Sunday, March 28, 2010

Motivation or Inspiration?

Career transition, executive coaching, leadership coaching, inspirational leadership, management coaching

What’s making you do what you do? Or, what’s the difference between push and pull?

This might be a funny way to think about personal performance and leadership, so let me explain.

All of us are in a current situation. Whatever it is, there we are. If we’re not happy with this situation, we may want to change things up. This is what I call “push” motivation. Something in your current situation is making you unhappy and you push yourself away from it. As long as you get far enough away from it, you’ve accomplished your mission. You’ll move yourself a distance away from the unhappiness that is far enough for it not to reach you anymore. The particular direction of your move doesn’t matter – just get me away from here! Once you’ve put enough space between you and “it”, you stop moving. There’s no need to move any further, is there? The problem is : now what? Slowly, the old situation will start drawing you back in. Your stamina for change might weaken. You might rationalize the change and tell yourself “it wasn’t really that bad, was it?” The whole process can repeat itself many times.

Let’s switch over to “pull” motivation (inspiration might be a better word for it). There is something out there … in the distance … you can sense it -- it’s powerfully drawing you closer. It’s a great future; it’s what you’ve been longing for. Regardless of where you are today, this is what’s pulling you forward. It’s shaping your decisions and your actions. The pull of the future is giving you priorities and you are making this future happen. Fantastic! The source of this power is the inspiration inside of you to achieve the future you are imagining.

Why is this important?

We can substitute movement away for movement foward very easily. Moving forward is hard – we need a sense of direction, a destination, a timetable and stamina. No small task! Moving away from something is easy. I just need to quit doing something. Not much thought required and my vision of the future is defined by what I don’t want to be around anymore.

As you shape your future, understand the difference between “push” and “pull”. Do you have a vision of your future that is pulling you closer? Do the hard work of defining your vision and let it become the magnet that pulls you forward!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Readiness for Change

Readiness for change

I keep coming back to the notion of readiness. It’s come at me from a variety of directions lately and as I continue to work with leaders and individuals, it clearly stands out as a key ingredient to implementing change. Yes, my clients and I talk about competencies, ability to influence others, strategies – we talk about all of that. Yet, how much of what we want to change comes down to readiness : our own or the readiness of others?

We’re all familiar with the quote “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. That clearly says successful learning (and change) is not attributable to the teacher’s skill or wisdom, rather it starts with the student being ready. How does the student get himself ready?

Readiness means being willing to let go of the past. If we are still clinging to old behaviours, old ways of doing things, are we really ready to embrace the new? So readiness also means being willing to embrace the risk of trying something new. True change can happen when we are finished with the old and stand ready to try something new.

Creating readiness in others means helping them step up to the cusp of something new with the willingness to embrace the new. How do they get inspired about the future? If all they know is the present (soon to be the past), what would make them “ready”. As their leader, what have you done to paint a picture of the future? Do they see themselves in it? Does the future reflect their values, hopes and dreams? When the leader is able to paint that kind of picture, she becomes an inspirational leader – one that others place their trust in. And trust in others is another way of saying : “You’ll catch me if I fall when I don’t quite have the new steps worked out, won’t you?”. That’s you – the leader, being told what your next job is : catch me when I fall. Don’t judge or punish me for taking a risk, don’t think poorly of me trying something new. Help me learn and help me get better. If I can trust you, then I’m ready.

Readiness – we all have it in us. What’s holding us back?

Ready, Set, Go!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Your Very Own Blue Ocean Strategic Plan

At this time of year, it seems natural to think of the past and the future. The year ahead is full of promise and has the potential to be everything we want it to be. How can we make it all happen? Do you find yourself in a Red Ocean or in a Blue Ocean?

A client once said : “I’m really good at writing a strategic plan for my business, but I don’t know how to do something like that for my own life!”. It seems ironic that we dedicate ourselves to planning our work : setting targets, outlining goals and milestones and charting a pathway for achieving them all. Yet, how often do we take the same skills and apply them to the things in our own life? Aren’t the things in our lives just as important?

Just like the business strategic plan, your life’s strategic plan starts with a vision and sense of direction. Without those, well…… know the story.

And, are you charting a course for the Blue Ocean? I highly recommend reading the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” (Kim & Maurbogne), if you need a refresher on how to re-vision yourself and everything you do. Do you define yourself through comparing to others, benchmarking and generally just trying to outcompete them? Or, have you found a way to leave the competition behind by re-defining what you are doing in a way so that the competition doesn’t matter? What’s your Vision?

Ok, here’s my Vision for 2010 : to grow my coaching practice while maintaining a great work/life balance. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Both halves of the statement are tips of icebergs. What do I really mean by “growing my coaching practice”? What’s entailed in that? Lots of business development activities to be sure, sharpening my saw (continuous learning and professional development), working with my own coach to help me stay clear and focused, being on the look-out for opportunities, writing proposals and the list goes on. I suspect we can all easily fill in the remaining bits of strategies and tactics to grow this little business.

What about our lives, though? Isn’t growing this business just one part of my life? What about the rest – my relationships, taking care of myself, fun and adventure, fitness, health and spiritual well-being, giving to my community? What’s my plan?

Writing these words has made me realize that “maintaining a great work/life balance” isn’t really a very good vision statement. What I need to replace it with is :

- Being a loving partner to my spouse,

- Being a loving father to my children,

- Being a true friend to my friends,

- Being fit, strong and healthy,

- Being spiritually alive and in tune,

- Having a learner’s outlook all the time,

- Helping others in my community.

These are all things I want to be in 2010. That’s what I envision my life to be like this coming year. If I am able to be all these things, I think I’ll have great work/life balance. Each one of these ways of being has its own set of strategies and tactics : things I will do to make it happen. And, of course, they all inter-relate, even with my goal of growing the business. After all, I’m a whole person and everything’s connected to everything.

We admire leaders who are grounded in their vision and are able to share it with others in ways that are eloquent, inspiring and galvanize us to action. Be that way with yourself! Write out your Vision for yourself – the act of writing will become the first step in the act of achieving. Stealing a phrase from sports psychology – if you can see it, you can do it!

It’s not that all the rest is details, but, actually all the rest is details.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Technorati Claim Code : M92PBRUKVAV3

A friend recently shared with me an idea from improvisational theatre. If you can imagine drawing a triangle with the peak closest to you and the base furthest away, write the words "let go" at the starting point (peak) and the words "see more" and "use everything" at the other two corners.

I think the message is : if we let go and use everything, we are able to see more.

Letting go
We hold on to beliefs and assumptions. Isn't that how we navigate our way in the world? We have expectations (good and bad) and we construct the world we perceive. What if we let go of all that? What if we did not place that filter of judgement in between ourselves and the world? What if we let go and met the incoming data just the we way it is?

Use Everything
We are surrounded by opportunities, tools, data, supplies and a whole host of other inputs. What if we used everything to help us make decisions? Instead of only those things we like? Instead of only those things we know how to use? Instead of only those things we were familiar with? Reminds me of "when we don't know what to do, we do more of what we know". What if we used things that were new to us?

See More
Removing our filters and expectations, we might actually see more. We might be open to the possibility of seeing the unexpected.

How to make this's great to wonder about how our perceptions shape our reality and how our expectations shape our decisions, AND then we still have to make something happen with this new paradigm.

The challenge in Letting Go, is knowing what we're holding on to. What assumptions are we making that are holding us back? "I like this person, I don't like that person" -- talk about a Halo Effect! That basic premise shapes everything about our interaction with a person. It could be triggered by appearance, shape, voice, situation, etc. What if we let go of all that and just met the other person in a neutral stance. By letting go of our assumptions, we actually make it possible to hear what the person has to say.

More next time about Using Everything and Seeing More.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


My intention with this blog is to share thoughts, feeling and insight about the place where leading, coaching and living intersect.

Comfort Zones : how can we be comfortable outside our comfort zone? Is that an oxymoron? I don't think so.

If I am anxious about what is coming at me when I'm outside my comfort zone, I am indeed uncomfortable. If I am curious about what is coming at me when I am outside my comfort zone, I'm not uncomfortable in a negative way. I feel uncomfortable in a positive way and that is less threatening.

Work with me on this one.....

I spent the day working on my ski technique with a coach. He asked me to do things on my skis that felt odd and uncomfortable and I willingly put myself into a wobbly stance because I was curious about how my technique could improve as a result of his input. I felt confident that, whatever he was asking me to do, his focus was on improving my skills and helping me become a better skier -- one that is able to handle the bumps and lumps of ski trails. Knowing he wanted me to succeed, I felt we shared a commitment to my learning and transformation as a skier. I experimented with new techniques, saw the improvement, adopted the new moves and got faster. I have more work to do and I know it's up to me to keep up the practice.

In our lives, we have many instances where our comfort zone as evaporated (instantly?) and we stand in a place of learning. That's one way to frame it. Another way to frame it is to say we stand in a place of openness to new input. Whatever comes in, we react. How will we react? What is our pre-disposition -- positive or negative? Whatever it is, we will see what we expect.