One of the advantages of dealing with a wide variety of industries is that I have an opportunity to notice trends. More than ever I am being called on to do leadership development training and coaching.

Whether I am working with an investment bank, school district, hospital emergency room, IT organization or others, the folks in charge are realizing that they cannot afford to have people in key positions who do not have the skills to lead.

So, what’s causing the gap? Because of things like downsizing, outsourcing, mergers, reorganizations and budget cuts, people are being asked to accept additional responsibilities and to take on more of a leadership role. The problem occurs when you take a person who is technically very talented at what they do and put them in a role that involves a new skill set.

Managing a team and being a leader of people requires some very important skills that most people do not learn as part of their regular education. A person who gets thrown into a supervisory or leadership role with the expectation that they can just “do it” can feel frustrated, insecure and can make mistakes and errors in judgment that may have a detrimental effect on the productivity and morale of the entire group.

If you are the head of a company, district or group that is going through changes like this, I strongly urge you to consider providing your key people with training in skills such as: communication, teamwork, leading effective meetings, time management, presentation skills, conducting performance appraisals, dealing with a multi-cultural workforce and conflict resolution. These are the skills I am most often asked to teach and those requests frequently come, not just from senior management, but from the folks who are in the trenches trying to get the job done!

If you are a person who has suddenly been put in the position of leading or supervising a team, take advantage of every opportunity that is given to develop your skills in these areas. If no formal training is available, do some research to learn on your own, get connected with a mentor or coach and increase your network so that you can interact with and learn from other leaders.

Most folks want to do a great job so it’s important to do everything possible to make use of the best tools that lead to success.

Auld Lang Syne

As we were getting ready to ring in this New Year, I thought of the lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne.”  This is the traditional song for celebrating the New Year in almost every English speaking country in the world, but do you know what it means? The first verse “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?” basically means “Let old friends not be forgotten.”

“Auld Lang Syne” is a song about old friends who have parted and meet again. To celebrate their long friendship, they share a drink together and recall memories from long ago. The message is that we should not forget our old friends and should celebrate a reunion with them.

Is there someone  in your life (personal or professional) that you would like to re-connect with? Consider these questions: Why do you want to re-connect? What is stopping you from trying to make that connection?  What can you do to reach out?

The value of staying connected or re-establishing a relationship with someone you’ve known for a while is that you have a shared history and common experiences. You can share a laugh over something  that happened long ago or play the “Do you remember…?” game. This is a person who can remind you of where you came from and help you to figure out where you are going.  A trusted colleague can re-enforce your strengths and help you to stretch and grow into new areas.

There’s a lot of talk about “networking” these days, but networking is more than going to meeting after meeting to see how many business cards you can collect!  Your network can be made up of a variety of people who can act as resources, answer your professional questions,  challenge your thinking,  serve as a sounding board, or just share a cup of coffee and some good conversation!  Remember, good relationships are reciprocal.  Look for ways that you can be helpful to the people in your social or professional network

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many wonderful new people and forging professional relationships in a variety of venues. I appreciate these new associations. As I looked back,  I also realized that I had lost touch with many folks whose friendship I value. Thankfully, I have corrected that. Now I know that I want to maintain a connection to all of the people who are important to me. Yes, that may take some time and effort, but they’re worth it!

Making the Most of Your Winter

Why not let this cold start to the New Year be a motivating factor to  maximize your time and get your year off to a good start?

According to the Los Angeles Times, January 10th was National Clean Off Your Desk Day! (Did you celebrate?) Office workers lose the equivalent of almost a week of work a year looking for files, online documents, staplers and other materials, according to a 2010 study funded by office-products maker Brother International Corp. A lack of organization can lead to other losses. If you don’t file your tax records on time because you can’t find your receipts, if you can’t find something you need for an important meeting or if you have a payment due but can’t find your records…this kind of disorganization can cause you serious problems. So, my first recommendation is:

1. Get organized

Organize your office – This includes your desk, files, books, rolodex, etc. Take time to go through things that have been piling up and make order out of chaos. This will pay off when things get busy and you need to locate a resource or item quickly.

Organize your computer – Many of us keep a lot of data stored on our computers but, over a period of time, these files can get out of hand. Take some time to look over your information, re-sort your files and delete things you do not need. This will help your computer and you to function more efficiently!

Organize your home – Take a  look at things in your home and start sorting. Tackle a room, closet or even a drawer that has been accumulating contents that need to be sorted. Make a give away, throw away and put away pile and separate all those items that have accumulated over the past year. Be brutal! In most cases, if you haven’t used something in two or three years, you can probably do without it.

Organize yourself – Are there some things you’ve been meaning to do that will contribute to your personal sense of health and well being? Now is a good time to get started. Go through your wardrobe and update your look. Start that new eating or exercise plan you’ve been thinking about. Take time to ponder those things that are important to you and set some goals for the New Year that will bring you personal satisfaction.

2. Re-connect

Use this time to review your list of colleagues, contacts and friends and reach out to those you haven’t communicated with in a while. A quick email, note or phone call can be a welcome reminder to those important to you that you are still around and haven’t forgotten them. Make plans to get together with someone you haven’t seen lately. The temptation to “hibernate” in the winter months can be strong, but getting out and interacting with folks can be energizing.

3. Catch up

Make a list of all those things you meant to do last year. Pick one item from that list and dig in. Putting things on paper will help take away that nagging feeling that important things are slipping through the cracks. Getting started and nibbling away at your list will give you a feeling of accomplishment and put you closer to reaching your goals.

4. Anticipate

Plan something to look forward to this year. Whether it’s a much needed vacation, a family reunion or tickets to your favorite show or sporting event… now is a good time to arrange for a fun activity that will provide a refreshing break in your routine.

Making plans to attend a professional conference or seminar can also be something to look forward to. Do a little research to identify events that can put you together with other professionals and stimulate your brain with new challenges, skills or ideas.

5. Relax

You can also take advantage of some of these cold winter days to curl up on the couch with a good book or movie and unwind. One of the rewards of your hard labor is having a little time to do nothing. So, enjoy!

Do You Want to Be Happy?

How important is it for you to be happy? We all appreciate the personal value of living in a state of less stress and greater satisfaction.  The good news is that there are specific steps you can take to live a happier life!

Can a business case be built for the positive value of happiness in the work environment? Studies show that employee happiness results in:

  • increased productivity
  • less turnover
  • reduced absenteeism

In his book What Happy People Know the author, Dan Baker, identifies Six Happiness Tools that all of us can use. I’d like to share three of these with you:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Choice
  3. Personal Power

Tool # 1: Appreciation

What Dr. Baker calls appreciation, I refer to as gratitude. In our December, 2009 e-newsletter, we talked about the “Power of Gratitude.” Appreciating the people and things around you is an important beginning. Let’s take it one step further.

Appreciation is choosing to be mindful of the good things in your life rather than focusing on the negative. How do you do this? A key to happiness is to be able to re-frame.

You can look at situations in two ways: what is wrong or what is right. To re-frame, instead of looking at all the bad things related to a challenging problem, person or situation ask yourself questions like, “What good can come of this?” “What can I learn from this?” “What is the ‘hidden’ blessing or benefit?”

Recently we had about two  feet of water in our basement as a result of persistent rain and a failed pump; a problem we’ve never had during 15 years of living here. Although we got very weary of all the vacuuming, cleaning and the loss of belongings, we kept saying to each other, “It could have been worse.”  We could have been away and not known there was a problem. There could have been four feet of water instead of two.  No one was hurt, nothing of real value was lost, and we were able to recover. Plus, we realized we needed a new pump! Now we will be good for another 20 years.

Tool # 2: Choice

One of the things that can cause us the most pressure and unhappiness is the feeling that we are “trapped” or have no options. Lack of finances, ill health and job insecurity are examples of situations that can lead us to feel we have no choice.

The antidote to this is to begin listing the options you DO have. This will require you to “think outside of the box.”  It can be useful to enlist the aide of someone who knows you to help you identify some options.  You may need to try something you have never done before. Your behavior and your thought process may need to be modified. Maybe it’s time to learn a new skill or seek a new environment. All of these can be good things as they open up your mind to the possibilities rather than the limitations in life.

Tool # 3: Personal Power

Having the mindset that you have control over your own destiny can be a revelation. How many of us give away our personal power to others? If you think your happiness depends on the words and actions of others, you are giving away your peace of mind.

Realize that what other people do or say does not determine your self-worth or success.   Last week I read an inspiring quote “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” (Author unknown.) Knowing that you have the power to take responsibility and take the action required to succeed gives you a sense of personal peace and confidence.  Other people can’t rattle you when you are calm and secure in yourself.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if we could snap our fingers and make all these great changes? Here’s my own take: “Happiness Takes Perseverance.” Just like losing weight, saving for your dream vacation or learning to play the piano, when you want something worthwhile you just have to keep doing the right thing. Behavior and thought patterns don’t change overnight, but isn’t your happiness worth the effort?

Are You Ready to Change Your Life?

As we enter into a new year, many of us think of making a “fresh start” in certain areas of our lives, hence the popularity of New Year’s Resolutions. Research shows that it takes more than just the desire to change to make those resolutions stick! The “Stages of Change” model, described below, will help you understand the process we go through to modify our behavior. This model identifies five stages of change.

*Stage One: Pre-contemplation. People at this stage have not yet acknowledged that there is problem behavior that needs to be changed. They tend to defend (bad) habits and are not interested in any kind of help.

*Stage Two: Contemplation. Here, a person acknowledges that there is a problem but is not yet ready or sure about making  a change. People at this stage are aware of the personal consequences of a bad habit or lifestyle and are more open to receiving information. In our previous article on Becoming a Person of Influence we said that people who are considering making a change they ask themselves 2 questions: “Will it be worth it?” and “Can I do it?” That’s the Contemplation Stage.

*Stage Three: Preparation.  At this stage a person is determined to make a change and begins to prepare. Here people will gather information, research and ask questions, in an effort to get ready. Skipping this step is a mistake because, without the knowledge of what is required to make a major change and the commitment to do those things, a person is likely to fail.

*Stage Four: Action. When people are ready, they begin to take action to change behavior and to make positive life choices. An effort of willpower and determination is required at this stage, as there will be the temptation to relapse and go back to the old, familiar ways. Using short-term rewards, having accountability and support and looking at the benefits of the new behavior, will all help a person to successfully get through this stage.

*Stage Five: Maintenance. Once a change has been made, an individual now has to maintain the new behavior and avoid any temptations to revert back to the old ways. Helpful strategies for people at this stage are to remind themselves of the value of making the change, think back to the negative experiences and feelings associated with the old behavior, have strategies in place ahead of time to deal with the temptations to revert, keep track of progress, celebrate success and stay connected to people who are positive and who encourage the change.

*Relapse. Throughout this process, it is important to remember that change takes time and it is normal and natural to regress occasionally. When this does happen, it is important for people to not mentally beat themselves up! They need to avoid the temptation to think of this as a failure or character flaw or to think that, because of a slip, a permanent change will never happen. Again, using a support system is very helpful in this situation. Ideally, people experiencing a relapse can use this as an opportunity to figure out the slip-up happened and to think of ways to cope differently in the future.A person may have to avoid certain friends or family members or stay away from high-risk situations. These strategies will help them to control the cues that tempt them to revert to bad habits and, ultimately, provide a stronger sense of self-control and the ability to stay on track.

What about you? Do you want to make a positive change in your life? Think about this model, identify your stage of change and use some of the strategies here to continue to reach higher!

Becoming a Person of Influence

We all have occasions to influence others. Whether it’s a colleague at work, a family member, a student or even ourselves, there are times when we want to have a positive influence on someone’s behavior. The book Influencer, the Power to Change Anything,  McGraw Hill, 2008, offers strategies that can result in changed lives.

Many of us rely on verbal persuasion to get people to change.  Wouldn’t it be great if your best friend would stop smoking just because you lecture him or her on all the health dangers associated with that habit?  It would be so easy if your co-workers would adopt the complex new procedure you are proposing just because your presentation was brilliant!  Unfortunately, the authors say that verbal persuasion rarely works. It often comes across as an attack and can feel like nagging, manipulation or pressure.  As you can imagine, that approach can cause a person to dig in their heels and become more resistant to influence.
So, what does work? When people are considering making a change they ask themselves 2 questions: “Will it be worth it?” and “Can I do it?” Here are some things you can do to help them answer those questions and make a change for the better:
Focus on Behavior
When trying to influence someone, we frequently focus on trying to change their attitude.  The authors recommend instead, focusing on trying to bring about a change in key behaviors.  Changed attitude, they say, follows changed behavior.  How do you bring about a change in behavior?
Get Them to Try It
One of my father’s greatest strategies when introducing me to a new food was  to say “Just try it.”  The understanding was that, if I didn’t like it, I did not have to continue eating it! It’s amazing how many new and unusual foods he got me to try….and continue eating.  That strategy won’t work for everything, but it is one approach.
Create Positive Associations
Classical conditioning creates situations where some type of benefit or reward is associated with certain behavior. If you allow a person to experience the benefits of changed behavior, that will increase the motivation to continue that behavior. What kind of benefits?  Receiving the praise or appreciation of others, tangible evidence of a job well done (now that you’ve lost ten pounds, you can wear that great suit you bought last year; because of your diligence and hard work, you got a bonus), a sense of personal satisfaction & fulfillment.
Experience the Consequences
When we see someone we care about experiencing the negative consequences of harmful behavior, we want to “help” them by mitigating those consequences.  We sometimes must allow a person to endure the full impact of their poor choices in order to bring about a realization of a true need for change.
New behavior is frequently uncomfortable. We don’t know what to expect and, sometimes, we don’t know how to “do it.”  When influencing someone to try new behavior provide “safe” experiences, resources, opportunities for practice, coaching, etc. that will support an individual in the process of stretching into new behavior territory.
Above all,  if you have a situation in which influence is vital, don’t give up! If one strategy doesn’t work, try another. And remember to let person you are influencing (even if it is yourself) know that they are valued and respected. 

Strategies For Achievers – Celebrate TaDa’s

I’m sure most of you have heard of a To-Do list and many of you probably keep one. One mark of an achiever is to set goals.  Complex goals get broken down into action steps and action steps are tracked and measured with due dates. A daily To-Do list helps you to stay on top of the specific activities and the steps you need to take each day to stay on track. This keeps you moving toward your goals. It also can help you to recognize time wasters or those activities that require a lot of effort but bring little satisfaction.

So, we know what a “To-Do” is, now……what is a “Ta-Da”? Research shows that achievers also know how to track and measure their success by keeping a record of those things which have been accomplished……those are their Ta-Das! Not only do folks who succeed track their accomplishments, they also have learned to celebrate success!!  Are those habits that you have developed? When you reach your goal, do you take a moment to savor the success? Do you ever do anything to celebrate a job well done? Many people are so busy charging on toward the next goal that they take no time to enjoy what they have already accomplished. That can be a recipe for burnout and can eventually have a negative impact on your motivation and productivity.

What can you do to celebrate your successes? It doesn’t have to be something major,  just a little reward or acknowledgement that you have accomplished what you set out to do.  Phone someone and share your achievement; schedule a fun activity; treat yourself to something you love. When you’ve worked hard, take the time to enjoy what you have achieved. You earned it!

If you are a manager or supervisor, do something to recognize the accomplishments of those on your team.  Do you ever do anything to celebrate a significant achievement? Public acknowledgement, a certificate, or a celebratory lunch all go a long way to helping a person or team feel valued.  If someone really goes out of his/her way to help you, take a moment to send a thank you note or even give a small gift to show your appreciation.  (You don’t have to be a manager to initiate these activities. )

Some day, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you are just spinning your wheels, try making a Ta-Da list! What is that? It’s a list of all the things you have accomplished. It can be very satisfying to see that you have been putting your time to good use.  And, you’ll be surprised at how a little celebration will enable you continue to Reach Higher!

Beating Burnout-The High Cost of Success

With all of the pressures of today’s economy, you can feel overwhelmed by the demands and the stress in your life and may reach the stage where you feel “burnt out”. What picture comes to mind when you hear that someone is a “burnout”?  We usually think of a person who doesn’t care, can’t cope or has no motivation to do anything. But, did you know that you can burn out because you are too dedicated to a job, relationship or cause?

Burnout is defined as fatigue and frustration brought about by dedication to a job, cause, way of life, relationship, etc. that is not bringing the expected reward. When it occurs, burnout tends to permeate all areas of life – work, family, personal life.  Notice the key phrase “not bringing about the expected reward.” One of the key factors contributing to burnout is that we can become so totally invested in something that we put all of our energy into that area of our lives to the exclusion of everything else! No one person, project, cause or anything else can satisfy all of the needs we have in our lives.

So, what are the keys to beating burnout? In our February newsletter, we talked about Maintaining Life Balance. That is critical. Check to make sure that your life is multi-faceted and that your vision has not narrowed to exclude relationships and activities that can refresh and revitalize you.

What does your support network look like? Do you even have one? If you have only one person you go to all the time for advice, support, mentoring, etc. you should probably think about broadening your network. Identify a variety of people with expertise and knowledge in different areas and begin to make those connections.

Take a look at how you spend your time. Is all of your time taken up with one activity? Does your work day go from five o’clock in the morning to eleven o’clock at night? Do you do anything for fun? Do you make time to be with people who love you and support you? Do you have a hobby or interest that gives you a mental break from the routine? Again, the key is balance!

Have you learned to recognize the signs that you are getting tired? Do you get cranky, snap at people, withdraw and want to be left alone, overeat, lose your mental focus and creativity? These are all signals that you need to take a break! Go for a short walk. Call a friend. Have a healthy snack. Read a magazine or take a short nap. Anything you can do to shift gears for a while will help keep burnout at bay.

You may have been surprised by your answers to some of the questions here. If you are not satisfied with your current lifestyle, the good news is that you can make a change. Today! Begin to identify those areas that are out of balance and commit to some specific action that will help you to enjoy your life. The choice is up to you!


Having trouble making some new year’s resolutions? Or have you already abandoned those you did make? Why not try a different approach. Studies show that achievers reach their goals more often because they set “want” goals instead of “should” goals. That is, they work toward accomplishing things that are desirable for them, not just the things they have to do.

So, do you have a dream? Something that you’ve  always wanted to do? Take a vacation to a special place;  go back to school and get an advanced degree; learn another language; play the piano, skydive???  Your dreams may be completely different from mine, but that’s what makes life interesting.

The next thing achievers know how to do is pick a goal apart and determine very specific steps to accomplish that goal.  Some of us never start doing something because it seems overwhelming. So, what is one, very specific thing you can do that will move you in the direction of your dream? Send for a brochure, make a phone call for information, register for one class. OK, now…..wh en are you going to do this? Don’t just leave it open ended. Give yourself a deadline. “I will send for this brochure tomorrow.” “I will register for that class by next week.”

Now….DO IT! Just take that first step and then you can think of the next thing, and the next and the next.  If this process sounds familiar to some of you who have studied goal setting in business….it is.

Because this method works whether you are working toward something in your private life or at work.  But remember, what we’re talking about here is moving you toward one of your dreams. Once you’ve used the process and find that it works, and it’s fun and satisfying, you’ll be better equipped to move toward the things you want in life. You may be closer than you think…..just Reach Higher J

Bank of America
AT&T Bell Labs
Webster School District
Gateway, Inc
Lehman Brothers
Lucent Technologies
University of Rhode Island
AT&T Consumer Products
U.S. Department of the Army
State of New Jersey
Stat-A-Matrix, Inc.
AT&T EasyLink Services
MICA Task Force
Weichert Realtors
AT&T Consumer Messaging
Perkin-Elmer Corporation
Brookdale College
Assoc. of Computing Machinery
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