Friday, April 29, 2011

New Adventures - A Move to an Exotic Land!

My husband Ric and I love adventure. When we met, he was a fresh university grad working and saving money for a trip through Africa. He had his itinerary booked for an overland excursion that took him from North Africa to South Africa, ending with a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. We weren’t expecting to fall in love and thought that the relationship would end with his departure.

8 months after he left Canada, I flew and met him in Kenya. For a year we traveled throughout Africa and Europe collecting enough stories and pictures to last a lifetime. We stayed in small villages in Kenya, learned how to scuba dive in Egypt, ate and drank our body weight in Italy and France and before we flew back to Canada we married in a beautiful village in France. It was a precursor to the bestselling book  "Eat, Pray, Love" although ours was called “Eat,Dive, Love”

27 years and two children later we were pretty settled in to a comfortable lifestyle in the beautiful hamlet of Bedford, Nova Scotia. Our children are grown and out of the house and I know most people at our stage are talking about retirement. Ric and I talked about wanting another exciting journey. We wondered if it was possible.

We decided to throw our request out to the universe and the universe responded. 3 days after we had that talk about wanting to live somewhere exciting, an opportunity came for a 2 – 3 year posting in Mumbai India.

So, in May Ric will leave for his new position as Lead of Product Management for an Indian Telecommunication company. I’ll be joining him in Mumbai once our house sells. I don’t know what the next 2 – 3 years will bring but I’m excited about the not knowing. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to do training and speaking over there but I’m open to whatever happens.  If you happen to be in that part of the world, look us up… and be ready for an adventure!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Silence is Golden - and other false assumptions!

The affect one scared or angry person can have in an organization is what I call “the startled bird syndrome”. When you watch a flock of birds, if one is scared they all start taking off.  The message the one bird sends is instant “We’re in danger, get the flock out of here”.
In the absence of real information, our primitive brains go towards negative thoughts. In the past that propensity to imagine the worst kept us alive. That rustling bush could be a ferocious animal ready to pounce.  In today’s environment the person withholding information is the rustling bush so we instinctively believe we are in danger. Our imagination can find fears that our rationale brain would find laughable.  It takes bravery and conscious self talk to steer us towards the positive and really check out to see if there are tigers hiding.
Silence then, is not golden but dangerous. If we want to create safe, open and productive environments we need to have open and honest dialogue and show what really is hiding in the bushes. Silence stifles relationships and shows a disregard for the feelings of others. Good leaders communicate, bad leaders intimidate. Which are you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No Blame Game

You might have noticed that there wasn’t a blog posted yesterday. I reached out to my friend. Sincerely and with the right intention I left a voice message and an email and asked that we have an opportunity to talk.

Staring at the phone didn’t make it ring. Darn it, I was ready to resolve this.

My preferred way of working through problems is to talk it out. Being ignored feels hurtful, but I also realize that people need time and space.

Recognizing feelings is sometimes challenging since they are usually more complex and layered than we imagine. Feelings that hurt us can disguise themselves as emotions we are better able to handle. So guilt can become anger, regret becomes indifference and all of those feelings can transform themselves into, judgments, accusations and spite. 

Recognizing that good people can have bad feelings is a place to start. Even good people get angry at people they care about. Acknowledging this allows me to examine those “bad” feelings and find a way to deal with them in a more effective way. We all experience conflict and it has nothing at all to do with whether or not we are a good person.

There are times when denying feelings will serve us. In the face of overwhelming loss, numbing ourselves can help us to cope. “Laughing in the face of danger” may give us the courage and ability to survive. At the same time, if we never acknowledge our feelings it will get in the way of effective communication.

When I finally talk to my friend I’ll be really conscious of stating my feelings and not my judgments. Judgments can feel like feelings but they are motivated by anger, frustration or hurt. So it’s better to say “I feel hurt, angry and confused” and not “I feel you are hurtful, and uninformed”.

When we can’t get past the need to blame and say “Admit it, it’s all your fault” we should recognize that we are still dealing with those tricky hidden emotions. Blame gives us a cue that we are on the wrong track.

Emotions are not the destination; they are the road that takes us to our destination. We can decide which road to take and that choice determines whether or not we’ll like the place when we get there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Know You are But What am I?

This is got to be one of the lamest childhood taunts going but I just found myself using a variation on a person I was upset with.  Makes me wonder if all of that money I spent on getting to the master level in emotional intelligence should be refunded. In an emotional exchange even the best of us can lose our cool.
I spoke to my amazing friend Deborah Monroe, an Ei practitioner from San Antonio Texas who listened as I explained what had happened and heard how upset I was. I am blessed to have friends in my life who will take the time to listen and coach me. Deborah asked me a question I ask others but it’s so interesting when you actually have to do the work you teach others.
Deborah asked me if I had reflected back to the person at a feeling level.  
“But they accused me of something I didn’t do!” I answered  “They talked to me like a recalcitrant child! They, they they were blaming me for stuff that was absolute crap.”
We were talking on skype so I could see her laugh and she asked me again.
I answered “Well… no. I teach this stuff, I don’t always do it!” (I do try to live what I teach but some days are harder than others.)
Deborah asked “Did you mention that you were worried about how this would affect the friendship.”
I told her that I had mentioned to my friend that I was disappointed in her as well. Even as I said it I cringed. The “I Know You are But What am I?”
So, where do we go from here?
 Frankly I don’t have all of the answers.  What I do know is if you do the right thing with the right intention that things work out. I'll be calling my friend tonight to talk it over, with feeling.
Join me tomorrow. I'll let you know what happens!

Monday, April 18, 2011


It’s been a difficult day. Small piles of misunderstandings are now big mountains of miscommunication and fractured friendships. Sigh! Why can’t life be easier?
My usual way is to take things head on but I know through my work in emotional intelligence that people will hold on tighter to their view and opinion if you try to push your view. Therefore a more subtle approach is needed and I sometimes struggle with subtle. Sometimes I know that the best thing to do is to do nothing, at least for awhile.
When someone has a strong opinion we literally need to give them time to rewire their mind and make a new connection. They need space to make that happen.
In David Rock’s book “Quiet Leadership” he talks about 6 steps to transforming performance. I’ve found that they help me to understand and work with difficult situations.
The first step is to think about the other persons thinking. It’s not about what they are thinking but why they are thinking that way. Ask: Why am I thinking the way I am? Why are they?
 Once you figure out why someone is thinking in a certain way get focused on solutions and see things from a high level. What is the best possible outcome you envision? It might seem obvious that we need to focus on the solution and not the problem but it’s surprising what little time is spent on the solution when emotions are high. Focusing on the problem keeps us rooted in the past and in the negative blame spiral.
Speak with a generosity of spirit and communicate with intention to find a resolution. Be willing to stretch. Stretching to a place that isn’t comfortable is often where we find resolution and growth. Are you willing to go to a place of discomfort and stretch your opinions and beliefs? What positives can you pull out of the situation? In my case, both my friend and I were focused on improving an organization although our perspectives were different.
See what insights you can find to help you both going forward. Once you are aware of the thinking, reflect and illuminate. It is in the illumination where you will find the motivation to resolve the dilemma.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Extrovert or Introvert? Which is better?

Most people assume that I am an extrovert because I am a professional speaker and work as a trainer. My scores for introversion/extroversion are right on the line so although I can “turn it on” when I need to, I am much more comfortable in intimate settings with close friends. When I need to get energy I spend some quiet time alone but I love the excitement of speaking in front of large groups. I also view strangers as friends I haven’t met yet which puts me in the extroverted camp.
Which is better? Being an extrovert or an introvert?
Neither.  We need both. Rules and labels apply to food agencies but not to people. When we take the time to know people better and see what lies below the surface, we develop rich relationships that can last a lifetime. The key is learning to appreciate each other and increase our emotional intelligence.
We tend to see ourselves in the light of our intentions and others according to their actions. What would happen if we changed that? What if we judged others according to their intentions and ourselves according to our actions?
Many judgments are based on what we see. It’s like judging the size of the iceberg by what we see above the water line. For people who are introverts, people can misinterpret their behavior as cold, disinterested or even arrogant. Small changes for the introvert will give big returns. Things like smiling more often and asking how someone is, remembering something about others and asking them questions can increase their ability to connect and improve the perceptions of others.
People who are extroverts should allow others to talk and listen to what people have to say without interruption. This will help them to appear more caring and less narcissistic. Again we’re talking about appearance; the iceberg analogy.
Where are you comfortable? Are you an extrovert or an introvert? What do you do to see below the surface?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Building Trust with Your Customers

Most companies believe that they are trusted but don’t understand what they are doing to erode the trust. Have you ever called a company or service provider and been told “I’m sorry, it’s not our policy”?

I don’t know about you but I find it infuriating to be treated as a policy instead of an individual. I want them to be sorry and fix the problem or at the very least acknowledge me as a person.

Imagine how you would feel if they said (and meant it) “I’m so sorry – what can we do to make this right?”

Anyone who is working on the front line needs the authority to take responsibility. Don’t blame policy, the company or someone else. Just take ownership even if it is to say “Clearly we did not _____ effectively”

Acknowledge their pain and show you care about them as a person who has feelings. Even if they are being a jerk on the outside, clearly there is something that is making them unhappy. Hear that and care about it. You'll take your customer service from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds flat!

Welcome to my Blog


I'm sitting looking out the window at a dreary grey day. I'm looking for inspiration but it's just not coming to me. Ever had one of those days? When you are supposed to be brilliant but the weather, the mood or the atmosphere just isn't doing it for you?

Well, here's what you do. Take yourself back to your happy place. The place you've gone to or are going to that gives you that inspiration that you need. More to come...