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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Self Talk: The Ties That Bind


Generally, we use the term “the ties that bind” to indicate all the special ways we connect with those we love.  Ties are the conditions, actions, and emotions that draw us to them and keep them part of our lives.  Those ties may be kinship, marriage, trust, friendship, support, history.  They get stretched and twisted and ragged, but they don’t often break.  Our bonds are generally strong. 
          But there’s another side of this term that’s not as appealing, yet it is the reality of life.  It’s when certain ties bind us to the negatives and shortfalls that are sure to come.  We get connected to behaviors that keep us marking time, and we are unable to release ourselves from them.  We are mentally handcuffed.  Mental handcuffs are limited thoughts that box us in to the status quo whether good or bad, and we’re unable to grow anymore or change.  For example, if I want to start my own business, the mental handcuffs only permit me to think of the expense, the loss of regular income if I’m giving up a job, and the possibility of failure.  Though all of these are realistic risks, there is also the other side of the spectrum—increased income that I’ve never had, living the life I’ve always wanted, doing the type of work that brings me joy and financial independence.  These desires are just as possible or even more possible than what I fear.  If I don’t check my thinking, then I will remain bound up by my own self-imposed, mental imprisonment.
          There is a wonderful story about an elephant who as a baby was bound by a heavy chain around one of his legs.  The elephant learned from the length of the chain how far he could go so he only went as far as the chain allowed.  As he grew into adulthood, the owner changed the heavy chain to a thinner, smaller one.  The elephant weighed more than 10,000 pounds, and could have easily broken free of the small chain.  But he had been conditioned over the years to only go as far as the chain would allow him.  He never realized when the time had come for him to flex his strength and no longer be a victim to limitations. 
          We are like that in many ways--limited by barriers and roadblocks.  But rather than finding ways around and over them, we let them stop us.  Maybe it’s a job promotion you know you deserve, but the difficult manager attached to it who seems to hate you stands in the way.  You believe you’ll never be able to get that promotion as long as he’s in his position so you stop trying to go for it.  Or maybe the desire to be a parent fades as you get older and remain single.  Because you haven’t found the spouse you wanted, you believe you’ll have to throw the dream of parenthood away.  Therefore, you keep it out of your thoughts, conversations, and future plans.  The dream slips away with time.  Or what about the trip you long to take to Rome, Italy because it’s a place you believe would be wonderful to visit?  But your limited funds and fear of flying have caused you to keep going to your usual vacation spot.  You’ll never see Rome.
          It’s time to let the familiar go—the same actions over and over again that bind you up.  The key to unlocking the mental handcuffs is to change the way we perceive how to get what we want.  If we believe the effort to get our dreams fulfilled is too hard, then we will give up before we get started.  If we think that the roadblocks to our goals are insurmountable, we won’t even make the effort to try to find ways around or over them.  We’ll simply talk ourselves out of trying.  The whole battle starts in our minds, and that’s where it should be defeated.  If your thinking is hindering your success, then you must resolve to strategize against negative thinking—not against success.  You have to affirm that you can and should move forward on your passions and desires because you know you can.  Your achievements are possible.  Will it be hard to get to them?  Maybe.  But not impossible.  Change your self-talk.  Find new dialogue in your internal conversation.  Boost your own morale with affirmations and words of encouragement.
          Your belief in what can be has to exceed your doubt in what can’t be.  The power of the mind is far greater than we give it credit, yet we yield to our fears daily.  We must think about how we think.  Are our thoughts creative, without limits, and motivating?  Or are they self-defeating?  It’s time to dump the head trash, the tumbleweed of timidity that blows us this way and that, and choose to change possibility to reality.  Reinvent your thinking.  Recharge your internal conversation.  And watch your life events change to embrace your passion.

Monday, January 11, 2016

STORYTELLING: My Armageddon Dream

    An effective method of communication is storytelling.  The stories we tell can evoke emotion in the listener whether good or bad.  Stories connect us to our experiences, fears, opinions, and other people.  I want to tell this story only because it was so vivid, bizarre, and emotionally provocative, that I feel I must share it.  It sounds like a scene from a sci-fi flick.  It is dramatic; it's scary; it seems prophetic.  Maybe you'll see symbolism in it.  Maybe you'll feel inclined to offer an interpretation.  Or maybe it'll just be an interesting story to read.  Regardless, I welcome your feedback.

    I was awakened at 5:17 a.m. with my heart pounding from what my mind had just played before me like the latest blockbuster from Steven Spielberg.  The details were still rattling around in my psyche as I lay back to review what I'd just witnessed.   It was disturbing and too real, not at all dreamlike.  The occurrences were feasible and connected like a complete scene.  Not disjointed and impossible like so many dreams can be.  Because of its reality, I was shaken and distraught.  It was as if I had been given a secret glimpse into the horrors of the end of the world--when mankind would finally turn on himself and implode into this destructive, out-of-control cyclone of hatred and terror.  It was more than I wanted to know.  Like Daniel states in chapter 7, verse 15:  "I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me."  Here's what I saw.
     I was in my kitchen piddling around on a bright, sunny day.  As I moved about, the day suddenly turned from bright to gray.  I wondered what was going on because it wasn't like a cloud was moving in front of the sun.  This was like dusk falling, and I knew it was far too early in the day for that.  I questioned whether I had missed an announcement about a solar eclipse when suddenly the day turned to night.  I immediately went to my kitchen window and looked out.  The moon was bright, but a dark cloud was in front of it, and its beams cast a glow against the night sky. Then  I saw snaking into my view the silhouettes of numerous small planes, lined up perfectly five across in a row with rows upon rows following each other.  I could see their shapes darker than the night sky and hear their buzzing engines as they moved from left to right like a serpent slithering across the sky.  Moving stealthily beneath them was the silhouette of a larger plane gliding in a direct line headed for the front of the crowd.
     In this world of cameras and documenting every unusual thing on video, I turned to get my phone so I could record what I saw.  I was mortified.  I knew something was woefully wrong with this "army" that was gathering overhead.  I didn't know if it was our army or if it was an enemy since I could see no identifying marks.  But my gut told me something was terribly wrong--that not only were these actions unusual, they were foreboding.  Something ominous was about to transpire.  It was a setup.  I raced around the kitchen a nervous wreck.  I became frustrated because I couldn't locate my phone fast enough.  I didn't know who I would show the video to, but I figured someone needed to know what was happening under the cover of darkness.  I searched in my purse but couldn't find it.  I darted around and panicked because I thought I would miss the moment.  Finally I got my hands on it, and ran to the kitchen door.  By this time, my 12-year-old daughter joined me.
     We both stood in the doorway fumbling around with the phone trying to get it to record.  I snapped at her because she was making it hard for me to hold the phone and film.  When I looked up at the sky, I felt my 14-year-old son walk up next to me and look out the doorway as well.  Then I saw it.  A blood-curdling view of the entire episode:  the big plane had positioned itself in front of all the smaller planes.  It hovered in place as Leader.  The glow of the lights from the section of the city in the southeast area of town (near where Ft. Jackson Army base is now located) looked distant, and I knew its inhabitants were unsuspecting.  All of the smaller planes were now lined up behind the larger plane like so many soldiers in an army.  They were countless and intimidating.  They were in perfect formation with the big plane out front, engines droning in unison, not moving but seemingly satisfied they'd found the right location.  The air was still, and aside from the sounds from the planes, there was no other movement, no sounds.  It was deathly quiet.  Before the next move happened, I started crying out "No, no, no, no" to myself at first.  I knew what was coming.  I could feel it in my spirit.  I started to cry and scream.  And then it happened.
    The large plane rained down bombs upon the city in the distance.  The bombs exploded loud and thunderous and as rapidly as firecrackers.  I screamed again and headed back into my kitchen with my kids trailing behind me.  I felt so incredibly helpless.  I wanted to run for cover and crumple on the floor at the same time.  I knew it was only a matter of time before bombs would be raining down on my section of the city as well.  And I had no idea what to do.  The thought of a bomb shelter flashed into my mind, but we had none.  What could we do?  How could I save myself and my children from certain death?  There were no answers.  There was just despair and panic.  By my kitchen table, my mom (who passed away in 1994) lay sleeping on a window seat.  I cried out to her, "Mama!  Wake up!  Wake up!  They are bombing us!"  She did not wake up, but I did.  With a start.
    My heart was pounding when I finally came to my senses and realized the whole thing was just a terrifying dream.  I was a bit relieved by this realization, but the memory left me feeling vulnerable and afraid.  It felt like prophecy, but that's not a gift I possess.  Nonetheless, it was very much like Armageddon--what our end of days could be like.
    So this is my story.  Any interpretations?  Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Three Biggest Coaching Mistakes Managers Make

     Good leaders recognize the importance of making sure they create other good leaders.  Rather than feel insecure that someone else can do as good a job as they do, thus risking their position to that individual, good leaders know that they should create a succession plan for the company.  They should identify those who have an interest and the strengths necessary to be good leaders.  Then the leader needs to transform into a coach, and help those emerging leaders learn the fine skills that will help them to one day be good leaders for someone else.  Leaders who feel threatened generally feel that way because they don't have the confidence that they're doing a good enough job.
     Being a coach on the job is hard work just like any other coaching gig.  But much like any other coaching gig, it is necessary.  If you're in a leadership position, it is your duty by definition of the job to lead your people to success.  If success for them is to advance up the org chart to a leadership position, then they must be groomed for it.  If they don't want to lead but have other interests, then those desires, too, must be encouraged through additional skills training and knowledge.  Every good leader coaches his team members to be their best.  Employees who are urged to do their best and given the tools in which to do so become engaged employees.  People want to do what they're good at, and they want to be challenged oftentimes to do more.  Growth is a great antidote to boredom.
     But there are three big mistakes that managers make when facing the responsibility of coaching.
     1)  Their approach is too directive.  Rather than providing the employee with what they need to excel, the coach inadvertently falls into telling mode and directs the employee on what to do.  It sounds something like this:  "To hit your goal, you need to..."  And "Go to this class and learn how to do this skill."  All the while potentially missing the mark on what the employee wants.  The leader can easily get off target because rather than asking the employee what their goals are and working with the employee to come up with a plan to meet them, the leader/coach tells the employee what to do.  Asking questions is a much better way to serve as coach while maintaining the integrity of what matters to the employee.
     2)  The leader doesn't coach enough.  They will begin a coaching relationship with all of their direct reports, but because of greater responsibilities around the job that crop up, they let the relationship languish.  They meet with the employee less and less from the start, and the interactions between them fall once again into the directive approach.  The leader ends up telling everyone what they should be doing to get the job done or the goals met, rather than including the employees' individual professional goals as part of the overall plan.  The leader feels he or she just doesn't have enough time to meet one-on-one regularly with their team so the coaching aspect suffers.
     3)  The leader doesn't get a coach for him- or herself.  We all have a limited supply of our own wisdom, knowledge, and energy to give to others.  When a leader has a large team, there is little of him to go around for everyone to get a meaningful piece.  Therefore, some people miss out.  The leader winds up exhausted and depleted from trying to meet the needs of all involved.  That's why a good leader remains good through the coaching and direction of others.  Unfortunately, not enough leaders get a coach for themselves.  They cease learning or struggle with their own motivation because they are too busy giving of themselves to others.  Every good leader needs a coach and/or mentor.  It is the only way to continue to be useful to others.
     If good leaders will avoid these three mistakes as much as possible, they will find that their brand as a "good leader" will persist.  They will have the benefit of seeing others grow in their positions and beyond them, and they can take personal pride in knowing they had a hand in that development.
     If you need a coach, call us at Sharper Development Solutions, Inc. to discuss how we can help meet that need.  (803) 622-4511