Category Archives: Productivity and Effectiveness

Why Passion is Essential at Work & How to Reignite It

 

Executive Leadership Coach and Founder of the Real Leader Revolution Diane Bolden.I have always been amazed by the number of people who think of work as a necessary evil — simply what must be done to earn a paycheck. For so many who toil through their workday, the primary goal is to make it to the weekend so they can really live.

Going through the motions, working side by side with others whose hearts and minds they seldom truly connect with, they withhold the very parts of themselves that make them come alive.

For some it wasn’t always this way. Many began their careers ignited with passion and optimism, only to find that their flames began to flicker as they encountered obstacle after obstacle that kept them from achieving what they believed would be success.

Succumbing to the unwritten rules of the organizations and other environments they found themselves in, which suggested they needed to act or think in a certain way to get ahead, they may have slowly sold out on their dreams and relegated themselves to quiet complacency.

Many of us were not brought up to expect that work would be fun or gratifying in any way – nor should it be. That’s why they call it work, you may have been told. As a result, you may have never really expected much from your career or professional life. And as the saying goes, life has a way of living up to your expectations.

Most of us have learned how to turn ourselves on and off at will, in an effort to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment or frustration — or to maintain what we have come to believe is a professional demeanor. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are very different at work than they are at home.

Those golden parts of yourself that you think you are protecting suffer when you don’t let them breathe and interact in the very realms that allow you to learn who you are and what you are here to do in the world.

You miss the chance to become a part of something greater than yourself. And the organizations and communities you are a part of miss out on the unique contribution you have the potential to make.

You can no longer afford to fragment yourself in this way, denying the fulfillment of your secret dreams and talents and downplaying the insights you have about what you can do to make life better — for yourself, and everyone around you.

As more and more of us feel the pain that accompanies the denial of our spirits, we have begun to realize that the time has come for us to bring the totality of who we are to what we do, no matter our vocation, title or role.

There are people among us who have the ability to snap us out of our trances — our states of quiet desperation — and help us bring more of who we truly are to everything that we do.

They can do this for others because they have done it for themselves. They are called “real leaders”. And they exist at all levels of organizations, regardless of their titles or roles.

Real Leaders inspire others to perform at their very best,

because they themselves are inspired.

When was the last time you felt inspired in your work? When was the last time you had passion for your career? What is it that allows you to feel a sense of wonder and contribution to something bigger?

If you have lost touch with that, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and take some time to reconnect with it. You have something deep inside that you are uniquely qualified and put on this earth to create or do.

When you were young, the energy of your dreams likely propelled you along your path — sometimes blindly, but it gets you off your duff and into action.

You’ve likely experienced hardships along the way and it may have felt at times as though you were failing again and again. Life throws you curve balls and you can find yourself feeling beaten down and doing what you can to just get by, running from one crisis to another and sometimes going in circles.

At some point, you will be tempted to check out and take an easier path – one that allows you to go numb and somewhat unconscious. It may work for a while, but over time you’ll begin to feel the misery that comes along with abandoning your dreams and letting your passion take the back seat.

What would it take for you to get excited about what you are doing right now? What is the bigger why of the work you do every day?  Who does it serve, and how?

If you can’t answer that question, do some digging. When you can connect those dots to a bigger picture, you may find that what you thought was insignificant is quite meaningful – and a vital piece of a larger puzzle you are meant to help assemble.

As you recognize your part and the value you provide, perhaps you’ll be inspired to bring a little more of who you are to what you do by playing more fully, being more present, and connecting more deeply with those who rely on you.

Your passion is like a hidden well with unlimited reservesin the act of tapping it, you will replenish it in such a way that it multiplies. And as you unleash it in your work, you will draw out something extraordinary in every human being that comes into contact with it. That is the essence of real leadership.

We are beginning to awaken to our unique calls to service, creativity and innovation. As you find ways to unleash your distinctive talents and passions at work, you will significantly increase the quality of your own life, as well as the lives of everyone around you.

It seems that we are at a kind of crossroads where the tension is mounting. The deviations and quick fixes that used to work are no longer as satisfying. The pain that comes from denying our greatest dreams and visions is beginning to intensify and more and more people are asking how they can create lives of meaning and significance.

Corporations that are taking steps to create environments that allow people to thrive will be met with rich rewards as ingenuity pours forth in ways that lead to increased profit and market share, as well as the creation of self-sustaining cultures that inspire people to sustain success by doing what they do best.

The Real Leader Revolution is already underway. People at all levels of organizations will continue to lead that charge both individually and collectively. Do you feel the call? It starts within your own mind – with having the courage to ask yourself what you really want from your work. By starting with ourselves, we can create what we most want to be a part of.

If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, I encourage you to get on the waiting list for the release of my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming soon…


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5 Ways for Executives to be Less Operational and More Strategic

 

 

Diane Bolden - Executive Leadership and Career Development Coach of Phoenix, AZ.As we ponder what 2018 will bring, an adage comes to mind: the only thing that’s certain is change.

You can plan and prepare all you want, but the best way to be agile in a shifting environment is to stay connected to the undercurrent of emerging events and patterns – and utilize ingenuity to find the best way to rise to the coming challenges and opportunities.

And, whether you realize it or not, we’ve all been conditioned to tune out or disregard this vital source of intelligence.

The reason is, these days the speed of change (and innovation) moves very quickly …

And it becomes far too easy to rely on plans and approaches that were designed in the past, using old ways of thinking.

In the end utilizing information that is no longer relevant comes with heavy opportunity costs.

Albert Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind it’s faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

This seems especially true in corporate America, where systems, processes and standard operating procedures are often revered as a means to minimize risk, variation and chaos and exert control over our environment. People go to great lengths to plan and research best practices, set guidelines in place and create controls that ensure people follow them.

And when it’s time to execute – you put your head down and run from one thing to the next, juggling multiple priorities and putting out fires, only stopping to troubleshoot when things don’t go to plan…  There never seems to be enough time to pause long enough to determine whether the path you’re running on or the tactics you’re engaging in will get you to where you want to go.

After many conversations with colleagues and clients, it’s a clear consensus that real leaders are ready for a revolution of sorts. It’s time to capitalize on the opportunity to create positive change at all levels of an organization, from top down, to bottom up, because…

If the route you’re taking isn’t aligned with your desired destination, moving faster won’t do you any favors. And relying on your plan to tell you where to go next won’t either.

When you put more importance on the tactics than you do on the strategy and cling to a plan without continually reevaluating it, you have sacrificed the strategic in the name of the operational.

As an executive coach, this is one of the major challenges I work with executives to overcome. Operational is clean. It has defined edges and finite solutions. You can check the boxes and feel a sense of closure and control with an operational approach.

Strategic on the other hand can be a bit messier. It involves stepping into uncertainty to address challenges and opportunities that are new and unfamiliar. There is usually no one right answer. It often involves taking steps out of your comfort zone. And it requires that you slow down instead of speeding up, something that most of us tend to resist because slowing down flies in the face of what we’ve been conditioned to do.

To avoid this discomfort, many executives prefer being busy to being strategic. It gives them the illusion of being productive and the burst of adrenaline that is a nice (yet ultimately unsatisfying and addictive) placebo for real progress.

But busyness isn’t going to help you hit the target necessary to advance your business. Because until you slow down long enough to assess your environment and allow your intuitive mind to partner with your rational mind, you may not even realize what your true target is, let alone how to get there.

Malcolm Gladwell echoed the wisdom of Albert Einstein his iconic book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He wrote, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”

Knowledge is the product of absorbing information. Understanding is the product of insight. And insight comes from the integration of information with experience, from slowing down long enough to practice reflection and discernment.

And that’s an important key to successfully navigating the changing landscape of “business as usual”.

We live in an age of information. You can find an abundance of resources – articles, books, dissertations, webinars, workshops, best practices, etc. on any given topic. This information tends to be descriptive of what worked in the past to address the challenges faced by people and organizations whose situations are rarely identical to our emerging challenges and opportunities.

Acting on information without discernment is like taking someone else’s prescription given for a diagnosis that you aren’t entirely certain matches your own.

And yet all too often we move full speed ahead with seeming solutions that don’t really address the true underlying problems (and often make the problem worse). Ask yourself how many times have you’ve overlooked, disregarded or suppressed inklings or rumblings that told you something is just not right.

It happens to the best of us, because we get so attached to our plans that we resist (consciously or unconsciously) anything that could potentially interfere or slow us down.

Sometimes the inklings come from within, accompanied by a sense of incongruence. It might feel as if you are wearing someone else’s clothes while trying to convince yourself that they fit just fine, even though they are way too tight. But in the name of efficiency (and because you think slowing down to address it is a luxury you can’t afford), you press on anyway.

Other times the rumbles come from others within the organization, people who aren’t so attached to the predetermined plan, who are a little closer to the real problems and issues and have a sense of what needs to be done to address them.   And they are all too often shushed by others (usually a few levels above in the hierarchy) who measure performance based on how well predetermined plans are implemented and adhered to.

So how do you turn this short-sighted, self-defeating old way of thinking dynamic around?

Here are five practical tips to get you moving in a new, more progressive and productive direction:

  • Carve out time regularly for yourself to reflect, integrate and think strategically. Block this time on your calendar and hold it sacred in the same way you would a meeting with your boss or your most important customer. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time. The important thing is to slow down long enough to consider how things are going and to determine whether your approach is aligned with your desired goal. Identify what, if any, tweaks to your plan are necessary, and write down your ideas.
  • Put just as much weight on the questions as you do the answers. Ask, “What are the problems I am/we are trying to solve? Could they be symptoms of a larger issue that has not yet been addressed? What are we seeing? What are we not seeing? How can we get the information and knowledge necessary to truly understand the problem and what needs to be done to effectively address it?”
  • Encourage dialogue. This is a big one. Give people who are closest to the challenges and issues that are being addressed an opportunity to communicate with those who have the bigger, more strategic picture. Take steps to integrate top down and bottom up approaches by creating a forum for discussing emerging patterns, trends, problems and opportunities and dialoguing about what the best approaches and solutions may be.
  • Welcome and embrace dissent. This may not be comfortable at first, but the more you can encourage people who have concerns with the current course of action to speak up, and give them opportunities to constructively express those concerns, the more likely you’ll gain the support and momentum you need to move forward. When you value people’s perspectives and contributions by listening with an open mind and a willingness to act, you’ll also have access to information that will dramatically increase your chances of success.
  • Use discernment. When looking to best practices or considering recommendations from experts, determine whether they are truly a good fit (and to what degree they should be tweaked or tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization) before they are implemented.

The tendency to act operationally instead of strategically and overlook, disregard or suppress the very insight that will lead you to the best solutions and innovations, is only one of many common practices that are being challenged and improved on within the emerging real leader revolution. The focus of these new conversations and perspectives is helping both executives and the organizations they are a part of to unleash unprecedented performance, make a bigger impact and enjoy a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment in their work and their lives.

This translates into increased profitability, greater market share and stronger relationships with customers who become their biggest advocates.

If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, I encourage you to get on the waiting list for the release of my brand new free special report The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto. Sign up below to join the pre-notification list. More information on that coming soon…


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Why Letting Go of the Old Helps You Succeed With the New (and How to Do It)

 

Diane Bolden - Executive Leadership CoachWhat is it that you are longing to create in the coming year?

And what do you need to let go of in order to allow it to fully take root?

Every year, we are encouraged to set New Year’s resolutions.

We are a goal driven society that is conditioned to seek more. Our egos desire more money, more fame and prestige, and more stuff. A deeper part of ourselves longs for more peace, more meaning, and more purpose in our lives.

We want to move beyond our previous realizations of what we’ve already accomplished to master newer, better ways of doing things –whether that be what we create in our lives or in our organizations – and as leaders what we can inspire others to do as well.

Though it is tempting to occupy ourselves with thoughts of how we can go about achieving all of this and what we need to do more of, perhaps what we really need to start with is what we need to do less of – what we need to let go of to create the space for something new to come in.

We are constantly evolving both individually and collectively. 

It is so easy to look to the past to define who we are though the things we’ve already done – goals we’ve achieved, titles we’ve acquired, creations we have built. Our previous experiences coagulate to form an identity that is easy to confuse with our true nature.

 

The fact of the matter is,

you are not your accomplishments,

your creations, or the sum of the various roles

you play in your life – manager, director, vice president,

mother, father, friend, son, daughter, etc.

You are much, much more than that.

Your potential is limitless.

 

And yet, we limit ourselves by these definitions.

They filter the experiences we allow ourselves to have and compel us to define the form that our deepest longings should take. In order to be happy, we reason – we must get that promotion, achieve this or that particular goal, hit that target. So we continue to go through the motions, doing the kinds of things we’ve always done – on a sort of auto pilot.

Some of this may bring satisfaction, and some may bring a growing source of discontentment. We need to attune ourselves to that which brings us the most of what we truly desire and open ourselves to the possibility that what we really want may need to come in a form that has previously been undefined for us.

In short, we must allow ourselves to surrender what we think we know to open up to the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives.

Easier said than done, right?

How exactly do you go about letting go of the known when it’s all you know?

We can take our cues from nature. Snakes and other reptiles shed their skin, trees drop their leaves, and caterpillars create cocoons in which their forms entirely dissolve before recreating themselves in the form of butterflies.

Even a fish in a bowl cannot stay in water that contains its excrement – the waste must either be emptied and replaced with new water, or absorbed by something else that will remove it from the fish’s environment.

Without engaging in these renewing processes, these creatures will die. And so it is of us. Many of us are already walking around encased in layers of old, dead stuff that needs to be released.

What are you holding onto in your life that has run its course?

What are the old outmoded ways of doing things that no longer bring you energy? What are the things you’ve acquired that you no longer need? What beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer true for you?

Pay attention to the times that you feel constricted, anxious, or tired and in those moments ask what you can let go of. Don’t be afraid of the answer. Though it may frighten you because it introduces an element of the unknown, following these insights will always lead to freedom and liberation.

Your computer can only handle so much data.

If you do not delete old email and get rid of files that have been accumulating over the years, and if you continue to add new programs without deleting old ones, you will find that it becomes sluggish and unresponsive.

Just as freeing up space allows your computer to process things more quickly, so too will clearing your own personal space (whether of things or thoughts) allow you to access new levels of clarity and creativity.

Space invites opportunity.

You will breathe easier, be more present in every action and interaction you partake of, and bring more of who you really are to what you do. And you will open up the space of possibility that will allow something to come in that may surprise and delight you.

So here’s a thought for the New Year: Instead of trying so hard to do more with less, perhaps we can allow ourselves to explore the possibility that in doing less, we can have so much more.

For more on how to affect your own personal and professional transformation, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Ringing in the New Year: Why Looking Back is as Vital as Looking Ahead

 

Diane Bolden - Professional Executive and Leadership CoachThere is something magical about being at the threshold of a new year.

It is like climbing to the top long staircase to find ourselves on a landing, standing before a large glimmering door just waiting to be opened. As we look down, we realize how far we have climbed to get here. Yet, we cannot help but wonder what lies behind the door.

Often, we underestimate the amount of growth we have achieved.

It’s important to take some time to reflect on the unique combination of experiences that have led to both successes and disappointments and what we have learned from them. When we do, we often gain the insight that helps us become aware of what we most need to do from this point forward.

I often work with people who feel they are ready for a change, but aren’t sure what that change should be. They aren’t necessarily miserable in their jobs or other areas of their lives – they just long for something that will fill them up in ways they haven’t been fulfilled in the past.

When I coach people who feel this way, at times they want me to tell them what the next best step is – give them the answer, or perhaps a step-by-step process that will lead them to find what they seek. Of course, no person has these answers for another. Our greatest challenge and opportunity is to find them for ourselves.

Each of our lives has a story with perfect order and meaning.

As within a novel or screenplay, each character has a specific relationship to the main character and every scene has some relevance to his growth and evolution. There will be victories and disappointments, as well as twists and turns that transition us from one to another and back again.

We will have occasion to laugh, cry, and experience a myriad of other emotions that are somewhere in between. And as a result of this perfect combination of events and mini-plots, we discover ourselves to be better people.

When we are reading a book or watching a movie, the perfect order is often easier for us to see than it is for the characters enmeshed in the stories we are watching. Yet, the mystery and intrigue, the humor over each misstep, and the courage we see the characters exude to find their way give substance to the story and allow us to leave the book or the theatre feeling moved or inspired in some way.

As you reflect on 2017, can you identify your story’s most pivotal turns? What did you learn from them? Think about your character sketch. What are the endearing qualities you have that make you unique and special? How can you leverage them to build on the previous events to create a story worth telling?

Think also about the people that surround you. In what ways are they helping you grow? What are they teaching you about yourself – whether in joyful or painful ways? And what are the qualities they possess that are similar to and different than yours? How do you complement each other, and what might it be that you can create together?

You now sit at the threshold of another chapter in your story.

Contemplate what you have already experienced and ask yourself how you might build upon it to add a bit of intrigue and adventure. Identify the ways that you could add a little lightness and humor. Think about the interplay between the characters and how you could spice things up a little.

We have each been given the makings of a beautiful tale. Open your eyes and survey them the way you would the perfectly planned detail of your favorite movie or novel. Give yourself completely to the adventure, the possibilities, and the humor in your life.

Then find a way to revel in the joy of living it.

For more on reveling in the adventure that is your life, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Three Perilous Pitfalls You Can Avoid by Leveraging the Power of a Mastermind

 

Diane Bolden Executive CoachImagine holding handfuls of puzzle pieces that you are trying to assemble, without having access to the box that illustrates the finished picture. Around you are others who find themselves in the same predicament. You all hold pieces of each other’s puzzles. And you also have the ability to help each other tune into what the finished image looks like.

Though this may seem more like nothing more than an amusing simulation, it is quite fitting as a metaphor for the power of connecting with other minds.

It took me awhile to recognize and utilize this power myself. Many of us have been conditioned to believe we must figure everything out on our own, work independently, practice self-sufficiency. But over the years, I’ve become more and more convinced that working with others in groups allows us access to answers we would be hard pressed to find anywhere else.

The other day I mentioned to a Fortune 100 client that I had just returned from a three-day mastermind event. His response, “What is a mastermind?”, reminded me of the fact that until I became an entrepreneur, I wasn’t familiar with the term (or the benefits of) masterminding either.

Napolean Hill is among those who made popular the concept of the mastermind. He defined it as “two or more people who work in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose.” Hill went on to say “It is the principle through which you may borrow and use the education, the experience, the influence and perhaps the capital of other people in carrying out your own plans in life. It is the principle through which you can accomplish within one year more than you could accomplish without it in a lifetime if you depended entirely upon your own efforts for success.”

Masterminds can take many forms.

  • They can be large and formal (like the one I attended a little over a week ago), or small and intimate (like engaging in a conversation with a coach, mentor, or trusted colleague).
  • They also can be created to solve a specific problem, or to provide people the opportunity to work together to collectively solve a variety of problems.

The benefits of a mastermind are worth exploring, and its power is often overlooked and unfortunately untapped. Below are three pitfalls many executives unwittingly fall into that engaging in some form of masterminding can help you to avoid.

(1) Getting so entrenched in problems that you cannot see the solutions.

The pace of business has many executives running from one thing to another in a hopelessly reactive state that often keeps them from pausing long enough to recognize what is really going on and what must be done to address it. In a rush, solutions are often devised to address symptoms without getting to the true root of the problem. People fall into a state of autopilot that has them acting operationally instead of strategically. As a result, solutions are short lived and run the risk of causing more problems than they solve.

This is the equivalent of trying madly to put puzzle pieces together that simply don’t fit.

The benefit of utilizing a mastermind to identify solutions is that it allows you to connect with people who can help you snap out of a frenzied, somewhat unconscious state to ask the right questions, consider the best approaches to truly understanding the underlying dynamics of a problem, and benefit from perspectives different than your own. This allows you to see what you previously missed, and provides the space necessary to drop into a richer understanding of what must be done.

In pausing long enough and looking deeply enough to ensure you have the right pieces, your puzzle comes together in a way that is functional and sustainable.

(2) Failing to recognize and work through the resistance that keeps you from taking necessary action.

Sometimes the best solutions evade us because we hold assumptions that keep us from believing they are possible, or that we have the ability to execute them. Our beliefs about what it will take to succeed can keep us from even entertaining the possibilities before us. In short, the solutions may be right in front of us, but we don’t see them because we are in a state of overwhelm, frustration or doubt that obstructs our view.

This is the equivalent to not being able to envision what the completed picture looks like and not recognizing that you hold in your hands the pieces necessary to assemble it.

When you mastermind with others, they approach the problem/opportunity without any of the emotion, drama, and limiting assumptions that come from being entrenched in it. As a result, they are able to see clearly and point things out for you that you cannot see on your own. They can ask you questions and offer observations that help you cut through the clutter that obscures your view and help you see the irrational nature of assumptions you may not be willing to challenge on your own.

With a clearer view, you are able to discern a better visualization of the picture your puzzle is designed to create and recognize that you have the very pieces you need. You also gain the support and courage necessary to lay them down and piece them together.

(3) Wasting time and experiencing unnecessary frustration working in isolation to figure things out.

Regardless of what problem or opportunity you are facing, there is someone, somewhere who has been through something similar, who knows something you may not. And yet many of us insist on doing things ourselves, reinventing the wheel, and failing to leverage the knowledge, experience and insight all around us. This can result in countless hours, weeks, months and even years of time spent doing something that could have been solved or created in a fraction of time, without the whopping pain that comes from repeatedly banging your head against a wall.

It is the equivalent of failing to recognize that others hold pieces of our puzzles that they would gladly offer up, if only we had the willingness to ask.

When you mastermind with others, you not only gain access to potential solutions, approaches and tools you didn’t previously have, you also benefit from learning lessons others gained through mistakes – without having to make those mistakes yourself. Additionally, you will benefit from honest, supportive feedback provided by people who will tell you what you need to hear (information others may not feel comfortable sharing) in a supportive way that allows you to course correct before any damage is done.

You gain access to other’s puzzle pieces instead of trying to fabricate your own – as well as information that helps you put those pieces together efficiently and effectively.

In summary, masterminding can allow you to see beyond constraints that keep you from rising to your most pressing challenges and promising opportunities, produce solutions to problems that previously eluded you, and save you countless hours, weeks and even years of wasted time and unnecessary frustration.

In addition to avoiding each of these pitfalls, Napoleon Hill spoke of another benefit of masterminding that is worth mentioning. He is often quoted saying “When two (or more) people get together, a third mind, the Master Mind, is created, becoming a separate force in the conversation.”

I believe this separate force is a higher mind – a source of universal intelligence, the stuff utilized by the greatest inventors, scientists, leaders, writers, artists, and geniuses of our time. Putting our heads together in this way allows us to go beyond the limited database of our brains to access this higher mind in a way that can potentially resolve even the most pressing of problems, for us as individuals, organizations, communities and societies.

Now that’s a puzzle worth assembling.

If you are interested in experiencing the power of a mastermind first hand, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Though the fall program has filled, you can sign up for the waiting list to be the first to get information on the next session, as well as first dibs on the limited seats that will become available.

 

The Often Overlooked Danger of Being Too Results Oriented

 

DianeBolden_FB_09.11.17We hear the benefits of being results oriented all the time. It is important to have goals, to aim high, and to focus on outcomes. But as we have been told since we were kids, too much of a good thing can hurt you.

There are three critical areas that suffer if you are too results oriented:

(1) Your experience

(2) Your performance

(3) Your sustainability

Let’s start with your experience.

When my kids were young, they loved writing stories. As a family, we’d go on long road trips and by the time we reached our destination, they had woven delightful tales with colorful characters and loads of drama.

But at school, when they were given the assignment to write a story, they were not all that happy. Suddenly someone was making them do it and grading their performance. The writing was no longer an activity they had chosen for themselves. Their attention had shifted from doing the writing for the sheer joy of it to doing it for the benefit of a grade.

What does a child’s writing assignment have to do with your experience?

Most of us chose our professions as a matter of preference, because they were aligned with something we had interest in or a passion for. But when we become more fixated on the paycheck than on the work itself, the work can become a bit of a drudge.

Even smaller activities like projects can become laborious when you put more weight on achieving a desired outcome than on the process of doing the work itself.

But if you stop caring about results, how will you ever achieve anything?

The problem isn’t your desire to achieve results. The difficulty arises when you attach those results to your state of well being. Suddenly whatever you are doing becomes a means to an end. An end you feel you simply must achieve to avoid pain and achieve pleasure.

When the stakes become too high, the joy of doing the work itself gets sucked out of the process. And so do you. Your focus is no longer on immersing yourself into the work and enjoying each step, but rather on making sure you can achieve the outcome you believe your happiness depends on.

When you place your happiness on achieving some future state instead of enjoying where you are and what you are doing right now, you will never be truly happy. And your work will not only be less than fulfilling, the results of it will also be less than optimal.

This leads us to the second problem with being too results oriented.

The irony of being too focused on results is that you are less likely to get good results.

When you go from pouring your attention and energy into the process to simply achieving an outcome, whatever you are working on is missing one very key ingredient: YOU.

If all you care about is achieving the goal, your mind is on some future state. This means you yourself are not fully present and engaged. And when you are not fully present and engaged, the quality of care and love that you would otherwise pour into your work is simply not there.

The result is crappy products/services and poor performance.

You will not tap into the same level of creativity. You will not make the same connections. You will forget about whoever is the end user or beneficiary of the work you are doing when your focus is more on what you have to gain than anything else.

This is like trying to play tennis by focusing your gaze on where you want the ball to go instead of looking at the ball itself. You will likely miss the shot every time.

And when you don’t get the results you so desperately desire, you will begin to have trouble in the third area that suffers when you are too results oriented: sustainability.

What does sustainability have to do with performance and results?

Sustainability is simply your ability to stay with something long enough to experience a return on your investment of time, energy and effort.   It’s what allows you to stick with the plan you have outlined that will ultimately allow you to achieve your goals.

Sustainability is important because without it, you never gain momentum

Momentum is what allows you to go from starting something, to making progress, to achieving a desired result, to excelling at achieving a desired result. When you are too results oriented, you risk falling into the trap of judging your performance based on what you are able to achieve right out of the chute. And most people don’t perform very well when they first start something.

Expecting results without momentum is the curse of the perfectionist.

The perfectionist wants to begin everything at the same level of proficiency that a master would achieve. They compare their results to those attained by people who have spent years of their lives practicing. And they fail to recognize that people who are masterful began their crafts making mistakes, looking foolish, and getting less than desirable results.

So they quit. They never allow themselves that crucial period of trying something, getting it wrong, making small adjustments and trying again. And again. And again.

They reason they were never cut out for that kind of work. And they cheat themselves of the sweetness of achieving results they could have enjoyed if they would have just stuck with it.

But you don’t get rewarded for effort — only results, right?

It’s true that most companies don’t reward people a whole lot for the effort they put into something unless they reach their goals. But you will never achieve your goals if you do not apply sustained effort. The effort ends up rewarding you. And the reward is results that are not only high quality and long lasting, but also deeply gratifying.

Let’s summarize.

It is possible to be too results oriented. And when that happens, three primary areas will suffer

(1) Your experience. Being too results oriented sucks the joy out of your work and leads to increased levels of stress and anxiety. When you equate a desired outcome with your state of well being, the stakes become too high and you will fail to enjoy the journey that leads to your ultimate destination. Work becomes a grind and the quality of your life will suffer.

(2) Your performance. The irony of being too focused on results is that you are less likely to get good results. When your energy and attention goes to some future state, you will vacate yourself from the present. This negatively impacts your creativity and the special touch only you can bring to your work, resulting in crappy products/services and poor performance.

(3) Your sustainability. When you judge your success based on getting stellar results out of the chute, you will experience frustration and a feeling of inadequacy that may lead you to abandon your efforts altogether. Great results require great sustained effort and momentum. This can only be achieved with repeated practice, and the willingness to make mistakes, learn from them and try again and again.

Should you stop caring about results?

Of course not. It’s true that you need to aim high, get clear on the goals you want to achieve and envision what it will be like when you do. But then you need to shift your primary focus from achieving the result to pouring your heart and mind into the process. Your reward will be not only achieving your desired destination, but also enjoying every step along the way.

How to Transform Overwhelm and Frustration into Enthusiasm and Engagement

DianeBolden_FB_09.20.17Imagine finding yourself face down on the concrete being pummeled by some kind of hard object every thirty seconds or so.

You’re agitated and a little resentful – and you may feel like a bit of a victim.

And then suppose you lift your head and notice that the concrete you are lying on is green. Widening your view, you see that the objects being hurled at you are tennis balls. And they are coming from a machine that is firing them over a net. As you continue to look around, you notice there is a racket within arm’s reach.

And then you remember – ah yes, I signed up to learn how to play tennis.

This image came to me after I collapsed in overwhelm when what felt like a relentless barrage of requests for my time, emails that screamed to be answered, projects that needed to be advanced, tasks that demanded completion, and all manner of life’s little unforeseen chaotic events yammered for my attention.

How would I get it all done?

Well, I’ll tell you one thing. Cowering in fear does not help.

And neither does even the most justified of indignation and resentment.

I realized this when I lifted my head to take a good look at what was in front of me. And I also realized that all these challenges I was facing were related to things I chose to take on and/or really care deeply about, like:

Up leveling my business so that I can make a bigger impact doing what I truly love.

Being more involved and present with my three children – who inevitably are in constant need of something, often simultaneously, usually in three different places.

Honing my martial arts practice – and being more involved in the nonprofit organization that has given me the opportunity to learn it.

Becoming a better writer and speaker.

Being able to do more of what really matters to me in less time.

Getting better at anything is a decision that you make to be in the game.

It’s easy to forget that the game you’re playing is one that you chose for yourself when those balls are coming at you full speed, one after the other. But the simple shift of mind that comes from going to a helpless victim to someone who has willingly stepped onto the court is one that makes all the difference in the world.

Think of anything in life you feel like you “have to” or “should” do. More than likely with that frame of mind, it will feel heavy and cumbersome. But find something about that same activity that you want or care deeply about, and suddenly everything gets a little lighter.

We find reserves we didn’t think we had. We rise to the occasion. We notice the racket that lies within our grasp and begin to use it to hit some of those balls.

The more you play, the better you get.

I confess. I’ve let a few balls slip here and there. And I’ve hit some in directions that were anything but where I intended them to go. But the less I care about needing to get it perfect, the more I want to play the game.

And the more I play, the more of those balls I’m able to return.

And the more of those balls I’m able to return, the higher my confidence.

And the higher my confidence, the easier and more fun the game gets.

Rest assured, there will be days when it feels like we are being pummeled. But perhaps the reason those balls come at us harder and faster is because we are ready to advance to a whole new level – one that allows us see what we’re really made of. And maybe, just maybe – the only thing we really need to focus on is showing up and being willing to play.

Game on!

The Masterpiece in the Marble: 3 Steps to Unearth Your Best Work

 

DianeBolden_FB_08.21.17We’ve all been to a lot of classes – whether on leadership or related subjects – where we sit passively and listen to someone teach us things from a workbook or a power point presentation. Some of these classes infuse us with new ideas and inspirations, and others do not. Either way, the chief challenge is coming back to our daily work and implementing what we have learned. Class or no class, putting into practice the ideas and insights we get on a daily basis is a challenge. It is a challenge because it calls for us to integrate them into a way of doing things that we have established for ourselves over a long period of time.

To change, grow or improve in any way, we must consciously look at ourselves.

We need to look at both what is working and what is not. Often we are so accustomed to running from project to project and meeting to meeting, that we aren’t even aware of the dynamics at play under the surface. This frenetic approach leads to a pattern of similar results, similar experiences, and inevitably similar frustrations, and often the feeling that there has to be more to it than this.

There is.

The truth is, you already possess within you the core essentials you need to be successful. 

The question is, are you using them?  And are you using them to the best of your ability?  If the answer is no, it doesn’t matter how many new tools you acquire or methodologies you learn.  Our chief challenge is not to continue looking to others for solutions and answers, but instead to take the time to tap that part of ourselves that remains our purest potential.  The prerequisite for being an effective leader of others is to learn to lead ourselves.

Michelangelo once said “The masterpiece is already in the marble.”

The same is true for each of us. Our chief task as leaders is to chip away at the stuff that surrounds the masterpiece. What stuff? You may ask. The habits, patterns and approaches you’ve been utilizing over the years that are no longer getting you the results you want. And the inaccurate beliefs, assumptions and doubts you have about yourself, others, and what is generally possible in any given situation. These are the major factors that keep you from unearthing your best work.

So how do you chip the away at the extraneous?

The part that is especially challenging for people is that they often don’t even realize they are operating from a mindset that isn’t serving them. They may recognize the results they’re getting aren’t what they’d like without necessarily realizing that the core issue lies within them. And the tricky thing is that until you recognize that the mindset you have isn’t serving you, you will continue to make decisions and attempt to solve problems operating within the very frame of mind that is keeping you from seeing the outcomes you want.

Here are some steps you can take to shift into a way of thinking that allows you to bring out your very best – and in the process help others to do the same.

The first step is to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

The next time you have an experience that doesn’t go the way you’d like it to, replay it in your mind and try to identify the role you played in it –not only with your actions (or lack of action) but also your thoughts – what you were believing at the time, where your focus was, and how others reacted to you. Ask yourself what you would do differently next time. Then envision what that would look like and feel like if you were to have the same situation, but a more favorable response. In this way, you can allow your experiences to teach and mold you into something better – even the ones that are less than optimal.

The second step is to PAY ATTENTION.

You are bound to fall into old patterns again and again, but the more you become aware of them, the less compelling they become. At first you may not catch yourself until after the fact, but over time you will find you can interrupt the cycle sooner, until finally you are able to head it off at the pass and choose a different response altogether.

The third step is to IDENTIFY WITH THE MASTERPIECE, NOT THE MARBLE.

You are not your thoughts, your patterns or your habits. You are much bigger than that. Once you are aware of how those things are operating in your life, you free yourself up to choose new ones. Rather than chipping away at the marble, you will begin to grow from within it, busting through the constraints that no longer hold you captive. Instead of dwelling on your limitations, focus on your strengths. Instead of putting your attention on the things you don’t want to see, begin identifying with what you do want and recognize that you have the ability to achieve it.

As you begin to clear the debris from your view, you will see things in a whole different light – including those around you that you have the opportunity to lead. These folks are far more likely to take their cues from your action than your words. And when you begin to help them identify with their masterpieces as you have learned to do, there is nothing you cannot achieve.

If you are interested in additional strategies for inspiring and motivating yourself and others to higher levels of performance and impact – as well as greater fulfillment both on and off the job, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!

Igniting the Spark & Fanning the Flames: 3 Critical Steps to Inspiring Others

 

DianeBolden_FB_08.14.17When was the last time you were really inspired?

Can you recall what you were doing? What you were thinking about? How you felt? What was it that inspired you? And what did you end up doing as a result?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could replicate the feeling of inspiration and translate it into measurable results any time you wanted to? As a leader, your chief mission is to bring out the best in others and focus their unique talent, style, energy and passion into the creation and achievement of something that serves a greater good. The ability to inspire and motivate is critical. But what is it exactly that makes a leader inspiring – and more importantly how can leaders facilitate others to take inspired action?

STEP 1: Before you can be inspiring, you must be inspired.

Chances are the last time you became inspired, you were not feeling stress, anxiety, worry or overwhelm. And it probably didn’t happen because someone told you to do it. The greatest creations and most significant accomplishments of our time started with a single thought that most likely originated when the minds that conceived them were relatively quiet. It is not uncommon to hear inventors, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, leaders and others say that ideas such as these seemed to originate from a source greater than themselves – and that the most inspiring of these thoughts was in service to a greater good.

The voice of inspiration often starts as a small still whisper that competes for our attention among all the other things we think we need to be doing.   How will you quiet yourself for a few moments today and elevate your attention from problems to possibilities so you can hear what it is telling you?

STEP 2: Before you can truly bring out the best in others, you must start with yourself.

Every one of us has faults and weaknesses. But we also have unique combinations of talent, energy, style and passion that mingle together to form vast pools of possibility. You are capable of far more than you ever dreamed or realized is possible and so is everyone around you. These core qualities lie deep within us waiting to be tapped and harnessed.

True strength is not boastful or proud but rather quietly confident and unassuming. It is also incredibly engaging and uplifting. When you shift your focus from your doubts and fears to your strengths and abilities, you will see the way to rise. And in doing so, you will allow others to do the same. As you focus on people’s true potential and treat them as though they are capable of achieving it, they will prove you right – often surprising and delighting themselves in the process. The ability to do this is one of the marks of a true leader.

STEP 3:   Remember to block and tackle.

Getting people to focus on possibilities and believe in themselves is a huge part of exercising inspired leadership, but it won’t get you all the way there. To leverage people’s strengths and make the most of emerging opportunities, inspiration must at some point turn into ACTION. The trouble is, somewhere along the way our egos have a tendency to try to steal the show. Being fear based, the ego would have us occupy ourselves with doubt, skepticism and anxiety over the potential for failure and any corresponding loss of power, prestige or approval.

This is where MOTIVATION comes in. Motivation is about getting people to move. And sometimes you have to remove barriers that are in front of people before they can do that. Obstacles could be physical, organizational or mental. Good leaders are instrumental in detecting and removing them, whether they are in the form of skill deficiency, inadequate equipment or resources, or a lack of confidence.

You can soothe the clamors of the ego by mitigating risk, increasing the odds of success, and helping others to recognize what they have to gain as a result of exerting the effort necessary to succeed. With the parking brake removed, action and results can begin to accelerate.

In every organization, in every person, and in every moment, there lies possibility and untapped potential. What will you do to recognize it and apply it toward something remarkable?

If you are interested in additional strategies for inspiring and motivating yourself and others to higher levels of performance and impact – as well as greater fulfillment both on and off the job, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group IntensiveRegistration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!

3 Steps for Escaping the Hamster Wheel to Create Freedom & Flow

 

TWITTER-2017-JULY-6Do you find yourself running from one thing to the next with little time to really think about what you are doing and why?

If you answered yes, you are not alone.

Many high achieving professionals feel as though they have way more to do than they have time to do it. Their ambition, drive and passion have served them well, and gotten them to a nice place, but still they know they are capable of more. More visibility, more opportunity, more income, and dare I say – more freedom to enjoy their careers and their lives.

The daily grind has a way of keeping us tethered to the ground, feeling as though our best is just around the corner, if only we can get through what’s in front of us, which is often an accumulation of projects, events and other commitments that ends up growing far faster than it shrinks. Every once in a while, it becomes apparent that something’s got to give.

But who has time to slow down when there is so much more to get done?

The fantasy many of us have bought into is that if we just work longer and harder, we will get there. And despite our longing to find balance and the sweet spot that will finally allow us to relax and be more effective, we often act in ways that bring greater levels of anxiety and toil. As leaders, we also unwittingly create entire cultures of people who emulate our frenetic behavior in the name of getting ahead.

The hamster in the wheel doesn’t realize he isn’t getting anywhere.

And before he can, he must realize that he is, in fact, in a wheel. Our wheels are much more sophisticated and deceiving than those of the hamster. Because initially, our wheels do get us somewhere. It’s just that over time, they lose traction and become stuck in comfortable ruts. And we don’t realize when we’re stuck, because it doesn’t seem possible to be standing still when you are running like hell.

Are you ready to stop the madness and take things up a notch?

Can you conceive of finding a better way to do things? How badly do you want it? Bad enough to try something that goes against every compulsion you currently have to keep doing what you’ve been doing all along?

Consider the prerequisite for successful change.

Have you ever noticed that when you upgrade software, the program often needs to uninstall or extract something before it can successfully run? Gardeners know that new blossoms proliferate when the old flowers and branches have been pruned. Bargain shoppers know that stores sell older merchandise at a significant discount to get it off the shelves to make room for what’s coming in the new season.

How about you?

What tried and true ways of doing things have lost their leverage?

How willing are you to recognize that perhaps there is a better way of doing things than what you’ve done up to this point? All change begins with awareness that is coupled with desire. To move beyond your madness, try the following:

  • Pay attention to the times during the day that you feel the most anxious, stressed, or tense. Recognize the pattern of thought or behavior you are engaging in that may be causing this discomfort. This may be a prime area for you to make a shift.
  • Ask yourself some discerning questions such as, “What small, but powerful change could I make today that would allow me to be more effective and make the most of my opportunities?”
  • Notice what catches your attention in the coming days. The answers to your questions will reveal themselves to you, but you must open yourself up to them and be willing to listen.

Once you begin to notice that the patterns and triggers that create the highest degree of anxiety, stress and pressure – and the impact they are having in your life, they begin to lose their hold on you. When you open yourself to new ways of doing things, you move from a point of view to a higher viewing point – one that allows you to see solutions that may have previously evaded you. Allowing yourself to envision and believe in a new way of doing things will transform your frustration into fuel and help you summon the courage you need to overcome obstacles along the way.

If you are interested in specific strategies for breaking through old habits and patterns that no longer serve you so that you can create more freedom and flow in your work and your life, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!