How to Start a S#!tty First Draft

I’ve heard this concept for a while and I finally read what I believe is the first reference to a S#!tty First Draft (SFD) in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Of course, I got stuck on a blank page in Word and was trying to figure out how to start a SFD. Blank white space is intimidating. The last two posts I published, one on my dog and one on creating your reality, have received a bunch of great feedback. I get caught up in the, “How am I going to follow that one up?” When you see hundreds of people across the world have read your post, it can either be emboldening or utterly intimidating. I can be haunted by thoughts like, “How dare I think I can follow that up.”

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So here we go. The how’s and why’s of the SFD:

Percolate.  I think of the old, dust-covered Hamilton Beach Percolator my mother would drag out and clean for bridge club in the mid 1960’s. Even if the end product is unpalatable and bitter, the process of filtering through and rethinking and mulling over is important. I started thinking about the SFD when I read Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong some four months ago. Yesterday, I read about it in Bird by Bird. I made notes. I took a shower. I washed my hair. I digested. I realize that, in retrospect, I do this with most of the topics I write about. Something piques my interest and then I let it sit and percolate. I need a little reflection to put the pieces together. So before you start your SFD, percolate a bit.

Start.  The problem with percolating is that it cannot stop there. Percolating can become ruminating. Obsessing. Procrastination. So sit down, whether it’s 6 AM or, as I sit here on the West Coast, my laptop reads: 9:07 AM PST/12:07 PM EST. Start. Open up a blank document. Start. Spill. Type. Don’t worry about another cup of coffee or if you are at your favorite desk with your fuzzy slippers on. Just start. If you wait for the perfect moment to arrive, it will remain elusive.

Sloppy.  I think we all have a bit of perfectionism inside of us. Some of us more overtly than others. I don’t iron my underwear but I do like a clear counter-top and I have a certain way I like the pillows on my couch. As Jason Lengstorf writes, “But there’s hesitation. What if it’s not exactly right? What if people judge your work too harshly? What if this idea isn’t as good as you thought? Small worries like these can lead to procrastination and unnecessary stress.” We get caught up in perfectionism. It won’t be perfect. It can never be perfect. So go for sloppy. Embrace the wabi-sabi.

Data.  Brene wrote in Rising Strong, “In the absence of data, you’ll make up a story.” Isn’t that the truth? I typically search a few terms like “SFD” or “letting go of perfectionism” to see what other data is out there. Who else has written about this? What are their thoughts? What other insights are out there? When searching SFD, I found a bunch of things on actual writing but this all can be applied to more than just writing. Gather the data on the project you want to start. Gather the data on the new knife set you want to buy. I’m not suggesting you turn this into the dreaded analysis paralysis but gather some data for your SFD.

Look.  Keep an eye out for Quantum Flirts.  I learned about Quantum Flirts at the ORSC training by CRR Global. Is the Universe winking at you? Are they sending an almost imperceptible or more overt “sign” that you need to take in? I have been mulling over starting a book for months…er…. years…maybe a decade. I saw Frances McDormand on the Oscars, when she asked every woman to stand up who was nominated and she said, “We all have stories to tell.” For me, this was a sign. I have a story to tell. Some fifty plus years in the making. I need to start telling that story. The Universe was giving me a sign that I need to start writing my book. I need to tell my story. Thank you, Frances.

End.  As Anne Lamott wrote, you need to have the end in mind before you start. How do you know where you are going unless you know the destination? My destination for this piece is for you, my reader, to get started. Whatever getting started means for you. Get out your sneakers and run for 30 seconds. Take one pile of papers off the end of the dining room table. Start that gnarly project you have been sitting on for months…perhaps years. Think about what the end-result will be, whether it’s feeling in better shape, finally decluttering your home or getting that project complete. It doesn’t have to be perfect or reasonable or perspiration-free. Start…with the end in mind.

I am really fortunate to have an excellent editor that makes my posts come together. Most of my posts are SFD’s with misspellings, grammatical errors and references that are incorrect. I dump on a page and hope my editor can make sense of it. This makes writing a SFD a lot easier because I know that Susan has my back and will fix my mistakes. Just start. Listen to Frances. What story do you want to tell? I know you have one.

Canada. It’s another country.

As I write this, it’s a rainy morning in Vancouver, British Columbia. I am here as an alumni to take the Path portion of ORSC (team and individual coaching), created by CRR Global. It’s been several decades since I have been to Vancouver. I am blessed in that, as a child, we took family trips to Canada and I had visited all the southern provinces of Canada by the time I was nine. As a kid, if everyone spoke the same language as I, I didn’t realize there were cultural differences. I remember the beautiful Butchart Gardens of Victoria and the profound crevasses of Banff National Park. And the adventure of the stretch of highway where there wasn’t gas for some 200 hundred miles and just praying we would make it with our enormous trailer that we were lugging behind us. Thankfully, we did.

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As I order at a restaurant or check in at the hotel, I wonder if I am obviously from the United States. Do they hear an accent? Do I dress funny? Am I clumsy? I say this because it’s hard for me to tell who is a tourist and who is a native. I just went to Starbucks for a coffee and ordered my usual. I assume those working there are Canadians. Are most of their patrons tourists? I have no idea. The differences here are subtle but there are differences that weren’t apparent to my nine-year-old self.

Here they are:

Celsius. Temperature is temperature. Whether or not you relate to it as Celsius or Fahrenheit, it doesn’t really matter, right? The funny thing is that when I found the thermostat in my room, I saw it read 22 degrees. Wow. We could hang meat in here. So of course, I had to google to convert the temperature to Fahrenheit – like it mattered. Why not just sense whether it’s too warm or too cool? The funny thing is that in my class yesterday, which was largely Canadians, someone said, “It must be 25 degrees in here.” She meant that it was hot. I chuckled to myself. I’m glad I knew she was talking Celsius.

Taxis.  Luckily, I happened to research whether or not Lyft or Uber were available in Vancouver. They are not. I’m not sure about the rest of Canada, but in British Columbia, you must take public transit or a taxi. In the last year or so, I have realized that renting a car is an expensive encumbrance when traveling on business. Between parking, gassing up and tolls, it is just one more burden, kind of like an extra suitcase, that you have to take care of and keep track of. Luckily, there wasn’t a language barrier, which is the biggest plus to ridesharing apps. But if you aren’t in a well-populated location, it can be impossible to find a cab. In fact, I didn’t go to a museum I had planned on visiting because I wasn’t sure how I would get back to the hotel.

Currency. The last time I was in Canada, my daughter and I were in Quebec. I was trying not to have any Canadian currency. I try not to have any cash in any foreign country because it’s a mess to exchange back. In fact, like the euros I have from my trip to Paris, they are still clanging around in my wallet. Too minuscule to change and more of a remembrance of a great trip. The last time I was in Canada was a road trip with my daughter four years ago. We were in Montreal and visited the breathtaking Notre-Dame Basilica. I remember they only took cash for entrance and they did take US dollars. The exchange was pretty poor but I didn’t care. As I travel around Vancouver at restaurants and shops, I am careful that they take credit cards so I don’t have to mess with exchange of currency and I keep a few US dollars for tipping.

Language. So we speak the same language but as I said, my class is largely Canadian. I would guess that 95% of the words are exactly the same. It’s only the odd “PROOO-cess” or “Aboot” that crop up in conversation. The other difference, at least compared to Eastern North Carolina, is the diversity. The service jobs in Vancouver seemed to be staffed with people from all walks of life – from an Irish waiter, to a Korean busboy to a Nigerian desk clerk. It feels as cosmopolitan as Manhattan. As I walk down the street, there all sorts of languages being spoken. Again, I’m not sure if I’m in the middle of the tourist district (think Times Square) or if there is an international university nearby. But it feels as if everyone is welcome here, regardless of origin.

Pace.  This is a large city. The thing that strikes me that is vastly different from a city like New York is that the pace is much more relaxed. Considering the blend of diversity and the size, it seems very calm. None of that frenetic buzz that seems to increase your anxiety. There is no rushing to and fro. My walking pace is even slower. For such a large city, it’s very calm.

Hot sauce.  If there is a minus, it’s the hot sauce. No Tabasco. No Texas Pete. No Cholula. There is British Columbian grown-and-produced Verde and Salsa Diablo. I tried it out. It was acidic. I realized after I read the label that besides having Canola Oil in the top three ingredients (re. mayonnaise…yuck) there is lemon juice. I am not a fan. But this is a minor complaint compared to the rest of my experience.

Rain.  I recently traveled to Seattle for Thanksgiving. It rained a lot. It has rained or drizzled almost non-stop since my arrival in Vancouver. The difference it that this is an umbrella city versus a rain jacket city. Seattle is a rain jacket city. More people can fit on a sidewalk if they have a rain jacket on instead of an umbrella. In Vancouver, you have to maneuver down the street to make sure to not crash into someone else’s umbrella. Funny how different cities adapt to similar weather.

I wish I had more free time to investigate Vancouver but maybe next time. Our classroom was on the top floor of the building and was floor-to-ceiling glass facing out. We were suddenly interrupted by five flying bald eagles yesterday. We all stopped to gaze at their majestic flight with snow-capped mountains as a back drop. Uniquely awesome. I will be back.

How to Harness the Power of Connection.

You walk into a store and the cashier is more robotic than friendly. No eye contact; and repeating the same “Have a nice day” with no expression of sincerity. Your coworker is demanding a document that you are sure they already have and this might be the fourth time you’ve sent it to them. It’s easy to get sucked into a malaise of disconnectedness. You start putting up walls and keep everyone at arm’s length. It’s easy to fall into being out for yourself and out of touch with others. And you begin to shut others out.

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I was fortunate to facilitate a team of 65 in the construction business. The theme was Team Dynamics but what it really was about was connecting. Truly and literally standing in another department’s shoes to understand their perspectives and their challenges is an amazingly transformative act. The outcome was magical. I’d say the group was at least 75% men. Men in the rough and tumble world of construction where swearing is encouraged and feelings need to be checked at the door. I have to say I was nervous. Would these guys really buy in? Would they really be able to open their hearts and minds to their teammates? Well, I’m happy to say they did and the end result was powerful.

Here is how to harness the power of connection:

1. It always starts with the team alliance. This is a tenet of CRR Global. It’s basically an agreement of how we want to “be” with each other. As long as there’s clarity and agreement some remarkable things can happen. I worked with a technology team that wanted to make sure that “swearing” was encouraged. As long as everyone is on board, then swearing can be encouraged. It could just as easily have been respect or openness or confidentiality. You just need to be clear about how you want the team to be together and starting off a meeting or project or team dynamic session should always have an alliance. I have to say that during the facilitation with the construction company, I had to remind them a few times that “respect” was on the alliance. When ground rules are set, people are more likely to participate.

2. First seek to understand. This is habit 5 from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In a nutshell, this is all about active listening. It’s not listening until I can get a word in edgewise. It’s not biting my tongue until I can impress you with my retort. It’s seeking to understand. It’s about being open and non judgmental. In a room full to the brim with 65 people, they all listened attentively to each other. The knowing head nods. The smile of acknowledgment. How often can you say that?

3. Everyone has a voice. What’s powerful about the “lands work” from CRR Global is that each “land” (department) gets to speak up without any interruption. Each person gets to represent what it’s like in their “land” and there can be no disagreement, no denial. If a project coordinator says “I have to juggle the demands of four superintendents.” There is no denying that. It is that project coordinator’s truth. Their unadulterated voice. It’s powerful to here a co-worker state a truth that you didn’t even realize. Connecting involves everyone having a voice.

4. Stepping into someone else’s shoes. This is the magical part of “lands work.” All the superintendents took a seat while everyone else in the company stood in their “land.” They then spoke on behalf of the superintendents. There was one woman from administration who when she stood in each of the other lands said “I don’t like this land.” She acknowledged how difficult the other positions in the company were. The superintendents were constantly on the road, the business development folks were constantly handling rejection, the project coordinators had to deal with uncooperative sub contractors. And on and on and on. I could see the impact of having the other people who didn’t have your job speak on behalf of your job and suddenly connection was created. They get it. They were able to move on with a new understanding of each other that would not have ever existed without this effort.

5. Making sure there is a take away. In the end, there must be an understanding. What will this group take away from this experience? How can we take this forward? In a nutshell someone said “Empathy.” There is a new understanding that for each of them to be clear what the priority is. An understanding of what the effect they have on others. Some folks wanted an email with a clear subject line, some folks want a voicemail and still others wanted to get a text. The point was they had a new understanding of flexing and adapting to each other because now they understood each other’s perspective.

So I challenge you to be more connected at work. When was the last time you asked the Project Manager what their challenges are and what do they need from other departments to be more effective? Give it a try and sit back and listen. Really listen.

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on January 8, 2016

Taking care of your corner of the world. One small step at a time.

You want to make a difference. You want to take on the world. You want to have the masses cheering and singing your praises. You might envision the paparazzi chasing you as you whisk past in your limousine; the velvet rope opens for you at all the greatest destinations. We all seek this total appreciation from all we touch. Turns out, that’s just a little unrealistic. Even the Pope has his detractors. Not everyone is going to drink the Kool-Aid. There will be dissenters. Turns out that the best approach is just taking care of your corner of the world; one step at a time.

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I just delivered a team building for a organization a few weeks ago. It went well; better than I had expected. There was 100% participation and tons of light bulbs were going off in folk’s heads.. Terrific. We did something from CRR Global called “Lands Work” where each department got to tell their point of view and then, take on each other’s departments’ point of view. They got it. People were FINALLY on the same page. It was terrific. Then I sent out a survey afterwards. One or two people thought I wasn’t enthusiastic enough. My heart sank. When I reflected back, I remember that I was really concerned with getting out on time because I was teaching a class with a visiting guest speaker that was a 90 minute drive away and there was no clock in the room. And now I was dwelling on the folks who were disappointed. My invaluable co-teacher, Sandy Lewis and I were Skyping today as I recounted my story of woe and she asked, “Did you make a difference in one person’s life?” I said, “Yes”. She said, “That’s enough”. End of over expectations. Perspective focused. Take care of my little corner. Move on.

So how do you do that?

1. Perfection is over rated. I have coached dozens of folks who are looking for perfection. 100% on all the survey results. A++. Size 6 jeans. Never a hair out of place. The perfect flawless soufflé EVERY time. What do you think? Unattainable? Yeah it is. Take a breath and let go. No one gets to perfect. That includes the Pope AND Taylor Swift. Accept what is. Even if it’s messy.

2. Be present regardless. I’ve facilitated team building sessions hundreds of times. I know that as a Franklin Covey Trainer told me some 10 years ago, “It’s all about them”. The minute I started worrying about getting out on time, I was not there. I was in the car on the way to the next stop. It’s like the canary in the coal mine. The crowd senses it immediately. When you want to do your best work, you have to be absolutely present.

3. Focus on the positive. As my co-instructor Sandy said, “So most people were positive and got something out of the training”. I said, “Yes. It went great. I was surprised how open everyone was to take on another department’s perspective.” Feedback from anyone can send people on a negative tailspin. Find that one nugget; that one Ah Ha. That one person who comes up to you and says, “Thanks, I needed this”. One small step up the gray staircase. Stay positive.

4. Keep it in perspective. As the great coach, Christine Kane said SWSWSWSW. This stands for, “Some will. Some won’t. So what? Someone’s waiting!” It means that some people are going to love what you do. Some won’t. So what? Someone is waiting for what you are going to do next. That is what you are here for. There is someone out there waiting for your next post. Your next pitch. Your next soufflé. Let go of those who are not fans. Be there for those who are fans.

Think about what’s in your corner of the world. What’s important there? Is it money? Fame? What your impact is. Focus on making a difference and the rest will follow. This moment. Right now. Who will you impact next? Go.

Sick and tired of being sick and tired? 6 Ways to Snap out of Role Nausea

You are getting to work and you realize you forgot to pick up the donuts for the morning staff meeting. UGH. You ALWAYS get the donuts. No one else even remotely volunteers to pick them up instead of you. Why in the world did the title of Production Manager land you the job of “donut getter”. You did it at first to be nice and now no one else in the entire group will pick up the slack and be the “donut getter”.

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Do you know what this is? It’s role nausea. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired of the same old roles. I learned about role nausea during systems coach training by CRR Global. It truly is possible to try on some new roles and to break out of the rut of old roles. It’s just takes a little understanding about how systems work. You may not think you are in a system but everything is a system. Your department, your company, your marriage, your family, and your basketball team are all systems and they are full of inner roles (i.e. Peacemaker) and outer roles (i.e. Production Manager). Role nausea as written in my ORSC training, “Occurs when someone becomes heartily sick of the same role.”

So here are the ways to snap out of role nausea:

1. Define what kind of role this is. Roles can be outer (something outlined in your job description like setting up a production budget), they can be inner (something like nurturer hence the donut getter) or there can be ghost roles (this represents something that is not here anymore but still has an impact, like an ex-CEO who was a micromanager). So if it’s likely found in your job description then you are probably dealing with an outer role which from a systems standpoint is a little bit easier to deal with. The inner roles can be naturally baked into our personality. If you are the one who is always the peacemaker it doesn’t matter if you are the receptionist or Production Manager, you end up taking on that role regardless of the circumstances. The ghost role can float in from anywhere and represent something that doesn’t exist anymore like your ex-boss or the way things were before children. Define what role you want to work on.

2. Gather the troops to discuss the team roles. This is ideally done by an outside coach (Work with me!). Educate the group on the types of roles as defined above, and point out that roles are functions and not people. Make sure they are open to collaboration. The easiest to work on are the outer roles first. These are more apparent and identifiable as well. Find out what outer roles folks are sick of or where there might be some confusion. Role confusion is when it’s not clear who is responsible. Like I thought I was the agenda maker but sometimes when the meeting gets moved, Suzy is the agenda maker. Have everyone write down or bring up any roles that are at issue. Find the roles that are at issue, write them down and put them out in front of the group. This separates the “role” from the person.

3. Brainstorm ways to handle the roles differently. It’s important that if you are facilitating this and you happen to be the boss that you listen instead of direct. Try not to be attached to the outcome or pretty soon your direct reports will be just giving lip service and trying to anticipate what you want to hear. This is about new ways of doing things so be open and listen. Ask a few open ended questions and then shut up. Let the group do the talking and don’t shoot down any ideas. Make sure you write down the ideas that come up and validate every one of them if possible.

4. Come up with a plan and verify that everyone is aligned. One of the tenet’s of Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Behaviors of the Cohesive Team is that we have to be OK with conflict. You have to be open to hearing everyone’s view point because then they will buy in as long as they were “heard”. So if you are trying to nail down the action plan and someone’s body language is screaming that they aren’t on board (i.e. rolling of the eyes, deadly silence); be sure to go back to step 3 and probe some more. Consensus is not needed. Only alignment. We don’t have to agree on which way we are headed from Point A to Point B but I need to hear you out without punishment or judgement.

5. Verify next steps. Coaching always involves next steps. It is pointless to talk about what you want to do differently and then do nothing different. Who is going to be the donut getter now? Does Tommy need to verify that he can get his kids to day care earlier so he can get the donuts (cough, we all know this would probably be done by a woman but that might be my ghost talking). Always get to action. What are we going to do differently in the future?

6. Rinse and repeat. Follow up in the future to make sure it’s working. Or it’s not working. Hold folks accountable to ensure what they said they would do is what they did.

You may find out that the issues continue. This is likely because of ghost roles (woman always get the food for meetings) or inner roles (I am always the nurturer and I feel most comfortable nurturing regardless of the role nausea). This will require coaching on a deeper level. The main thing is to air the issue and put it in front of the team. Sometimes even just expressing the role nausea and other folks showing appreciation for their efforts is enough for someone to continue on. What role are you sick of?

How to Instantly Connect. The Basics of Emotional Bidding.

When I think of bidding, I think of poker. So I didn’t immediately connect when I heard Marita Fridjhon, CRR Global, introduce the idea of a “repair bid” in terms of making a movement to try and repair a relationship. So if you are in conflict with a co-worker, you redirect the conversation by making a positive connection by saying something like, “I can see you put a lot of effort into this report” or “I so glad you’ve taken this project on.” It’s like stopping and offering a gift of grapes; sometimes known as a peace offering. The silent message is, “I know we disagree but I still value and respect you.” But there are more than just repair bids.Repair Bids

The idea of emotional bidding was developed by John Gottman and is outlined in his book, The Relationship Cure. “Introducing the fundamental unit of emotional connection he calls the “emotional bid,” Dr. Gottman shows that all good relationships are built through a process of making and receiving successful bids. These bids range from such subtle gestures as a quick question, a look, or a comment, to the most probing and intimate ways we communicate.” So the act of bidding is something we all need to understand and develop in order to connect with others. It’s the nuanced give and take between two people that lets the other know that you care while it strengthens your relationship.

So here are the ways we bid and instantly connect with others:

1. Question. As Gottman espouses, a question can be simple. “Did you see the World Cup game last night?” or “Can I get you some coffee?” or “What time are you leaving?” A question is easy and almost demands connection. This brings up a memory from traveling across the country with my family in a 22 foot trailer when I was eight years old. My father probably met a thousand folks on that trip, largely because he would ask questions whether standing on line at a gas station, restaurant, national monument, ice cream stand or rest area. “Where are you from?” “How long have you been on the road?” “What do you do?” Invariably my dad would be delayed and we would all roll our eyes in unison and say, “He’s probably talking to someone.” But he would always come back with some interesting story about the guy from Minnesota who is a trout fisherman with twelve kids. The point is he knew how to connect. Ask questions.

2. Gesture. Perhaps the easiest gesture is a wave. But any positive gesture is a way to connect. I remember when we first moved to Goldsboro which is a small town in Eastern North Carolina some 14 years ago. My husband and I would be driving to our rental house and a guy sitting on his riding mower would wave at us. We would look at each other perplexed like how does he know us? Turns out that’s what you do in a small southern town. You wave at people if you know them or not. I have to say I have felt more connected since I moved here and now I wave whether walking or driving. Connect through a gesture.

3. Look. So much can be communicated in just one look. A wink. A grin. As Gottman cites in his book, when someone is gauging your communication 7% is based on the actual spoken word, 38% is on tone and pace of voice and 55% is based on facial expressions and body language. One look speaks volumes over what you are actually saying. It’s engaging. And it’s so simple. Communicate and connect by simply looking.

4. Touch. In my opinion, this is the fastest way to connect to someone although in the business setting this can be risky. It’s not like this has to be an embrace. A dear friend of mine, and the editor of this blog, used to be a cocktail waitress at the San Francisco airport (MANY years ago). I can remember her advice as we were waiting on patrons in the Sunset Bar: “Touch the customer on the back of the shoulder.” My tips went up. Literally connecting with the customer had a huge impact. Such a small bid with terrific results. Try it in an argument if you can pull it off without it being obvious.

5. Express. Express your feelings. I know I have recommended this when I facilitate the DDI training “Essentials of Leadership” which recommends, “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.” My Baby Boomer managers cringe at sharing their feelings. Like we need to sing Kumbaya or something. Feelings are not necessarily those of love (although in bidding with a love interest, it certainly could be). Feelings can be apprehension, fatigue, uncertainty, anger or excitement. “I’m nervous about giving you this project” or “I’m tired and I’m not thinking clearly.” For me it shows authenticity. Express yourself. Contrary to what you might think, it shows confidence and trust.

Connection can be fleeting if the other party does not reciprocate. Perhaps they are on their smart phone and ignore your attempts at a gesture. Gottman refers to this as a bid buster called being mindless. So make sure you are receiving as well as giving bids. Pay attention and acknowledge the connect. How do you bid?

Exploring our edges. My drive on Mount Tamalpais.

I have traveled to Northern California over the last year to take ORSC training by CRR Global. Since I was, for twenty years, a resident of Northern California this training has given me the opportunity to travel to many old haunts, sightseeing and visiting with friends and family. So when I arrived at 2 PM on a Thursday with the entire afternoon to kill, I had to think, where do I really want to go. My final destination was my hotel in San Rafael. But what to do with 4 plus hours on my own with absolutely no commitments. After searching the current exhibitions at all the local museums with nothing of interest, I decided I wanted to conquer Mount Tamalpais.exploring edges

I knew from experience that I should be able to drive up just shy of the summit and that the drive to the top, on a sunny day, would be spectacular. Well, since it was a sunny day, mid-week (i.e. less tourists) I set my GPS for Mount Tam and headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge. So this might seem like it’s not a big deal but I have suffered from acrophobia for most of my life. As I happily drove up to the summit I suddenly realized why I hadn’t been up to the summit in over 2 decades. It’s a long way down to the Pacific and there are no guard rails. I definitely was crossing an edge. The ironic thing is that I was attending a CRR Global session the following night titled “Exploring our Edges” and here I was literally exploring my acrophobic edge.

So this is what I learned about exploring my edge:

1. Name it. Probably the biggest advantage of coaching is that, through powerful questions, you name the obstacle, desired outcome or future state you are seeking. Whether it’s dumping your day job, deciding to propose, changing your business focus or quitting smoking, name the change. It’s not until a coach asks me, “How do you want it to be?” that I realize I want to run a marathon or write a book or start a new business. When you are crystal clear on where the destination is and name it, it’s much easier to explore. It would be like looking at maps of Haiti when you really want to go to Tahiti. Be sure to name it.

2. Experience it. In the CRR Global session, we each had a partner to explore our individual edge. There was blue painter’s tape on the floor shaped as an isosceles angle. The pinnacle of the angle was the “edge” and the left side was labeled “now” and right side labeled “future”. Standing with a coach next to you to experience where you are on the edge (right next to the pinnacle or way down at the base or already on the future side). This helps to reveal your emotional attachment or lack of attachment, your resistance or uncovers your ambition, your fear and your passion. It’s quite different to physically take a stand instead of just talking in the hypothetical. It makes it real. Be sure to experience where you are versus your edge.

3. Test it. When we were exploring our edge in class, we were encouraged to test getting over the edge any way we wanted. Some folks took baby steps up to the pinnacle, one person got down on the floor and sniffed the edge, some jumped to the other side. And then jumped back. I tell you that when I got to the top of Mount Tam and realized I needed to drive back down from where I came, I panicked a bit. Then I realized it was my edge and I could deal with it anyway I wanted. I drove the hairpin turns with a thousand foot drop off at ten miles an hour and imagined I was in the middle of a corn field in Kansas (as flat as could be). As the altitude dropped, my speed increased, and if a car came up behind me, I pulled over so they could pass. I was testing my edge at my own pace.

4. Design it. As you test and experience the change you want, you suddenly become aware of what you need to do to get there or not get there. I’ve seen clients decide that they need be patient and wait for their next stock option vestment, or to sign up for the next coach training or call their financial advisor or get their website up or get safely to the bottom of the mountain. When you finally have some clarity, it becomes apparent what you need to do. Design your next step.

5. Check it. It always helps to have accountability. Whether you put your action step on your own calendar or promise to email your friend after you sign up for that new class or when your website is live. When I drove to the top of Mount Tam, I let my husband know where I was going. If you don’t set up something to be cross checked, it gets lost in the ether; like many good intentions, never to be heard from again. Make sure you have a way to check progress whether internally or externally.

When I began writing this, I had to research if I had vertigo or acrophobia. It is acrophobia (a fear of heights) and apparently women suffer from it twice as much as men. As infants and toddlers we have a natural fear of cliffs. This brought me back to an incident from my childhood. Apparently as a two year old, I tried to crawl out of a second story window and my father saved me just in time. So if I didn’t have the fear of cliffs before, I most certainly did afterwards. I will continue to explore my edge. What edge do you need to explore?

Quantum Flirts. Are you reading the signs in your life?

I have been training for the last year with CRR Global and a few weeks ago I went to the fourth installment of my Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) training. This stuff is magical. The topic on the last day was Quantum Flirts which is as described by CRR Global, “a short-lived, transient, perceptual signal which can be used to provide us with insight.” It is based on the work of Arnold Mindell and Quantum Mechanics. So the way I see it, it’s like the Universe is sending you a sign. As Arnold writes, “In everyday terms, Arny explained this idea of “many worlds” by saying that when we begin to focus on something, we see its most probable state, the one that fits into our culture and consensus reality. Yet, in each and every experience there is a multitude of other experiences lying in wait, though in Arny’s interpretation, we choose one and marginalize the others. To say it very simply, the moment we call something “a” or “b” we have marginalized all of its other possible states (c,d,e, etc).”The Universe is flirting with you and you need to pay attention to catch it so that you can see the possibility of a different outcome. It may be a flicker of a bulb, the song of a bird or a flash of sunlight on a wave, but it’s the Universe winking at you; laying out hints. quantum flirts

I was fortunate to be the volunteer coached by Grace Flannery in Quantum Flirts. She asked that I bring up a current issue or hot spot that had stressed me out with someone close to me. I talked about my son and his desire to find a place to live this summer instead of coming home and there are a multitude of options and growing for staying in Miami. I further explained how his mode of communication is texting which can leave one wanting (me) for more and frustrated. She then asked me to look around the room or outside and see if there was anything that caught my attention for just a second. I noticed how a classmate was flipping his reading glasses and the glint of light from it. This was my “flirt”. Grace ask me to animate the flirt and I flickered my fingers in an arc in front of me. Grace expounded on my gesture with a “Fa la la la la”. I copied her. She said, “So when your son texts, you can just say “fa la la la la”. We did it in unison. The observing class then copied me. We were all there “fa la la-ing” and copying my gesture. I could not stop laughing. We all cracked up. The Universe flirted with me and it was hysterical. My aggravation with my son was a construct of reality but by paying attention to the spark or “flirt” I could imagine that there could be a different outcome. I could let go and see it in a different light. It’s not a hot spot, there is potential in my relationship with my son to any outcome that I chose. His constant texting and options are his way to engage. So be it.

So how do you tune into the signals and flirts around you? Here are some ideas.

1. Presence. If you aren’t living in the moment, it’s going to be pretty hard to pick up on any signals. If you have ever meditated (and if you are a faithful reader of my blog you should be by now 🙂 ) do you start to notice every sound or smell or the crazy shapes on the inside of your eyelids when shut? You are officially “present”. I always notice the sound of the clock in my office, the birds outside or the ventilation system. Get present; become present.

2. Notice. Take notice of what is going on around you. I started noticing every animal that crossed my path and not just my dog. Turtle out in the lake bobbing with its head at the surface. A glint of light off a wet leaf, the clock is at 11:11, the receipt fell on the floor to only show the word “thanks”. Start to take note of what is going on out there or in there. My dog is sleeping, my dog is sighing, my dog is running around at lightning speed because geese are in her space, my dog is out of the water. I try and remember something about the dream I just woke up from. Take notice.

3. Offer. So what does this sign have to offer? Why is the universe or a higher power or quantum physics sending a signal to you? I know that each time I see a turtle I feel like I need to slow down and be patient. When I see a robin I think of rebirth and Spring. Canadian geese are a nuisance and I’m wondering if I am pestering someone. Perhaps my children? My husband? My boss? My dog is out of the water. Maybe I need water and nourishment as well. The receipt that fell with “thanks” showing is offering me gratitude. What is the offer?

4. It’s right. Don’t get caught up in perfection about what the sign or the flirt means. It means what it means to you. I know sometimes I “cheat” and Google “tornado as a symbol in a dream”. Apparently, this could be a sign of stress. Makes sense. That resonates for me. If it doesn’t, maybe the tornado is a sign of escaping danger. Animals like Robins, Herons and Turtles almost always have a Shamanic reference. Those are easy to Google as well. I dreamt about a broken bottle the other day and the reference for that symbol was “potential”. What it felt like for me was avoiding the broken glass. There was a person I was walking on egg shells for and I feel like the broken glass was the symbol I could relate to.

I’m less about everything happens for a reason and more about taking in information I do like to think that things show up at the right time and that the turtle that just stuck his head up through the surface of the lake is telling me to slow down. What signs do you see?

Ambiguity. How to Thrive in a Gray World

Everyone wants to live in a black and white world. We want to know what is right and wrong. Good or bad. Left or right. Clear concise decisions with no gray area and no regrets. It’s not going to happen. The world is way too complex. We need to embrace ambiguity and march forward with no misgivings. Very little is black or white anymore. There are a million shades of gray. Ambiguity.  How to Thrive in a Gray World

Every time you venture out of bed you are entering an ambiguous world. Heck, even if you stay in bed, the ambiguous world keeps rolling along. The stock market goes up or plunges down, it snows ten feet or doesn’t rain for three years, your wireless router quits for the third time in 18 months, your partner dumps you or you find the love of your life. Nothing is certain. The only that is certain is uncertainty (oh, and death and taxes).

There is hope in all of this but you have to go through and not around. Here is my take:

Perfection. Give up perfection. This doesn’t mean quitting. It means you need to let go. Perfectionism is a false construct. There is no end. You never get to perfect. Your ideal weight plus the perfect job plus the bulging bank account plus the sexy sports car and the perfect, patient, happy spouse will not align in The Perfect Storm. So you might get a flat tire on the way to the airport, you may not land that new job, the next project launch may not fly. Don’t keep score on perfection.

Paralysis. There is no perfect solution. Analysis paralysis has thwarted many a decision. Just one more data point, one more month of sales, another data cut, one more project bid, or one more applicant. The only decision you are making is to not make a decision. Your team, your family, your partner, your boss are counting on you making the decision. One more data point will not make it crystal clear. Stop the analysis.

Surrender. As my good friend, Janine, says with regard to ambiguity, “I am seeking to embrace and sit with uncertainty and not necessarily take action to move through it. More of a surrender to the ambiguity.” There are times when you have to surrender and the best action is no action but to be uncomfortable with ambiguity. I remember starting a new job for a company many years ago and on my first day they decided that the business unit was for sale. Two years later it was resolved. I had no control over the sale of the business, I surrendered to the uncertainty.

Wrong. It’s OK to be wrong. I have grown up with a Mother who always had to be right. There was my way, everyone else’s way and then there’s my Mother’s way. The only way was her way. Being right was highly valued in my house. Being right does not embrace ambiguity. There is no acknowledgement that there might be another way. In fact as CRR Gobal espouses “everyone is right…partially.” So accept that you may be right but may be only 10% right. This allows for ambiguity and you won’t need to engage in lots of righteousness, which can be exhausting.

Chunking. I find that many of my clients make headway when they break things into chunks. A lot of the curse of ambiguity lies in the fact that it can be overwhelming. Ambiguity is a huge monster that incites fear. When you break off an eyelash, it becomes manageable. It’s doable. It’s understandable. It’s not so scarring. Instead of it being a monster, it’s just an eyelash. And then another eyelash, and another.. When you can metaphorically hold it in your hands the ambiguity evaporates. Break it into chunks.

Pause. Ambiguity is stressful. It’s easy to engage your lizard brain (the fight or flight or freeze mode). It’s instinctual. We all started as hunter-gathers. The lizard brain had a purpose which was to save you from a Saber-toothed Tiger or from poisonous plants. But lighting up your lizard brain all day, every day with mountains of email, the latest shooting or terrorist attack and your boss’ endless barrage of requests is simply not healthy. Yoga, meditation, a long walk or run, sitting down with a good book, anything to shut down your lizard brain will help you see ambiguity with fresh eyes.

Agile. As Beyond Philosophy said in their article on Ambiguity, “Work on your flexibility. Be willing to change course as more information comes to light. Don’t let pride delay you from correcting your course. Ambiguity can reveal facts at any time that are going to affect your best decision.” There will be more data points that come along after you set your course. Accept them and make a course correction or completely bail out. Let go of your ego and move on. Be agile.

This not easy. There is so much ambiguity permeating life every day. It’s not just work, or your marriage or your finances. It’s omnipresent. It’s the new normal. How do you embrace ambiguity?

Stepping into Conflict; It’s OK to Rock the Boat

Over the last few months there have been several events accompanied by insights that bubbled up into an enormous realization; I avoid conflict. I think a lot of us avoid conflict but I realized this had become an almost daily occurrence. The illusion has been that if I avoid something uncomfortable like telling my son “No”, he will remain happy and the conflict will go away. In reality, it just builds. It may not appear today but that conflict will be back or the effects of not saying “No” will have a long term impact. The worst case scenario is that a relationship whether at work or personally, can be irreparably harmed.

I recently facilitated a fantastic new training model called “5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team” based on a book by Patrick Lencioni. The first behavior is vulnerability based trust, (i.e. can I admit mistakes, can I ask for help, showing weakness, etc.) and the second behavior is constructive conflict. Patrick describes conflict:

“Therefore, it is key that leaders demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution to occur naturally, as messy as it can sometimes be. This can be a challenge because many leaders feel that they are somehow failing in their jobs by losing control of their teams during conflict.”

Just replace the word parent, partner or friend into that quote for “leader” and child, spouse or coworker for “team”. I realized that I felt like conflict was failing whether it was with my husband, my mother, my assistant or my son. It turns out that stepping into conflict is critical and necessary for all teams, relationships and marriages. Wow. So my avoiding the conflict or not letting the conflict occur between folks at work and at home was actually destructive. That’s a big, “Aha!” Rock the Boat.  Step into conflict.

So here are some of the things I’ve been working on in order to step into conflict:

1. Uncomfortable. I’ve been trying to embrace being uncomfortable. I’m the kind of person who goes around smoothing the waters. Human Resource folks do this all the time. Talk to Marketing, talk to Accounting, talk to Production and make it all right. Make sure everyone is happy. This is an illusion. It’s just pacifying everyone and no solution is ever figured out. In recent weeks I’ve tried to pick at the scab and to be uncomfortable. I need to rock the boat. I bring up the financial shortfall or the difference in opinion or talk about the lapse in communication. Step into being uncomfortable.

2. Discord. I’m trying to be accepting of discord. My idea or interpretation is not the only one that matters. I know that sounds obvious but we all have our own world view. I need to allow for a difference of opinion and let it go. It’s easy to get attached to a difference of opinion as if the other person doesn’t respect me or my ideas. Staying detached from the difference and not making up assumptions for the discord is critical. I realized this when I look at my parent’s marriage. My father is a devout conservative Republican and my mother is a bleeding heart Liberal. They will celebrate 60 years of marriage in 2015. That amounts to a lot of discord. From Carter to Bush, there was a lot of passionate debate but they were able to agree to disagree. Accept discord.

3. Ask. Be open to ask for help. As Tal Ben-Shahar espouses in his book, The Pursuit of Perfect, reaching out and being vulnerable enough to ask for help can strengthen your relationship with your team, your family and your boss. The perfectionist in all of us defaults to giving advice instead of asking for it ourselves. Think about it for a minute. When someone asks you for help, aren’t you honored? Doesn’t it strengthen your relationship? There is the fabled story that Ben Franklin asked to borrow a prized book from an arch rival. The arch rival lent it to him. From that point forward he was an ally. How can you keep an enemy of someone you lent a prized book to? It takes vulnerability to ask for help.

4. Empathy. Put on someone else’s shoes to understand where they are coming from. I’ve learned some very powerful tools from my training with CRR Global. One of them is about looking at someone else’s position from the perspective of them living in a different land. I did this recently with a group regarding the utilization of the company cafeteria. We divided the group into three “lands”, one group ate in the cafeteria on a regular basis, the other rarely or never ate in the cafeteria and the last group were the workers in the cafeteria. They each stood in their land and told us what is was like in the land. Then they each visited the other lands to find out what it was like to be from a different perspective. It was completely enlightening. To hear a coworker say that “it must be difficult to try and serve food when the employees are limited on time” or “I just want to escape from work so I go off premise”. Every point was valid and hearing it expressed built empathy for all the participants. Empathy is key.

5. Act. Do something. Sitting back and criticizing behind someone’s back is the coward’s way out. Take a deep breath, face your fears and take a step forward. If you don’t like the new policy, the bonus plan or the joke your co-worker just told; step up and speak up. This is definitely the hardest part for me. Based on several books and articles I have read this probably because women are more comfortable advocating for others than themselves. I’ve done this in baby steps. If I wait until I’m not emotionally charged and speak privately to the offender by saying something like, “You may not realize this but I was offended by what you said”, or “In my opinion this project looks tenuous based on the feedback I’m getting from our clients”; I am capable of acting to affect change Act and be heard.

Facing conflict instead of hiding from it is scary, messy and imperfect. It means that you can’t play it small. Rock the boat before it tips over! In the long run, your relationships and your team will be strengthened by it.