Decisive Moments

image pathThere are a number of behaviors that translate into becoming a successful leader in the workplace. However, I believe that what really separates the employees from the true leaders are the decisions that you make in those tough times. What matters are those certain behaviors that you display in the challenging times, in the face of CHANGE, when it would be easier to do what feels good in the short term instead of what’s right for you and others in the long term. The actions you take in those defining moments either chart a course for success or steer you further from your goals.


When you need to just let it go

Maybe you’re aggravated beyond belief that your peer, who doesn’t work as hard as you, just got the promotion that you have wanted forever. Or maybe, you have a peer that repeated some information that you told them in confidence. It could be that you have someone you work with that didn’t support you in an office meeting (when they said that they would). You can’t stop steaming that they did this to you and it’s always on the forefront of your mind. But here’s the thing— not letting this go is getting in the way of you putting your best foot forward NOW. You are reliving yesterday on a daily basis. It’s like lugging an extra 10 pounds around your neck every day to work. The bottom line is that focusing on the past zaps your energy and blocks your ability to focus on positive outcomes in the present.


Knowing which battles to fight

You know exactly how to solve the identified problem in the weekly meeting but your boss has other ideas. You see how important this is to your boss and you know him well enough to predict accurately that if you speak up it will only irritate him and get him to dig in his heels even more. It takes everything in you to keep quiet and let things unfold on their own. Great leaders realize that not every situation deems your need to push the issue. Great leaders know that they must be strategic about when to fight the battle and when to just let things be. It’s very possible that you can have the right answer but others aren’t ready to hear it yet.


Apologizing when you know that you are right

Saying you’re sorry is hard. Actually, it’s hard enough when you really are in the wrong. However, as a leader there might be times when you have to apologize when you technically aren’t responsible and you’re actually right. This act takes strength of character and integrity. Despite the fact that you’re right, taking responsibility in certain situations enables everyone to have closure and move forward. Again, it’s about thinking strategically and realizing what is best for everyone in the long run, and not only what makes YOU feel good now.


Becoming a successful leader takes time. You are human so you are prone to making mistakes. With self-awareness, you can learn from your missteps in the workplace and tackle the tough times with confidence and grace.



Making Change Happen

image change picI was working out at the gym recently when I spied a new piece of cardio equipment. I noticed a few people trying it out and I was curious as to what I might be missing. Finally, I worked my way over to check it out. On my way, I passed one of the employees and I inquired about the machine.


She informed me that she already had used the new equipment and had stayed on this “climbing apparatus” for 70 minutes. Well, if she could do it, so could I. As I journeyed toward the machine, I came across a few other people that had tried it out. They all reassured me that it was very hard. I got snapped in and quickly started climbing. Within seconds, I felt myself struggling to catch my breath— it took all my willpower to stay on for 2 whole minutes. When I got off the machine, I was shaking and gasping for air.


I made it through a whole 2 minutes of climbing. Now, what irritated me about this experience was that I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I bike long distances every weekend and I have built up my endurance. Yet, I struggled to make it through 2 minutes!


I decided that I was capable of much more than that first try. Two days later, I got on the climber and told myself that I was not getting off until it hit 5 minutes. A couple of days after that, I told myself that I was going to make it 10, and so on, until last week, when I made it through 45 minutes on that evil machine.


Now, how did that happen?


Along the way, people would come over to assess my progress. I would listen to their multitude of rationalizations as to why they shouldn’t and wouldn’t work out on this particular piece of equipment. In other words, they had excuses to not take action.


There’s a reason that I’m sharing this story and it’s not to impress everyone with my physical prowess. I don’t think that this experience is much different than anything you attempt to take on in life. The first time you try something new can be quite difficult and to be honest, failing miserably is not a good feeling. I’m betting that you’re a lot like me and you like to feel confident and comfortable in what you attempt in life. However, the key to making it to the other side is being willing to walk through the bad feelings.


You see, the individuals that I witnessed trying it out and never going back could not get past that uncomfortable feeling. They were not able to wait it out for those good feelings that finally kick in when you make it to 45 minutes. They could not see past RIGHT NOW.


And there you have it. Whether it’s a potential career opportunity at work, a new diet that you need to adopt, or the thought of a career switch, the future can look quite unpredictable and downright uncomfortable. However, if you can just acknowledge the way you feel, WHY you feel the way you do, recognize the rationalizations for what they truly are (excuses), and STILL push through the uncomfortable feelings, you’re going to achieve your life goals.

Taking Control

image taking controlEventually, bad things happen. You’ll lose your job, get passed over for the promotion that you were counting on or botch that humongous deal that was going to change your life.


You will be miserable and think that life is over.


Yes, you will be incredibly disappointed and sad— that’s to be expected. However, your response to this life disappointment will greatly impact what comes next. Your resilience in the face of disaster will determine your success.


The bottom line is that your sense of control in each life event greatly influences the eventual outcome. Do you see life in a reactive mode? Do you feel like things happen to you? Or do you have a strong sense that you can control and manage life in a proactive manner? Do you live your life making things happen? This mind-set makes the difference in your ability to face adversity.


I have developed some questions that might help you take more control in your life and positively change your direction when bad things happen.


Ask Yourself:


  1. How does it serve me to stay where I am right now?


For example, say you just found out that your boss didn’t take responsibility for a mistake, but instead, blamed it on you. You are angry, hurt, devastated and disappointed. You are wondering why this happened to you and why you are so unlucky. However, how does it serve you to stay in these feelings right now? How will you benefit in any way? Sometimes when we’re hit with bad news, we can get stuck in the feelings, and those feelings can spur us on to make some really bad decisions.


  1. What can I control in this situation and what is beyond my control?


This is an important question to ask yourself because it gets you out of a victim mentality and into a more positive, proactive frame of mind. You can’t control what just happened, and you certainly can’t make the whole situation disappear. You have no choice but to accept that this has taken place. Now give some thought as to what you can control. You can control what plays out next in the storyline. You can control what action you decide to take next.


  1. How can I improve the current situation?


Now is the time to brainstorm. I want you to write down all the possible ideas that come to your mind. Don’t leave anything out just because it sounds crazy or not realistic to you. Be creative and write every type of ending you can think of for your storyline. Try not to judge or evaluate these ideas for now— just let your mind run wild and come up with scenarios.


For example, remember the previous situation with your boss? You can have a talk with your boss and calmly ask why. Or, you can confront him and demand answers. Or, you can immediately start looking for another job. There are many, many choices you can conjure up in your mind.


  1. Now evaluate these choices and number them in order of best ideas. Consider the outcomes for each idea. If you are proactively controlling the situation, you will have a number of action steps that you have created on your list.


  1. What have I learned from this experience?


Be sure to not skip this step! Is there something that you would like to do differently next time? There is always a lesson that you can glean from every situation. Do some soul searching and be honest.


Becoming truly resilient is a process. The more you practice, the more resilient you become in riding the waves of life.


Can you Learn from Bart the Cat?

photo Bart the CatHave you heard about Bart the Cat from Tampa? Apparently, on one of Bart’s ritual romps around the neighborhood, he was hit by a car. Bart, an almost 2-year-old cat, was severely hurt in the accident and had multiple injuries. Bart’s owner alleges that the cat appeared lifeless and he was presumed dead. Distraught with grief, he asked his neighbor to bury Bart in a shallow grave. Five days later, Zombie Bart was seen gallivanting around the neighbor’s backyard, meowing for food.


Bart was alive.


The owner was, of course, shocked. Since he didn’t have the funds for a vet, he took Bart to the Humane Society. There, they performed surgery to remove his eye, wire his jaw shut and insert a feeding tube. He’s not quite out of the woods yet, but he’s doing well and making progress.


We’ve all heard the adage about cats having 9 lives. It appears that Bart now has eight left. Bart truly had the odds stacked against him when the car hit him. The fact that he was able to come back to life after being buried underground is another story. Apparently, Bart had quite a desire to live. He fought back with all the energy he had left in his tired, broken body.


Bart is a good representation of RESILIENCE.

image Bart cat


As incredible as it seems, we all could learn a thing or two from Bart’s story. Imagine if we could harness some of the resiliency that Bart has and channel it into our work or personal life. Let me explain.


Bart was quite the problem-solver. It appeared that Bart’s time was up when he was buried in the backyard. However, he was able to figure out a solution to his problem- digging his way out of the dire situation. Bart viewed his dilemma as a challenge, not an obstacle. He didn’t give up; he just assumed that there was a solution to his problem.


Bart took control of a bad situation. Bart definitely didn’t play the “victim card”. He accepted what life had thrown his way and made the best of it. Instead of obsessing on why this horrible experience had happened to him, he focused all his energy into what he could control in his life. He then used the extra energy to dig his way out of the grave. I’m sure he just assumed that his plan would work.


Bart accepts CHANGE. Bart’s environment was a far cry from his favorite chair at home. The Veterinarian that cared for him commented that despite his severe injuries and traumatic experience, Bart was an incredibly sweet cat. Apparently, Bart adapted to each experience and viewed his current life as “the new normal”. He didn’t look back- he just kept moving forward, putting one paw in front of another.


The definition of resilience is the ability to withstand stress and catastrophe. It’s the ability to adapt to everyday changes and recover quickly from change or misfortune. If each one of us could channel a bit of Bart daily as we go about our lives, we would be more apt to find the success, happiness and peace that we are hoping for.


Going Through The Motions

image robot


I’ll admit it. I sometimes have difficulty getting motivated in the winter. I’m not saying that I totally let everything go but I can sense that I need to push myself harder to be productive than at other times of the year.


On that note, I was at the gym bright and early this morning, knowing that an intense workout would help me stay focused and productive the rest of the day. I was conscientiously doing my planks when I spotted two women on the treadmill. I had seen them here many times before and knew that they were regulars. However, what caught my attention was the younger of the two. She was moving slow while keeping up a vibrant conversation with her friend. As I watched these two interact, I realized that she was doing a lot of talking. In fact, she was doing much more talking than moving.


When I say that she was moving slow, I mean REALLY slow.


To put it bluntly, she was just going through the motions.


Yes, she was exercising, but she was barely moving and she wasn’t impaired in any way. She just wasn’t pushing or challenging herself. She probably came here on a regular basis and felt good because she had accomplished her workout and knocked if off her to-do list. She also probably wondered why she wasn’t meeting any of her exercise goals.


From time to time, I find myself falling into this same pattern: feeling productive about accomplishing tasks without really doing my best. Every so often I find myself just getting through the experience or responsibility without putting my all into it. When this happens, I massage my guilt of not doing my best by reminding myself how much I have accomplished.


Recently, I had a networking appointment that didn’t go as well as I had expected. He was pleasant, professional and appropriate; however, I couldn’t put my finger on what was “off”. I had difficulty keeping the conversation going and that never seems to be a problem for me. The whole experience seemed very one-sided— I was exerting all the energy. After much thought, I came up with the answer.


He was really just going through the motions.


Maybe he realized this, or maybe he didn’t. If he didn’t, he probably felt pretty good about fulfilling his responsibility of attending his appointment. However, I saw it as a lost opportunity for him.


We all have days where we’re content with just going through the motions. With our demanding careers and personal responsibilities, each day can be overwhelming.


However, I know you’re striving to be successful, productive and happy. I can promise you that you won’t get there by going through the motions. The path to achieving your dreams is not reached by kidding yourself into thinking that you’re really working hard. It’s reached by being honest with you.


Are you showing up with your best self each day?

Common Courtesy

images courtesy at workThere probably isn’t a person in Cincinnati that didn’t see the epic fail in common courtesy that took place at the recent Saints-Bengals game. Let me paint the picture: Jermaine Gresham of the Cincinnati Bengals had just scored a touchdown at the Saints Stadium. Although there were very few Bengals fans in the Saints stadium, there was one very excited fan in the end zone seating. Jermaine instantly locked eyes with her and gave her the game ball. However, when she reached down to receive her gift, the Saints fan intercepted the ball with a well-placed elbow shove.


Shocked, the fan pleaded with him to give her the ball. The pleas were met with deaf ears as he refused to give up his stolen prize. Later, the Saints found her in the stadium and gifted her with another ball— but the damage had already been done. As you can imagine, the story has received plenty of media attention


What possessed this grown man to pull such a stunt? Why would a Saints fan even want the touchdown ball? More importantly, where did all of our common courtesy go?


I’m sure most of you can name a time when you’ve experienced a lack of common courtesy in the workplace. Maybe it came in the form of a rude email from a colleague. Or maybe it was a supervisor that sat through your entire presentation while checking their phone for emails. Never mind that you stayed up all night to complete this project. It could be that a co-worker begged you to take on their work and then neglected to appreciate your help appropriately.


I’m going to imagine that whatever the experience, it didn’t feel good. You felt hurt, angry, frustrated, discouraged or possibly a combination of all of these. How could behavior like this happen in your organization? Well, maybe it all starts with you. Your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is key to becoming adept at the niceties of life. The truth is that we’re all guilty of forgetting our manners now and then.


In the best of organizations, you will eventually come across an experience like the ones described above. It’s almost impossible to avoid these types of interactions. The organization’s culture dictates the level of impoliteness that you come across in the workplace. Your leadership behavior dictates what is accepted and not accepted within the organization.


So I ask you to take a good clear look at yourself. Do you take your leadership role seriously? If so, you must be honest about your interactions with others. It’s imperative that you step back and give thought to your own lapses in courtesy in your relationships— because I’m pretty certain there’s a few.


Resilient leaders are proven during tough times and there are plenty of tough times in today’s world. Your success is dependent upon your ability to rise above the chaos and stress, handling challenges with strength while treating others with grace and respect.

It all begins and ends with how you treat others.

Roadblocks to Productivity

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Feeling stressed, over stimulated, overworked and just plain tired? In today’s world, we all have numerous responsibilities and tasks that fill up our days. At times, it feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything.


But maybe it’s not a time management problem.


Maybe the issue isn’t how many hours you have in a day to get all your responsibilities completed. Maybe the problem requires you to step back and get a new perspective on what’s REALLY blocking you from living a productive life.


You clutter your life with tasks and responsibilities that just aren’t important anymore. At one point, they were important to you. However, your life has evolved and over time, you’ve added new responsibilities that are more vital to your current life. However, you haven’t taken the time to let go of the old to make room for the new. It’s possible that you’re trying to accomplish a daily weekly list that is not relevant to your life NOW. Step back and take a fresh look at your life. Do each one of these tasks and responsibilities lead to your overall short-term and long-term goals? Maybe you need to do some purging and throw out what’s standing in the way of your goals.


You have trouble prioritizing and looking at things objectively.

Last week, I was having a conversation with my husband. He informed me that he had way too much to accomplish on his daily list. He had some extremely important paperwork and also had to pick up all the leaves in the yard. He was on his way out to clean up the yard, which I knew would take hours. I stopped him and asked how the leaves could possibly be as important as his required work. Yes, the leaves had to get done, but they could wait another week. The work was much more important. Sometimes, everything seems important in our heads and we have difficulty assessing what truly is priority for that particular day.


Being busy does not mean we are being productive.

There’s a big difference and in order to be truly successful at work, you need to be clear on the difference. You can fill your days with all kinds of activities that get you not even in close proximity to your life goals. Sure, it makes you feel good but it masks the truth. It doesn’t address the fact that without the right kind of activity you’re not going to succeed in your ultimate goal. You’re just fooling yourself into believing that you’re making progress. Be strategic in your daily, weekly tasks and monthly to-do lists.


We feel good about working non-stop but eventually, this backfires.

I know plenty of people that eat lunch at their desk so they can get more done at work. Smart, right? WRONG! Numerous studies have proven that it’s impossible to work at peak performance for long periods of time. Yes, you’re working, but you’re not working at full capacity. Sitting too long depletes your brain of oxygen and glucose. The good news is that a walk around the block or even through the building will reenergize you so you can be much more productive. Take breaks regularly that don’t involve your computer or phone.


We get lost in the hidden expectations and beliefs that we attach to our responsibilities.

Take a good look at your responsibilities and do a self-check. Are you holding on to any unrealistic or unhealthy expectations that you need to let go? For example, a belief that “I must join every committee and attend every event associated with my company in order to be successful” will eventually drive you crazy. Sure, it will make you busy, but does it truly lead to real success? Decide whether your expectations of self are fair and accurate.


With a few tweaks, you can live a successful, productive life.






I had just taken my seat at the IMAX theatre to see the movie. My friend was visiting from out of town and we decided that this was the perfect thing to do on a cold day. Apparently, so did everyone else in our city— the place was packed and as the people piled in, it became obvious that we were going to run out of seats.


Eventually, one of the employees asked if everyone could move to the middle so they could make room for the people still being seated. Quickly, my friend and I stood up and moved one more seat to my left. We sat down and continued to enjoy our time talking. Suddenly, we overheard the women to my friend’s right begin to complain.


“That isn’t fair— why do we need to move when we got here early and they didn’t?” My friend and I heard this and smiled at each other. Five minutes later, she went on. “Why should I be punished for getting to the theatre on time? I shouldn’t have to move and be made uncomfortable!” I whispered to my friend that some people are never happy and she smiled back.


I finally took a good look at the woman who could only view her world half-empty. The reality was that moving over one seat actually improved her visual experience. She truly had a better seat now. However, she couldn’t see that. She couldn’t see anything but misery.


People can focus on the smallest things in life and become unhappy. However, when they take these attitudes to work with them, it becomes everyone’s problem.


Steffanie Wilk, an associate professor at Fisher College of Business at the Ohio State University, studied employee mood and it’s impact on job performance. In the study, she asked telephone customer service representatives from a Fortune 500 company to record their moods during various times of the day over a three week period. They took into account the impact of individual temperament and the moods of their customers. The results proved that when beginning their day, the employee’s mood influenced their mood for the rest of the shift.


It should be no surprise to hear that employees that were happy at the beginning of the day generally stayed that way throughout their day. They responded more positively to their interactions with customers, which resulted in better customer service. Those that came to work miserable tended to continue to feel worse as the day wore on. The important point to glean from this study is that these negative mood shifts resulted in more than a 10% decline in employee productivity.


If you do the math, you can see the implications for revenue loss for any organization. Companies, big or small, can’t afford to have chronic negative employees on their team. Now imagine what happens when the negative employee spreads their bad attitude to the people around them. It’s like an infectious disease that can destroy the culture, productivity and in turn, the profitability of any organization.


Now, back to my miserable friend at the movie theatre. Hopefully, she will change her ways. Maybe it was a one-time thing and I just hit her on the wrong day. But in all probability, she goes to work somewhere every day with this same perspective on life and infects her co-workers with this attitude.


I hope that’s not the case.

Technology Overload

When I get into bed at night, I attempt to review my day. Did I have a good day? Have I been productive? Are there any positive changes that I need to make? This past Monday, I took a good honest look at my last 24 hours. The truth was that it was a day full of distractions. I struggled to focus and I accomplished very little. As I searched for the reason, I pushed myself to be honest with my behavior. The answer came to me…


I was addicted to my smartphone and it was getting in the way of my success.


I decided at that moment that I was going to make some changes. I suppose being licensed as a Mental Health Therapist has its advantages. I outlined a plan for the next day. I would check my email and all Social Media ONLY four times during the day. I would count each time that I had the mental urge to look on my phone or search on my computer. Each time that I would have this urge, I would tell myself to “let it go” and focus on my current activity.


I really didn’t expect this goal to be so difficult for me. I’m shocked to tell you that the first day was much harder than I ever imagined— I counted 46 times. Just think about that. 46 times, my brain signaled me to connect on Social Media. 46 times, my brain ran this loop and instructed me to pick up the phone.


No wonder I was having so much trouble focusing and accomplishing my goals! My brain had learned to be rewarded with the “ding” of an email and the excitement of a like or response from social media. My brain wanted more and more of that same reward.


In a study by the Associated Press, the average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. When you spend enough time on the Internet, the neural pathways in your brain change. You can become rewarded, not for staying on your task, but instead jumping to a more exciting thing. In other words, you can quickly rewire your brain.


It has been demonstrated over and over that your brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks. In the long run, multi-tasking causes you to accomplish less and run the risk of making multiple mistakes. On top of that, you have a much lower rate of retention.


If you’re looking at your phone 46 times in one day, it’s safe to say that you have formed a habit. Everyone knows that habits are hard to break since there is a payoff for continuing the behavior. In the short term, my behavior made me feel good. However, I knew that this unhealthy habit had to go.


Having awareness and recognizing that you have an issue is the first step to solving a problem. The interesting thing is that the first day I monitored my use and attempted to stop my behavior, I felt so much calmer, was able to focus and was definitely more productive.


I would be lost without my technology so I’m certainly not an advocate to disconnect. However, as with all things in life, moderation is key.


So I have a challenge for you. Take one day and limit your phone and social media use. Write down how many times that you get the urge to connect, and monitor how your overall productivity and how you’re feeling. Let me know how you do.


image what's your excuse


I still remember going to my older son’s 3rd grade school conference. The teacher loved him and shared many wonderful stories. She relayed that he was smart, kind and had a great personality. Then she asked about a paper that he had recently brought home.


“I suppose you saw the math paper where he received a D. He was very upset about the grade and worried about what you would think of it.” I gave her a confused look and asked her when he brought it home. Apparently, it was supposed to come home in his backpack— it was 5 days later and I had never seen it. She chuckled and asked me not to come down too hard on him. Obviously, the paper had disappeared somewhere between school and home.


When I got home, I went upstairs to his room and sat down on his bed to have the talk. I told him how much his teacher raved about him and ended the story with the mystery of the missing “D” paper. I saw the look in his eyes and just waited for the explanation.


After much discussion, it was revealed that he had gotten off the bus and proceeded to take the paper and put it down the sewer drain. I’m imagining that the scenario was conjured up on the bus ride home. I suppose for a 3rd grader that was a logical way to solve the problem.


Now, I’m happy to report that my son, who’s now an adult, has learned to handle mistakes and missteps in a more responsible manner. However, in your travels through life, I’m pretty certain that you have come across a number of individuals that refuse to take accountability for their actions— they’re still throwing their “D” papers down the sewer drain. Their excuses and justifications for their actions can be downright exhausting.


Copping out on responsibility can become a habit and theme in every facet of your life. It inhibits your ability to move ahead in your career and find happiness and success in your personal life. Stop and think about someone that makes this behavior part of their daily routine. After awhile, the excuses just roll off their tongue and the more practice they get, the more proficient they become at this skill. In time, they truly believe their own explanations.


Right now, some of you are thinking that this does not describe you— but hold on a minute. Maybe you’re not a serial storyteller. However, there are times when each one of us is guilty of rationalizing our situation in order to feel better.


Take a step back and be honest. Maybe you didn’t get that sale today because the buyer was simply in a bad mood. You lost out on the promotion last week to the other employee because he always “sucks up” to the boss. You didn’t lose your goal of 5 lbs. this week because you just retain too much water. Never mind that you didn’t close the sale or you didn’t possess managerial skills or you ate more than you really should have on your diet.


We are ALL guilty of not taking accountability at some point.


The thing to remember is that your outcomes directly reflect your actions. Your success in life is in direct relation to your ability to be painfully honest with YOU. Do you make things happen or do things happen to you? A big part of your resilience in life is tied up in your skill of taking accountability for your actions. It’s realizing that you control your own destiny: your happiness and success is dependent upon you.


The next time you struggle with reaching a goal daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly, step back and give this some thought: take responsibility for your place in life.