executive leadership coaching

7 Tips To Be Fully Present When You Have A Lot On Your Mind

I recently did a "Getting Things Done" workshop where the first exercise I had the team do was to list on a piece of paper all the things that were on their mind at that moment.... I asked them to be thorough. Then I asked them to think not just about work, but also what was going through their minds about home, family, hobbies, entertainment, etc. If it was on their mind, they needed to get it down on paper. They had only 10mins to do this brain dump.

The number of items each team member listed was between 13-28.

That’s a lot swirling in the head.  But these people were not unusual.  I bet if you took 10mins right now to do the same exercise, you would be in the same range.

How do you think all of those things swirling in the head impacts your ability to be fully present with a direct report, or fully present in a meeting?

Being fully present is an easy way to show someone, or a group, that you value them.  It is also a fantastic way to create impact.

But how can you be present when you have 13-28 big things on your mind?  How can you push them aside for a bit and focus on what is before you?

1. Brain dump.

Try the brain dump exercise I described above.  Just dump everything in your head onto a piece of paper.

Next to each item, quickly jot down the ideal outcome you want for that item.  Then write down the next action step that needs to be taken to achieve that outcome.

For more on this, check out Productivity Made Simple.

2. Schedule time to worry.

Maybe you don’t have time to list everything.  An impromptu meeting is about to happen and you need to be fully present.  A technique that has helped some people is to schedule a time to worry about the things that are on your mind.  Literally, put it on the calendar. (You can create a code phrase for it in case others look at your calendar.)  Don’t be surprised if, after you set the appointment, you find you can fully focus.

3. All distractions out of sight.

What distracts you when you are in a meeting?  Often it is a smartphone alerting you to a text or email.  Sometimes it is a call, or someone knocking on the door.

Make a list of the things that have prevented you from being fully present, then find a way to radically deal with them.

So for example, if your phone is the culprit, turn it off and put it in a desk drawer. Don’t let the smartphone run you.

Look at the other things that distract you.  What do you need to do to radically deal with them?

4. Set an alarm for the end of the meeting, or ask someone to knock on the door when five minutes are left.

Since your smartphone is away, have some sort of alarm that can go off 5mins before the meeting is scheduled to be over.

Another way to do that is to ask your assistant, or the next person who is meeting with you, to knock on the door five minutes before the meeting is scheduled to wrap up.

Five minutes should be sufficient time to capture the action steps from that meeting and close things up.

If you need more time and you choose to run late, let those who need to know how much time you think you’ll need, with some small buffer.

5. Deep breathing.

Now it’s time to take five deep breaths.  Get some oxygen to your brain.  Let yourself be present to your own breathing on the way in, and out.  This type of focusing will help you get into the right mind-space so that you can be fully present.

6. Look them in the eye.

When you get in front of the stakeholder or group, really focus on their eyes.  Make a connection with those who are before you.  See if you can pick up their emotions.  Allow yourself to mirror it for a moment.  Let yourself be with the person/group you are with.

7. Active listening.

Active listening techniques help you to be fully present.

Those who are masters at being present are those whom you want to spend more time with.  They lead you to feel motivated, engaged, and liked.  Learning to be fully present is also a great way to make sure you are communicating clearly with the person meeting with you, which can be a huge time saver. Being fully present is a gift, but by using these seven tips, you will find it is also a skill that can be developed.

Chew On This:

  • How many things are swirling in your head right now?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

How Do You Know If Someone Will Really Change?

You are leading a team, and you want them to do their best. As with all people, including ourselves, there are areas that need to be improved.

Your team member says they will work on the change you suggested.

However, you have some doubts as to whether or not they will make the change, and if they do, you wonder how deep it will go.  Will it be temporary, for the sake of their job, or will it be a true transformation?  How can you know?

Furthermore, how can you help them, or coach them, to make the change?

Over my 26 years of counseling and coaching, I have observed that clients who have made significant changes in their lives have several traits in common:

1. Humility

Those who want to change are humble.  They take full responsibility for their weakness.  There is no minimizing, blame shifting, or rationalizing.  They offer a clear, “Yes, I see that. I need to improve that.”

This is often followed by an awareness that their behavior has had consequences. A humble person looks to make amends when possible.

2. Commitment

People who want to change will commit to the change.  This is not a surface level commitment, but a commitment that goes to their core.  Sometimes you can hear it in their voice, but most of the time it will be their actions that show their resolve.

3. Open-mindedness

Along with humility and commitment, they show open-mindedness.  They know they need help, so they listen for truth in order to determine how they will make the change.  Sometimes that means being willing to try things that are different.  They open themselves to new ideas from trustworthy sources.

4. Seeking Out Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, and Insights

As implied above, their open-mindedness leads them to seek out knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and insights from whatever trustworthy sources will get them there.

Some will research, hire experts, seek out mentors, etc.  The idea is that they want to have a plan for how to make the change happen for them.

5. Action Over Words

A striking thing I’ve noticed about those who really want to change is that they emphasize action over talking about the change.  I want to be clear.  It is not that they don’t talk about the change they want to make.  They definitely do.  However, talking about the change is usually the conversation starter, and those observing them can see them testing tangible actions to determine what helps them with the change.

6. Risk-Taking

As implied above, those who really want to change take intelligent risks as they try new things to effect the change they are looking to make.  Intuitively, they know that not everything they try will work, but they will give it everything they’ve got, even at the risk of being crushed if the change doesn’t happen.

Those who really want to change get up faster when they fail. They are willing to take more risks in order to get it right and see the change they want to happen.

7. Develop A Great Support Network

When someone wants to change, they develop a great support network.  Sometimes they may not be aware that they are building a support network, but often, in the process of seeking guidance, they find that those who give guidance become their supporters.

To make a real change, they need to be encouraged and know that there are others behind them when they feel weak.

They also need those who notice that the change is happening and will celebrate with them as they go.

As leaders, we can champion our team members who want to change just by encouraging their desire and drive to change.  If we see they are lacking in any of the above traits, we can encourage them to pursue it.

Some people start off with a half-hearted commitment to change, but through our coaching we can encourage them to fully commit to the process.

The great news is that as your team members learn how to make real, lasting change, they will become addicted to growing.  This will move them more and more towards becoming a high performing team.

Chew On This:

  • Who on your team will you coach towards a real and lasting change?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

Establishing An Ownership Culture Within Your Team

I was in a meeting with my client (let’s call her Jane), one of her direct reports (let’s call her Martha), Martha’s coach, and someone from HR. As you have probably already guessed, it was one of those meetings. Weeks earlier, Jane had learned that Martha was gossiping about her to other people on the team.  How did she learn about it?  Not one, not two, but three people on Martha’s team had gone to Jane and shared how uncomfortable they felt around Martha.  All three shared how raw and wounded Martha seemed to them.  Two out of the three stated that the ongoing gossip was having a negative effect on the team.

Jane had tried to talk to Martha one-on-one.  She listened carefully, paraphrased what she heard, owned what she could own, but held firm on areas that were Martha’s responsibility. However, Martha refused to accept responsibility. Later, Jane shared with me that all she had gotten during that one-on-one was “defensiveness and political posturing.”  When the gossiping continued, Jane tried a couple of different ways to help mend the relationship between herself and Martha, but nothing worked.

Martha’s coach reached out to me and we, with permission from our respective clients, had an open dialogue as to how we could help them reconcile. Although our conversation was enlightening and productive, we closed the conversation realizing that Martha’s lack of desire to own responsibility and work for change would be an ongoing source of trouble.

The team Jane leads is a shining star in her company.  It wasn’t always that way.  When Jane started with the team she earned a 33% engagement score. (For those of you who don’t know, that is a terrible score. It shows how little the team felt motivated and empowered, or how little they enjoyed the work they were doing.)  Within two years that engagement score went up to 88% and in the third year it went up to 97%--a feat no other team in their company had ever accomplished in such a short time span.

Jane was feeling a lot of pressure to maintain the engagement score, and she feared that because of Martha’s clout with the team, the turnaround story of her team was being threatened.

So now we are all together in a room and HR is involved.

What happened?

Martha chose to sit at the head of the table.  Jane was to her left.  Martha’s coach was to her right.  HR was behind Jane.  I was behind Martha’s coach, but because of the angle of the table and the fact that I was sitting a little farther back than the man from HR, I could see everyone’s reactions as the conversation progressed.

Jane opened and tried to set the stage for a constructive conversation. She expressed gratitude to Martha, was humble, real, authentic, vulnerable, and owned the parts that she felt were off.  She also shared the steps she was taking and would be taking to correct those parts.

Martha kept interrupting.  Her voice was raised almost to the point of yelling. I am pretty sure if someone walked by the office, they could have heard, even though the door was closed.

The reactions from the observers in the room were really different.  At times, HR was shocked.  Martha’s coach was noticeably nervous, and at times she tried to interject to help Martha gain some emotional self-control.

I was really surprised that Martha was as brutal and brazen as she was in front of HR.

Despite everyone’s attempts, Martha refused to own any part of what she had done.  She blame shifted, minimized, rationalized and made excuses.

When it finally hit Martha that she may lose the leadership of her team, she offered to stop talking about Jane to her team and to work to mend the relationship.

However, although there were some superficial changes, the relationship between Martha and Jane never improved, and team members noticed that Martha’s decision-making, leadership, and engagement went into the tank.

Jane escalated steps to resolve the tension, but to no avail.  Martha saw the writing on the wall.  Three months later she took a different role in the company, which had nothing to do with Jane’s team.  A year later Martha’s role was eliminated and she started her own company.

The Role of Ownership

In short, Martha formed some destructive beliefs about Jane.  Despite solid evidence to the contrary, Martha became entrenched in those beliefs.

The more entrenched she became, the less she was able to hear Jane or anyone else on her team.

Having witnessed a few other situations like this, I can see one clear difference between those that were successfully reconciled and this one.  In the ones that were reconciled,  there was ownership.

Ownership takes place when you accept responsibility for your role in a problem and express it to those involved without trying to “market” yourself.  That is, there is no blame shifting, excuse making, minimizing, etc.  It can be as uncomplicated as saying, “I did X.”  Simple short sentences are often key.

The first step on the way to change is real ownership.  Ownership leads to humility.  Humility is key to being teachable.  When we are teachable, we can learn how to make the changes we need to make.

When someone owns what they did, they lower their guard and become vulnerable.  This can make ownership feel too risky.

However, when most people hear clear, authentic ownership, they feel hope.  That hope leads to a desire to protect and help the one who owned make the necessary changes.  Moreover, we want to forgive them.

I have seen some people not own and make changes, but I often wonder how deep those changes go. Sometimes the change seems superficial, made only because of the threat of loss.  It is more like a dam that is holding back water.  Once the threat is removed, the dam breaks and all the stored-up wrath floods not only the one who offended them, but their entire team as well.

This level of toxicity kills engagement and productivity, and impacts results.

Chew On This:

 

  • What do you need to own?  What short phrase captures what you need to own?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.