Sprinting to the Winner’s Circle

My brother called me the afternoon of the 2012 election and said, “Come to the track tonight. We might have some winners.” In his 30 years of training and racing harness horses, he had never done that. So, what do you do? Do you change all your plans and go, or do you wish him good luck and stay at home on the couch watching the election results roll in? We chose to change our plans, drive to the track, and watch him win three of four races in one evening. The lessons learned were plentiful and worth sharing.

Listen. My brother had never called me to say, “Come to the track tonight”. When he did call, I listened to him, his excitement, and his need for someone special to be there to see his success.

Watch. At we sat in the clubhouse, we watched with clear vision how my brother’s horses performed. We even got to see the race replay on the TV at our table.

Support. When Grant’s horses won race after race after race, each and every time we supported him. How? We got up from our table, let our dinner get cold, and sprinted to the winner’s circle to get our picture taken with him, his daughter, the winning horse and (harness horse racing) driver.

Spontaneously Change. Sure, it was a busy day. Just getting to the voting polls and completing a full day of work was an accomplishment. But we committed to changing our evening schedule spontaneously to give time to someone else, and watch them accomplish their goals.

Grow. Because we showed up at the track during a busy day and truly supported him, it sure has further deepened the roots of our healthy relationship. This spontaneous act proved something beyond the ordinary.

Celebrate. Even if you really don’t understand the magnitude of what another person is accomplishing, embrace the moment and celebrate with them. We found that it was a blast sprinting to the winner’s circle three times in one evening and coming back to finish our cold dinner. The others in the clubhouse were sure wishing they could celebrate like that!

What we choose to do and how we choose to do it can help transform and deepen relationships, as well as results. My personal mission statement is Encourage. Embrace. Expand. This was an example of how we embraced an opportunity, encouraged others which will lead to expanding relationships and results.

How Beach Volleyball Solved Work-Life Balance

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings held hands during the National Anthem Wednesday (8/8/2010) evening. They held hands during their late night interview with NBC’s Bob Costas and early morning interview on NBC’s Today Show. This duo is a great partnership of complete excellence.

As three-time gold medal champions in Olympic beach volleyball, Misty and Kerri don’t struggle with nor complain about work life balance. They flipped work life balance on its head. Instead, they completely embraced a purposeful life with goals, and did it. How did they do it?

They are friends, who trust each other immensely. As a great partnership over a 12 year period, they went 21-0 in Olympic competition. They lost just one set in the Athens, Beijing, and London Olympics.

They are wives, with children (Kerri) or kids in the future (Misty). Their husbands completely supported them with this purposeful goal. Yes, these two are loved by their husbands and families, but now adored by the global community.

They are coached. Yes, as good as they are, they have coaches who helped guide them to their third gold medal. Although they won their third gold medal, they still only gave themselves a B plus.

They are confident. How many 33 and 35 year old women would want to play beach volleyball in a two piece swim suit? Who would be comfortable doing that in front of an audience of 15,000?

They are competitive. They weren’t afraid to state that they expected to win the gold medal in London 2012. They set the bar high, and cleared it.

They visualized success. They saw themselves on the gold medal podium, throughout their training and matches. And they celebrated after each winning point, set, and match. Regular and energetic high-fives and fist pumps were a part of their matches.

They are resilient. Misty recovered from a torn Achilles heel, one of the most damaging injuries a world class athlete can face. After having two children, Kerri rebounded to be a stronger and wiser athlete. They adapted and changed their training and communication through the 12 year journey.

They are appreciative. They thanked the 2nd place/silver medal team of Jen Kelly and April Ross for pushing them. They thanked the ‘army of support’ behind them through this journey.

They are inclusive. After every match in London, Misty spoke in to the TV camera and thanked a variety of people and teams (the American troops and the Dodgers); Kerri always recognized and gave high fives to the ball girls and boys; and Misty jogged around the stadium after each win, engaging and thanking the fans. Before one match, they warmed up with a few members of the USA men’s basketball team. Who does that? That makes them so likeable and marketable.

As a business coach, I frequently hear the phrases, “I don’t have time, I struggle with balance, I can’t delegate, I can’t find time to exercise, our team isn’t accountable.” Recommend embracing what this duo did:
1) set purposeful goals (to win their 3rd gold medal, establish a legacy, and change the face of beach volleyball globally),

2) partner with friends or colleagues that you completely trust,

3) gain support of those closest to you,

4) visualize success,

5) celebrate every step along the way,

6) expect a few hurdles along the way but don’t let them stop you, and

7) enjoy the journey.

Overwhelmed? Open up, Own it, Organize, Outsource and Get Orderly

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.

Stressed? Find Out How To Stay Calm During The Storms

Recently my parents called me and I answered the phone to the scary comment, “there’s been an accident.” They had been in a farm accident!Mom broke her arm, has two bum knees and a busted lip. Dad’s ankle was horribly bruised after a truck loaded with hay ran over it. Thank goodness for the neighbor who called 9-1-1 and got help to them quickly. I share this story about my parents’ accident as an example of how one person who was stressed and didn’t take time to communicate, ended up causing both of them to be injured.

Many of my clients say, “I am so stressed…” Stress comes in lots of forms. Some stress is good and helps us perform better—like meeting a deadline on time. Other types of stress have the opposite effect on us and we perform poorly. When clients bring up stress, questions I typically ask include: What are you doing to reduce the stress? How will you do that? Who will you communicate to? This last question is critical to successfully reducing stress. I’m finding a common pattern among clients when they admit they are stressed. If the client identifies a game plan and communicates the plan with a trusted person, the client typically a) implements the changes to help reduce the stress, and b) has a powerful conversation that helps both people.

When you are stressed, what gets in your way of stopping and communicating to someone you trust? Maybe it’s because you think those closest to you understand what you are thinking and know you better than anyone else. Maybe it’s because you think someone else has it worse than you do, so you aren’t willing to share your concerns about what is stressful. Whatever the reasons, I want to share a few tips to help you when you are stressed.

Stressed? Feel and Stop. If you are feeling stressed, stop and become aware. A good practice is to write or journal what is causing the stress. Where is it coming from? Have you ever experienced this cause of stress before? If so, what makes it different this time? How do you think it can it be reduced? For example, one of my clients was very stressed about her work and the amount of time she was spending at work well into the evenings. After journaling for just one week, she quickly noticed that her stress was actually coming from her children. Because she stopped and journaled, she was able to notice what was causing the stress and increased her one-on-one time with her kids.

Stressed? Share with care. When you do feel stress, it’s a good step to not only stop, but also think about who you might talk to that deeply listens and cares. It amazes me that when I ask clients who they might share their stress with, most of my clients say, “I hadn’t really thought about that.” Together with the client, we put together a plan that helps identify who he/she wants to share with and when; what he/she wants to share; and how he/she might put the plan into action. In fact, I’ve helped my clients practice and dry run these conversations/plans. This practice provides a lot of confidence to the client.

Stressed? Communicate calmly. When stress strikes, some cultures and individuals actually reinforce cocooning and isolation to mask the situation. What I’ve found with clients that “Feel and Stop, Share with care,” and “Communicate calmly,” is that the conversation is not just needed by the client but also by the other person and is helpful to more than both of them, and typically is replicated because it was successful, thoughtful, and rational. One client realized that her stress was impacting the entire family. However by opening communication with her husband, they established a plan and helped one another—and their kids.

Could my parents have avoided their horrific farm accident? Yes. My father was stressed about getting ready for a two-day trip and needed to feed 14 hungry horses on the coldest day of winter. Instead of feeling the stress, stopping, and figuring out a plan to feed the horses before entering their pasture, he proceeded quickly and asked my mother to help him drive a truck and keep the horses from coming through the gate. Because he didn’t share, nor communicate a well understood game plan, a drastic error was made when the horses moved toward the truck. My mother ran over my father’s leg while turning the truck to miss a horse. As she got out of the truck to run to his aid, she fell and broke her arm. As with most clients, the time it would have taken my father to Feel and Stop, Share with Care, and Communicate Calmly would have taken a few minutes. Instead, both of my parents will be recovering from their injuries for weeks.

The next time you are stressed, how will you communicate to help ensure you have positive results instead of stressful consequences?

Downsizing?

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.

Let’s Change It Up: Your Life’s Work

Recently, a colleague wrote about the common phrase of “work life balance”.  And then another colleague added that this common phrase should be changed to “work life integration.” This concerned me, as it prompted me to wonder what’s behind society and leaders allowing the move from “work life balance” to “work life integration”. In my practice, clients are teaching me a lot: if clients allow their work to integrate their life by not setting boundaries, not making purposeful & prioritized decisions, then the client is more apt to struggle with meeting their personal goals.  If a client embraces and communicates their priorities and purpose, I find that the client can begin to establish new practices & habits, balance their life better, and achieve personal goals that previously seemed unachievable.  Whether it is work life balance or work life integration, aren’t we better served by embracing life first?

I now am completely questioning this common phrase: “work life balance.”  Throughout a person’s life, one spends approximately 15-25% of his/her time at work.  Most of one’s time is spent sleeping, eating, relaxing, and enjoying life’s pleasures and treasures.  Even though the globe is more connected than ever and working 24 hours/day 5 to 7 days/week, that still doesn’t give reason for work to integrate your personal life.

I recommend we change it up.  How about we talk about balancing life into work and integrating life with work? Let’s rename it from work life balance or work life integration to Your Life’s Work. To make this shift, try answering these questions:  What are your most important life goals? What are your goals for 2012 and 2013? What are your goals for the remainder of this year? What do you want employees at work to truly know about you? Does your boss understand your personal goals and how important they are to you?

As you answered those questions, what did you notice? Are your work goals just one piece of your overall personal or life goals? If they are, then you are well on your way to Your Life’s Work.  If you noticed that your goals are more work focused, are you ready to be introspective and define who you want to be, what steps you need to take to develop your plan, and how you want to be remembered?

So, how can you change it up and move from struggling with work life balance to developing Your Life’s Work?

Talk & Ask. Who can you talk to about your life’s goals, priorities, and purpose?  Who will support you along your journey in accomplishing Your Life’s Work? Pick someone who truly listens to your plan, asks insightful questions, and will support you. A good first step is to talk about and plan your personal time as rigorously as your work schedule.

Write. Numerous studies have indicated that individuals, sports teams, and companies who write down their goals are much more apt to achieve them than those who don’t write them. Keep in mind that not all goals are met, so be ready to expect that.  In baseball, an excellent batting average is above .350.  In football, a quarterback is superb when he connects on 75% of his passing attempts. In basketball, the best free throw shooters hit more than 85% of their free throws.  Teams who win 75% of their games position themselves to win championships. Expect progress, not perfection.

Share. Let others know about your plans, your priorities, and Your Life’s Work.  When others know a bit more about what’s behind your actions and decisions, they might be more apt to support you.  For example, let your boss know that you want to take your children’s birthdays off annually, because you want the kids to know that one day a year, they are #1. That decision and action may also send a signal to your boss that you can prioritize highly important things in Your Life’s Work.

Display. If a company can post their strategy on their website and on employee bulletin boards, then where can you post your personal goals that will support Your Life’s Work? I post mine annual goals by our personal calendar in the kitchen and also carry it in my wallet. It is always present, to help keep me focused on My Life’s Work.

Go. Take the first step toward Your Life’s Plan.  Progress begins with that first step, embracing the plan, & doing it.

Let Your Life’s Work begin. Talk to someone today, so you can display and start Your Life’s Work tomorrow.

Big Decision Time? REST.

As a leader, you are faced with difficult decisions that have large impacts on people, families, products, services, and financial results. The more responsibility, the more difficult the decisions. In 2010, I had the opportunity to hear Army four-star general George Casey speak to a room full of senior executives. He quickly got our attention by simply stating, “the easy decisions have already been made, by others. You get the hard ones, with the most risk.” The entire auditorium woke up and was on-notice. He got our attention, but then he provided a tool to help us ensure we do the right things to help make better decisions.

Casey recommended REST (read, exercise, sleep, think):

The “R” is a reminder to read and prep before you make a decision. Many of the entrepreneurs or women that I coach are skimming articles, instead of really reading them, being introspective, and thinking about the implications. I encourage clients to read, reflect, understand the implications, and then recommend. This is a sound implementation cadence of reading and prepping.

The “E” was to reinforce the importance of exercising and being healthy to make difficult decisions. One of my former colleagues, who is the CFO of a Fortune 50 company, considers himself to be a ‘corporate athlete’. He firmly takes the stance that being physically healthy via exercise and proper nutrition feeds his brain and body to make solid decisions under pressure. He has a weight, nutrition, and Body Mass Index (BMI) goal to help him be the best leader he can possibly be.

The “S” was to ensure you get your sleep, so that you are in a good mindset. Ever made a bad or rushed decision when you were tired? Former President Bill Clinton once said after his Presidency that, “I made my poorest decisions when I was rushed or tired, or both.” The importance of sleep is also reinforced by Huffington Post founder, Arianna Huffington. She has implemented nap rooms at her workplace, so that employees can take a nap in the afternoon if they become fatigued.

The “T” is for taking time to think and weigh the options and associated risks before making a decision. How often has your team rushed you for an answer? When was the last time you coached someone else to think about something over the weekend? My father has been known to ‘measure twice, and then not cut’. He will tell you that during his lifetime, many urgent requests for a decision to be made actually just go away if you take time to think. He has reinforced to me many times that employees who bring these urgent requests will either figure it out, let it go, or bring it back to you if they are completely stumped. So he is obviously a thinker. However, in a truly urgent situation that could mean life or death, a simple short walk can allow a leader to think and clear the mind to help ensure a better decision.

These simple and highly effective acronyms like REST have a way of reminding me to lead and coach more effectively. For example, if we have a huge decision to make in the markets we are serving at Slingshot SEO, I will ensure I practice and prep (i.e. Read and Think) a couple nights before something is due. This helps me be calm and also ensures that I Sleep more soundly the night before the deadline. Regarding the importance of Exercise, it is planned in to my day just like a business meeting or school sporting event. Exercise is on the calendar. How can you implement REST to help you become an even better emerging leader?