Crossing the Finish Line. Goal Setting and, Most Importantly, Finishing.

I finally checked off a bucket list item on Saturday.  I finished my first half marathon.  Whew.  What a relief.  I must say it wasn’t easy but the sense of accomplishment is amazing.    I can remember when the goal first came out of my mouth.  I was working with an amazing Coach named Stephen Starkey.  We were working through a Brain Based Coaching process and I had to come up with three challenging goals to accomplish in 6 months.  I had initially figured I’d set my goal as running 10 miles.  Period.  Stop.  Mostly because I had run 10 miles before and I figured I could easily attain that goal.  Then Steve said, “Is that challenging enough?”  Whoa.  I knew  in my heart it wasn’t.  It was a softball goal.  So then I said “I want to run a half marathon”.  What?  Where in the world did that come from?  I wanted to grab the words with my hands and put them back in my mouth.  Did I mention I’m not a runner?  I’m a really slow jogger and, at that point, I was lucky to run …er jog two miles at a time.  It’s amazing how one coach and one question can prompt you to push yourself. Crossing the Finish Line.  Goal Setting and, Most Importantly, Finishing.

So it’s one thing to set the goal, it’s a whole other animal to actually finish; to cross the finish line.   How many New Year’s resolutions have you not accomplished?  Granted, there are folks out there with the stamina and chutzpa to just go run 13.1 miles without any training.  God bless them all.  But I’m over 50, not exactly svelte and it was going to take months of training to be able to survive the race and not leave it on a gurney.  This part was definitely accomplished with the steadfast help of another amazing Coach, Travis Marsh.  With his help, he kept me accountable to my goal and helped me plan out the action items to achieve it.  Having a coach made the difference.    

So what here are the steps to crossing the finish line:

1.  Challenging.  Go after something challenging.  Go for the uncharted territory.   If you are writing a blog, then write a book.  If you have your Associate’s degree, then get your Bachelor’s.  If you raised $500 for Cancer last year, raise $2,000 this year.  If you’ve run a 5K, then sign up for a 10k.  Push yourself.  It definitely helps to have a coach asking you, “Is that challenging enough?”  Go big or go home.

2. Google.   Google or research best practices.  This is invariably the first step for most of the clients I coach.   Find an article on how to write a book.  Research what school’s are the best for pottery making.  See where the best areas are to go reef diving.  Get a book on tango dancing.  Figure out which half marathon works best for you based on location and your personal commitments.  Invest in some research.

3. Plan.  Plan the steps to get there.  Within a few weeks of setting the goal, I had the strategies and some action steps already planned out.  Travis helped me break it up into manageable chunks.  I had my weekly long runs scheduled out all the way up to race day.  If you have a goal that does not require planning, then go back to step one and start over.  It’s not challenging enough.

4. Execute.  This is where you are going to have to show up.  I have run three times a week since I set the goal.  Rain.  Heat.  Humidity.  Darkness.  Plan on adversity.  As it turns out, the day of the race was overcast with drizzle, a temperature of 70 degrees and about 95% humidity.  Not ideal running conditions.  Although my mother figured I would call it off due to weather, I knew there was no way I was giving up on the goal.  I found a rain poncho and took a plastic baggie for my phone.  I had spent 5 months running and planning for this day.  Adversity or not, I was going to show up!   

5. Envision.  In the four days that lead up to the race, I was constantly trying to squelch my fear.  Fortunately, my son had sent me a YouTube link of Jimmy Valvano and the 1983 NC State Basketball team called “Survive and Advance”.  One of the most incredible things in the video, is that Jimmy V would have the team practice cutting down the nets (which is what happens for the winning basketball team after a championship game) every year.  Use an entire practice to cut down the nets.   First, of course, he had set the challenging goal of winning a national championship, and then, he made sure the team was envisioning success.  I started envisioning crossing the finish line, putting a 13.1 sticker on my car, and having the medal around my neck.  Envision success.

6. Support.  Make sure you have support.  Whether it’s someone to underwrite your education, drive you to the soccer tournament or proof read your manuscript.  I can assure you that if my husband had not been available to pick up a dozen Krispy Kreme’s  after a 14 mile run or been there at mile 12 of the race to help encourage me to the finish, I might still have finished but his support made it easier.  As well as the countless (I mean more than 100) people along the race route and in the race, who said “You’ve got this” or “Good job”, a high five or a thumbs up.  It carried me to the end.

7. Do it.   It’s going to take tenacity.  My son has spent three years planning and working towards running track for an NCAA Division 1 team.  He works out everyday.  He applied to the schools that fit his criteria.  He ultimately went to the school he had the best chance of making the team.  He contacted (pestered) the coach.  When he got to the University of Miami, he busted his hump at every practice.  He made the team.  His tenacity and work ethic paid off.  Just do it.

Now I’m in the enviable position of being unfettered.  I haven’t decided my next goal but I feel like anything is possible.  So get out there and cross that finish line.

Unresolved Conflict: The Elephant in the Room

As a restaurant owner and Human Resource professional over the past 20 plus years, I’ve seen plenty of unresolved workplace conflict.  It’s like the kitchen garbage can with rotting shrimp shells in the bottom; everyone smells it but no one wants to deal with it.  So we let it fester and things fester.

Blood pressure rises, people start avoiding each other, less eye contact; our mind goes wild with what we figure the other person is thinking.  We think we know their true motivation as the paranoia mounts.

There were countless times I was brought in to end the avoidance….to get to the bottom of the smelly mess.  So how do you handle the conflict?  Here are some tried and true maneuvers:

1. Timing is everything.  Don’t talk to someone when they just get back from vacation and are buried in email and return phone calls.  Give them a day or two to dig out and take a temperature check.  Read their body language.  A little tension in the shoulders? Using short curt sentences? Relax and wait.  Sense of humor is back?  Just got a great sales report?  This might be your opening.

2. Privacy.  This  cannot be emphasized enough.  Don’t bring up the smelly issue in front of or within ear shot of any other human being.  Never.  Ever.   Their listening skills will be out to lunch and their blood pressure will shoot up.  No one likes to be embarrassed and if there is even the slightest chance that UPS delivery guy might walk by; relax and wait.

3. Facts.  Research your smelly issue thoroughly.  No hunches.  No assumptions.  No jumping to conclusions.  Do your best reconnaissance, you watch CSI, investigate.  This is especially true in the “he said, she said, they said and we said” type of smelly issue.  Find any and all witnesses and alleged witnesses (I can’t tell you how many times in a harassment investigation that the “alleged witness” wasn’t even at work that day).  Don’t go at fact finding to just make sure you are“right”.

4. Suspend Assumptions. This goes closely with #3 but it’s imperative that you don’t decide the other person’s motivation; their ulterior motives.  You’ll have them being one step below Bernie Madoff if you’re not careful.  Empty your head of all your negative stereo types, like “Joe is always out for himself” or “Suzy is out to get me”.  Really?  You know all that?  As Byron Katie says at her website “the work”, “Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” Turn off mister ego and shut down your assumption machine.

5. Craft.  Think it through.  How are you going to broach the subject?  Maybe test the waters with another agenda item that isn’t confrontational like “I want to thank you for your help on the turnover report.  It really saved me some time and I got a chance to work on a more pressing project”.  A sincere, specific compliment is a nice lead in.  I can hear you nay-sayers out there…but I can’t think of anything nice to say.  Revisit #4.  Phrase the issue in terms of the other person’s viewpoint.  What is a reasonable explanation for their egregious act?  Give them an out like, “I’m sure you didn’t realize that when I was excluded from the finance team, I felt like you didn’t trust me”, or “I don’t think you are aware but when you told Suzy about the layoff plan, she assumed her job was in jeopardy”.  Think it through and craft the one or two sentences (no more) to summarize and present the smelly issue at hand (stay away from Never, Always and Should).

6. Love.  What are you crazy?  Love my co-worker, boss, workplace nemesis?  I don’t know why it works but if you decide you love someone, even your worst enemy ,the whole thing just works better.  Maybe it’s ch’i, but mentally embracing the other person (do not do this literally…for obvious reasons) helps you to be open to the possibilities; love your enemy.  Bob may never include you on the email with the financial reports but if you love him, it dampens down the resentment and blasts open the possibility of resolution. This also helps with #4.

7. Do it.  When you have completed the preceding steps; just do it.  Have the conversation.  Stay open minded and believe in a positive outcome.  Sometimes, OK a lot of times, it’s a complete surprise to the other person.  But it’s amazing how often people tip toe around an issue, especially a smelly one, and the offending person, had no idea that they angered you or that several people were avoiding them.  Most of the time people don’t realize how they are perceived and want to do their best.  Nine times out of ten, they apologize.  Give them the chance.

This might be messy the first, second or third time around.  But this is going to build trust in the long run.  You will be the Go-To person for conflict resolution and honest constructive feedback.  Slay the elephant.

Let me know what you think.  What workplace conflict are you dealing with?