All posts by Diane

Sometimes the Smallest Changes Spark the Biggest Transformations

“How do you like your new office?” my friend asked. I had moved from a small building to a larger one and managed to find a nice little space on the second floor at the top of a winding staircase.

It didn’t take long for me to realize it was likely the ONLY small office, surrounded by much larger suites filled with employees of organizations far bigger than my own.

“I love it. It’s beautiful and quiet… Maybe too quiet sometimes,” I added.

My friend looked puzzled.

I missed walking down the halls of my old building, seeing warm smiles on familiar faces, and engaging in an occasional bit of banter.

“It’s strange,” I told her. People don’t seem to make eye contact. Everyone stares straight ahead and silently goes about their business. It’s like an unwritten code or something.”

“An introvert’s dream.” She replied.

She was right. Kind of.

As an introvert myself, I must admit I’m not one who actively seeks conversation. But something was missing. I just wasn’t feeling very connected.

A few days later I was washing my hands in the lady’s room. A woman came out of the stall and proceeded to the sink next to mine. Something welled up in me. Before I knew what I was doing, I heard myself break the silence, suddenly blurting out a clumsy greeting.

“How are you today?”

She looked up, somewhat startled, and stared blankly at me. For a moment, I was reminded of how it felt to be an awkward teenager.

“I’m fine,” she replied after what seemed an eternity. “How are you?”

“I’m great. I’m kind of new here, and I noticed that people don’t really talk to each other much – it’s like an elevator where everyone faces forward and never interacts. And I started to do that too. But I thought it might be nice to try something different today.”

Her face softened, and her eyes brightened. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m just running all the time from thing to thing and so preoccupied.”

“I know that feeling,” I responded, thinking of how many times I was kind of relieved to not have to engage with anyone.

“It really is nice to just be able to talk like yourself, isn’t’ it?” she said.

I found her choice of words interesting. We both relaxed a bit and became a little more conscious. After exchanging names and talking ever so briefly, we each went our way.

And in that moment, the trajectory of my day (and perhaps that of days to come) was changed.

As I reflected on the interaction later, I realized how easy it is for all of us to just take as given the circumstances we find ourselves in – the social norms, the cultural conditioning, the perceived constraints of our day-to-day lives.

Some of those norms serve us. But every once in a while, you might recognize one you’d like to bump up against and challenge in some small, perhaps even unperceivable way.

Do it. You may find you’re not the only one who wants to break through those unwritten rules.

Sometimes the smallest changes spark the biggest transformations – even if only in yourself.

Here’s to busting out of your box!

Sometimes Falling Back Allows You to Move Forward

Do you ever find yourself falling back into old habits, despite your efforts to break free of them?

When you become aware of a behavior that is no longer serving you, catching yourself engaging in it despite that knowledge can be particularly frustrating.

But I believe it’s worth celebrating. Why?

Because now you are no longer acting on autopilot.

The beauty of a habit is that you can get to the point of doing something without ever having to think about it. That works great when you are trying to take better care of yourself – work out more, eat healthier, do something that allows you to grow in some way.

But when you are engaging in a habit that is not serving you, you are unwittingly sabotaging yourself – UNTIL you realize what you are doing.

When you begin to become aware of a habit that is no longer aligned with what you most want, the awareness in and of itself will begin to free you.

You may fall back into old patterns, but the fact that you realized it – and that it was PAINFUL will reduce the chances you’ll continue to repeat it.

You will have interrupted the automatic nature of the behavior to insert a pause. And in that pause, you can connect to yourself and reaffirm what you most want.

The first step to making a change is awareness. And sometimes that awareness is of what is no longer working. When that awareness is painful, it’ll increase the chances that you’ll make a different choice next time – one that will be far more satisfying.

So don’t beat yourself when you fall into old habits. Sometimes backward movements allow you build up the power and intention to propel you forward with greater force and momentum.

Here’s to falling forward!

Busyness Is Not Good Business

 

Ever feel like you’re running harder than ever but not really getting anywhere? If the road you’re on won’t get you to your desired destination, moving faster won’t do you any favors.

When you put more importance on the tactics than you do on your vision/goal – and cling to a plan without continually reevaluating it, you’ve 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 (or your career).

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.

So the next time you feel compelled to speed up, try slowing down.

Take some time to check in with yourself to identify what is most important to you right now. Reflect on the changing nature of your environment and see if you can tune into ways to proactively interact with it. Give your very best ideas a chance to land softly in the space between your thoughts.

And when you get those insights, act on them – even (and maybe especially) if they nudge you to move in new directions and do things you haven’t done before.

Don’t be afraid to deviate from your routine or stray from your plan – to strategically blaze a trail into the future you must be willing to break away from the constraints of your past.

Here’s to boldly creating your future!

Performance Management Doesn’t Have to Be Painful

Do you dread doing performance appraisals? (…or any kind of performance management?)

If so, you’re not alone. It’s rarely an experience people look forward to – whether on the receiving, or the giving end. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s true that many performance appraisal systems don’t do much to motivate and inspire even the strongest of performers (and are often seen as a necessary evil). But if you feel your hands are tied as a result, you will dramatically underestimate the power of your leadership.

Over the years, in the myriad of 360 feedback interviews I’ve done for my executive clients, it almost never fails that at least one (and usually many more) of their directs indicate they would really like to have more feedback, coaching, and mentoring on what they could do better…

Which is interesting – because they don’t just say they want more POSITIVE feedback. They say they want the CONSTRUCTIVE kind too.

They want to know what their leader sees them as capable of achieving – what heights their manager envisions them potentially reaching. And they want to know what they need to do (or stop doing) to close the gap between where they are and where they could be.

These conversations are undoubtedly something that should happen more than once or twice a year. But even if, like many leaders, you have not yet made good on your intentions to have those conversations more often, you can start anytime.

You can start now.

Here are some questions worth considering that can help you turn otherwise unpleasant feedback conversations into valuable ignitors of performance.

  • What do you see each of your people capable of achieving?
  • What, if anything might they be doing that could get in their way?
  • How can you bring limiting behaviors or patterns to their attention in a way that helps them recognize (1) how their current behavior is getting in their way, (2) why making a change will help them to succeed, (3) what they need to do differently, (4) what gives you the confidence they can turn things around?
  • What coaching, mentoring, learning/development opportunities, and/or other support can you make available to help them bridge the gap?

Performance feedback conversations don’t have to be a drag.

If you were walking around with a giant weight tied to your back that you didn’t realize you were carrying, you’d be grateful to someone who helped you recognize how to release it. Especially if that person was also able to hold a vision of what you could achieve if you let it go – and where you might be able to go without it.

As a leader, you can do that for other people all day, every day.

Here’s to your success – and your ability to help others succeed too!

Diane

When Life Throws You Curve Balls… Use Them to Improve Your Game

Have you experienced a lot of change and/or challenge recently?

The last several weeks/months ushered in a series of unfortunate events in my life that had me reeling a bit.  But I learned a few things in the process that helped me get through it all and bounce back stronger. Thought I’d share that in this week’s video…

As Robert Frost once said, “The best way out is always through.” I’ve learned that some of life’s richest lessons are learned through adversity. And what you learn in your personal life benefits you professionally (and vice versa).

We tend to want to move through unpleasant circumstances as quickly as possible, but there is something to be said for pausing long enough to absorb the wisdom they awaken within you. Because those situations always come with gifts that must be unwrapped to be fully received.

If you’re grappling with a challenge right now, I wish you peace, courage, resilience, and faith. You’ve likely been through worse – and you’ll come out the other side better.

Here’s to using life’s curve balls to improve your game!

How to Keep Your Dream Alive (despite doubt, hesitation and other obstacles)

 

Do you have a vision you aspire to make real? No matter what the day/week/month brings… hold strong and continue to breathe life into it. And don’t let your doubt or hesitation steal its fire.

As children, most of us received mixed messages. You may have been encouraged to follow your heart and give life to your dreams in addition to being conditioned to be practical, hedge your bets, and take the safest route. Over time, many of us have allowed the roar of public opinion – that often tells us our dreams are frivolous, selfish, and unlikely to come to fruition – to silence that small still voice within.

But those among us who have risen against their odds have learned to reverse that process and believe in themselves and their dreams despite the overwhelming evidence around them that would suggest that success is improbable.

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lost that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.

And so today I still have a dream.”

~ Martin Luther King

The beginning of each year brings with it the question of what you will focus your time, energy, and resources on accomplishing. It is an optimal time to reacquaint yourself with your dreams and visions, your purpose and values, and the question of how you can become a living example of that which you most admire.

You may be quite sure of what it is you would like to create, do, have, or become. Or perhaps you have only small pieces of a bigger puzzle that has not yet come together.

We all have different talents and strengths, diverse styles and passions – along with a unique combination of experiences (for better or worse) that allows us to discover and apply them to create something bigger than ourselves. You may not know exactly what form it will take, but if you pay attention to the whispers and yearnings of your heart, you’ll begin to make out the shape of something that beckons to you.

The power of your dream will be bolstered by the degree to which your vision expands beyond your own interests to those of others around you. Spend some time contemplating where you feel most drawn and why.

When you land on something that will allow your gifts to align with those of others to accomplish complementary goals, you’ll join forces with something much greater than yourself. It will lift you up when your energy is low and sustain you through moments of doubt and fear.

If you’d like some support in learning how you can leverage your unique style to best connect and collaborate with others to make your vision real, take advantage of a special Happy New Year offer.

For a limited time when you enroll in the Leverage Your Style Behavioral Style Self Study, you’ll have complimentary access to Navigating Change, Challenge & Uncertainty: How to Unleash Extraordinary Performance in Unchartered Territory. Go to www.MeetChangeWithStyle.com for more information (including the curriculum for each course) and to enroll.

You’ll also receive a research-backed, highly validated Target Training International assessment that’ll provide you with a comprehensive 20+ page report about your specific style, including your strengths and areas of opportunity.

Here’s to the power of YOUR dream!

Maximize the Possibility of the New Year (and minimize potential pitfalls)

 

The beginning of each year invites us to consider how we can dig deeper, reach higher, and unleash more potential in ourselves and those we lead.  It begs the question…

How can you maximize the possibility of the New Year… while working through the change, challenge, and uncertainty it brings?

Making the most of what’s possible begins with self-awareness.  Since we all approach opportunities and challenges differently, what is natural for one person may not work for another.

But with an understanding of how to leverage your strengths and sidestep your pitfalls, you can find and execute your own winning strategy.  You’ll minimize the time it takes you to get things done and maximize your effectiveness in getting results.

And if you can couple that self-awareness with an understanding of how to best work with the unique style of others, you’ll find and leverage opportunities to better collaborate with others and influence them to be a part of what you are creating.

When you blend that with an ability to navigate change with ease and grace, you’ll expand your horizons, your reach, and your impact.

For a limited time, you can take advantage of two courses designed to help you do just that – for the price of one…

When you enroll in the Leveraging Your Style DISC Behavioral Style Self-Study (which includes a comprehensive, research-backed TTI assessment), you’ll receive complimentary access to Navigating Change, Challenge & Uncertainty: How to Unleash Unprecedented Performance in Unchartered TerritoryYou’ll also have an opportunity to enhance your experience with a one-on-one coaching session with me at a special rate.

Go to MeetChangeWithStyle.com for more information and to view the details of each course, including the curriculum.

Take advantage of this exclusive opportunity to leverage your unique style to open new doors for yourself and those you lead. 

Change is inevitable.  But when nothing is certain, anything is possible.

Here’s to making 2024 your best year yet!

Diane

P.S.  This course combination is also available to bring in-house to your organization. Email Support@DianeBolden.com for more information.

 

 

How to Brave the Discomfort of Growth… and Make 2024 Your Year

 

Happy New Year!  It’s a time for new beginnings and new chapters – one that invites us to think bigger and grow larger.

Can you remember the last time you did something that was out of your comfort zone?

It’s something most of us don’t do all that often, because going beyond that which you’ve previously done is universally challenging.

All too often, we see something that beckons – perhaps something that we know will be good for us, and yet we resist.

Going beyond what is comfortable and familiar is a lot like stretching a muscle. 

You might move tentatively into it and then hit a wall of discomfort. And when you’re in it, a myriad of unsettling thoughts and fears may barrage you – “I’m no good at this…,” “this was a bad idea…” “I’m wasting my time…” and on and on.

The resistance itself seems to intensify the discomfort. It can lead you tighten up, literally and figuratively, and block yourself from moving into the experience.

But if you can remain patient and open – if you can allow yourself this initial period of discomfort and stay present with it, relaxing into it and breathing through it, you might be surprised at the results you experience.

Stretching allows us to expand beyond our previous constraints.

Think of the last time you tried something really different – something new and exciting and kind of terrifying all at the same time. If you stayed with it despite your initial resistance, chances are that over time the discomfort gave way to exhilaration and eventually, perhaps deep gratification.

And the longer you kept at it, the easier and more satisfying it became.

Now’s the time to step into the future you most want to create.

We’re all capable of so much more than we realize, and the time has come for us to stand taller, reach higher, and be willing to open ourselves up to allow our greatest work to emerge. Don’t be fooled into thinking that going outside your comfort zone is merely a self-serving exercise that can wait until you have more confidence or time.

In fact, there is no better way to increase your confidence than by taking this kind of action despite your fear and discomfort.

Your future self (and those you lead) will thank you.

That kind of courageous exploration enriches not only yourself but everyone who will benefit from the gifts you uncover and give form to. When you resist growth, you cheat more than just yourself. And when you expand, you allow yourself to truly lead – in whatever form that leadership will take.

Here’s to stretching yourself to achieve new heights in this brand new, shiny new year!  Wishing you and yours a bright, beautiful 2024!

Diane

The One Gift Everyone Needs Most (and No One Gets Enough Of)

 

Regardless of your holiday budget, there’s a gift you can share that transcends all others and won’t cost you a thing. One could argue it’s the one thing that no one gets enough of and everyone needs the most…

It’s the gift of presence, a state that allows us to truly bring out the best in ourselves so that we can do the same for others.

When you give presence, everyone benefits – including you.

You can experience it wherever you are — whether in a meeting, running an errand, sitting at your desk, or in a conversation. It has the power to transform the way you experience your daily life and what it allows you to create for yourself and others — without really DOING anything at all.

Can you recall the last time you felt totally and completely attended to?

Chances are it wasn’t when someone was giving you advice or telling you what to do. It may not have even been when someone was serving you or watching you tear open a gift. Yet when we think of giving something to others our minds often immediately jump to what we can do, say or buy for someone. Many times, the best gift we can give someone is that of our presence.

What exactly is presence?

The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”. It’s a state of being that’s achieved when you’re truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in your thoughts about what it means or what you believe should be happening next (or instead).

Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It’s a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself. A moment of presence is a state of grace that allows us to receive powerful insights that help us make the most of our opportunities and rise to our challenges in creative ways.

It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

 In these moments of presence, you’ll experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, listening deeply and making them the center of your attention you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well.

This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence, to listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.

In a world where everything moves so fast and people often feel overlooked and unheard, presence is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

It has the capacity to transform ordinary everyday life into precious moments that’ll become treasured memories. And since it’s a gift that’ll give as much to you as it will to others, it makes giving as wonderful as getting – no matter the time of year.

Here’s to your presence! Wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday.

 

It’s Not What You Do – It’s the Way that You Do It…

 

Ahh December.  Twinkle lights on trees and rooftops, the smell of wood burning in fireplaces, a refreshing chill in the air…  and of course, a whole slew of things to do that can tip the scales for people who were already feeling overwhelmed with work (and maybe even life itself).

How You Do Things is as Important as What You Do (…maybe even more so)

It’s tempting to approach all those things the way you do items on a checklist – just power through them in the most efficient way possible.  The risk of that, however, is that you’ll relegate yourself to a kind of “autopilot” state, where you’re going through the motions with your head and your hands but not really your heart.

And when that happens, the things you do can feel empty – for yourself and others too.

Never Underestimate the Power of Presence

I’m convinced that when people receive what we give them, they experience the energy we put into it.  You’ve probably had someone tell you to have a good day while looking at their phone or multi-tasking.  It just doesn’t have the same impact as it does when they look you in the eye and are truly with you, sharing a feeling and not just words that sound good.

The end of the year brings into focus what really matters in our lives.

November leads us to think about what we are grateful for.  December allows us to spend time with those we love, both giving and receiving in ways that create and perpetuate joy.  And as we move closer to January, we do well to reflect on what we most want to experience, accomplish, or become in the new year.

It’s a time that calls us to be present – and to pour our very selves into what matters most.

Honor What’s Most Important

You may not be able to DO everything on your list (most of us never really can).  Instead, take some time to identify what is really important to you.

What are the things you care so much about that it’s worth slowing down to pour enough of yourself into them that people are moved by the experience?  Those things you give yourself to wholeheartedly will be the game changers in both your personal and your professional life.

So be intentional.  Start now.  Today. 

What matters most to you?  And how can you be completely present and intentional in a way that allows others to truly experience the magnitude of what you have to offer?

Because when you do, what you give to others will enrich your own life as much as it does theirs.

 

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