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22 Feb

Why is she Funny?–EI and Social Awareness

I was heavy, taller then everyone by 6th grade, misguided by a huge perm, not athletic, or of high aptitude. I figured out that I would get attention and rewards if I made people smile and laugh. When nobody picked me for their kickball team or math quiz bowl, I shrugged it off and practiced humor. When there wasn’t a date to Prom, I wrote a funny column for the school newspaper. And when I entered the 4-H fashion review contest and the written comment said “should try to find a style more flattering to her figure,” I thanked the judge and made her laugh.

I have worked with several people who tell me that they struggle the most with Social Awareness (one of the four EI skills). Social Awareness per Daniel Goleman includes empathy and organizational awareness; the ability to understand other’s feelings and the ability to understand how the organization works politically.

For the individuals who seek me out to talk about Social Awareness, I want to know more about where they got their rewards K-12. We tend to behave as we have been rewarded. Think about your own unique situation. What were you rewarded for in school? Did you get the most attention for your looks, academic ability, or athletic success? Or were your primary rewards the result of more team work and behind the scenes support roles? Everyone’s situation is unique, but we can all learn a lot about our levels of empathy and how we understand an organization’s dynamics by what we had to practice the most growing up.

Clearly all my humor development was a mask for sadness, but my situation forced me to pay attention to others and listen very young. Practice makes Permanent. If you or your employees/team members struggle to excel in Social Awareness, it’s not too late. Learn everything you can and start practicing now. Social Awareness is a measurable piece of your organization’s success!

13 Feb

6 Steps and You’re There!!

There are days when I consume too many LinkedIn articles and Entrepreneur Podcasts. I absorb more motivational quotes, do it today action steps, and rags to millionaire in a year interviews than my mind can even remember when I hit pause or toggle back to my work at hand.

I have noticed that all this input can keep me in a state of evaluating too much. When I’m waiting to speak, or start a training session, I can start ruminating about “8 Stupid Things Speakers Need to Stop Now, 10 Steps Successful Trainers Follow Every Time, How Business People Blow it 9 Times Out of 10,” and the list goes on.

It can slow me down when I’m listening to a client as I may second guess myself and focus on “9 Signs your Consultant isn’t Listening or the 10 Clues your Consultant is Lying.” Do I need to lean in more, repeat their name 15 times in the conversation, pull out one more piece of data, and offer them a book that will change their life? Did they read the same article and wonder why I’m blowing it?

I believe all this easy access self-improvement information can have a negative impact on our everyday relationships, too. How many times have you greeted a colleague in the morning and wondered how to covertly send them the link to “20 Dress Steps to Keep your Job?” Have you smirked at your boss when he or she had no idea that there are “7 Ways to Greet your Employees in the Morning?”

I have learned a lot from the experts and leaders who provide much of this information that I can scroll through, click through, and listen to. I can’t use it, though, to slow me down or judge others and it’s most important that I remember there are “100 ways to Look Up, Disconnect and Live.”

31 Jan

Train the Trainer in Aisle 1

When I stepped into the grocery store yesterday, I was mad at myself for not squeezing my son’s annual ortho appointment in before 2016 ended. I had just picked up the mail and found the bill for about $300 from his January appointment. I knew that I blew that one and I was beating myself up over it.

Next thing I knew, I had inadvertently knocked a box of wine off the shelf in Aisle 1. I got the attention of a very friendly employee (a little shout out to Fareway) who acknowledged the spill and contemplated how we might make this work. I said I would stay by the spill so nobody slipped. It was during this wait that I participated in some “train the trainer.” I identified my negative frustration emotion (self-awareness) and told myself that I would miss out on too much during this grocery trip if I didn’t deal with it appropriately (self-management). I know it may seem silly to you but EI is a skill that requires choice and practice every day.

By letting it go, I could be present in the moment. I chatted with several people as they walked by the spill and I got to know the employee better who was cleaning up the mess. I would have missed out on all of this if I would have just kept playing the “I can’t believe you didn’t take Spencer in 2016 for a $10 co-pay rather than a $300 bill.”

This EI self-awareness and self-management applies to so much in our lives at home and work. How many times do you leave a meeting frustrated with a colleague or your boss? You go back to your desk and attempt to do the next thing on your to do list, but you keep playing the “What a jerk” tape over and over until you’re unfocused and your work is suffering. You take the same tape home to vent to your partner and consume your night. Next time this happens, stop yourself. Identify the emotion, intellectually decide what if anything you can do about the problem, and then manage yourself so that you don’t rob one more minute of your day.

I’m waiting now for some test results (not life threatening) for another son. I’m worried, but I can identify that worry and understand that it’s out of my hands. I don’t want to rob my teenage son from real time with his “Unhip Old Mom.”

14 Jan

It’s O.K. We know “he doesn’t play.”

I have a 15 year old son who started playing basketball for the first time in 8th grade. When the first game rolled around, he barely knew the rules let alone any of the plays. He stuck with it, though, and got some play time since he was still in middle school and there was an “A, B, and C” game. He moved into 9th grade at the high school and thought long and hard about going out for basketball. He knew there would be little if any play time at this level—there’s just one game and the team needs to win.

He did decide to join the team, though, and as expected, he barely ever plays. Although it might be a little frustrating for him, he gets it and isn’t upset or bitter (on most days anyway). We get it, too. We don’t have any complaints and if the coaching was left up to us, we would most likely be playing the same kids with the same will to win!

It’s the bleachers that bring me to this blog. I love to watch the other parents and interact with them. They don’t know what to say since “he doesn’t play,” though. They aren’t sure how we’re taking it, if we have complained to the coach and the administration, or if maybe we simply don’t understand that you need to start this sport when you’re 5 and travel till you drop. They look us over and probably figure that we, too, were poor athletes or at best grew up in a small town where everybody got to play because there were barely enough kids to make the team. Nobody waves at us when we enter the gym to come sit with them or banters with us when they head out for some popcorn. When we work the concessions, they do everything possible to talk about anything but “he doesn’t play.” I feel horrible when I compliment other parents on their son’s success during the game. I see their eyes roll back and their blood pressure go up for what in the world are they going to say after their initial gracious response.

I never see pictures on Facebook of the kid who “doesn’t play.” I should probably lead the charge. If you are the parent of a successful athlete, please know that the “don’t play” parents like you and are happy to visit. Most of us are probably thrilled that our student is active and is getting much needed exercise in this day and age of youth obesity. We still believe that a team activity is the first step to success in the workplace and a busy schedule makes a better schedule when it comes to organization and academic success. I also believe strongly that we learn a whole lot in preparation for life when we sit on the bench and swallow our pride.

All of this said, I’m going to try a new outfit for the next game. Maybe I just need to dress more like a “Winner” Mom!

11 Jan

It’s in the Mail

I love to send cards, notes, letters, and greetings. I understand the value of social media for myself personally and professionally, but when I sit down with a pen in hand, I get to think about the individual who will receive the communication and visit with them for a bit. I get to listen, too, as I must choose my words for the person and think about where they are in life right now. What is filling their plate and taking their precious time? What are they managing mentally, emotionally, and physically? When I’m sending to a friend, I reflect on the special times our paths have crossed. When I’m sending to a professional business prospect, I imagine where our paths will cross in the future.
It gets better, though. I get to put an address and a stamp on this card, note, letter, or greeting. I get to think about the weather in their area and shiver or smile accordingly. I think about the journey my mail will take and the hands and machines that will touch it on the way. It is a trip worth a thousand words. During these travels, I get smiles for free as I think about the unsuspecting recipient going about their life’s routine.
And finally, my card, note, letter, or greeting will arrive at its destination. It might be a mailbox on the house, at the end of the drive, at the end of the lane, or an inbox in the office suite or on the desk. If it lands in the hands of a friend or family member, they will surely sigh and smile but for a moment. If it lands in the hands of a current or future client, they might smile and toss or if my timing is right, they might smile and communicate right back.
Our email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, will keep us up to date and in the know. Our cards, notes, letters, and greetings will be touched and treasured. Send one today!!

05 Dec

Counting Smiles

For the last 18 months, I have had the opportunity to meet with people from all different backgrounds in many different organizations and businesses to work on the stuff that makes or breaks the bottom line—the people stuff. Whether I’m hired for customer service, emotional intelligence, or some executive coaching in professional presence and presentation skills, I’m working to increase awareness and help individuals start practicing skills that build relationships and break down walls (skills that are just as important as the technical skills that got them the job).

When I was in elementary school, I remember watching a motivational speaker and then learning that she didn’t always practice her message—in fact, she sometimes treated people quite poorly I learned. On that day, I told myself that I wouldn’t get in this speaking/training business if I wasn’t willing to work at it and be true to my word.

My daily practice (to stay true to my word) is to “count the smiles.” Whether it’s a plate of cookies I deliver, a card I send in the mail, a joke I tell that works, some self-deprecation, or a moment of lightheartedness, I measure my true business ethics by the number of smiles I help create.

It is difficult to be angry, judgmental, or dismissive when you are smiling and laughing with others. No matter how simple it may be, I hope these smiles make a small difference in mine and other’s ability to listen, learn, and embrace each other.

30 Oct

Who’s the Fairest of them All?

I grew up with the nick names “Fatty Fiddle” from my brother and “Marshmallow” from my P.E. teacher. Two reasons that in second grade I decided that I would never wear shorts or show my legs in public again. Consequently, I rarely donned a swimsuit, skirt, or as promised, a pair of shorts. For years, I have heard all the skin cancer warnings and secretly thought I would escape because I had essentially hidden under the covers through time. Isn’t there a reward for years of declining swimming pool dates and skirt sales because your legs will solicit giggles and glares?
Nope. I’m treating a pre-cancer spot on my face right now with topical chemo because quid pro quo didn’t happen and it’s time to stop suspending disbelief. Just as I thought I might escape the skin cancer fate, I find that many of my clients in businesses and organizations describe similar denial about their customer service, professional presence, and emotional intelligence. These are not skills that we can escape from; they are skills that are critical to any businesses success and must be purposely practiced and valued throughout the organization. Studies show that 58% of our work is related to our level of emotional intelligence—we can’t afford to cover up and hope that our technical skills and IQ (only 42% of our success) will save us individually or save our team.

17 Oct

Clean Up in Aisle 6

I have been working outside the structured workplace for nearly 16 months now. I thoroughly enjoy what I do and I don’t have any regrets, but I honestly miss relationships with colleagues. It is not appropriate to tell a client about your skin biopsy or frustration with your spouse. I don’t ask my client’s opinion on a school driving permit for my 15 year- old or their thoughts on streaming Sunday’s church service.

When I worked with colleagues day in and day out, my grocery shopping was a chore. I couldn’t organize the list any better so that I was in and out in record time. If I saw a friend or colleague in Aisle 1, I would say a quick prayer that I wouldn’t see them again in Aisle 6. I just needed to get those groceries and get out. It has all changed now, though, and I’m pretty sure everybody is saying that prayer with my name on top of the list. I get my cart and scan the produce section for anybody I might know. I don’t care if I vaguely remember them from a committee I served on or if they sent me an email 10 years ago, I am ready to visit. I pick up on all their “ready to go” non-verbal’s, but I convince myself if I ask a few more questions, they will be less annoyed and hang out with me a bit longer. After we part ways, I begin looking for someone else to connect with before I look at my shopping list (It may be blank anyway). When I meet these folks again in Aisle 6, they pretend like they are in the wrong aisle, wave and run, or grab an employee’s assistance to distract me. I envy them and their relationship overload.

I have read just about everything on extroverts and managing your own business. You have to reach out to friends for coffee and lunch dates, stay involved with community activities and social functions, and run your day like you are still in the workplace. They don’t tell you what to do, though, when your own family starts avoiding you in Aisle 6.

08 Sep

Can You Hear Me?

I recently had the opportunity to fill in for a phenomenal speaker who passed away. This speaker had been successful with the organization as the keynote annually for 15 years or more. I had heard him numerous times and he was truly second to none.
I was asked to speak on fairly short notice as there wasn’t time to take bids or get a big name. I was honored to take the responsibility and although I knew that I wouldn’t compare to my predecessor, I wanted to walk off the stage with my head held high knowing that I did the best I could and met the needs of the organization.
I put lots of time into planning what I thought would work for this audience of 4000 to 5000 participants. It wasn’t my usual crowd, so I pushed myself to pull together material and create an experience that would resonate.
On show day, I arrived in the afternoon for a sound check for the evening program. I have always used a lapel mike for larger venues and chose to do so on this day. One of the facilities staff recommended I use a headset, but I responded that I was most comfortable with the lapel mike and if the sound check went o.k., I’d like to stick with familiar equipment. The sound check went well and I think we all felt good about the audio choice.
You know where this is all heading, so I will take you there quicker than you anticipated. When I sat down after my 40-minute presentation, one of the organization members leaned up to my ear and said, “It was very hard to hear.” This was the first I had any idea that 4500 people were frustrated or checked out as they strained to listen. My husband who snuck in (I told him not to come, please) reiterated the audio challenge and even thought about getting me help.
I was so saddened and disappointed by it all. I fully assume the blame. I should have selected the headset, I should have worn the same thing to the sound check as I wore to the program (so I would have the same placement for the battery pack and the microphone), and finally and most importantly, I should have kicked off with my attention getter and then paused to ask the audience “can you hear me?”
So when you speak next time, don’t worry that you will break your stride or annoy your audience if you ask if the sound is good. Your audience guests deserve the best!

01 Jun

Look UP and Wave

I have always believed it’s easier to change our environment than it is to change our mind.  People can’t be forced to show more empathy and compassion for others, but we can engage in behaviors that stimulate this feeling.

We need to look up to greet and wave again.  I have a habit of waving at people when I’m driving, greeting people I pass on the sidewalk or at the store, and at minimum smiling when I cross paths with another human being.

I don’t always feel like it, but I never regret doing it.  I don’t always receive the same gesture in response, but I still do it. We have to connect with others again.  Say what you want about introverts and extroverts, cultural differences, and fear; I believe the risk is worth it and necessary.

Think how we could decrease the number of distracted drivers if we were all looking up anxious to smile and wave and worried we might miss someone.  Think about the check- out line at the grocery store where you probably frown and look down at your phone while you wait—a smile and a kind word to those around you could change a lot of negative behavior (yours first).  What about the bleachers at the sporting events where we hear lots of unkind words about the coach and the other parents? Substitute those conversations for smiles and introductions.

My 14-year-old son begs me to stop waving and speaking to people.  His level of embarrassment goes beyond a teenage phase (although this is a big part of it).  He is an example of something bigger in society.  We have moved away from face to face interaction and value low risk faceless communication, a.k.a., text, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and others.

You don’t have a lot of time to really care about people who aren’t in your family and circle of close friends. I bet, though, you could substitute your next road rage fit with a kind wave while you sit.

Look Up!!!!!!!!