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The Possibility of Doing Less

Sue was the vice president of a subsidiary of an international parent company. She had responsibilities for five direct reports and indirectly, of another 30 employees. She served on the executive leadership team of her company and several committees. Additionally, her role required that she served on a key committee for the parent company. This required frequent travel to Germany. Sue was dedicated, determined and of high integrity yet she often worried that she was leaving something undone or not done well.

In her Personal life, she was the single mother of two elementary school children and the sole caretaker for elderly parents who lived 30 minutes away. Sue reached out to me at Ascend Consulting for coaching, because the holidays were coming up and the added stress made her realize something had to change! It is often said, “if you want something done, ask a busy woman.” While this may be true, as my grandmother used to say, “there is a limit to all things!”

Sue and I began our coaching conversation with assessment. We explored her current vision of leadership, when & how she delegated to direct reports and the amount and nature of feedback she gave them. We also got clear about her definition of what it meant to be a “good mom.” Sue realized that more often than not, she didn’t ask for help, she didn’t delegate enough, and she held herself to unrealistic standards without checking out her expectations with her boss, her parents, or her children.

Through coaching, I shared with her the concept of creating a “we” mindset rather than an “I” mentality. This meant having open fact-finding and brainstorming conversations with her team and her kids about what really needed to happen and how. She stopped making assumptions about what her performance should be. Rather, she learned to check out with her boss what his top priorities actually were and what the definition of done “well enough” really was in each case.

As a result, Sue began to see many opportunities to do things with a little less angst and with a lot more empowerment of others. Most of all, she began to enjoy what she was doing and to allow others to create an atmosphere of ownership and collaboration. The result was greater enjoyment of everyone’s accomplishments- both at work and at home.

As Sue did less & was choosy about her definition of achievement, she had more time to listen to colleagues and spend quality time with her children. Turned out when they talked about what mattered most to them, her children chose playing board games with Sue rather spending her weekends on creating a perfectly decorated home.

So, as each of you go into the holiday season this might be a great time to reconsider some of you own definitions of leadership delegation, achievement, and perfection. It may just turn out that less really is more!

Mindfulness Meditation Group Starting in October

September/October 2019 Power Points

As Fall arrives- seemingly overnight, many of us are back to early mornings, school and work routines, volunteer positions, homework and busier days!! In this Newsletter I’ll share strategies on goal setting and planning, staying present and mindfulness to help your reentry go a bit more smoothly.
Enjoy!

September/October 2019 Power Points

Best Planning Strategies for Short and Long-Term Goals!

I’ve got a 2 -year goal to achieve my next position,” said a client recently.  She explained that she has a time-consuming, multi- stage project she needs to accomplish first, however, which if she completes early, will make it possible to leave before 2 years.  We often have long term goals that depend on tasks and projects that precede them.  This makes planning and organization of time, materials and actions more challenging.

When we’re faced with a looming end goal complicated by an important, shorter term project, we can get overwhelmed hyper focusing on one to the exclusion of the other or go back and forth chaotically between the two projects.   Here are some strategies that can help us work steadily towards a long- term goal while making progress on sorter term but essential projects:

  • Map out in big strokes initially the tasks necessary to achieve the long- term goal. A two- year goal might be broken down into stages with benchmarks to achieve every month or quarter.
  • On the same large spreadsheet or flipchart, in a different color enter the near- term project with its high-level sub goals and associated benchmarks.
  • Identify the priorities for each benchmark according to the ABC rule:
  • time sensitive or urgent and important, B- important, or C- not urgent and not important in the near term.
  • Plan out the first month of tasks for each week with a high- level look at the 2 yr. goals and a more detailed eye to the near term one.
  • “Chunk” tasks for both goals- break the work into 15 min- to- several hours each week to chip away at the projects. Careful! Be realistic about the time you honestly have available to put towards both goals.
  • Review your progress each week and, if tasks are planned daily, each day. Did you put the time in you planned or did life get in the way?  Adjust your plan each day, each week, and each month to hit your benchmarks.
  • Assign a specific time on your schedule in writing to work on a specific task.  If we say, “I’ll do it tonight,” that is not specific enough…suddenly it is 10 pm and we’re fatigued- after 3-4 nights like that we can find ourselves behind schedule and discouraged!
  • Ask for help!! Family, Teammates, colleagues across disciplines can offer information or take on parts of one or both goals.
  • Reassess the end dates for each project. Is the 2 -year goal for the new position a want or a need?
  • If you are getting behind, hard on the facts but be soft on the person. Self-talk can demotivate us if we are overly critical when our plan goes awry.
  • Finally: Celebrate! Celebrate both the benchmarks you achieve along the way as well as the completion of each goal!

Be Present While Planning for the Future!

Setting Goals and planning are essential for progress.   We benefit from the clear sense of purpose from pursuing a dream, setting goals and identifying action steps to achieve them.  Often, however, we find ourselves mentally living in the future and missing out on today!   How can we keep our end goal in mind while living mindfully today?

* First, start your day with a Mindfulness Practice. This could be as simple sipping your coffee, really noticing the smell and taste without looking at your phone!  Or, you may wish to sit quietly following your breath with your full attention for 10 minutes. Others may wish to meditate with a free app like “Calm” or “10% happier”. This sets the tone neurologically to be more attentive and present.

* Periodically throughout the day, pause and simply breathe for 30 – 60 seconds with your full awareness on the physical sensation of breathing.   I recommend setting an alarm or reminder at regular intervals perhaps 10 -, 12, 3 and 6. This simple technique may show you if you hold the breath or breathe in a rapid- shallow pattern, a common; unconscious stress response.

*Make a deliberate choice to notice your surroundings.  If on a walk, notice the flowers, changing leaves, or birds singing rather than worrying about what happened yesterday or what might come next. If in a meeting, really listen to the people speaking – listen for meaning and emotion.

* At the end of each day, focus on the accomplishments you made including effort and progress.  And, list 3 things you are grateful for from that day.

*Pay attention to balance: Are you focusing too much on the long-term project and neglecting a significant responsibility?  Neglecting self-care?

When we live each day consciously, we can be more at choice so we enjoy our todays while working toward that future goal.

If you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness you might benefit from my Mindfulness Based Support Group starting Oct 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm.  See upcoming events for details.

Hold the Date: Mindfulness Based Support Group Begins October 9, 2019

Deepening Awareness: Mindfulness Practices for Coaching

Mindfulness increases awareness and change in executive coaching.  Gain a better understanding of its benefits, and how it enhances your client’s experience by joining me at the IFC June Dinner on June 20, 2019 at 6:00PM, where I’ll be discussing how to use Mindfulness exercises in your personal and professional presence.

For more information please see link below:

Deepening Awareness: Mindfulness Practices for Coaching

March/April 2019 Power Points

No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes.  Even though we all make them,  it isn’t always as easy to live with the fear and judgment we put on ourselves because of them.

How does one turn down the guilty and self-critical voice we hear inside when we do make a wrong decision, and turn up the Self-Compassion to recover from it?

Read my latest March/April 2019 Power Point for tips on being more Self-Compassionate during those times:

March/April 2019 Power Points

A Reason (and Season!) to Connect

We see the signs everywhere: gift ideas, charities asking for help, the Salvation Army Bell Ringers, the Hanukkah candles and the Christmas trees. Our whole mindset is about giving gifts, showing love, and gathering together at work and home. At times it seems tedious, so many in need and so many parties/invitations.

What is the point of it all?

At our core, our humanity demands connection.  In every culture throughout the world, human beings gather in groups using formal celebration, movement and words to express their desire for connection. Even our brains are hardwired for connection as Marco Iacoboni found when he discovered Mirror Neurons.  According to Wikipedia, “A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.”  The fact that we respond in our brains to what someone else is doing as though we were doing it, is remarkable. It demonstrates how connected we humans are with others at the brain level.

So, what does this say about how we celebrate and give at this time of year?  It implies that apart from corny sentimentality or tradition or because we should, we come together and give to others because it is who we are as human beings.  How shall we express this spirit of connection and giving throughout the year in our homes, marriages, offices and teams?  More importantly, how can we get more skillful at connecting in ways that help us be better people and more successful in our relationships.   The late Judith Glaser, an Organizational Anthropologist and executive coach, with whom I had the honor to study, was a pioneer in communication and connection in business.  She shares the practical applications of the connection between neuroscience and communication strategies in her book Conversational Intelligence.  Two of her strategies that work to create trusting connection and to overcome conflict are:

The Ladder of Conclusions and Moving From “I to We”

Often, we have whole conversations in our heads that predict how someone will think, feel or respond and, based on our “self- talk”, we decide whether to talk to that person and what to say.  The “Ladder of Conclusions” graphically shows the brain science behind how we come to “know” something and how important it is to distinguish between our assumptions and theories and fact.

When we realize that what we are thinking in our head is not fact, but is merely our theory, we can check out that assumption by talking to the other person involved. We can ask open questions that build a shared understanding of reality which can pave the way to communication, and mutual solution seeking. This moves us from “I to We.” When we talk in ways that invite others to openly express their thoughts especially if they are different from ours, and if we listen with the desire to understand and connect, we open up new possibilities, solutions and connections. As Judith often said: “Words create worlds.” The words we use either create positive feelings and brain chemicals of connection(oxytocin) or make us fearful or defensive (cortisol) which drive us apart. “Culture depends on the quality of our relationships which depend on the quality of our conversations.” * Judith Glasser Conversational Intelligence for Coaches Training, 2016

So, this Holiday Season, lets practice the skills of self- awareness, checking our assumptions and opening up dialogue so as to increase understanding in our homes neighborhoods, businesses and on social media.  Let’s remember that there are myriad possibilities for solutions, innovation and healing in all our relationships.  Let’s make this the gift that keeps on giving all through the year.

Marjorie is a clinical social worker and certified professional coach. She applies the concepts of Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and “conversational intelligence” in her counseling, coaching, corporate training and keynotes.  Contact Marjorie at Marjorie@ascendconsulting.net (610-696-4443) for information on these topics and keynotes and check out her websites: 

www.ascendconsulting.net 

www.ascendcounselingpa.com

 

 

Interested in Learning and Practicing Mindfulness?

Are you interested in finding ways to put a pause in your stressful days?

Are you anxious or depressed and want new strategies to feel calmer; more positive?

Marjorie has been facilitating the Mindfulness Based Support Group for 10 years. While Marjorie does not directly accept insurance, if you have out -of -network benefits you may submit your receipt to insurance for reimbursement.

 

The next Mindfulness Meditation Support Group starts Jan 23, 2019 7:15 – 8:30 pm for 6 Wednesdays (Last group is Feb 27, 2019.)

           

September/October 2018 PowerPoints

As we settle back into the fall routine, stressful situations are bound to arise.  As Maureen Killoran said, “Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”

Embrace the new season and take some time for yourself to read my latest PowerPoint blog excerpt, upcoming events and more about my practice.

September/October 2018 PowerPoints