.

Looking at the big picture helps you stay focused on the forest not the trees, a "project management" perspective from where you're better able to guide your overwhelming day into a manageable one.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An "Empowering" Event

I had a wonderful experience recently at a Shelter Our Sisters (SOS) event called Empower Our Sisters held at a nearby high school. Shelter Our Sisters provides counseling, training and other services, and a safe haven, for female victims of domestic violence and their families.

As part of a Career Center workshop, I spoke about self-confidence and business communications with about 70 participants throughout the day, many of whom spoke only Spanish! Through interpreters, we exchanged thoughts and viewpoints.

I couldn't believe the tremendous amount of volunteers who just showed up, willing to do anything to help out. The student theatre group even appeared at the end, piano in tow, to sing a few numbers from a show they were performing that afternoon! The moms, and especially their 98 children, really appreciated it.

What can you "show up" for?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Self-Confidence at work: Six steps to success

Do you usually think, “I’m not good enough” or “I accept and like myself?”

If you answered the former, then it’s time to replace those limiting beliefs. They get you nowhere at work.

You are not alone. Many women, regardless of their upbringing, education, work experience, age, or position have issues with self-confidence at work in situations with potential employers, managers, co-workers, and subordinates.

Feeling insecure sabotages our efforts. What’s worse is that we telegraph how we feel about ourselves to others, who then take our cues and reflect them back to us, thereby perpetuating these feelings.

Working in what is still largely a male-dominated environment doesn’t help. Men still essentially own the workplace. Here’s some troubling statistics according to Mother Jones magazine:

· Since orchestras started requiring musicians to audition behind screens, the number of women hired has increased 20 percent.
· 86 percent of guests on Sunday morning political talk shows are men.
· In 2005, only eight Fortune 500 companies had women CEOs or presidents (now there’s 12)

But despite the fact that women, and in particular, mothers, are still discriminated against, Mother Jones also reports that companies with women in top jobs see 35% higher returns than those without.

For those of you who may need some help strengthening your self-confidence in the workplace or anyplace, here’s a six-step process you can use. It parallels the coaching process and keeps the focus on… yourSELF: Self-Aware, Self-Accept, Self-Control, Self-Assess, Self-Advocate and Self-Care.

Self-Aware. Take stock of your current reality. Keep a journal over time of when you feel the worst about yourself and review it periodically. Are there themes emerging about the people and situations that trigger you? Do you break out in a cold sweat each time you have to present something to a group or ask for what you want? Do you suddenly draw a blank when an interviewer asks you to describe your best assets?

Document, not just where your self-confidence dips but also when it peaks. When do you feel the most confident?

Finally, take a global view. Explore how you see yourself, how others see you, how you would like to be seen, and how you must be seen to be effective. Examine all results for insights.

Self-Accept. Let go of negative self-talk. The “I’m not good enough” conversation is the quickest way to feel stuck and paint yourself into a corner.

Do office politics make you crazy? Do you worry about what other people think? Say this every day: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”

Everyone has fears, doubts, and things they’d like to change about themselves. Feel them, accept them, but then deal with them. Start turning negative self-talk into positive affirmations: Say this in the mirror daily: “I am a talented, competent person who deserves the best.” Corny, but it works!

What other small thing could you start doing to accept yourself more?

Self Control. Acknowledge your responsibility for your own life and your career. The work environment leaves little leeway for emotionally driven exchanges which are usually non-productive. To be the most effective, learn how to respond, not react. Separate feelings from thoughts and actions so you can navigate situations independent of whom you’re with or what you’re feeling.

This takes practice. One good resource is Daniel Goleman’s book, “Working with Emotional Intelligence.” “EQ” has been proven to matter twice as much as IQ, technical expertise, or leadership training as a predictor of success in the workplace.

Self Assess. What are your passions, strengths, talents, values, styles, wants, and needs? Take some time to reflect and write down as much as you can in each area. Are these being met in the workplace?

Ask yourself: If I had no limitations, like fear or money, what would I want to do?
Building a detailed, specific, and inspiring vision of where you want to be helps you achieve it. For example, if you’ve been coveting that management job, visualize yourself already there…what are you feeling? What kind of work are you doing? Whom do you work with/for? What difference are you making? Visualizations are a powerful tool for creating abundance in your life, as well as for reducing anxiety and building self-confidence.

Self Advocate. Now that you know who you are and what you want, take control! Set concrete, realistic goals and make and follow a step-by-step plan to achieve them. Setting goals here may resemble the performance review process, but on a much more personal level. Promote yourself; put your intention out there. Every conversation is an opportunity. Sir Isaac Newton’s first law is, “A body at rest tends to stay at rest but a body in motion, tends to stay in motion.” The more action you take, the more positive reinforcement you get, and the more likely you are to stay in action until you achieve your goal! Develop a solid, well-planned strategy for meeting your workplace goals that includes marketing yourself and building and sustaining momentum. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Self Care. It’s important to honor yourself. Treat yourself like you want others to treat you, with the emphasis on “treat.” When you reach your goal, pat yourself on the back – and set another one.

Acknowledging your accomplishments builds self-confidence. And positive self-talk is a component of self-care.

How will you reward yourself when you reach your goal? Remember, you are what you think. Changing your thinking from “I can’t to I can,” getting clear on who you are and what you want, taking responsibility for your career, setting goals, getting and staying in action, and rewarding yourself for even small milestones can do wonders for your self-confidence…and your success in the workplace!

“She is able who thinks she is able.” Buddha, slightly modified

“You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
Any direction you choose!” Dr. Seuss

So, how are those New Year's resolutions coming?

New Years’ resolutions? What New Years’ resolutions? (This was the year you were really going to grow your business, right?)

Don’t get me wrong, New Years’ resolutions have their place. They help you take stock of your current situation, determine where you want to go, and think about what you need to do to get there.
Research shows that half the people who make resolutions at the start of January have given up on them completely by the end of June. In fact, the number of people actually making New Years’ resolutions is dropping, which seems to indicate these promises just don’t work.* Why do so many people fall off the wagon?
Fact is, most New Years’ resolutions are just wishes or intentions, and part of the enthusiasm of the moment, not actual commitments. And most of us change only when we have to, not when we want to. Better yet, why not make a resolution to not make any more resolutions, (which are just invitations to feel bad when you forget about them), but rather, to get serious.

You’re serious? OK, then let’s get down to business. A New Years’ resolution is another word for a goal. Here are some important questions to consider when deciding what New Years’ resolutions (goals) to make:
· What are my priorities? Is this the most important thing for me to achieve this year?
· What strengths, talents, skills, and experiences can I personally leverage?
· What resources will I need from others to achieve this business goal?
· How long will it really take me?
· What are the significant steps/milestones along the way?
· What are the risks and opportunities of making and achieving this resolution?
· Why hasn’t this already happened? What is in the way?
· What will be the impact of achieving this? How will my life and my customers’ lives be different?
· Am I ready to have this happen? (Be careful what you wish for; you may get it!)
· What do I need to start, stop, or keep doing (thinking, feeling, achieving) to make this happen? What will I need to give up?

You’ve done some soul searching and are ready to proceed. Good for you! Want to know how to actually achieve that goal and avoid making the common mistakes people make? Some of you may recognize this SMART acronym from business.

Make your goal…
Specific. The more specific your goal, the easier it will be to achieve it. There’s a big difference between “Take My Business to the Next Level,” versus “Increase my Revenue for my New Product Line by 20% in Six Months,” or “Get my Accounts Receivable/Payable Books Balanced by Beginning of Tax Season.”

Measurable. Otherwise, how will you know how to assess progress or know when you’ve achieved it? The measures are built in to the goals above. You can easily determine whether your revenue did increase by 20% at the end of six months, and you’ll see your accountant smile by balancing your books ahead of tax season!

Achievable. Is it within reasonable reach, given your current situation? For example, “Create my Business Plan in Three Months,” not “Create my Business Plan in Five Minutes.”

Realistic and relevant. Does this goal fit your mission and purpose in life? Is it something you can actually do something about? For example, “Finance a philanthropic foundation with 10% of my New Product Line Revenues, Speaking Engagements, and Passive Web Income,” not “Become Queen of the Universe of all Products Everywhere.”

Timebound. Don’t leave it open-ended. Otherwise, you’re letting yourself off the hook. For example, “Get My Accounts Receivable/Payable Books Balanced by Beginning of Tax Season,” not (you get the picture).

Here’s another: Make an appointment with an accountability partner. This could be a relative, friend, business associate, or coach. An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found that you’re 95% more likely to complete an action if you’ve got someone to which to report progress. This partner can serve the functions of mentor, manager, and sports coach, believing in you and helping you believe in yourself, ensuring you have a solid plan, and keeping you focused, on track and in action.

Many will still find it hard to keep going after a certain amount of time. If you do fall off the wagon, it’s important not to beat yourself up. Get a fresh perspective by changing environments. Look at what this slip tells you about what you need to do differently; learn from it. Focus on the process, not the outcome...and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take it one day and one small action at a time.

Finally, before you declare your New Years’ resolution to the world, think twice. Ensure you’re really committed. You don’t want to be labeled the boy (or girl) who cried Wolf. It could damage your integrity and reputation. For some, just making the resolution is the action. It’s not. Show, don’t tell.

Why wait for New Years’ to set a goal? Set one at any time and set yourself up for success!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Artificial Intelligence or Intelligent Action?

You’ve heard of artificial intelligence (AI)? I call AI someone who thinks they can achieve greatness and make great strides by creating a flurry of activity and throwing a whole lot of energy at a vague goal. This not only exhausts them, but also causes an imbalance elsewhere in their lives, which can create more exhaustion just to set right. Coaching turns this around to IA (Intelligent Action). In the coaching process you get clear on an end state that you want to achieve, one that you can realistically accomplish within a defined timeframe. We build a plan for getting there and work together to see it through. Each week you get closer and closer by taking on only actions that you can handle. Incremental change. New habits. Big results.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Women who make it happen

In the movie, "As Good As It Gets," Diane Keaton is a playwright betrayed by Jack Nicholson, a confirmed bachelor. But Keaton draws on her writing expertise to turn her angst into creative genius and then to material success. Inspired by tragedy and turmoil, she produces a comedy, at Nicholson's expense. In so doing, she processes her feelings on stage, gaining catharsis. Of course, since this is Hollywood, her play becomes wildly successful. And it becomes an object lesson for Nicholson, who sees the play, recognizes himself on stage, and kicks off some soul searching of his own. The play transforms them both and they end up together (Hollywood again).

The point is Keaton's positive transformation of a negative situation. Do you have your own example? If so, please share it with us here.