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Tough Conversations

Being able to have tough conversations is an important part of being an effective leader – whether at work, in our communities, or at home with family members. Most people shy away from engaging in difficult conversations because it often feels uncomfortable and/or like they are being unkind. But to quote Brene' Brown: clear is kind and unclear is unkind.

The key to being able to have tough conversations is being clear about what you want to say and how you are want to say it, and having a set of thoughtful questions makes the process more effective and easier.

Recently, a client struggled with one of his direct reports who was gaining a reputation for taking over meetings, not listening to other colleagues, and shutting down discussions. As a result, team members did not feel like their opinions were heard or valued, not committed to final decisions and not fully engaged in their work.

My client decided to provide the tough feedback to his direct report – he wanted to see if he could help her shift her behavior from thinking she always knew the best solution on her own to one where she was being more collaborative through active listening, asking questions, and engaging others for their point of view.

My client used the following framework to prepare himself for having the tough conversation with his direct report (see below for his process). This framework was developed over a series of workshops I led for an organization on having critical conversations. Personally, I have used this framework successfully whether at work, at home, and in the school system with teachers as I've advocated for my son and daughter.

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Aimless Love by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Boundaries and Trust

Setting boundaries and establishing trust are a challenging and important part of being an effective leader – whether at work, in the community, or in our families.

An executive client recently found these video clips by Brene' Brown inspiring and helpful, so I’m sharing in this month’s blog. In case you don't know her, Brene' Brown, PhD LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston and an author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead.

Setting Boundaries
Brown shares why boundaries matter and how research suggests that the most compassionate people have the best boundaries. Brown defines boundaries as what’s okay versus what’s not okay. And that boundaries enable us to be loving and generous versus being resentful and hateful. Click here to learn more and watch Boundaries by Brene' Brown (six minute video clip).

The Anatomy of Trust and Braving Connection
Brown defines trust as choosing to make something that is important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else and that trust is built in very small moments throughout our lives.

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Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

who has no words to exchange with you yet
and instead offers up her favorite drooled-on blanket,
her green rhinoceros as big as she is,
her cloth doll with the long blond pigtails,
her battered cardboard books, swung open on their soggy pages.

If you were outdoors she would hand you a dead beetle,
a fistful of grass, a pebble,
by way of introduction or just because.
And if, a moment later, she wanted it back,
it would be for the joy of the game
that makes of every simple object an offering:
This is me. Here is who I am.

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Listening as a Radical Act

               

Active listening is something that everyone struggles with and most executives include as part of their leadership coaching plan.

In the age of iPhones, email, texts, constant notifications, and Twitter “shouting contests,” truly listening can be a tremendous a gift, both for the speaker and listener.

I think listening starts with desire to be a better listener and also includes an ability to turn down our internal chatter so we are able to be present, engaged, and focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. Not a simple task.

Yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise are excellent ways to settle and calm our minds, show up more present, and ultimately listen better.

Tools to Become a Better Listener

  • Click here to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about Listening as a Radical Act of Love (six minutes). JKZ, a PhD in molecular biologist from MIT, is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher who is known for bringing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) into the mainstream of medicine and society.
     
  • Click here to watch a short clip by Simon Sinek on Why Effective Leaders Speak Last, especially in the boardroom (< two minutes)
     
  • Click here to read A Simple and Powerful Technique for Better Listening

The Benefits of Meditation

SIGN UP FOR THE JUNE 21ST 28 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE!

Participants from previous meditation challenges shared receiving the following immediate benefits from meditating eight minutes per day over a 28 day period: 

  • General Health and Well Being 
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Kinder Nature to Self and Others
  • Positive Change in Mindset
  • Enhanced Productivity

More details below....

General Health and Well Being:

  • Better Sleep
  • Time of Refuge
  • Less Loneliness
  • Provides more daily healing and comfort

Emotional Regulation – managing stress and changing the nervous system:

  • Better able to deal with situations where others might push my buttons – I am able to step away and respond more constructively
  • I am able to remain more focused and calm during difficult situations

Kinder Nature – self and others – leads to better relationships:

  • More patient and thoughtful
  • More accepting of self and others
  • Kinder to myself and others

Change in Mindset:

  • Allows my brain to relax
  • In terms of managing disappointment, I’m able to acknowledge pain, accept the situation, let go of what I can’t control, and feel more grateful (versus blocking things out and numbing myself).
  • Provides perspective and philosophy
  • Pay more attention to beauty around me – like noticing a beautiful sunset

Enhanced Productivity – more effective life:

  • Improved memory
  • Focused on a singular task versus multi-tasking
  • Fresh perspective: bring a beginner’s mind approach to my work
  • Able to handle life’s daily pressures better
  • More accepting of unexpected situations that are given to me

SIGN UP FOR THE MEDITATION CHALLENGE TODAY!

The 28 Day Meditation Challenge*

Strengthen Your Existing Practice or Learn How to Meditate!

Starts June 21st

CLICK HERE to learn more and sign up!

Includes: mindfulness welcome kit, daily email with inspiring quotes, videos, and meditations, and a Google tracking sheet for accountability and community.

Be part of a virtual community: can be done from anywhere in the world!

Build up to 8 minutes per day, enough to create short term changes to your brain!

Entire $28 fee goes to Sheltered Yoga, a wonderful nonprofit whose mission is to improve emotional health and wellbeing of underserved communities.

SIGN UP FOR THE MEDITATION CHALLENGE TODAY!

7 Practices of a Mindful Leader

 

Recently I listened to Marc Lesser, The Zen Priest with an MBA, speak with Dan Harris on 10% Happier podcast episode #184 (click to listen). I enjoyed the podcast so much, I bought Lesser’s book, The Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader that evolved out of his work helping create Search Inside Yourself Leadership, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence program at Google.

And this is why – Marc Lesser speaks about the tension between being and doing; his love of work; the importance of cultivating compassion, clarity, self–awareness, and a deeper connection to others – and how a mindfulness practice can decrease anxiety and increases one’s ability to lead with the ever–increasing complexity and demands that all leaders face both at work and at home.

The Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser

1. Love the work. Start with inspiration, with what is most essential. Acknowledge and cultivate aspiration – your deepest, most heartfelt intentions.

2. Do the work. Have a regular meditation and mindfulness practice. Learn to respond appropriately at work and in all parts of your life. Lesser recommends meditation, walking meditation, and journal writing – emphasizing the importance of spending some amount of time just sitting, without any of the activity or stimulation of exercise.

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Train Your Brain!

 

                        Every man can, if he so desires,
                        becomes the sculptor of his own brain.

                               – Santiago Ramon Y Cajal

I highly recommend reading Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Much Meditation Changes your Mind, Brain, and Body written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, both leading PhD scientists and New York Times–best selling authors.

In their book they share how meditation not only leads to pleasant mind states but also to altered traits, that is personality traits that remain and endure after meditation sessions have ended. And that with just two weeks of 8 minutes of daily meditation, participants can start experiencing short term changes to their brains, including less reaction to stress, better focus, less mind wandering, improved memory, more compassion, and less bodily inflammation.

On a more personal note, clients have shared receiving the following benefits from a meditation practice:

  • A self-awareness and awareness of the environment around them
  • A calmer, more grounded presence
  • Improved ability to regulate emotions, navigate difficult situations, and manage conflict
  • Gains in creativity and innovative thinking
  • Deeper active listening skills (being more present and patient)
  • More compassion towards others and less critical of one’s self
  • Improved concentration, engagement, and focus
  • Enhanced perspective (the ability to see different sides and points of view)
  • Stronger, richer, and more fulfilling relationships

More about Meditation .....

Meditation The practice of setting aside quiet time to calm our mind and relax our whole body by focusing on our breath, other body sensations, sound, sight, or mantra. Meditation is training for the mind; it involves an internal effort to self–regulate the mind; turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.

Alexis Santos, meditation teacher and mindfulness expert, shares that meditators have three jobs:

  • Relate to Experience Skillfully To be in wise relationship with what is by not taking things so personally. Thoughts, emotions, and feelings come and go based on certain causes and conditions, so we can see things as being part of nature.
     
  • Develop Awareness Is the mind aware of thoughts, emotions, and sensations? Welcoming and accepting the present moment versus resisting.

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