The One Thing by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Self-reflection is a critical part of growth. This applies both to our personal lives and our businesses. We must consistently take stock of the things we’re doing, and the impact they’re having on our lives, so that we can adjust as needed. Making regular adjustments helps us to capimagesitalize on the things that are making a positive impact in our lives while allowing us to quickly eradicate those things that hold us back.

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to make changes in our habits, and put actions into place that will make us happier and more successful. To make the shift easier and more likely to succeed, start by choosing one thing you can do to improve your life this year. It may be helpful to make a list of issues, both positive and negative you would like to address first.

Consider the issue that causes you the most stress or unhappiness, or the one that most stands in the way of your productivity. Think of it as the issue that is most likely to make you lose sleep at night.

Once you’ve identified the issue you’ll work on, start brainstorming ways to resolve it. This is generally the most difficult part, since it’s likely that if this issue had an easy resolution, you would have already resolved it.

Involve others in your brainstorming, if appropriate. For example, if the issue is an ongoing problem with your spouse, make an appointment to sit down together and discuss. If it’s a problem at work, talk to others who have an impact on the problem.

In some cases, your issue may not be a negative one, but rather a failure to do something you need to be doing to create a positive impact. For example, if you want to grow your business, you may need to add specific tasks to your routine that help you to attract new clients or increase sales.

Starting with a single issue to resolve can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed about making changes in your life. Once you’ve made strides toward resolving the first issue, you’ll likely feel energized about moving to the next item on your list. This momentum can help you move through the most important issues in your life as you feel ready to tackle these. Before you know it, you’ll see a significant impact in your life as you address the issues holding you back.

Bringing Your “A” Game by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Working in today’s fast paced work environments requires a lot of time and a lot of dedication. Even under the best of circumstances, you’ll likely find yourself devoting more hours and energy to you work than you believed it would require.agame 2

If you’re looking for ways to be more successful and to curb having to put in a ton of extra hours, be sure you’re bringing your “A” game each and every day when you’re there. By being at your best, you can accomplish more in less time, and ensure you’re being the right kind of leader for your team.

 Bringing your “A” game means several different things. Here are four things to consider.

1.   Are you focused on your work? Distractions can significantly reduce the amount of work you get done. In order to accomplish what you need to get done for the day, you must be able to work without interruptions, including those interruptions that you cause yourself. Be certain to minimize distractions so that you can accomplish your most important tasks.

2.   Are you organized? You can’t accomplish your most important tasks if you don’t know what these are. Be certain that you organize your day in such a way that you are aware of what you must get done and that you have the tools you need to get these things done.

3.   Are you mentally prepared? As mentioned above, accomplishing your goals requires focus. It can be difficult to focus, however, on your workday, if there are a lot of personal issues tugging at you. To help you focus at work, it can help to make a list of the personal issues that are weighing on you and then, literally and figuratively, put these aside. Tell yourself exactly when you’ll deal with each issue and follow through. Focusing on your work for a while may actually help you to feel better about your problems or see these in a clearer light. This one takes some practice, but once you can put personal issues aside at work, you’ll see a huge improvement in your productivity.

4.   Are you a positive force? Bringing negativity to the workplace makes you less productive, and brings your team down, too. If you can’t bring your “A” game in terms of attitude, you’re ruining everybody’s day.

Focus on being your best self every day. Doing so will help you to accomplish more and help you feel better about the work you’re doing. Along the way, you just might motivate others to bring their best selves to work, too.

 

Holding Yourself Accountable by Ciindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As leaders, we regularly hold others accountable for their actions and for doing their jobs. In many cases, we find it easier to hold others accountable than ourselves. It’s easy to make excuses about our bad habits or our failure to stay focused. images2

Learning to hold yourself accountable and ensuring you live up to the standards you set for others is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself as a leader. To help ensure you stay true and accountable, begin practicing the following skills.

  • Write down your goals. Know what you’re working toward and when you plan to have achieved it. Monitor your progress regularly and make adjustments when progress isn’t going as planned.
  • Write down your tasks. This is the first step toward holding yourself accountable. Make a list of what you will do either daily or weekly, in order of priority. Work on high priority items first, and then move to lesser priority items. At the end of the day, if you haven’t made it through your list, decide how to handle this issue, either working late to complete the items, or moving them to the next day’s list. Over time, you’ll get a good handle on how much you should get accomplished in a day, and you’ll begin to see patterns emerge regarding what gets in your way of accomplishing your daily or weekly goals.
  • Have an accountability partner. Work with someone who will hold you accountable and you hold them accountable.  Have regular check in calls and document progress.  Work with someone who is comfortable to call you out when you get off track and visa versa.
  • Give yourself incentives to ensure you get work completed or meet goals. You can use positive or negative reinforcement to help you stay accountable. For example, promise yourself you can have a special night out if you complete all your tasks this week. Conversely, you could deny yourself something you normally do because you enjoy it if you don’t meet your weekly goals.

Holding yourself accountable takes discipline. These exercises are designed to help you develop this self-discipline to the point that you don’t even have to consider whether or not you’ll meet the requirements you set for your self. Once you have this self-master, you’ll be well on your way to being the leader you’ve set out to become.

Leveraging Your Strengths by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Ambitious people often spend a great deal of time working on improving their areas of weakness. This is a noble endeavor, and will help you to imagesimprove your skills and become a better leader. But, don’t make the mistake of spending so much time trying to improve in areas where you struggle that you forget to make the most of the areas where you shine. Leveraging the strengths you already possess is just as important as improving areas where you are not as adept. Here are some unique ways that leveraging your strengths can help you and your business.

  1. You can take the most active role in your business where it makes the most sense. Rather than spending a lot of time trying to hone your accounting skills so that you can manage your own books, spend that time using your already powerful sales skills to bring in more business. Then, you’ll have more money to pay an accountant to manage the books.
  2. You can become a leader and mentor. One of the best ways to develop your employees and others in the community is by sharing your skills as a leader and mentor. When you focus on those things you are good at, you are more able to impact and teach others.
  3. You can increase the awareness of your business in your community. Leverage your skills for good, as well as in your business. Volunteer in a community organization or work in your church in an area where you excel. As you meet new people through your volunteer work, not only will you be making a difference in your community, but you will also shining a light on your particular business skills.

As a leader, it is critical to continue to grow and learn new skills. Just remember that you got where you are today because you already possess some pretty impressive abilities. Be proud of these, and use them where they can bring the most benefit to you and to others around you.

Being in the Moment by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Being in the Moment

Being in the moment is a mode where instead of reacting to events and people, we choose how we direct our attention and awareness of them, and respond. This saves time and energy and brings other business benefits.

Getting out of your head

Who has not been caught up by having their buttons pushed and reacting immediately, usually with less than an optimal outcome?  Yes, they would prefer to be more responsive and creative. But reacting is a cycle. You might wonder why you so easily veer into feeling worked up, agitated, and stressed knowing that you would rather feel calm and centered, and focus on constructive action.

 What is “being in the moment” like?mindfulness

Being in the moment is the mode where action can flourish and stress is absent. Creative responses are more likely when we’re in the moment. Authenticity and thinking on one’s feet also come easily from this mode. When we are in the moment we are very powerful because we respond instead of react to challenging situations and people.

 Two Core Skills

Being in the moment is comprised of two overarching skills. The first is awareness, and the second is attention. We are well aware of what is going on around us, but are hardly ever aware of how we process what is going on. A reactive cycle takes us out of the moment, so we’re less effective. Awareness of how we process what is going on is important for leaders and organizations because it saves time and energy.

 Awareness

New, better responses to work, leadership and life arise naturally when we are first aware of what goes on ‘upstairs’. Our ‘doing’ follows our state of being. Once a leader keys in on this awareness, s/he has a powerful mode to use. They reclaim their attention and can now direct it in purely constructive and creative ways. Awareness is a first step because we can control only those things that we are aware of.

 Reactions

Once this awareness is generated, the leader notices that much time and energy is spent reacting to people and situations. A reaction is a conditioned way of processing the world. It is automatic and uncontrolled. When we say ‘he/she really pushed my buttons’ we are describing a reaction. Someone or something happened and we are now thinking in a way that is both uncontrolled and likely to lead to further agitation and stress.

 No Time to Think

Some reactions, like the ones that get us out of harm’s way, are necessary to our survival. You saw a bus careening down the road and you leapt out of the way. Your mind reacted and you did not have time to become agitated or stressed about the bus careening down the road. You did not have time to think, “Oh, this is rather negative.” Or “Why does this always happen to me?” Your focus was simply on action.

Being in this Moment

You were naturally in the moment. The external event was processed quickly enough that you created no blocks to action. Blocks to action happen when we process an external situation or person in a way that causes an internal problem for us. We know when we are turning an event or person into a problem when we take on stress, anger, anxiety or a host of other negative states. For the practical purposes of learning how to be in the moment, we will just call these undesirable states. This is the true problem, as negative reactions waste time and energy.

 Conserve Time and Energy

Unlike the split-second jump out of the way of a bus, there seems to be all sorts of time and energy available in our workdays to create negative reactions. These block action as well as creative responses. They hinder relationships, and slowly turn promising people into puddles of anxiety.

 To read more:  http://goo.gl/lDf4bK

What Did You Say? I Wasn’t Listening by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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What did you say, I wasn’t listening?

Most people get distracted from time to time while listening to each other.  This is normal.  Unfortunately not listening effectively can cost employees and employers time and money.  There are many advantages to learn to master the skill so listening.listening posts

Enhanced Learning

By being a great listener an employee can become more capable and competent.  The more information an employee can take away from meetings, conversations and training sessions, the more knowledgeable they become.  Active listening takes practice and it is well worth the effort.  Good listeners can execute on instructions with little or no follow up.  They are also less likely to make mistakes based on misunderstood instruction or information.

Deepens Conversations

When employees listen effectively, particularly when they listen to the non verbal language as well as the spoken word, it can reduce the risk of inter-personal conflicts. By listening and clarifying for understanding will go a long way to prevent misunderstanding.  It is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone. Actively listening to each other can create a culture of respect.

Can Save Time and Money

When employees have clear communication and actively listen to one another, they can reduce the number of errors due to misunderstandings.  This helps promote “doing it right the first time.”  Time is money and when errors are avoided due to good listening and communication, the company saves both time and money. It can also reduce the stress experienced when employees have to go back and correct their errors. When teams have a culture where the employees listen to each other, problems can be detected and solved much more quickly.

Can Build Trust, Rapport and Respect

As a leader it is important to be an active listener.  This communicates that you care and have respect for the employees and those on your executive team.  This can go a long way to enhance employee engagement and motivation.  A leader who knows how to listen effectively is able to capture important information that will help prevent errors.

Five Tips on How to Actively Listen

 

  1. Mentally prepare  – to mentally prepare, clear your mind of other thoughts and focus on the conversation you are having.  Decide to pay attention and block any internal dialogue that comes up.  Remove any distractions or move to a place where there a no or minimal distractions.  Keep an open mind and listen to everything before forming any opinions.
  2. Pay Attention – not only pay attention to the words that are spoken also observe body language.  Make eye contact, listen with empathy and make sure your body language communicates that you are open (ie no crossed arms). 
  3. Do not interrupt.  Listen until speaker is completed and avoid adding comments along the way.
  4. Provide feedback or ask questions for clarification.  Acknowledge the speaker with non verbal clues that you are listening.  Smiling, nodding or other affirmative gestures will let the speaker know you are listening. Paraphrasing or repeating what the speak said will also indicate you have listened.
  5. Repeat steps one through four until you are both satisfied that the communication has been effective.

Communication and Leadership from the Top by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Communication and Leadership from the Top by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

I was reviewing the statistics from the Athena Alliance blogtalk radio show and noticed that the shows that had the most listens were those that had to do with communication and leadership. I have captured some of the key points from these shows in this week’s blog.leadershipandcommunication

Often leadership teams consist of between 7 – 9 executives, depending on the size of the organization.  One thing is very clear, it the attitudes and actions of this team that can impact the overall culture and performance of an organization.  There is often a common thread with people at the top, they are very similar in nature.  Qualities such as driven, outcome focused and competitive are what contributed to their success. There is a challenge with teams when the top people are too much alike.  They might be missing some important components such as creativity, heart or imagination.

The most successful teams have members who operate at a level of personal awareness.  They who they are and what their triggers are.  Awareness is key.  In order to build a high functioning team, it needs to be built on a strong foundation of trust.  Without trust nothing else works.  Leaders need to clearly define what trust looks like for their team and what are values they will living by.

Clear honest and open communication is paramount to success.  If there is conflict with the members of the senior team, it will be reflected throughout the rest of the company.  Having a solid foundation of trust will allow the members to challenge each other’s perspective with no negative impact on the culture or results. 

They big takeaway for me from reviewing these shows is the importance in knowing yourself and what drives you.  Knowing whether you lead through people, vision, drive or process will help you create a team to compliment your strengths.  No leader can be all things, and trying to be all things can only lead to stress.  We often hear the phrase “play to your strengths.”  Powerful teams have a balance of personality, preferences and strengths.

Another challenge a leadership team can face is when the members are operating with their departmental goals as top priority.  Often a shift has to take place to operate with the focus on the overall organizational goals.

Over the years leadership has changed; it used to be a top down model, then it moved to a flatter structure to now it is almost circular – where various departments and customers are included.  Having the four generations in the workplace and more social media connections has changed the corporate landscape for sure.  It offers new and exciting opportunities as well as challenges, but one this is the same: building trust in communication and leaders is timeless.

 

Self Leadership (Know Thyself)

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“Self Leadership” By Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

I have written about the subject of self leadership in previous blogs and I think it is an area whselfleadership2ere we all need reminders from time to time.  What I am referring to by self leadership is to know yourself (your areas of strengths and also the areas where you need additional support) so you can put structures in place to help when you get off track.

So much of what we do is habitual and unconscious and when we want to make positive changes we can be challenged if we are not aware of the choices we are making.  Have you ever had the experience where you have done or said something only to question yourself later “what was that all about?”  I know I have and it becomes a nuisance when it happens repeatedly.

In all of my training programs we spend time looking at our choices. My philosophy on this is that we only have two choices: we can choose reasons or results.  Participants will often push back and say they have good reasons for not meeting their objectives.  I challenge them to look closer and when they do they often agree they are excuses, not real reasons.

Over twenty years ago I attended a workshop led by Jack Canfield and I can remember a phrase he used “if it is to be, it is up to me.” Simple phrase, lasting impact.  To this day I remember that saying and it motivates me to keep taking the actions I know to do so I can achieve the results I want in my life.

Here are five tips to help develop more self leadership:

1)    Know who you are and take full responsibility for your life.  This includes how our think, speak as well as how you ask.  Be a role model for others.

2)    Clarity – be clear about what you want to accomplish and how you will spend your time. Focus on the activities that align with your values.  Develop the confidence to say “no” when the request doesn’t serve you.

3)    Live with integrity and authenticity.  Say what you’ll do and do what you say not only helps build self esteem and self leadership, it gains respect from others.

4)    Manage your emotions and exercise empathy.  I love the Buddhist’s saying “This too shall pass.”  When we have developed powerful self leadership skills we are able to manage our emotions appropriately and at the same time have empathy for what others may be going through.

5)    Develop the grace of gratitude. Be thankful for what you have accomplished and you will radiate self confidence and experience higher levels of self esteem.

I wish I could say I am perfect at being my powerful self, but I can’t.  I am a work in progress.  I have come a long way and feel very grateful for what I have accomplished. I get up excited each day for what the day will bring!  I know my success will be directly in alignment with the choices I make and I will continue to check in with myself to make sure I am getting the results I want.

What about you?  What do you want Reasons or Results?

A New Year – New Goals or New Excuses?

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A New Year – New Goals or New Excuses?

It is time to take stock on how you performed in the past 12 months.  How did you do?

Often people set goals every January with the very best intentions of achieving them. We have all learned over the years the importance of writing our goals down, having clear outcomes and setting milestones to help us step by step to success.

 So what happens?  Often a strong start then nothing!

smart goals - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-basedHaving written goals is only part of the equation.  One of the most important elements of setting powerful goals is to tie them to your values and get connected to why you want to achieve the goal in the first place.  By taking the time to ask yourself questions like: “Why is this important?” “What difference with this make?” will give you the fuel you need when the going gets tough.

And the going will get tough at times, especially if it is something that takes you out of your comfort zone.

SMART goals have been taught to leaders, managers and employees for many years and while they are somewhat effective, there are other components that go a long way to help keep you on track.  Listed below are a few questions to help to ensure success.

Ask yourself:

Do the results I will achieve once I achieve my goal energize me?

How passionate am I to achieve my goal?

How personally committed to my results?

Is my intention clear?

Will I be in integrity with my commitments? (say what I will do and do what I say)

What structure have I put in place to support me? (a way to measure milestones)

What is the opportunity for growth?  What difference will that make in my life?

Do I have an unstoppable attitude?  How do I know?

How do I intend to track my program?

Have I created a step by step action plan?

Who can support me in achieving my goal?

What are any possible obstacles?  What can I put in place to be sure they don’t stop me?

At the end of the day there is only two things you can have – Reasons or Results.  You can have the results you set out to achieve or the reasons why you didn’t achieve them.  It is really about self leadership.

You choose.

Often the smallest steps forward can make a huge difference.  If you think about a horse race, the winner wins by a nose, or in the Olympics it can be a few seconds that makes all the difference.

What little step can you talk today to move you closer to your goal?

In December 2013, what do you want to look back on?  A year of results or reasons?  I suspect you want results!!!