Posts Tagged ‘Advice’
Well, I don’t actually know how to be a narcissist; but I am working on it.
I just read some research from Buffardi and Campbell that might explain why I’m not using social networking as much as I’d like to be: because the frequency which one shares his life on social sites is strongly correlated to his level of narcissism.
I have a specific schedule for when I post on my own blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve tried amping that up a bit, but I’ve learned that my limit (where I’ll do it consistently) is twice a month. But I’ve just learned that in addition to having a specific plan and being disciplined, a good marketer also needs to think quite highly of himself. Hmmm. Something to work on I guess…
Actually, that’s not necessarily the case. I also remember reading once that CEOs of great companies tend to exhibit a different sort of narcissism: the ones who aren’t actually sociopathic (and only think about themselves) tend to think of their companies as extentions of themselves. They truly are narcissistic in every sense of the word – but in regard to their companies, not necessarily to themselves.
So maybe that’s my answer – and the answer for anyone out there trying to build something beyond themselves of which they can be proud: never stop loving what you do and never lose the passion. And if you do find these things starting to slip, maybe it’s time to move on…
Last week I wrote about the 80/20 Rule; specifically in regard to outsourcing things in order to focus more on the 20 percent that gives you the best results and greatest satisfaction in work and life. For this post I just wanted to elaborate on a couple of points about outsourcing: outsourcing the right things, and spending money on the right things to outsource.
In regard to outsourcing the right things, I think it’s helpful to honestly look at what you could let go of in all areas of your life – even if you feel that these are things you should be doing yourself (either because society tells you that you should, or because your own internal critic is giving you a different message).
Some people hire personal chefs and personal shoppers, for example, simply because they can. Others do things like this, however, because of the payoff it affords: less stress, more time with family, more time to focus on the things with larger emotional and financial potential. And again, outsourcing doesn’t have to cost a lot of money: going back to the example of unloading the task of loading the dishwasher…
So try to get out of the trap of doing certain things because “that’s how it’s always been done”. We have so many resources available to us to free up our time – we should take advantage of them and make the very most of what little time we have.
My own outsourcing takes place primarily in the area of business: I outsource things in my physical businesses like driving and payment collection, which obviously need to be sourced locally. I also outsource some things for my internet business that can be sourced locally or distantly, depending on the need.
For my web-based businesses I don’t outsource things like article-writing and customer service; because I feel that I’m the only one who should really be representing my brands. Other things I do outsource distantly, though, because they just make sense to do so. These include the day-to-day things that are essential to grow a business, but don’t need my personal involvement.
And then there are other things that require a higher level of skill, which I outsource locally. I rely on Cyndi from Inspired by Change, for example, to handle my website design and updates because of her 10-plus years experience and knowledge of the internet. I also draw quite frequently on her strong marketing intuition and technical experience.
My point is that it really helps to do a cost-benefit analysis of where your time and money is being spent – and to spend more where it’s needed, and less where you can do so without “cutting corners”.
Where can you use the 80/20 rule in your work and life?
In one part of my life I work as a consultant in the public sector. In another I work as a coach; with both life coaching and corporate clients. I also have other businesses in completely unrelated fields including pet supplies, parenting products, and nutritional supplements. The other parts of my life are spent in leisure activities with my family.
I don’t consider myself a jack of all trades/master of none, though: these endeavors were all chosen deliberately and executed carefully. Having lots of things on the go satisfies my need to stay diversified and busy (yes, I have been diagnosed with ADHD) – and I love (almost) everything I do.
Importantly, I also have time for everything I do with some to spare. This is because of the 80/20 rule.
Simply speaking, I try to focus on the 20 percent of my life and work that gives me the greatest results and enjoyment. And I try to say no to – or outsource – the other 80 percent whenever and wherever I can. Basically, I only work and spend time with the people I want to be with, and I only work on the things I want to work on.
I know that saying these things is controversial: you might be thinking that that this doesn’t apply to your life and your particular situation. That you don’t have the luxury to simply “outsource” the things you don’t want to do. That you have commitments and responsibilities…
I have commitments and responsibilities too, of course; and naturally there are things I can’t outsource or say no to either. But it’s all about where I choose direct my energy and focus: I know I can’t always live my life in the 20 percent – but I also know that if I try, I’ll consistently be a lot closer than if I don’t.
(You might also say that the ability to do only what one wants depends on circumstance and luck. This is true to a large degree – but I also believe that luck is to be found in the intersection of preparation and opportunity…)
So the purpose of this article is to encourage to you to prioritize the things you really want in your life, and what you really want to be doing – and then looking honestly at where you can unload some of the 80 percent that doesn’t fit with your vision.
To start, look for those “big-lever” changes that you can make in your life. They don’t need to be complicated or overwhelming: they include any adjustments, large or small, that have a big impact.
A big-lever change could certainly be a change of careers, for example, or it could be something much smaller that has a domino-effect in your life. A simple “big-lever” change could be something as easy as outsourcing the task of unloading the dishwasher: if it reduces stress at the end of a busy day, and gives you time for something more enjoyable, then it’s certainly worth the extra 5 dollars in allowance!
But that’s just one small example – and there are many. Where else can you use the 80/20 rule in your life? Where else can you focus on the 20 percent of your life and work that gives you the biggest results and greatest satisfaction? And where can you begin to unload the rest?
There are many different styles of leadership with varying degrees of effectiveness. A people-centered approach is probably best in general; but only if partnered with sound knowledge and skill, and delivered in an authoritative style (a strong focus on relationship with the ability to appropriately set limits and apply corrective action).
I’m currently coaching someone I consider to be one of the best leaders with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. I don’t know if she actually knows that she’s as good as she is: she’s relatively new to her position and has lots of questions and doubts about her style. But this type of questioning is common and expected for a new leader, and I fully expect her confidence to rise steadily with experience. I also sincerely hope, though, that she never loses the habit of self-reflection.
I’ve always had the impression that this woman is a strong leader, despite some of her doubts in specific areas. It was when I reviewed the 360 degree feedback from her team, though, that I realized how much of a star she really is. She has mastered that difficult balance between people skills and technical skill; between relationship development and task orientation. She is truly an authoritative leader who knows what she’s doing.
On the contrary, I’m also aware of leaders who appear oblivious to the fact that they’re not particularly great at the people side of things. They may be good at the technical aspects of their jobs, but they tend to rub others the wrong way. They are often closed to others’ ideas and they have difficulty sharing credit.
I think this happens for different reasons: they might be aware of their shortcomings but don’t particularly care; they may be aware of their shortcomings but don’t have the skills to change; or they might actually believe this style is effective. My guess, also, is that these types of leaders are often (but not always) masking a deeper sense of insecurity with an authoritarian style of interaction. Regardless of the reasons for the authoritarian style of leadership, it’s clear that these leaders don’t – at least actively and openly – question their leadership.
We might not all possess the leadership finesse of my client, but we can always continue to grow when we’re willing to engage in honest self-reflection. I believe that my client is a natural leader to a great degree – but I also believe that she’s as strong as she is because she questions herself.
It becomes increasingly difficult to question ourselves as our confidence and competence grows: self-reflection is often done in response to self-doubt and fear of failure. But to be effective leaders we need to reclaim and hold the assumption that we can always be better.
There seems to be a lot written about mindfulness lately, and so I’ve sort of steered away from the topic. But I was reminded again recently about how important a topic it really is: how one simple practice can make such a difference to one’s well-being.
I have a friend who has been having trouble sleeping due to stress and ruminating at night, and when I had suggested mindfulness mediation her response reminded me how many people tend to see this practice as new-age ‘hocus pocus’. The fact is, though, that this practice has been used for thousands of years; long before the western ‘new-agers’ ever got ahold of it.
Mindfulness is a simple concept; although not always easy to employ. It simply means (according to at least one definition) just being here right now. Non-judgmentally being with this moment. And this moment. And this moment…
Our bodies do not easily differentiate fantasy from reality, so when we’re ruminating about the days’ events or about what’s going to play out tomorrow, or bodies respond as if the mental scenario we’re playing out is really happening. The body then goes into its stress response and we can’t sleep. Or digest well. Or relax. Or think clearly.
So during the day it helps to remind ourselves to just be right here right now. If we take a moment, use the breath as an anchor to just be really present (just observing the breath going all the way in and all the way out, without trying to control it in any way), we realize that literally nothing is really going on at this particular moment: the stress we feel is purely a manifestation of what’s going on in our head at that moment.
There are many ways to cultivate mindfulness in daily life (and it does take ongoing practice), but I won’t get into them for the purposes of this article. I will, however, go back to the topic of sleep and share a mindfulness-based exercise for calming the mind at night (when ordinary problems appear much bigger), so that we can get the rest and repair we need.
I had been giving a workshop sometime ago about sleep, when one of the participants shared a great strategy. It’s something I continue to use regularly, and I wish I knew who he was so that I could give him proper credit. He did not call it mindfulness meditation, but as he explained the simple technique I knew that that was exactly what it was:
The next time you have a hard time sleeping, particularly because you’re ruminating, the first rule is to remember that just by lying there you’re getting most of the metabolic rest you need. So don’t stress about trying to sleep. Don’t even try to sleep – that only makes things worse. Rather, try slowly and persistently saying ‘Goodnight’ to every little piece of your body: “Goodnight toes. Goodnight balls of the feet. Good night tops of the feet. Goodnight ankles. Goodnight calf muscles…” You get the picture. And when you start to drift off or wander, force yourself to continue with the exercise.
This exercise may sound silly, but it’s very powerful in its simplicity. What you’re doing is automatically relaxing every part of your body simply by focusing on it. And when the body is relaxed, rest comes more easily. The other thing you’re doing – and this is where the mindfulness comes in – is stilling the mind. When you’re focused on each part of your body, you’re not thinking about the day or about what’s in store tomorrow. And when the mind is calm, rest comes more easily.
So if you find yourself stressed from time to time (as we all do), try cultivating more mindfulness during the day: just stop and be present with whatever you’re doing, so that you can make clearer choices. And if you find yourself carrying it with you to bed, try this simple exercise before reaching for the sleeping pills or the bottle of wine!
I’ve recently been trying to get ahold of someone to come and take a look at a problem I’m having with my roof. I’ve left three messages with this particular company, and none have been returned. Similarly, a few months ago I needed to get a potential moisture problem in my basement looked at. I phoned two different companies numerous times – one called me back once, but I missed the call and they were never to be heard from again. The other company booked a total of three appointments with me and did not show for any of them. The first time looked like an innocent-enough misunderstanding, but not showing for the second and third bookings I thought was just plain irresponsible.
A friend of mine suggested a service that he uses, and owner was at my house the next day, surveying the problem in a very professional manner. Why wasn’t it just that easy the first time around? Similarly, I recently called a local computer repair service to ask about my recent slow internet connection. I phoned three times over the week and didn’t receive any response. I finally gave up and phoned another service I’d never used before, whose technician walked me through a process on the phone that quickly fixed my problem (with no charge).
Why, I wondered, do some people just not show up?
Then I thought about what showing up really means, and I realized that it means different things in different contexts – but that the underlying principle is the same. It’s about ‘being there’. For a small business like the examples I gave, the act of not showing up could be a matter of life or death for their success. But what does it mean to consistently ‘show up’ in one’s life?
I’m reminded of something a friend told me recently: he had been working on a project that had inadvertently caused him to start to dig deeper into who he is – to examine his habits and practices as a human being. He informed me that an unexpected side-effect of this inquiry was that he has become more involved and available to the people in his life.
My friend has been honoring his commitments more now than he has done so in the past – consistently following through with the plans he makes with colleagues and friends. He’s apologized for some old hurts and mended a relationship with a family member. He has begun to be more present in his interactions: really listening to others and engaging in more meaningful levels of conversation.
In other words, my friend is learning what it means to “show up”. He’s discovered the importance of really ‘being there’ in all the areas of his life: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Being more consistent and reliable, open, present, and engaged, he says, has afforded him many benefits on many levels. And he just feels good about his life.
So as a leader, a business owner, a parent, a friend… are you in the habit of showing up? Do you meet your commitments? Are you reliable and dependable? Do you listen well and speak carefully? Do you treat every encounter as if there is something important to be both shared and learned?
There was a poll awhile ago on a writers’ site asking authors to share how long it typically takes them to write their articles. As I looked through the posted replies I was quite surprised at the average length it actually takes people to complete something that they are comfortable publishing.
Why this information caught me so off guard was because of the assumptions I had held about myself: I had assumed that I wasn’t a ‘natural writer’, and for that reason it naturally took me a lot longer than most other people. But it turns out that I was wrong.
I was also surprised that, after all the self-studying and growth I’ve done over the years, I was still harbouring unchallenged assumptions about myself and my abilities – comparing myself negatively to others without an ounce of data to back up my beliefs. After all, as a coach and psychologist, it’s my job to help others to see where they may be limiting themselves, and where they may be holding unfounded beliefs about themselves and others: to shed light on these areas and make the conscious decision to assess things more accurately. But apparently I don’t always do this with myself.
I’m aware that this example of me writing articles is rather trivial – but it begs a bigger question: where else am I unfairly limiting myself?
So now I’m reflecting on what other inaccurate assumptions I may be holding about myself. And I’m grateful for the reminder that we’re all a work in progress and that we needn’t become complacent about this.
What assumptions are you holding onto about yourself and your abilities? Think about this carefully, and then ask yourself how you really know whether these assumptions are accurate. The next time you find yourself saying, “that’s just the way I am” – or the next time you start to downplay your skills and abilities in comparison to others – it might be helpful to stop and ask yourself whether that’s truly the case. How do you know?
If you find that it’s not that easy to really know, you could at least examine the logic behind the belief: “Isn’t it true that if my assumption is based on incomplete or missing data, then the opposite assumption is just as plausible?”
This type of self-reflection works on two levels: First, it helps to boost our self-confidence as we realize that there’s no good reason to subordinate our own abilities, experience, and knowledge to that of others. Secondly, and just as importantly, it helps to keep us humble: assuming that we’re spotless may actually be preventing us from learning and understanding some critical pieces of insight and information.
After a meeting with a client today I was struck at how positive my mood was. I reflected on why this was, and I came to the conclusion that it really boiled down to authenticity: to the opportunity for both of us to just ‘be real’. We both took advantage of that space that coaching affords – the space to just be able to speak openly and honestly, and to join one another as human beings sharing the human condition.
I thought about how important ‘being real’ really is, and about how difficult it is to define what this really means.
How often do we actually show up as our authentic selves? This is a difficult question, because it’s true that we often need to adapt our styles to suit our audience and the purpose of our interaction. So if we’re speaking and behaving one way to one person or group of people, and a different way to another, does that mean we’re not being authentic? How much can we change before we’re not being our ‘true selves’ any longer?
I think the answer lies with integrity. It’s a wonderful skill to be able to adapt and adjust our personal presentation to fit the need, but are we continuing to act with integrity with each role we assume? In other words, are we living true to our own beliefs and values? If I need to act more assertively in a given situation, for example, can I do it while still honouring my belief about the importance of respecting the rights of others? If I need to be diplomatic in another situation, can I still honour my value of self-expression?
The product of examining our beliefs and values is, hopefully, that we continue to be mindful of being real. And when we’re being real, people know exactly what they’re getting: they have a choice to build something more with us or not – but nobody’s time (including our own) is wasted. We can spare one another the disappointments that sometimes arise when true colours after the ‘honeymoon’ are shown. Authenticity also garners trust in the relationships we do build – and trust is the cornerstone of every productive interaction and win-win situation.
Are you clear about your beliefs and values? What are those ideals and understandings – about yourself, others, and the world at large – that you hold more closely than anything else?
How were these beliefs and values shaped? Are they operating consciously or unconsciously? In other words, do you really know why you do what you do – or do you often act out of habit only to regret it later? Can you make a point of acting in accordance with your adaptive, helpful beliefs and values – and revisit and challenge the outdated ones that may no longer be serving you well?
When we can do this, we can truly be our authentic selves – despite the adjustments we need to make in different situations. And it’s when we’re ‘real’ that we can build the kinds of relationships that help to get our needs met in a way that’s good for ourselves and others.
I sat down to write this article today and I experienced a bit of a block – which, ironically, caused me some stress. And as I struggled with how to formulate the topic, I began to think about the process of writing itself, and how it might feel to actually ‘be a writer’ – to derive great natural enjoyment from being immersed in the process; easily getting into a state of ‘flow’. As I pondered on this I just began to type my thoughts about it (which I’ve actually saved elsewhere, likely to become the base of another article).
What was interesting thing to me, though, is that what I wrote actually seemed to ‘pour out of me’ as I was imagining and describing the process of spontaneous writing. In other words, I found myself in a ‘state of flow’ as I imagined what a state of flow might be like. The process wasn’t my typical labored, “type-backspace-retype-cut-and-paste-until-I’m-happy” method. And there was no stress involved.
So my original intent for this article was to highlight the virtues of learning to “just be” sometimes, as opposed to always having to “do” – but through this process I realized that ‘being’ and ‘doing’ aren’t necessarily exclusive ideas. And so the understanding I’d like to share is this:
The first piece is that it is important to learn to just ‘be’ sometimes (if we don’t normally make the effort to do so). We can easily get caught up in all the things we need to do, and rationalize to ourselves and others why we can’t take a break. Granted, there are certainly times when it’s not realistic to stop what we’re doing – but how often do we fool ourselves into thinking that this is always the case? It helps to examine our assumptions about this, and ask ourselves if things really will fall apart if we just stop for awhile.
We can also ask ourselves honestly if there are other reasons for our perpetual motion: perhaps it’s uncomfortable to be alone with our thoughts. Or perhaps we feel a sense of guilt when we’re not contributing. Or maybe we simply haven’t learned to be any other way. The point is that we need to reexamine where we can give ourselves the time and space sometimes to regenerate and just contemplate about nothing – and learn to trust that it’s okay to do so.
The second thought is that if you truly are a “doer” (and you’ve established that you’re not avoiding anything or perpetuating any false rationalizations by always “doing”), then perhaps try doing more things from a state of just “being” – in other words, where you can experience that sense of flow. Try doing something with your family just for the sake of spending time: really ‘being there’ with them without ruminating over the tasks you have to accomplish today. Go for a run and ‘get lost in your thoughts’ along the way. Hit the highway for a day-trip to nowhere. Write something just for fun…
How much autonomy is appropriate to give? Empowering our children, employees, or anyone we’re leading is, we know, the best way to improve satisfaction, motivation, and commitment – but it also takes the right style and balance to pull it off successfully.
Do you tend to micromanage others: monitoring even the most routine tasks to ensure success (even if it’s done in the most gentle, people-friendly way)? Or do you allow others to express their creativity, make their own decisions, and learn from trial and error? Or do you do a bit of both, depending on the person and circumstance?
Chances are your answer is the latter: that’s what most of tend to do as leaders, and it’s probably the right thing. This is where our intuition comes in: we adjust our style based on what we see, what we know, and how we feel – as well as how we perceive the weight and probability of the potential outcomes.
But we all know people who micromanage when it’s unnecessary, as well as those who tend to give full rein when it might be inappropriate to do so.
So why might we micromanage when it’s not necessary? Often times it’s because we haven’t learned to trust – or because we don’t feel we can handle the stress inherent in ‘letting go’. And why might we give unbridled freedom when it may not be appropriate? It’s usually because we have blind spots: because we have too much faith either in others’ abilities to respond adaptively; or in the system or task itself to provide the structures and cues to keep behaviours in check.
Whether our belief system generally supports a more or less autocratic, participative, or free-rein style of leadership is largely a matter of personality and habit: preferred and comfortable ways of leading based upon our past experiences – either directly or through observation – and the interpretations we’ve made about those experiences.
The truth is that what’s needed in any given situation is more objective than subjective. It’s the interplay between the complexity and characteristics of the task itself, and the interpersonal styles, habits, and skills of the people we’re leading. The key is to observe these dynamics in play before jumping to an automatic style of leading the situation and players.
If we learn to provide more ‘management’ where it is needed, and to back off where we should, we allow others to experience increased feelings of efficacy and success – which strengthen the internal reward system that fosters motivation. Appropriate levels of autonomy also support and enable more effective skill development, critical thought, and innovation.