Against the Tide

againgst the tide, breaking habitual patterns

Against the Tide

By Robin Lee Kennedy

againgst the tide, breaking habitual patternsHave you ever been caught in a strong current?  You’re happily going along and suddenly are pulled off course – in a direction you don’t want to go.  Initially you’re unconcerned – after all you’re a strong swimmer.  You swim faster – kick harder.  As you see yourself drifting further from shore, panic sets in.  You start to focus on your fatigue.  You notice the heaviness in your arms.  Your kicking becomes frantic as you realize that you might not make it.  Fear overwhelms you.  Swimming furiously against the current is exhausting – images of sinking down beneath the surface encompass you.  You begin to think about your family, and how unhappy they’ll be without you.  Saddened by the image, fatigue overwhelms you.  It would be so much easier just to let go – to accept the terrible reality of your circumstances.


The Power of Your Thoughts!

Just when you feel like giving up, a spark ignites inside you.  You choose more positive, empowering thoughts.  You muster the courage; see yourself on the beach – now miles away.  Determination and belief drive you and – before you know it – you’re standing on that beach.  You can hardly believe that you made it.  It seems surreal.  Wow!  The power of your thoughts!

You’re probably aware of, and at some point have even experienced, the power your thoughts have to change your life.  How being clearly aware of your choices, staying true to who you are, and being accountable to yourself can empower you to reach your goals.  In my case, growing up with an abusive stepfather and a mother who often ‘took to her bed’ to escape him, I was determined to show the world who I was and what I had to offer.

Although we seemed to have plenty of money, my stepfather, Ivan, wouldn’t buy me school clothes.  Each fall when all of my friends had new stuff, I trooped in wearing hand-me-downs.  Ivan said that if I wanted something more, it was up to me to earn the money, but…good luck.  That was all I needed to hear to go against the tide – a suggestion that I couldn’t do it!  I just needed to figure out how.

We had property with a big river steps from the house.  Of course!  I would learn how to fish and sell my catch to the local market.  Fortunately, I did have a fishing pole, a Christmas gift from my Grandmother.  I had the tools and was in the perfect location.  But, I had to convince myself, and everyone else, that I could do this.  I marched into the fish market to share my intentions and negotiate a deal.  The local fishermen who were dropping off their catch chuckled at my announcement.  All but one.  Charlie, the father of a schoolmate, did not.  He had heard about the way Ivan treated me.  Instead of snickering along with his peers, Charlie was interested in my plan.  Proudly, I told him how I was going to make it happen.  First, I was going to focus on flounder because they were running and plentiful.  Instead of undercutting the price, I was going to offer some “free” services to get on the good side of the fish market owner.  Next, I would buy a boat with the money I earned so I’d be able to place and monitor more profitable crab traps.

Then I began my advertising campaign.  I told anyone who would listen what I was up to.  Everyone laughed at me, no one harder then Ivan.  Everyone, except Charlie.  People said things like “I hope you won’t be disappointed;” or “It’s too big a plan for a little girl.”  But I didn’t listen. Charlie got a bunch of “the boys” together to show me the ropes.  I went out on their boats and was allowed to keep my own catch.  They guided me and believed in me, because I believed in myself.

In just two seasons I was able to buy my own rowboat, which cost $99 – a lot in 1962.  I also learned the crab trapping business and had my own traps set in the best spots.  I had a growing bank account, purchased a 5HP motor for my boat, bought my own school clothes and gave the hand-me-downs to the Salvation Army.  I was even able to buy the special red shoes that I’d had my eye on.  I was ten years old.


The Currents of Human Influence

Whatever your circumstances, you may find yourself from time to time pulled in a direction that you don’t want to go or letting dreams live short lives because of a belief you accepted.

Do outside influences direct your course or is it your own inner critic telling you that you can’t do something you’d really like to?  If you’re like most people, the path of least resistance is the one you most often take.  Particularly, if your belief or desire is unpopular or unproven.


Direct the Course of Your Life With Conscious Choice and Effort

It is possible to focus your energy on creating the things that you want.  If you’re willing to go against the tide, you can direct the course of your life.

It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone to take control of your future and perseverance to stay on course and resist habitual patterns.  Forming new habits will take you where you want to be.  Recognize the power of your thoughts and words to make focused decisions about which ones to empower.  You can breathe life into what you truly want with conscious choice and effort.

Doubts That Multiply!

Notice what happens when another person or your inner critic says that you can’t do something or that an idea you have just won’t work.  Suddenly your doubts multiply.  Your enthusiasm and belief in yourself wanes – you might even retract your idea.  In some cases, you feel embarrassed that you actually believed it had merit.  The current was just too strong for you to go in a different direction.  Silently, grudgingly you dive back into stagnant waters.


Choose a Positive Focus

Now, consider what happens when you speak positively about something you want or believe in.  Your energy is contagious and people buy into your idea.  You react with more positive thoughts and energy.  Before you know it, there is a collective belief that begins to grow.  The air feels electric.  You’re going where you want and pulling others along with you – caught up in your enthusiastic wake.

What would happen if you always chose positive thoughts and words?  Notice that I pointed to a choice.  Everyone has negative – even self-deprecating – thoughts from time to time.  However, we all have the ability to decide whether to pursue a particular thought or not.  We can choose to go with a positive current.


The Process: Awareness, Truth and Accountability

First you need to become aware – to be awake to the moment and keenly observant of what is – to be conscious of all possible and probable outcomes of any choice or action.  To live in awareness is to not pretend that you don’t know.  It is to not do things subconsciously, but instead make conscious choices and decisions and understand their impact.  Clarifying your values helps you to make choices that serve you.  In my case, being a young girl keenly aware of the impact my home life was having on my image of the world, and focusing on a path that I understood completely would not be supported by that home, my actions were chosen carefully, in neat succession, to meet my goal.  What is important to you?  What are your “must haves” in order to be happy?

Next you need to tell the truth – to yourself.  Are you living by your values?  If not, what gets in the way?  Your values can motivate you to stretch beyond the comfortable status quo.  They give you the why for doing something new.  Are you willing to navigate uncharted waters by altering your ready acceptance of negative thoughts or discouraging input?  Can you identify the Ivan’s and Charlie’s in your own life?  In yourself?  Had I given into the views of the Ivan in my life, I would have achieved nothing.

Last comes being accountable – again, to yourself.  I took control of my circumstances by making choices and taking actions that were not influenced by the will or view of others.  My success or failure would not be the result of anything outside of my own actions, without excuses and regardless of how toxic the world around me could be.  Will you take responsibility for getting yourself to shore?


By being aware, honest and accountable you’ll find that you can create your own flow and current.  You’ll find the best places to cast your line and life’s ebbs and flows will be much easier to navigate.

The Power of Teams – Increasing Engagement & Results

exponential results from team work

For the summer months I thought I would like to share with you some of the great articles written by my Alliance Members.  Please enjoy the following article submitted by Robin Kennedy:


The Power of Teams ~  Increasing Engagement & Results

Engaged teams – the lifeblood of sustainable organizations

exponential results from team workA recent study of 150 teams revealed that highly effective teams are the lifeblood of the most successful, innovative and sustainable organizations in the world.

  • The Royal Bank of Scotland manages everything in 30, 60 or 90 day cycles; working on teams is part of the culture.
  • Google encourages employees to spend 20% of their time contributing to a team whose purpose excites them, keeping them engaged and at the edge of innovation.
  • Consultants at professional services firms move from one project team to another, generating fresh ideas and offering new perspectives almost daily.


Teams drive results

We overestimate the power of a company and underestimate the power of teams. Teams are the engines that drive leading organizations, producing results that individuals simply can’t. Statistics report that we currently spend approximately 30% of our time working in teams. Forecasted to rise to 60%, mastering team performance is a key strategy for organizational growth and sustainability.


Engage the team as a system

A team is a living and dynamic system – a living organism that has characteristics that transcend those of individual members. Seen as its own entity, the team system has spoken and unspoken rules, blind spots, vision, expectations and moods. The way team members treat each other influences the quality and output of results, while the environment plays a crucial role in defining the sustainability of productivity. The team mood, whether energized and motivated or fearful and disengaged, is the air that the team breathes and is created through relationships within the team.

Extraordinary teams have the mindset and skillset essential for creating and sustaining high engagement and top performance. Powerful team contracts are created with input from every voice in the system.  Desirable behaviour and ways to diffuse negativity are clearly defined. Relationships flourish and results grow.


Team Coaching is gaining prominence

A t the leading edge of the coaching profession, team coaching is gaining prominence as global organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Unilever, ING, State Farm, Aventis, McDonald’s and others, use this approach to build the performance capacity of their teams . Team coaching helps teams strengthen and sustain performance by equipping them with practical skills and tools to generate positive engagement and neutralize negativity. Team coaching is not about coaching individuals to be better team performers, although that often happens. The team is coached as its own system, independent of the needs of any single member. This advanced coaching methodology was developed by The Center for Right Relationship who trains coaches in Organizational and Relationship Coaching (ORSC).


Measure results

A baseline measurement is obtained using Team Diagnostics™, a next generation team assessment developed by Team Coaching International.  Drawn from a proven model that defines the necessary strengths for high-performing, sustainable, inspired teams, the assessment is repeated at the end of the coaching process to gauge progress and define clear next steps in further team development.


The question is not if teams are the wave of the future; the writing is on the wall.  The bigger question is what will you do to ensure that your teams thrive in turbulent times? Give them the blueprint to success. Invest in team coaching. It’s dynamic. It’s engaging. And, it works.


The Four Powerful Keys to Virtual Team Success

virtual team meeting

For the summer months I thought I would like to share with you some of the great articles written by my Alliance Members.  Please enjoy the following article submitted by Claire Sookman:

The Four Powerful Keys to Virtual Team Success

virtual team meetingCreating virtual teams is not challenge-free. Why? Imagine trying to communicate effectively with people you have never met and whose personalities you are not familiar with. If this hurdle is not overcome, establishing successful virtual teams can be extremely frustrating.


Why still pursue it? Harnessing the power of technology to connect with business units scattered across the country or around the world can result in dramatic increases in efficiency as well as significantly reduced costs


Harness the Power of Differences

You’ve heard it before, each individual is unique. Ponder the implications to virtual team success. Each of us brings strengths and challenges to the table. Understand and appreciate the uniqueness of others, yet, don’t fall into the trap of believing everyone thinks the same as you do.


You’ve probably heard of the DiSC system before. The DiSC system looks at how we tend to behave and what motivates us in a given situation by breaking behaviors into four categories corresponding to the letters D, I, S and C.


Knowing how to recognize a particular behavioral type, realizing that you want and need this person on your team, understanding the challenges they will introduce and how to manage them for success will now be discussed.


The Challenging One

In DiSC “The Challenging One” is the Dominance Style – represented by the letter “D”.  A “ D” likes to have control and can be very opinionated. They are inclined to be very direct, which means they do not mince words and they will always let you know exactly where they (and you) stand.  D’s thrive on change and are often risk-takers. They can become very impatient with people who try to slow down their progress.


The D’s can energize a virtual team, whether virtual or collocated.  They are extremely task oriented and have high personal standards.  They can be counted on to get things done with quality results. Their direct and forceful approach can inspire others when they recognize the value and contributions offered by others. Being task oriented is a characteristic that is highly valued in virtual teams, but only after good relationships and trust is established.


A “D” can also exhaust a virtual team. They can be very forceful and tend to take over. This can be particularly difficult for a team since a “D” might want to do it their way instead of getting buy-in from the team. This can cause resentment among less vocal members who may be naturally shy or reticent when it comes to expressing opinions. Body language (a natural indicator of how one is responding to another’s suggestions) also looses impact in a virtual team situation, making it even harder to determine a team member’s buy-in level  A “D” not only has high standards of themselves they have equally high standards of other people.  This can be challenging and stressful for some people.

Tips to Leverage their Strengths

  • When giving them information be sure to focus in on the relevant facts of the task at hand
  • Give them autonomy to do the work; it is not necessary to tell them how to do it. Just let them know what needs to get done.
  • Don’t bog them down with details just give them the bottom-line
  • When communicating with them be very direct


The Social Butterfly

In DiSC “The Social Butterfly” is the Influence Style – represented by the letter “I”.  These individuals are extremely friendly, positive and enthusiastic. Other people may see them as outgoing or extroverted. They are very communicative and they love to network with everyone. They are your team builders and motivators.


“I”s are naturals at pulling teams together and building and maintaining team spirit. They are the morale builders and motivators on your team.


People who are a high “I” can have difficulty following through on tasks and tend to be less detailed oriented. “I”s have a need to be part of a group, so if the team is virtual, or they are required to do solitary work, they may have difficulty.


Tips to Leverage their Strengths

  • Since an “I” is not particularly detailed oriented, you may want them to team up with someone who loves details
  • The “I” enjoys socializing but needs to realize not everyone likes to “schmooze.” Give them an opportunity to socialize with you before moving onto business. In fact, it has been proven that the most successful virtual teams are those which have either had the opportunity to meet face to face or which have established the human touch prior to focusing on work
  • Utilize your “I” to build team spirit. Also, an “I” needs to feel appreciated, so let them know how they are doing

The Trusted One

In DiSC “The Trusted One” is the Steadiness Style – represented by the letter “S”.  An “S” is ready and willing to help. You can always count on them to support the team through loyalty and cooperation. An “S” would rather let others have their way than to start an argument; they don’t like conflict or radical change. They will support change if they understand why it is necessary. Unlike an “I”, an “S” does not like to be the center of attention, they may also take longer to warm up to people.


An “S” will rarely let you down, making them invaluable “team players.” They are patient and supportive and they create balance and harmony on the team. They are also the mediators on your virtual team.  They will be the ones who provide praise and encouragement to the rest of your team. An “S” will move cautiously especially when it has to do with change. Some people may view it as being stubborn or inflexible when in fact it’s because you tend to see the risks.


Tips to Leverage their Strengths

  • Since change is something that an “S” finds disconcerting, make sure they know why the change is necessary and how it will impact them and the team
  • Encourage them to ask questions and try to answer them all
  • Whenever possible provide an environment that is predictable


The Analyzer

In DiSC “The Analyzer” is the Conscientiousness Style – represented by the letter “C”.  A “C” is very demanding on themselves and others. They are sticklers for details and would rather do things right than do things fast. A “C” has the reputation for producing high quality work. If detailed-oriented work is required give it to a “C”; they excel in making sure things get done correctly and you can be assured that they will follow through on their commitments.


A “C” expects everyone to have the same high standards as they do. This can be intimidating for some or appreciated by others. Also, because they demand high quality work from themselves, it tends to take them a longer to complete their work.

They prefer to work alone which can be particularly difficult if they are part of a team. Since a team can only function when an open information sharing model is in effect, it is crucial that a “C” – who generally prefers to work alone – be actively kept in the loop.


Tips to Leverage their Strengths

  • Let a “C” know your expectations prior to giving them a task.  Incomplete instructions are difficult for a “C” to work with. Not only do they need to know what your expectations are but the standards you expect from them. “C”s tend to get bogged down with details so it’s critical to let them know when a task needs to be completed.
  • Be very specific about deadlines



The key to communicating is not only understanding our behavioral style but, learning to adapt our style to others on the team. This is even more critical to do this when the team is virtual.


At first it may not be easy to detect each member’s personality type. However, making the effort to do so – even by using a simple survey – then tailoring your style to interact based on their personality type and preferred method of behavior can spell the difference between a powerful virtual team or a virtual disaster.


Pathos Power

aristotle - ethos, logos and pathos

For the summer months I thought I would like to share with you some of the great articles written by my Alliance Members. Please enjoy the following article submitted by Geoff Weinstein.

Pathos Power

aristotle - ethos, logos and pathosWhat does pathos (pronounced PAY-thos) mean to you?

Geoff is a big fan of Aristotle.  The Greek philosopher developed in great detail the concept of effective or persuasive speaking and writing, which he called rhetoric. Aristotle said that to be persuasive, you have to appeal to people on one of three levels:

  1. Ethos, based on your credibility, position in society, or reputation as an expert. Ethos is about trust.
  2. Logos, based on logic, facts, evidence and other technical details.
  3. Pathos, based on human emotions like passion, empathy, compassion, pity, sympathy, or fear.

Ultimately, the most persuasive people are the ones who bring all three elements together.

You need ethos to earn a measure of trust, to get your foot in the door.  You need logos, something intelligent to say, or people won’t respect you or your message.  Think of Sarah Palin, who rode a wave of popularity but lost respect when she bumbled through a TV interview on the CBS evening news.

Then you weave pathos into your message.  By evoking an emotional reaction, you get people’s hearts into the game.  If you don’t, you’re creating just another pile of words that may or may not get read or heard.  Think of that boring after dinner speech that put you to sleep.

So what does persuasion have to do with your e-mail to a colleague, or your next presentation?  That e-mail or presentation isn’t just a message; it’s an exercise in influence.

In every workshop Geoff has delivered, he observed that people grossly underestimate the importance of how they communicate.  They don’t realize that what they say and how they say it will determine if people take notice and take action.

But in particular, pathos is missing in almost all business communication, and if you don’t engage your reader’s heart, you’re not engaging the mind.  Without either, you undermine your ability to influence.

Let us give you an example Geoff worked with a bank client who had submitted a 20-page report for approval.  The team had spent months of effort to sum up an initiative that would make major change across the bank.  But the team had hit a wall.  The report wasn’t convincing the people who needed to approve the initiative.

When Geoff looked at the report, he could see why.  It was driven by logos, the facts, something you’d think bankers would want, right?  It focused on technical details and how the project would evolve.  But it was totally devoid of pathos.  It gave no hint of why the change was necessary, or how it would alter their world for the better.

Geoff advised chopping the report to just four pages.  We cut out a lot of the technical details and focused on the pathos: how the change would help the department be more efficient and productive and make people’s lives easier.  The client presented the report and had the project approved soon afterwards.

Be sure to include some pathos in all your communications.  If you let facts and figures dominate, you’ll drive people away from your true message.

A final word of caution: in business, pathos doesn’t mean drama.  It’s more subtle than the theatre.  You have to tap into emotions through the back door!

Here are a few ways to work pathos into your communication:

  • Use words that convey emotions or the emotional impact of a fact, and make sure a person is part of the action.  For instance, instead of “It is recommended…” try “I strongly recommend…”
  • Use plain language.  For example, don’t feel you have to utilize something when you can just use it; don’t commence when you can begin; and so on.
  • Use personal examples and stories that give meaning to facts.
  • When speaking, use gestures and body language to create enthusiasm or set a mood.

Many business communications end with the formal and stilted “Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.”  Here’s the more direct, human way I prefer to say it:

Give me a shout if you have any questions!

Customer Service – Going Beyond Expectations

How do get a good fit to become a perfect fit?

Customer Service – Going Beyond Expectations

I was called into a meeting with a new client.  The industry of this client is highly emotional and required a special skill set to interact effectively with their customers.  My client was interested in providing some of their staff with customer service training.  I met with both the Director and Manager of Human Resources.  They were both very clear as to the outcomes they wanted to achieve as a result of the training.  They wanted the experience of their customers to be one of compassion, empathy and professional.  Given the very sensitive nature of their business I could see there were two members of our alliance that would be able to provide them with the customized solution they were looking for.  Both these alliance members had extensive experience with this type of training and they both had very different approaches.  I thought either of them would do a great job and recommended that the client meet with both of them.

I met with the client to discuss next steps after they had met with both alliance partners.  The client loved them both and I suggested we combine the programs of the two alliance partners to create a totally unique and customized program.  They were thrilled with the suggestion and my alliance partners were eager to collaborate.  Once the final program was approved the client concluded this program would be so impactful they wanted the entire company to take the program.   In the month that followed small groups were taken through this highly engaging course and the feedback from the participants was fantastic. Three years later the client is still pleased with the difference this training made in the way their employees interact with their customers.

Breaking Down Silos on an Executive Team

Breaking Down Silos on an Executive Team

I received a call from a client requesting an introduction to a facilitator who could work with his senior executive team.  This client had been hired as the President of a financial organization that recently gone through a merger.  He very quickly saw there were some major problems with communication, trust and leadership.  He knew he had to address these issues with his leadership team if the company was going to be successful.  I spent an hour with him discussing what was happening and not happening that was causing him concern.  He had experienced a lot of his senior team operating in silos, very little trust, no sharing of information, and in some cases out and out anger.  He was planning a three day strategic planning session to set the vision for his team. The first day was to be a day of breaking down the silos, opening the doors for honest communication and start the process of rebuilding a powerful executive team.  This would set the foundation for the next two days of planning.
When I left his office I had a clear understanding of his objectives, outcomes and his vision for the future.  I also had good understanding that I needed to connect him with a very strong and experienced facilitator to support our client in meeting his goals.  I connected him to one of our most powerful facilitators in the Athena Alliance the next day and they proceeded to map out their strategy.
During the first day of the program the facilitator asked some extremely tough questions and conducted many challenging exercises. There was a lot of emotion and discussions got a little heated at times. By the end of the day, progress was made and the foundation was set for moving forward into the next two days of planning.  This team still had a lot of work to do and at the time of my last follow up they were definitely moving in the right direction.

Our client left me a voice message at the end of the first day telling me that he could have looked for weeks on the internet and never found a perfect facilitator as I had provided.  I also received a voice message from the facilitator telling me while the day was challenging, progress was made.