In lieu of Holiday cards, we thought we'd continue our tradition of sharing our year in photos, accompanied by music that reminds us of the spirit of the Holidays. Sit back; relax; and enjoy! Whether you have a starring role, or not, you have ALL contributed to our story and we are eternally grateful. Offered with love, gratitude, and visions of peace.
As a coach, I can honestly say that I’ve not had one client who has not been challenged in dealing with conflict. Conflict consumes a significant amount of emotional energy, and, from a pure neuroscience perspective, can activate a cortisol storm in your body that, over time, erodes your physical health. Having a tool that can consistently short-circuit that storm and result in productive resolution of the conflict could make you very popular and potentially rich! No, it is not a formula for delivering feedback, although those are helpful. What is the tool? A mirror!
Some of you reading this may be familiar with “shadow work.” For those who aren’t, shadow work is about taking a courageous look at who we are at our worst. or what we think of as our worst. To use myself as an example, my outward persona, for those who know me, is someone who is kind, thoughtful, compassionate, generous, and selfless, which is true, except for the times when I’m not. The parts of myself that I may not willingly hold up for public scrutiny are those times when I lose my temper and patience with my mother who has dementia. I know she has no control over the countless times she repeats the same question, and there are many times I allow that to frustrate and anger me, regardless.
Through much of life, I’ve looked at others who appear self-confident to the point of arrogance. Or those who, in my perception, can say “no” and put themselves first so easily, and I've labeled them “selfish,” where “selfish” has had a negative connotation to me. What I’ve failed to understand until recently, is that my development opportunity is to embrace those parts of myself: to create stronger boundaries in my ability to say no - to put myself first, particularly when it involves taking care of myself: To be able to stand tall in my strengths and to make those known, in service to my larger purpose. These insights were further illuminated in my work with archetypes (Carl Jung, Carol Pearson) and the discovery of the stories I live in, and those that I tend to disavow. If you’d like to hear more, please email me about this valuable work!
Leadership is about integrating hearts, minds, and spirits. For too long, we’ve focused on engaging only the minds of the people who work with us. It can take minutes to engage the heart if our intention is to do so and the impact can be profound. Let me tell you of one such example that happened to me.
I was invited to have my View-Changer Cards used as a lunchtime activity during a recent conference that had over 400 participants in attendance. For those not familiar with the cards (click on the above link for more information), they are a deck of 53 cards with photographs on the front and a thought-provoking question on the back. I’ve taken each of the photographs and the location for each photo is also listed on the card.
I was also invited to sell my cards should there be interest. For those of you who’ve been to conferences, you probably are familiar with the experience of passing through the line-up of vendors who are hoping you’ll stop by for conversation, that may lead to future business, while knowing that you’re really interested in the “free goods!” Time is usually very precious and more often spent in catching up with colleagues; participating in the educational sessions; eating a relaxing lunch- where you actually have time to eat; and maybe a quick run through the vendor area, hoping not to make eye contact but are still able to grab some pens, or other creative gadget that you really don’t need, but think you do.
Suffice to say that I brought far more decks than I sold, yet my reward was far greater than I imagined. After I had announced my booth’s door prize, and went back to my booth to do final packing, a participant came running over to me to ask if she could still buy a deck. I asked her what card she had at her table and if it was used. She proceeded, with a big smile and what I thought may have been watery eyes, to tell me her story.
“They didn’t use the card but I did. The card at my table was the one of pelicans from South Carolina. My mother, who’s been dead for several years, LOVED pelicans. They are strange looking creatures but she had a passion for them. She lived in South Carolina for some time and she would often share stories; have pelican paintings or trinkets around the house, and we would occasionally stroll and watch the pelicans on the dock. While others were chatting at my table, I was visiting with my mom.”
At that point, we both had water coming from our eyes, and as she held out her hand to thank me, I asked if I could give her a hug instead.
The entire interaction lasted for less than five minutes. And I’ve been sharing that story as my most important take-away from the conference. It was a moment. And it made the day worth far more than any amount of sales could have achieved.
As I work with leaders and hear stories of burnout, I am impressed with how dis-heartened people seem to be. We often discount demonstrations of emotion in the workplace as “drama.” I wonder what we’re losing by not engaging the hearts of our employees? Judith Glaser in her book: “Conversational Intelligence,” talks about listening to connect, not reject. Can you take five minutes to listen for emotion as well as thought? What difference would it make if you did?
I recently returned from a Global Leadership Coaching Conference where over 200 coaches from around the world were present. As with most conferences, there were several keynote speeches from well-published authors, yet the most powerful leadership lessons for me were demonstrated by several of the participating coaches.
What did these coaches have in common that so impressed me?
First, each coach, who also happens to hold a board position for his or her local coaching organization, told their story. Storytelling is a powerful vehicle for communicating a message. It engages your audience (like any hero’s journey) and often touches not only the mind, but also the heart and soul. The coaches from Saudi Arabia and China told stories that were deeply personal, and ones that also inspired a larger message: one related to shining our own light to bring our best to the world, and another about testing our limits.
Second, they were both authentic and used metaphor to strengthen their message. One coach used candles to symbolize igniting a spark (letting your light shine), and the powerful symbol of one’s light being extinguished. The other coach painted a picture of her internal experience as she sat through the day. She described her intention of purposefully moving out of her comfort zone by moving from the back of the conference hall, to the front row, and finally to the stage. The result exceeded her expectations when her remarks were met by a standing ovation.
Third, each had an intention for how they wanted to impact the audience, and they let that intention guide their actions to achieve their desired result. For the coach from China, her intention was to share her message of bravery, courage, and possibility. I had spent the prior evening dancing with this coach and she told me that in China, adults don’t often dance. She changed that story when she stepped out of tradition by dancing; her next day presentation from the stage made total sense to me as she had already begun to step out of her comfort zone.
What stories are you telling? How are you letting your light shine? When is the last time that you stepped out of your comfort zone, only to exceed your own sense of limits?
Intention for the New Year
Modeling an esteemed colleague’s practice, I don’t set goals for the new year, but I do set an intention/ theme. Last year, my intention was expansiveness. I fulfilled that intention by traveling to Greece, Iceland, and to the Navajo Slot Canyons of Arizona. I hired a book coach. And I accepted the President-Elect role for the International Coach Federation Maryland Chapter. In addition, I succeeded in the greater distribution ofView-Changer Cards through a national training company.
This year, my theme is lightness. What do I mean by that? When I think of being “lighter,” I think of carrying less weight. Yes, I do mean physical weight, but it’s much more than that. As I work with my clients, I notice so many of us carry our definition of being responsible to the extreme. Many of us literally carry the world on our shoulders instead of letting go, saying “no,” or asking for help. My intention for the year is to be more discriminating about what I say “yes” to and to make sure that my “yes’s” align with what is most important to me.
As a “giver,” I am not well practiced at receiving. It is a work in progress for me to admit that I can’t do it all, nor is it healthy to think I can. Asking for help provides an opportunity for others to shine and for me to be more efficient in doing what only I can do and enjoy doing.
Lightness also means letting go of judgment, both for myself and for others. I don’t know about you, but for me, when I start to judge, which I most often recognize by my frustration level and a series of “should” statements, I feel a heaviness and feel stuck. If I can stay curious, keep things in perspective, and even laugh as appropriate, my energy lifts up and I can see more constructive possibilities. As perhaps you’ve noticed, when your energy is down, the possibilities you see seem negative. There’s a reason for that - it’s impossible to see positive, creative outcomes when you are feeling low.
I hope you will join me in my journey toward lightness.
Those of you who know me know that Thanksgiving is my most cherished holiday because of the sentiment and practice it represents. To live in gratitude is now proven to bring numerous health benefits and greatly contributes to peace in our world. For leaders, an attitude of gratitude can be a powerful tool to strengthen partnerships and engagement.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we realize that there are some in the world who may struggle in finding reasons to give thanks. Some of us are grieving over the loss of loved ones; or the impact of terrorism and violence. Certainly, if we turn on the news, we can easily find many reasons to be angry and bitter.
My preference is not to ignore world news, but to choose to impact world events by "being" peace and sharing peace. It is in that spirit that I offer you this holiday gift.
Credits: The photos are all taken by me. They were taken in Greece, Iceland, Yosemite National Park, Maryland, Washington DC, Sedona- Arizona, The Grand Canyon, Utah-- Bryce Canyon National Park, San Diego, CA, and more.
The music is by Josh Groban: I find no better song that exemplifies the spirit of gratitude, as his song: "Thankful," written by David Foster, Richard James Page, and Carol Bayer Sager.
In deepest gratitude to my family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, clients, nature, and spirit.
Have you ever waited an hour to see a physician for a scheduled medical appointment? I am used to tolerating a wait of some sort but not for an hour and not without some form of communication to explain why I’m waiting.
As someone who has had experience in process redesign; organizational development; and coaching, I get curious about my experience and noticing what is happening within me and outside of me to contribute to that. This one instance, when I was finally ushered into the examination room, the physician proceeded to apologize for my wait (great!); inform me he’d get me out of the room as soon as possible (wait a minute… you’re the reason I came!); and proceeded to badmouth his front desk staff (whoa: I’d like to have confidence in the team I’ve chosen to see).
As he didn’t even sit down during our discussion, my perception was that he was more concerned with time and less concerned about me. I am sure that this has happened to you, whether you’ve been on the receiving end as patient or client, or on the providing end as frustrated and good-hearted clinician.
Believe it or not, this experience had such an impact on me that I felt compelled to write a letter offering feedback, which I knew may or may not be read; may or may not be seriously considered; may or may not impact insight and change. Still, as a coach, I felt that I wanted to provide that possibility and complaining to my friends would not serve any benefit for anyone else. Perhaps you will find the tips that I offered that physician helpful:
Have you seen them? During recent travels, and in recent facebook postings (that’s right, where all wisdom lies), I’ve been seeing pictures taken with the Selfie Stick: that telescoping tool that holds your cell phone at the end and allows you to take a picture of you and your friends, without having to ask someone to help you, and that doesn’t show your nostrils and facial hairs.
I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m doing writing in a leadership blog about Selfie Sticks! As I coach leaders, I often find my clients challenged with beliefs around being competent, in-control, and autonomous. To be transparent, one of my fears in life has been around being dependent on others and needing help. As life so often does, I was forced to face that fear during a very challenging family illness. I discovered that people felt honored to be able to give back the help and support that I had offered them. It deepened our connection, our friendship and our love, and I learned a very important lesson, which was that I cannot exist alone, and the journey is a whole lot more fun when surrounded by others.
I find the same pleasant surprises when I ask strangers to take my picture with my BIG camera, and they, in turn, ask me to take theirs. As with children and pets, it serves as a starting point for conversation, for connection, for discovery, that so often leaves me with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.
So, I don’t mean to slight the Selfie Stick in any way, and, in fact, I’m a bit envious that I didn’t think of the idea myself! And, I am impressed with our culture’s desire for independence, as compared with community and collaboration.
I will resist the pull of the Selfie Stick, and will ask your forgiveness for the close-up pictures of nasal hairs, or the pictures that encompass more depth, because I’ve asked for help.
I am an avid traveler; a “journeywoman” of sorts, in every sense of the word, and recently returned from a blissful trip to Greece. Since returning, I’ve been concerned and interested in the economic circumstances in Greece and the challenging decisions regarding their “yes” or “no” vote to stay within the European Union. My concern for those whom I met, and their life is far greater than before I visited. Knowing them has made me more compassionate to their life and cause.
I had a similar feeling when I went on a mission trip to Glendora, MS, on the Mississippi Delta. I had never been to Mississippi before, and had never been in the deep South. I had the privilege of doing health screenings on about sixty townspeople and got to hear their stories. When I returned to my very privileged world in Baltimore, I had a new appreciation for the plight of those living in poverty and for whom getting to a grocery store, or accessing healthcare is a daily struggle.
Why am I writing this as part of the work I do with healthcare leaders? In thinking about these examples, I am reminded of the many conversations I have with healthcare leaders where there are assumptions made of those “less known” that many times interfere with partnerships and collaboration. As a nurse, I’d often hear about “those” in pharmacy, or radiology, or environmental services. As I coach physicians, I often hear about those in “administration.”
How easy it is for us to judge when we don’t know, or worse yet, believe we know, when we don’t. During a recent course on Theory U (Otto Scharmer Ph.D), I learned about doing an “empathy walk,” which involves being curious and getting to know someone totally different than oneself. Imagine how your getting to know a homeless person might impact your perception of them? If you’re interested in doing that from a distance, watch this video.
My challenge to you is to improve your compassion and strengthen your ability to collaborate by being curious about, and listening to someone else’s story. Your life will forever be changed, for the better!
Daniel Goleman, a thought leader on emotional intelligence, talks about our social brain and how we are wired to emotionally connect to those around us. Studies have proven that the power of our emotional connections to others has impact down to our immune system and t-cells! This provides new meaning to those of us who may think we have “toxic people” in our lives!
Who would think that Disney and Pixar would come out with one of the most thoughtful and inspiring productions focused on the value of emotions? Well, they have and Meg LeFauve has my deepest gratitude! It may be no wonder that I am choosing to comment on a movie whose lead character’s name is “Joy.” This movie is relevant for children and adults, and for professional and personal lives. Leaders: this has critical importance for you!
Very often, when my clients speak about emotions in the workplace, they refer to them as “drama.” Have you heard that comment? If we think of emotions as “drama,” what impact do we then have on how we encourage and respect the varying emotions around us? Isn’t it emotion that, literally, helps us take action (e-mote: to move)? Alexander Caillet, in his well-conceived “The Thinking Path,” outlines how our emotions impact our behavior and results. Whether we choose to admit it or not, emotions are all around us in the workplace and we would be better served if we noticed them within ourselves, as well as within others. It is well documented that the most effective leaders are those who have the highest emotional intelligence. It is the self-awareness, self-management, other awareness and management that helps us engage others (on a purely physical level) and motivate our teams to achieve our outcomes.
Insights I gleaned from Inside Out include:
Tips, Tools & Reflections
Joy Goldman is an avid photographer, and perpetual seeker of positive and inspiring views. She has spent much of her life, regardless of career expression, in finding what's positive, and using that to serve others. As a lifelong learner, Joy lives the principles she teaches, and challenges herself to be a model for the courage, humility and authenticity she requests of others.