What my Mom Taught me About Emotional Intelligence

I am so fortunate to have my mom close by. She's healthy, active and sharp as a tack at 89 years young (she'd say, "Are you putting that on the internet?").

We've been spending a lot of time together lately, with Mother's Day, her birthday and other family events over the past two weeks. I am like her in many ways: a fun-loving extrovert, a people person.  She's out of the house every day volunteering, pursuing hobbies and having fun.

She knows everyone by name at bingo, church, and even the grocery store. And she knows a little something about them. She knows how to make people feel at ease and to make a connection.

I've definitely learned a lot from her (though she's way better at remembering names than I am!). She was the first person to teach me about emotional intelligence.

Here are three things more things I learned about EI from my mom:

You get more flies with honey than vinegar. One of mom's favorite expressions speaks to how important is it to "be nice." You will definitely get more cooperation and collaboration if you are authentically pleasant, easy-going and "sweet." You can choose to be sour or sweet. You get what you put in. All the elements of EI - self-awareness, social awareness, self-management AND relationship management - are represented.  Smart cookie!!

Mind your Ps and Qs. While the origin of the term is unclear, my mom always gave this advice. It meant to have good manners and be mindful of what you do and say. Clearly self-management. She also said, in a more restrictive tone, "Sit there with two feet in one shoe."

You never know who you'll run into, so be good! If you look beyond the hint of paranoia, you'll see that behavior matters. It's how you behave and treat others when no one is watching that is the true test of character. Take an interest in other people. Try to understand their perspective.

And always follow the Golden Rule.

Emotional intelligence is more than just being sweet! Join me for a 6-week online course that starts tomorrow. Click here for all the details.

 

 

Become a Stronger Leader Through Emotional Intelligence: Social Awareness

Becoming a stronger leader does not happen overnight. It is a continual process built around the core of improving your emotional intelligence. Already improving your Self-Awareness? Time to move onto improving your awareness of others' emotional experience through Social Awareness.

Social Awareness

Moving beyond self-awareness and self-management, a leader observes the behavior of the team. Through social awareness, employees feel heard and appreciated. Weekly meetings are the perfect time to practice active listening. Paraphrasing feelings, content, and meaning, as well as variations within the group are a good way to make members of the team feel heard. Matching and mirroring others people's feelings are also good exercises to being to improve social awareness.

These are skills where empathy is built and developed. Perspective-taking and reflection are key to effective leadership.

Emotional understanding of the team

Good leaders are empathic and have an emotional understanding of and concern for their team. This can be evident in as small a gesture as noticing when an employee is sad or distressed. Facilitate discussions of points of tension and note where the company can make things less stressful.

Awareness of company culture

Hearing and understanding the feelings behind what a colleague or client communicates is represented on a macro level through company culture. Company culture is more than a dress code and Bagel Friday; find out which parts of the mission statement resonate the most with your team. Notice group dynamics and find out what unique strengths and talents each person brings to the team and what keeps them engaged. Set the tone with your own emotionally intelligent style.

Effective managing style

A great leader uses active listening skills and finds commonalities across people and situations. They use self-management and adaptability to guide their team to the desired goal. By practicing self-management and modeling it to newer members of the team, the level of social awareness will raise as each person identifies their motivation.

Which management style works best for your team? Experiment with different methods with strengths and emotional intelligence in mind.

 

Become a Stronger Leader Through Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness

Becoming a stronger leader does not happen overnight. It is a continual process that includes developing the essential skills to improve your Emotional Intelligence (EI). This is Part 1 of our series: Become a Stronger Leader Through Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness.

One of the foundational principles of EI includes emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence.  Leaders who are aware of their internal responses and are self-confident are in a better position to understand others and to succeed.  Do you know your triggers and predispositions?  The more self-aware you become, the better leader you can be.

Emotional Self-Awareness

A good leader is one who knows her strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness builds on other aspects of emotional intelligence to understand where you shine and where you might need to do some polishing. In today's competitive environment, making time for self-reflection will help you stand out from the crowd.

Leaders who are aware of  triggers and expectations are better able to tweak their managing style for a positive outcome. For example, self-reflection and mindfulness can help if a manager needs to manage frustration in meetings.  Developing a robust emotional vocabulary also helps to pinpoint and articulate specific, nuanced feelings.

Accurate self-assessment

Self-assessment can simply include journaling or quiet reflection, i.e., any specific time set aside to understand your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness practice can also be useful, as well as asking others what they think are your strengths. Readily available personality assessments such as Meyers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder 2.0 can help guide you toward identifying your main strengths. Recording meetings or phone calls (with permission, of course) and playing them back later can help a leader to identify specific trouble areas and plan more effective responses in future situations. Working with a team member or a coach on these areas can also be extremely useful.

Self-confidence

Shadow coaching is an excellent way to build confidence in leadership skills. A coach will observe the group dynamic in the work environment, with special attention paid to the leader of the group. Immediate feedback encourages the best behaviors while creating the opportunity to improve on less desirable actions.

Unlike your Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, EQ can be learned through a particular set of competencies, skills, and qualities. Ready to increase your EI?

What are some ways that have helped you increase your self-awareness?

Maximize Your Leadership Potential

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to present a non-profit seminar hosted by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. Attendees came to learn how to use their strengths to become stronger leaders and build stronger teams.  One of the takeaways from the presentation is a series of areas where you can focus to maximize your leadership potential. Think about each of these through a lens of strengths. Where do you or your team do well in a specific area? Where do you want to improve?

Maximize Your Leadership Potential Action Steps

leadership potential

Lead with emotional intelligence.  Being self-aware of your emotions will help you tune in to the emotions of your co-workers as well. You will respond in more appropriate ways and create a calmer work environment.

Embrace and prepare for change. Change can be a catalyst for positive growth. When you embrace and prepare for change as the leader in a non-profit, your team will respond better when faced with a new situation. They are taking their cues from you as to whether this change is welcome or unwanted.

Communicate effectively. Clear instructions delivered in a collaborative way can help save time on new projects. Share the information needed to give your team a focus and shared goal. Create an environment where questions are welcomed.

Foster teamwork and collaboration. Encourage your team to trust and rely on one another by assigning projects that can benefit from multiple viewpoints. Reward the group as a whole for a job well done rather than singling out individual contributions.

Be a coach. Encourage the growth of every member on your team. You want to share in their success and be there to celebrate their achievements. Give your staff the tools they need to improve their skills.

Practice self-care. Model the importance of scheduling time off after completing a big project. Allow yourself to savor a job well done without racing back to the next task on your to do list.

How can you put these steps into action for yourself and your team?

Love Means Wanting to Say You're Sorry

Valentine's Day is coming up soon and love is on the mind of many. From red greeting cards and balloons to boxes of chocolates and bouquets of roses, expressions of love are being marketed as tangible goods to be bought. In healthy relationships, love is shown in a multitude of ways in addition to thoughtful gifts.

Love Means Wanting to Say You're Sorry

The 1970 movie Love Story still has cultural significance decades later. Today the famous line "Love means never having to say you're sorry" is quoted and adapted to cover all manner of transgressions. For those of you too young to have seen the original movie, here's a quick synopsis:

In the movie, the characters Jenny and Oliver are friends with vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds who fall in love to the dismay of Oliver's wealthy parents. When Oliver is disowned for choosing Jenny over his wealth and status, the couple begins to build their life together. After a big fight, Jenny says "Love means never having to say you're sorry" to Oliver when he tries apologizing for his anger.

Jenny and Oliver's relationship is not an ideal representation of a healthy marriage and it's not meant to be. Off the silver screen, relationships are complicated and full of personal idiosyncrasies. With my clients, the focus is on improving leadership skills in a business setting. Showing leadership at home and in our personal lives is as important as becoming a stronger leader at work.

This Valentine's Day you can show love at home and at the office by practicing these habits:

  • Active Listening A person feels loved when they feel valued. Actively listening to someone when they are speaking is vital to deepening a relationship. In business, active listening can give you added insight into the needs and wants of your customer. In life, active listening does the same for your loved one, whether family member, friend, or spouse.
  • Develop Empathy Flex your Emotional Intelligence muscle and focus on understanding the emotions and motivations of those around you. Consider the situation from their point of view and try to respond in a loving way. Empathy does not mean agreeing on everything; it means validating the other person's feelings and making their voice feel heard.
  • Apologize Wanting to say you are sorry is a big step toward taking accountability for your actions. If you have hurt someone, an employee, spouse or partner, you need to make amends. When you make a mistake, set aside your ego and acknowledge the severity of your mistake and how it has impacted those around you. Share a sincere apology for the problem and together make a plan for how to move forward.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you, dear readers. I hope that the holiday finds you sharing love and feeling loved. Thank you for reading.

Bonus: Do you know that Love Story has the line "Love means never having to say you're sorry" once again in the film? You will have to watch the movie to find it. No spoilers here.

Happy February - Feel The Love

community feel the love

share the Love

Happy February!

January can be a tough month for relationships. At work and at home, you are recovering from the holidays and may not give the time or attention you usually do to cultivating those connections. And no matter your political party, the tensions and changes in the past weeks have negative emotions running high. Whether or not you're "in love" or in a romantic relationship, it's a good time to think about how you share the love in your daily life.


Show yourself some affection. Yes, self-care is as important as caring for others. How do you show yourself love on a daily basis? Do you start your day with a walk? A chat with a friend? Set aside time to be creative? Do you make a point to use positive self-talk when describing yourself and your projects? Pick one and give it a try. Let's get intentional about showing ourselves some love.


Show others gratitude and appreciation. Love is expressed in many ways. Being present in your relationships is in and of itself an expression of love. Research shows that good marriages include regular expressions of gratitude. A simple "thank you" can make a huge difference. We recently visited our niece and her husband in their new home to meet their new baby. I was impressed by how they thanked each other for changing a diaper, fixing a bottle, checking the baby monitor. Don't forget to do the same for the little and big things your partner or friends do for you. Let's not take each other for granted.


Appreciation and acknowledgment are also keys to happier, more engaged employees. Do you have a gratitude or recognition plan in your department? Think about how you show your team appreciation.


It's always good to be thankful in your relationships, whether personal or professional.


So dear readers, thank you for reading and being engaged members of this community. I do appreciate it!


As an added treat, enjoy this beautiful intention of love from my friend and Nia dance instructor, Kate Nash.
With love,
Gloria

Authenticity Unabridged at TEDx Camarillo 2017

What does it mean to be authentic? Georg Winkler,  founder and organizer of TEDx Camarillo, says that the authentic version of your self is the unabridged version. Winkler, Business Coordinator of the Russell Fischer Business Collection at the City of Camarillo Public Library, said “By default, and regardless of our best intentions, we experience an abridged version of our world. My goal for TEDxCamarillo was to share the ‘Unabridged’ version.” As a TEDx talker myself, I was delighted to be one of the Emcees for this year's TEDx Camarillo: Unabridged. The venue of the Camarillo Public Library was perfect for the theme as the home to several unabridged tomes and collections that visitors can enjoy. Friends of the Camarillo Library and a host of community volunteers have made this event possible.

This year's attendees heard remarkable live speakers and TED Talk videos. Speakers ranged from psychologists to hearing impaired advocates, CEO’s, and recent college graduates. The unabridged truths from speakers Andros Sturgeon, Cindy Liu, Elizabeth Chapin, Julie Merrick, Linnae Mallette, Mike Williams, Robert Duff, Sarah Khan, and Dr. Stephen Trudeau were enlightening and inspiring.

I can't wait to share the links to their amazing talks when they are released.

Sharing the whole of yourself in front of a large live audience and a larger online audience takes a lot of courage. Speaking up about your beliefs and sharing your experiences is a wonderful way to share the love.  As we rapidly approach Valentine's Day, how can you best show your true self and share the love in your community?

 

 

Self-care or Millennial Narcissism?

yoga-mat

Our local university has a new president, the second in the school’s history, so this is a big deal! She has inherited an outstanding legacy left by the first president. Now it’s her turn to make it her own.

She’s a high profile leader with an exciting and demanding new job. She’s getting to know her community, and we’re getting to know her. She’s been connecting with students, faculty and staff in various ways. She clearly has a lot to attend to. Imagine the learning curve!!

The media and the university have been reporting on her first few months as everyone gets to know her. Of course the media coverage includes some personal interest stories. One was a feature article in the “Outdoors” section of the local paper that highlights people in the community and how they take advantage of the beautiful place we live. Totally appropriate.

I thought it was a great piece that told a brief story of how she makes time for her family, herself and her work by getting outside in Ventura County: hiking, surfing and even doing yoga.

I was delighted to learn how she prioritizes time to recharge and focus on self-care.

How cool!

I decided to look at the comments on the article, and I was shocked. Instead of giving kudos to this local leader, the comments were pretty harsh. “She should be doing her job, not doing yoga.” “Who cares about what she does in her free time?” “What is she doing for the students?”

WHAT?

Internet trolls

The criticism around self-care was staggering. Why shouldn’t she take care of herself? Enjoy her surroundings? Play with her kids? Surf with the students? I’m sure she’s working hard. This article was about how she gets outside.

I couldn’t bite my tongue. Here’s the thread:

self-care

 

 

 

 

Self-aggrandizing, millennial narcissism?  Wow.

Is this what people think about self-care?

No wonder we run ourselves into the ground.

Trolls Don’t Exist ONLY on the Internet

We can also have “internet trolls” in our heads.

I’ve heard it from my clients. I can’t take care of myself. I don’t have the time. I have too much to do. It’s selfish. I have to take care of ([PERSON] [TASK] [EVERYTHING OTHER THAN SELF]).

I do it myself. I schedule time into my day and week to regroup, recharge and take care of me. And I advise my clients to do the same.

That’s not lazy, self-absorbed, narcissism. It’s biology. The body needs down time to recover, all the way to regenerating the neurotransmitters in the brain. Ironically (or not), CSUCI faculty is studying self-care in nurses. Research shows nurses with better self-care deliver better care to others and are less apt to develop compassion fatigue and burnout.

Those are powerful results.

Because if you're taking care of body, mind and spirit, you are not bad or selfish. You are keeping your cup full.

Because you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Dr. Erika Beck has a lot of pouring to do as a new university President. I’m glad to know she’s keeping her cup full.

How do you make time for self-care? How do you address the internet trolls in your head?

8 Ways to be a Stronger Leader

When you go to work every day, do you have the chance to do what you do best, what you love to do most, and what gets you excited, motivated and ready to dive in? If that’s how you feel, great! You’re working to your strengths, which means you are probably more productive, more engaged and even happier than those who aren't able to use their strengths on a regular basis.

When you know your own strengths, you’ll start focusing more on the strengths of others. It’s inevitable. It will change your perspective about how you work at your best and how to bring out the best in your team.

I didn't always think this way. In fact, I spent the first 20 years of my career focused almost entirely on what was wrong with people.

As a psychologist developing mental health assessment tools, I figured out ways to measure people's symptoms, pathology and disorders. I even worked on the "bible" of diagnosis: the DSM-IV  (you'll find my name in the Acknowledgments - got the job as a grad student  and enjoyed years of intensive learning [and pathologizing] for the greater good).

But at a certain point, I didn't want to look through the lens of weakness and pathology any more.

In my coach training, I learned about positive psychology and strengths-based approaches from other psychologists and mental health providers who had already shifted their perspective.

What surprised me was not that focusing on strengths had a positive impact  but that so few people were applying a strengths-based approach to leadership. Organizations often put too much emphasis on the areas where you need to improve instead of the areas where you're already doing well and where extra emphasis could make you a star performer.

So whether you're in charge of a small work group or an entire division, here are 8 ways you can be a stronger leader and create a dynamic team that's more efficient, engaged and satisfied,

Use a Strengths-Based Approach. Am I repeating myself? Of course, you want to start with your strengths - that sweet spot between what you do well and what you love to do. Understanding your strengths and the strengths of others sets the tone to bring out the best in everyone.

I recommend taking the Strengthsfinder 2.0 from the Gallup organization to learn your Top 5.  You can also get the workbook I use with my clients,  "Use Your Strengths to Reach Your Goals," as my strengths-based gift to you!

my strengths

Develop Emotional intelligence (EI). EI is the ability to understand yourself and others, as well as manage your own emotions and respond appropriately to those of others.

Some refer to it as a “soft skill,” but EI accounts for the majority of success in top leaders, far more than IQ. While your innate intelligence (IQ) is to an extent fixed, your EQ can be enhanced and improved. Using your strengths to enhance your EQ can give you an edge as a top performer.

Do you know what's a great indicator of EQ? Gratitude. Expressing your appreciation is an indicator of all four components of EI. People want to be appreciated, and good leaders know that a simple thank you can go a long way.

Embrace and Prepare for Change. Like death and taxes, change is inevitable. Especially as a leader, you have to be adept at managing change, communicating the need for change clearly, understanding the steps involved and engaging others in the process. If you lead change using your strengths and the strengths of others involved in the change process, you can navigate change much more smoothly.

Communicate effectively. Good communication is key for stronger leaders. You need to be a good listener, give effective feedback and be able to address conflict head on. Another important skill related to communication is empathy. Being attuned to someone else's perspective can really help you connect, understand concerns and address them in a way that makes sense, in turn improving communication. Good stuff!

Foster Teamwork and Collaboration. Teams come alive when each member is working to their strengths. Being a strength-based leader will help you create a team that’s working at its best! Cooperative relationship-building is an asset in any task, and in developing a team, it is essential.

Practice Self Care. It’s not discussed much as a leadership skill, but self-care is an important component in leading others. When you take time for yourself, you get to recharge. Plus you’re setting a good example for others. Do you schedule breaks in the day, times to step away from what you’re doing to rejuvenate and recharge? Do you run? Do yoga? Meditate? Get a regular massage? Schedule time off?How do you take care of yourself?

Unleash Creativity. A great leader is a visionary who thinks outside the box (or realizes there are no boxes at all). What are your creative strengths? How do you get your creative juices flowing? Stimulating different areas of the brain can be extremely liberating. What’s your creative outlet?

I find that one particular app on my phone helps me be more creative: the camera. I've taken some great iPhone photography classes and love to capture pictures of flowers, sunsets and clouds (you'll find a few photos of the dog and the kid on my Camera Roll too). I keep thinking I should invest in a "real" camera, but I get a whole lot of mileage from the one that's always in my pocket. Here's a recent capture.

pismo sunset

Be a Coach. Great leaders empower and motivate others, and there are few more effective ways to do so than to focus on the strengths of your employees. What are they great at? What do they love to do?

Help others understand and leverage their strengths more in everything they're doing. Learn to be a developer (yes, one of my Top 5). Help set strengths-based goals (which, by the way, are easier to achieve!) and an accountability plan.

Which of these elements come naturally to you as a leader? Which need some additional focus? How do you see your strengths working for you as a leader?

Stronger Leader Butterfly

If you want to bring out the best in yourself and your team, connect with us on social media for ongoing resources and updates on strengths-based leadership and other professional development training programs.  For email updates, enter your information above (we NEVER spam) and download a free e-workbook to start putting your strengths to work right away.

You can also read more on my thoughts about strengths-based leadership in this in depth interview in the Strengths-Based Leader's Toolkit.

 

 

When Self-Doubt Sneaks Up on You

self-doubt, question, workshop, retreat

Have you ever doubted yourself?

Of course that's a rhetorical question. Everyone has self-doubt, usually a negative, undermining force that can stop you in your tracks. You get all caught up in your head. You might start ruminating or obsessing. It can get so overblown that you lose touch with reality.

I had an episode of it recently. I was working on a contract developing a training program for health care providers. As part of the development process, I’d deliver the 3-hour training to pilot test the curriculum with trainees and funders.

I'm a pretty confident gal, especially when it comes to training. I’ve been around the block a time or two, and I’m known for being good at what I do. Some might say I’m at the top of my game.

Self-doubt can be kryptonite to your confidence.

Public speaking, workshops

I was kind of surprised when I couldn't shake off the self-doubt I had about my materials and my approach. I was questioning how good my presentation was. Were my slides interesting enough? Would I capture and keep the audience's attention? Would I present the information in an understandable way? Did I have enough interactivity? Would I help people think about how to apply the material? So many questions!!

The venue was also different than I’d anticipated. When I heard “pilot testing,” I thought about 20 people with extended time for discussion and feedback.

Imagine my surprise when I found 100 people in a huge, classroom style auditorium.

Did I mention they were also videotaping it for use in their online learning center?

My bad for not confirming all these details, so I was thrown.

I was also presenting after my friend and colleague of 15 years, a master trainer who has been doing this for as long as I have. Of course he was funny, engaging, informative and professional. That’s why he’s a master!

And his slides were full of cool animations and features mine were lacking.

If self-doubt wasn’t enough, now I had a good dose of slide envy.

My turn.

The first hour of training was dragging by. The group pointed out errors in the slides and had lots of questions. The session wasn’t interactive enough. I was starting to sweat. And I decided to take the break a little early.

One of the funders came rushing to the front of the room as soon as I called the break. I was expecting admonishment.

Instead, he beamed, “Wow, you are an excellent trainer.” He pointed to the trainees:  ‘They are right with you, completely engaged.”

Uh, ok. I was taken aback and pleased by the compliment. But was I really that off in my self-assessment? Others approached me at the break with questions, comments and more good feedback. They were definitely engaged.

The break was over, and I continued with the last 90 minutes of the training. We had the feedback session, which acknowledged the need for more photos in my slides, but otherwise, the comments were positive. Afterward, someone told me she saw my passion for the material come through.

The overall assessment was, “Great training.”

Even with all that positive feedback, a confident, experienced and skillful trainer like me was still influenced by niggling self-doubt.

Self-doubt is a thief that tries to rob your confidence.

But it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Self-doubt can be a positive and corrective force, providing a mental quality control of sorts.  Self-doubt keeps you in check: you check your facts, check for typos, check your bank account or check that you locked the front door. A pilot recently told me he experiences self-doubt every time he gets ready to land an airplane, and he considers that a good thing!

How can you extract the benefits of questioning yourself while keeping your self-confidence in tact? Here are a few ideas:

Acknowledge it. We all have moments of self-doubt, so be on the lookout. Practice noticing it. The more you can be aware of it, the more likely you’ll be to take the steps to manage it, integrate it into your experience and move on.

Look at all the data. While the feedback from others at the training was positive I was relying too much on my internal feedback and high expectations. I needed to evaluate what was real and what was a product of my imagination.

I used the feedback to improve the presentation for the final draft. I fixed the errors and added a few more pictures.

Know your limits. It makes sense that I would doubt my ability to do fancy animations because, well, I don’t know how. I could spend hours trying to figure it out, but I know it’s not my forte. I’m lucky to have a member of the team to help out with that. Those are true limits to what I can do. Delegating is great.

Look at past successes. Shake self-doubt by thinking about situations where you did a good job. Ask yourself where you’ve done well and look back objectively at times when you’ve achieved success, had good outcomes and things turned out the way you had hoped. These are great reminders that can dispel self-doubt – or at least quiet it a bit.

The flip side of self-doubt

My friend Lisa Braithwaite, another experienced speaker, had a related experience with a training she did recently. Check out her post about the dangers of complacency that come with experience, and what happens when an expert becomes just a little too overconfident.

http://www.speakschmeak.com/2016/07/i-did-everything-wrong.html

How do you deal with self-doubt? How can you foil that sneaky thief? Share your insights, experiences and advice below.

 

gloria-miele-head-shot

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

What inspires you? 

Nature? Music? Art? Architecture? 

 Inspiration

As a leader, it's important to stay inspired and motivated. 

Where do you find inspiration? 
Above are just a few things I've recently found inspiring - a picture my daughter captured of a bee on a flower at a botanical garden; the amazing choir at the University of Utah; poolside desert landscape at a conference in Palm Springs (I'm actually here right now); a fun paint night with my husband (those are two separate paintings that make one - sweet, right?); or even an ornately detailed, 100 year old wooden ceiling in a gorgeous retreat house in Santa Barbara.
I'm also endlessly inspired by others. It's why I love my job so much! Seeing people grow, face their fears, work hard to reach a goal, help others just because.
The possibilities are endless if you're paying attention. When were you last inspired? Chime in with a comment and share an inspiring moment you've had recently.
gloria-miele-head-shot

Gloria & Kim: The Run On Sentence of Us

How did a psychologist-leadership coach join forces with a dramaturg- acting teacher to offer a women's writing retreat? It all started when Kim was my student writing her business plan at Women's Economic Ventures. We hit it off immediately! She wrote her business plan and launched her amazing studio. I took her writing and acting class as a way to challenge myself to be more creative. When we ran into each other a few momths later at a leadership retreat, we knew we had a butt kicking combination of gifts to share with the world. 

This run-on sentence guest post from Kim Maxwell will give you a glimpse into "The Story of Us." -gmm

Once upon a time… Okay -- more like actually, for reals… Okay -- more like “So, this is how it happened…”

More like an inspiring back and forth of teacher-becomes-the-student and student-becomes-the-teacher and lunches and coffee dates and shared birthdays and laughter and jokes and art and inspiring stories of our parents and mentors and those who came before and the college-two-step for our kids and my business launching and her business growing and the thriving businesses of our friends filling our lungs with air and light and inspiration and then more lunches and coffees and a serendipitous meeting at a weekend workshop where we say: what if we did this, what if we did that, what if we included naps and what if we and...

“OH-MY-GOD-WHAT-IF-WE...”

…and so we did and so here we are and it’s fun and focused and freeing and fun!

It is the very best of both of our worlds and ideas and words and exercises and love of food and coffee and need for vision and clarity and humor… …and naps. …and helpful checklists.

….and SUPER POWERS.

Join us for our next retreat!

Find Your Voice: A Women's Writing Retreat is a weekend of leadership, laughter and relentless self-care in Ojai, CA at the Kim Maxwell Studio. Free writes and time to unwind and reflect on who you really are and where you want to be as a leader.

More details and registration information at

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ecqri0iyba26a232&llr=j4c7ncdab

G&K

 

Sponsored by StrongerLeader.com, The Kim Maxwell Studio and Cosmotion.

Don’t Bring a Briefcase to a Ski Resort (or Lessons in Living in the Moment)

I am not a skier. I have never skied. I grew up in sunny Southern California, and despite being only 2 hours from ski resorts where many of my friends flocked to in the winter, my parents were transplanted New Yorkers who didn’t do the outdoor thing. The closest I’ve come to mountain recreation is riding the chair lift to the top of the mountain in the fall at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. We would go for Oktoberfest. No snow-just beer, polka and autumn leaves.

So when our daughter decided to go to college in Utah, we figured it would be the perfect opportunity for her to try skiing – without us! The U has an amazing outdoor program with discount rentals and ski outings that we encouraged her to take advantage of. How great! She’d get to ski and we wouldn’t have to deal with anything but the cost.

But her first year was hard and busy and she didn’t have time or energy to explore the options before her. So when I was planning to come out to spend a couple of weeks to support her through a rough patch, she asked if I’d take her skiing. Uh, ok.

Obviously the ship has sailed for me to try this sport that’s hard on the knees and ankles. Hurling myself down an icy slope on long planks is NOT my idea of a good time. I’m clumsy enough to fall when walking through a parking lot, no less engaging in a dangerous winter sport.

I arranged for an afternoon lesson for her, complete with equipment and lift ticket. She was so excited!

My plan was to stay in the lodge, watching her and working on some writing projects. I’d been traveling for work for weeks and trying to fit in time to work on our upcoming retreat, Find Your Voice, whenever I could. This seemed like a great opportunity for some down time to get some work done.

My first surprise was parking at the bottom of the hill and taking the Cabriolet lift to the mountain base. The “Cab” was basically an open bucket to stand in that takes you to the mountain base.

How cool!

Actually, cold, especially because I was woefully prepared, with no hat or gloves. I had a cotton scarf and a faux fur headband. I’d be fine! I like the cold, and this was an adventure.

The thing I was most prepared for was work, as I schlepped my canvas briefcase with computer, a couple of books, a water bottle and snacks. I was conspicuously lacking the equipment everyone else had with them. Oh well.

But when we got there, I found out that her lesson was up the mountain (did I mention I have zero experience with skiing or ski resorts?) and I’d be hanging out below. She got on the gondola with the instructor and another student, and off they went.

The gal scanning passes told me I could go up and watch from the upper lodge. Seemed like a good idea.

I got my pass and up I went in an enclosed gondola this time (yay!) with a young woman ready to snow board. As the gondola climbed, it started to snow. And snow harder. Again prepared only with my headband and briefcase, I was wondering what it would be like at the top.

Why was I surprised that there was snow everywhere and no path to walk safely to the lodge? I carefully made my way across the snow pack, with skiers whooshing by. Luckily I was wearing some sturdy boots with good traction (borrowed) and made it in, upright and unscathed.

The place was PACKED with skiers resting, eating, drinking. I wondered if it was a good idea to drink a beer then head back to the slopes!

Little kids were sleeping sitting upright. There were lots of families, couples and folks ranging in age from 5 to 75. I saw where the lessons were taking place and spotted my daughter. Cool! Now I just needed to find a window spot where I could settle in to watch and get some work done.

I soon realized that work wasn’t going to happen. When my daughter was out of view, I was too fascinated with all the people dressed in their bulky, awkward clothes, dealing with the skis, the cold, the equipment. I watched the people in the snow board lesson struggling to stand up, compared to the more experienced skiers effortlessly gliding down the hill.  It was one of those “to each his own” life lessons and left me thinking, “One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure.

I actually started to appreciate how this was thrilling for so many. The snow would come down hard, then clear in a moment’s notice. It was really beautiful. I could see the allure of being outside in such a gorgeous place, speeding down a mountain.

I also appreciated seeing my daughter head up a ski lift for the first time and spotting her about 20 minutes later skiing down the hill. She was on her feet and had a big smile on her face. Off they went, back to the chair lift.

View from the lodge

I walked outside and stood there, briefcase over my shoulder, waiting for them to come back. At this point, it was snowing pretty hard again, but I was getting used to the drill, watching for speeding skiers, sweeping the accumulating snow off my briefcase (at least my water stayed cold!).

After she took one more run, all by herself this time, the slopes were closing, so we headed back down the mountain in the enclosed gondola. She had an amazing time, fell in love with the sport and did really well.  The snow continued to pick up as we descended.

After she returned her equipment, it was time to get back to the car. She was carrying helmet, goggles, ski pants.

I was still clutching my briefcase, which by this time was covered in snow.

Back to the Cabriolet, this time down the mountain in a pelting snow squall.

My daughter and I riding the Cabriolet in a snowstorm

When we got back to the car and I shook the glaze of snow from my head, I also shook my head at myself for trying to do too much instead of just enjoying the moment.

I ended up loving the experience but didn’t need the literal baggage I took with me.

It was a lesson in not overextending. Just staying in the moment, unplugging and enjoying my surroundings.

It’s also one of the reasons we are offering the Find Your Voice Women’s Writing and Leadership Retreat. I know I’m not the only one who’s schlepped work somewhere to try to multitask when what I really needed was to unplug, unwind and reflect.

We are providing a weekend of writing, leadership development, yoga breaks, healthy foods and connection with a group of like-minded women in a beautiful, supportive setting in Ojai, CA May 13-15.

Want to know more? Click here for all the details.

5 Tips to Keep on Track

 How's the New Year going for you? Here are a few tips to keep you on track this year.
1. Make SMART goals.to do
If you're familiar with goal setting, you know that SMART goals are Specific, Manageable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. I like to switch that up and make the T Thrilling.
2. Keep giving.
Are you a community volunteer? What are your favorite causes to give your time, talent and treasure? Doing good feels good, and research shows that altruism is good for us an the people we are helping. If you are volunteering with an organization keep doing that. See where else you can give back.
3. Partner up.
You cannot succeed by yourself. Well, maybe you can, but it's a lot harder than when you have support from staff or a coach or your family. Since I've hired someone, I'm definitely more productive and accountable!  Make sure to spend time building your team.
4. Practice self-care.01c35c8b264e9b571e848a2d27581610a78a1cf601
As a busy entrepreneur and business leader, you can let our own needs be ignored. As they say, "You can't pour from an empty cup," so make sure you put some time into your schedule for you! A quick break during a hectic day can make a big difference. Get up from your desk, taking a short walk or a few breaths for a quick pick me up. How about tapping into your creativity with painting or writing? Getting more exercise? spending time with the people you love?
Keep learning5. Keep learning.
The most successful leaders are lifelong learners, so keep at it! My dad got his Ph.D. at age 62, and was always studying something. My mom was a teacher and also valued education. No matter your values, you can't be at the top of your game without continued learning. Whether it's formal CEUs or blog posts on new developments in your field, continue to challenge yourself and your mind with new learning opportunities. As a trainer, I'm always learning new things and love passing them along to others. Check our calendar for upcoming events.
What tips would you add to make 2016 a ridiculously good year?
Gloria Miele - OptimalDevelopmentCoaching.com

3 Simple Mindfulness Practices

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Do you have a mindfulness practice? Are you familiar with the concept? Mindfulness is a set of techniques to draw your focus to the present moment. Research is showing more and more benefits of living a mindful life, including increased focus and concentration, a greater sense of well-being and happiness and much more.

While these practices are simple, they are not always easy. In our distracted, multi-tasking lives, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and overextended. Being more mindful can ease that burden. The more you integrate these into your day, the easier it will be for you to get in a more relaxed state. That's why they call it practice!

Whether you're a beginner or a more seasoned practitioner, here are three techniques to get you started.

1. Deep breathing. Some people get cranky when you tell them to "just breathe." It seems dismissive and disrespectful. But breathing is the most efficient and convenient mindfulness practice to reduce stress, decrease your heart rate and calm your mind.

Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor and your hands resting on your legs or at your side. Breathe in and out of your nose, if possible. Pay attention to your breathing. Count the length of your inhale and exhale. Try to get each to a count of 5. Aim to take about 6 full breaths per minute. You may need to work up to this. (That's why they call it practice).

For an added boost, put your hand over your heart as you breathe, which releases the feel-good, love hormone, oxytocin. Isn't that amazing?

2. Focused attention. Building on deep breathing, you can use your breath to practice being more focused. Using focused attention can be restorative, calming and stabilizing, especially in times of stress.
Focus your full attention on the process of breathing. As you inhale, notice the cool, dry air entering your nostrils; as you exhale, notice the warm, moist air exiting. If your thoughts wander, gently but firmly bring your attention back to the breath.

Practice this for 2 minutes. Work up to 5, 10 or more!

3. Mindful Listening. Many of the conversations we have are filled with distractions. Cell phones, TVs, reactions to what the person is saying, thinking about the next thing you're supposed to be doing.

The next time you talk to someone, try to really listen. Hear every word. Listen to what's being said and how. Show you're listening through eye contact and facial expressions instead of words. See what happens when you start listening with undivided, non-judgmental attention.

Which of these 3 practices resonate for you? Try them every day and see if you notice a difference in your mood, your thoughts, your focus, or attention.

Do you have a mindfulness practice? Leave a comment to share yours, ask questions or just let us know how it's going.

Enjoy!

Where Were You on 9/11?

The Twin Towers and Lady Liberty

A number of years ago, I wrote this recollection of the events of the September 11th terrorist attacks and memories of my experience that day and the days following.  As with all significant, out of the ordinary events, most of us have vivid memories of where we were and what we were doing.  Feel free to share yours below. I lived in NYC on September 11, 2001, but I wasn’t in the city that day.  Instead, my colleagues and I were at a national meeting in Crystal City, Maryland, across the highway from the Pentagon. We felt the hotel shake when the plane hit.  Soon after, we smelled smoke.  The building was locked down.  Like many others, we could do nothing but wait and watch the horrifying images on a big screen.

While phone service was limited for the first few hours, I felt reasonably certain that my daughter was safe at her preschool in upper Manhattan, over 10 miles from Ground Zero.  I had hoped that my husband was still in the city, but, when I finally reached him, I learned he had crossed the bridge soon after the first tower was hit and was stuck in New Jersey.  He ended up driving over 100 miles out of the way and taking 4 hours for a typical 18 mile, 30 minute trip home.  He had to ditch the car in the Bronx and make his way by livery cab and foot back to Manhattan.  6 hours later, he picked up our daughter and made it home.

Back in DC, the trains weren’t running; the airports were closed.  People at the meeting started talking about carpools to Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Florida.  I was able to leave the hotel that night and stayed with friends in DC, relieved for the comfort of good friends in familiar surroundings, away from the destruction and chaos that were so closeby.  Then I had to figure out how to get home.

I was able to get a train back to NYC on September 12th.  I’ll never forget the first glimpse of the two giant pillars of smoke rising from Ground Zero as the train made its way through New Jersey toward Manhattan.  The towers were gone.  The smoke and sky where the towers once stood were like a huge scar.  I will never forget these images and memories from those unfathomable days.

I’ll also never forget the changes that took place in the city after 9/11.  Everything was quieter, a startling change in a city of deafening overstimulation.  Planes weren’t flying over head , a very strange occurrence on an island with waterways that serve as giant flight paths for 3 major and multiple smaller airports in the area.  Only the occasional roar of fighter jets circling the city was heard, extremely unsettling after the air attacks.

People were also quieter.  We all seemed to be whispering.  We were also making more eye contact than is usual for New Yorkers.  Sometimes the glances were suspicious, but mostly they were supportive and sympathetic, looking for a connection, an understanding smile, or a little reassurance.

The Friday after the towers fell, I was coming home from my office in the early evening (I was working as a psychologist at the time and spent many months processing the events of September 11th with my hospital clinic and private practice patients).  I would normally take a 30-minute subway ride, but I preferred to stay above ground for while and ended up taking mainly buses and cabs for almost 2 months after the attacks.  The bus ride home would take about an hour.  My only concern was that I’d miss the candlelight vigil scheduled for 7pm.  I was hoping to participate at the park in the close-knit neighborhood where I lived, but as the bus continued its stops, it became clear I wasn’t going to make it.  At a stop in West Harlem, around 138thStreet and Broadway, I saw people gathering in front of an apartment complex.  I jumped off the bus, ran across the street and joined the growing group.

A woman had a basket full of candles and was handing them out to the crowd.  Most people were speaking Spanish.  The woman with the basket started talking to me.  I told her I lived uptown but had seen the gathering from the bus and wanted to be with others for the vigil.  We shared our sadness for those who had perished and concern for the hundreds who were missing.  People started lighting each other’s candles.  The woman started the ceremony.   She spoke to the crowd, well over 100 people, in Spanish and English.  She turned and asked if I thought we should say a prayer.  “That sounds nice,” I said.  “What’s your name?”  she asked?  I told her, and she turned to the crowd and said, “Gloria has joined us and will lead us in a prayer.”  She turned back to me and asked, “Do you speak Spanish?”  “Uh, no…”, I replied.  “That’s ok, I’ll translate.”

I wish I remember what I said.  At that time in my life, I wasn’t praying too regularly, so I was a bit out of practice and certainly taken aback.  I just started talking – I know I prayed for the victims and their families, peace and healing for us all.  As I spoke, the woman with the basket translated.  When I was finished, she made a few more comments, then invited others to offer intentions.  People prayed for friends, family, friends of friends, firefighters.  People held hands and cried.

After 10 or 15 minutes, a noticed a cab pulling up near the corner.  Cabs were hard to come by at the time, so I slipped away, got in the car and continued toward home.

I will never forget those moments on a street corner, part of a group of total strangers from diverse cultures, classes and backgrounds, sharing the grief, fear and concern that brought us together that night for a little comfort during such a stressful and frightening time.   I will never forget the feelings of hope, unity and peace that night; the feeling of connection to others;  a degree of pride and love for my country that I had never felt before; and the gratitude and sorrow for those who courageously lost their lives and for the thousands of innocent victims whose lives were changed forever.

All of our lives were changed forever on September 11th.  Today I pray for our continued healing.  And I pray for more peace, love and unity in the world that can also change our lives forever.

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Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D. is a leadership coach, speaker and trainer who uses a strengths-based approach to help individuals, groups and organizations achieve their goals and realize their greatest success.  She is a New Yorker by birth and heart who lives in Southern California. 

Mixing Paint - And Leadership

Do you ever feel the need to be more creative? When’s the last time you tried something new, like ceramics, drawing or painting? At the beginning of the year, I decided to make time for more creative and artistic endeavors, and painting was calling my name. I had no idea where it would lead, but I knew I needed to let go a little and do more with the more creative part of my brain.

So I signed up for a month-long, weekly watercolor class. As I was learning to paint, I started making connections between art, creativity and the way I approach a new situation or project. Issues around taking action, dealing with frustration, perfectionism and going with the flow all came up while I was painting . You can see some of my paintings and read more about the leadership lessons I learned here.

Six months later, I am running workshops that integrate leadership development and painting. Designed to help people use their creative potential to become stronger leaders, The Art of Stronger Leadership workshop is born!

The fact is I’ve been using art in my training for years. You can always find me in possession of a big bag of markers and giant sticky notes at a workshop. Draw your strengths or your vision; create a mind map; decorate a puzzle piece; draw your ideal day, etc., etc.

Drawing helps translate words into images and can create a more quiet, relaxed mind. You can lose track of time, get into what you're doing and let your mind wander. Combining words, images and the movement of drawing can result in new insights, increased creativity, more clarity and greater focus. Even doodling can help you process information more efficiently as you activate more parts of your brain.

Coloring is also enjoying a resurgence, with adult coloring books among Amazon's top sellers. And look what I saw in the entry of Barnes and Noble the other day. Coloring is a great stress reliever and leads to greater imagination, creativity and freer thinking.

Coloring's not just for kids

You probably won’t be surprised that I came up with the idea for the Art of Stronger Leadership while painting and decided to take action and offer it to other leaders who want to get more creative.

Creative Connections

On the day of the workshop, all the elements were in place. I was working in an art studio with two professional artists who were there to lend their technical and creative expertise to the painters. A diverse group of women registered to attend. I was ready with a great agenda, handouts and, of course, snacks.

As people arrived at the studio, their excitement was palpable. A few had recently gone to painting classes, so they were primed (get it??) to paint again. Another claimed she was “not creative” but looked forward to an opportunity to see what she could do with paint. Another hadn’t picked up a brush since elementary school.

Half of the women were entrepreneurs with their own businesses, and the other half held a leadership role in nonprofit or for profit organizations.  They all had one thing in common: an interest in clarifying and strengthening their leadership style and vision through painting.

Reflect, Envision and Create

After introductions, snacks, and a brief presentation, the workshop had three phases:

  • Reflect on what makes you a stronger leader
  • Envision your future as the leader you want to be
  • Create a painting that captures your positive view of the future

Reflect. Using a process inspired by Appreciative Inquiry, each person recounted a “peak” leadership experience. Think of a time when you were at your best as a leader. Recall the details and circumstances of what went well and how you did it. What strengths did you use? Who else was involved?

IMG_1881The exercise was an interview that proved to be a powerful experience for all. Learning from your past success is a positive foundation when you begin to visualize what you want in the future. Also, sharing your success with someone else can be uplifting for both interviewer and interviewee. One participant said,

“I loved the way we discovered our vision and story through the interview. It was great to tell someone my dreams and vision and also wonderful to hear about my partner’s peak experience as a leader.”

The interview concluded with a question about wishes for leadership in the future, especially in the context of the peak experience. Where do you want to see more of those success experiences in your leadership style? Maybe you want to be more collaborative or manage a larger team. Maybe you want to change your position altogether. Determine what you want, and turn it into a wish.

Envision. The interview about the peak leadership experience and three wishes set the stage for a guided visualization. Picture where you want to be as a leader in 5 or 10 years. What will your life look like when your future wishes and aspirations have come true?

This vision and the images related to it became the basis of the painting.

Create. The moment everyone was waiting for: painting a piece that represents your vision and wishes for yourself as a leader. After sketching some ideas, time to put paint to canvas.

IMG_1883 IMG_1893 IMG_1887IMG_1884

Some jumped right in and started painting. Others needed more support, guidance and time to decide where to start. Especially for those who hadn't painted, they experienced varying levels of uncertainty (“Where do I start? What do I do next?"), frustration (“This does not look how I want it to.” "Can I have another canvas?") and ultimately acceptance and appreciation (“That really captures my feeling.” “I kinda like the shading of the green on that hill.” “That's not so bad.”).

Having artists work with them helped build confidence and learn some technical skills that helped them paint the images they imagined.

Masterpieces

I was blown away by the beauty, depth and insights achieved in these painting.

One painter realized one of her goals as a leader was to incorporate more joy into her life and leadership style. Her painting reflected this.

Another realized that while she always strived to create abundance for her clients, she was less focused on creating abundance for herself.

Another realized she needed to focus more on the harmony of her team and how people's individual strengths could complement each other more effectively

Another painted a colorful landscape with birds representing the carefree members of her team.

So fun!

I love the wonder and surprise you feel when you create something unexpected through art. The sense of accomplishment when you say, “I made that.” One of the more hesitant participants said, “The creative outlet is fantastic – I got soooo out of my zone.”

That's what it's all about.

Leadership masterpieces

Are you ready to get out of your comfort zone, get creative and see where it leads you? You might surprise yourself! Share your experience in the comments. You can also post a picture of your recent artistic endeavors at www.facebook.com/optimaldevelopmentcoaching. How do art, creativity and imagination make you a stronger leader?

If you're in the area and would like to explore your strengths, goals and leadership vision through art, join us for the Art of Stronger Leadership.

Our next workshop is scheduled! Click on the dates below for more information.

Monday, February 29th, 5:30pm-9pm

Gloria Miele - OptimalDevelopmentCoaching.com

Thirteen Thoughts for High School Graduates Heading to College

It's graduation season, and this year we've got a high school graduate in the house. It's been a big celebration with lots of excitement about new beginnings and anticipating attending the University of Utah in the fall. Of course we want her to be as prepared as possible, so we've been looking for resources to help her on her way.

What's one piece of advice you'd give to a young adult heading to college?

At a recent meeting, I asked the question of the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, a group of outgoing, seasoned business people, who shared some excellent ideas for soon to be college Freshmen:

1. Try new things. When you go to college, you are presented with opportunities to take classes with people who are experts in their fields. Yes, you'll get specialized in your major, but make sure you get a chance to study something new and interesting that expands your horizons: Astronomy, Robotics, Anatomy, Comparative Religion, Art History, even Statistics!! Or look for classes like these at your school for some really thought-provoking coursework.

Of course this suggestion to "try new things" got a laugh from the group, since college students try all kinds of new things. So when you do, and we know you will, be responsible and sensible. You know what's right and wrong.  15 people partying on a small balcony is never a good idea. Nor is drinking until you pass out or throw up.  By all means, go out, experiment and have fun, but consider the consequences of all your actions.

So let me climb off my soapbox and paraphrase Mark Twain,

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do....Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch winds in your sails. Explore Dream."

2. Just show up. When you go to college, you'll have freedoms you've never imagined. No one calls home to tell your parents you missed class, so it can be tempting to blow it off, read the book, borrow a friend's notes and hope for the best. You might pass, but you're missing out on the richness of the college experience, learning from an expert in the field and interactions with others. Just do it!

3. Keep an open mind. You just graduated, and you already have some pretty set beliefs about politics, the environment, religion, music. You have friends with different beliefs, but  you'll encounter an even wider range of perspectives in college. Keep your mind open to possibilities.

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4. Embrace the next chapter of your life with positivity. Attitude is everything, and a positive attitude will get you far. Follow your dreams!!

5. Get involved and get to know people. It's never too early to start building your network (you already have begun), so join some different groups, expand your social circles, get to know your professors (use those office hours!!), your RAs and TAs and that kid down the hall with the big hair. And don't forget to set up your LinkedIn profile.

6. Always have a Plan A and Plan B. You may dream of being a prima ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, and it's awesome to follow your dreams in a single-minded way. However, you've probably already noticed that life doesn't always end up how you expect. Keep doing what you love while considering different options for how to apply it (business manager of a dance company, dance teacher, marketing director for a theatre). You never know where you'll end up.

7. Don't worry. If you take Psych 101, you'll learn there's an optimal level of anxiety that helps you work at your best (aka the Yerkes-Dodson Law). But constant worrying doesn't fall in the zone. Be grateful for every experience and let go of anxiety and worry (you may learn more about how to do that in Psych 201...). Take advantage of the gym, deep breathing and meditation for stress relief.

8. Question popular culture. I hope you already know that just because everyone else is doing it, you don't have to. Question the trends to see what's right for you.

9. Keep volunteering. For the last 4 years (hopefully more), you've been counting up your volunteer hours so you can fill in the blanks on your college apps and show the admissions folks that you're a community service maven. Nice work! You know that giving back feels great, so why stop now? No one's counting any more, but that doesn't mean your efforts don't matter. Find places and causes that are important to you and keep giving of your time and talents, which are treasures. The world needs you.

10. Be true to yourself, especially when your values are challenged. You're still growing and evolving and finding out who you are (that never stops, by the way, it just changes). But you also have a pretty good sense of what's important to you. Your values will be challenged. Question and decide on what's right for you.

11. Take advantage of internship opportunities. While you're learning, meeting new people and growing, you'll want a place to apply those skills. Getting an internship, either between semesters or while you're in school, can be an excellent way to get experience in your field, see what it's like to work in an environment that interests you, and keep building your professional network.

12. Use your strengths. You know those things that you're really good at and love to do?  Those are your strengths, and hopefully your major reflects them. But even in courses and experiences not in your major, make sure to use your strengths.  Are you analytical? Empathic? Strategic? Responsible? Pay attention to the activities, information and relationships that get you most excited. That's a clue to where you'll shine.

13. Ask for help. As the years go by, you have become more and more independent. But that doesn't mean you have to go it alone. Reach out to others, use the resources available to you on campus and off, and run things by your trusted friends and advisers to get input from other sources.

Heard the expression "Two heads are better than one?" Well, it's true for 2, 4 or even 10. That's how I wrote this blog post after all....

One more quote to inspire you:

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." -Henry David Thoreau

Do you have any advice to add? Share in the comments below.

And here's our high school graduate!

Graduate and Proud Parents

 

gloria-miele-head-shotGloria M. Miele, Ph.D. is a trainer, speaker and executive coach who uses a strengths-based approach to help individuals, groups and organizations achieve their goals and realize their greatest success. Sign up for more resources and updates by entering your email above and receive a free strengths-based goal setting e-workbook. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for even more motivating and inspiring resources to become a stronger, more confident leader.

 

 

The Art of Stronger Leadership: 7 Leadership Lessons From Learning to Paint

Do you feel like you spend too much time in your head? Wish you had a creative outlet? As a leader you can get tethered to the office, your computer, the phone or the conference room and may neglect your more creative side. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to bring more of my fun, imaginative side to my work. Many years of technical writing and presenting in academia developed habits that are hard to break. Now, as a trainer and coach, I want to bring more play to what I do for me and my clients.

And if what I see on social media is any indication, a lot of people are getting excited about flexing their creative muscles. Painting studios are popping up everywhere, as are craft nights, photography tours and workshops, dance classes and all kinds of opportunities to find the right fit to make time to get your creative juices flowing.

I’ve taken a writing and acting class (www.kimmaxwellstudio.com) that was fantastic (more about that continuing collaboration in another post about the Finding Your Voice) with free writes and acting exercises that really pushed me beyond my comfort zone while marveling at the talents of the others in the class.

I also took a watercolor painting class and LOVED it – I was even happy with my first piece of art: a watercolor painting of a rose.

First_rose

I starting taking more lessons this year and have learned so much about painting, color and composition but also about myself, my style and how the creative process can inform my work as a trainer and a leader. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about leadership from painting:

1. Get the right tools. Before I started, my painting teacher sent me a supply list of the types and sizes of brushes, colors and brands of paint and even type of paper I should invest in to get the most out of class. I went to a local craft's store, but they didn’t have a lot of what I was looking for. I picked up a few things, some better than others, and figured, “How bad can they be?”

Well, I answered that question quickly when one brush started shedding bristles almost immediately. The inferior paper didn’t take the pigment the way the good one did, and some of the paints weren’t as vibrant as others.

As a leader, you have to have the right tools too. That might be a computer program, a new piece of equipment or a new hire who’s the right person for the job. Never underestimate the importance of investing in the best tools to get the job done.

2. Get a mentor. With any new endeavor, it helps to have a guide who has more experience than you do. Mary-Gail King has been my instructor, teacher and mentor in all things painting. She shares the technical skills I need to learn but even more importantly helps me find my own style and strengths as a painter. She also shows me how to make my vision a reality and pushes me out of my comfort zone.

As a leader, you are a coach and mentor to your team. Helping to support them and their strengths is a key aspect of that role. But you also need your own support system- a mentor, a coach or a master mind group to give you that support and perspective to help you do your best. There's nothing like some objective feedback from like-minded people.

3. Be patient. Watercolors can be tricky. If you paint next to a part of the piece that’s still wet, paint can run into the next area. Sometimes this effect can be awesome; other times, it can feel like a disaster.

It’s so hard to wait-like watching water come to a boil or watching paint dry (Actually, it IS watching paint dry).

As a leader, you also need to be patient. Working on projects, learning new skills, reaching a goal, developing an employee, can take time. Patience is a virtue that may require some practice.

4. Get some distance. Every painting can benefit from stepping away to gain more perspective. You can get a whole new view of a painting, bringing to light where it needs some more detail, color, texture or shading.

As a leader, you can always benefit from a little distance. Maybe you need to literally step back from a situation and let others work it out. Maybe you need a break. Or maybe just a fresh set of eyes and objective ear to process what your next steps will be.

5. Take action. Sometimes you just need to start. When I sit down to paint, I don’t always feel ready. I chat and look at colors and play around before putting paint to paper. Often it’s better if I get something going.

In a recent class, I was hemming and hawing and realized I needed to be “a woman of action.” It was a perfect metaphor for a number of other things going on that I was pussyfooting around about and not getting accomplished. That conclusion released my productivity in so many other areas. I’m a woman of action. Woohoo!!

Every leader needs to be decisive, and some situations require fast action. Developing the confidence to make a quick yet thoughtful decision takes some practice, experience and the ability to listen to your gut. Painting has definitely helped me do that.

6. It’s ok to make mistakes. We all make mistakes, especially when trying something new. As a novice painter, I make plenty of them. I’m still not exactly sure about the color wheel and types of paints, so my work can go in an unintended direction. What to do?

  • Sometimes you can fix it. A little blot of a paper towel or wet brush can help.
  • Sometimes you just need to start over. My first still life included a bunch of beets that started to look obscene. When I showed it to my teenage daughter, we both laughed so hard we literally ended up on the floor crying. I had to take the loss and move on.
  • Sometimes you just need to accept a mistake and keep going. In a burst of excitement, I splashed some water on my favorite painting, leaving a mark in the sweet spot of the sunset. Oh well. Trying to fix it could result in worse, so I decided to leave it as a feature of the piece and put the brush down.

As a leader, it can be hard to walk away, to recognize when a situation is worth salvaging or needs to be let go. No matter what the solution, it’s always important to own your mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

7. Set aside time for growth. We don’t always make the time we need to flex our creative muscles, but it’s so good to give another part of your brain a chance to get a workout. Just like setting time aside to exercise, review financials or do performance reviews, it's important to set aside time to be creative.

I’ve committed to myself a few hours a week of a painting class, writing class or some other artistic endeavor to keep those juices flowing.

cambriaHere’s my favorite piece so far. I’m really proud of the work and feel like it does make me a stronger leader by being more attuned to the moment and more responsive to others. Plus the image just makes me feel good.

Do you want to get in touch with your creative side? Would you like to see how getting out of your head can make you a stronger leader?

I’m collaborating with two artists - my painting teacher, Mary-Gail, and Connie Schuh, owner of a local painting studio www.paintblankcanvas.com - to offer a new workshop: The Art of Stronger Leadership: Paint Your Vision.

This 3-hour course (June 4th, 6-9pm) will help you get in touch with your strengths as a leader through stories and art. We’ll use your leadership successes and dreams as a catalyst to inspire and fuel your creativity. You’ll come out with more confidence, a piece of original artwork and some of your own lessons about the art of stronger leadership.

Space is limited to 20, so check out the registration information here.

How has art inspired your work and your capacity as a leader? Please share your thoughts (or art!) below.

The Year of the Coach and Other Professional Development Trends for 2015

Wondering what’s hot in leadership development and talent management for 2015? I attended a webinar hosted by The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC), a leader in strengths-based professional development, and I’m excited to report the trends as predicted by TMBC founder Marcus Buckingham and CEO Jason Averbook. As a strengths zealot and longtime follower of Marcus and his work, I wanted to hear what these guys see as relevant for talent management this year. TMBC is calling for a radical shift in the way we manage people (more on The Year of the Coach below), and noted 5 trends for 2015.

1. Personalization – Remember how excited you’d get when you were a kid and found a little license plate or key chain with your name on it? Or how disappointed you'd be when your not so common name was nowhere to be found (i.e., Gloria)? And how super excited you were when you finally found one? Everyone wants a personalized experience, including in the workplace. It captures our attention, like those little license plates.

The personalization trend in talent development can be implemented by providing training and coaching that’s individualized, intimate and focused on the person, not the organization.

Buckingham gave the example of personalization in onboarding, which should be less about why the company is great and more about why the person is a great fit for the organization. We need to focus more on our people's strengths and let them see how they can be an asset to our organization.

Jason Averbook said it well:

Averbrook talent quote

This is the power of a strengths-based approach: it sets the stage for a personalized coaching experience, focused on the unique strengths of each individual on the team.

What’s your vision for increasing employee engagement this year? How can you get the best out of each member of the team with a personalized approach? What do you think would happen if you asked each person what would help them work at their best?

2. Focus on the team leader. You know that the team leader is the one who makes things happen. Without that local oversight and structure, a project can fall apart. The team leader sets the tone, creates structure and motivation and brings together performance and engagement.

TMBC suggests it’s time to go micro. If we’re measuring employee engagement, we need to be asking the right questions of the right people at the right time, related to the projects people are working on, the teams where people are functioning. And the team leader is central to this process of increasing engagement.

buckingham on teamsThe trend is to give team leaders the tools they need to function at their best and to offer personalized advice, coaching and recommendations for action to their teams. That's what will create more effective organizations.

#3. The shift from Big Data to the Right Data. Over the past year, big data has been a big thing, with technology tools enabling us to cull information across millions of data points. But that boils everything down to an average mass of information.

Remember trend #1? Big data is far from personalized.

Another issue with the data we typically collect is the amount of evaluation error in the multi-source performance appraisal (e.g., 360 degree assessment). We keep using these tools, assuming that with enough time and training, we can teach people to reliably rate others on their performance.

However, recent studies reveal that no matter how much time and training, we can never become reliable raters of someone else’s performance. Our ratings are considered to be part of an "idiosyncratic rater effect" which is more about us than the people we're rating. About 61% of a rating can be attributed to this type of bias (if you're interested in the research, you can access it here).

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 8 28 07 AM

That’s a lot. And makes you realize we need to rethink the tools we’re using. Again, a strengths-based, personalized approach can help us collect and apply the right data to help people work at their best.

#4. Feedback is not coaching. Thank you, Marcus! This is an important distinction to make. Feedback is typically focused on the details of what’s not succeeding in what you're doing now. It's threatening, typically unwelcome and evokes defensiveness. Not good!

Coaching is typically focused on the future, a productive process that looks at strengths, successes and solutions. It's the type of positive attention we all seek. Attention that makes us better.

In fact, Marcus proclaimed 2015 The Year of the Coach.

He said, "We'll see companies more and more realizing that coaching is the fastest way to excellent performance." Can you imagine a sports team without a coach? A musician without a teacher or conductor? We don't question that coaching helps elicit and amplify a person's talents. People flourish into excellent performance with an excellent teacher or coach.

So this year, TMBC sees the trend of providing coach training for team leaders (see #2). According to a live poll of the webinar viewers, about 85% of managers spend less than 25% of their time coaching. How can we improve those numbers to help each member of the team be more effective and get the personalized coaching he or she needs?

The Year of the Coach!

I liked Buckingham’s suggestion to establish a coaching ritual to get team leaders and members in the habit of regular and ongoing coaching. It can be as little as 10 minutes a week, as long as it’s focused on strengths and helping people reach their project goals.

How can you practically implement coaching at a scale that’s needed in your organization? TMBC forecasts training that consists of simple, quick and usable learning modules that teach coaching skills. I like it!

#5 – Technology. The final trend is technology, which is an integral part of our lives.  This is how we work now, so this is how we should be helping people be at their best.

Expect mobile technology that will provide relevant information personalized (there's that word again) based on a set of assessment results. Think of an autoresponder, where you can schedule and drip personalized content to people based on their interests. This is becoming widely used in changing behavior in many realms, including healthcare, with programs that push health information based on your specific medical concern, whether diabetes, obesity or heart disease. An app can send a pushed message about  making healthy food choices in the late afternoon, when someone is considering what to have for dinner.

For professional development, TMBC is already doing this with the StandOut assessment and program. And they recently partnered with SurveyMonkey, so no doubt more cool stuff is on the horizon.

I think these trends are exciting and spot on. The discussion was rich and full of examples, too many to mention here.

If you'd like to view the entire webinar, check out the recording on YouTube: http://youtu.be/QCcRfHkJE_g

And come back for Part 2 of this post, “Putting Trends into Action."

Wondering how to implement these trends in your own organization? Give me a call at 805-482-1625 or send me an email at gmiele@optimaldevelopmentcoaching.com and I’d be happy to help you find the right solutions to be on trend in talent management in 2015.