Do It Scared

You want to ask for a raise from your boss but you chicken out. There’s no way she’ll give you one. You want to get on the new project team but put off asking. Pretty soon, the project is launched and you are sitting on the sidelines. You want to run in that 5k but you have never done one before. You are afraid everyone will be laughing at you (or at least judging you). Fear can stop us in our tracks.

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I recently read Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden and he espoused, “Do it scared.” Being scared can paralyze you into inaction. I have been paralyzed by fear before and I realized that I did decide that I would do it scared. So Vaden’s words resonated for me. If you wait for the fear to dissipate, well…that could be a long wait. There are some things I am still afraid of. One example that comes to mind is a bridge in Western North Carolina that is called “Mile High Swinging Bridge.” I saw my son and brother walk across that perilously high moving bridge, but my acrophobia hijacked my brain. I just couldn’t do it. I froze. On the other hand, there are many examples of how I did step into fear, and it’s made me a stronger, more confident person.

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So here are ways to Do It Scared:

 

  • Reframe it as a challenge.  In Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress, she writes that instead of saying you are nervous about the speech you are giving tomorrow, reframe it instead into a positive, like “I’m excited about the speech I’m giving tomorrow.” I actually explained this to my husband after I read the book and he holds me accountable for my language. So if I say, “I’m nervous about this facilitation I’m doing tomorrow.” He’ll say, “Aren’t you excited about the facilitation tomorrow?” This helps me regroup and dampen down the fear.

 

  • Find your why.  I have a white board in my office that says “Make a Difference in People’s Lives!” This is my why. So when I’m doing something scary like facilitating or speaking with a group  I am not familiar with, I make sure I set my attention to make a difference in their lives. I want at least one person in that room to have a takeaway to improve their life. That’s not as intimidating as “I want everyone in the room to love me.” I am just there to change one person’s life. If there is more? Great. But one person out of that roomful of seventy people having a take away is definitely possible.

 

  • Don’t wait to be comfortable.  Vaden wrote, “Do it uncomfortable.” I have fallen for this before. I’ll want to wait until all the conditions are perfect, but perfect never comes. Pretty soon procrastination takes over. I’m waiting on one more data point. One more piece of feedback. When I was standing next to that bridge, I was waiting for the wind to stop. It didn’t. Comfortable never comes so you never take the first step.

 

  • Find an accomplice.  The first time I spoke in another state, I brought my husband along. I knew I was going to be nervous because it was a big group, and the facilitation I was doing was new to me. I wanted support, so I brought it with me. I think I might have walked across that bridge if my husband was there to hold my hand. Wind or no wind. Put together a personal board of directors–your team to help guide your life and/or business. I have “Cathy’s Brain Trust”, who help me with topic choices and editing my blog. I feel accountable to them to have a new post every week. Having support helps me face my fears.

 

  • Jump.  It’s funny but on that same trip to Grandfather Mountain and that darn bridge, my son and I did a zip line trip. I had never been on a zip line before but it sounded like fun. Of course, I hadn’t really thought it through. Which was probably a good idea. First you sign your life away. Then they start suiting you up with a hard hat, gloves and straps. Next thing you know you are following a group of 8 people up to the platform to take the leap. Maybe I didn’t want to chicken out in front of my son. Maybe I didn’t want to chicken out on myself. I took the leap and it was a blast. Sometimes thinking it through paralyzes you. Jump.

 

  • One day at a time.  I usually have a facilitation or speaking gig a few times a month. There was a time where I worried about it for weeks before, especially if there were five different topics scheduled that month. I learned that by looking at it a week ahead and preparing (i.e. review the materials, gather flip charts and PowerPoints, post it notes, etc.), I spend less time worrying about the event. I felt more confident and don’t let the fear of public speaking hijack me. Prepare one day at a time.

 

This is not to say that every event has been flawless. Sometimes I talk too fast or forget an important piece. But that’s OK. At least I stepped into fear and did it scared. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Oh and that darn bridge? It’s still on my bucket list. What do you need to do scared?

The Engagement Wizard

I think so many businesses, in today’s economy, figure employees “should be happy they have a job.” The truth is that, according to Inc. magazine, 70% of your employees are job hunting. They might smile and nod and laugh at your jokes, and at night they are on CareerBuilder and asking for recommendations on LinkedIn.  Their resumes are up to date and they are ready to jump ship at the first sign of a decent paying job. They aren’t just looking for more money; they want a place that encourages engagement.  As Dan Pink espouses in his book Drive, “autonomy, mastery and purpose” are the ingredients for the Engagement Wizard. Engagement Wizard

The Engagement Wizard is the secret to holding onto those employees who are phoning it in while they search for greener, autonomous pastures. It is far better to employ some engagement tactics to hold onto your veteran employees than to search out a perceived better fit. I realize that some folks are too far gone to turn around and they are the poison in the kool-aid.  Employing a few tactics to create engagement for those who are salvageable, is well worth the effort when you figure that turnover can cost you anywhere from 50 to 200 % of the positions salary (and the replacements likely to cost you 10 to 20% more that the incumbent anyway).

So what are the techniques of the Engagement Wizard? Here are a few:

1. Thumb.  Quit keeping your employees tightly under your thumb.  It’s time to loosen the reigns.  As Dan Pink said at a recent conference, no one ever said “my favorite boss was the guy who breathed down my neck”.  People leave bosses.  If you are dictating an employee’s every movement and deed and watching the clock to make sure they are constantly at the grind stone, your employee will not be engaged. Loosen up your thumbs.

2. Don’t prescribe.  You should not view yourself as the doctor who is prescribing all the answers.  As Liz Wiseman said in her book “Multipliers”, you want to shift from being the Tyrant who has all the answers to the Liberator who is listening.  Listen; don’t talk.  This encourages the autonomy that Dan Pink prescribes.  If your employee is thinking for themselves, they are happier.  If you don’t believe me, tell your partner how to make the bed.  See how that goes over; and if they ever make the bed again.  Don’t prescribe.

3. Learning.  One of the downfalls in the recent economy is the slashing of training budgets.  We keep the Sales and Marketing budget status quo, and cut the non-essential training and development budget.  This, especially for Millennials, is a bad idea.  Employees, who have a “Growth Mindset” as espoused by Carol Dweck, are constantly looking to learn new skills.  “The Investor” as written by Liz Wiseman is the leader who is investing in resources for their team.  Encourage learning so that your employees are gaining “Mastery”.

4. Monkeys.  Delegate the monkey (as in task, project or duty) and check up on their care and feeding.  Leaders need to delegate and give ownership to their team.  This is another trait of Wiseman’s “The Investor”.  You can’t develop Pink’s “Mastery” without letting go of the monkeys.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for checking in on the monkeys, however you shouldn’t be the one filling the water dish.  Delegate the monkeys.

5. Big Picture.  Does your team know the big picture?  Jon Gordon at a recent conference suggested handing out 3 X 5 cards to all your employees and asking what the purpose of the company was.  What would your team answer?  We all need to know the purpose of the organization for which we work.  It is much easier to align with an organization and be engaged when we know what the purpose it.  If you answer, “To make money”, your team is not engaged.  Make sure they know the Big Picture.

6. Non-Commissioned Work.  One of the best examples of how effective autonomy is to creating better outcomes was a study that Pink refers to in his book “Drive”.  They found that in a blind evaluation (they didn’t know which art work was commissioned versus non-commissioned) paintings that were commissioned (i.e. I want it to match my couch, I want flamingos and it needs to be 6 feet wide) were of less quality and creativeness as opposed to non-commissioned work.  So make sure your team has some time to just create instead of keeping them “in the box.”  It’s not practical to have all non-commissioned work all the time, however some time left to one’s own devices is critical to engagement.

Once you’ve found your magic wand, get out of the way.  You will be amazed at what folks can do if they are given the freedom to find their own path.   Find your Engagement Wizard and start waving the magic wand.

Turn Over a New Leaf

This is the time of year where many folks start gathering up their New Year’s resolutions.   We start putting together the list that will cure all our ills and bad habits.  We decide it’s time to turn over a new leaf.  Lose 50 pounds, quit smoking, get out of debt.  Pick your leaf.  You might be ready to tear up that leaf by the second week of February.  You’ll be sore from that new exercise regime, or blow $100 on that new Thai restaurant, or break out the plastic again.  Why can’t we stick to the same leaf…new or otherwise?

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There is a lot of scientific evidence that is available now to help show you the way.  If you really think it through and set up a plan, you can succeed.  There are ways to anticipate the self sabotage. To be one step ahead of yourself and anticipate a few faltering steps.  If you understand your willpower and can short circuit your “auto-pilot”, there is hope that you can achieve your greatest desires.  You can succeed in turning over that leaf.

Here are a few steps:

1. More.  It is much easier to get behind the concept of more versus less.  Drink more water versus drink less soda.  Exercise more versus eat less.  It is so much easier to say, “Yeah, I ran more miles this week than last.”  But how do you know if you ate less, without meticulous logging of every calorie?  Even in the during performance reviews, it’s so much easier to ask someone to do more of something than less.   Frame your goal as something you want to do more of.

2. Identity.  Kelly McGonigal in her book “The Willpower Instinct” calls this your “Want Power”.  Think about how you want to identify with yourself.  It’s not that you want to save more as much as you want to see yourself as a “financially stable” person.  So when you make choices, you see yourself in the condition you are aspiring to.  So, if you identify with being a long distance runner, you aren’t likely to stop at McDonalds.

3.  Plan B.  Make sure you have a back up plan when hunger, stress and fatigue kick in.  These will happen.  Maybe not the first day, but at some point, you will be standing in the check out line at the Piggly Wiggly, a half hour late for your Zumba class, starving to death and that York/Reeses/Milky Way/(fill in your favorite candy) will be calling your name.  There are times when making a good choice will be impossible.  Your willpower is at its brink.   Pick the “regular size” versus the “king size” bar; choose gum or a bottle of water.  Pick a new default when your back is against the wall.

4. Schedule.  I’ve been a Franklin Covey Facilitator for several years.  One of the principles that has always been esposed in their “Focus” and “7 Habits ” courses is to schedule the big rocks.  The big rocks are the important goals in your life.  Whether it is training for a marathon, a happier marriage or being financially stable, if you schedule time in advance, you are much likelier to actually show up.  So plan a date with your partner, schedule ten miles for Saturday morning or spend Sunday afternoon working on your business plan.  Scheduling it will ensure that it happens.

5. Imagine temptation.  Envision your worst case scenario.  What bump in the road is likely to show up in the first week or so?  Birthday cake at work during your first week of your fitness plan: imagine yourself emailing that you have a conflicting meeting and turn it down.  You’re running late to your child’s concert and the only choice is fast food: imagine yourself ordering a salad and bottle of water.  Visualizing “the higher path” will help you actually follow through.

6. Compassion.  Forgiving yourself for any slip ups is critical.  Assume before you start that you will.  Because you will.  There are vacations, snowstorms, fires to put out and sick babysitters.  Showing yourself compassion is critical.  If you know that you can forgive yourself, you are much more likely to be successful in the long term.  Take care of your inner dictator.

All these steps involve taking the long view.  Pick the leaf that is most important (don’t pick a whole pile) and pull your full attention to it.  Imagine your future self. Make decisions based on their best interest. When you don’t–and there will be times when you don’t–practice forgiveness.  When you are successful with the first leaf, there will be will be others to take on.

Soothe your Inner Dictator

It’s difficult to control our inner dictator.  Most of us are trying to work on something.  Exercising more, spending less money, eating more fruits and vegetable, stopping procrastination…pick your poison.  The minute we derail, we beat ourselves up.  “Cathy, you lazy wench, why did you sleep in and not go for a run this morning?”, “Why did you go out to dinner when you said you would save money this month?”, “Dummy, you spent 2 hours on Facebook when you could have been doing homework.” “What is wrong with you?” Sound familiar?  Your dictator has taken over.

According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal and her book “The Willpower Instinct,” carrying around this guilt and reprimanding ourselves with this self talk is actually going to encourage more self defeating behaviors.  What?  Is she crazy?  I would be completely out of control if I didn’t reprimand myself.  My dictator is doing a great job of keeping me under wraps.  Really?

One of the studies in the book took place at Carlton University in Ottawa, Canada.  They tracked the procrastination habits of students over the course of the semester.  The ones who were self critical for the way they performed on the first exam were much more likely to make it a habit and procrastinate on subsequent exams.  Those who forgave themselves for procrastinating on the first exam, did far better and  improved their study habits.  Doesn’t it seem so much easier to have some self compassion and to soothe your inner dictator?

Here are some ways to calm your dictator:

1. Forgive.  Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”  Let go of your grudges towards others.  If you can’t forgive them and their failures, how can you possible forgive yourself.  I was tormented by resentment of an ex for years.  It got me nowhere but more stressed out, paranoid and resentful (as I recounted all his sins against me and mankind).  It wasn’t hurting him, it was hurting me.  Release it and move on.

2. Self Compassion.  Once you have forgiven others, it should be easier to forgive yourself and your failures.  Try to imagine if you would say any of the things that you say to yourself, to a close friend or your child.  Imagine your best friend getting on a scale and you say to them “Hey fatso, that’s what you get for eating all that cake last night.”  Why would you talk to yourself with any less compassion as you would a friend.  Forgive yourself.

3. Escape.  Anticipate the feeling of giving in when you are stressed out and plan your escape.  So if I’m used to grabbing a glass of wine when I get home from a stressed out day at work, have an alternative escape plan.  A healthier option.  A walk, some yoga, praying, crotchet, reading, gardening, P90X.  What ever you enjoy that is counter to your normal unhealthy default escape. This will trip up your inner dictator.

4. Envision.  Envision being successful with a few bumps along the way.  This is what kills most New Year’s resolutions.  You join a gym and say you will go every day and then when the first bump in the road comes along (such as I couldn’t get a babysitter) you abandon the plan.  Resolution over.  Realize you are going to have set backs and keep on keeping on.  In the story of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise always wins.

5. Awareness.  Watch how you talk about yourself to others.  I know several colleagues who constantly put themselves down or are down on life.  “I’m having a bad hair day.” “I’m overloaded.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.” First of all, do you want to be around someone who is such a downer?  Second, how can you possible have a good day when you are saying this out loud?  If you are feeling a little tired, say “I’m feeling great.” And add a smile.  It will turn your day around and others will be attracted to your energy.

This is a difficult process and it isn’t easily changed over night.  Your dictator has been in control for a long time so don’t plan a coup d’état.  Slowly but surely pacify your dictator’s power by reflecting on how you are viewing things and what you are letting your dictator control (and say).  Soothe your inner dictator.

What is your dictator saying?

Communication Chasm

Have you been in a communication chasm?  You need an immediate answer from your boss, your partner or your friend and they don’t respond.  Ugh.  It’s almost like in today’s day and age of immediate communication and overload of technology that communication comes to a stand still.  Some people respond to email.  Some people will only instant message or text (hello, anyone under 30) or something really old school: a face-to-face meeting.  How often does that happen?  Well, if the Millenials only want to text and Gen X only wants to email, the Boomers want a phone call and the Traditionals want to be eye ball to eye ball, how are we all going to all get along?

Sometimes you need to be Sherlock Holmes to try and figure out the “sweet spot” for a response.  Hm, I sent an email last week, left a voice mail yesterday…I wonder how I will get the response I need to reach an important decision before this project deadline.  We have all this technology and yet we can’t seem to get on the same page.  We have a communication chasm.

So how do we jump the divide and start exchanging information and make some decisions? Here are a few tips and ideas:

1. Open Mind. You’re going to need to start with one.  We all have our preferences.  I would love to email every person in my life and think that it will serve all my purposes.  It won’t.  Sometimes I need to call.  Sometimes I need to be face to face.  Get out from behind your PC or smart phone and test the waters.

2. Embrace. If you have a child with a cell phone. Scratch that.  If you have a child, they have a cell phone.  You will need to learn to text.  There is no other way.  Embrace the change.  My sister-in-law told me that her 80 year old mother can text because that was the only way her twenty-something granddaughters would communicate.  It’s never too late to embrace change.

3. Learn. About a year ago at an executive meeting, a colleague brought up that his daughter was traveling over seas.  I asked if he had “Skyped” with her.   Most of the gentlemen at the meeting were Boomers with laptops and camera phones.  They looked at me like I had said a dirty word.  They need to dust off their cameras and learn some new methods.  Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that you need to stay ahead of the wave.

4. Adapt.  Take some of your new found techno intelligence and start using it.  Scan your audience and try some different methods.  If you notice that someone always leaves a voice mail in response to your email, then call them back.  If your child texts a response to your voice mail, text them back.  Don’t be tied to your normal communication channel. To be more effective, you are going to need to adapt.

5. Relax. Obviously this is tough for someone impatient like myself.  Take a breath…actually a couple of deep breaths as advised by the book, The Willpower Instinct by Dr. Kelly McGonigal.  Slowing your breath for about 5 minutes can really take the edge off of the anxiety.  Just because information is flooding by doesn’t mean you need to jump into the flow.  Unless you are in a fire or earthquake, it will all work out.

6. Give. The Golden Rule.  Sometimes it pays to be the one who steps forward with communication.  Stay away from building silos in your life because someone has not been communicating as frequently as you would like.  Take the first step to reaching out to them.  Try using their chosen communication channel as a first step.

7. Assumptions.  Check your assumptions.  If your husband didn’t return an urgent text, do not assume he has been in a car accident.  If your child hasn’t acknowledged a money transfer into his account, do not assume he’s been robbed.  If your client hasn’t returned your email, do not assume that the deal is dead or, worse yet, they don’t want to work with you.   Assumptions are a dangerous barrier to communication.

Communication channels are an ever-changing landscape of possibilities.  You may not stay ahead of the curve or be an early adopter, but if you want to span the divide of the chasm, you’ll need to start taking some steps.

How do you jump the divide?