Best Practices, Self Improvement

Active Listening

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” -Bryant H. McGill

Communication requires speaking and listening. It’s a dance where effective communication requires the participation of everyone. One of the most difficult parts is active listening. Here’s a quick summary. Take two minutes and watch.

Forbes offers 10 Steps for Effective Listening. The article is from 2012, but still good advice.

  1. Face the speaker, maintain eye contact
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed
  3. Keep an open mind, don’t judge
  4. Listen and picture what is being said
  5. Don’t interrupt or impose your solutions
  6. Wait for a pause to ask clarifying questions
  7. Ask questions to ensure understanding
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling
  9. Give feedback by nodding, reflecting, show some feeling
  10. Pay attention to non-verbal cues

And I will add…

If you are the speaker, give the listener a chance to offer a response or ask a question. Conversations shouldn’t be a one way street.

Empowerment, Life, Motivation, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Sometimes You Need a Personal Reboot

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Step away. Stop thinking about it. Do something else…or even do nothing.

Recharge.

Reboot.

We walked away from the chaos for the weekend and had an amazing personal reboot while camping at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. It was a new place for us, and new camping experience as it was our first with a camper. (For the record, I am not so sure tent camping isn’t easier. However, I will say the camper amenities are rather nice to have.)

For some, camping is not a relaxing experience. For us, it works. It’s therapeutic. The outdoor air is refreshing, nature all around, and if you’re in the right spot the views can be amazing. The entire camping experience is about meeting basic needs and enjoying time away. There is no pressing work, professional nor home, to be done. It’s not true to say there are no distractions. There are, but the distractions while camping are different.

In order to have a hot meal, there have to be good coals to cook on. Start a fire. Tend the fire. Assemble the meal. Monitor until cooked. Clean up so no unwanted foragers are attracted to your site while you sleep. Repeat.

It’s basic and it’s freeing. There’s no thought of work. We periodically check in with home to make sure all is well. Otherwise, we take care of our camping needs, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors. There’s a good bit of time spent doing nothing. My favorite time is after dinner, staring at the fire, listening to the sounds of the night, and reading my current book…or just staring at the flames. This camping trip we took two of the dogs for a hike, came back to the campsite, and took an exceptional nap. Why when there was so much nature to see?!?!? Because we could.

We took the time for a personal reboot.

Burnout is real and keeping balance requires a dedicated effort. Sometimes you have to disconnect and walk away. Not only is it OK, but it should also be encouraged.

When this pandemic experience began no one knew what to expect. In my household, we believed work would slow and worried about what that might mean. Instead, the workload increased. We became very busy and had to make a dedicated effort to maintain downtime and connect with each other.

According to a recent LinkedIn article from Bloomberg many are using busyness as a coping mechanism.

Not healthy.

Recharging has to be intentional. Taking the time will actually increase your productivity.

You can’t be innovative if you’re not creative, and you can’t be creative if you’re stressed, exhausted, distracted, or sleep-deprived.

You know that feeling when you see your phone battery reach the point of the blinking red light with 15% or less battery remaining? You know when that happens it is time to plug in and recharge. That small percentage will not last long so you act. Most of us have a sense of urgency about not letting our phones reach that stage. Have that same sense of urgency for yourself.

Resting allows you to achieve your goals and prevent burnout. Take some time to do something you enjoy. Take some time to do nothing. It’s OK.

Life, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Perspectives on a Beautiful Day

 

Sitting on the sun porch enjoying coffee, fresh air, and the sounds of nature.  It’s another beautiful day in quarantine. We are staying busy with house projects. My closet has been redone. The second office has been moved to our bedroom so a returning offspring can have her own space. Pictures long ago purchased are now hanging attractively in their perfect spot. New plants are in the ground, old plants have new pots.

It’s important to me that our living space be peaceful, comfortable, and somewhere we don’t mind being for the next six weeks. A clean space is a peaceful space. Clutter heightens stress. The last thing we need right now is more stress. Being the introverts we are, transitioning to the requirements of stay at home has been rather smooth.  I feel for my extroverted friends and co-workers. I know it is more difficult for them.  There are ways to cope and everyone has to find the path for themselves.

During our pandemic “stay at home” period we are employing a few techniques to get through each day and make the best of it.

  1. Refocus.  We are not stuck at home. We are staying at home to stay healthy and keep our family and friends healthy.  This is an opportunity to tackle those home projects we’ve been putting off because there is never enough time. New plants are in the back bed. Weeds are disappearing. Bushes and trees are getting trimmed at a more appropriate time of the season.  Pictures are hung. All of our “stuff” drawers are organized.
  2. Maintain. The laundry is caught up. There are no dishes in the sink. Dusting is done. Cars are clean with oil changed and everything checked.
  3. Partake of the sun in moderation. Sunlight is good for us. It is refreshing and helps keep us healthy. Vitamin D helps our immune system, the absorption of calcium, and REDUCES DEPRESSION.  That last part is really important during this time of uncertainty and increased stress at the changes we have to navigate.
  4. Read. Meditate. Be quiet. RELAX. My favorite spot is sitting on this screened patio listening to the birds.  Fresh air. The sounds of nature. Ella curled at my side. Mozart chewing on my toes. OK, maybe not that last part. I do have to prop my feet in order not to have Mr. Chewy attacking my toes.  If I have everything picked up he can’t destroy anything and it is still rather relaxing out here. Take the time to be still.  Working from home isn’t ideal, nor is staying at home.  Don’t feel guilty for being quiet and doing nothing for a few minutes every day.  It’s a great recharge.
  5. Go for a walk. As long as we aren’t interacting in close proximity, it’s a great way to get moving and maybe say hi to a neighbor.
  6. Enjoy the pets.  We are going to have several very depressed dogs when everyone goes back to work.
  7. Play a game. Put the phone away. Turn off the TV. Play a game. It’s fun, keeps our mind active, and is a great way to interact with the family without device distraction.
  8. Don’t obsess. Keeping aware of the world around us is important. Obsessing over the latest is not healthy.
  9. Use delivery services when possible. There are a couple of ways to look at this and not everyone is going to agree. I can respect that. Our take:  We are both able to keep working during the stay at home requirement. Not everyone is so lucky. Using Instacart, Door Dash, and other delivery services help others whose regular jobs are not currently paying them.   If you are able to use delivery services, tip well.  These wonderful people willing to ease the burden for the rest of us are trying to make a little extra, but they are also putting their health and family at risk.
  10. Establish a routine. It makes life easier and less stressful.

Hang in there. Stay healthy. Stay active.

 

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace…while social distancing and staying at home.

Career, Education, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Self Improvement

Coachability

If you’re not coachable, how can you be a good coach? When you think you can’t learn something from someone or an event, you won’t and that’s a dangerous place to be.

Coachability means employees have an awareness of those around them and how they impact them positively or negatively. Coachable employees are also willing to relinquish control to improve their work performance and accept feedback without becoming ruffled, angry, or dejected.
study.com

According to Forbes.com coachable people share five different traits.

  • Humility
  • Willingness to action
  • Purity of purpose
  • Willingness to surrender control
  • Faith

Coachable people recognize they still have something to learn and they can’t always learn it on their own. They are willing to make changes and are more interested in personal growth for the sake of growth rather than pure financial or power gain. A driving force for the success of a coachable person is the willingness to accept being coached, even if they can’t immediately see results. They accept that change and self-improvement is a journey and have faith that the time and effort will be worth it.

According to a Huffington Post article by Laura Di Franco, What it Means to be Coachable, coachability is a key element of success in health, happiness, and attitude. We’ve all experienced those who feel they have nothing to gain from a workshop or they’ve been doing something so long that checking for a new way isn’t worth the time. The negativity is frustrating. It can also be contagious.

Being coachable doesn’t mean you have surrendered and don’t have an opinion of your own. It means you have the awareness, perseverance and determination to seek out someone to help you be better.

Huffpost:What it Means to be Coachable

Self improvement is hugely satisfying and can have both intrinsic and extrinsic benefits. By being coachable one can improve their own coaching. Coachability is not just for those starting out, it is a trait to be embraced at all levels of an organization. Everyone has something they can teach you, and everyone has something they can learn from someone else.

Career, Empowerment, Life, Quotes, Self Improvement

The Atmosphere Around Us

We respond to the atmosphere around us. Just as a smile can be infectious, negativity breeds negativity.

Words to think about.

My favorite quote, and words to live by, is by Charles Swindoll.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

A favorite teacher had it written on her board. In fact, she is probably the reason that I love quotes and seek out tidbits of wisdom from them each day. To a teenage girl struggling through life, these words were profound. This quote became a call to action and a driving force for my direction. I couldn’t control the situation, but I could control my response and my pursuit for something better in life. When in the classroom, I kept this quote posted above my whiteboard in hopes that it would reach some other struggling teen.

You never know what some are going through if they don’t say. It’s important to remember this as it will help with how we react in negative situations. We respond to the atmosphere around us and that response is a choice. You can choose to respond negatively, positively, or make a conscious choice to not respond at all. Making that choice is not always easy. Sometimes our instinct is to be reactive. That’s when it is important to stop, wait, and make a choice. You can continue the negativity, embrace the positive, or change what you are surrounded by.

Every day we are faced with both positive and negative moments. Sometimes work is stressful. It is easy to join in the lamentations of the frustration. Does it help?

Workplace negativity is an increasing problem. Follow social media, read the opinions and editorials you find on LinkedIn or other business related sites. Increasing work demands and an overextended workforce, changing office policy, open work-space policies, and any number of other frustrations are written about on a daily basis. Not all frustrations are actually work related. The demands of life and increasing personal stress increase the negativity brought to work. So that negative comment or perceived slight may actually have nothing to do with you personally. Joining in the negative, feeds the negative.

Again, you can continue the negativity, embrace the positive, or change what you are surrounded by. What if you change the narrative? What if your positive attitude overpowered the negative atmosphere? What if you tried it to see? You don’t have to be super up-beat or over the top. Smile more and avoid participating in negative conversation. Smiling is proven to be beneficial to both self and others- even when you don’t feel like it. It won’t fix everything, but it’s a great step in the right direction and in the chaos it is something we can control when the negative threatens to take everyone down.

Smiling or fake smiling not an option for you? Try to find the positive. Point it out and express hope for improvement. The situation really sucks and there is no positive? You don’t have to participate in negative conversation. You don’t have to listen to the gripe session or participate in it. It’s as simple as polite acknowledgement of frustration and excusing yourself to do something else.

To keep it in social media terms, don’t feed the trolls. (Even better, don’t be one.)

It’s not easy to avoid getting sucked into the negative, but it is a choice.

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.

Change, Empowerment, Life, Quotes, Rambles, Self Improvement

Change Resistance

Dear WordPress,

I know that I do not update my website and ramblings as often as I should. I know that my website deserves more of my attention. I also appreciate how you strive to stay up to date and make website maintenance, navigation, and posting easier. Sincerely, it is appreciated.  This block system, while idiot proof, is not an enjoyable experience for me.  I notice Gutenberg has two stars on your plugins page while the classic editor has a 5 star rating and millions of active users. I’m not alone in my resistance to this change.

Change is inevitable, and one day I will have to adopt the block system.  Today is not that day.  

Sincerely, 

Me

We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

Charles R. Swindoll

A few thoughts…Open your mind. Open your heart. Open your eyes. You never know what others are going through. Your project, your idea, while great- it’s probably not the only thing they have to focus on. Negativity breeds negativity and being positive is a choice.  Adapting to change, also a choice.  Sometimes, like using WordPress block editing, we need to ease in to it.  I know that I will probably love it when I decide to utilize it.  Right now, I’m not ready to learn something new.  I am resisting the change that has been coming for more than a year.  As I open my mind to it’s possibilities, I found a plugin that keeps me comfortable while I learn something new.
 
It is human nature to stick with what is familiar and continue with the status quo.  If the status quo is making you miserable, it’s time for change.  That change either needs to be an attitude change, or a situational change.  Either way, something needs adjustment.  Why go through life with such negativity? It’s not healthy.
 
According to Forbes.com 61% of employees are burned out.  That leads to disengagement, decreased productivity, and even profit loss.  That’s just the negative for the company.  What about the health of employees?  Burn out is real.  Sinking to it is a choice. If you are unhappy, find-something-else! Don’t just trudge into work everyday spreading negativity and drama.  Start asking yourself some questions.
  • Why did you accept this position?
  • What is keeping you here?
  • What are my goals?
  • Does this position help me pursue or achieve my goals?

Use the answers to these questions to make a decision. Change your attitude and stay, or go.  The negativity is not good for you and not good for your company. 

Changing your circumstances is hard. It’s work. You don’t feel like it. It takes effort.  Mel Robbins offers a solution that makes it simple.  Take a listen…

 

Career, Empowerment, Learning and Development, Life, Motivation, Self Improvement

What motivates?

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. – Og Mandino

Motivation is your general willingness to do something. It can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but WHAT compels you to action?  Simply wanting something is not enough. One has to be motivated to walk the path to pursue goals.

Reaching the next level in one’s career or getting in better physical shape sound worthwhile, but they are much harder to turn into reality in the absence of meaningful goals. – Psychology Today

Motivation changes over time. Two major factors influencing this is maturity and stage of life.  What seems important in our younger years is less important as we mature.  What drives our career at the beginning is not what drives our career as we advance.  Relationship status and parental status can drastically change one’s goals over time.  Money isn’t always the driving force of our decisions.

Forbes.com outlined nine factors that motivate employees. Below are my thoughts on their nine listed factors.

  1. Trust: Employees desire trust in their workplace and managers. Clearly communicated expectations are essential.  Feedback must be direct and valuable.  Trust and consistency go together.  If an employee never knows what to expect from a manager, trust will be hard to establish.
  2. Being relevant: Employees want to feel like they matter and they have the opportunity to remain relevant in their jobs.  They desire opportunities for continuous improvement, opportunities for professional growth in their roles.  Employees also want to utilize their strengths.
  3. Proving others wrong: This one is rather odd.  It is better explained as having a drive to achieve and exceed expectations.  “Never underestimate an employee’s need to perform until you have properly evaluated and tested their abilities and potential.” (Forbes.com) Managers should embrace innovation in their team by being open-minded and willing to listen.  While specific ideas may not be 100% on point, those ideas can lead to greater discussions and progress.
  4. Career advancement: Employees need opportunities to grown in their jobs and advance.  There is no joy in just spinning your wheels.  If they can’t advance in their current role, the motivated employee will find a place where they can.
  5. No regrets: The journey for personal success is made up of failures, successes, and changes.  Having enough perspective to value all three is an important motivator.  We learn from our failures as they are opportunities to grow and succeed.  Success and change also provide opportunities for growth, but our failures are hard lessons learned.
  6. Stable future: Change is inevitable.  However, constantly feeling like your time is limited or feeling that your job is always on the block–very much a de-motivator.  On more than one occasion I have heard “good employees don’t get let go” and that is just not true.  Due to decreased funding and reduction in force I’ve seen good teachers lose their jobs because they didn’t coach.  I’ve seen employees let go because they were the most recent hire and someone had to be released due to budget cuts.  If a company is always in the news for their cuts, potential candidates are hesitant to accept a position. Candidates who will accept the position expect more in compensation and they will always have an exit strategy ready.  With an exit strategy in place, that means they are a greater risk for accepting a better offer if it comes along.  They’re the one’s who are always looking.
  7. Self indulgence:  It would be unrealistic to not include personal goals.  Personal goals are a driving force.  However, perspective is required to balance short and long-term benefits, or repercussions.
  8. Impact: Employees want to leave their mark, they want to make an impact.  Want to deflate an employee?  Ask for their opinion, and then tell them what will happen not even taking their thoughts into consideration.  Please, don’t bother asking if it doesn’t matter. That’s insulting.
  9. Happiness: Self-esteem and self-satisfaction are fueled by happiness.  It’s important to enjoy what you do. Happiness isn’t just a smile. Happiness radiates.

It is not possible to motivate someone who refuses to be motivated.  While motivating factors can be intrinsic or extrinsic, motivation is non-existent if one rejects it.

I recently heard a story referencing 3M’s approach to motivation.  With significant expense a study was conducted that resulted in 900 pages pertaining to employee motivation.  Deciding that was too long, the study was repeatedly condensed from 900 pages until it reached one page, then one paragraph, and finally one sentence. “Employees respect what management inspects, not what they expect.”  In other words, hold employees accountable.  This is not to be confused with micromanagement. Ask how things are going, follow-up, give feedback.

A few responses I’ve heard when asking people what motivates them:

  • At first it was monetary. Now, it’s doing a job that’s meaningful, making a difference, and doing something that I enjoy. I’m making a level of money that I’m comfortable with.  I’m not going to sacrifice everything else just to make more money.  It helps that I believe in the mission and goals of the company I work with.  For the most part, employees are aligned with the mission statement. 
  • Appreciation
  • I work for my family first. The paycheck is the prime motivator, because that’s how we keep food on the table and gas in the tanks.
  • I chose my profession so I could make a difference in someone’s life. 
  • Having the ability to be creative.
  • Freedom to do what I want is my motivator. Setting my own hours and being my own boss.
  • I want to leave my mark and when I walk away know that something I’ve done was a positive for the company.

While money is necessary it isn’t the primary motivating factor for employees. Most will leave a job if they can find a better work environment that pays just as well.  Many will even take a pay cut in order to have a better work environment or a job that aligns with their personal goals and direction.  A recruiter recently told me that potential employees were more interested in PTO benefits than increased pay. Personal time and personal satisfaction are increasingly important in motivating employees in the workplace. A toxic work environment will push employees to be on the lookout for something better. In today’s job market, employers can’t ignore the desires of a changing workforce. Flexibility and adaptability are important if they wish to motivate attract and retain quality candidates.

 

 

Best Practices, Instructional Design, Self Improvement

Presentation Points

What makes a good presentation?  Is it the speaker? The content?  The visual aid?

What about all of it?

Everything matters and contributes, but it’s the little things that will elevate your presentation to the next level.

The speaker can detract from the content, just as poor/inaccurate content can take away from a good speaker.  A poor visual aid (PowerPoint) can be detrimental as well.  Just as an unprepared speaker can make the audience uncomfortable, a thrown together presentation is off putting to an audience. 

Compare it to viewing property for sale. 

One home has consistent fixtures throughout, antique bronze light fixtures, faucets, and door handles. The flooring may have tile in the kitchen and bath, hardwoods in the common space, and carpet in the bedrooms. The color selections complement each other.  Walking through the home is pleasant.

The other home has stainless steel faucets, with antique bronze light fixtures, and gold door handles. The kitchen is tile, but the living room is dark hardwood that meets thin light hardwood in the entry way. Carpet in the master bedroom is a thicker shag than the smooth, cheaper, carpet found in the other rooms. The hall is hardwood, but it is neither the dark of the living room or light of the entryway. Each room is a different color, and not part of an overall theme.  While each room may be nice, the overall viewing experience leaves one a little confused.

Consistency and/or complementary is pleasing to the viewer. Everything doesn’t have to be the same, but there needs to be a common theme.  While the viewer may not be able to put their finger on exactly what left them with a little angst they will feel as if something is just not right.  Take the time to work on the little things.

A few little things:

  • Keep headings similar in size, placement, and spacing.
  • Use consistent bullet points.
  • Use consistent fonts, and sizes, for headings and content.
  • Use consistent imagery. Don’t mix and mat photographs and clipart.
  • Colors should remain consistent or complimentary throughout.
  • Stay within your template. Do your best to work within the content real estate that you have.
Life, Self Improvement

Finding Balance- Hobbies

While work pays the bills, all work and no play does not keep stress at bay. Sometimes life just gets in the way. (OK, if I keep on this track I’m going to have to cite Dr. Seuss. Not my intention.) I’m on a quest for balance and getting back to the things I love. While it was a great day for being on the water, we chose a different path- one that definitely classifies as a road less traveled. There is one hobby that I rarely mention in ice breakers. If I do there are usually several raised eyebrows, even more than when I share that we have 5 dogs, a cat, a bunny, and a grumpy Mali Uromastyx lizard. We spent today geocaching.

What is geocaching? Basically geocachers use multi-billion dollar government satellites to search for tupperware in the woods. It’s not always tupperware. Sometimes it is an ammo can, a bison tube, or a camo pill container. People post the geographic coordinates of their hides on the geocaching website. Cachers use a GPS or the GPS on their phone to search for what has been hidden, find it, sign the log, and put it back, then logging the find on the website. Sometimes there are items to trade or track/move to another location.

So, what’s the point?

  • It’s just another hobby.
  • It occupies the mind.
  • Puzzles are fun.
  • It gets you moving.
  • Finding a cache is a quick win, a fun success. It has nothing to do with work or responsibility.

What I really like is finding something new. Going off trail you see things that you ordinarily wouldn’t. For instance, nearby there is a geocache hidden at the site of an old one room school house. I had no idea it was there. Another is at a local mall that happens to have the family grave sites of the original land owners. Maintaining the grave sites was part of the land purchase agreement. That’s a neat tidbit of local history that I never would have discovered had I not been looking for a cache that someone hid there with the purpose of sharing the site.

Caching is certainly not for everyone, but it is something we enjoy. Part of work-life balance is finding something that makes you happy, brings you joy, and relieves the stress of life. Having a hobby and taking the time for it is another key element to finding balance.

Career, Empowerment, Life, Rambles, Self Improvement, Self Reflection

Work Life Balance (Part 2)

What is work life balance? It doesn’t matter what you do, work can take over if you allow it.  For that matter, so can life. Work-life balance requires life management.

Work-life balance defined:

The balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life.

“The balance that an individual needs.” That statement indicates that it is different for everyone. Stage of life, married or single, children or not will all play into what a person needs regarding balance. Personality, work style, job type, and personal ability are also factors. A little research will provide a plethora of resources for achieving balance and what it actually is.  Three things remain consistent.

  1.  Work life balance is not equitable time between the two.
  2. Work life balance changes…and sometimes frequently.
  3. Work life balance is not a one size fits all approach.

When work disrupts life or life disrupts work, it is time for reflection and change. Time to evaluate the two and discover management changes necessary.

Think about your work day. What is your scheduled arrival and departure? How much time is spent commuting? How much time is actually spent working? If you just thought “all of it” stop lying to yourself.  Did you check your phone? Your personal email? Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? Did you chat with a co-worker around the water cooler? No, we aren’t counting that as networking, not for this. Review your day for the things not work related. Now, if you still got the job done was the balance of work and life disrupted? Probably not.  Those things external to actual work keep us sane. Taking a the occasional brain break is beneficial. When the job doesn’t get done, there’s imbalance.

When you left work, did you take work home? When at home, did you stop thinking of work? Were you able to do what YOU wanted to do?  What if what you wanted to do was work? Does that count as imbalance?  Remember, balance is based on personal need and it is different for everyone. If your life outside of work suffers because all you can think about and do is work, life and work need better management.

Establishing your personal balance is essential to success in both areas. It is extremely important to your health, both mental and physical, to find your balance. If you are unable to step away from work and recharge, you will burn out. Stress will consume life. Taking time to relax and detach from work can make you more productive. Increased productivity and efficiency, in turn, leads to less work after hours.

When balanced, work and life have a nice symbiotic relationship. Work provides the necessary resources for life needs and life enjoyment allows you to recharge for work. Let’s not pretend life is always easy and if all is balanced then all is right with the world. Not the case. It’s easy to say work needs to be during work and life takes place when the work day ends.  However, it unfortunately doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes the paths will cross and creative management is the only solution.

Balance is just one piece of the puzzle. Sometimes life throws lemons and what you really need is a lime. There are so many ways to helps us achieve balance. Increasingly workplace management is coming on board with creative solutions. More on that another time.

 

Live life. Give joy. Be at peace.