Achim’s Energy Boost

22Apr2019

The Mueller probe. Russia probe.

That’s what I think of first when I hear the word “probe.” Congressional hearings. Senators hovering in elevated seats, staring down at the solitary witness with a prosecutorial air. Probing, probing, probing, probing.

A spectacle.

Given this context it’s easy to forget that great things that can happen when we probe with a measure of grace in our everyday lives. Not the lawyer/prosecutor/interrogator probing. No, the probing for greater personal connection.

Lynne Waymon, my esteemed colleague, friend and the CEO of Contact Counts, a training firm that teaches professionals how to better network, told Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal about a survey her firm conducted with over 1000 professionals (WSJ, 5/23/17). According to Waymon, only 1 out of 4 professionals sees value in asking probing questions of strangers.

I’m shocked. We’re not talking senate-hearing-probe here. We’re talking probing to elevate everyday relationships.

Everyday probing, Waymon elaborates, involves taking a risk. I’m demanding more of you when I ask thought-provoking questions. I’m making an assumption that you’re in this conversation to make something of it.

Risky, yes. But business success tends to amplify when we take conscious risks. Business relationships blossom when we consciously probe.

Want to minimize the risk?  Here are my Top 5 Conversational Probing Tips. They work in business and in absolutely every aspect of your life:

  1. Always a 2-fer

When you ask someone a question, think Question/Answer/Follow-up Question. The second question confirms that you have heard, that you’re interested, and that you long to know more. It demonstrates curiosity. It’s the relationship builder.

The exception? When the first question creates clear discomfort or disinterest in your conversation, notice the discomfort and move on, unless it is time to have an intentionally disruptive conversation with this individual.

  1. The low-risk probe

Asking for specifics as you probe is simple, surefire, and the least risky way of advancing and deepening any conversation.

Statement:  I had such a great time in New York over the week-end.
Question:  What did you enjoy most during your visit?

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how often have you spoken with someone who immediately starts telling you how HE always wanted to visit New York or how she had an amazing time on HER last trip to the Big Apple. Probing opportunity wasted.

  1. The high-impact probe

Asking for the WHY drives a conversation to the other person’s deeper purpose and motivation. Your conversation drops to a more intimate, more vulnerable and ultimately more enriching level. It is simply inevitable.

Statement:  I just love spending time in New York.
Question:  Why do you think you enjoy being in New York so much?

  1. The what-did-you-feel probe

Asking to name an emotion may seem a little therapy-ish to you. Overuse it, and folks may indeed tell you to stop “being my shrink.” But our emotions are the hidden level beyond thought where we commit to, or resist, any situation or experience. Naming an emotion will invariably invite powerful personal testimony.

Statement:  I had such a great time in New York.
Question:  So how do you feel while you run around in New York?

  1. Know when to un-probe

I hang out with professional coaches. Many of them are masters at asking probing questions. Coaches have also been trained to keep themselves out of the conversation. While that may work in a coaching conversation, it NEVER works in a business conversation. Keep probing and probing, and you become one of those senator-probing-machines, even when you do it with a smile.

Want to deepen a relationship? Probe, probe, and then find a sincere AND substantive link to your own experiences.

It’s oh so clear. If you want to succeed in your relationships – any relationships – asking a probing question is a non-negotiable skill. NOT probing isn’t an option.

Don’t ask the probing question like a prosecutor, ask it with grace. But ask. Ask it often. And reap the rewards.

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15Apr2019

It’s a bruising paradigm.

We expect a leader to have answers. The level of your leadership pay is commensurate with the expectation that you execute strategy and don’t make a mistake. An apology is a very public acknowledgment of having erred. A sign of weakness. Or so the story goes.

Yup. Bruising.

Leaders are human. They err.

Here’s what’s even more brutal. The pressure to fake the knowing, to have a solution, to be in charge of the execution game, is relentless. We can fake the I’m-a-smart-leader-who’s-in-control part. For a while. We can’t fake the apology part. EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER.

An exquisite apology is a powerful reset point in any relationship. Professional, personal. It gets us to the human truth of events that occurred. It invites the possibility of redemption and a path forward. It unmasks the I-have-it-all-under-control game. It is ultimately liberating for every party involved.

Need to apologize? Here are a few essentials:

1. Choose unequivocal language.

Our choice of language needs to signal full ownership of the apology. No I regretI wish I hadn’t. Cautious words that signal half-hearted remorse. An apology requires an unequivocal verbal cue. I am sorry thatI apologize for. Amplify such cues by adding qualifiers that indicate the depth of your apology. I am so very sorry that. I apologize profusely for. Amplify with language that is authentic to you, not clichéd.

2. Convey understanding.

If your behavior has caused financial, physical or emotional harm to your business or the people you engage with, convey clearly that you are aware of this impact. We want to know that you understand the depth and scope of the damage you have caused – and its impact on people. For us to move forward with you, we need to know that you “get it.” When you don’t demonstrate insight, any apology remains a narcissistic exercise.

3. Drop all conditions.

No but I had a little too much to drink. No I didn’t have all the information. No circumstances were beyond my control. No other people have failed much worse. All of that may be true. It doesn’t matter. Assume unconditional responsibility. No butif onlyunder other circumstances. Own it. Fully. Don’t diminish your 100% ownership of your actions.

4. Feel it.

Clever apologies don’t stir us. Cognitive insight alone is never enough. We long to know that you had an emotional awakening which prompted you to apologize. That your emotions were stirred as you reflected on the impact of your behavior. Especially if your apology is caused by any misdeeds on your dark side. Yes, we need your apology to come from the heart. And that’s the part we cannot EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER fake.

A heartfelt apology is a sign of strength. Always is. It flips the narrow leadership story – hey, I have all the answers – to a human leadership story – I am a leader who loves to execute and win, but yes, I am human, and I own my mistakes with integrity.

More helpful story, right? More successful story, as well.

All it takes is an apology. Apologize freely. Apologize well. Apologize from the heart.

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8Apr2019

I worked out with a trainer for the last 5 years. Liked the discipline. Appreciated Reggie’s focused and yet very personable demeanor during the work-outs. 2019 is the year of simplifying my life – and as part of this simplification I decided to do without the trainer part. Focus on swimming laps in my pool and going to the gym once in a while on my own.

Simple, right? Well, as the moment to tell Reggie approached, I found myself hemming and hawing. Wanted to procrastinate. Wanted to find the “perfect moment” to say it. I suddenly felt awkward and tongue-tied. It was tough to get the words out.

Endings are hard. Good-byes are difficult.

I had to be reminded, again. This ending made me think of the many professional situations in our lives when it is time to say good-bye. Because we have accepted a position in another company. We may have been let go. We got transferred within our company to a new role, a new business, a different location. And then there are all those moments when we stay but someone we have worked with closely moves on.

Saying good-bye is part of the dance of life.

Don’t avoid the good-bye. A loss is a loss. If you’ve spent any time at all in the corporate world you have likely attended a program about how we move through change. You’ve seen a powerpoint slide about the emotions we may experience when there is a loss, whether we frame it as a loss or not. The emotional change journey, as taught in corporations, is based on the wisdom and books of Dr. Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross (On Grief and Grieving and On Death and Dying).

Yes, it was “just” a professional relationship. And yes, feelings will kick in. Saying good-bye is not a simple transactional moment. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge a loss. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the rich encounters you and I had. Even if what we had was not always easy or friction-free.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts you may wish to consider when it is time for a professional good-bye. This I know – you will have many opportunities to apply them:

Good-bye Do’s:

  • Do it in-person
    If at all possible, have a private moment with your colleague or colleagues. If at all possible, do so in in-person. If it was a truly significant relationship, go out and share a meal. Honor the relationship by not rushing the good-bye. Linger for a moment. Be realistic – this will take time, especially if many colleagues are involved. Take the time. It will be time well spent.
  • Celebrate the best of the relationship
    Explicitly state what you experienced as the highest good in the relationship. Remember the moments when you had shared successes, when working together was a joy, when you conquered obstacles together. If your colleague was helpful to you along the way, state it. If there were rough patches in your relationship, acknowledge them in a light-hearted way but focus on what you valued, instead. Leave with the good.
  • Acknowledge what you feel
    If feelings come up about a colleague’s departure or your own, state them in feeling language. If you feel sad, say so. If you don’t feel sad, do not say that you are. Stick to what is true for you in the moment, not a fantasy script of what should be said in a moment of good-bye. This sounds obvious but is not easy to execute. Because emotions can feel overwhelming we are tempted to “shut down” when it’s time top say good-bye. Don’t. Stay present.
  • Have a stay-in-touch plan
    If you would like to stay connected with a colleague, state it and be clear about how you will follow-up. Make it specific. Will you connect via your preferred social media platform? Will you call her in a month to grab a meal? Will you wait 3 months so he can adjust to new professional circumstances? Whatever your thinking of, state it. Your specificity shows that you mean it.

  • Wish them the absolute very best
    Whether you liked this person or not, whether you will miss them or not – wish them the absolute very best. It’s good karma. The Golden Rule. Get in the habit of wholeheartedly wishing the best for others. Your inner homework is to make sure that you do, indeed, fully and unconditionally wish the very best for others. Your transactional reminder is to not forget to say it.

Good-bye Don’ts:

  • Avoid the good-bye
    Because good-byes can be uncomfortable, it is tempting to avoid them. We suddenly get very busy on our day of departure. We feel overwhelmed or distracted. We may feel nauseous or “not fully here.” Our mind may have already raced to what we will do the week after. Beware. Plan time for your good-byes. Show up for them. Don’t get caught like a deer in the headlights. Don’t shun the good-bye.
  • Offer follow-up platitudes
    I suggested earlier we think ahead about how we wish to stay connected. As helpful as it is to be genuinely connected with professional colleagues, truth is there are also those colleagues we’re happy to see go. If that is the case, acknowledge it to yourself. And do not resort to platitudes like let’s stay in touch or let’s grab a drink. Wish them the very best – but don’t “play nice” by pretending you wish to extend the relationship.
  • Give Gifts
    Unless the gift is an object which is powerfully connected to a significant moment in your professional relationship, skip it. No bottles of wine, flowers, candy, company pens. The biggest gift is a moment of genuine connection and being present for whatever the good-bye moment holds. Everything else is camouflage. Drop the camouflage. Show up.

Saying my good-byes to Reggie reminded me of just how uncomfortable a good-bye can be – and how powerful, at the same time, when we show up for it. Do the dance. Choose to show up. Be genuine. Be prepared. And tap the part of you that will enjoy the dance.

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1Apr2019

I stumbled into a new restaurant last night, here in Hollywood/Florida where I live. Indonesian Cuisine. The food was sumptuous. Better yet, it was matched by the quality of the service. Attentive, energetic, consistent, helpful. The server, the busboy, the owner. Everyone.

Professional is the word that comes to mind.

Earlier in the day I had spoken with my chipper 94-year-old mom in Germany. Our chat reminded me of how two years ago, after mom had a minor stroke, I arranged for her to move into an Assisted Living Facility. The unforeseen part of that experience? Within a matter of weeks I had a seemingly endless stream of interactions with professionals I had never before met. Doctors, many of them. Nurses, even more. Physiotherapists. Social Workers. Bank Clerks. Receptionists. Taxi Drivers. Security Guards. Assisted Living Directors. Car Mechanic. Apartment Liquidator. Newspaper clerk. Clergy.

I was taking care of mom, and I was witnessing a whole lot of professionals being professional.

Being helpful, not helpful. Present, not present. Focused, distracted. Flexible, rigid. Warm, aloof. Grouchy, joyful. All while performing their jobs. And I thought of you and me. The choices we make, every day, as we show up for work.

It’s not like we don’t know. I saw it in my Indonesian restaurant, and I saw it so clearly while in Germany, tending to my mom. How we show up at work, moment by moment, human interaction by interaction, is a conscious choice. It always is. The fundamental choices we make in every human encounter change their day, and they change ours.

A little reminder of what works, regardless of your personality type or what line of work you’re in:

  • Choose Joy.

It doesn’t need to be big ra-ra joy, and no fake cheer, please. But the moment you and I have a professional encounter with another person, whether we know her or not, whether we like him or not, let’s infuse it with a sense of delight in the encounter. Let’s make this sense of delight our most elemental choice, and let’s make it a conscious one. The starting point, always. It will infuse every second that unfolds. The alternative isn’t pretty.

  • Manage Your Irritations.

When you’re having a “bad” day, don’t dump your crappy mood on others. Ever, ever. We have two choices, always. We can be transparent about what is bugging us. When that is not appropriate to the situation we’re in, we can manage our irritations. Not stuff ‘em, but be aware of them and mindful of containing them. Anything else is not cool. Bad-mood drip drip drip is poisonous. Show up as a grown-up, please, and don’t drip. Be cool.

  • Demonstrate Understanding.

We like agreement with others – but what we truly desire is understanding. You and I cannot always offer agreement, and we frequently don’t receive it. But we can always seek to understand. And we can, to the best of our ability, convey to the other person that we have understood. No fake “yeah, I get it.” No easy platitudes, no surface-skimming. No, an understanding of the deeper yearning, the stuff beneath the surface. The human and sometimes messy part. Agreement is nice. Being understood, truly understood, is better.

  • Drop the mask.

The professional mask, that is. It is so seductive. The “I’m efficient mask.” The “I know what I’m doing mask.” Don’t get me wrong. By all means, be efficient and know what you’re doing. We expect nothing less of you. But when this ability turns into your primary public demeanor, it becomes a professional shield. The “crisp” mask. Clean execution of required behavior – whether it is greeting a client or delivering a performance review at work – in a professional human exchange is never enough. Go beyond required. Warmth works. So does kindness.

Over the last two years, mom has had her good days and she has the not-so-good ones. Her social filters are gone. I think of a moment when she was in a Rehab clinic and complained, yet again, about the inattention of the staff at the clinic. We bantered back and forth about what transpires in a human exchange. I know that when I greet the nurse with a smile and a good attitude, mom admitted with a wistful sigh, I always get a smile in return.

It’s a two-way street. It always is. And the choice begins with us.

Always does.

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25Mar2019

Empathy.

A great word. Like passion, like integrity, like synergy – a word in danger of becoming an easily uttered cliché.

What does empathy-in-action actually look like? Do I “feel” more for my colleagues? Do I behave more kindly toward them? Is it something I say that unequivocally articulates my empathy?

I remember an interview the great Cate Blanchett gave for her Oscar-nominated performance in the film “Carol.” In the interview, Blanchett defines acting as an act of empathetic connection with a character. When you act, you temporarily walk in another character’s shoes. And Blanchett draws the sort of distinction actors love to make: You don’t have to be a killer to convincingly play a killer. No, acting is a momentary, highly-skilled Shoe Swap.

Watching the tv show “Undercover Boss” is one of my guilty pleasures. In “Undercover Boss,” a CEO goes undercover for a week and, under the guise of being a trainee, performs some of the tasks that frontline employees in the business perform on a daily basis. A classic Shoe Swap. Invariably, the CEO is startled by the disconnect between the firm’s corporate strategy and the hardships faced by its workers in daily execution. As in a way cheesy and “manipulated” as the show is – the impact of the Shoe Swap experience is clearly transformational for most CEOs. By the end of the experiment, they are invariably reduced to tears.

A Shoe Swap is powerful.

When I received my Mediation training at the Brooklyn Courts, back in the 1990s, shoe-swapping was one of the techniques we learned to help shift an adversarial relationship. Yes, powerful.

Next time you wish to behave more empathetically toward a colleague, don’t just think nice thoughts. Do a mental Shoe Swap. Here’s how it works.

You sit in a meeting. You have a strong reaction to an idea proposed by a colleague. You feel the heat rise in your chest. Your mind is itching to reject the asinine suggestion put forth. You’re planning a brilliant retort. Uhuh, your mind is ready to do battle.

Go to your internal cue word: Shoe Swap.

  • For the next 45 seconds, intentionally abandon your thoughts, your feelings, your reaction.
  • For these 45 seconds, FULLY try to understand the reasoning, the rationale behind this colleague’s point of view.
  • Contemplate the challenges your colleague may be facing.
  • FULLY put yourself in your colleague’s shoes.

45 seconds. We can do that, right?

A Shoe Swap does not mean we agree with another person. It does not suggest we abandon our beliefs.  You and I may not be reduced to tears like the CEOs in “Undercover Boss.” But if we engage in our 45-second Shoe Swap with sincere intent, there’s a superb chance we’ll end up with a more complex understanding of the situation at hand.

Shoe Swap accomplished. Empathy in action.

You and I are responsible for our mental cuing.  A Shoe Swap does not magically happen by itself.

Incorporate the phrase “Shoe Swap” into your mental programming. Triggered in a conversation? Think Shoe Swap. Execute in 45 seconds. Powerful shifts will occur in your conversation. 45 seconds is all it takes.

Swap freely.

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18Mar2019

When I tell friends that I’m helping organize a global event around happiness, I am often met with a pained roll of the eyes. A moment of polite silence. And attempts to contain the happiness conversation.

Well, you can’t be happy all the time.

Don’t you think being fulfilled is more important than being happy?

Happiness, I read between the lines, is deemed fluffy and fleeting. Not robust enough.

Meet a business leader who gets it. Cedric Bru, the CEO of Taulia, a maker of invoicing software for the likes of Coca Cola, Halliburton, Pitney Bowes, PayPal, Agilent Technologies, Hallmark and many, many others. Taulia has a 100% customer retention rate since launching in 2009. Taulia is doing something right.

How do you hire people? Cedric Bru was asked by Adam Bryant, the former curator of the compulsively readable New York Times Corner Office column (NY Times, 2/5/2017).

I believe that people overperform when they are happy. And I don’t believe that companies make people happy. People find happiness in a company, in their life. It’s not external. People have to be happy with themselves.

For Bru, the notion of happiness is more than a fanciful leadership idea. It’s an explicit part of the workplace conversation.

Happiness is personal; the way you find happiness in a company is different from mine. So I ask questions that are tailored to understanding how they will find happiness here. It becomes a shared assessment.

I will ask you how you will find happiness at Taulia, and I want you to think how feasible it is. Because if you don’t think you can find happiness here, I don’t want to work with you. It’s not good for you. It’s not good for everyone else.

We tend to hire folks for skill and culture fit. Cedric Bru taps a deeper animator. His comments make me think of a trip I took to Bhutan in 2017. Bhutan is famous for having created a Gross National Happiness index. Political and spiritual leaders are committed to creating conditions that allow their citizens to be happy. This commitment is supported by specific policies that are deemed to foster a happier country. And yet, every civic and spiritual leader I spoke with in Bhutan was unequivocal: We can create the conditions that make it easier for you to be happy. But we cannot make you happy. You’re responsible for your own happiness.

If these considerations interest you, tune in for an entire week of great chats about happiness. The virtual World Happiness Agora is taking place this week, March 18-22 (www.happinessagora.world). It is the most comprehensive global gathering ever of thinkers and practitioners in every aspect of creating happier lives. Happiness and Mental Health, Happiness and Education, Happiness and Self Mastery, Happiness and Technology, and Happiness@Work.

I had the pleasure of helping organize an entire day centered on Happiness@Work. March 21. This day alone, hear from Mo Gawdat, Former Chief Business Officer at GoogleX and the author of “Solve for Happy.”  Anna Gowdridge, Head of People at Virgin Unite. Blake Harris, Leader of the Happy Crew at Zoom. Peter Weng, Chief Business Officer Search Inside Yourself Business Institute. Doug Kirkpatrick, Author, TEDx Speaker, Global Authority on Self-Management. Pim de Morree, Co-Founder of Corporate Rebels. Raj Raghunathan, author of “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy.” Eve Simon, Founder of The Future of Leadership Salon. And so many other wise and inspiring guests.

Cedric Bru was right. So are our friends in Bhutan. Happiness it’s a choice, and it begins with us.

So come, be inspired. Brighten your happiness radar. Join us for some amazing conversations!

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11Mar2019

Trust is an ephemeral thing. Sometimes hard to describe, harder to quantify.

And yet, every relationship – professional and personal – is transformed when trust becomes the guiding force in that relationship.

I think of an interview Adam Bryant, former columnist of the New York Times Business Section’s inspired Corner Office column, conducted with Tobi Luetke a few years back. Luetke is the young, German-born founder and CEO of Shopify, an e-commerce software company. Luetke holds a personal net worth of US $ 1.2 Billion. One of his secrets? At Shopify, they get explicit about trust.

We talk a lot about something called a ‘trust battery,’ Luetke tells Bryant. It’s charged at 50% when people are first hired. And then every time you work with someone at the company, the trust battery between the two of you is either charged or discharged, based on things like whether you deliver on what you promise. (NY Times, 4/24/2016)

At Shopify, the notion of charging the trust battery is not just a cute little phrase – it’s an integral part of the work culture. 

We decided to create a metaphor, Tobi elaborates, so that we can talk about this in performance reviews without people feeling like the criticisms are personal.

Marvelous.

A metaphor awash with brilliant allusions. A battery becomes depleted and needs to be charged. Most of us desire a long battery life. It behooves us to notice when a battery isn’t charged. If we don’t notice, trouble ensues. Clear, right?

Trust is not a fixed, static entity. There is no neutral, no holding pattern when it comes to trust. Our actions either charge or deplete the battery. Desire more success? Start to view yourself as a trust charger. It puts you into the driver seat for shaping the underlying and often invisible dynamics in any relationship.

Because each relationship is different, start with a little reflection to better understand how you currently charge or discharge trust:

  1. How do I experience the notions of “charge” and “trust?

For example: Charging, feeling charged, intentionally charging another person are more than nice ideas. How do you FEEL when you are charged, when your battery is full? How do you EXPERIENCE this sensation in your body, in your thoughts?

– Tip: When we know what it feels like, we have a better sense of what it is we’re seeking to invoke. And we have a better notion of when we’ve been successful!

  1. What are 3 everyday behaviors I already engage in that charge the battery? 

– For example: I genuinely praise colleagues or team members when they have done a great job.

– Tip: Do it more often, with more people.

  1. What are 3 behaviors I engage in that tend to deplete the battery

– For example: I give one set of instructions, and when I have a new insight I change my instructions and give new guidance.

– Tip: Think things through more thoroughly before giving instructions to your colleagues so you don’t become the leader who is constantly “changing his mind” and driving folks bonkers.

Yes, trust is ephemeral, but it is fueled by our simple everyday behaviors. How would you fare in the annual Shopify Trust-Battery-Review? Conduct your own trust-performance-reviews. Don’t conduct them merely once a year, conduct them often. Make them an integral part of how you “do relationships.” You will be amazed at just how quickly the batteries get charged.

Theirs. And yours.

Charge on.

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4Mar2019

Yeah, we know.

Every aspect of work flows better when our business relationships work.

We know – and then we get busy. Transaction mode takes over. Execution fever. We forget.

Old-school wisdom is that if we desire stronger relationships, we need to spend more time with folks. Yup. Here, however, is the deal. We can be really really busy and still deepen our relationships. If you don’t have more time to spend, use language that accelerates connection!

“People with rich vocabularies,” success guru Tony Robbins suggests in his wise little book Giant Steps, “have a multihued palette of colors with which to paint their life’s experience.”

Multihued. Yes. Here’s the good news: The colors in your palette don’t need to be high-falutin’. A rich verbal palette works best when used in person – and it works equally well on the phone, in a Zoom meeting, in writing. So, busy or not, cultivate your connecting palette!

Here are my top 5 verbal cues that I know will strengthen any business relationship you’re in – and all other relationships, as well!

  1. I was touched by …

Most of us, even if we’re a little gruff on the outside, have a keen desire to impact folks. The deepest impact occurs when we touch someone’s heart. This simple phrase indicates to the other person that s/he has, indeed, via an action or a gesture, had that sort of impact on us. Powerful. Get in the habit of being touched, please.

  1. You really helped me …

It feels good to know that something we have done, no matter how small it may have seemed to us, has been of help to someone. It feels even better to hear this acknowledged. Whenever possible, let someone know that something they said or did, even if it was routine behavior for them, was helpful to you. “Help” is a fundamental relationship word.

  1. I never looked at it this way before …

Especially in a conversation that may have had its rough patches, acknowledge that the other person had a positive impact on you. Made you think of new possibilities, had you question hidden assumptions, forced you to reach beyond easy answers. This phrase celebrates the positive aspects of a potentially uncomfortable conversation. I mean – someone had an impact on you; how powerful is that! Relationship instantly enhanced.

  1. I don’t agree with …

You may wonder, hey, really – how is disagreeing with someone a relationship-builder? Folks who have strong relationships with others are not afraid to disagree. They don’t waste time dancing around a moment of disagreement. They state their disagreement “in neutral.” No raised voice, no elevated emotion, no drama. Just a fact. The moment a disagreement is stated, the conversation can shift to new ideas and fresh solutions. Instead of offering me platitudes or making me guess what you really think – you actually let me know. Honestly, respectfully. How liberating is that.

  1. I know we can come up with something better …

Even as we discard a present state that we believe isn’t working, we look to the future with unwavering optimism in our ability to deliver. The word “we” is a potent non-blame word. And the affirmation of my faith in the “we” is a sublime relationship-shaper. Add the verb “can” – and whoa, power magnified. Get in the habit of saying “we can!”

There are folks with whom it is tough to build relationships. Agreed. But even a tough nut tends to crack when s/he is approached with a relationship-enhancing cue. The most common objection I hear to the just-listed cues: This is simply not how I talk. That, of course, is the very point. Would you object in this manner when you learn a foreign language? No – you would learn the language.

Toss the objections. Expand the palette.

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25Feb2019

Octavio and I sit in Books and Books café on Miami Beach’s famous Lincoln Road Mall. Talking about what energizes us in our work.

Octavio has held senior HR Leadership roles for Fortune 500 firms throughout Latin America.

Great jobs, Octavio affirms, but when I think back, 30% to 40% of what I did on a daily basis drained me.

Tasks either give energy or take energy away. 40% is a lot of energy depletion. As I listen to Gustavo I think of a conversation I had with Ann, Head of Engineering for a well-known manufacturing company, just this week. I start my days early, Ann says. I have a run at 5. My first call at 7:30. By 3:00 in the afternoon I am drained, with little left.

Yup. Been there. Drained.

The simple answer, of course, is this: Perform fewer tasks that don’t energize you. Tasks that call on your least developed mental faculties, tasks that you’re simply not proficient in.

Not an option to say NO to tasks that drain? In that case, consider some ways of undraining the tasks that drain you. Choose to undrain yourself. Here are a few mental levers that may help you do so:

  1. STOP the Pre-Drain

The mental battle before the task, the state of anticipatory dread, is often more draining than the task itself. Not only do we reinforce how unpleasurable a task will be before we engage in it, we in effect drain the tasks that precede the task we dread. We exponentially amplify the drain. Accept that the task will be done. Choose to ditch the pre-task drama. Instant drain reduction.

  1. Make a Temporary Commitment

When we’re not excited about performing a task, we tend to not fully commit to the execution of the task. We unwittingly prolong the agony. The moment we fully commit to something, the German poet Goethe famously said, then providence moves too. We fuel the drain by not committing. We disallow providence.

Flip the equation. Commit to reduce the drain. The commitment is just for now, for this moment. You’re not committing to perform this task for the rest of your life. And just for now, committing always beats not committing.

  1. It’s OK to NOT Love It

We love to compare and despair. Love to compare the task that drains to the task that thrills, the task we dread to the task we adore. It’s OK to not love every task equally. It’s OK to derive a different kind of satisfaction from the task that tends to drain.

It may be the satisfaction of executing it proficiently. Efficiently. The satisfaction of successfully harnessing your resistance. Discover what the satisfaction point is for you – and let go of the notion that you have to love this task. If loving it is your standard, the task will always lose.

  1. Reward Yourself

Reward yourself for performing a routine task. Sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? It IS cheesy – and it works! Here are my personal mini-incentives for executing a drainer: Hop in the car and grab a latte at the Scandinavian Bakery down the street. Take a dip in the pool. A beach break (I live in South Florida). 5 minutes in the sun, eyes closed. A quick inspirational read.

The beauty of rewarding yourself? You get to pick the reward. You get to decide what makes you feel good. You get to consciously give yourself an Energy Boost. Now why the heck would you not want to do that?

Get clear on what your these-drain-me tasks are. Name them and claim them. Choose to approach each one of these tasks differently. Experiment with drain-reduction habits.

And enjoy the surprising fruits of instant drain mitigation. 

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18Feb2019

One of those weeks. Moving too fast.

A writing deadline. Crafting a keynote. Chasing logistics. Designing a new workshop. Personal conflict with a colleague who matters. That was my week.

You know how it goes. New information flies in before you have time to respond to the old one. You shift gears, readjust, every moment, at high speed.

Your brain is about to spin.

Too fast.

Yes, you remember what they taught you in time management class. Prioritize your commitments. Bundle tasks. Delegate. Take a break.

You believe in that stuff. This week it all seems just a little too cute. Not working.

When the stuff you think you SHOULD do isn’t working, try the stuff that will. Here are a few approaches that may do the trick:

  1. Accept it

Let go of the notion that this will be a balanced week. It’s not the week you got. Do not fight it, do not resist it, do not try to change it. Accept it. I mean, FULLY accept it. Surrender wholeheartedly to what is in front of you. Because fretting and fuming and wishing the demands would go away will drain even more of your energy.

If every week is a too-busy week, please reconsider why you have invested in an overly busy life. But just for now, board this week’s train. Ride it. And commit to the fast ride.

  1. Fuel yourself

A break would be brilliant. It’s not going to happen. When we don’t break we tend to also not fuel ourselves. We forget. At time when we need a lot more fuel, we succumb to less or none at all. FUEL YOURSELF. Consistently. With water, with nutrition, with healthy body-energy-fuel.

Notice the difference it makes. Instantly. So so simple.

  1. Articulate the experience

A disarmingly easy concept. And effective. When you start to feel overwhelmed, tell someone. Feeling overwhelmed. When your brain can’t think straight anymore, tell someone. Can’t think straight right now. The act of stating what we feel lessens the very thing we’re feeling. Part of the emotion gets released the moment it’s articulated. It also keeps us conscious of what is going on.

Because the other option – checking out – never gets us to the end of the day.

  1. STOP

When you absolutely must STOP, STOP. Not when you habitually STOP. Not when your calendar says take a break. No. When your mind, your body tell you to STOP. Listen, notice, don’t override. No, STOP.

When you STOP, don’t fill your STOP with distractions. No facebooking, no internet-cruising, no brain-feeding of any sort. Just STOP. You’ll be surprised by how little STOP-time you need when a STOP actually is a break.

Here is your bonus option.

The moment you find yourself resenting a week that’s moving too fast – and let’s face it, we all have made the trip to resentmentland many times over – why not ponder this question:

What part of the experience today could actually be fun if I let it?

I don’t mean to be glib with this question. Consider it. Really. Be ready to amaze yourself.

Now go execute.

And let it be.

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