About Vicki Flaherty

I feel most alive when I am creating, whether through my writing and poetry, gardening and photography, or simply living my life each day. Running and yoga enrich my being. Travel opens me to new possibilities and greater awareness. I am happiest when I’m with my husband Jim. I share my gratitude for all the gifts in my life on my This Abundantly Delicious Life blog. I find a special joy in helping people succeed. I’ve done something valuable when I’ve helped a colleague or friend see their brilliance and express their full potential. I have awesome opportunities to do this as an industrial/organizational psychologist through leadership, mentoring, coaching, career and other talent programs. I try to encourage Leading with Intention at my blog of this name. As a breast cancer survivor, I found comfort and hope in writing. Poetry flowed through me like a river of healing during my diagnosis and treatment, which I share on my Mostly My Heart Sings blog, that I might offer encouragement and a place of grace and heart for those seeking comfort and hope along their journey.

Equanimity

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Perhaps you are familiar with the word ‘equanimity’. Or, perhaps it’s a new word in your vocabulary. Before I knew the meaning, it suggested to me a sense of balance, something solid to stand on. I really like this word.

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What does it look like when there’s equanimity?

Presence. Focus. Understanding. Openness. Possibility. To me it looks like leaders who listen with curiosity, who open to not knowing, who see and respect everyone, who bring humanity into the workplace. Leaders who dream with purpose and passion and believe that great things are possible through intentional thought and productive action.

How do we find equanimity?

Myriad ways. We’re all different. Our paths are different. A big part of finding equaniminty, seems to me, is awareness: awareness of the stories that play in our minds. Followed by intention: intentional shifting of words and thoughts that are not serving us or others. Reframing our negative stories. Paying attention to what’s working. Visualizing success.

At the heart of our thoughts are words. Powerful words. Words shape what’s possible. I’ve read that we have somewhere between 16,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s A LOT of thoughts…a lot of words. Words that carry meaning. Words associated with feelings. Words tied to experiences. Words allowing us express how we feel. Words helping us envision our dreams. Words that impact us, physically, emotionally, mentally. Words that impact others, how they feel, how they are inspired to act.

What words repeat in the stories running through your mind? How are these words serving you?

Sometimes my stories are mean and ugly and hurtful, like little wars – that hurt me, that hurt others. Sometimes they are beautiful songs – that touch me, that touch others. I like the songs better than the war. And, while I’m still accepting that I’m not perfect and that life is simply a mix of what I might call good and bad, where I can, I am noticing and being intentional about my impact – on myself and on others. I am shifting and making adjustments when I notice words and thoughts that limit me so that I can respond versus react.

Take time to pause and connect with what’s important. 

One of the ways that I support myself in finding the words that serve best is taking time to pause, time to connect with what’s important. That might be time with my husband, Jim, walking together side-by-side in nature. That might be time with my girlfriends, sharing our experiences and connecting with each other. That might be reading something inspiring and reflecting on its meaning.

And, that might be practicing mindfulness meditation with my lovely friend Katiuscia Berretta. Over the past several years, I’ve had the honor of learning about mindfulness and the neuroscience of meditation from her. We just completed leading together our fifth mindfulness practice series at work. One of the beautiful gifts of this series was a guided practice Kat led that was focused on resilience and equanimity – it invited us to be like a bamboo tree (which was inspired by Osho’s Be A Hollow Bamboo). I’ll close with a poem that came to me after our practice together. May it invite the possibility of equanimity for you…

BE like the bamboo tree
by Vicki L. Flaherty

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your roots deep in the earth,
enduring cold winter storms.
Accepting the snow on your branches
until you can no longer.
When the white heaviness falls away,
let it go – and gently bend back.
Resilient, now stronger.

BE like the bamboo tree.
You stretch toward the sky,
standing strong in the summer sun.
Swaying in the warm breeze,
to mother nature’s song.
As the light shines on you,
receive it – and grow.
Resilient, now taller.

BE like the bamboo tree.
Your branches hollow.
No judgements or beliefs inside.
Just this openness inside you.
A place of deep knowing,
where nothing is needed.
Present with this spaciousness.
Resilient, now fully awake.

Related posts:

 

* I took this photo of a clover flower over the summer when on a trip to Michigan.

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You always have an impact

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This week is the 10-year anniversary of my ‘blogging’ about leading with intention. I put blogging in quotes because when I started, I was emailing a monthly communique, rather than posting to a blog.

To celebrate the occasion I thought I would share my original communique, mailed on 10/30/2007, following a session I co-led with Therese Kienast and Diana Bing at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchanges in Paris, France and Orlando, Florida, called Unleashing Your Possibilities. The foundation of the experience was radical leadership.

So, here it is…

Set aside a few minutes for YOU!  Read this note and try the exercises at the end.  Go ahead, take a small step today that will move you forward in creating what you want and unleashing your possibilities!

You Always Have an Impact

Do you know that you always have an impact, even when you do nothing–sometimes especially when you do nothing.  You affect and influence meetings and decisions.  YOU!   What’s created during a meeting when no one responds to questions or comments?  What happens to the energy when no one is really present and engaged?

It just takes one person to speak up in order to create a shift.  Have you experienced that?  A meeting is dull and blah, blah, blah and then all of a sudden someone says something and people start tuning in and sharing their ideas?  It can be anyone that speaks up, the lowest paid person on the team to the highest level manager or executive.  Sometimes people wait for the appointed, formal leader to show the way.  But, you know what? Sometimes that leader actually needs YOU to show the way.  As employees and human beings, we have full permission to speak up and share our ideas–in fact, it is our responsibility.  It’s part of what’s expected.

And, speaking up can create a shift in different directions—what you say can pull a meeting down when the point is off task, or when what’s shared is critical rather than constructive.  OR what you say can lift a meeting when the point is spot on and moves the agenda forward.  Be conscious of the tone that you set and the shifts that you create, and choose from your heart.

Something to Think About

Consider the impact you have and how you want to show up…

  • What impact are you having?
  • How are you showing up and what is it creating?
  • Are you creating what you want with the way you show up?
  • Is there something different you want to create?
  • What can you do to create something different?

Try This!

  1. Right now, think about the last meeting you were in and consider these questions:
  • How did you show up?
  • What was your experience of the meeting?
  • How do you think your presence influenced the meeting?
  • How could you have created something different?
  1. Pick a meeting you are attending tomorrow.

Before the meeting, get clear on:

  • What do I want the meeting to be like?
  • How do I want to show up?
  • What do I want to create for the meeting?

During the meeting, tune in to these considerations:

  • What is happening for me right now? How do I feel?  What do I want?  Am I engaged and interested?  When am I tuning out, and why?
  • What is happening for others in the meeting? Do others appear interested?  Are they engaged?
  • How is the meeting going? What’s it like?  What kind of experience is it?

After the meeting, ask yourself the questions you considered in Step 1.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Gail Blanke

 * I took this photo in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland. My husband, Jim, and I had an impact on the sheep grazing in the pasture as we passed on the stony path. Right after this, all three ran in the opposite direction. ;]

Sense of Purpose – The Pathway to Success

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“The two most important days in your life

are the day you were born

and the day you find out why.”

– Mark Twain

Ever reached a point where you feel you’ve lost your way…disconnected from your sense of self…discouraged and spent…heading down a path that’s not the way you want to go?

I have. (And not just once 😊) I’ll catch myself running along a path that I didn’t consciously choose, moving so fast that my surroundings are a blur, and more importantly, with such speed that I’m not even sure whose feet are racing against the ground. Fear seems to pull me along – and wear me down.

Then something invites me to pay attention.

Ironically, the very work that sometimes lures me down the path also invites me to slow down enough to think, see, hear, and feel my way on the journey. My work is laser-focused right now on “leading with resilience” – being our best when it matters most to us.* It’s about using science-based mindset, movement, nutrition, and recovery strategies to fuel ourselves, to support us in expending energy for what’s most important and in getting the rest and rejuvenation needed to perform what’s next. It’s about the social connection that is crucial for health – and that could just help us live longer. (Having Social Bonds is the No. 1 Way to Optimize Your Health) It’s about having a clear sense of purpose that pulls us toward important outcomes – bringing our energy to things that make a difference in our world.

“Clarify your purpose.

What is the why behind everything you do?

When we know this,

it is very empowering and the path is clear.”

– Jack Canfield

When the obstacle on the path is so big that it blocks my way, then I am forced to pause, and consider what I really want. I start working with visualizing my success, creating clarity about why I’m here on this planet and what fulfills me. I tune my sense of purpose. I set my compass so that I can see the path that points me in the direction I really want to go. I find that I do this over and over. I once thought I could nail down my purpose and be good to go for life; however, since I am continually transforming and things around me are changing, my vision for myself morphs and evolves.

I continue to practice checking in on the stories that I make up about what’s happening, rewriting them so they are aligned with what I value most. I review actions I’ve taken, seeing where I’ve leveraged my strengths, where I’ve made progress, what I’m learning.

“Mistakes make you wiser,

heartbreak makes you stronger,

and wrong turns often take you

to the right place.”

– Unknown

And, just as importantly, I consider what I might have done differently, reliving things I’d like to do better –  actually visualizing myself doing them successfully. I create new pathways in my mind for success. Really, science tells us that trying new things stimulates new neural pathways in the brain, and if we consistently work them, we build new habits that can support us.

Did you know that our minds don’t differentiate between visualizing ourselves doing something and actually doing them? Think about it, have you ever thought about something and reacted physically, emotionally, and mentally as if the experience were real? Or relived in your mind something you’ve already experienced and opened the very same physical, emotional and mental response?

Maybe one or more of these questions will invite you to visualize your success in a way that helps you be your best when it matters most:

  • What matters most to me?
  • What does success look like for me?
  • What energizes me?
  • What depletes me?
  • How do I fuel my success?
  • What am I learning?
  • Where am I making progress?
  • Where do I want to perform better?
  • What strengths do I have?
  • How are thoughts serving me or getting in my way?
  • How am I caring for myself physically, pscyhologically and emotionally to be my best?

 “The meaning of life is to find your gift.

The purpose of life is to give it away.”

– William Shakespeare

Some articles you might be interested in:

Building Resilience as a Leader: Thriving in the Face of Change

Leadership Resiliency: Handling Stress, Uncertainty, and Setbacks

The Extraordinary Power of Visualizing Success

* I love this phrase – being your best when it matters most to you – which I picked up from Sink, Float, or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn’t Happen by Chance – It Happens by Choice and the TIGNUM workshops I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. (Check out the TIGNUM Thoughts blog to learn more about their philosophy and approach.)

** I took this photo in the gardens at Knappogue Castle in County Clare, Ireland.

Regular recovery is essential for being resilient

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Bouncing back from the many daily challenges we face each doesn’t just happen. Moving through change with grace is not something that lucky people are fortunate enough to experience. No, responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances is something that we have to choose.

Responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances

is something that we have to choose.

To be resilient, it’s important to incorporate habits of wellbeing into our lives. Scientific evidence continues to show how our brains have ‘neuroplasticity’ and can be shaped, for example, by learning a new skill. We can design our lives so that the intentions we set, the choices we make, and the actions we take support us in being our best with regularity.

I’ve been reading Sink, Float or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn’t Happen by Chance, It Happens by Choice and learning about habits related to mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery, and the interplay among them. It’s one thing to know that a positive attitude, moving throughout the day, eating healthy foods, and sleeping ~8 hours a night, for example, are good for you, it’s another to apply that knowledge on a consistent basis.

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Moving like the energizer bunny 24/7/365 leads to burnout. At some point we become just plain exhausted.  We become physically tired, emotionally drained, and less able to cope. Our bodies were not made to sprint marathons! They were meant to expend energy and then to rest – more like a series of sprints with rest and recovery between each one. The optimal performance strategy is to vary the magnitude of our energy in cycles of peak performance followed by rest.

Consider these questions to enhance your awareness, the first step in creating personal change:

  • How do I feel throughout the day?
  • When is my energy is low? high?
  • How do I respond when I am tired? rested?
  • What can I do to improve my sleep?
  • What do I (can I) do to maintain energy and focus throughout the day?

Ever notice that you are tired, but you push on, believing that if you just do this one more thing, you’ll be in a better place? If you’re like me, that doesn’t usually work out so well and often leads to one more thing and then errors and inefficiencies.  Sometimes, of course, we are in a demanding situation that we cannot just step away from. Engaging in high performance strategies can support our moving through high pressure moments as effectively as possible.

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Try these strategies to move through high pressure moments:

  • Take a few intentional breaths – either a long inhale to energize or a long exhale to relax, to refocus.
  • Drink some water – our brains are 80% water and when they are not optimally hydrated, our cognitive function can be reduced leading to reduced cognitive function and ‘fuzzy’ thinking.
  • Eat something nutritious – a fun way is to see how many colors you can include.
  • Do a few stretches  which can enhanced your creativity and boost your energy and mood (go here for some suggestions for moves you can do at your desk).

The number #1 thing we can do to strengthen our ability to move through a challenging day is to get enough sleep, which for most people is ~7-8 hours per night. Research shows there’s a link between sleep and effective leadership, yet 4 out of 10 (43%) leaders report not getting enough sleep at least four nights a week.

Consider how much your job requires you to perform the following activities, which are especially impacted by lack of sleep.

  • Focus and avoid distractions, while, at the same time, see the big picture
  • Recognize patterns, generate creative ideas and effectively solve problems
  • See different perspectives by encoding, consolidating, and retrieving new information
  • Weigh the significance of different inputs accurately, avoid tunnel vision, and minimize cognitive bias
  • Help, understand and trust others, interpret their emotions, and stay positive while engaging with them

Didn’t get enough sleep and struggling? Consider a short power nap. A consistent recommendation is to sleep no more than 20 minutes. Just sitting at your desk and resting with your eyes closed in the dark for 5 minutes can be a pretty powerful recharge, too.

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If you like this post, you might also be interested in these blogs:

 

* The photographs were taking in my backyard. The closing image was created from a photo I took at Dilek National Park in Guzelcamli, Turkey.

Mindset is the engine that powers success

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Have you ever done something you once thought you couldn’t do? When I was younger, I believed I couldn’t run a marathon. I thought: “Only ‘real’ runners do marathons.”, or “My knees can’t handle it.”, or a million other limiting beliefs repeated in my head. On my 30-year anniversary of running, I realized I am a real runner, and that if I want to run a marathon, I just have this one life to do it, and I’m not getting any younger. My beliefs had limited what I thought I could do, which kept me from taking certain actions. Then actions and results I’d taken over time (i.e., a long history of running) shifted my beliefs and thoughts about what’s possible, leading to different actions and results – I successfully ran that marathon.

MCM

“It is better to believe than to disbelieve;

in so doing you are bringing everything

 to the realm of possibility.”

– Albert Einstein

Our beliefs and thoughts determine our actions and the results we achieve. In turn, the results we get affect our beliefs. There’s a powerful interplay between what happens mentally (what we believe and think) and what happens physically (the actions we take and results we achieve). What we think – the words and tone we use, the stories we tell ourselves – has a direct impact on how we behave. We can move from the impossible to the possible with a shift in our thoughts and beliefs.

 “We become what we think about all day long.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

How do we shift our beliefs and thoughts? We pay attention what’s happening in our minds. What we say in our heads all day provides a kind of feedback that we can use to make adjustments in our behavior. And, we employ practices to help us move in the direction we want to go. For example, we can reframe our thoughts and focus our attention. And do it in a way that builds a habit by consistently applying the practices.

When we notice unproductive or negative self-talk, we can REFRAME our thinking, adjusting the words and tone to be of greater service to ourselves. Reframing involves changing the ‘frame’ through which we view an experience, while leaving the facts of the situation alone.  Reframing can help us be more confident or inspired, for example.

“Your own words are the bricks and mortar

of the dreams you want to realize.

Behind every one word flows energy.”

– Sonia Choquette

I’m on a mission to remove the word “overwhelm” from my vocabulary. I’ve noticed myself saying “I am overwhelmed” when I have a lot to do. When I feel like I have more tasks to complete than I possibly can in the available time, I am taking a deep breath, with an especially long relaxing outbreath and inviting a new perspective in my self-talk: “Yes, right now there’s a of opportunity to do stuff that makes a difference. What’s the most important thing for me to complete right now? Let’s start there and then revisit to determine what’s next…” I am using the word ‘overwhelm’ as a trigger to take a deep breath, and then the deep breath as a reminder to invite a new perspective. By doing this each time I notice, I’m creating a habit that shapes a mindset in service of positive action and results.

“We are what we repeatedly do.

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

When we notice that our thoughts are scattered, we can FOCUS and direct our thoughts, which can lead to outcomes such as greater productivity and better decision making. When I notice I am multi-tasking to get as many items off my to-do list as possible by the end of the day, I invite myself to be intentional about what I’m doing by shifting my body into what I call an ‘awake posture’ (learn more here). Shifting the experience in my body invites me to set my mind by clearing my head and consciously refocusing my attention.

“Powerful people decide where, how and what

they are going to use their precious energy for.

Whatever you’re giving your attention becomes your intention.”

– Therese Kienast

Question to contemplate:

  • What beliefs do I hold that may limit what’s possible?
  • What thoughts consistently run through my mind? What stories do I repeatedly tell myself?
  • What words and tone do I use in my self-talk?
  • What one small action might I try to tune in more to my thoughts and beliefs?
  • How might I grow awareness of my breath? Of my body? Of the interplay of my physical and mental being?
  • How might reframing or focusing practices support my success?
  • Where do I place my attention? What does that say about my intentions?

* I took the photo in Baltimore Bay in County Cork Ireland.

small steps toward success breed confidence

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Great leadership depends on confidence. Great leaders are conscious of their power, believe that they will respond in the most effective way, and carry a quality of certainty that is sensed by others. Confident leaders inspire confidence in their teams. Confident leaders point in the direction of possibility and start by taking steps toward the seemingly impossible. They learn from their failures and build on prior successes.

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”             – Theodore Roosevelt

Confidence is not something that you have or don’t have. Confidence waxes and wanes. Confidence can depend on the circumstances and may be more challenging when facing something novel. Confidence can depend on how we are feeling physically and emotionally, with lows more likely when we are not taking care of ourselves. Confidence can depend on our mindset and our ability to shape our thinking positively toward action.

“Self-confidence is the memory of success.” – David Storey

Confidence builds as we experiment, discover and learn. Success – even the smallest instance – breeds confidence. Taking small steps toward what we value and consider important builds confidence. It is quite possible to move from hardly knowing anything to being quite proficient, even an expert. Take driving, for example. You don’t just get in a car one day and become a great driver. Learning to drive requires a desire to drive and lots of learning. It’s amazing, really, what consistent practice does: you can move to the point that you know something so well you can do it in autopilot.

“Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.” – Unknown

Where in your life would you like to be more successful? Get started by building a clear vision for your success, taking small steps in the direction of your success to build your confidence, and creating a support structure to enable your success. One small step at a time, fully supported, and fueled with openness, curiosity, and courage, you’ll be building the pathway to success, and with it the confidence you need to stay the course. Once you’re in motion, the hardest part is over!

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Clear vision: If you don’t know what you want or what will make you happy or successful, how do you move toward it? Life and other people have a way of moving you along. The risk is that you end up somewhere that makes them happy and not you. To have greater clarity about what you want – your aspirations, dreams, goals in work and life – you have to take your foot off the gas petal along the always-on freeway. Clarity comes by slowing down long enough to tune in to ourselves and listen to our hearts and minds, and to sense what is happening, where we are and where we want to go. Seeing where you are going helps you feel stronger and more courageous about taking steps in that direction.

“Success is not a big step in the future; success is a small step taken right now.” – Unknown

Small Steps: With your goal in mind, identify what one step you can take right now to move toward it. It doesn’t have to be big – in fact, it should be a small step. The idea is to build on small successes. Defining that first step – or other subsequent steps – too broadly could have the opposite effect you’re going for. Instead of feeling confident about your progress, you might eel inadequate and defeated.

“If you can conquer your physical and mental wellbeing, you can conquer anything in the world.” – Unknown

Body care: Feeling sure and confident increases when our minds are in optimal condition. And how we are in our minds is greatly affected by how we are in our bodies. (I learned this from Rolf Gates, author of Meditations from the Mat and Meditations on Intention and Being.) I’ve found a very powerful way of shifting to a place of greater confidence is by pausing periodically throughout the day to notice my posture. Often, I’m hunkered over my keyboard, shoulders tense, my chest and stomach scrunched. Noticing this, I move to a more relaxed and open position (learn more about what I’ve come to call my ‘awake posture’).  Eating and hydrating properly, incorporating movement into our day, and allowing recovery time are also critical ways for enhancing our performance – and thus, boosting our confidence. (Read more of Dr. Jacqueline Lee’s tips on sustaining peak performance.)

What one small step toward success will you take today to boost your confidence? A first simple step might be to schedule time on your calendar – time when you push the pause button, sense what’s happening, gain insight, and set intentions. Start small – it could be 5 minutes at the start or end of a day or during a mid-day break. Some questions you might consider are provided below. Take a question a week and see where you end up at the end of a month.

  • How do I define success?
  • What does success look like?
  • Why is success important?
  • How will I know I’ve achieved success?

Note

This blog is inspired by reading Fearless at Work: Timeless Teaching for Awakening Confidence, Resilience, and Creativity in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll, who sees confidence as “no matter what work offers up – success or failure, happiness or disappointment, recognition or indifference – we can unshakably rely on ourselves to be self-assured, resourceful, and at our ease.” What I love about Michael Carroll’s books is that I can read through one by focusing on a chapter at a time, usually using one a week to inspire new ideas and habits (Another of his books is Awake at Work, and Mindful Leader is on my what’s next wish list.)

Dive Deeper

You might be interested in:

  • Inc magazine’s feature by Peter Economy: 5 Powerful ways to Boost Your Confidence, including being prepared by learning as much as you can in your areas of expertise and creating “great lists” of things you are thankful for and things you have accomplished.
  • Leo Babauta’s list of confidence boosters on his Zen Habits: Breathe site: 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence, which includes starting something you’ve been procrastinating about, setting goals, and focusing on solutions.

Related posts

  1. Sustaining Confidence
  2. Shifting Our Victim Mindset

* I took this photo of a dianthus in my backyard this spring, and I shared it here because to me it has a confidence about it.

The Invisible Touch

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“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.”

~William James

This past week I received an email from someone who attended a session I led on being social in a digital world. She was thanking me for something I said which inspired her to write a blog that she was sharing with me. While I certainly had hoped back in March to influence the group by sharing with them, I didn’t fully realize how something I would say might truly inspire someone to action.

As I reflected on what happened, I sensed this ‘invisible touch’. I saw how the way that I showed up, the words I chose, the intentions I set came together to reach someone in a way that I didn’t predict.

Six email for Jun17

Read Six’s thought-provoking and inspiring blog: Human evolution – For our next chapter let’s reinvent our humanity.

Six writes about the power of creativity, adaptability, and empathy as sources of change and evolution, and she invites us to embrace those aspects of our humanity that make us unique. Part of what makes us special as humans is our ability to engage with each other, to form relationships, to co-create together. How we show up and seize the opportunity of our interactions is truly a special power that we all possess.

I’m reminded that every interaction is an opportunity and that being present as we engage with others provides the nutrients for building strong relationships. It’s not just the words we use or the visible actions we take, there is an unseen energy in the intentions, attitudes and beliefs we hold and in how we carry ourselves. Sometimes a kind of ‘magic’ happens when two people come together, open up to possibility, and trust each other and the space they share. This magic can take us to places and outcomes grander than we could ever have imagined.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

 ~Jackie Robinson

Can you recall a ‘magic’ moment where something invisible happened when you were with someone? Have you ever been made aware of how something you said or did shaped the actions of someone else? How you see your power to influence and shape the world – for yourself, and for others?

Here’s to truly being present for the magic of the moment and fully experiencing what’s possible when two people come together. May you grace others with the invisible touch. May you receive the invisible touch.

* Image: I took this photo at Newhall Refinery on my recent visit to California. I saw something magical about the 3 vases sitting together on the table. Together they created something that inspired me – they touched me.

The Truth About Feedback

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When people talk about feedback, sometimes there’s a subtle, underlying assumption that it’s about telling you ‘the truth’ you need to hear – the hard, constructive stuff that will make you better. Under that assumption is often another assumption that there is some specific way that we should be, that there is some absolute about how one should behave.

Feedback invites us to be kind and caring

towards ourselves, others and the environment within which we exist.

Have you ever heard someone say that ‘feedback is a gift’? To give it as it if were a present requires holding an underlying, corresponding positive intention for the receiver. Without feelings of openness and generosity, feedback feels anything but constructive, and can, in fact, be truly destructive. Feedback invites us to be kind and caring towards ourselves, others and the environment within which we exist.

Feedback is primarily about listening to what’s happening within and around us…

about seeking input to inform our thoughts, intentions, and actions.

It’s easy to get fooled into thinking that feedback is a process to follow, especially when organizations create processes and tools to support building a ‘feedback culture’. Feedback is primarily about listening to what’s happening within and around us. Feedback is about seeking input to inform our thoughts, intentions, and actions. It’s about sensing and responding.

Feedback is always available to us.

Feedback is always available to us. Sometimes we are just moving so fast, stuck in auto-pilot, multi-tasking and lost in action.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity

to look inside of ourselves for feedback.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity to look inside of ourselves for feedback. If we pause – even for a breath – we might discover how we are feeling, what we are experiencing, and what that information means to us. It’s so easy to forget that our emotions and bodily experience – not just our thoughts and the actions they trigger – are available to guide us in being our best.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity

to look outside of ourselves for insight.

In every moment, there’s the opportunity to look outside of ourselves for insight. We can intentionally move our attention to someone we’re engaged with and be curious: what are they experiencing, what are they really saying, and how can that inform me and what I need to do right now? We can sense what’s happening in our surroundings to help us know what’s needed. We can explore the energy in the room, or the culture within our team or the organizations within which we exist. How might what’s happening in the broader context provide me with an enlightened perspective or guide me in knowing what’s needed to move things forward in a positive, strategic and helpful direction?

Incoming information simply provides a point of view

that enriches our perspective.

It’s easy to take incoming information as ‘the truth’, whether it’s from within ourselves, from others, or from the environment around us. Incoming information simply provides a point of view to enrich our perspective. What someone else shares with us, for example, our leader or colleagues giving advice about how our performance might have been even better, represents their truth – their gift is sharing what they feel or think. We gain insight into what they see from their vantage point, based on their experience and frame of reference. Receiving their truth can tell us as much about them as it does about ourselves. Likewise, when we give our feedback to someone, we are sharing our reality of a situation; it is merely information available to help fill out a picture. Just as someone else’s truth is not ‘the truth’, our truth is not ‘the truth’.

We can take someone else’s truth, particularly those in a position of authority, as ‘the truth’, and in the process, get out of integrity with ourselves, replacing our truth with their truth. The opportunity is in taking both perspectives and opening to an informed, broader view.

Want to go deeper? I invite you to reflect on the questions below. You might journal or start a conversation about them.

  • What does feedback mean to you?
  • What assumptions are underneath your definition of feedback?
  • How do you seek feedback?
  • When and how do you give feedback?
  • What does your feedback tell you about yourself?

Other related posts you might be interested in:

*  I took the photo that opens this post on a rainy day at Playa Fuentes, Cantabria, Spain. I selected this image of a flower because plants provide an example of responding to feedback in the form of sunshine or water.

Diggin’ me diggin’ you

diggin.PNG

On my morning run today, one of my favorite artists, Martin Sexton, was singing to me through my headphones: “Diggin’ me diggin’ you”. His catchy tune added a little pep to my step. And, it got me thinking about how good it feels when I focus my energy on others. Directing my attention toward someone else and fully appreciating them gives me a feeling of connectedness that reminds me I’m alive.

If others feel like I do when someone gives me their full attention, then diggin’ someone else is a delicious win-win. When someone pays full attention to what I am saying, tuning into what I am feeling, I sense that they care about me as a person. It feels like they “see” me and appreciate who I am, not just what I can do.

“Leaders who succeed are those who are humble enough to be able to see beyond themselves and perceive the true capacities and capabilities of their people.”

~Paul Hubbard

I recently read a book recommended by an awesome colleague called The Outward Mindset – Seeing Beyond Ourselves: How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations by The Arbinger Institute. It’s an invitation to enhance our connectedness and be more inclusive, not just because it feels good, but because it unlocks collaboration, innovation and responsiveness that leads to enhanced performance. The book explores how our assumptions about the way the world works impacts our daily actions.

 “Mindset drives and shapes all that we do – how we engage with others and how we behave in every moment and situation.”

–The Outward Mindset

The ‘diggin’ me’ part might suggest an element of an inward focus. What’s important is that the diggin’ me is about my focus on you. The essence is introspective and self-observation, rather than what The Arbinger Institute calls an inward mindset, where we are primarily concerned with others’ impact on us rather than our impact on them.

The awesome colleague who shared the book with me is Jennifer Paylor. She is one of those people who gives herself to you. She truly listens to you, she completely connects with what you are saying, she ‘sees’ you. And her outward mindset enables her to see possibilities that others don’t.

Influenced by The Arbinger Institute’s first book, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, together we created an simple engagement approach we call “PALs” that is used in parts of our delivery and services organization. The foundational principle is “seeing people as people” starting from an outward mindset, consciously placing attention on the person you are interacting with. Two supporting components include awareness (not just of the other person but also what’s going on with you and in your surroundings) and listening (which inevitably leads to powerful questions). Just the simplest of small steps focused outwardly has incredible transformational power. When someone has become a PAL, not only colleagues but also clients notice. We’ve seen the PALs approach shift relationships from transactional to co-creative, strengthen how teams engage, and enhance performance and results.

Today’s workplace hinges more than ever on our relationships. Not only how we interact in more fluid and agile ways within and across our teams, but also how we engage with our clients and partners to make what seemed impossible possible. Now might be just the right time to open to the feel-good possibilities of diggin’ ourselves diggin’ those around us. What do you think?

 

Another great read from The Arbinger Institute: The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

 

Check out Martin:

 

I’m also blogging over at the IBM Jobs recruitment blog:

Leadership Series 

Mindfulness Series 

And I’ve started a new blog featuring weekly quotes:

Where Possibility Awaits

The Path to Social Eminence in a Digital World is Value Creation

 

GBS Bee SchoolTaken with Lorraine Rapuano, GBS Bee School Program Manager, and Ramin Mobasseri, ‘the social guy’, a faculty member for the program.

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Last week I had the honor of delivering an informal lunchtime keynote talk on ‘social eminence’ at IBM’s Bee School, a 4-day class to equip the IBM Global Business Services workforce with core skills, knowledge, and tools to best serve our clients.

I started at IBM as a business transformation consultant nearly 20 years ago, and have always worked from home, so for me engaging socially has been, quite simply, the way to get work done. Internally, I was an early adopter of our IBM Connections social business platform to engage with colleagues, using it to connect and follow colleagues from across the business, sharing and reacting to content shared by others, collaborating on projects and building professional communities for everything from specific work projects to special interests like career development, leadership and mindfulness.

When it comes to using external digital social platforms such as facebook and twitter and LinkeIn for professional purposes, I am much more of a novice. I use facebook for personal purposes, although about half of my friends are now fellow IBMers and these days the content I share that gets the most ‘likes’ tends to be work-related. I have a twitter account that is primarily fed by my WordPress blogs (Leading with Intention, This Abundantly Delicious Life, Mostly My Heart Sings, and Where Possibility Awaits). Only recently have I realized the power of LinkedIn and am making more time to engage there.

To prepare for my session, I reached out to peers in my internal network who I consider to be socially eminent in the area of leveraging social tools. I got some great input that I curated into a toolkit for my colleagues. However, the lists of steps to take and ways to engage to build one’s eminence weren’t sitting right with me for some reason.

It wasn’t until I was flying home that I found the answer to that feeling I had. It came like a tornado siren in my ear as I read The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves – How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations by The Arbinger Institute. The message that was important was not “how to be eminent” – an inward mindset, but rather “how to create value” – an outward mindset.

Being social in the digisphere is about collaboration to create value.

Engaging in the digisphere is about collaboration to create value, versus sharing to shine the spotlight on yourself. When we engage on digital social platforms, internally within our own organizations or externally on the increasingly popular tools for personal or professional collaboration, value can be created for ourselves (for example, a need for self-expression), for others (for example, support discovery and learning), for our organizations (for example, innovative ideas), and for something bigger (for example, ending cancer). One little tweet can serve all those purposes.

What I love about using digital social platforms is how I can learn from and get help from others, share ideas and get reaction and feedback, create and design with others, and see what’s happening outside my little world. I think it’s really cool how great ideas come from unexpected places, like through the weak links in our network – that is, from people that are connectd to people we know. (Read more about the social serendipity effect by Jim Claussen.)

I’ve always believed that first we must take care of ourselves if we are to take care of others. And that applies here as well.  To add value for others and something bigger than ourselves starts with ourselves. There IS an internal focus that’s needed to support a powerful outward mindset. Asking questions such as these can help us gain clarity about who we are and the value we create:

  • What do I know?
  • What am I working on?
  • What do I have expertise in?
  • What are my signature capabilities?
  • What am I learning?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What energizes and inspires me?

There’s value in being thoughtful and intentional about what you share and how you contribute, and asking questions about your sharing and engagement such as:

  • What do I want to create and why?
  • What value will my sharing create?
  • How might I best contribute?
  • What personal needs and objectives am I meeting?
  • What needs and objectives do others have?

What I’ve discovered is that social eminence is a by-product of good social engagement, not the center piece. When we stay focused on bringing our best to the needs, objectives and challenges of others, organizations, and the world, being known for our value happens naturally.

Social eminence is a by-product of good social engagement, not the center piece.

Ultimately, what you discover as people begin to associate you with value around something specific, they want to connect with you, they start sending you things that you’re interested in, and they might even invite you to engage in cool things with them.

 

NOTE: The opinions, views, and perspectives shared in this blog are mine and are not intended to necessarily reflect those of IBM.