Monday, August 25, 2014

Mental holidays

Mental holidays are probably the most overlooked resource in the toolkit. Whether you take five minutes or 2 months (grin), it offers time to gain perspective, information, and rest. It's a great coaching and mentoring technique that should be discussed more often. 

Mentally stopping… to think about nothing, think about a problem, walk, sing, meditate… gives us the ability to see things from a fresh perspective. There is a lot of research that points to the need to let our unconscious mind sift through the great library we mentally store and let ideas surface. If you've ever forgotten a name or an idea and said "Just give me a second; it'll come to me!" then you know how this process can't always be forced through willpower and concerted effort.

Peter Bregman wrote a great post on HBR "The Best Way to Use the Last Five Minutes of Your Day" a few years ago. Though taking five minutes at any time can sometimes be more productive than continuing to run at the pace we seem to follow during the days.

A mental holiday can also mean deferring a decision or discussion to allow emotions to settle. It can mean allowing ours team to take on extra ownership without having us peer over their shoulders.

Most importantly, it should mean we return to the process /problem /idea with a relaxed and open state of mind… however you personally best achieve that.

It's been a long summer for many of us. My mental holiday was trusting my team to keep the plates spinning while I was dragged into other arenas. And I spent an hour each week simply sitting on my porch and letting my mind wander while I listened to the squirrels in the trees. I am not sure if I have more ideas or fresher thoughts but I am prepared to start trying with a bigger smile and some excellent research in my pocket.

Please share your ideas of a great mental holiday?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


We love it or hate it but it's everywhere. Whether part of a formal process within a job or just advice offered by friends & family, we give it and hear it all the time. It's part of the mentoring process, part of building trust and a mirror in which we can grow and make choices.

The trick is how to distinguish between good feedback and unmerited commentary or criticism?

If I receive unsolicited feedback, and the giver doesn't ask if I'm open to hearing her comments, I will often disregard the advice or idea just because I'm human. I get defensive; it may not play to what I want to hear that moment; or I may not like the giver.

The way I balance feedback is by asking it for it. I create the opportunity and request thoughtful input.
Feedback is often most useful when we ask for it, listen to it, and action it. The action can be as small as thinking it through or as large as trying something new.

Without feedback, I would never have started wearing blue… never applied for a certain job… never re-considered a word choice…

Feedback won't change…but we can.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

small talk (ick)

I am not good at small talk. I prefer to listen than search my brain (which will have suddenly gone blank) for something innocuous to say. So called "safe" topics (like the weather) make me sound silly. I tend to dive into topics about which I have passion and say trite things about those which don't bother me at the moment… usually making no new friends with those for whom the trite is their current passion.

Small talk is meant to "break the ice" with strangers and allow for connections points to emerge. It serves a great purpose.

Given it's patio season /garden party time, small talk opportunities are ramping up. I'm reviewing my previous posts and figuring out some good opening lines that, hopefully, will kick start someone else into talking and I can settle in and listen.