Lead Your Life

Awake, Aligned, and Grounded In Truth

Checking IN vs. CHECKING ON. Huge Difference April 28, 2011

I loved this month’s Harvard Business Review.  It’s all about productivity and how to create more of it for yourself and your team.  So here’s a fantastic quote that all managers should roll around in their head and do an honest self-assessment:  “Effective managers establish themselves as resources, making sure to CHECK IN on employees while never seeming to CHECK UP ON them.”  (The Power of Small Wins, http://www.hbr.org/).

Huge Difference w/ massive impact on people.  One word shifts, and the entire game shifts.  Choose to check in, and you play the advocate, fan, support.  Choose to check up on, and suddenly you are assuming your involvement to avert failure is needed. 

How do you think about it?  Every conversation we have follows a path based on our core thoughts.  So, thank God we get to chooseo our thoughts.  (If you don’t believe this – just practice.  Summon up a negative, recurrent thought you have, and replace it with a thought that is positive and powerful.  See – done.  You just created a thought shift.  With practice, you actually can create stickability with the new thought). 

What thoughts help create this CHECK IN style versus playing helicopter “parent/manager” over perfectly capable, intelligent professionals? 

 Here’s a list of starters.  You can add your own:

1)      My team has amazing talent, and I am fired up to witness them kill it on this project.   

2)      The greatest role I can play is to create space & momentum for awesome people to do awesome work. 

3)      I want my team to feel like this was 100% their win because 1) because they have the talent & know-how to score it independent of me, and 2) success creates confidence which leads to more success.   

Here’s another simple trick:  Before starting a conversation with a team member on the path towards great progress, ask yourself, “What’s the most important message I want this person to leave the convo with?”

 Check IN versus CHECK UP ON.  Pretty simple, huh?   (PS – This applies to parenting too.)


Power Of Progress

Harvard Business Review published a productivity article that sang a simple truth. Progress Motivates. Every business mulls the question of how to engage, motivate, and inspire people. Hundreds of studies outline their top 3, top 5, 10, 12….

But at the end of the day, progress reigns because everyone loves to achieve, contribute, wrap it up, cement the conceptual, and cross it off the list. Add meaningful work, and the crowd goes wild.

Do the other qualities matter? Absolutely. But in my opinion, the “Progress Principle” (www.hbr.org), is the basic need. It’s like food, water, & shelter in the work culture. As leaders (and we all are), having a plan to create a PROGRESS WHEEL rewards you with better results, faster turn times, and engaged team members who feel great about what they do every day.

So how do we leverage the Progress Principle? First, we develop a plan of simple “awareness” tactics. Milestones celebrated throughout a project, measurements that allow people to SEE progress, recognition of advances.

Second, we play a PROGRESS FACILITATION role full-out. Notice I didn’t say, PROGRESS CREATOR. As a leader of others, your role is to enable their achievement – not micro-manage it. According to HBR, “the best thing can do for their people is provide catalysts and nourishers that allow projects to move forward while removing the obstacles and toxins that result in setbacks.”

In other words, be an advocate of your people by paving & clearing their road so they can plow through. This includes setting them up for success, nurturing their work, and getting obstacles and naysayers out of their line of sight. And the “win” doesn’t have to be life altering.

Small progress matters. As a leader, you can create a world where your team can achieve small and big progress daily.


What are you connected to? April 26, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 3:17 pm
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I just finished packing for Mexico, and I have more cords and chargers than sunscreens and bathing suits. iPhone, iPad, laptop, Flip video, iPod…. And yet the thought of traveling without one of them invokes a sweaty panic.

Our attachment to technology is worth examining as, at some point, those gadgets we love are no longer tools we use but tools that use us. They create a dangerous type of distraction – the one that allows us to still feel productive while blindly stealing our focus. The “habit” of using technology grooves a pattern into our brains until at some point, we find ourselves tinkering on our cells and laptops with no recollection of when we arrived and why we started. Purposeless – zero impact. And not only that, but when we hit this place, we become numb – almost trance-like in our experience. Flat. No engagement.

Technology is amazing. Yet, it is like everything else. It requires conscious choice, intentional use, and an awareness of when enough is enough.

I’m not a texter, and I never answer the phone during a conversation. In other words, I am not consumed like so many people are in our world; making it easy for me to excuse my attachment as acceptable. But really, if you can’t meditate for 20 minutes without feeling a pull to “check in” or “get something done,” it’s time to groove a new brain pattern that is disentangled from the grip of Apple. (Nothing against Apple… we should all be so brilliant).

I’m giving myself a one week experiment. Before picking up one of my favorite toys, I’ll ask:  “As the result of plugging in, am I prepared to unplug from everything else around me? Life? Family? Awareness?” For most of us, our professional success requires the use of our gadgets, and thus, the answer to this question will often be YES. And it will be a conscious YES coming from a place of intelligence and achievement versus mindless web-trolling. But just as often, I suspect I will have to honestly answer NO.

Life is too amazing & short to give away precious moments. I wonder how much extra time we would all discover in our week if we undertook this experiment? If you want to give it a shot… let me know how your week goes.


Adaptability April 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 2:50 pm
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Learning to flex gracefully when Murphy’s Law strikes is a mandatory skill of both great leadership and wellness.

 Today, I relearned this & share it with total humility.  My husband is traveling for CE, and I am solo-parenting for a few days.  This is a reality to which I am accustomed, and I am a well-oiled machine when it comes to the coordination of home & children while also staying on track with my professional goals for the week.  Self-admittedly, it’s borderline militant as my default tendency is to manage chaos through control. 

 Enter Murphy’s Law.  Murphy always shows up when I’ve got the perfect plan.  My plan today?  4:45AM workout  (requiring overnight babysitter so I can leave the house), 6AM get self ready, 6:45AM get kids ready, and 7:30AM off to school.  Today is Good Friday, and my daughter has a part in the school program at 8:20, and that is a non-negotiable.  I will be there.  So, 7:30 – 8:20; work via iPad in school parking lot.  8:20  Good Friday Service.  9:20: Arrive at work ready to roll.

 Murphy’s Plan:

1)      Call from babysitter last night due to illness.  Request to cancel.  I avert this by convincing her my home is virtually germ free with awesome air quality.  I know – a little over the top but a plan is a plan.

2)      Awake at 4AM to rain, rain, and more rain.  No outdoor run.  Strike 1.

3)      Hit the yoga mat at 5AM only to hear the door crack open at 5:20.  My son is up & ready to rock and roll 90 minutes ahead of my plan.  He climbs under me in downward dog and over me in upward dog – talking the entire time. Finally give up.  Strike 2.

4)      My daughter claims near death illness and refuses to abandon her bed.  After a tussle, I finally have her up, fed, and robed in backpack and lunch box.  Near Strike 3 resulting in elevated blood pressure. 

5)      Arrive on time at work ready to generate amazing results only to walk into significant issue that sucks my time & increases the speed of my speech to Mach 10.  Strike 3. 

 Thus far, my control the chaos MO is failing & I am growing less desirable to be around.  Unless I can recover

 Recovery is an art worth mastering.  Because the truth is, we all perform poorly in a state of frustration and stress.  Even people who say they perform well under stress really don’t.  It’s the same as saying you are an “awesome multi-tasker.”  Frustration compromises quality thought and stress compromises empathy.  Both compromise joy.  While I am a proponent of discipline & building powerful habits to work at your peak, the reality is that adaptability is equally as important.   A lack of adaptability causes a good day to evaporate. 

We’ve all had these days.  Something goes wrong in the morning, & the rest of the day unravels.  But the truth is, we create the unraveling by our reaction to the unexpected.  When we learn to adapt and realign, we move back into the present moment, reclaim perspective, and start forward again towards our goals.  When we negatively react to the unexpected or undesired, we spend the balance of our day in a place of resistance and frustration.

 Today is Good Friday.  It is a particularly easy day for me to realign because perspective is all around me.  This day reminds us that we are part of something so much bigger and that “our plan” is not the ultimate plan.  It also reminds us that we are called to “work our plan” from a place of grace, humility, love, and gratitude.  Most days; however, don’t have a built-in reset button.  We have to be our own, and it’s worth developing the habit of observing ourselves so that we know when to push the reset button.


Can’t Vs. Won’t April 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 7:11 pm
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I had a discussion today with an amazing woman I admire.  She was frustrated about a seminar she wants to attend but “can’t” afford.    

Can’t is a funny word.  It’s dangerous and disempowering.  It assumes the role of victim, as if something is impossible due to external circumstances.  How often have you heard people say,

  • I can’t access the funding.
  • I can’t find the time to work on (fill in the blank).
  • I can’t say no.
  • I can’t learn that skill. (In other words… I’m not smart enough).
  • I can’t afford to take that risk.
  • I can’t address that with so and so. 

In each of these statements, the person is basically self-prescribing incompetence, indecision, and willingness to give up, check out, & short change their experience. 

The truth is: “I Can’t” is almost always a self-deception.  A way to wiggle out, wimp out, & stay put.  It also is never really true as there are very few things we genuinely “can’t” do. 

Almost always, “I won’t” is the brutal reality.  Which is great, because “I won’t” is a much more empowering position.  It acknowledges the truth:  I am not willing to do what it takes. 

  • I won’t do what it takes to access the funding.
  • I won’t find the time to work on (fill in the blank).
  • I won’t learn that skill. (I’m smart enough but I don’t want to work that hard).
  • I won’t take that risk…

When we call it what it is:  A lack of willingness to do what it takes – we suddenly have a choice.  We can change our minds about our willingness to give more, do more, work harder, get creative, try again, work smarter, etc.  When we say “I can’t,” that’s pretty much the end of it. 

Challenge yourself today to choose your words carefully.  See what happens if you replace your “I can’ts with “I won’t.”


What’s Your Plan? April 18, 2011

It’s Monday morning – do you have a high impact plan for your day? How about your week? Have you invested the time, energy, and creative juice into making decisions on the most important actions you will take this week to achieve your big goals?

Have you written down what you intend to do to make a meaningful contribution this week at work, at home, to your wellness? Have you followed that by then reviewing your calendar and ensuring you have scheduled time for the actions and conversations that will result in major movement of the high impact targets?

Look at your plan (or lack thereof) for the week, and project forward to Friday. Have you set yourself up to feel awesome about what you’ve achieved, contributed, & shared? If not, maybe it’s time to start your Monday over by making the decisions needed to ensure you have a powerful, inspiring, impactful week. Otherwise, expect to underperform and make less of a difference than what you have the potential to make.

The process of planning & scheduling your week for success takes a matter of 30 minutes. Max. Besides the fact that your 30 minutes now will save 10 times that in lost productivity throughout the week, it is a small investment in order to create amazing results in your life.


What Lucky People Do Different April 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 3:49 pm

Great article about fear, purpose, and luck.  Enjoy!

What Lucky People Do Different.