On Empathy

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“But what if I really don’t care if my co-worker’s dog died? I am so not a dog person and don’t get all this pet stuff that people get into. I get that empathy is important but if I’m not feeling it, wouldn’t it be worse if I faked it?”

Touché. I had been facilitating a workshop on emotional intelligence and was talking about one of the important qualities for leaders, empathy. It was a great question and a challenge shared by other leaders I’ve worked with.

Empathy doesn’t mean total identification with someone’s specific experience, but rather recognition of the human experience of suffering. If we can get in touch with times we’ve suffered – experienced loss, sadness, loneliness – then we can use that experience to connect to another person and express empathy authentically.

Getting Over Procrastination

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I can be a procrastinator at times (even about things I want to do!) and have been thinking about the combination of things that leads me to procrastinate and how I might address that. I realized that it`s the intersection of three things … thinking that whatever I need to do is too big, too hard and that I have to do it all at once. I love blogging, for example, but if you have been following my blog you know I go through periods of regular blogging followed by no blogs for months!

I realized this past fall (after not having blogged for over six months!) that these three things were at play. So I was able to start again by telling myself to spend 10 minutes just thinking about the blog, even if I didn`t do anything else with it that day. Well, to my amazement I did an entire blog that day!

I have a work project right now that feels too big and too hard and so I am reminding myself of bigger and harder projects I have done. Then, I am committing 10 minutes towards the project. This combination seems to be working for me for now!

What are your patterns of procrastination and how have you deal with them?

In This Moment …

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When I returned from my vacation this past September, I wasn’t able to give myself the weekend to transition as I usually do. I went from a very chilled out and quiet lake resort to downtown Vancouver in a matter of hours! As I was walking towards my hotel and witnessed two incidents of road rage while ambulances, sirens screaming, raced by, I became very aware of how anxious and grumpy I had become. Thanks to my mindfulness work with the wonderful Jivi of Winds of Change I remembered that I didn’t have to react this way, that I just needed to take one minute standing on that busy street corner and find my present center. I stood to one side of the sidewalk, took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was alive, had everything I needed and that I was just witnessing the range of human experience.

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious try saying to yourself … “In this moment” with the following prompts:

  • I am breathing and alive!
  • I observe that …
  • I notice that …
  • I feel …
  • I wonder about …
  • I appreciate …
  • I can choose to be …

There may be other prompts that work for you … but starting with “In this moment, I am …” led me to a very different experience that day!

Why Ask Your Head When Your Gut is Screaming?

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I would love to say that I always trust my intuition, but sadly I do not. And sadly, not trusting my intuition has resulted in me taking on work and projects that were not good for me, inevitably leaving me with confidence and competence shaken.

So why do we ask our heads when our guts are screaming? For me, it usually comes down to two patterns:

  1. Wanting people to say good things about me. I have taken on projects or agreed to work with people when my gut was screaming no. I went ahead anyway because I was worried what they might say about me. Ironically, the outcomes were even worse than if I had said no to begin with. I rationalize the decision by saying things like “you never know what they might say to …” but really I get work by doing good work, not by trying to figure out who might say what to whom. And I do good work when I listen to my intuition. Duh.
  2. Thinking there’s not enough – of whatever. When I’m in scarcity mode I ignore my intuition and get involved in messy projects. I rationalize it by saying I could learn something, this could be an adventure, I shouldn’t be uppity about the type of work I take, I need the money, be glad you’ve got work, etc.  When I reflect on these situations honestly, it has always cost more, whether emotionally or financially, when I ignored my intuition.

What has helped me listen more to my intuition is to think long term and develop better skills at saying no in a respectful way.  When don’t you trust your intuition and how have you addressed this?

Go Where You’re Loved

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I remember listening to an author once (sorry I can’t recall who it was!) who was asked about how she dealt with critics of her work. She replied, “I go where I am loved.” Most of us already have really well developed inner critics and so we don’t need to seek them out. Going where we are loved to find an audience for our work and our style (whatever work that might be!), leaves more energy to continue developing ourselves. Continually going down a path with people who don’t appreciate who we are leaves us demotivated, uninspired and worn out. Find those who love you and nurture them!

What Are You Hiding?

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One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung

“What most concerns you about the upcoming team session?” I asked one of my clients. I had been hired by the manager to help the team rebuild trust after a rather messy and complicated situation left many deeply hurt.

“That things will get really emotional and end up being worse.”

“That’s a pretty normal response,” I replied, “but surfacing those emotions in a healthy way will lead to healing and transformation for the team.” 

My client looked skeptical but knew that not doing anything was no longer an option as people were avoiding each other and the morale was in the tank. 

Dealing with those dark emotions we go to great lengths to hide is indeed uncomfortable. But hiding them leaves us depressed, anxious and stuck (and perhaps broke, overweight and alcoholic, depending upon what you do to keep them hidden!) 

The next time you find yourself hiding from a dark emotion, take a moment, breathe, and:

  1. Surface the emotion.
  2. Name it.
  3. Experience it fully – where do you feel it in your body?
  4. Accept it as a part of being human.
  5. Ask yourself “What’s possible from here?”
  6. Consider developing a mantra, like the one I developed in the image above to help you move into those dark emotions.

A big thanks to Lisa Sonora whose 30 day journal challenge led to me developing this mantra and blog.

Transforming dark emotions is at the heart of my book, How to Forgive Your Boss. Visit the website and you can download the first chapter free.

There’s Always Downward Dog

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I’ve done several 30 day challenges related to blogging and drawing over the past few years and on January 1, I decided to go in a different direction with yoga.

I chose yoga for 2 reasons, to increase my flexibility and become more mindful, as my past forays into meditation weren’t all that successful! Today, day 24, I came to the following insights:

  1. Yoga slows me down for at least a few minutes every day.
  2. I’m getting out of my head (a big relief trust me!) and into my body.
  3. I do feel more calm, more centered and more optimistic after I’ve done it.
  4. I feel I’ve made progress on something every day which might not be what true yoga practitioners would say is the point of yoga. I have so many big abstract projects, however, that accomplishing this one little thing a day is comforting.

It seems to me these are all great leadership practices as well. Yoga doesn’t have to be your thing but what do you do to slow down, get out of your head, become more centered and make progress everyday?

Antidote to Cynicism

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We had just spent two days with a very diverse group of participants facilitating a Future Search process and had asked for closing comments. I was struck by two of them:

“I am excited by what we have created and feel hope for our future.”

“If you all follow through on the projects we identified, things might change.”  

The second comment struck me as somewhat cynical and it got me thinking about what distinguishes hope from cynicism. As I reflected on how these two people had participated in the two days and thought about other situations, four themes emerged:

Own your part – Hopeful people own their role in situations, both the good and the bad, and don’t look to others to “fix things.” Cynical people only own the good, are oblivious to the bad, and expect others to “fix things” for them.

Assume good intent – Hopeful people trust that others are doing the best they can, while cynical people assume others are out to make their lives miserable.

Accept reality – Hopeful people don’t sugarcoat or assume doom and gloom, they accept current circumstances and don’t wish they were different. Cynical people are always searching for some perfect condition that is different from the current one.

Give - Hopeful people give their time, energy and resources to others without condition. Cynical people wait for others to give to them.

As we approach the holiday season, are you hopeful or cynical? Which of these four areas might hold insight for you?

Letting go of fear

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Earlier this year I wrote about what it took to say yes to writing a book. Well the day has arrived when that book is actually published! I have let go of many fears – that I have nothing to say, that I can’t write, that I will expose myself too much, that no one is interested in this topic and, in particular, that people might think bosses already have too much power … why should we forgive them?

Much like letting go of fear, forgiveness helps you let go of pain, suffering and angst. 

It doesn’t mean you agree with or condone someone’s behavior. It just lets you get your life back.

If there is someone occupying space in your head and you’re tired of carrying that negative energy around, you may find my book, How to Forgive Your Boss (or anyone who has done you wrong), a useful read. And for those in Victoria on December 1, please join me at the book launch.

And watch this space for more as I will be sharing tidbits from the book in future blogs.

Go First

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When it comes to building or rebuilding trust, there comes a point when someone needs to have the courage to go first, let down their guard and defense mechanisms and be vulnerable. Revealing what is REALLY happening for us creates the opening for trust to be built.

We often get asked “why should I go first?” Because if you don’t, your world becomes smaller and smaller and the one who suffers is you.