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Can you help me with my homework?

October 3rd, 2018

(I know you just got a blog from me yesterday, I hope this post won’t be bothersome.)

3 months ago, 2 colleagues invited me to take an online workshop they’d design. Near the end of the workshop, Everyone A Leader, we were asked to create and then share with other participants a statement about what we cared about the most.  The workshop ended, I put the file away and moved on.

One week ago, Linda and Barbara (workshop leaders) reminded me: “On our follow-up call next week, we’d like to hear what’s been happening when you’ve been sharing your statement with others.”

Yikes!  I had not shared my statement with anyone. Then, you, dear readers, came to mind.

Here is what I care about: “I am a commitment to co-creating communities of vitality, freedom & contribution.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even sharing this with you now brings it back to life for me.

What would your statement say? What if you shared it with your manager or your team? Of course, if you want to share it with me, it would be my honor. I’m at camille@wipcoaching.com.

Thanks for helping me do my homework.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. ~ Camille

 

 

Express yourself

October 2nd, 2018

Work is one of the ways we express ourselves in life.

My thanks to Leslie Tucker of Roundstone International, Inc. I’ve worked with Leslie and always been amazed at her insights and brilliance.  Most of this blog is directly from her recent posting; I added the action steps. Watch her video about the opportunity that work is to transform yourself, then come back and read on.

Like life, work has ups, downs, joys, disappointments, surprises, setbacks – an unpredictable range of experiences.

Think about how you want your work life to be.

  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What do you want to contribute?
  • How do you want to be treated?
  • How do you want to treat others?
  • What dreams and hopes do you intend your work life to fulfill?

Answering these questions allows each of us to be clear about what we are committed to, what matters, what we value and what guides our actions.

Over the course of our work life, the answers to these questions may change because our perspectives or situations change. That’s why it’s important to revisit, refresh and renew your answers. It’s especially important to renew our answers when we reach key milestones in our work life, for instance, when we’re promoted, change jobs, or retire.

Take stock

Once you have answered these questions – of course you can add other questions. This is about your satisfaction and fulfillment! – the next step is to assess your answers.  Are you experiencing your answers at work? Frequently? Congratulations! Sometimes? Pretty good and needs some attention. Rarely? Probably not as satisfying as you’d like. Something is definitely missing and needed.

Pick 1 area you assessed as “sometimes” and invent 10 actions you could take to raise it to frequently.  Choose one action and take it this next week. Experiment. See what happens.   In another week, select one of the “rarelys” and do the same. Often the awareness that something’s missing allows you to increase its presence. Other times, concerted effort is required.

 Where are you headed? Your future is in your hands.

Why do this? Because you have a unique contribution to make and everyone, including you, will miss out if you aren’t making it. Use your answers to create the future that you are committed to. Why not?

Listening beyond the “snap”

September 4th, 2018

It happened last week.  On my way to a meeting, I discovered I was driving without my license. My knee-jerk reactions: stomach drops, hands clench the wheel, eyes dart looking for the coppers.  My thoughts: Do I have time to go get it?  I forgot my cell, too. What if my client calls me along the way? What if I get in an accident? I can’t afford a ticket!  Stupid! What else did I forget? Some professional I am!

The Snap

All that happens in a snap!  No choice, all reaction. Something happens (fact: no license) and the “stories about” the fact (interpretations, judgments, opinions) flood in without effort.

The interpretations flood in without effort, but not without consequences.  If we confuse the interpretations with the facts, if we act as if the interpretations are the facts, unintended consequences occur.  Consequences that are the opposite of what I’m committed to, like berating myself to the point where I stop paying attention to driving safely, like second-guessing my preparation (what else did I forget?), listening only to my internal conversation and not being present to the actual conversation in the meeting. Result: rampant ineffectiveness.

We are making interpretations all the time. That’s how we humans are wired. Interpretations are valid as interpretations — they are not facts. The question is:  Are the interpretations we are making forwarding our commitments or keeping us stuck in the past and keeping us disconnected from each other?

The Recovery

Relating to an interpretation as a fact – and, therefore,  indisputable – often occurs when there’s a disagreement. Of course, this can also happen when there isn’t a dispute, but it’s especially important to be able to separate facts and interpretations when there’s a conflict, whether the conflict is between 2 people or within yourself.

Fact Interpretation
Observable Opinions / Beliefs
Specific (actual words: “He said x, she said y.”) Judgments
Indisputable Assumptions
Physical / Quantifiable (measurable) Reasons / Excuses

To separate fact from interpretation and recover your ability to be present and effective, try these steps. (It often helps to do this with a partner.)

  • Describe/write down the conflict in 2-3 paragraphs.
  • Underline the facts, circle the interpretations.
  • Write down the commitment that makes this conflict a conflict. *This is a critical step as it creates a “consciously generated” context/frame for the conversation, and puts aside the unconscious, “default” context of right/wrong/blame.
  • From the perspective of the commitment, what’s missing? What’s needed?
  • What action might you take forward the commitment? What action will you take?

Develop the skill of distinguishing fact from interpretation and you’ll spend less time wondering where the coppers are.

Go inward to go onward.

~ Camille

PS: On the light side…

Bob Smith is on his deathbed and knows the end is near. His nurse, his wife, his daughter and 2 sons, are with him. He asks for 2 witnesses to be present and a camcorder to record his last wishes. When all is ready he begins to speak: “Bernie, my son,I want you to take the Mayfair houses. Sybil, my daughter, you take the apartments over in the east end. Jamie, my son, I want you to take the offices over in the City Centre. Sarah, my dear wife, please take all the residential buildings on the banks of the river.”  The nurse and witnesses are blown away; they did not realize his extensive holdings. As Bob slips away, the nurse says, “Mrs. Smith, your husband must have been such a hard-working man to have accumulated all this property.”  The wife replies, “He had a paper route.”

Preview (opens in a new window)

WYSIWYG: Who is the You?

July 6th, 2018

When someone says “What You See Is What You Get”, they are saying “I’m being upfront and open.”  As they are proclaiming being transparent, they are also say it’s up to you to believe them or not.

Surprise!It’s you!

While no truer words were every spoken, I think the profoundness (and actuality) of the phrase WYSISWG is often missed. We think it’s about the speaker, when, upon closer examination, it’s about the listener. While the speaker is referring to their own openness, ironically, the “you” in the phrase is not referring to the speaker, but to the listener.  The listener is the you in WYSISWG . The listener, not the speaker, is the one who determines how the speaker is seen.

If the listener interprets what’s being said as arrogance, righteousness, untrustworthiness, then that’s what the listener (the “you”) gets. If the listener interprets kindness and vulnerability, that’s what the listener gets, that’s how the speaker shows up. What the listener interprets is what the listener gets. Who the speaker is being, at least in terms of how they are perceived by the listener, is determined by the listener.

Power of the listener

What is so important about understanding the perception and power of the listener?  It matters if you are committed to creating relationships which can achieve big goals, which can rebound quickly when things go array, which can align, collaborate and leverage opportunities.

Just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, openness, reliability and trustworthiness are in the ear (perception) of the listener.  It’s not what is said, it’s about what is heard. What’s heard depends on what the listener is listening to.  Is their internal conversation telling them that they should not agree with you, no matter what you say? Is their internal conversation telling them “be careful, be wary”? Do they even know they are listening to an internal conversation that might be limiting how they listen to you?

To influence the listener

If we recognize the power of what’s heard by the listener, then, when we speak, our attention will be on  how our words land on the listener.  To shift our attention from what we say to how our words are heard, here are some essential elements:

  • Be clear about your intended outcome for the conversation. (If it is to “be right; put them in their place”, don’t even open your mouth.)
  • Share the outcome you desire and ask what they hear. Ask if they can support the outcome being realized. If not, dialogue to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.
  • During the conversation, check in with each other periodically. Ask what’s been heard and understood. Ask to learn, not to debate. Share what you are understanding, learning.
  • End by summarizing any commitments and next steps.

Even if you are sure you already conduct conversations in this manner, ask people if that’s their experiencing. Knowing their perception is worth its weight in gold in your goal to influence them.

Onward, with ears and hearts ready to listen!

Camille

Books can’t give you experience

May 10th, 2018

I adore books. My shelves are filled with titles that promise insights about leadership, coaching, human dynamics, strategy, compassion, values.  After madly highlighting these work-related books in my effort to absorb their wisdom (and thus become wiser myself), I take a break and read fiction.  As it often happens in these non-work readings, the Ah-Ha still leaps from the page.

An amazing Ah-Ha came from The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. The main character, Perdu, is a “literary apothecary who, from this floating bookstore in a barge, prescribes novels for the hardships of life. When asked by a customer, ‘Which book is your salvation in this evil world’, he remarks: “Books can do many things, but not everything. We have to live the important things, not read them.”

Regarding the hardship that the bookseller’s literary pill was to address, I’d add this to the prescription: The way to get through a hardship is to literally go through it.  To go through it means to face it fully, to experience your truth about the hurt or shame or feelings of failure and to let yourself experience them all. To go though it from one side, though the core, and out the other side. Experiencing them means letting the emotions run, letting them play out. Don’t add agreement to them, don’t tamp them down. Let the thoughts and feelings wash through your system and out.

We learn from our experiences, not from our theories.  It is in the experience of the hardship, the living through it, that we discover what matters to us and where we forge our core values and principles, where we forge who we are inside.   The same is true of joys and delights, though it’s interesting that we often seem to learn less from the easier times.  I’m still looking for a book to help me understand that phenomenon.

Leader: Are you a Dropper-Offer or Developer?

April 29th, 2018

We ask others to do things for us all the time – things we don’t want to do, things we don’t have the time to do, and things we couldn’t do even if we had the time.  We drop our suits at the dry cleaners, our car at the garage, and our kids at school.  These “drop-off” relationships, in a “drop-off” setting, produce appropriate, predictable results and are useful and needed. If the “drop-off” relationships creep into the work environment, they can severely limit collaboration, information sharing, trust and results.  And no one wants that.

Leaders committed to creating a culture of engagement generated by everyone do so by being effective delegators.  Being an effective delegator means having transformational relationships that create opportunities for people to grow.

TransACTional relationships     Our interactions with the barista, the mechanic, the shop owner are transactional. They might be defined as conversations of exchange: “Hello, Barista, latte, please. Thank you.”  The primary focus of a transactional relationship is the performance of a task, not a relationship with the task-doer. Both parties have little interest or need to build a deeper relationship.  Collaboration, innovation, and deep trust are not required. When a transactional task is completed so is the relationship, at least until the next time the task is initiated.  There’s nothing wrong with transactional relationships. They are useful, needed and entirely appropriate in the right setting (context).

TransFORMational relationships

Transformation is a dramatic change in form or appearance – a metamorphosis. Think caterpillar to butterfly. One moment it crawls, the next it flies. The primary focus of a transformational relationship is on the bigger picture and development of the relationship over time. The task is important, but it does not over-shadow the relationship.  Developing the relationship creates the capability to produce breakthrough, extraordinary results.

Qualities that are not required in a transactional relationship — collaboration, deep trust, alignment, adaptability, honest conflict — are essential in a transformational relationship.  Now let’s connect these dots to delegation.

Dropping-off is NOT delegating

“To commit powers to another as an agent to carry out powers and function.”  The “to commit powers to” is the portion that distinguishes dropping-off from delegating. To see the power and possibility of authentic, development-focused delegation, I make two distinctions:

  • The people to whom we’re dropping off already have the skill to perform the specific task.
  • A person can’t be delegated the accountabilities of the role they already hold.

Both parties develop.

Delegation is an intentional, conscious act of giving someone the power and support to do something that they are not already responsible for. It’s easy to see the opportunity for the person receiving the delegation. But consider this: Delegation is a developmental opportunity for the delegator, too.

To effectively delegate, a person has to be untethered by the conversations that often limit delegation and thus development:  It’s easier for me to do it.  It takes too long to explain what I want. I don’t think they’ll do it right. I’ll have to do it over anyway.  Clearly, these views promote protecting the status quo and fly in the face of an adaptive, collaborative work environment.

6 Steps for Effective Delegation

Below, I’ve expanded Susan M. Heathfield’s steps for effective delegation.

  1. Be clear on your commitment to create a developmental process.
  2. Share your commitment. Tell the person why you chose them, what development opportunities you see; ask them what opportunities they see.
  3. Give them the whole task. If you can’t give them the whole task, give them the whole picture so they can see how their part contributes to the whole.
  4. Create a structure for success:  Specify what success looks like. If there’s a “how to” do something that is relevant, tell them. Establish what you need to know and by when. Offer support. Ask what support they need; provide it. Be available.
  5. At the end of the delegation: Debrief what was learned by both parties. Acknowledge effort; identify results; identify what worked and what didn’t.

Effective delegation requires more time than dropping-off with, at the foundation, a commitment to the person’s success.  In a phrase, effective delegation is a leadership move.  Your move.

These times are our times

January 12th, 2018

I’ve been trying to write a super-duper, kick-off-the-year message that would inspire you in your quest to make your unique contribution and be your best self at work and at home. I’ve been coming up blank.  Writing something about the January-ness of it all – a new beginning, out with the old/in with the new, turn over a new leaf – seemed slightly off and out of sync with what we are dealing with personally, professionally, socially and even politically.  Maybe that feeling is just mine … read on and see what you think.

Close, but …

To crack my writer’s block, I rifled through multiple stacks of clippings around my desk for something that would spark my “this is worth talking about” criteria.  When I came across an HBR article about VUCA, a managerial acronym meaning volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, I felt close to what I was seeking, but not quite “it.”  I pawed through another stack and then I found it.

The ‘it’ is a message from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an internationally recognized scholar, award-winning poet and author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.   Her message, entitled “Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times”, invites us, in a most compelling way, to recognize we are ready for these times and not to lose hope.

Choose:  S  or  s

As you read the letter (link below), please listen from your best Self (capital “S”), not your little self (small “s”).  The Self is the one who is self-aware, adaptive, always learning and willing to be the author of your experience.  The little self is one who is righteous, knows it all already and generally feels victimized.  If your little self shouts “Don’t read the letter! You’re not an activist!”— hear the warning as a signal you’re about to empower your best Self.  Of course, you get to choose.  Click here to read the letter. (My thanks to Nona Gandelman, Maven Productions, for curating Estes’ works.)

It is up to each of us to push our great, unique ship out from the harbor and create a fleet of possibility for all of us.

Onward, out to sea …

Camille

When our self-talk comes out of another’s mouth

September 9th, 2017

Channel surfing on Sunday, I stumbled upon the show “Off Camera with Sam Jones”.  Off Camera is hosted by director/photographer Sam Jones who created the show out of his passion for the long form conversational interview, and as a way to share his conversations with a myriad of artists, actors, musicians, directors, skateboarders, photographers, and writers that pique his interest.

In the dark

I’d never heard of Sam Jones, his show or knew of the interviewee Mike White’s career (film writer, director, actor: School of Rock, The Good Girl, Orange County, Nacho Libre, Enlightened).

Mike White’s communication style drove me batty.  Within 1 minute, I desperately wanted to keep surfing. Mike didn’t complete sentences and trampolined from thought to thought.  I was batty for the entire hour of the show.  The vulnerability and unpretentiousness with which he revealed his concerns, uncertainty, and dreams grabbed me and was worth fighting to listen.

In the light

While I didn’t know him, and had to fight off my communication preferences to listen to him, what he was talking about was something I not only knew about but make it my business to understand. He shared the conversations that come from the universal human being paradigm — the conversations that lurk inside each of us and shout fears, dilemmas, doubts, and desires 24/7.

In his stories, I heard my self-talk. His insights about “comparison anxiety” rang especially true for me.  When you watch or listen, and I really hope you do, I think you’ll hear yourself, too, and reaffirm that you’re not “the only one” with this nagging conversation. (BTW, Sam Jones, the interviewer is so skillful.)

When we hear our internal conversation — the ones we think are ours alone — come from the mouths of others, the opportunity is to use what we hear to connect deeply, person-to-person. That connection can help us  generate compassion for ourselves and others. That connection builds trust and relationships, the fundamental elements that we  need to resolve dilemmas and put doubts on the shelf.

Thanks for listening.

 

Lions and Tigers and Liars, Oh My!

July 30th, 2017

We’ve been lying as long as we’ve had language. 

Research shows that a child’s ability to bend the truth is a developmental milestone, much like walking and talking.  While our noses don’t grow like Pinocchio’s when we lie, research shows a person’s nose can “heat up” when they lie.

Liars populate our literature (Gatsby; Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones), movies (Liar Liar, Fargo, Marisa Coulter in The Golden Compass; Catch Me If You Can) and TV shows (Claire Underwood in House of Cards; Pretty Little Liars, Lie to Me).  We may say we don’t like them, even that their behavior turns our stomachs, but our reading and viewing habits say we can’t get enough of them.

 

While we could ask a series of esoteric, rabbit-hole-diving questions about the phenomenon of lying – Is not telling the whole truth the same as telling a lie?  Is a statement we’d classify as a little white lie ok, while a statement that perpetuates a financial scam despicable?.  I’d rather take a look at our own behavior. Why? Because we can do something about our behavior.

“The liar’s punishment is, not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”  George Bernard Shaw

What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between these 2 statements:  “You lied about X.”  “You are a liar.”  “You lied about X”  focuses on a particular, discrete event or action.  “You are a liar” assigns a characteristic to your entire being, to the core of you.

What we say

Let’s say I was late to your meeting and, when I arrived, I said, “I’m late because of heavy traffic and construction. I apologize.”  When I know a more truthful statement would be, “I left the house later than I knew I should have to be on time. I apologize.”   Assigning the reason for my lateness to the traffic may be the social norm, but the “I left late” statement says I hold myself responsible and not the external circumstance. Locating the responsibility for the outcome in my actions rather than in the circumstances does two things:  (1) It gives me the power to produce a different outcome next time and (2) it speaks to my commitment to be responsible.

“She put the lie in my mouth.” – Irish proverb  (When someone offers you a reason for something you did/didn’t do and asks if that’s the reason and you say “yes”, even though what the person offered you isn’t the real reason, it’s a lie. Ex., A person’s face is bruised from a nose job and another person says: Were you in an accident? And the bruised person says, “Yes.”)

What others hear

Consider each of the two statements in the scenario above. How would your experience of me be different? Which one might might build trust between us? How might “I left late” create an opening for you to support me in the future?  What might be different in how you listen to what I say in the meeting?

Be scared and speak

Telling your truth – not “the” truth – is a moment-by-moment choice.  The choice is to have what you say and how you listen represent who you want to be in the moment – and the moment is all we have. Telling your truth, even when you’re scared of the repercussions from others, or the potential disruption of your own identity, is a way to reduce the hold the imaginary fears (the lions and tigers) have on us. That is a worthy outcome.

All lies aren’t the same. We lie for the greater good. We lie because the truth wouldn’t serve the greater good. It is for us to make the judgment call and live with the consequences of our judgment. I have lied in the past, and I will likely lie in the future.  I’m not boasting about my future lies. I’m being honest and aware of my humanity.   That awareness coupled with our commitment to be trustworthy serves our development to be truthful and trust worthy more than anything else.

Bring the Redwoods Indoors

June 20th, 2017

One of the many benefits of living in the SF Bay Area is that I’m nearby the ocean, the mountains and all that’s in-between. One of the amazing in-betweens is the magnificent redwood.  Learning about them might inspire you to bring their magnificence into your team.

  Foundation:  Root Systems   You would think that a 350 foot-tall tree would need deep roots – not so for redwoods. Their roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep, extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. Redwoods thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together, giving them tremendous strength against the forces of nature.  They can withstand high winds and raging floods.  Their intermingling root systems help them remain upright for millennia.
  Diversity:  Differences needed    Because these trees are so tall, the treetop needles are exposed to more dry heat than the needles of branches in the dense canopy below. To compensate for this, redwoods grow treetop needles with tight spikes that conserve moisture, due to little evaporative surface. The lower branches, on the other hand, produce flat needles in order to catch additional light through the thick canopy of branches. (If you research these needle differences, you’ll see that the lower needles are called “senile”. No kidding.)
  Sustainability: Surviving challenges

Fire is the quick destroyer of forests. Because redwoods have an asbestos-like bark that contains tannin and grows to at least one foot in thickness, fire seldom is able to kill these trees.  There is a lot of water contained in the wood itself, and pitch, which is very flammable, is not contained in the tree.

  Renewal: Regeneration   One of the keys to the survival of the redwood is its regenerative abilities. One of the regenerative capabilities of the redwood involves the burl, a lumpy outgrowth from the tree’s trunk.  A burl, composed of dormant redwood stems, grows when a redwood is cut, damaged, or injured, or diseased. Saplings may sprout from these burls.

Foundation: Relationships   

Leaders and teams alike often have their attention focused on the grand results desired and forget to ensure a healthy foundation for results:  authentic relationships.   Leaders committed to people first, then product, strengthen the team’s “root system” with skills to challenge the status quo, raise issues before they become serious problems, acknowledge mistakes, create trust and rebuild trust when it is broken.  The breadth and depth of their relationships create a foundation that can withstand the swirling winds of change that are the new normal of business.

Diversity:  Differences needed   

Any system involves linkages and interactions between its components.  The more the interactions are in alignment, the less friction and wasted energy. Understanding the diversity of talents, skills and motivations needed for the organization to perform well leads to creating the best person-to-role fit.  Test this out in your own experience:  Are the career goals and life aspirations you had as a 20-year-old the same as you have today?

Sustainability: Surviving challenges

A burning platform is a term that seeped into organizational leadership conversations that describes crises that are either natural or engineered to force change. (The story about the 1988 burning oil-drilling platform in coast of Scotland) . An engineered (invented) burning platform implicitly refers to the active use of panic and fear to bring about change in an organization.  (“The plant is going to close in 4 months unless we hit targets of   …”)

When relationships, the foundation for results, are aligned and committed to achieving shared commitments, engineered burning platforms are not needed to bring about change. In root-strong organizations, leaders at all levels can share challenges openly and honestly and tackle them together.

Renewal: Regeneration

When an organization generates a strong, resilient foundation of relationships, the challenges it experiences – key leaders retiring, continual competition, reputational disasters from IT hacks stealing customer information – are greeted from a context of partnership and used to move toward the desired future, not abandon it.  When the foundation of relationships is broad and deep, new possibilities can sprout from the burls of setbacks.

Isn’t it time to bring the redwoods indoors to your organization?

 

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