3 Steps to Accepting Abundance

I remember exactly when it happened.

I was in New York not quite half-way across Park Avenue on 90th Street, heading east.

It was something my friend Dur said and then it dawned on me in a singular moment: There is enough for everybody.

Life is not a zero sum experience.

So, if someone else gets something good, it does not mean that there is less for me.  Likewise, if you compliment my friend or colleague, it does not diminish me.

We live in abundance and this is especially so for the intangibles like love, appreciation, encouragement.  What’s more, these expressions are like muscles that grow stronger when used.

The memory of that moment was triggered by the many Thanksgiving messages of gratitude I received this last week.  That, in turn, reminded me of how global visionary Lynne Twist proposed that our society is dominated by a pervasive and pernicious lie of scarcity.

In her book, The Soul of Money, Twist cites three toxic myths that she believes sustain the scarcity mindset.

  1. There’s Not Enough:  says some are definitely going to lose out and it becomes the driver to make sure there will be a chair when the music stops.
  2. More Is Better:  seeks to fill the void and ” . . . is a chase with no end and a race without winners.”
  3. That’s Just the Way It Is: cue a sigh of resignation that “the way it is is the way it will stay.”

Twist continues that we have the choice to let go of the mind-set of scarcity and accept sufficiency, and not in a measly barely-more-than-crumbs-outlook, but instead “a context we generate, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.”

This leads to an acknowledgment that appreciation appreciates, a time-honored spiritual belief.

Twist then includes in her discussion appreciative inquiry, a strengths-based model for organizational change based on building on a foundation of what’s working instead of focusing on what’s not working.This is a model created by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney in their positive psychology work at Case Western Reserve.

I have long believed that what we send out, we get back; what we give energy to, gets bigger.

So, as we enter the holiday season and look ahead to a new year, we can accept the invitation to be generous knowing that there is an abundant sufficiency and the act of giving is, in and of itself, self generative.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 
Celebrate what you already have!
 

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Pause for Stress  

Imagine you’re tired . . .

hungry because you skipped lunch . . .

and under a tight deadline.

Now, a phone is ringing and your teenager just texted that they’ve been in an accident.

Stress happens.

Some version of it is inevitable.  Frequently.

Last month we looked at some sources of stress and how we can make matters worse by magnifying the impact with our self-generated fears.  The recommended coping strategy is to increase our self-awareness and maintain perspective.

While we can take some preventative steps around personal environmental factors such rest, diet, and exercise, generally we know what we should be doing but most of us don’t give ourselves the advantage of sustaining healthy balances.

So, if we accept that we are going to face stress, how do we want to handle it when it does happen?

At one end of the spectrum are unhealthy reactions. Some seek to take the edge off, quickly and easily.

In an effort to dull intense, tough feelings caused by stress, they seek distractions ranging from excessive shopping or TV watching or engage in other compulsive behaviors involving food, drugs and alcohol.

Stressful situations are doubly challenging–just when we are facing circumstances that demand we be extra resourceful and adept, our physiological fight/flight/freeze is triggered and draws blood (much needed to think clearly, quickly) to our arms and legs and away from our brain.  I’s not so surprising that we blurt the exact wrong thing in a highly stressful moment.

Plus, that sharp remark can add a brand new layer of stress:  remorse over what we said and now a need to patch things up.

We want to avoid knee-jerk reactions and instead demonstrate more measured, thoughtful responses.

P a u s e . . .

A pause can refresh.

Kevin, an avid golfer, talks about pausing in the backswing.  (Swinging very hard usually produces unwanted results landing in water or the woods.)

Jim says he is not responsible for his first thought but he is responsible for his second thought.  He makes a deliberate effort to rein in the first thought silently and create space for a higher version of himself to respond in a positive way.

Caveat Reactor: Because the urge to be heard can go beyond the triggering moment, there can be an extended need for self-management and to exercise restraint of pen and tongue, a familiar refrain.

How can we practice this?

P a u s e  . . . take a breath . . . wait a beat . . . create your own method of inserting a comma.

Let go and let it become a habit.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

It sounded so much better in my head.

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What’s All That Stress About, Anyway?  

In a world where . . .

the toe-tapping demands for your attention are non-stop and getting more insistent . . .just keeping up-to-date sometimes feels like you’re trying to get a drink but it’s from a whooshing fire hose.   In a world like this, survival is the order of the day.

In this world, changes pile up on one another and the pace keeps accelerating.

All this change generates stress.

Measuring the impact of stressful events, the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a list of 43 life events of varying magnitude–starting with Death of a Spouse (100 life change units), Divorce (73), and ending with Christmas (12) and a Minor Violation of the Law (11).  Nearly all of them hinge on change.  To get a sense of impact, review the events in your life in the last year; a cumulative score above 300 indicates risk of illness.

So what exactly about change is stressful?

The answer is likely complex, unique to you and situational.  In general, though, I think it is about a loss of control.

Double-clicking on that, stress manifests due to the fears of losing what we have and not getting what we want.  And, the worst fear of all: needing to let go of what we have to be available for something new, not getting it, and ending up with nothing.

 Imagine an iceberg:  the small part above water is the stressors we notice such as when we’re running late, stuck in rush hour traffic and then a truck blares its horn, starting a chain reaction of honking cars, kids fighting in the backseat and spilled coffee.

The much larger part of the iceberg below water is what really gets to us.  That would be the anxiety of the imagined consequences of . . . being late and not getting a critical report finished by tomorrow’s noon deadline; or, failing to persuade in next week’s presentation to senior management at your biggest client.

Drilling down, it’s always about fear.  Sometimes, just fear about fear.

The answer is to start with awareness.  Increasing our awareness of what the triggers are. This means that we can start by recognizing these stressors and be alert to their impact.  Forewarned is forearmed.  It also means we can take pre-emptive steps to cut out some of these stressors.

Accepting that some stress is inevitable, if we take an observant perspective, we can keep some remove from the fears and not get so pulled in.

Next month, we’ll look more in depth at motivations for coping with stress for increased wellness.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

Every time I say Yes to something new,

 I am saying No to something else.

Success, enlightenment.

A Win-Win for New Employees, and You  

Sam’s performance was disappointing and, honestly, he was teetering into trouble.   His boss was puzzled.  The recruiting process had been smooth and Sam seemed so promising in his interviews.

Now, three months into his new job, Sam’s boss felt Sam didn’t have a clear focus on his role or what was expected of him.  He hadn’t connected with many of the key people whose support he needed, and worst of all, this company had certain ways of doing things and Sam “just didn’t get it.”

How did this happen?

Sam got the same orientation that all employees got.

That was a big part of the problem.

Like so many people facing new situations, especially when the outcome really matters, Sam had difficulty navigating his new circumstances.  He would have benefitted from a structured process to help him integrate into the firm.

The company’s orientation process handled the mandatory paperwork, basic company policies and included a few introductions to random colleagues. This company’s orientation process was like that at many firms: very short in duration, available to all employees, with low engagement potential and low-to-no strategic value.

Of leaders who join companies from the outside, an alarming 40% fail in their first 18 months, according to Fortune magazine.  What’s more, a full third of external hires are no longer with an organization after two years, say Stein & Christiansen in their book, Successful Onboarding.  They say further that less than a third of executives are positive about their onboarding experience.  So, Sam’s experience was not so unusual.

So, what is onboarding?

It is a program a company designs to reduce the time it takes for a new employee to get up to speed and become productive and to align with the firm’s culture and objectives.

Plus, a well-thought-out program can help a new employee:

  • Assimilate into a firm’s culture
  • Create and develop relationships key to their effectiveness,
  • Offer clarity on roles and expectations
  • Provide guidance on how work gets done

Onboarding often starts early.  A 2011 SHRM study reported that 60% of companies said they began their onboarding efforts before the employee’s first day, some during the recruiting process.  Another 32% started on the first day.

While some companies have programs lasting up to a year or more, they are a tiny minority.  The SHRM research showed 66% completed at 60 days and 91% at 90 days.

   

A good program is strategic and intentional.  This kind of help translates into employees getting further faster and results in higher productivity, retention, profitability and employee engagement.

We believe that the development of the onboarding initiative is best as a multi-departmental effort representing the commitment of top management, the soft skills of HR and talent management, and the perspective of recent hires.

It is usually up to the employee’s manager to oversee the program for their direct report.  To encourage compliance, some companies include the manager’s onboarding supervision as part of the annual review.

Separate from the employee’s manager, mentors (or buddies) can answer the many normal questions that can feel embarrassing and vulnerable to ask. This is especially true with cultural assimilation, the most frequent cause of new employees’ derailment.  Mentors can demystify social norms that seem invisible until they are stepped on.

The mentoring relationship is most effective when it is somewhat informal.  Good candidates for mentoring are employees who are not too much more senior in rank (conducive for candid discussion), have good people skills, are actively engaged and who are willing to be available.

Other elements of a good onboarding program include lots of two-way communication, check points at designated intervals to ensure accountability, clear direction, clarity on expectations, coaching, peer group discussions and metrics to measure progress.

Ultimately, a good onboarding program can deliver a win-win.

First, there is the solid ROI as measured in productivity, retention and engagement.  Second, there is a notable competitive advantage to your firm as most companies do not expend an effort robust and sustained enough for real impact.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 

I can control only two things:  my attitude and my actions.  For everything else, I have to let go.

 Success for you

Showing Up to Connect

Mark had decided not to go.

He told his wife that it was too far to travel.  It had been a long time. Too long, really.  And, besides, it really wasn’t that important to him.

He told me that the next day he felt a pang of intense regret.  And then, it dawned on him that the date had not passed and that this was fixable.

So . . . he decided to go to his high school reunion.

The urge to change course came from an article he had read a few days earlier about the five most common regrets of the dying as written by a palliative nurse.

Included in the top five: people wished they had stayed in touch with friends; that they had allowed themselves to be happier; and, the most common regret of all, that they had lived a life true to themselves and not what was expected of them.

He also reminded himself to adhere to a core personal guideline:  Show Up.

He told me that in his hurried packing, he left his good clothes at home.  So, he arrived feeling underdressed and that only added to his discomfort.  At the first event for his class, he glanced around the room and thought he was in the wrong place.  Back to the information desk, he was reassured that the group in that room was his class.

Later after dinner that Friday night, one brave soul stood and shared what he remembered about school days.  Then, one by one, others took a turn to reminisce and highlight what was important to them.

Each one had a story to tell of teenage angst and awkwardness, of feeling insecure or being discouraged.

  

And, each person also completed their individual story to tell how, as their high school years unfolded, they had been challenged academically, socially and athletically; how they had matured despite themselves; and how they developed character during those years.

Mark said the focus was more on the small triumphs of adolescent persistence.  While very evident, it was left unsaid how those trials became core building blocks for facing adult life later.

Granted the positive theme was due to the attendees being self-selecting in their presence.  Mark said he came away from the reunion feeling more connected to his classmates and the school, largely because of the stories they shared.

His classmates didn’t focus on their own career advancements and the achievements of their children.  They risked vulnerability to say how they felt, what was important, and what they learned.

They may remember the basic personal facts of their peers but it is the personal stories that will have the lasting impact.

So, as he prepared to return home, Mark realized:  He came, connected and rekindled community.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

What we give energy to gets bigger. 

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