When December comes, it seems I’m caught between the hustle and bustle of finishing all the year-end projects/training and my desire to reflect on 2010 and set new goals for 2011. One of the things I love about being a trainer is the opportunity to review and refresh my own skills as I design and prepare for a workshop. In looking back over the past year, I began to jot down some of the behavior patterns that can get in the way of our success, and admittedly get in the way of mine, sometimes without even recognizing them. For 2011, here are 11 jumpstarts to greater success in life and the workplace:
1. Commit to “shedding.” As Kathy Dempsey in her book, Shed or You’re Dead, explains, “Shedding is growin – on one side, it’s letting go of the old, on the other side, it’s gaining the new.” You see, lizards have to shed their skin to grow. If they don’t shed their skin, they die. We need to grow as well and sometimes that means letting go of the past, our beliefs, our habits, anything that gets in the way of our growth. This is really step one – commit to shed.
2. Think before you speak. This goes from everything to (1) not addressing others when you are having a fight/flight response; to (2) taking time to think through your words before you use them. Each of us should have and utilize a filter where we recognize our own “triggers” and negative reactions based on our history with others.
3. Focus on really listening to others. I like Mark Goulston’s analogy in his book, Just Listen. He tells us to picture ourselves driving up a steep hill. The tires slip and slide and you can’t grab hold. But downshift, and you get control. It’s like pulling the road to meet you. He suggests that instead of “upshifting” in the form of persuading, encouraging, arguing and pushing which creates resistance, we need to listen, ask, mirror and reflect back to people what we’ve heard. When we do this, people feel seen and understood, and are drawn to us.
4. Learn to be empathetic. As Franklin Covey puts it “seek first to understand, rather than be understood.” It starts with the right attitude, and then a desire to work on the skill. Here, Mark Goulston encourages us to use the “Empathy Jolt.” He suggests that “you can’t be curious and on the attack at the same moment.” (read more on the Empathy Jolt)
Use this exercise to flex your empathy muscle:
· When you find yourself aggravated at someone, get this picture in your head and be conscious of how it makes you feel. Rate it on an aggravation scale of 1 to 10. (that one’s easy, Mark.)
· Now, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine what this person would say if asked what angers, hurts or frustrates him or her most about you. Pretend someone else is asking him or her about anything you’ve done to hurt, disappoint or frustrate him or her.
· Imagine if someone asked him or her, how much it upset that person. Put yourself in this person’s shoes and hear him/her say “a lot.”
· Now think back to your earlier reaction and level of aggravation. Rate it again.
Goulston points out that when he does this exercise in training, his audience starts out at an 8 or 9 and ends up at a 3 or 4 on the aggravation scale. I know I need to practice flexing my empathy muscle in 2011.
5. When you don’t know, admit it. In the world where everything is a “google” or “wiki” away, having information is power. However, giving out poor advice or winging it leaves you looking foolish and feeling embarrassed (especially those times you are being tested). More importantly, it undermines your overall credibility affecting areas where you might just know your stuff. Acknowledge the other person’s good insight or question, and see if you can find the answer.
6. Don’t take everything so personally and work to build, not destroy your self esteem. Honestly, I am the worst offender of this one. Rosamund Stone and Benjamin Zander in The Art of Possibility delicately put it this way in Rule #6. The important thing to remember is: Don’t take yourself so @!#$%^^ seriously. As they suggest, lighten up and you just might lighten up others. Use humor and laughter to “get over yourself.”
Steve Gilliland stresses that you need to guard your self esteem by:
· Never taking things personally
· Never tying yourself to what you can’t control
· Never letting anyone decide your worth
· Never pitying or belittling yourself
· Never comparing yourself to others
7. Let others help and support you. I like this quote from Steve Gilliland in Performance Essentials in the Workplace – “Anytime you spend time doing something someone else can do, you won’t have time to do what only you can do.” Ask for help and support.
8. Be a person people can trust and want to be around. Strive to be a person of character: talk straight, demonstrate respect, create transparency, right wrongs and show loyalty. Be seen as competent: deliver results, get better, confront reality, clarify expectations and practice accountability. Finally, put them both together and listen first, keep commitments and extend trust to others.
9. Go for “great” – that extra degree. In 212 Degrees: The Extra Degree, Sam Parker suggests that:
· At 211 degrees, water is hot.
· At 212 degrees, it boils.
· And with boiling water, comes steam.
· And with steam, you can power a train.
Keep the heat on whatever goal you pursue to achieve not only the primary objective you seek, but to reap the exponential rewards that are possible by applying one extra degree of effort.
10. Use your “Get Out of Jail Free” card. There are times when our biggest obstacle to success is simply our inability to forgive ourselves and move forward. All of us need a jubilee day once in a while.
11. Finally, use this holiday time to reflect on those things that are most important to you – don’t wait until something major happens in your life, to put what you value most, first and what you value least, last. Listen to Steve Gilliland in Enjoy the Ride. He suggests our resolutions should be around pursuing passion, energy and enthusiasm, focusing on these key elements to sustain the ride: faith that keeps you believing, motivation to keep you moving, love to keep you encouraged, courage to keep you exploring and wisdom to keep you safe.
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