What's In Your Christmas Stopping?

To me the most remarkable part of Christmas is how everything goes from ridiculously busy to a remarkable stop.

The end-of-year reviews, the 2013 planning, the rehearsals, the concerts, the shopping, the cooking, the visits, and then the pause.

When I walk into a candle lit church, all the chaos seems to melt away. We stop, we remember, we give thanks, we hope.

On Christmas, my running also becomes an ironic form of stopping. After the presents and before the cooking, I take a brisk trek through our small town with all the closed stores and restaurants. Everyone there is stopping too.

I wonder what others are doing and thinking in their stopping. What do those closed doors offer? What inspirations are brewing? What hopes are catching spark?

What Starts from Stopping?

What’s about to start after the stopping?

I recognize that for many there is pain in the stopping. Quiet time does not always equate to peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you. In our family we also have concerns that weigh heavy. Stopping can sometimes be too quiet.

I am also so grateful to all who cannot stop this holiday. Police, firefighters, military, call centers, convenience stores. There are many people “going” to empower our stopping. Thank you.

May this holiday season give you the peace of stopping, today or in the year to come. Enjoy the quiet along with the joy.

What will you become in your Christmas stopping?

In Peace and Joy,

Karin

What’s In Your Christmas Stopping?

To me the most remarkable part of Christmas is how everything goes from ridiculously busy to a remarkable stop.

The end-of-year reviews, the 2013 planning, the rehearsals, the concerts, the shopping, the cooking, the visits, and then the pause.

When I walk into a candle lit church, all the chaos seems to melt away. We stop, we remember, we give thanks, we hope.

On Christmas, my running also becomes an ironic form of stopping. After the presents and before the cooking, I take a brisk trek through our small town with all the closed stores and restaurants. Everyone there is stopping too.

I wonder what others are doing and thinking in their stopping. What do those closed doors offer? What inspirations are brewing? What hopes are catching spark?

What Starts from Stopping?

What’s about to start after the stopping?

I recognize that for many there is pain in the stopping. Quiet time does not always equate to peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you. In our family we also have concerns that weigh heavy. Stopping can sometimes be too quiet.

I am also so grateful to all who cannot stop this holiday. Police, firefighters, military, call centers, convenience stores. There are many people “going” to empower our stopping. Thank you.

May this holiday season give you the peace of stopping, today or in the year to come. Enjoy the quiet along with the joy.

What will you become in your Christmas stopping?

In Peace and Joy,

Karin

The Secret to Effective Time Management: A Story to Win By

Time management techniques typically involve identifying priorities and scheduling well. There is also power in building in unscheduled time, leaving white space on the calendar for reflection and spontaneous magic.

Adding some white space into your time management strategy can lead to better strategy, creative breakthroughs, and a more poised approach.

And so, I offer a story of time management, great mentoring, and leveraging the white space.

Time Management Lessons From a White Space Sherpa

I had just started my “dream job” straight out of graduate school. Eager to be successful, I got in before the boss, and stayed late to get more done. I had my shiny new Franklin Planner (back in the days of binders and systems), and I proudly scheduled every hour with meaningful activity. I was proud of my time management system and approach to success.

One night, my boss came by my cube (I was secretly glad that he saw me there so late). He just said, “come to my office and bring your planner.”

He took my planner and arbitrarily started crossing out meetings.

I was shocked.

“You need white space. You are not going to be successful without it.”

I argued, “but you can’t cross out THOSE meetings.”

“Fine,” He replied. “Move what you want around, but I want you to come back to me with a calendar that has white space built into every day. Oh, and while you are at it, pick which days you are going to get out of here on time to spend time with your family.”

I did.

When I met with him next, we brainstormed the possibilities for productive things to do in the white space on my calendar. Including “stare at the walls” to get great ideas. He then got on the phone and started calling Vice Presidents.

“I have this promising young leader who you haven’t yet met. She just had some meetings unexpectedly cancelled and is going to be in your neck of the woods next week (news to me). I wonder if she could stop by and get to know you.”

Brilliant.

“See, that’s what you can do with white space,” he smiled.

The truth is, with more “free time” I was actually more productive because I had time to think. Our results were fantastic that year, and his networking strategy built a strong foundation to begin my career.

I believe in white space.

The Danger of Free Time

Today it’s even harder to master the white space game. Even if we manage to carve out unscheduled time as part of our time management strategy, the push and lure of communication from email, text and instant messages, and all the social media can suck us in to less productive activity.

Chris Brogan shared his own struggles with white space in his fantastic newsletter, along with tips for a strategy to address. He encourages us to identify our “go-to triggers” for filling down time (twitter, email, twitter, facebook, twitter), and instead create a more deliberate approach.

His approach to avoiding triggers, and using white space effectively:

Let’s make three lists:

1.) Someday
2.) The Bigger Story
3.) Now

Onto “Someday,” place everything you haven’t touched and that really doesn’t relate to anything in the short-term (because if it did, you’d have completed it already).

Onto, The Bigger Story, list what your REAL big goals are, and what your focus should be.

He then provides more detail on how to manage these lists and effectively use your downtime in your time management strategy.

So, it’s a two-fold mission. First, find and preserve the white space. And next, know which “someday” and “bigger story” goals you want to pursue in that time.

Humility Matters: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble

We want to follow people with confidence, charisma and a strong sense of direction. Confidence inspires, attracts, excites and ignites. We think, “they sure do seem to know what they’re doing” And yet, I have observed that confidence, without humility, can be dangerous. I have seen it significantly limit a leader’s effectiveness. They stay their course, but may miss important input. People may follow, but not with their full spirit. Truly confident leaders are secure enough to embrace and share their humility. In the long run, their humility makes them stronger.

“What the world needs now is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.”
~Oscar Levant

Michael Carroll describes the “talent of humility,” in his book The Mindful Leader. He shares that when leaders understand they are part of a much bigger scene that is not fully within their control, they are free to show up more human. It’s from that humility, that they can confidently show up to do the best work possible. They offer more of their whole selves to the moment.

“Humility is how we express our delight– how we appreciate the simple pleasures and great joys. And equally, humility is how we open to life’s inconveniences and devastating tragedies. When we are humble, no experience is beneath us, no colleague is unworthy, no moment does not merit our full attention. Because we are humble, we do not pick and chose– savoring only the tasty parts of life and leaving the rest for others. We are wiling to experience the entire situation directly and work with every detail.”

I have been observing the leaders I admire who seem to striving for confident humility. Here’s 9 things I’m picking up. Please share your thoughts on the 10th.

9 Ways Confident Leaders Express Humility

  1. Understand they don’t have all the answers– and search for more
  2. Attract those who will tell the truth– and be able to hear them
  3. Reflect on their own leadership– and seek out change as needed
  4. Read about other approaches– and adjust
  5. Seek out mentors– from all levels
  6. Share more about themselves and create connections
  7. Seek to learn about the people they work with– and see them as people
  8. Try out new behaviors and ask for feedback
  9. Take stands against the politically correct choice
  10. ??? (please share your thoughts)

Labor Day Reflections: A Saturday Salutation

Labor Day was first organized in 1882 by labor unions as a celebration of the contributions of working class Americans. Although not a big union supporter, Grover Cleveland formalized it as a National Holiday in 1894. There is some good background here for those who want to know more Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day has always seemed to me to be one of those unsung holidays where the meaning gets a bit lost. As a child I mostly remember it as the first day off school, and the day my mom made me stop wearing my white shoes to Sunday School. Teaching Your Kids About The Meaning of Labor Day.

What Does Labor Day Mean Today?

So where does that leave us today? For some, this holiday still carries much of its original meaning, and a good time to reflect on history and progress.

For the many of us, the idea of defined working hours and schedules has morphed not due to changing rules or regulations, but because of the nature of our work, the virtual connectivity of our remote teams and expanded real-time technology. Many leaders and vital contributors (myself included) are always connected, and even on labor day will have their phones by their sides available as needed.

Labor Day Reflections

And so, I offer this Labor Day exercise as an opportunity for reflection as you celebrate your work, and the work of your teams.

  • What brings you energy in your work?
  • What has been your most significant accomplishment this year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • Who are you most proud of on your team?
  • How do you rest?
  • Is it enough?
  • What’s next?

I would love to hear your insights on your labor day reflections through your comments.

Some upcoming topics: Leading and Following in Remote teams, Large Group Innovation, and Humility.

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Is Fitness a Leadership Competency?

As a yogi, I believe in the connection between body, mind and spirit. I also know that my fitness routine is a vital aspect of who I am as a leader. For me, time spent on fitness is time to think, to clear my head and to become mentally and physically stronger. When I am exercising more and eating right, I feel better.

I lead better.

Would I go as far to say that fitness is a leadership competency?

I have been reluctant to write directly about this question.

Why?

Because I also see great leaders for whom this regimen does not seem necessary. Different leaders with different bodies, dispositions, ways of managing stress and processing techniques seem to be doing just fine–great actually.

And so, I share my recent thinking and writing to start the conversation. I invite your thinking and ask you to share your opinion.

Leader Athletes: Training For the Long Run (this week’s post on Lead Change Group). I am grateful to all the wonderful leader athletes who read, retweeted and offered their insights via their comments. I also amazed by the distances some of these leaders have gone in their athletic and leadership lives. It’s worth reading through the comments. I am also delighted with the support and friendship I am finding through The Lead Change Group. I am finding many kindred spirits.

Road Warrior Wisdom: 3 Ways to Health and Fitness on the Road (A recent post on 3 Plus International). A great group of women leaders mentoring and supporting one another.

And then I invite your thoughts on any of the following questions or other comments.

  • Do some need it more than others?
  • Is it important for you?
  • Why?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Team Trouble? How to Build a Team One Person at a Time

My phone rang again this week. It was a front-line leader I have known for years having team trouble.

“I can’t get them motivated. They just don’t seem to care like I do. I am not sure what to do, I’ve tried everything.”

I have received this same call many times over the years, not from this person but from others in similar circumstances.

When the frustration level hits a wall like that, I go back to my most fundamental belief about team building: great teams are built one person at a time.

Until that fundamental trust is built between the leader and each individual team member, team meetings will likely remain superficial and team builders won’t get much traction.

Also, it’s a lot less daunting to think about how you can empower one person’s success, rather than feeling like you need to influence an entire team all at once.

Doing this involves meeting the person where they are. And as Dan Rockwell suggests, adapting your style the person you are working to influence.

Steps for One Person at a Time Team Building

Set the stage with the group

  • Start positive: express your commitment to their development
  • Be careful not to position it as fixing something broken
  • Let the team know you will be reaching out to set up individual meetings

Prepare by thinking about your impressions of each person

  • What are they most proud of?
  • What do they care most about?
  • What excites them?
  • What’s their biggest strength?
  • What seems to scare them?
  • Who do they respect? Why?
  • What is their role on the team?
  • What do they want to do next?

Hold individual discussions

  • Ask some of the questions above
  • Really listen
  • Resist the urge to comment or challenge, take it all in
  • Consider: what surprised you? What did you learn?
  • Agree on one or two key actions with measurements of success
  • Pick one great thing and ask them to share back at the next team meeting
  • Establish time to check in

On the side

  • Find time to learn more about who they are and what they do outside of work
  • Share a bit about yourself and look for common interests
  • Look for opportunities to work with them on something fun
  • Encourage opportunities for team members to work together

Incorporate some highlights into future team meetings

  • Start with asking each team member to share something they are proud of
  • Ask them to share a best practice or teach something
  • Have them share wins around their key actions

Please share your experiences what team building techniques have worked best for you?

Following the Leader? Stop, Notice How It Makes You Feel

There is much we can learn from following. We all find ourselves in positions to follow both great and horrible leaders from time to time. It helps to stop and really pay attention to how we feel during the process.

Pay Attention to Emotions

As leaders, we lead and follow with much intensity. Because we care, the range of emotions is powerful. When we are deeply invested, the wins are that much sweeter. At the same time, disappointments and frustrations can run deep as well. Paying attention to the emotions we experience as followers can help us become more empathetic leaders.

A Lesson from the Mat

I have a yoga instructor who will have us hold a very intense pose, and then say, “Stop. Notice how that makes you feel.” And then, we will go on to a very relaxing pose, and then the same request, “Stop, notice how that makes you feel.” This is useful in teaching us to reflect on the sensations in our bodies and minds–and their causes.

Transferable Feelings

I remember the first time I received some really significant recognition at work. The music blared, the spotlight shown on me. I was escorted onto the stage in front of thousands. Pictures were snapped with top brass… the adrenaline rush was fantastic. As I returned to my seat, my boss pulled me aside and got very serious:

“Never forget how that made you feel. Someday you will be in a decision-making role, and someone will ask you if the investment in these recognition programs is worth it. Today you have your answer.”

He was right. I am often in that decision-making role. I have my answer.

Taking the time to notice how we feel when we are followers, can inform our decisions as leaders. And we are always following someone, no matter whom we are leading.

How do we feel when…

  • someone takes the time to give us really candid feedback?
  • our risk-taking is supported?
  • someone makes a big investment in our careers?
  • someone takes credit for our work?
  • we really screw up?
  • we work really long hours and someone notices?
  • … and no one does?
  • we are talked to with dignity and respect?
  • … or we are not?

It is hard to step back and embrace the learning, particularly when emotions are high. And yet, that may be our biggest opportunity to learn.

Saturday Salutation: A Trail of Blessings

There is a man who walks slowly down the trolley path near my home each morning. I often see him on my morning run. He ritualistically tips his cane to everyone as he passes, and says, “God Bless You.” When he is not there, the crickets seem to sing more loudly. Perhaps they are filling in the void left by his absence.

Namaste.