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My Beer.  My Choice.

My Beer. My Choice.

I recently got back from our summer vacation in Michigan.  We’ve gone up there the past few years to visit friends and this year, we decided to visit some local breweries.  My favorite thing to order at a local brewery is a flight of beer.  A flight of beer is a small sampling of usually 4-5 beers and because it’s just a sample, I’ll try just about anything.

Craft beer seems to have exploded in recent years.  Visit any local establishment and you’ll usually find a Stout, a Porter, a Pale Ale, an IPA, a wheat or a cider.  My favorite thing about visiting local breweries when I’m traveling is trying the unique flavors.  For example, when I was visiting Founders in Grand Rapids, I tried their Green Zebra.  It’s a Gose Style Ale brewed with watermelon and sea salt.  It was delicious!  At The Mitten Brewing Company I tried Mango Gold, a wheat ale made with real mango! 

There is one type of beer that I’ve tried numerous times that I do not care for.  I take one smell and I know exactly what kind it is, I’ll take a small sip and shake my head.  Nope.  Still don’t like it.     

It’s the IPA.

You might be wondering:  Is she inviting me to a happy hour?  Is she opening a brewery?

Happy Hour?  Perhaps. 
Open a brewery?  No. 

As I sat at the different breweries and watched nearly everyone sample many different flavors of beer, I thought how our world might look if we treated people how we treat those little glasses of beer.

I was encouraged to try new things.
No one was upset with me for not choosing an IPA.
No one protested my choices.
No one told me I was wrong.
I didn't have to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn't order.
Everyone was enjoying themselves.

I was allowed to just be.  And I let other people be.

Imagine if we were all allowed to do that in every aspect of our life.

Go First.

Go First.

I knew that Simon Sinek’s “Circle of Safety” concept had become a buzzword when someone shared a story about being in a meeting and someone whispered “circle of safety” while making a circle motion with their arms.  What that person really meant was, “I’m about to tell you something in confidence. Don’t tell anyone else.”

That’s actually the opposite of a Circle of Safety.  As Simon says, a Circle of Safety is a culture of trust.  If you haven’t seen Simon’s TED Talk “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”, you can watch it here:

I recently re-watched his talk and came away being reminded of a couple things.  First, the good news.  The good news is, we (that’s right – you, me, everyone around us) have control over the things that are going on inside our organization because of how we personally choose to behave.  That piece is 100% in our control.

Now, the tricky part.  The tricky part is if creating a safe culture for everyone is our goal, individuals within the culture must trust each other.  Yes, trust.  Yes, I know it’s hard.  Yes, I know there are people you’re thinking of right now that you don’t trust.   Yes, you have to be willing to set judgement aside.  The million dollar question here?  How do you create trust?

To get trust you have to give it.  You have to be willing to give it.  You must be willing to go first.

Here are 25 things you can try first. 

My Be First To List:

1.   Make eye contact and say good morning! 

2.   Know what your colleagues’ coffee orders are and surprise them occasionally.

3.   Schedule a team lunch just for fun.

4.   Ask about someone’s weekend.

5.   Walk over to a colleague’s desk and answer that e-mail in person.

6.   Pick up the phone to answer an e-mail.

7.    Say “I don’t know, I’ll have to check on that” in a meeting.

8.    Apologize.

9.   Offer help on a project.

10. Admit a mistake.

11.  Let someone else present first.

12. Say you’re in over your head on this project.

13. Compliment someone on their promotion.  (Be specific.  Why were they a good choice?  Tell them.)

14. Ask a question.

15. Tell someone that you didn’t understand something.

16. Defend someone who isn't there to do it for themselves.

17. Listen.  Really listen.  Turn off the screen.

18. Invite a colleague to lunch that you don’t know well.

19. Ask your direct reports to tell you one thing you do really well

20. Ask your direct reports to tell you one thing they think you could do differently

21. Admit your biggest mistake and what you learned from it.

22. Talk about the one piece of your work that you struggle with.

23.  Stay late to help someone meet their deadline.

24. Compliment someone on a job well done.  (Be specific. What did they do?)

25. Ask for help.

These aren’t one and done actions.  These are things that you have to consistently do over time… again, and again.  When done consistently over time, you can start building a foundation of trust, collaboration and most important?  A Circle of Safety. 

Don’t let the Circle of Safety be reduced to “shhhhh, don’t tell anyone.”  We spend so much of our days, weeks, years at work.  Let’s make them places filled with trust and collaboration.  Everyone wins when that happens.

What else would you add to the list?

Rooted in Your Reality

Rooted in Your Reality

In a recent class, one of our participants was responding to the concept of reflection.  He said, “I wish that it were more acceptable.  It seems like responding quickly is rewarded.  It means you’re smart, on top of it, and unafraid to speak up.  Obviously, a leader.  Responding more slowly or pausing to reflect on your response has somehow come to mean that you’re calculating and formulating your response to make yourself look good.” 

I wasn’t surprised, and it worried me that pausing even for a few seconds to respond caused individuals to feel suspicious about that person’s intent. 

Going slow goes against everything society is telling us; move fast or get left behind.  It seems we somehow have figured out a way to simultaneously pride ourselves on and complain about how many e-mails we’re getting while sitting in a meeting, how many back-to-back meetings we’re going to, the fact that we might only have 20-minutes of “free time” during our day, the fact that we can’t meet a good friend for lunch for a month because our calendars are so full, or how many airplane miles we flew last year.  I’m always confused when someone excitedly says to me, “I’ve been in meetings all day!  I haven’t eaten since my banana this morning.” 

Um… congratulations? 

We seem to be competing in the “Busy Olympics” where the gold medal is more responsibility, a bigger title, and even less time.   

I’m not great at slowing down.  I describe myself as a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, both of which are not conducive to slowing down.  I’m usually not too far away from my phone which means I’m never fully present with anyone.  It’s hard for me to say no which means at times I push myself into tight (too tight!) time constraints, re-arrange the family schedule, or have to ask for help at the last minute.  I have a real fear of slowing down and I don’t think I’m alone here.

I think the fear of slowing down is rooted in being confronted with our own reality.

The reality of being frustrated at work.
The reality of not feeling seen or heard.
The reality of still battling those feelings of inadequacy.
The reality of being passed up for a project or promotion.
The reality of our relationships.
The reality of kids growing up way too fast.

What does slowing down mean?

It means going against what it seems like everyone else is doing.
It means creating space for those around you.
It means being comfortable with silence.
It means getting better at saying no.
It means creating some stronger boundaries.
It means facing your realities.

For me it means not getting my laptop out at night.  It means not having my phone sitting right next to me.  It means being present and engaged with those closest to me.  It means leaning into conversations that can be painful or difficult and it also means finding time for quiet, so I can think and reflect on life, family and work. 

For me, slowing down means I’m a better me for me.
And for everyone around me.

What would slowing down mean for you?

Leadership Transcends the Role

Leadership Transcends the Role

I recently asked a group that had just wrapped up a leadership class to respond to the question: “What’s the value in this for you?”  One of the participants said, “For me, I’m toward the end of my career.  I used to manage people, but don’t anymore.  This class taught me that leadership isn’t just the title you have.  Leadership transcends the role.” 

Leadership transcends the role. 

That got me thinking that it doesn’t matter where you sit on the org chart.  As a human being, you have the capacity and responsibility to lead from right where you are.  There are a couple skills that with renewed awareness and practice regardless of the title, we should all be working on all the time.

One of those skills is listening.  Not the “I’m making eye contact with you, so it looks like I’m listening, but really, my mind is going a million different ways” kind of listening.  Or my personal favorite, “I’m staring at my (insert screen name), but I’m nodding my head and saying uh-huh a lot” kind of listening. 

I’m talking about the kind of listening that’s so powerful it can be felt.  That person walks away feeling heard, feeling seen, feeling cared for.  Listening is not a passive act. 

Want to practice?  Try this:

  • Turn your screen off and make eye contact.
  • Stop talking.  (Remember?  You’re supposed to be listening.) 
  • Listen to literally every word coming out of their mouth so that you’re able to focus on the other person.  When you’re so focused on the other person it also allows you to quiet your brain and the thoughts going through your head.
  • Ask powerful questions to get them to go a bit deeper and reflect:  “I heard you say XYZ, is that what you meant?”  “Tell me how that made you feel?”  “What’s important about this?”  What’s frustrating about this for you?”    “What are you most proud of?”
  • Acknowledge their feelings.  Don’t dismiss them. Telling someone “you shouldn’t feel that way” is a really good way to tell someone that you don’t have time for them, that you don’t really care about how they’re feeling, that you’re too busy for this and that they need to move on.  Instead try:  “It seems like you’re feeling (insert feeling word), tell me more about that.” “How are you going to move past (insert feeling word)?” 

Listening doesn’t require a title or permission.  It requires you to care.

Another skill available to anyone, anywhere is reflection.  Reflection is a personal and intentional act.  It causes you to pause, to slow down, and to think. 

Reflection is about focusing inward and asking yourself things like:

  • What’s important to me about this?
  • What’s the learning here for me?
  • How did that go?
  • What would I do differently next time?
  • What’s hard about this?
  • What do I want the outcome to be?
  • How do I want to use the skills I just learned?

If you’re thinking that you don’t have time for reflecting, ask yourself one of those questions and then give yourself 10 seconds to write down a response or answer in your head.  Reflection can take as little or as much time as you give it.

What’s so great about reflecting? Stopping to think and reflect puts you in charge of how you show up, how you respond, and how you behave.  We only have control over how we think, feel and behave.  If something is not working, we need to make a different choice and that can only happen when we slow down long enough to reflect.

Don’t wait for a fancy title to “be a leader”. 
Start now.
We’re waiting for you.

Change is Hard

Change is Hard

Because I have the best job in the world, I am able to pick up my son Joey from school almost everyday.  Like anyone who has picked up a child from school, we have a typical interaction when we see each other.

Me:  How was your day? 
Joey:  Fine. 

The other day when I picked up Joey from school, as we were walking to the car, I looked down at him and asked the question.  Instead of saying fine, it went something like this... "Not great... I… I’ll just tell you about it in the car.”  That was a new response and it grabbed my attention.  When we both got into the car, I immediately asked, “What’s up, buddy?”

He looked me in the eye, got very teary and said, “Our sub is the worst.  She’s so mean.  She made my friend stay in for the whole recess.  He didn’t even do anything.  I just wish my old teacher was here.”  (His teacher (who I adore) is on bedrest with Baby #2 on the way for the remainder of the school year.)

If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised that my instant reaction was tears as well.  I really hated seeing my sweet Joey missing his teacher.  That thought was quickly followed by me assuring Joey that I knew his sub isn’t the worst or the meanest.  I reminded him how sometimes kids can really push the boundaries with a sub, so I’m sure she’s frustrated too. 

I’m a fixer.  I don’t want people I love to be sad.  I don’t want my kids to not love their school.  I spent most of the evening thinking about what I was going to tell Joey before school the next morning to make this better or at least not as bad as he thinks it is.  When he came into my bathroom the next morning to brush his teeth, it hit me:

Change is HARD.

I pulled him close to me and said, “Buddy, I struggle with this all the time.  Change is hard.  You got used to how your teacher did things and now they’re different… and that change is really hard.  I get it.”  We sat for a few seconds in quiet and he quietly nodded his head.  In his sweet nine-year old way, I think he took it in.

Change is hard.  Change is especially hard when you disagree, when you think it’s flat-out wrong, or when you know it’s going to negatively impact you or someone you love.  Change sucks.  I used to hate when people would say the only thing you can count on is change.  But, you know what?  It’s true.  So, what do you do when you’re experiencing an unwelcomed change?

Feel it.  Let yourself cry.  Go workout.  Go vent to someone you trust.  Use colorful language if that’s your thing (because who doesn’t love a well-placed F-bomb?).  Some of you might be wondering, what’s important about letting yourself feel it?  Can’t we shove it all down and pretend like everything is fine?  Bottling up does no one any good, especially you.  Eventually (and usually at the wrong time) you will erupt. 

Name It.  What is it exactly that are you feeling about this unwelcome change?  Are you angry?  Frustrated?  Betrayed?  What is it?  Only when you can really give what you’re feeling a name can you decide how you’re going to move forward.

Make a Choice.  Keep feeling all the feelings around this change.  Need to be angry a little longer?  Need to vent some more?  Need to gossip about it?  That’s your choice.  When you’re ready to choose something else, take a deep breath and move on to the last piece.

Ask Yourself.  Literally ask yourself what’s the learning here for me?  Write your response on a piece of paper or in your journal.  You might be surprised what comes up when you slow down long enough to write.  If writing’s not your thing, tell someone about your learning.

Then, pat yourself on the back, take another deep breath and congratulate yourself for surviving another change.

I asked Joey what he thought he might be able to learn from this.  His first response?

“To stay home every time I have a sub?”  (Followed by a laugh.)   I asked the question again and this time he said, “that not everyone is the same.”  That’s the learning. 

Not as Awkward as I Thought

Not as Awkward as I Thought

What are some things you can do to create a space where everyone feels more comfortable to contribute?