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Amidst this record-setting shutdown, each day seems filled with more negativity and uncertainty. Negativity about our elected leaders, our core values, our place on the world stage. Uncertainty about the economy, the climate, the future of our children.

Rather than wallow in what could go wrong, I find it better to focus on what will go right. Since I’m no expert at predicting the future, I typically pull out my Word document that contains more than 30 pages of inspirational quotes and let others impact my thoughts…

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the airplane, the pessimist the parachute.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.” ~ Frank A. Clark

“By working together, pooling our resources and building on our strengths, we can accomplish great things.” ~ Ronald Reagan

“What is worse than having no sight is being able to see but having no vision.” ~ Helen Keller

“There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inactions.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“When you do BIG things, you make big mistakes. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” ~ Walt Disney

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them.” ~ Denis Waitley

“The problem in my life and other people’s lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it.” ~ Peter Drucker

“Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history.” ~ Joan Wallach Scott

“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” ~ Alfred A. Montapert

Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.” ~ Will Rogers

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The Gift

One of the inclusions in our coaching program is to present clients with a feedback report that helps them better understand the perceptions people hold of their leadership approach. The process involves interviewing by phone up to 12 supervisors, peers and direct reports – asking about: specific strengths, opportunities for improvement, communication style, what the client should keep doing and what to stop doing.

Before handing clients their report, I ask them to consider it a gift… the opportunity to learn things they may never have read before. I say: “You asked people to offer their thoughts and they graciously took the time to provide candid comments.” I do this because the experience of receiving feedback elicits a lot of surprise reactions and emotions, ranging from ‘Wow, that’s great. No one ever told me how positively that impacts them’ to “Oh, I had no idea when I do that it’s so disruptive to the team.”

I also remind clients not to focus too much on a single comment, and instead to look for patterns in areas they want to keep doing (‘Affirmation’) or change (‘Redirection’). About a week after the session, I follow up with a phone call to see what specific items are resonating with clients and introduce a template to create their development plans. Once completed and shared with their supervisor, that document becomes the guiding light for our ongoing coaching work together.

The experience of receiving feedback takes an open mind and commitment to do something with the information. For those willing to step out of their comfort zones, build on strengths and change areas that are limiting their success, it can be a career-advancing journey.

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Do Do

Clients often ask me how to be more organized, more productive, more time efficient. Typically, that leads to discussion around their work style: Check email first thing in the morning? Desk messy at the end of the day? Others managing your clock?

When we journey to a deeper level, the conversation turns to an exploration of the bigger picture: their approach to strategy.

There will always be new tasks and new priorities arriving at jet speed. There will always be new people to on-board to the team. There will always be disruptions – professional and personal – that get in the way at the worst possible times.

[Note: I listen to a lot of podcasts when working out, so apologies to the one where I heard this next idea. I really don’t remember the source; however, I love the approach, so I wanted to share it.]

To ensure you and your organization/team focus on strategy and not busy work, place every possibility into one of these four categories: ‘Must Do’ that drive success. ‘Should Do’ when you have time. ‘Could Do’ in a perfect world. ‘Would Do’ when you find that magic wand.

This way you’re sure to keep your eye on the important things and not the easy ones.

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Herd Mentality

As a boy, I used to read the ‘World Book Encyclopedia,’ and especially looked forward to the annual ‘Yearbook’ arriving each January. I know that sounds nerdy; however, I loved learning about people, places and events – and it made me really good at trivia.

The joy of living today is you’re a click away from a wealth of knowledge. Wikipedia, which once had a ‘don’t use it for research’ reputation with high school teachers, is now considered an excellent source… and after all these years it’s the fifth most visited site on the Internet.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have captured large audiences – and are responsible for forming opinions on politics, religion and other cultural issues. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have the same impact. Unfortunately, the ease of access to these creates a herd mentality where folks follow like-thinkers, have their own viewpoints reinforced and seldom consider the other side of issues.

Recently I spoke to someone who said the last book he read was five years ago. I asked why, and he said, “I don’t have time.” I asked how he keeps up with things and he named one of the three cable news leaders. When I said, “So how do you know enough about things to form an opinion?” he said: “I already know what I think.”

In order to address some of the challenges before us and to come, we’re going to have to look at things from different perspectives. That involves dialogue and empathy – and not necessarily a change of opinion, just understanding of the options.

One technique for connecting with another’s perspective on a topic is to make the argument for his/her side. That requires research. Might I suggest starting with a visit to the library? It’s that big building downtown with a lot of books… those hardcover things that were prevalent during my childhood.

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Pivotal View

Recently I listened to a short podcast by Daniel Pink, author of ‘Drive” and other behavioral science tomes, during which he spoke about solving your own problems. Referencing the book “Decisive” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, he said shifting the challenge to another person leads to better results. So instead of pondering, ‘What should I do?’, try: ‘What would I tell my best friend to do?’

“It turns out,” he said, “most people when they reframe the problem that way they know exactly what they’d tell their best friend to do.” Think about when someone asks you for help. Are you typically ready to give advice? When providing guidance to others we take a broader ‘telescopic’ view than when caught up in ‘microscopic’ emotions of our own situation.

Scientists refer to this as ‘Self-Distancing’ – and in a follow-up podcast, Pink said: “We are better at solving our own problems when we have a little bit of remove from them. When we see them at a distance, when we treat our own problems in much the same way we would treat someone else’s problems rather than get so absorbed by it.”

He also suggested speaking in the second or third person to yourself. So, the next time you face a big issue, rather than say, ‘I will do X,’ step aside and try: ‘You will do X’ or, better yet, ‘[Your Name] will do X.’

Give it a try. David believes this approach will work.

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