Lead Your Life

Leadership, Awareness, and Growth

Your Wild Safari June 28, 2011

“Seize the bull by the horns, grasp it tenaciously, never let it go.  Time has a habit of trampling over us, so softly we don’t notice but so powerfully, we  become crushed over the course of weeks & years.”  www.zenhabits.net

What do you tell yourself that holds you back?  What do you buy into that keeps your dreams at a distance?  The moment we accept that WE are the only thing standing between where we are & where we desire to be is the moment we begin to close the gap. 

And yet, for many of us, months fly off the calendar & years pass quietly but quickly with little or no progress.  We feed ourselves excuses that justify about why we aren’t living in alignment with our dreams…  not enough time, not enough money, too irresponsible, etc.  And with these explanations, we lull ourselves into a well-paved path of mediocrity & predictability.  And let’s face it, boredom. 

And yet, we all have the opportunity in the form of a single lifetime to make an impact that not one other person on the planet can make.  Zilch.  Just you.  And if it’s just you, there is no comfortably paved, illuminated path already in existence to follow as no one has walked before you. 

There are amazing examples of people who chose to live big and fulfill their dreams with passion but they paved their own path.  And if you follow theirs, you will spend a lifetime in pursuit of someone their dream.  Learn from them, but don’t forget the most important lesson they can teach:  Follow Your Own Path W/ Courage, a Sense Of Adventure, & A Willingness to Take Risks.

The Swahili word for “journey” is SAFARI.  People always talk about how life is a journey but I’d rather think about it as a safari.  We can choose to make our life an adventurous, out loud, wild ride. 

A journey is like a peaceful trip down a placid river on a guided boat.  It allows for dozing, waking and passively drinking in the scenery, having a nice picnic lunch, & then dozing again.  A safari calls us to ride the wild elephant with a bayonet in hand wacking at tree limbs to blaze a new path.  It does not allow for dozing & waking 10 years later wondering what in the heck happened.  It demands our total engagement, presence, heart, soul, & mind. 

Don’t get me wrong… an occassional afternoon rafting trip meandering down a rapid-less river is a lovely reprieve & beautiful way to recharge.  However, to then return to our wild & purposeful safari that we are leading with passion & anticipation is a life well lived. 

“Tell me, what is you plan to do with your one wild & precious life?”  Mary Oliver

 

How Facilitators Kill Meetings June 27, 2011

How many of the meetings you’ve attended in the last 14 days have been 1) high output, 2) on task, 3) optimistic & innovative, & 4) totally energizing? We’re talking mind expanding, big results, & lots of fun.  Yes, Fun.  Probably not many. 

And yet, “meetings” exist to create something better through the creative collaboration of success-aligned people who each bring something unique to the table. 

What happens?

Typically, the meeting organizer fails to set expectations.  We’ve all had the experience where we find ourselves stopping important work to attend a meeting for which there is no agenda.  Or, the agenda is so loose, it’s not clear what the desired outcome is.  We show up, and the first 10 minutes are spent waiting for the chronically tardy while small talking about America’s Got Talent.  All the while, our frustration is soaring & our minds have run adrift. 

So, here are some fundamentals to implement throughout your org.

1) No Pre Defined Agenda & Outcomes – No Meeting.

2) Meetings scheduled for the right amount of time based on the complexity & importance of the outcomes.  If you need 15 minutes, schedule 15 minutes – not 30.  People have a bad habit of arbitrarily blocking 60 minutes because this is the Microsoft Outlook Default.  Be Respectful Of Other’s Time. 

3) Every meeting starts with a clarification of the desired outcomes & a validation that the right people & data are present.  If the answer to either is NO, meeting is rescheduled. 

4) Every meeting ends with a wrap up that identifies 1) decision points, 2) action items with dates & assignments, 3) outstanding questions that are either going to a parking lot or have been assigned for follow-up.  4) Next Steps.

5) Meeting Minutes Are Mandatory, and unless confidential, sharable.

6) Start on time & end on time.  No exceptions.

7) The facilitator’s energy, tone, & desire matter.  Train your facilitators to host awesome meetings that inspire & engage.

Here’s a biggie.  Adopting a set of ground rules is a powerful way to transform meetings.  They should map to your culture, values, and goals.  Here are some that we use that are particularly valuable. 

1) Presence – Be Here & Nowhere Else.

2) Trust Your Gifts – Trust that you have tremendous value to offer.

3) Take Risks – The risk is not in sharing yourself but in withholding yourself.

4) Curiosity – “Quality questions create a quality life.  Successful people ask better questions & as a result, get better answers.”  (Tony Robbins)

5) Be the Student – Learn, Study, Challenge.  Nothing coalesces thought like writing it down.

6) Authenticity – Be YOU – out loud with confidence.  Embrace your awesomeness.

7) Chill in the Discomfort – Growth requires discomfort – embrace it. 

8) Use discernment – not judgment.  No rights & wrongs… Just the paving of the most amazing available path.

9) Jam Out – Control Your State.  Stay optimistic, engaged, & energized.

10) Listen – Honor the wisdom of others.  Allow everyone’s gift & perspective to embed in the solution.

11) Embrace Possibility – In every challenge is an opportunity.  “Dwell in Possibility.”  Emily Dickenson.

Almost all businesses depend on meetings (aka: collaboration) to achieve success, and every single one should be high impact, meaningful, and aligned with the vision.  Creating powerful meetings takes discipline, and the return is well worth the process.  What ideas can you share about facilitating powerful meetings?

 

Seth, Superman, & Your Cape June 23, 2011

I subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog, and truthfully, it is one of the few that I read faithfully.  Often, I finish reading and am singing, Right On! Or – That is SO IT!  Not all – but many are Eureka moments. Not because he’s sharing information that is new or because it falls into the genius category (although some of it does).  And not because I agree with all of it (because I don’t).  But because he’s incredibly concise.  He speaks in punches.  No flowerly rhetoric, no strange metaphors… just his clear, quick view on reality. 

And he is profoundly SETH.  His style is totally unique and unwavering.  You could read his blog in a lineup with 50 others, and you could pick his out.  He literally puts himself on the page.  A little raw and sometimes in fragments, but always his candid, sometimes sardonic opinion presented in a way intended to bend your mind and widen your perspective.  This is his brilliance.   

We all have the opportunity to be profoundly US.  Most of us mask our true self by overediting our words – both spoken & written – or copying the style of someone else.  But have you noticed that the wildly successful folks with big time tribes are simply the real deal?  They put it out exactly the way they feel it & see it?  And people SWARM to them because we all love authenticity & courage.

And being 150% “raw you” takes courage.  Most of us adapt like chameleons to our setting.  Adaptability is good, but there is a fine line before you abandon who you truly are at your core.  And thus, you shortcut people’s access to you in your purest form.  Our brilliance (and we are all brilliant in our own way) only manifests when we are authentic with the world.  Thus, donning the mask or wearing someone else’s Superman Cape simply cheats the world of our brilliance.  That’s a high cost.  Plus, trying to fit into someone else’s cape is just too much work.  And even if we can squeeze in, we’ll still never take flight.

 

6.93 Billion People World Wide & Not One Single Duplicate June 22, 2011

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Does this absolutely blow you away?  You are the only person on the globe with your exact gifts, skills, & chemistry.  No duplicates.  Which, to me, brings big responsibility to give, work, and live in a way that shares your gifts.  Preferably in a way that brings value and goodness to the world.  Because if you don’t, no one else can.  At least not in the way you can.  Because there is no duplicate of you.

I love this poem by Leza Lowitz called “Waiting.”  I hope you enjoy it.  It’s an amazing open door for anyone embraces its wisdom.  Here it goes….

“You keep waiting for something to happen, the thing that lifts you out of yourself, catapults you into doing all the things you’ve put off – the great things you’re meant to do in your life, but somehow never quite get to. 

You keep waiting for the planets to shift – the new moon to bring news, the universe to align, something to give. Meanwhile, the piles of papers, the laundry, the dishes, the job— it all stacks up while you keep hoping for some miracle to blast down upon you, scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life. Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking. But all the while, life goes on it its messy way. And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty… and some part of you realizes you are not alone and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom –

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over, it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched, and when caterpillar turns to butterfly if the pupa is brushed, it will die— and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg It’s because the thing is too small, too small, and it needs to break out.

And midlife walks you into that wisdom that this is what transformation looks like— the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life, the yearning and writhing and pushing, until one day, one day you emerge from the wreck embracing both the immense dawn and the dusk of the body, glistening, beautiful just as you are.”

 

Stress Kills Win / Win June 21, 2011

Stress kills the win/ win. 

And yet, a win/win is almost always available.  However, it requires awareness, creativity, expansive thought beyond the current paradigm, and selflessness.  It requires the ability to look at a situation like a rubic’s cube… dimensional, complex, and yet solvable.  Win / Win builds relationships, insulates trust, & creates opportunity for all. 

An unbiding commitment to authentic win/win is the nirvana of long-term, prosperous partnerships between teams, supplier / customers, and co-workers.  It isn’t about me.  It isn’t about you.  It is about us coming together & creating something profoundly better & more than we could each visualize on our own.  Win / Win changes the success trajectory.  And best of all, creates a deep connection between people. 

And yet, most of us lapse into a state of stress when we smell potential conflict.  Instead of seeing the conflict as an opportunity to change the game, we see it as divvying up a defined pie.  More simply, we see it as win/ lose which is in essence conceding that there isn’t a solution that creates something amazing for everyone.  And so, we have to fight for our share.  Watch our backs.  Protect our interests.  AKA: fight or flight.  Stress.

And inevitably, the cycle begins.  We experience stress, and we lose our critical thinking skills to solve for greater good.  We lose touch with our intuition & creative minds.  We disengage from the person or team across the table; sacrificing an opportunity to capitalize on their brilliance & to invest in a genuine, compassionate relationship with them. 

This all results in a conversation based on constraints & limited thinking by people who are living in their reptilian minds.  Which is a BUT & VERSUS conversation versus a collaboration.  Enter more stress.  Heightened heart rate, red face, emotions we can’t “control.”  More stress = greater decline in thinking.  And around and around we spiral downward until we slam on the bottom of sea; literally bottom feeding on all possible options.

So what’s the point?  Stress kills win/win & yet, every great, sustainable solution & relationship demands win/win.  Stress exists because of the way we think about something.  We have the intelligence to change our thoughts & change our perspective.  And thus, we can consciously opt in or opt out of stress.  And with that power, why opt in?  

How do you change your thoughts?  When you feel stress arising, take 2 calming breaths and ask yourself, “How can I move this situation to a place of win/win?”  Or, “What is the crown jewel result that makes all of us yell Eureka & what’s the next step to take on the path to the jewel?”  Or, “How can I lead this conversation from where it is now to a place of optimism & compassion?”  The list is endless, but the choice to take this path is singular.  You are either leading with greatness and awareness or not.

 

What’s Truly Impossible? June 17, 2011

Have you heard of Anthony Robles?  You have to watch this video courtesy of ESPN.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpfq7J2VRlc

So now that you’ve seen it, what do you still believe you are unable to do?  And what would be different in your life if you believed you were able?  And not just able but capable of amazing feats, big success, and results that made the world say, “wow!”  So, may Anthony be an inspiration to all of us…

That impossible is not as much a reality as a construct of our thoughts.  That our limitations are only our perception.  That our “weaknesses” may in fact be our greatest source of courage, wisdom, and drive.  Choose To Be Great!

 

Know Your Niche June 10, 2011

Last night, my husband took me to a phenomenal clothing store called Sophie’s Sister in downtown Toledo, Oh.  Self admittedly, I am not a shopper at heart.  I don’t enjoy the process of trying things on in a cramped, hot dressing room and dealing with the ensuing static cling hair that results from pulling stuff over your head 90 times in pursuit of the perfect fit.

But, I digress.  Retail has changed dramatically.  Retail owners complain that Target, Walmart, and other big retailers like The Gap and The Limited are squeezing them out of business.  In my world of building materials, I hear the same “complaints” about The Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, and other sizable players.  Not to mention the competing threat of the virtual world.  85% of my clothing purchases are made on-line, and I am not an anomaly.  At least not against this measurement.

Sophie’s Sister has figured it out.  And the key is not in their specific solution but in the truth that every company has the opportunity to “figure it out.”  Sophie’s knows their niche, and they play it to the hilt.  They serve wine & cashews while you try on beautiful clothes they have hand-picked for you in roomy dressing rooms with flattering lighting.  They aren’t trying to sell – they are there to help you discover pieces that make you feel beautiful.  They are honest, engaging, and heck, over a glass of wine, fast friends.  And, they’ve been in business for over 65 years.  Thick and thin.  Changing economies, the entrance of mass retailers, and the tipping point of online shopping.  They know who they are, and they have built a killer model, culture, and measurements that honor that.

This opportunity exists for all businesses – retail or otherwise.  Listing off the litany of reasons “doing business” is hard or isn’t like it used to be, focusing on the perils of competing in a shrinking space with compressed margins, or lamenting over the days when customers were loyal just because are all distractions from the process of creating amazing, lasting success.

The more time we spend getting into the lives and minds of our dream clients and designing each micro step of our interaction with them around who they are, what they aspire to, and how they want to be treated, the more sustainable our businesses become.  This process has nothing to do with how a company responds to the “threat” of their changing environment and everything to do with a fierce determination & commitment to be awesome for your clients.  Adding value, making their lives easier & more fulfilling, and connecting with them authentically in a way that makes them feel part of something amazing.

Large retailers have nailed this.  They have no desire to be all things to all people.  They deliver exactly what their target clients want in the way that best suits them.  And shock of all shocks, they are successful at it and continue to grow.  They aren’t worrying about competing against niche players, high-end boutiques, and high touch outfits.  They show up every day with the goal of moving the ball on their model & improving their niche client’s experience.

But any company can do this.  Sophie’s Sister is an excellent example.  It’s a choice that all of us are free to make.