Ask or Act

Neighborhood-Doggarter_large

(Images courtesy of seespotshinedogtraining.com and nhmountainhiking.com)

Two simple choices. Ask or Act.

If things were only that easy.

As I learn more about our “fight or flight” reaction in our brains, there is another “f” reaction that seems to take hold.

Freeze.

The state where we become paralyzed to take any action. The Freeze could be fear of making a mistake, or letting someone down. The Freeze may be a product of our own insecurities and self-doubt. Whatever the cause, the Freeze holds us back from taking action or accomplishing our goals.

I am sure this Freeze came in handy when a ferocious animal was spotted and remaining motionless prevented an attack. However, except for the occasional dog off the leash in my neighborhood when I am running, or the unsuspecting garter snake in my garden, there are not a lot of animals that cause me concern.

What should we do when we find ourselves in a state of Freeze?

Back to the two choices. Ask or Act.

If you are not sure what to do, Ask someone. Ask for clarification or direction. Ask for more details or better guidance. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen if you make a mistake. Ask for help. Ask yourself what is causing this fear.

If you have an idea what to do, Act and accomplish the task. Act in a way that gets you closer to the goal and moves you forward.

Hopefully these two simple choices help you the next time Freeze takes over.

Emotional Rickets

I think I have Emotional Rickets.  (Bear with me on this one.)

During a recent conversation, I was explaining how certain situations cause an emotional response that is hard for me to regulate. Anger moves pretty fast, and there are times it catches me off guard.

According to Daniel Goleman, there are five hierarchical levels of emotional intelligence:

1. Self-Awareness

2. Self-Regulation

3. Motivation

4. Empathy

5. Social Skills

I like to picture these five areas as going up steps, one at a time to reach the top. Mastering a prior step helps bring you to the next. Whenever I have an issue with one of these steps, I back up a step to see if there was something in a previous step area that would provide a clue the issue at hand. In this case, I was having an issue with Self-Regulation (step 2).   That left only one step to return to: Self Awareness (step 1).

Rickets is a disorder caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. It leads to softening and weakening of the bones. Bones are not only are weaker, but have additional pain and tenderness.

So, Emotional Rickets is when you have a lack of some positive emotional events (and perhaps some negative ones) that leave you in a weakened state.  In additional to weakness, you can add additional pain and tenderness from an emotional perspective.

I repeat, I think I have Emotional Rickets.

This revelation seemed to help, suddenly I could picture the issue.

If my legs were injured, I would not run as hard.

If my arms were injured, I would not lift as often.

If my back was injured, I would not move around as much.

For some reason, I was expecting my brain and emotions to respond to events as if there were no prior injury, no prior events, no limitations. As if it were strong.

lifting_brain

(Image Courtesy of blogs.hawkeyecollege.edu)

But my Emotional Rickets require me to be much more aware of my limits. I may need to work harder than others to achieve the same results. I will be sore, and will not want to go again. I may need more rest and recovery time after each event.

In time, I hope to strengthen this area. I do not kid myself about the amount of work and time it may take to do make even small gains. Progress will require some discipline and work.

Where have you had Emotional Rickets? Where have you been left in a tender and weakened state? Where has this hindered relationships or caused issues? Maybe a little progress in this area for all of us could really change the world. 

 

 

Inspired Vision or Dictated Standard?

IMG_0623

(Image courtesy of my daughter who loves to snap photos while we drive.)

While working with a group of senior leaders they described some compliance issues especially with those further down within the organization. Procedures were not being followed, routine issues were on the rise, along with a rise in negative attitudes.

Many of these leaders have a behavioral bent towards adherence to and creation of rules, so I pushed in a little with some questions.

Were these particular procedures and rules important?

Yes. This is a high risk endeavor with lives on the line.

Okay, then why is there such pushback on these rules, procedures, and policies?

The culture below us seems to create this tension.

How do you communicate these procedures and rules?

Memos and operating procedures.

With a few more questions, a few additional clues were revealed. The memos, and operating procedures were then implemented by middle or front-line supervisors who didn’t always agree with or embrace the policies. 

Instead of seeing the importance of these procedures, the policies were viewed as a dictated standard instead of part of a larger inspired vision of keeping everyone safe.

Out of context, the constant emphasis on procedures can feed a negative culture. Those leaders needed to inspire a larger vision and continually explain why these small changes added to that overall vision.

As with all leaders, they needed to tell their own story and not always rely on others to explain their inspired vision.

Imagine how many times we try to get our employees, our organizations, our families, our kids, or our friends to follow some rule or procedure, yet it doesn’t resonate or create action. Instead we are left with the grumbling culture around us despite the fact that those rules would help keep everyone safe, ease some difficulty, or just make things run more smoothly.

Maybe we can all learn from these leaders.

Inspire a vision and provide the context for changes and rules. Stay on message about how these changes are important to the organization, the family or the relationship.

If not, simply dictating a standard may not be enough.

Iodine on Eczema

vintage_iodine_bottles

(Image Courtesy of http://www.misopocky.com)

A few weeks back, I was asked for some advice about how to address the media about a recent story where a news outlet really got the story wrong. The reporter got a hold of some facts, but out of context the story unfolded in a negative light.

The person was prepared to unload on the reporter based on some advice, and “set the record straight.” While we talked, we discussed the possible outcomes and various questions.

Would this approach improve the situation? Would the reporter write a better story as a result? Would this escalate or calm the negativity?

As the conversation progressed, they shared a story with me.

When their child was young, they came home with something that looked like ringworm on their arm. Based on some advice, they immediately applied iodine to the area (look it up kids, this was our parents cure for a lot, especially minor cuts: we think it was the sting that they liked the best).

The area worsened, and became more inflamed. More iodine was applied and the cycle continued.

Eventually, they sought additional advice from a doctor.

“What you have here is a case of eczema.”

“So it is not ringworm?”

“No, and that iodine is just making it worse.”

While we spoke again about the reporter and the story, the question became an easy one: Is this going to be like putting Iodine on Eczema?

The answer was simple: Yes.

Instead of an aggressive approach, they decided to put the facts together like a story. A story that wove in the reasons and the successes associated with those original facts. Instead of just sending it along, they called the reporter and asked for a meeting.

A few days later, I received an email with a link to the new news story. It was positive and even the headline made reference to the earlier article being like comparing apples with oranges.

I had to ask myself, when have I put Iodine on Eczema? When would a little healing salve made things so much better for my situation, my work, my story, or my relationships?

Harvesting My Own Crops: A lesson is being grateful

Two days ago, I went to the grocery store. Not just any grocery store, I went to the busy one at 11:30 AM on a Sunday morning.

The store was packed. Aisles were hard to navigate, and the scene was like something out of a pile up on the freeway. Some carts were pulled over on the side trying to find something, while others darted through small breaks to speed to the next lane. Our turn signals didn’t work, neither did the brake lights and you could sense that tension in the air around every corner, and there were a few small collisions.

As I approached the registers, it was quite a sight. Every register was open, and there was a line of at least four carts in every line. Behind the carts was a massive group of additional carts trying to figure out which line to join, and how to navigate from the group to an individual line.

The manager made an announcement.

“We know that today is busy, but please turn your carts to the side because the lines are so long, we need additional space in the front of the store.”

It was at this moment, I began to observe everyone around me. I slowed down and just began to watch. I also noted the time on my cell phone.

Frowns, swears, and grumbling.

Angrily moving carts to the side.

Hands being thrown up in the air.

Then the voices began to chime in.

“I can’t believe that everyone is shopping today, there is no need for this, you would think we are having a snow storm!”

“Why do we have to turn out carts to the side? I don’t need this!”

My cart eventually found its way from the group to a line, and it slowly edged toward the belt. I loaded my groceries and kept looking around. The bagger was working furiously to keep this line moving and asked the person in front of me if they wanted some larger item bagged or just placed in the cart.

“Just put it in a bag, this would go faster if you didn’t ask such questions!”

They looked towards me for some sort of approval of their statement. I didn’t.

When I arrived at the register, the cashiers were changing shifts. They both looked at me through weary eyes and kept apologizing for the wait. The bagger looked tired as well.

I paused, looked at them all and then something came out of my mouth that I think surprised all of them.

“I just want to thank all of you for working so hard to help us get our groceries today.”

I looked at the assortment of items on the belt, and suddenly I understood what an amazing time it is to be alive. I saw bread, various meats, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, and some berries.

“I mean it, think of all the time your little team here has saved me. I didn’t have to harvest my own crops, grind my own grains, bake this bread, tend to my garden, raise a bunch of chickens, cows and pigs. I really should be thanking you for saving me so much time, I can go home and simply watch TV all afternoon if I want. So THANK YOU.”

Smiles appeared on those weary faces. The bagger seemed to stand more upright and kept smiling as they placed items in my bags, and asked me about larger items.

The mood changed. The actual situation didn’t change. The lines were still long, but the perspective changed.

Instead of being angry, I chose being grateful.

Instead of complaining, I chose to say thanks.

As I made my way out to the car, I checked the time again. It had been 17 minutes. Just 17 minutes to accomplish what it would have taken my great, great, great, great grandparents weeks of labor to create. Those grandparents would have never imagined fresh berries and fruit in the winter, or bread you simply grab from the shelf, or the leisure time that I am now afforded.

Where can you choose to be grateful? Where can you thank those around you?

The Relationship Reset Button

Reset Button

(Image Courtesy of Acceleraction.com)

So often in relationships, whether at home or work, with family or friends or loved ones, the past can overly shape the present.

You had a disagreement with that person. Now every interaction is awkward.

You lost your cool. Now others walk on eggshells around you.

You used to be fascinated by someone’s uniqueness. Now these issues only seem to cause you frustration.

You overly questioned someone’s work. Now they feel that you don’t trust them.

While working with a small group, we noticed this pattern and discussed how it impacts their ability to work together. The more I reflected, the more I noticed this pattern in my own circles.

The past interactions do not disappear, they build on each other to form a strange and often distorted view of others. I read recently that our memories can deceive us. Our memories exist, but each time we access them again they can change and the newer version of the story replaces the old memory.

I thought about how this can impact our relationships. Perhaps this is why it is so hard not to feel like a little kid around your parents. Maybe this is why people in more close relationships are heard complaining about the other one (many times in front of that person). This may be why it is so hard to rebuild a relationship at work that has gone south.

Those memories keep building and changing in a way that reinforces the negative issues.

What we could use is the Relationship Reset Button. This handy device would be available to any two people or a small group where all parties decide to let go of those past hurts, judgements, or misunderstandings. With a simple press of the button, everything would reset. They would be able to start fresh, start new, and get another chance at their relationship.

Yesterday I worked with this small group again. They pushed the Relationship Reset Button. There was history. There was conflict. There was a past. It wasn’t easy, but they stared over.

They let go, and began to appreciate each other’s differences.

They started to anticipate what the others may need, and started to provide that instead of being frustrated by requests.

They started to see that together they could accomplish so much more.

Along the way, some of the past began to return, but they would get together and remind each other that they had started over. These occasional issues didn’t build a new history, but were seen as lingering shadows that would continue to diminish as their new relationships grew.

Where can you use the Relationship Reset Button? Where has the past overly shaped and distorted some of your best relationships? The new year is about to start, so why not go ahead and press it and see what this year brings?

Jumping to Offense

Cliff Sign

(Image Courtesy of http://www.aroundtheworldl.com)

The other day during a conversation with someone close, I noticed something about our interaction. It was a simple conversation, nothing too deep or seemingly important, but a pattern revealed itself.

The pattern was simple: I jump to offense.

Let me explain. This means that my mind appears to be on a quest to find a way to be offended at what someone else is saying. By quest, I mean that my mind considers this its highest priority and will devote both time, energy, and resources to ensure the quest’s success.

Here are a few examples:

“It is getting kind of late for sending out Christmas Cards”

My Jump: So are you saying that I should have sent these out?

“It would be nice to do more interactive things at the next holiday with everyone”

My Jump: So they expect me to plan this then be responsible for meeting everyone’s idea of what is fun?

“We need to make sure we are attentive to the bottom line”

My Jump: So they are saying that I am overspending?

There are risks in jumping to offense, just like the risk of jumping off a cliff. It is dangerous and there is unseen peril just beyond the lip. Luckily I am beginning to notice this pattern as it occurs (or shortly afterwards).

I realize that I need to retrain my mind to see the warning sign on the edge of that cliff before I go off jumping. Picturing that warning sign helps, but also explaining to the person I am talking with if it begins to happen.

Here are a few tips for my fellow jumpers:

  1. Recognize your bent toward Jumping to Offense.
  2. Understand that Jumping to Offense is dangerous, for you and others.
  3. Slow down and listen, don’t respond right away.
  4. Ask clarifying questions, make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
  5. If you do jump, climb back up and reconcile with those around you.
  6. Repeat steps as needed.

Where are you Jumping to Offense? Take a few moments to think about where you could, as my grandmother always used to say, “look before you leap.”

P.S. I am going to print out this photo and put it where I can see it every day.