Work as a Race Day

ironmanThis week, I will be attempting to complete my second Ironman Triathlon. For those not familiar with the race, it is a 2.4 mile swim in the Tennessee river, following by 116 miles (4 more than normal) of a bike ride across Tennesee and Georgia, and then a 26.2 mile run (marathon) in the downtown Chattanooga district. All of this starts around 740AM on Sunday September 28th, and has to be completed by midnight. The central premise of my last book (www.triathleteq.com) was that these endurance events are as much an emotional endurance test as they are a physical endurance test. How might this be connected to what you do at work this week?
 
During the race, I only have three resources: (1) what I know (2) what I am carrying with me and (3) what is around me. The last resource is one that is grossly underutilized and can often be the game-changer especially in tough times. In a race, an athlete is only allowed to use nutrition and hydration that is provided by the course at stations set up on the bike and the run. But that is not what I am talking about. Think of ALL the OTHER resources like music, wind, beautful weather, a scenic farm or hill or home, people cheering you and volunteers there helping you, to name just a few. All these resources are there and I try to engage with them using my five senses but also by actively engaging with them. I do not know this for sure, but I am fairly certain I have the world record for saying “Thank You” to volunteers in a Triathlon. In fact, I often point my finger at each person I say thank you to and look them in the eye. Sometimes there are many volunteers at a station and even kids handing out water and I will purposefully slow down to engage with them. Almost 100% of them time, the response from the volunteer is a positive one. Acknowledgements like “you’re welcome” or “you’re looking great” or “you got this” and they are always smiling back to me. I know that those comments were directly and specifically for me. The hormonal impact on by body watching those smiles and hearing those responses for me I can literally feel all over my body. This in turn keeps my negative thoughts away, and still allows me access to my brain where all race-day decisions will be made.
 
Your career is an endurance race. An important day at work could be your metaphoric race. Or it might just be a tough day. What if on this day, instead of you expecting people to come to you to cheer you, you proactively went and found compliments to give out to those around you. like my “thank you?”  All the people around you and all the places around you are no different that those on my race. They are underutilized. This week, make it a point to notice everything great about your trip to work, about the people around you and the geography of your workplace. Then use your 5 senses to engage with one in each category. See you feel after – specifically if you feel more empowered to tackle your day. Oh by the way, if you want to track me on Sunday – go to www.ironman.com and insert my bib# 775! Thank you!

One-A-Week

happyOne of the pleasures of my job is I get to have meaningful and substantive conversations with people within the context of my being a coach and the other party being someone who has hired me to help them. I am an executive coach, not a therapist, so my clients are people who are very intelligent, talented and generally successful but not happy. I have seen quite a shift in the “knowledge” of these folks over the past 10 years or so. With social media and abundance of easily accessible knowledge via the internet, it is infinitely easier now for folks to find information in all kinds of format (pictures, video, stories, blogs, etc) that they can relate to that is quite specific to their unique point of journey in life. So when I talk them now, they are already well-equipped with insights and best-practices. They even send me all kinds of material saying “this is what I need to be doing” yet their ability to actually do it, to make changes to their lives that they know will have positive impacts, remains inexplicably low. I am now seeing people living in two worlds – one in which they have a clear picture of who they want or wish they could be and the other being the world they currently live in. It’s almost as though the clearer the former is, the more unbearable the latter is coming. Continue reading

Truth … the new Sexy

connectedconversationsLike most, I was both shocked and incredibly sad that the great comic Robin Williams died last week. I followed quite a good bit of the news both on mainstream and social media. I was most moved by pictures of people standing on their desks professing: “Oh Captain My Captain” – a line from one of my all-time favorite movies, Dead Poets Society. I tried to glean what it was exactly that so many people from so many generations from so many different parts of the world loved about this man. I have concluded it was his ability to tell the simple truth. Sure he was a genius at characters and comedic impromptu performances, but these were merely the window-dressing to the truth on so many subjects that came out of his mouth. Every professional comic will tell you that humor is an incredible truth-softener. Continue reading

That “one experience” …

lightbulbI am fortunate enough to have a profession where having authentic conversations is part of my job. I hear many stories from very accomplished people. What they have in common is well researched and documented already and of the many shared attributes of these folks, I enjoy listening to that ‘one experience’ they all have after which, their self confidence is impenetrable. It may waiver from time to time with failure and success, but the belief that they are special enough to do great things is forever imprinted in their DNA. Continue reading

A good day – EQ

GooddayIn a recent conversation, a good friend of mine was sharing the details of her previous day. She said it was a day filled with all kinds of very different and unanticipated challenges – both on the personal and professional fronts. This was very different from her normal day. She was able to get through the day successfully but was totally exhausted. I told her she had a great day. My valuation of her day surprised her and she asked: How could that possibly be a great day?

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Seeking Clarity vs Advice

AdviceThere is a difference between seeking clarity and seeking advice. Both are invaluable exercises in critical thinking and the decision-making process. Some of the distinctions are obvious. We seek advice from parents, friends, coaches, attorneys, and consultants for example. They tell us what to do. We also seek clarity from the same folks as a precusor to the advice. Continue reading

How to be better…

BETTERFor some reason, when I ask younger professionals what they need to do to be better, they can quickly provide an exhaustive list. This is to their credit. For folks over 40 or so, the response to the same question becomes challenging. People tend to take longer to respond, their lists are much shorter, and their desire to actually be better seems far less than their junior counterparts. Why is this? Continue reading

Father’s Day

FathersDaysAs an executive coach, I have had the great privilege to work with amazing leaders across the world from all walks of life. Regrettably, many of them do not have healthy relationships with their children. My mantra has always been that success in one dimension of life that occurs at the expense of another is not success. Continue reading

Creativity Barriers

Creative2014I recently worked with a group of leaders on innovation in their company. The starting point was discussing why it is so hard to be creative at work? If people in general are not creative and problem-solvers, then that is one thing. But given the access to knowledge we all have now, it is hard to find people who have a need in their personal lives and with a few minutes of clicking, cannot find a creative solution to their problem. Since most of us are very creative and resourceful, then something must happen in the workplace that stifles innovation. If you agree with this, then innovation in the workplace is less about installing new systems and processes, and more about removing barriers to unleash what employees already do outside of work. Continue reading

Workplace Inefficiency 2

wkplaceIn my last post, I discussed workplace inefficiency and recommended taking inventory of tasks both for yourself as well as for people that you collaborate with. I trust you did the exercise and if you did, I am fairly certain you were surprised at just how much time you and others spend on menial activities that just do not result in anything productive but are viewed as ‘business as usual.’ Continue reading

Workplace Inefficiency…

wkplaceI was recently in line for coffee and overheard the lady in front of me on her cell phone make the comment, ”I was in meetings all day yesterday, did not get anything done.” I am certain most of us have heard this before and felt it ourselves. This is further evidence of my continued assertion that the workplace today is one of the most inefficient operating system. If our computers or any technology worked the way we did, we literally would throw them out the window. So it seems quite paradoxical that our expectation of efficiency with technology is at an all-time high often complaining about one device being just seconds slower than another, yet we have enormous tolerance for wasting hours and days in traditional modes of doing business with each other in the workplace. Continue reading

Myth of “2 sides to a Story”

3sidesAll of us have used to the term “there are 2 sides to every story.” We have used it to make equal the perspectives of two contrasting sides. And there is truth to this. We see things not as they are, but from where we are. The latter is based on our past experiences, our intelligence, our current or immediate-past emotional state, the opposing argument, the history of the opponent, and a number of other variables that collude together to blurr our view of what is actually happening on both sides. The problem with this term, however, is that it often implies that though their are indeed two sides to every story, that somehow they are both equal. It is my contention that in fact, one is almost always more right than the other.

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Your Leadership Brand

brandWhen you think of any great athlete you admire, there is usually one or two adjectives you think of when you describe that person. The same could be said of your favorite actors, each one having a different set of descriptors. If you extend this thinking to the workplace, there are some good leaders in your organization at all levels that you have met that you can find words or phrases to best capture what you like about them.  Think of these terms as brand labels for each person. Continue reading

Think differently …

brainI think I was in my very early teens when I first heard someone say that we are using but a very small percentage of our brain and that we achieve far less than we are actually capable of. The comments were made in a philosophical manner with goodwill. As I collaborate with neuroscientists from all over the world today, I am happy to share that those comments are scientifically true and we are now living in what many are calling the Golden Age of Neuroscience.  Why should this topic be relevant to you? Because you have a brain and we are underutilizing it. Whether you are a business person, an athlete, or just someone who wants to explore the capacity of your potential, this topic is for you. Continue reading

Just ask …

askThere are countless stories in the workplace of successful products, innovations and business practices. I am certain there are many in your organization right now. Did you ever wonder how that happened? Where they came from? Who caem up with the idea? How did they do it? If you have been around long enough, think back, and if not, ask someone who has been around a while. You might be surprised to learn that most, not all, of the things that make your work life easy or comfortable did not come out of some major think tank or require a massive amount of capital. They came from people who saw barriers to their work life, had ideas and somehow found a way to institutionalize them. Continue reading