Tag Archives: life lessons

Mindset

You Are What You Eat

Remember that old saying “You Are What You Eat”?

I do. I remember posters in the school cafeteria, ads in magazines, and a lot of chortled high-school jokes, most of them in good fun.

“Don’t be a grouch. What’d you eat for breakfast, anyway — prickly pears?”

We got the message.

My colleagues in the National Speakers Association put a different twist on this concept. Ron says, “You are what you do, not what you talk about doing.” Chris says, “Talking about writing isn’t writing. Writing is writing.”

I get those messages, too. So much so that I have a saying posted in my house that says, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

When I hear people talk about taking a class, or learning to knit, or improving their professional skills, I think it’s great! They have made a proclamation. What is even better is when they take their first real step.

Three weeks ago a client told me that he wants his department to work more collaboratively. He told me that they work in silos, each doing their own thing. I asked him, “What’s your plan?” He chuckled and said, “My plan was to call you and have YOU figure it out.”

Recently, my friend told me that she intends to run a marathon in May. Even though she is currently running just a few miles a day, taking the first steps (literally) builds momentum. When she showed me her running plan, I believed she would do it. More importantly, she believes she will do it. And regardless of when or if this marathon occurs, she is getting more fit and more determined each day.

Let me invite you to consider, whether your goal is an individual goal or a group goal, whether you set your own milestones or work with a partner, that you are what you act on. You are what you eat. Your intentions aren’t you, your actions are you.

I am thrilled that someone I coach is starting a new business. He’s been talking about it for years. Recently he put together a business plan and he opened a business checking account. He is diligently working on a website. How fabulous!

Our lives aren’t happening somewhere else, or at some other time. We aren’t the people we are going to become — we’re the people we currently are. Living in the present means doing what we believe in, now. Let me know what goals you are living.

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Communication

Want to be heard? Stop Talking.

You probably don’t believe that silence is one of my favorite tools. Certainly when I taught a presentation skills class to Johns Hopkins graduate students, they did not expect me to talk about silence! But I did. And at the end of the week, their final presentations showed how silence can be so effective.

When Mariah began her program, we all saw how powerful silence can be. She paused. She made eye contact with her audience. She waited. Only when a room full of curious eyes were focused on her did she begin to speak.

We saw it when Kristin began her meeting with a question — neither simplistic nor overly complex — designed to transform an audience into a group of participants. She asked. She waited. Sometimes she waited five to eight seconds, and five to eight seconds of silence is longer that you might think! It’s very hard to listen to silence.

We watched Tad use silence in a marketing brainstorming session. There was a blizzard of ideas, but when the flurries slowed and then stopped, he didn’t move on. He waited, in silence, for a full 60 seconds. The best ideas of the session followed that silence.

And I know that skillful negotiators, like my colleague Michael, use silence in their work every day. I’ve heard Michael say, “The person who speaks first, loses.” I think he’s right, and how-to books on negotiation concur.

I like to use silence in the appreciation segment of a teambuilding session (my favorite part of these workshops!) when colleagues tell one another what they genuinely like about working together. The inevitable lull comes, and everyone looks at me as if to say, “Well, we did it. Can we go home now?” I just smile and wait, knowing that my silence will give them time to appreciate one another in a deeper way.

How can you use silence in your work and life?

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Communication

Pay No Attention to the Pink Elephant

Pay No Attention to the Pink Elephant. karen-pink-elephant
At a recent retreat of senior-level managers, we started the day with a yoga session.  What a positive way to open a meeting, don’t you think?

The instructor arrived early, set up the room, and greeted the participants as we entered.  We were doing the initial breathing exercises when she said, “Forget about all the emails piling up in your inbox.  If you’re worried about what might happen later in the retreat, let that go.”
Her intention was exactly the opposite of the outcome!  When we tell our minds what not to think about, that’s pretty much all we can think about.  The experience reminded me of a coach that I had who was keen on neuro-linguistic programming.  This coach often says wittily, “Forget about the big pink elephant with white spots.”  Well, of course, what do you imagine we think about whenever she says this?  Did you picture a pink elephant with white spots, just from reading this?  It’s impossible not to think about what’s being described, even if only for a split second.
This is a valuable lesson for coaching employees and for improving performance.  Rather than telling employees what not to do, tell them what to do.  For example, instead of saying, “Don’t turn in the report late again,” ask, “How will you meet the March 15 deadline?”  Instead of saying, “Don’t be cranky with the customers,” say, “Think what this customer means to our business and greet her with a smile.”
It’s a small adjustment, yet it will reap elephant-sized results.
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