Eel Gloves

American Eel (USFWS Biologist Steven Smith hollding eel caught while night electrofishing for salmon in Whallon Bay)

(Image Courtesy of adirondackalmanack.com and USFWS)

Sometimes we can be hard to pin down.

Sometimes we wiggle and squirm our way out of accountability, progress, or accomplishment.

Sometimes we say we are going to do something, but try to slip out of it.

A good friend calls it being slippery. Slippery like an eel.

But they make Eel Gloves.

Eel Gloves make it possible to hold onto the slipperiest eel.

Maybe what each of us need is that friend, partner, spouse, coach, or mentor that has OUR pair of Eel Gloves.

The person with the Eel Gloves could hold on to us when we are trying to explain away our lack of progress.

The person with the Eel Gloves could wrestle with us, not let go, and make us face why we are trying to slip out of the accountability.

That sounds like a good name for a coaching option for 2016.

Eel Gloves Coaching: You may be slippery, but we can still hold on.

 

Hard Choice Ahead

Hard Choice Ahead

(Images created on roadtrafficsigns.com)

The interview went well. They answered the questions. They were hired. After a few months their performance begins to fade.

You hear from a few people around the office that deadlines are missed. Others are covering the work that is not getting done.

RESENTMENT IS BUILDING

A few of your peers come and talk to you about the issues and what you are doing to correct the problems.

YOU ARE BEING QUESTIONED

Your boss sends you an email asking about your department’s performance.

YOUR TEAM IS UNDER SCRUTINY

There were signs.

Looking back you may be able to see them.

Unfortunately, signs don’t always show up along our journey with bright colors and with enough repetition so they cannot go unnoticed. Failing to see the earlier signs prevented corrective action.

Maybe it was a relationship. Maybe it was a project that has not taken off. The specifics are yours to fill in.

Missing the earlier signs tends to result in one final sign: Hard Choice Ahead.

The choice won’t be easy.

But it needs to be done.

The choice will have consequences.

But it will bring the resolution.

Maybe next time we will become more attuned to watching for those earlier signs.

 

Let Me See Your Calendar

Often we wrestle with getting certain projects or activities completed. There are times I wonder if procrastination should be elevated to some sort of art form. The level of creativity that abounds when avoiding certain tasks is nothing short of a masterpiece.

If procrastination was art, I would be Picasso.

This procrastination can permeate through simple tasks and projects, down into our roles both personally and professionally. What starts off as a delay in painting a room or cleaning up your desk, can become putting off coaching employees or participating with your family. One day you wake up to a mountain of unfinished projects, ideas, or roles.

I was listening to a speaker give a talk on what it takes to be a good leader, and one of the keys was following through on certain tasks. When coaching others, this speaker often listens to leaders talk about the things they would like to do, and then says a simple phrase.

“Let me see your calendar.”

The speaker then challenges the leader to show them in their calendar the time the have scheduled to work on that project, and where the deadline appears. Reluctantly, the leaders typically respond that those ideas or projects are not in the calendar. The desire was present, but not the mechanism to create the action needed to complete or make progress on these tasks.

Instead of shaming the person being coached, the speaker then simply works to find dates and times in their calendar and holds them accountable for completion.

I am trying the same approach with myself and others. While coaching a few individuals recently, I realized how much we all need this encouragement and accountability. A few days ago during a coaching session, I realized that there was a project that I had put off for about 12 months. The project itself would take about 1 hour, but there was some sort of procrastination mountain standing in my way.

This morning I spoke that simple phrase, “Let me see your calendar.”

There was space, and the project was scheduled and completed. One simple phrase and the project came off the stalled idea mountain and is now a reality. Imagine the results if we use this simple phrase with ourselves and others.

Try it out, it may just Change the World.

It’s Running Itself

You have an idea. You are excited. You tell others. You may even have a plan.

Then something happens. You walk away, and assume that they are implementing your idea, your vision, and your plan. In your mind, “it’s running itself.” Your work is complete, because you not only came up with an amazing idea, your inspired them so uniquely that their motivation, their loyalty, and their efforts were completely aligned with your vision. You did your part, now it is in their hands. You move on to the next big idea.

Don’t hear this wrong. Big ideas are great. We should dream, we should develop ideas, but sometimes the idea or coming up with a vision of what you would like to do, be, or accomplish is the easy part. The more difficult part is making your idea happen. Implementing your vision takes discipline and hard work. Working hard at the daily tasks needed to make your dream a reality is not glamorous.  You have to make sacrifices, and you may even fail.

Discipline can seem overwhelming but you can start small, with just a few minutes each day.  You may be surprised where it takes you, and those around you who usually are tasked with trying to implement your big idea may breathe a sigh of relief.

insertfunnydomainname.com

I mentioned a while ago about my habit of calling a few friends on the way to work. These morning calls provide us with a way to keep “the cup” away from our homes, and give us some time to connect and process out our lives together.  Unfortunately we do not always connect and have to leave a voicemail.

With one friend in particular I have developed a habit.  For some reason (perhaps because they know it’s me calling) I get their voicemail more often than not.  After listening to their voicemail message over and over, and hearing them say that can also be reached at their email at blahblahblah@domainname.com, I had a funny idea.

Instead of simply leaving a message, my quest was to come up with a funny domain name back to them when I called after the beep.

It goes something like this:

Beep.

Hi, this is

Carl@whydoesn’tmyfriendeveranswerthephone.com

and I am sorry I missed you.  Call me back or you can reach me at my email

Carl@whydoesn’tmyfriendeveranswerthephone.com

We would laugh and developing these domain names became a way for us to essentially explain why we were calling or what we needed in a few short words.

Hi, this is Carl@Iamabadfriendwhonevercallsback.com give me a call soon.

Sorry I missed you, this is Carl@whatthehellwereyouthinking.com you’d better call right away!

Hey, Carl@feelingprettystressedatwork.com call right away!

The funny domain names helped us say a little about how we were feeling, or at times what we needed from each other.  Sometimes they were less funny and more of a clue that we needed something deeper.  Reflecting on this, I wonder…what is your domain name?  What story would it tell about you for us to know your real situation or circumstance without the normal filtered approach to our conversations.  Maybe it would help if we knew this about each other and ourselves.

you@tooafraidtoactoraskforhelp.com

you@takingontheworldtoday.com

you@justtakingitonedayatatime.com

you@wonderingifmydreamsarestillpossible.com

Go ahead and reply with your domain name today.  Who knows, just putting it out there may help it become a reality.

Untethered

There may be a better word, a better term, or a better way to describe that interesting feeling that comes from feeling completely scattered and overwhelmed.  However you describe it, the unanchored position during chaotic times can undo us.  Unfortunately, this untethered state can creep into our lives before we realize it, and the blur of activity seems to help keep us unaware of our own state of mind.

Are you untethered?  Answer a few of these questions to see.

1.  Are you feeling anxious even if no specific event can be pointed to as the cause?

2.  Do you feel that time is slipping from you and you are not accomplishing what you need to?

3.  Is your to-do list growing at a rate faster than your accomplished tasks?

4.  Are you tired, even when you are not doing anything?

5.  Do you have a hard time starting projects even when the deadline is looming?

6.  Do you jump from task to task despite not completing the prior activity?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these, you may be in an untethered state.

What can we do if we find ourselves in an untethered state?

Here are a few recommendations.

1.  Don’t make any large decisions (unless absolutely necessary).

2.  Slow down, make lists of what you need to do as long as you also include a list of what you should STOP doing.

3.  Do at least one of the difficult or hard tasks on the list first each day.

4.  Connect with others and be accountable for the hard things on that list.

5.  Find a tether or anchor that will help keep you from being scattered.  This can be a person, a book, a setting, or a state of mind.  For me this includes going to a “third space” or a place that is not my home or office where distractions are limited.  My favorite space is a local library or local coffee shop where it seems just separate enough from my other places that I can focus on specific projects that need to be completed.

6.  Regulate your screen time (Computer, phone, and TV).  Too much seems to act like a distraction from our actual lives.

7.  Stop multitasking.  Doing multiple things at once just add to the untethered state.  Accomplishing the most important task in front of you will prove more productive than simply doing a piece of five tasks.  I printed out a little card for my desk with a few simple words “What is the highest and best use of my time…RIGHT NOW!”  This small reminder acts like a tether that keeps the focus on what I need to do, especially if I was avoiding a particular task.

8.  Get some exercise.  You don’t have to run a marathon, but get moving.  Go for a walk, run on that treadmill, or just stretch your arms above your head and breath deeply.

When you find yourself in an untethered state, remember to try a few ideas on the list. Start slowly, and over time you may feel more anchored, more in control.

You can do it! I know you can! 

We Just Need a Strong Leader

Working with teams is great.  But, I have noticed a pattern.  When there is difficulty, conflict or lack of communication an interesting pattern emerges during the various sessions.  What I hear during these sessions is consistent.

Sometimes these statements are a muttering in the back of the room, other times they are directly proclaimed for the group.

“We just need a strong leader.”

“If the [insert bosses title here] did more of [whatever topic we are discussing] we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

My personal favorite – “This is all well and good, but when will our leader apply some of these principles?”

In most cases I am there because the leader has identified the issue and wants to inspire collective solutions and buy in from the group.  Admittedly these leaders have not always lead deliberately, but the demands of their time and energy has increased, and they assumed that these teams would self-manage or self-lead through the routine of the day.

Then something interesting occurs.  The leader begins to lead, and in a strong and deliberate way.  The leader provides clear direction, communicates a larger vision, and begins to hold everyone accountable for results.  This newfound accountability eventually finds its way to those vocal critical few.  According to their earlier statements, what follows would logically be a happy embrace of this new leadership model.  Tragically, it doesn’t.

“Who does [insert leader’s name here] think they are messing with the way we have done things?”

“Can you believe that they want us to report on our activities, why don’t they just leave us alone like before?”

“Why do they keep making us go to meetings?  Why are they in our space so often?  Why are they asking so many questions?”

As the leader becomes stronger and tackles the various issues they find that the people who so clearly demanded strong leadership, are the ones who fight the hardest against it when it arrives.  Often, those vocal few are no longer there in a few years because when they said “We Just Need a Strong Leader” what they really meant was “I need someone to complain about to deflect attention from my own lack of personal leadership.”

Maybe that vocal person was right.  The organization did need stronger leadership, but you should be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.