Today I was prepping for some Strengths Finders training that I will be attending during the week of July 6 in Princeton. In reviewing my strengths that I took back in 2013, I was reminded that discipline is my top strength, closely followed by focus, achiever, responsibility, and learner. Thus, it is probably not a surprise that I am prepping 2-3 weeks in advance, being someone with those discipline, focus, and responsibility strengths.
Before turning 50 in August 2014, my partner and I made the pledge to look good in our photos during our trips to Italy, Chicago, and the lake in the summer of 2014. That pledge really leveraged my strengths of achiever, but also discipline and focus. As we traveled last summer, our snaps turned out great and we felt good in the process of hitting the big 50. We had energy, we enjoyed friends and family, and felt great.
After I turned 50, I quickly became a bit lazy and quit leveraging my discipline strength. I gained weight back, even though we were working out and ran a half marathon in the Fall 2014. But in January 2015, I wrote down: “get in the 150’s (pounds) and stay there.” By writing that down and embracing my strengths, I have found it easy and focused to eat less this year. And I weigh 8-10 pounds less than I did while on our trips last summer.
I want to be role model of wellness at 50, and so my strength of responsibility is really kicking in right now. The self esteem burst of “look good, feel great” is worth the effort to the daily rejection of sweets, desserts, extra helpings, and that extra drink. My focus on wellness is delivering on this: Be happy. Be healthy. Be connected. Be grateful. Be well. Be encouraged. Be a role model.
What are your strengths? I bet you are using them at work. But how about in your personal life and with your own well being? My hope for you is that you deploy your strengths routinely in your blended life of home, play, family, friends, faith, and yes, at work.
Have you ever had that moment in a conversation when someone asked you a few questions, and your answers were a bit unsettling? From 2007-2010, I realized it was going to take some work to be able to answer the three most important questions in my life. So in January 2010, I signed up for a program called “Life Launch,” which helped me to articulate further my answers to these three questions.
1. Are you living where you want to live? My Answer: No.
Realizing that we wanted to be closer to family, live in a larger city, with easy access to a great airport, arts, sports and culture, achieve moderate cost of living with world class health care, we identified five cities that would meet these deep needs. In November of 2011, we relocated to Carmel, IN, and months later, it was named by Money as the #1 place to live in America for small cities. Call that lucky, for sure.
Young adults today have this question figured out. Unlike the Baby Boomer generation who relocated multiple times and lived in the suburbs with long commutes, the trend is that this new generation is courageously moving to where they want to live first, and then finding meaningful work with a limited commute.
2. Are you doing what you want to do? My Answer(s): Yes & No
Marketing had been my life for 20+ years, but I found that I truly enjoyed coaching others and watching them develop. From 2006-2011, I connected with three amazing executive coaches and admired the work they did and how they did it. I soon realized a future role for me was to become a coach. After attending “Life Launch” in early 2010, I completed a year-long coaching certification program that year. It was training that I needed; it helped me become a certified coach, but also a better person, listener, partner, and friend.
We ask people in casual conversations that infamous question, “what do you do?” How incredible could the conversation potentially be if someone asked, “what do you want to become?” or “are you doing what you really want to do?”
Every day, I encourage colleagues and friends to embrace their strengths, because the return on improving your strengths and deploying them is an 8-10X return (StrengthsFinder 34, Rath & Conchie). If you don’t like your job or role and know you that you have strengths being under-utilized, then put your plan in place to soon be doing what you are good at because the return will be much greater.
3. Are you with who you want to be with? My Answer: Yes
In 2007, I broke both wrists in a bad fall. I realized quickly who were the most reliable people in my life. When you can’t feed, wipe, or wash yourself, you truly realize who are your friends and family. That fall helped me realize that I did have the right person in my life, to be my partner. We also realized that our friends were truly incredible; a couple of our friends went to the wayside, but the bulk of our real friends were amazingly there. We also realized that as we age, we wanted to be closer to family so that we could be there for them, if and when needed.
In interviewing the elderly in The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner quickly realized that centenarians have strong social connection locally and regularly. If you aren’t with who you want to be with, his long-living research would hint to resolve that and be with who you want to be with.
As you progress through life, how can you ask yourself these three important questions? How can you ensure that you are living your life, completely on purpose? How can you utilize these questions with loved ones, and give them the gift of listening to their answers? We all can be distracted at times during our lives or even take detours, but these three questions might just help you get back on your purposeful highway of life. Recommend finding a memorable time to annually ask yourself these questions, self assess, and make appropriate adjustments wisely.
Since I have been coaching women and emerging leaders, I am hearing a common concern: “Jen, I am overwhelmed. I just can’t say ‘no.’ Sometimes I don’t know where to start.”
When a coach hears her client truly open up, we are encouraged because we know the client is becoming introspective. As coach, it is my role to help the client reach a comfort level where she is able to open up and pull from her what is causing her to be overwhelmed. Once that difficult first step is clarified and we both have a common understanding of the current state, then we move to step two. We brainstorm and identify what the client can do to become more able to own the cause and get organized. Nearly every time, the client has great ideas and answers.
It is the third step that is most difficult: which idea(s) will the client implement to help reduce this overwhelming feeling? For example, recently, a woman leader that I am coaching implemented and owned her plan by making a handful of adjustments. She had an open conversation with her husband and they both agreed to outsource a few low priority areas of their lives that were frustrating them both. She also began saying “no” to trivial requests. With more time available to work on higher priority opportunities, she noticed her business began to thrive and she was starting to achieve the audacious goals she had set in Jan. 2012.
My client no longer feels guilty about saying “no.” At the beginning of her work day, she implements a daily task lists. She even prioritizes her early mornings, with a wellness/fitness/nutrition plan to get her rolling.
The upshot? If you are overwhelmed, open up, own the situation, get organized, utilize outsourcing, and get orderly. You’ll soon become less overwhelmed and ready to face whatever challenges and opportunities that come your way.
Honored to have had the opportunity to write for Inc. magazine, sharing my experience of transitioning from corporate executive to start-up.
Check out the article, “5 Ways Corporate Execs Can Thrive at a Start-up” on Inc.com!
Recently, I have embraced and experienced two significant transitions. The first one was relocating from a 8,000+ square foot home in a suburb to a 1,275 square foot 2-bedroom flat in an urban arts & cultural district. The second transition included changing jobs, from being a global leader in a Fortune 50 company with revenues of $50+billion to now leading my own small company as well as accepting a role as V.P. of Marketing in a multi-million dollar hi-tech company.
What have I noticed? Lots! Large homes are comfortable, sprawling, and friendly for entertaining. Large multinational companies expose you to global trends, cultures, and realities every minute of a day. However, there are definitely some other differences in going from extra, extra large to medium & small.
Lean with Increased Efficiency. Little Waste or Excess.
In the 2-bedroom flat, we utilize every inch of space in the cabinets, under beds, on the walls, in the closets, and under the sinks. In my own company, my overhead is essential and lean: a new laptop, iPhone, and printer, as well as internet service and file folders. Notice I didn’t mention a desk, a land line, an office chair, or an office. In the fast growing hi-tech company, everyone is using free Internet communication tools. For example, they use Skype to instant message other employees, they listen to their favorite music via Pandora to help themselves stay focused in the narrow confines of their office space, leverage Yammer for internal employee networking and social updates, and Google+ Hangouts is utilized for video conferencing when multiple participants and locations are necessary. Very few employees have offices; most are working in pods, completely focused on working with each other to nail deadlines for the client’s success.
Priorities are a Priority. Less is More.
When we relocated to the smaller flat, we prioritized and shipped only what we really needed. That included just two beds; one set of silverware, plates, towels, and pans; one living area; and one dining area. What’s the benefit? Much less to clean and more time available in the evening to relax and on the weekend to enjoy family and friends. In my coaching & consulting business, invoices are issued as soon as services are provided. In my first couple weeks at the hi-tech company, the founders quickly decided to provide incentives to salesmen to close deals by year end, implemented an in-depth algorithm to ensure pricing was pristinely matched for new markets being targeted in 2012, and made expense cuts in just one meeting after reviewing financials for the month.
Try it, You Might Like It.
I had an incredible 25 years at a Fortune 50 company; however, I have never looked back since leaving in March 2011. The feeling of freedom to move more quickly on my client’s behalf, with agility and energy, is liberating. Results can happen quickly, and no matter whether they are good or bad results, you KNOW the result. In the small flat, we lock the door and walk to close-by restaurants and shopping, and utilize the incredible paved trail just steps away. The fast growing hi-tech company has energy and focus like I’ve never seen. Clients and results are everyone’s tireless passion. And it’s fun!
Repack Your Bag.
As 2012 approaches, I am reminded of Richard Leider’s book, “Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life.” Leider gives examples of how to annually review and purposefully repack what you are carrying and doing what you really want to be doing. It’s working for me. This feeling of energy I get from the two transitions (from XXL to medium and small) is exhilarating and renewing. How about you? What is too big in your life? How can you benefit from making it small? What waste can you eliminate? How can you become more agile? What will you purposefully keep & maintain from XXL? I want to encourage you to embrace transition and change. You might be surprised how quick you can move and expand beyond your own expectations.