This week’s Saturday Share goes to the blog at Elizabeth Dickinson’s website, Pursue Your Path.
Full disclosure. I have already read Elizabeth’s recently released book, The Concise Coaching Handbook: How to Coach Yourself and Others to Get Business Results. I posted my review on Amazon if you are interested in the topic, well worth the read. I also plan to do some coaching with her over the next few months as I launch my consulting venture. I have really been impressed with her career and accomplishments over the years that I have known her.
Elizabeth writes about many topics of interest to me, such as developing leadership on your team, and the fact that you are your own expert on your life. I really like her premise and her approach. If self-coaching or coaching others is of interest to you as well, I encourage you to check out her work.
I have recently taken on some new challenges, started learning some new things.
Dance! – I made a pledge to myself back in January, took a foundations class, and then I also followed on with another Zumba class. I will do more of this, especially now that my schedule will be more flexible for the next couple of months.
Massage – My massage therapist gave me a 90-minute lesson on how to give a massage to my hubby. I’ve been wanting to learn, and to have a non-sexual way to connect through physical touch. I wanted to learn how to properly do this without giving myself carpal tunnel or hurting my back over the massage table.
Motorcycling – I took an intro class to ‘Cycling and Scootering. I did a lot better than I thought for only a 4-hour class. I am now more motivated to study for my permit and take the longer “Basic Rider Course” sometime in August or September.
What do these three activities have in common? All of the teachers spoke of the practices as building up “muscle memory” over time in order to make certain parts automatic. While learning new skills, we often have to think and focus intensely. This is all new and our minds and bodies need to make the connections necessary to master the skills. Then they take practice, repetition and time in order to build up the muscle memory that allows for less conscious effort, a more fluid and easy feel.
I started considering the muscle memory that drives many of our daily habits. Have you ever gone out to do an errand and ended up driving somewhere automatically even though you did not consciously want to go there? Your mind was somewhere else, but your body knew where you usually go (work, the grocery store, etc).
I thought about the muscle memory of playing the flute (started in middle school) or the saxophone (started in high school). My teacher told me that it was a good thing I started on the flute and then moved to saxophone because the movements are more precise and delicate. Apparently it is more difficult to go the other way. Hours and hours of practice on the flute helped me “convert” the muscle memory of the similar fingerings on the saxophone.
When we embark on a new chapter in our lives, there is no muscle memory yet for how to do our daily work. We need to suspend judgement and be kind to ourselves while we are learning. All of our efforts are part of the feedback loop of mastery, even if they fail, even if we shift too quickly and cut the engine while not allowing enough throttle to create momentum.
There are ways to visualize and help to create muscle memory even more quickly. One motorcycle instructor told us that even practicing our hand and foot motions in the evening for 10 minutes while sitting in a chair watching t.v. could help us master the skill more quickly. The memory is formed not just in our muscles, but with the help of our brain, and this is what world-class athletes do before their routines.
As I visualize my next chapter, I associate feelings of ease and excitement. I see myself learning new things, and having my back, giving myself encouragement if I make mistakes. I build up these muscle memories and know that in time, the practice pays off, and the learning accumulates. Confidence increases, and satisfaction as well.
What kinds of muscle memory do you access regularly?
**Re-posting an edited blog from February, because it is very relevant to the feelings I have as I navigate the final two days of corporate life. Thanks for reading and commenting! **
Recently I started practicing a new mantra, as I began to consider my actions in light of love or fear. This came from some reflection on yesterday’s blog and a conclusion I came to in seeing my work situation in a new way.
I started asking: “How can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?” It became apparent to me, when I realized that in leaving my current position soon, I am not leaving my team. I am showing them what it is to be brave and to take on a new challenge. For months, I worried, anxious about who would “look out” for them when I am gone. But by staying in department that constantly demands more from them, without providing the resources, I am just keeping a broken system intact. It’s like being a brick in the wall. But it may be a wall that needs to come down. Staying there is not an act of love, on a long-term basis.
Acting out of love rather than fear seems to require that we “re-wire” our brain in new ways, because fear is familiar to us. We are used to doing things the way we have habitually learned to do them. Learning a new way requires practice and commitment.
I took a break from my work and headed to the gym for a quick treadmill run, to clear my head and get my endorphins flowing over the lunch hour. I practiced my new mantra: how can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?
What changed: I put my phone away and began looking into people’s eyes, smiling if they met my eyes. I paid attention to my body while I ran, instead of feeding myself mindless distractions with my iPod or phone. I used my run as more of a “breathing meditation” rather than an excuse to check out from my life.
When I got back to my desk, I focused on bringing more love and less fear to each interaction with my coworkers, each email, each phone call. I kept asking myself that question: how can I act with more love in this moment? It radically changed the amount of work I was able to get done, and the purposefulness in which I was able to complete the work.
When my husband returned home, I talked with him about my discovery, and then had a conversation about a topic I had been avoiding. I had not been sure how to talk about it. I was honest about feeling afraid before, and about how that has held me back sometimes. He was very open, and he was hearing me. He did not make me feel ashamed about that. He listened and he supported me. I felt much closer to him than I have in a long time.
It brings tears to my eyes as I write this, because I realize how often I have been acting from fear rather than acting to bring more love to all my interactions. I am extending compassion to myself also, knowing this is conditioned behavior, and it is not a character flaw on my part. I am exceeding grateful to recognize it now, and to be able to start consciously “un-conditioning” that automatic behavior. While it feels familiar, it does not serve me. It does not serve anyone.
When we choose to act to bring more love into our experience, rather than to react out of fear, we radically change the orientation of our lives. We bring new energy into our relationships, and into our spheres of influence. Some people may respond in confusion, as they are not used to this type of interaction. But most are grateful for this approach, and feel our caring.
I will start again in August to use this mantra regularly. I need it as much for myself as for others. I am eager to see what a difference it makes as I embark on a new chapter of my journey.
For the last couple of days I had the privilege to observe a “culture transformation” facilitation 2-day session with a colleague who is a professional consultant. It was an intense but productive couple of days. In my usual fashion, I am still processing internally the lessons I observed about the group and about myself.
This was unlike other sessions I have personally conducted, but many of the issues were similar. My goal was to learn as much as possible, be of help when I could to the facilitator, and consider how I may apply these lessons to my future work.
I realized during the process that I would have to lean into my discomfort, meeting 15 leaders of R&D and business cross-functional partners gathered for this meeting. Only 1 of the leaders was a woman, along with the admin and the HR director, and the rest were men. (With the facilitator and myself, there were 5 women total, less than a third of the room).
The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by it, actually. I pick up on the emotional states of others quite easily, and it felt like my empathy channels were flooded with input. By the end of the day, though I was invited to the happy hour and dinner that followed, I was desperately in need of a break from the action to quiet my mind. Fortunately I had this, about 40 minutes between others leaving the room, and joining them for the informal portion of that day’s events.
It reminded me of how I typically feel after attending one of my own team meetings where I am fully engaged and “on” the whole day. But since Latin America teams rarely re-convene before 7 or 8pm to have dinner, the break in between is typically longer. Usually that has meant I sacrifice sleep, since we return to the hotel around 11 and it takes me an hour or two to calm my jangled nervous system after all the people interaction.
As a morning person, I seldom sleep past 5am, so a 3-day meeting leaves me exhausted and depleted, even if it was a productive event. So I plan for this, and I ensure that before and after these meetings, I have plenty of solitude, writing time, meditation. I go on walks, do yoga, sit with my cat on my lap when possible, and allow for the impressions to seep and filter into consciousness.
Leaning into discomfort is possible because I know myself. I realize it does not indicate anything has gone wrong. These preferences may be hard-wired or habitual, and I am aware of when I must step into it. The observations of interactions between people fascinate me, and this particular group had a few real characters. The “lab” of human interaction is at play, and while it can be challenging, my curiosity typically redeems the discomfort involved.
I typically enjoy interactions 1:1 with people and in small groups, where I feel I am able to focus my sensory “data collection” if you will. I am curious about how my comfort level may evolve over time and with practice. Right now I am allowing for the learning, as challenging as it is, and being patient with my discomfort. It is all part of the growth process, and for that I am grateful.
I received some excellent feedback from a few people who received my draft consulting values “manifesto” so this is actually a revised version of the draft. Thank you to all who commented on the Core Values write-up I posted on Friday. I am refining that as I go to hone in on those particular areas of practice where I can add the most value.
Consulting Values mini-manifesto
Diversity drives innovation. Period. We have been shown this again and again in the research. There are countless examples of this in business, design, education, customer service, engineering, etc. See the book The Medici Effect if you want to learn more about this principle. Diversity can broadly include gender, age, culture, discipline, expertise, interests, skills, strengths, orientation, and many other dimensions. Your team is enhanced by how inclusive you can be about bringing full engagement of your diverse players.
Women are leaders. This is true in families, communities, business, nonprofits, government and all sectors. One problem is that we have widely associated leadership with a lot of “masculine” qualities. We do not always see the value of collaboration, influencing, building genuine connections and flexibility in thinking. I believe that women already have most of these skills already, and they are skills that can be coached and developed. We have undervalued the skills of half our workforce in encouraging women “act like men” in their leadership styles. Instead we must develop confidence and assurance in our own voices and our own ways of getting work done. Leadership is going to look different than the models we have seen. And that is a GOOD thing! We need that now, more than ever.
Teams are made of individuals with far more talent than we typically use or optimize in their current work roles. While that is a challenge, we can build in better ways to tap that talent, help design workplaces and teams that fully utilize our strengths while maximizing the overall productivity of the team. There is an art to doing this, and there are mindsets which allow us to fully utilize talents. When we think someone is too “junior” to have an impact, we miss the freshness in perspective that person can bring to the work. When we think that we or someone else is too “senior” to have something to learn, we sell ourselves short. This principle is based on the “growth mindset” pioneered by Carol Dweck. It is also based on years and years of research I have done in my own workplaces, witnessing growth of so many people, when given the right conditions and encouragement. I aim to help you maximize the wealth you already have, which already exists within your team.
This is intended to describe the values I bring to my consulting work. Of course I am adding more detail to the consulting “program” and practices I intend to offer. I have time to work that out before I actually will start marketing my time and effort in these areas. But it helps me to write and focus in the places where I feel most passionate and committed. I think the above areas describe that well for now.
Cheers & have a great week! As always, I am happy to receive your comments and feedback.
On Thursday I met a colleague for coffee who I have not seen in a while. We have traveled together in Colombia and Chile, and she has been a trusted confidante. She was eager to hear about my next gig. I have been refining my “elevator speech” for my network in the company that are curious enough to ask about what I plan to do.
Many colleagues are surprised I am leaving my current company, as I was labeled “high potential” and typically the company pours a lot of resources into developing their “high po’s” as we call them. But that is actually one reason I am leaving. They want to invest in their top 10-15%. That is supposed to trickle down to everyone else. In an ideal work, I suppose it works. I want to invest in 100%. Or at least in 90% – maybe the bottom 10% do not belong there, that’s up for debate.
So I decided to write up a core values statement so I can explain to friends and colleagues in which area I will consult. I realized in talking with a VP who controls a lot of resources, when I mentioned what I was doing, he had about 4-5 contacts at the company that may be a source of business for me. Ding! A light bulb went on. I am networking the he** out of my contacts in the last 2 weeks while I am still here, and getting feedback on my ideas.
But since you, my faithful readers, have also given me tremendous support and helpful feedback, I thought I’d share the draft here. Below is a short values statement (~50 words) boiled down to the 3 main principles that will form the basis of my practice.
What resonates for you? In what areas would you like more information or clarification?
Give me the good, the bad and the ugly. I want you to ask questions and throw mud! Really!!
–Diversity Drives Innovation.
-Women are natural leaders. We as women must define leadership more broadly. Leadership is coach-able, and we all have the capacity to be better at it.
-Everyone (on a team) is a teacher and a learner. It is best when we have opportunities to serve in both of these roles.
I am working on mini-manifesto of sorts (less than a page, probably 400-600 words) to expand upon these values in a more concrete way. I will post that one on Monday. These will go onto my consulting website when I launch it in September/October, along with a concise mission statement, which is another piece.
Thank you in advance for any questions, feedback or eggs you can throw at it. Truly.
Yesterday I made an exception to my usual no alcohol rule and had a “Pink Killer” Belgian beer which had grapefruit juice and a lovely fruity finish. It was on the lighter side in terms of alcohol content, and I enjoyed it.
This was during a walk around the historic downtown area with two colleagues, one who had arrived a few hours earlier than me on Sunday. He had headed straight out to explore, as it is his first work-paid trip to Europe, and he does not want to miss a minute of the experience.
I used to do more of that, but this time, when I arrived after no sleep on the overnight flight, I treated myself to an short nap and some quiet and solitude during the afternoon my hotel. While I felt a little guilty about not making use of the sight-seeing time, I know it is a necessary part of centering myself for a busy and people-filled week.
I realize now that my choices reflect a feeling of sufficiency instead of scarcity in my beliefs. I do not feel a desperate and grasping sensation of never having this opportunity again. Instead of telling myself that “I’m missing out” I say instead “I am taking care of myself.” That makes a huge difference in the way I show up and honor my needs without guilt or shame.
Granted this was not an automatic process, and involved a little self-coaching when I started feeling bad about not getting out. It was a conscious choice to tell myself a different story, to help take a perspective that is nourishing to me. It takes practice, and requires patience with old patterns. But the more practicing I do, the easier it gets.