2 April 2018

Write a Self-Review

Take the time to do a self review. Woman self reflecting.

Giving yourself an annual review can be an extremely valuable and motivating process.  When you review yourself, you are both the reviewer and the one receiving the review, and the dual perspective leads to useful insights, powerful, granular acknowledgments, and strategic goal-setting.  You can do this whether or not you get formally reviewed at your place of work. Here are some ideas for questions to ask yourself, but feel free to substitute or add your own  questions:

  • What did you learn in the last year?
    • About yourself (any aspect of yourself, including new aspects or nuances of your talents/brilliance/sharpness/gifts that you witnessed or even glimpsed, your grit, your patience/compassion/tolerance, your emotional intelligence, things that trigger anger or upset, any new self-management tactics, better ways of taking care of yourself in any way, new skills including endurance, patience, tact, and any skills pertaining to your content or process expertise.
    • About the organization you’re part of, any of the people you work with, any aspect of the content you work with, your job and the professional world it’s part of, etc
    • What else did you learn in the last year, in your professional life or in the other parts of your life?  Did your golf game improve? Did you expand your relational skills, or become stronger at taking a stand? How else did you become stronger?
    • What things came up in the last year that will you do differently the next time a similar situation arises?
  • What did you pull off, accomplish, DO, achieve, make happen, what crises/calamities did you avoid, what did you salvage/save (relationships, funding, etc).  These things might or might not be visible to the outside world — but you know they happened and it’s important to own them.   Many of our most important achievements are often invisible to others – all the more reason to acknowledge them.  Did you plan and take that trip to the Azores you’ve been wanting to do for the last 10 years?  Did you make peace with your ex (and if so, what insights came of that process)?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What challenges did you weather/survive/endure and how did you pull that off?  What did you have to bring forth from yourself in order to survive/endure?
  • What setbacks or disappointments did you recover from, and how did you recover?
  • Did you play more, or take better care of yourself in some other way?

Given all of the above, what would you like to take on as next year’s challenges?


11 January 2017

Being Amy Adams

Productivity at work

Photo by Juskteez Vu

If you haven’t already seen the movie “Arrival,” with Amy Adams, go see it. It’s a fantastic and wonderful adventure story. And a gorgeous metaphor for what emerging leaders and other challenged professionals go through all the time.

The Amy Adams character, a top-notch linguist, is tapped for a huge, mind-boggling job that catapults her into a realm of personal growth and challenge like no other. In short, aliens have arrived on earth from outer space, and she is heading up the team to figure out how to communicate with them. Though we know she is the best person for the job, we see the immense personal challenge of it. She experiences profound fear. There is opposition to her approach that she has to push back against.  She has self doubt. She is isolated. She has experiences unlike anything she’s ever known, and she struggles to understand them. The work requires her to expand and grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, in a way that . . . as the audience struggles to keep up, we understand . . . challenges her capacity: can I wrap my mind around this? Can I stretch my mental abilities to grasp what’s going on here? Am I reading this right?

Even as other key characters read the situation differently and threaten to violently shut down her work, she has to muster the strength, courage, and confidence to persevere, hold her own, and stay focused on the work.

This is a brilliant and highly entertaining dramatization of what my clients often experience.  My clients are highly capable women and men whose jobs consistently require that they stretch out of their comfort zones, learn new skills, navigate something utterly new to them, while dealing with all manner of feedback, opposition, and setbacks. In a way, this is just how work IS for many people. In “Arrival,” it the project was a time-limited.  In real life, it’s ongoing, and therefore very challenging to sustain.

Does this kind of job sound familiar to you?  Could you use some support in finding ways to make things more sustainable for you? Here are a few strategies that can make a difference:

  1. Acknowledge and appreciate yourself for your heroism in doing this work. I don’t care if you’re designing shoes or eradicating TB, if your work fits the description above, it’s crucial that you appreciate the heroic effort you are putting in.
  2. Make sure you take really really good care of yourself, whatever that means to you, whatever you can mange.
  3. Make sure you’re working as efficiently as possible.  If you’re squandering hours every week due to your own inefficiency, own it and eliminate those leaks of your time, focus, and energy.  Optimize how you work so you can leave work behind sometimes and replenish yourself.
  4. Get more help. Delegate more effectively at work. Get more help outside of work. Have no idea how/where to get help?  Do a single coaching session with me about this!  There are always ways to get help somewhere in your life

This is not an exhaustive list.  It’s a scatter of ideas.  If you want to do some serious, focused work on how these issues play out in your work, contact me for an initial consult at no charge.  Over the course of 3 or 6 months, you can learn how to manage your work in a way that’s more sustainable for you.  You don’t want to burn out.


20 November 2015

Achieving Goals: Navigating Uncomfortable Stages



We all love achieving goals.  But doing the lengthy, hard work and tolerating the discomfort of the process of reaching the goal — well, that’s another story.

My favorite spinning instructor frequently reminds us early in the workout, “This next segment is going to get uncomfortable for you. So think about how good it’s going to feel when you’ve gotten through the discomfort.” She’s always right.

She doesn’t mean it will feel good when the workout is over (though it certainly will). She means once the heart rate is raised to the higher workout level “this segment” will bring us to, it will feel good. The transition is hard.

It always surprises me — there comes a point when I’ve made the transition, my heart is up at the high end of my workout zone, and I am feeling good. GETTING THERE was uncomfortable. BEING THERE is not.

I had the chance to apply this in a different context recently. My husband and I went out for a weekend walk. About 30 minutes into our walk, I felt tired and wanted to turn back, but he really wanted to press onward into Cambridge (the next town over), and I knew I would be glad if I did.  So I decided to apply the spinning rule to walking and keep walking through the discomfort. Sure enough, a few minutes later I was completely beyond the discomfort zone. And I very much enjoyed the rest of the walk, the time in Cambridge, and so forth.

Given how long it seems to be taking me to learn this lesson about hanging in through the discomfort, I figure I will be learning this one for the rest of my life. I need to hear it every week: “You’re going to get uncomfortable, but it’s going to feel great on the other side.” Oh yeah.

How about you? Where in your life do you stop when it gets uncomfortable when in fact if you pressed on a little longer you would be glad you did? Of course there are some situations where the discomfort should be interpreted as a cue to turn around and head for home. If you’re alone at night in a dark alley and you hear footsteps coming up behind you . . . that’s a whole other thing.  Or if your stress level is beyond what you can tolerate day after day without getting sick or clinically depressed, or lashing out at your team . . . you would be wise to take action to alleviate some of the stress.

Our discomfort requires scrutiny: we need to assess before deciding whether to bolt or whether to endure. This month, witness (without judging) where and when you get uncomfortable. Notice how you respond to the discomfort. In which situations do you hang in and in which do you turn back? Do these decisions serve you? Where they do, acknowledge yourself for navigating well in your own interest. And where they do not, what are your other options?