Reasons to Like Contraction AND Expansion

Reasons to Like Contraction AND Expansion

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #4

In episode #4, we introduced three sets of questions that have a remarkable ability to change the way we think. That was before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

It turns out that stopping the world as we know it has provided an incredible opportunity for many of us to practice these questions, letting go of what is outside of our control and seizing that which remains.

With my deepest condolences to all who have lost loved ones to this horrific disease, those who struggled and overcame it, and immense gratitude to those who have stepped up in ways none of us could imagine just months ago, I aim to share how this experience has added insights and tools to my personal arsenal for making change suck less. I hope these will help you as well.

Insight #1: Contraction and expansion are both necessary and natural occurrences in our universe

How this is playing out for many of us: At this time of economic instability (to say the least), most of us are working to find every possible opportunity to shave the cost of living. At the same time, I am acutely aware that what we focus on is what we manifest.

So how do we square this focus on minimizing our costs with desires and intentions to amass financial abundance? I believe it is by understanding – and embracing – the rhythms of contraction and expansion in nature …and keeping the larger vision front and center. (Remember the adage “go slow in order to go fast?”)

The truth is that the vast majority of us will survive the contraction and make it to the expansion that awaits on the other side. The question becomes, how can we weather this journey and raise the odds of making it to what is next — while minimizing the pain?

Aside from the obvious can’ts, don’ts and musts that we are all experiencing — where in this contraction can we let down our guard and find the spaces and opportunities to cherish, relish and simply enjoy? Where we can drop the fierce resistance and stalwart strength we have been relying on to carry us through from moment to moment? The small, precious moments in which we can experience the magnificence of expansion in the moment? Where we are simultaneously shrinking and creating / building? 

For me, it looks like this.

Contraction:

  • Refinancing my mortgage to enhance cash flow
  • Eliminating those pesky little automatic monthly charges we sign up for in the dead of night and promptly forget about
  • Getting creative – and activating my passion for environmental sustainability – by pulling various stray items in my pantry and figuring out how to make meals out of them (for more on that, you simply MUST check in with @thescrappychefny on IG).

Expansion:

  • Investing in professional development to learn new skills and upgrade my certification in my chosen field
  • Enriching my personal life by connecting with family and friends through individual and group Zoom calls
  • Practicing my active and open listening skills by debating current topics with my “grown and flown and now back home” young adult children whose political views are very different from my own!

Insight #2: Embracing the contraction defangs our fear

There is no more obvious example of contraction and expansion at work than in childbirth – literal or figurative.

Sheila Hay, author of Ecstatic Birth, explains that when we hit a rough patch on the road to our desires, that’s a contractive moment. Our natural tendency is to numb them, to avoid them at all cost. But, she points out, contractions are an important part of labor – with each one, our body opens a little more to lead to birth. The more we resist these contractions, the more painful they are and the more fear we kick up. It can become a downward spiral. Rather, she coaches, surrender to the contraction in favor of what we know is on the other side.

Here’s what that looks like for me:

  • As I got into retooling my finances, looking for places to cut back, it started to feel like a game. With each item I eliminated or reduced, I got a hit of immediate satisfaction, prompting me to look for more. It’s kind of like weeding. I dare you to limit yourself to only the first five weeds you spot!
  • Same for the culinary adventures: The more I figured out how to use stuff that had been lying around in the pantry, the more creative and virtuous I felt. As if the universe were giving me a pat on the back.

When we focus our attention on those moments of joy and expansion in the midst of the rest of it, even for a few moments every day, we disempower the struggle and give strength to the beauty and growth instead. It really is about being in the moment …not fighting it.

Check out earlier episodes in our Make Change Suck Less series:

  • Episode #1: What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck
  • Episode #2: Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!
  • Episode #3: What If?
  • Episode #4: What Does It Take to Dig a New Groove?

Stay tuned to learn more about our new program: The 3 Essential Practices to Make Change Suck Less: Mindset, Resilience, Identity (MRI). And check out our peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

 

What Does It Take to Dig a New Groove?

What Does It Take to Dig a New Groove?

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #4

In episode #3, we acknowledged the creative power of asking “what if” instead of hunkering down in fight or flight every time change appears on the horizon. In this episode, we’ll develop a practice around questioning in order to create space for new possibilities.

It turns out our brains are far more elastic than we traditionally believed. Neuroscience researchers liken our gray matter to a fresh field of mud that gets worn down into a series of grooves, according to our habitual ways of thinking and acting. (Actually, I’ve never heard a neuroscientist say that our brains are like mud – I was visualizing the most recent Kentucky Derby mess when I wrote that!)

The point is: We can change the grooves if we want.

Consider the way train engineers use switches to move a train from one track to another. What if you could switch your thoughts over from the old, auto-pilot, how-am-I-going-to-pay-the-bills groove to a completely new and different circuit – one that’s far more liberating and empowering?

Creating these track “switches” could allow you to bypass the frenzy and / or paralysis of the survival instinct (fight or flight), which if you are seriously facing loss of life is handy, but otherwise is not that constructive. Instead, these “switches” can take you down a different path altogether –one that opens the way to possibilities you might never have imagined before.

Neuroscientists at Synaptic Potential call this our “change readiness neural quotient” – our neural capability to change. And the amazing thing is that like most capabilities, it can indeed be developed (or expanded).

To aid in building this new neural change muscle, I’d like to offer a practice that centers on asking yourself three sets of questions whenever you see change headed your way. These progressive questions are designed to unlock your natural resistance and unleash your personal power to respond and create in ways that serve your highest good.

Question Set #1:

  • Do I understand why this change is happening (after objectively considering all factors)?
  • Given more data points than I likely have, might I have arrived at the same (or similar) decision if I were in charge?
  • Regardless of my emotional response, will this change take place anyway?

At this point, you have ideally answered yes to all. And even if you don’t like what’s heading down the pike, your rational brain can accept the scenario as a foregone conclusion. If so, you are ready to move on.

Question set #2:

  • With this (rational) context in place, how do I feel in my gut about this change?
  • In addition to fears, concerns, trepidation… is there even a glimmer of curiosity? Relief? Excitement?
  • Can I feel a sense of possibility opening up… or even see a sliver of light filtering into the crack?

If you answered yes to the last two questions, you are like the train engineer, ready to literally flip the switch.

Question set #3:

  • In what ways might this new situation allow me to grow?
  • What latent skills or interests might I express or develop given this new scenario?
  • What have I always dreamed of doing (or doing differently) and how might this shift enable me to explore this?

If you’re able to contemplate these last questions, you are firmly in the creative “what might be” space, where etching new grooves is eminently possible.

In retrospect, I realize now that I’ve been following this process for years. And like everyone, I do sometimes get stuck in Question Set #1 (which is all about accepting that which we cannot control). It’s why I have carefully curated a short list of incredibly smart, diverse and provocative advisers I consult with from time to time – my truth tellers. They ask me tough questions and point out ways that I have dug in my heels in order to help me loosen myself from old grooves that were once constructive but no longer serve me well. 

As I have become more adept at activating change in my own life, I find that Question Sets #2 and #3 come to me quite naturally. Have you ever cleared a room that was once full of a lot of clutter, only to feel so deeply the energy, spaciousness and clarity you didn’t know you craved?

This practice is a lot like that.

At On the Same Page, we would really like to hear how you actively bring change on board in your own life. Please do share your insights and experiences with us so we can all expand our ability to… well, expand!

From the Synaptic Potential white paper: “Change Readiness NQ: Strengthening Your Organisation’s / Employees’ Ability to Manage Change and Cultivate Opportunity”

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

What If?

What If?

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #3

In episode #2, we explored unexpected benefits resulting from changes in our lives that were outside of our control. In this episode, let’s dig deeper to see just how change can truly enrich our experience – in the rear-view mirror.

How many different people have you been in this lifetime? I’ve been at least five – and that’s only counting my professional lives. 

In case you’re interested, there was the entertainment writer / local TV producer (ask me about my interview with Jerry Seinfeld), the year and a half I was a licensed life and disability insurance salesperson (for real), then came the very serious business journalist interviewing true titans of industry. At some point, I veered into the corporate world as a… wait for it… change agent. Let’s hop, skip and jump a few years to today: I think I’m morphing once again from a somewhat stable business owner to something slightly more creative (but you’ll have to ask my colleagues about that… or just ask me). 

The point? What if I never what-iffed? I would have missed the big move from the Midwest to the Big Apple. I wouldn’t have interviewed a CEO who later became our nation’s Treasury Secretary. I would have missed out on getting to know so many amazing and inspiring clients. I’d have a whole lot fewer friends. And I definitely wouldn’t have learned to practice Reiki. (Yup. Certified Level 2.)

None of these zigs or zags were planned. Not a one. They just came… and, gazing in the rear-view, it seems I said “what if” quite often, in the sense of why not?

So, I got to thinking: Could you turn my personal “what if” habit into a deliberate practice? Let’s try it. 

What if….

  • You could switch on a different internal circuit before responding to change coming at you from an external source?
  • What if your prevailing thoughts and reactions weren’t focused on your survival – your ability to earn a living, pay for food and shelter, clothe and educate your kids?
  • What if, like in mindfulness meditation, you could tame the “monkey mind” by acknowledging that the concerns (fears) you have are real, and then gently and respectfully put them aside to see what other more productive possibility may be hiding there?
  • What if instead, you could switch your thoughts over to a completely different, far more liberating and empowering circuit? (Consider the train track that branches off to a new destination.) 

That last what if (and heads up… it’s a big one!) could take the form of some reflective thinking guided by a whole new set of questions. The questions I’m talking about redirect our brains from the constricting fight or flight response to a far more expansive mindset of abundance and opportunity. 

What if you could train yourself to think like that the next time your company announces big changes coming your way? And every time after that?

I’ll explore what those questions could look like in the next episode… I hope you’ll join me.

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!

Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #2

In episode #1, we established that going with the flow has its merits… and that doing so sometimes even produces beneficial outcomes. But what if it gets even better than that?

We spend SO much energy resisting change. I wish there was a way to calculate this in concrete terms, like number of brain cells suffocated by anxiety, or dollars draining from our personal asset base, or… something other than gray hair. 

Here’s an alternative way to look at it from my personal arsenal of recent experiences.

Four people I care a great deal about – and who have been within arms reach on a near constant basis for years – have LEFT ME within a few weeks. This includes my two kids and two of my very best friends. (Okay… so they haven’t left me, per se. But none of them live anywhere near me anymore, so you get what I mean.)

You would think I would be feeling pretty blue. But I gotta say… I’m kinda reveling in the new and unexpected space. 

Let’s start with my newest luxuries of home and hearth:

  • I haven’t tripped over a twisted pile of boxers on the floor in months
  • Cupboard doors are – miraculously – closed, hiding whatever is meant to be hidden
  • There isn’t a dirty dish in the sink… unless I put it there
  • Not one Goldfish has crunched under my ass when I relax on the couch
  • My cat knows just which lap to climb into (… finally! The one who feeds him!)

Moving on from the mundane to the more meaningful:

  • The new rhythm of my days, nights and weeks are suddenly shaped by MY interests, MY priorities and MY intentions
  • There are friends I get to see that I haven’t seen since sitting on the sidelines of T-ball “games,” and new ones presenting themselves in my path
  • Events I’ve always wondered about in a distant way are finding a committed spot on my calendar – activity partner or no
  • And also, unexpected bouts of loneliness that are both deep and challenging; inviting me to get real about how I want connection to thread its way into and through my life

So now I’m thinking: What if we could drop our natural resistance to change when it happens “to us” at work and open to the world of what-ifs? What if we could somehow flip that switch from “Danger Danger” to an “Oh, that’s interesting… tell me more” position the next time the winds of change blow our way, bypassing the whole fear, anxiety and resistance cycle completely? What kinds of possibilities might cross our path when we learn to dim the fight or flight response so that our vision is made a bit clearer? 

And that – what if – is the topic of my next post. Stay tuned.

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck

What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #1

I’m a beginner with plants. Having spent 2+ decades raising kids (and a business), I’ve decided to start slowly with the green stuff. 

That’s why my best friend and I picked out this plant early last summer for my back deck. 

They’re succulents, she told me. Therefore they won’t need much attention. Perfect, I thought. Bought and paid for!

For the first two months, all went smoothly with the succulents. Then a few weeks later, this happened: 

Those tall protrusions that look like they desperately want to become flowers never really did. They only made the whole pot oddly asymmetrical and prone to blowing over in the wind.

But one thing they did produce: something that my beloved hummingbirds loved to feed on! Almost as much as the homemade nectar I keep stocked in the nearby feeders all summer long. (I like birds better than plants… and almost as much as my kids.)

And what does this have to do with change, you ask? I’ve concluded these 3 things from my summer with the succulents:

  • We simply don’t know what we don’t know. So why not stay open to possibilities?
  • You never really know what’s coming until it does. And even when it isn’t all that attractive, it can – and often does – pave the way for something new, exciting and better than was there before. (More weird succulent protrusions = fewer trips to buy sugar for the homemade nectar. Oh, and… will the little seeds from those un-flowers become next summer’s succulents? I believe they might.)
  • Relinquish control, especially regarding outcomes. The control thing was probably an illusion anyway. And oh, how much energy we waste on just the attempt to control. 

That last point – the energy required to resist change? Stay tuned… it’s the topic of our next post. 

What new door opened for you when you least expected it?

Check out our new peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

 
Get Started NOW to Hit the Ground Running in January

Get Started NOW to Hit the Ground Running in January

You know that feeling that comes every year just after Labor Day… like you’re getting shot out of a canon?

You’ve finally put away your vacation clothes, started thinking about replacing the summer annuals with fall mums, and are lamenting that the days have already become noticeably shorter, when…. Wham! Annual planning for NEXT YEAR pops up on the team meeting agenda.

This time, you have a plan.

We’ve got everything you need to align with key leaders and engage your biz partners now so that together you’re poised to activate managers and engage employees in what matters most in 2020 and beyond.

Here’s how we do it at On the Same Page:

 

Need help? We meet you where you are with these three easy options:

  • Coach and Advise:  The focus is you as we develop workplans, timelines, templates and tools to help you and your team complete the work yourselves.
  • Behind the Scenes:  We work with you and your team to develop workplans, timelines, templates and tools, PLUS we provide the support they may need to engage business leaders for maximum strategic alignment.
  • Extend Your Team:  On the Same Page team members integrate seamlessly into your organization and represent your team while developing and implementing workplans, timelines, templates and tools to carry out the planning process.

Could you benefit from our expertise? Email me at tracy@on-the-same-page.com.

Three Actions to Build Trust and Keep At-work Relationships Productive During Volatile Times

Three Actions to Build Trust and Keep At-work Relationships Productive During Volatile Times

Rage. Rancor. Resentment. Disgust. Celebration. Defiant. Fervent. Partisan.

These words, and others like them, have dominated news reports in the U.S. over the last few weeks. Just when we thought the country could not feel more divided than it was leading up to and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, recent events surrounding Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh’s hearings demonstrate that emotions – and strongly emotional responses – continue to escalate in nearly every forum from dinner tables to not-so-friendly conversations among friends to classrooms to workplaces. And with mid-term elections one month off, the tenor of public and private discourse is likely to become even more fraught.

These are risky times for leaders and managers committed to engaging workers in a shared strategy for their organizations. We know that among the most critical skills engaging leaders demonstrate is active listening. But how – and where – to draw the line between encouraging open dialogue and providing a cover for divisive behavior (especially covert, masked behavior) is a major challenge.

These three actions will help CEOs and senior leaders build trust and keep at-work relationships productive during volatile times.

  1. Name the elephant in the room. Acknowledge that these are trying times for many, with extremely strong emotions having been stirred across the political and personal spectrum.
  2. Establish clear expectations – and boundaries. Remind employees that diverse opinions and perspectives are critical to solving business problems and innovating new ideas, products and services. And on the flipside, personal opinions and perspectives on divisive issues simply do not belong in the workplace. Encourage workers who have personal concerns about workplace practices or actions to take them promptly and directly to a designated resource, such as their Human Resources professional or an Employee Assistance Program advocate.
  3. Recommit to the dignity of every individual. This is one example of where “say-do” is sacrosanct. We often talk about respect in the workplace, and many companies include that word in their values statements. That’s good. Now scan the way you carry yourself, the way you interact with colleagues at all levels – the words you choose and your body language. Make sure that you are “doing” respect as much as you are talking about it. Whether or not they realize it, employees are watching you for cues about what is acceptable behavior. If you are a senior leader, you are used to living in a fishbowl. Recognize that this is truer now than ever.

For more on communicating during divisive times, check out this article, posted on Inauguration Day, 2017.

IMPACT:  Now

IMPACT: Now

The roles of Corporate Communications and Human Resources are SHIFTING – and increasing visibility along with demand TO DELIVER for the business.

What is the difference? IMPACT is delivered and quantified. For example:

  • $14 million saved through engaged employees at the frontlines
  • $725 million in cost reduction through Human Resources process improvements
  • Three plants changeover systems at the same time, on the same day through clarity of personal expectations, defined roles and responsibilities, and active leadership

First, what is driving this demand for impact from Communications and HR and the need to shift?  The lineup of drivers includes:

  • Digital and social media
  • Reputation management
  • Employee engagement

Next, what do you do?  Look at your world from a simple 20-60-20 perspective:

  • 20 percent of activityeliminate activity that is not measured or build processes and tools to shift implementation to other functions for self-service
  • 60 percent is for excellence executionkeep those initiatives where measurement is currently used or can be implemented to illustrate that projects of Communications and HR are moving in the right direction, e.g. surveys, feedback
  • 20 percent for impactidentify the one-to-three areas where you can have an impact for the business in terms that can be translated to financial gain, e.g. cost out, productivity improvements, customer fill rates

Third, where do you start?

  • Make a best friend in finance.
  • Be sure your team clearly understands what is important to the business. This means the approach needs to shift to excellent execution with an operations mindset for delivering impact.
  • Determine together where the team can define and deliver impact! A sense of collaboration working across functions is an interesting byproduct and builds more impact… followed by more impact!

Who to contact for building your impact model: Connect with On the Same Page by contacting Tracy.

WBENC 2017 Summit & Salute Conference Highlights

WBENC 2017 Summit & Salute Conference Highlights

Reflecting on our favorite moments from the WBENC 2017 Summit & Salute in New Orleans. Reflect on… Relationships, why WBENC, the future of healthcare and consumer products and retail: http://bit.ly/2mJEl3f

Summit & Salute is one of two national events where the WBENC network comes together to create and develop dynamic relationships while also taking time to celebrate the successes of our Women’s Business Enterprise Stars and America’s Top Corporations. The Summit engages participants in a two day program focused on the future of various industries, business networking and development opportunities. The Salute! Dinner is a festive evening that highlights our 2016 America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises.

On the Same Page is proud to be certified as a Woman-Owned Business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and honored to support our clients’ commitments to maintain a culture of diversity – inside their organizations and with their external partners.

The Ultimate Balancing Act

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Messages about cost out and growth may seem contradictory. They’re really not – if the company and its leaders are extremely clear in communicating the direction and they see the link in freeing up resources from one area in the company in order to fund growth initiatives in others.

Communicate openly – employees deserve it…and they can handle it. The most successful leaders practice three simple and fundamental principles when it comes to engaging their employees around these priorities.

While these practices are always important, the complex and sometimes confusing dynamics operating within most organizations today make them downright indispensable. We find that while employees may not agree with all of a company’s decisions, particularly the ones that have a negative impact on them and their co-workers, they’re far more likely to respect their leaders and do what is asked if they understand the basis for the actions. Leaders often forget that employees are adults who in many cases run their own households. They understand the basics of revenues and expenses, and most are actively involved in addressing their own life challenges while balancing their household budgets.

For more information, feel free to email me at tracy@on-the-same-page.com.

Drivers of Sustainable Workplace Engagement

Drivers of Sustainable Workplace Engagement

Companies that rank high for employee engagement are more profitable, more productive, have better customer ratings and fewer safety incidents (Gallup).

Here are five tips to help fire up employees engagement.

Before you take any of these steps, consider this a building exercise. In other words, these steps should be taken sequentially and over the course of a year or so, with each step building on the progress and momentum created by the ones before. This will protect from immediate rejection (too many new practices to absorb at once) and lead to a sustainable culture change.

1. Connect with employees. This starts with telling the story – this is the big picture vision of where the organization is going and why this particular company is uniquely able to get there. In addition, leaders should explain the roadmap – the plan for achieving their vision, including what it means for employees and their jobs. Establish an open communication environment by inviting, acknowledging and responding to employee questions, concerns and ideas. Importantly, leaders must keep the dialogue – and their visibility – going so that it becomes “the way we do business around here.”

2. Establish expectations. Set the workforce up for success by establishing behavioral expectations for managers and employees and providing the necessary resources and recognition to win. Objectives should include general business metrics (e.g., gross margin, productivity) as well as those reflecting key drivers of success, such as customer service levels and loyalty and recordable safety cases. Training in communicating and engaging employees can be provided to managers who wield the most influence over employees’ behavior.

3. Develop a Customer First mentality. Introduce the customer as the company’s “raison d’etre” (reason for being) by bringing them – and their ideas – into the company. Invite groups of employees to observe focus groups of customers and competitors’ customers discussing the pros and cons of the organization’s products or services. Hold follow-up meetings with the same employees to hear their reactions and brainstorm how the company can incorporate some of the new ideas. Ask these employees to go back into the workforce to assemble teams and see which team can come up with the most suggestions. Celebrate all of the suggestions by inviting all employees to a “Customer First” party.

4. Share best practices. Establish a mentoring program, matching high performers with those who are not as high performing (but don’t bill it this way publicly!). Ask the partners to identify and focus on two things that each partner can work on to improve, and ask them to commit to specific actions and monitor progress.

5. Make it personal. Engage employees in building a winning team by holding a “What’s the coolest part of working for ABC organization” contest. Submissions should be posted in a highly visible, high traffic area, such as the employee entrance or break room and employees can vote for winners in categories such as Most Creative, Most Practical, Most Customer Focused.

Setting the Stage for a Successful CEO Transition

Setting the Stage for a Successful CEO Transition

After a failed first attempt, #Starbucks #CEO Howard Schultz’s second departure announcement went much smoother. In a post for The CEO Magazine blog, I share why effective communication during a transition means more confidence from your stakeholders.

Here’s a preview of the post. (Visit the full blog post here.)

The steps necessary to mount a successful transition depend on whether the new leader comes from inside or outside of the organization. In both cases, investing time to understand and build on the relationships of the business is crucial.

Here are five keys to success for any new CEO:
  1. Carefully respond to and set expectations.
  2. Connect with employees.
  3. Identify and exploit quick wins.
  4. Get to know the influencers.
  5. In dire situations where market share is evaporating or where a company is losing money, a new CEO especially must act quickly.