Leadership and Discomfort

Discomfort & Leadership

No one ever said that being a leader is easy. Sometimes it’s scary, and Sometimes it is infuriating. Most times, it’s uncomfortable. So Let’s talk about discomfort. Nowadays, leadership is a scarce commodity because few people are willing to go through what is uncomfortable and step into leadership. (Seth Godin-Tribes) 

We fail to realize that discomfort makes leadership valuable. 

The truth is If everyone tries to lead all the time, not much happens, you end up with too many cooks in the kitchen. If everyone tries to speak at once, you never hear what people are trying to say. It all becomes noise. It becomes chatter in the background, and the intentions get lost. It’s the discomfort that creates the momentum that makes leadership worthwhile. In other words, if everyone can do it, they would.

It’s uncomfortable to do many, many things. It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers, give a presentation or speech for the first time, or introduce a new idea that might not work. It’s uncomfortable to challenge someone else’s ideas or the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to say no when everyone else is saying yes. 

When you can identify what that discomfort is. You have found the place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your full potential as a leader. Leaders often figure out how to step into those vacuums and create motion. Those vacuums where leadership is necessary. They work hard to generate movement to generate traction; leaders work hard to get people involved. They work hard to bolster cooperation. Leaders speak up when it is time to have a challenging conversation. Leadership creates movement and transforms people. leaders motivate and inspire.

When we lean into discomfort and lead, our environments become communities, and the people we work with become family.

Sometimes You Have to Ugly Cry

It has been 2 years since I have seen my daughter face to face. Zoom is great, So is facetime. I actually talk to her every day either by phone, or text but that just does not cut it. It simply is not enough. Thanks, COVID. I am a professional leadership and life coach. I have spent this past year doing a great deal of listening and asking a lot of questions. We all have different challenges; however, underneath it, there is a common theme; loneliness. Brought on all in the name of staying safe and keeping family members safe. This combined with social unrest, a struggling economy, the bottom falling out of so many jobs, friends and family members literally on the brink of homelessness. The emotional tank is constantly running empty. Thanks, COVID

Then there are the deaths. Too many to count. The hospitalizations and I am not talking about the 500,000 or more who perished from this virus. I am speaking about those who I know personally that affected my family personally. My last count personally was 6 deceased, 10 sick. 5 hospitalized. I close my eyes, I take a deep breath, and then. Exhale. Then sometimes, you just need to ugly cry. That visceral cry from the pit of your stomach makes you shake when it bubbles up. When you really need to purge sadness, give it sound. We all carry so much. We have all been through so much. We need to give ourselves permission to let it out. It does not make us weak; there is no shame in it. In fact, it is the bravest thing we can do for ourselves. Afterward, take a breath—a deep one. Then exhale.

The love I have for the work I do sustains me. I enjoy helping and reminding people of their purpose, rediscover talents, and taking a new step into an encore career! Nothing makes me happier. I have a great support system, and this is how I reset myself. Mindset means everything these days. How we look at things and people. The way we interpret the words they say or the actions they make can make the difference between a furrowed brow and lost sleep to empathy and understanding.

So far, so good this 2021. Promise. Hope. A Vaccine.
I look forward to what will unfold. Who knows, I may even get an actual hug before the end of the year.

Open Letter To Myself

Inspiring people to live purpose-driven lives; This is the motto for my company.

I am a Professional Leadership Coach, writer, speaker, mentor, daughter, sister, mother, wife, and friend. I have had break downs, and I have witnessed breakthroughs. I practice what I preach and work hard to lead by example. I am an executive who has worked for large companies in highly ranked leadership positions. However, there has always been a ceiling; I could not break through, no matter how hard I tried. I know that it is still there and thrived regardless, knowing I could only go so far and would only be allowed to do just so much.

You see, I am black AND a woman. I live in the United States of America, and it is the year 2020.

I have been passed over for deserved promotions when I was the only one who met the qualifications for the position. I have endured bullying, been the butt of inside jokes. I have lived in my current city for two years and been pulled over or stopped by police four times for no purpose, and I was not breaking the law. I was not issued a citation. I was even “escorted” home so that the kind officers had proof I lived in the very neighborhood they stopped me in.

I wanted to cry. I did not. I wanted to complain. I did not. I spoke about it to friends and family, and while we all got angry, we realized, “that’s just our lots in life;” “That’s what happens;” “It is to be expected.” My behavior and reactions to these things have been conditioned and shaped.

My white relatives and friends, who are my counterparts, have never had to endure this. They have not experienced my story, my life, many of them female, none of them black.
I give, teach, train, mentor. I have worked hard my entire life, and I love people. I love my family.

How do I move forward? I will continue to inspire people to live purpose-driven lives. I will stop sweeping institutionalized and hidden racism under the rug. I will look at it, see it and confront it. I move forward by practicing authenticity.

No more willful blindness. I see it, and it’s wrong. I am black. I am a woman. I live in the United States of America, and it is the year 2020.

We are all the better than this.

THE THIEF

I got some news today. News that I was certainly not expecting, and it came to me from an unlikely source. A mentor, A brother, and a dear friend passed away yesterday. A thief stole him. Stole his health, Stole his life. He had a lot of life left to live. It is ironic as I was listening to a podcast yesterday about this unforgiving pandemic that has swept the world and is taking no prisoners. The host of the podcast said something that struck me. He stated that “this illness will touch everyone closely. It might be a cousin, a sister, brother, a neighbor”. We will all be touched in some way by this. That statement stuck with me. It haunted me. Then today, I got the call. I am shaken.

I immediately went to the closet to grab funeral attire and stopped when I realized this thief called COVID-19 would not even allow us to grieve. We will not gather at a funeral; we cannot honor him with a home going service. I sat on the floor of my closet and cried, an ugly cry, an angry cry. I also realized this would probably be the beginning of many tears I will shed for others who I love. I pray the ones I love will not have to drop any for me.

This virus has come like a thief in the night. This virus has swept in and robbed us of our humanity. We have been robbed of our rituals, and our closure is stolen. We cannot console, hold, embrace, or hold vigil with our loved ones who are sick or who pass on. This way of life is not the way it is supposed to be.
I ask as I always do: “What am I supposed to learn from this?” These trials are first for us all—a very uncomfortable one. I do not like it. I will give it a name. I am hurt. I am sad. I am anxious. I am worried. I AM SCARED.

I will, however, be the leader. I will be an example. I will be the friend and the consoler even from afar. I will not be defeated; I will not give in. I encourage you to do the same. Feel your feelings. Give those feelings a name. Be a leader. Be a friend. Be a good neighbor. Be HUMAN. This will make our relationships better. It will make them stronger. It will make them COVID-19 PROOF.
Rest in Peace, John Hill, Sr; you will be missed.

Leadership During Hard Times

Leading – and Succeeding – in a Downturn

Your positive energy will help your team get through hard times.

However, when the economic conditions are challenging, this excitement and positive energy can weaken. People feel the pressures of work, and they fear for their jobs. These worries and fears present a significant challenge for leaders who need to keep their teams productive and on target. One of the keys to protecting yourself and your business in an economic downturn is to develop a culture that builds and sustains effective leadership practices. 

After all, good leadership is good leadership, regardless of the economic climate. However, during difficult times, top-notch leadership skills become even more critical. Second-rate leaders might be able to keep a company going in a healthy economy. However, you need high-performing leaders if you’re going to succeed in tough times. That being said, of course, you need leaders who can control costs and conserve cash.

Moreover, successful companies require leaders who see opportunity – and who will strive to seize that opportunity – despite all the negativity. Companies need leaders who remain committed to their people and leaders who can transfer their positive outlook to the people around them. 

Here are a few helpful tips: Leadership is especially critical when organizations have to adapt to demanding business environments. When times are good, leading a company or a team is exciting. Resources are plentiful, customers are satisfied, and opportunity is everywhere. 

Create New Opportunities

In an economic downturn, you need to conserve your resources so that you can survive. However, be ready when the economy recovers. An economy in decline is often an opportunity to regroup, rethink, and renew. To take advantage of new opportunities, consider doing the following:  

Review your strategy – Figure out which objectives you’re meeting, which ones need more emphasis, and which ones you should reconsider or drop as the environment around you changes. 

  Lead by example – Now, more than ever, you have to lead “from the front” by setting an example. Take personal responsibility for customer care and contact. Actively help pursue new business. Show that you’re willing to make extra effort to commit to the organization’s success.  

Commit to the success of your team members.

 Add value – One of the ways that leaders can gain more significant market share and improve operations is by really listening to their customers. Look for innovative ways to add value without adding costs, and win customers who aren’t being well served by your competitors. 

 Use market conditions to create a more robust business model for the future. If you’re a senior manager, consider looking for bargains, regarding mergers and acquisitions, which will improve your company’s future competitive position. Whatever level you’re at, negotiate more favorable rates with suppliers, which you can continue to enjoy as the economy recovers. 

    Take the opportunity to trim costs – Encourage cost-consciousness within your team or organization. Now is a great time to do this: everyone knows that times are tough, and people will be more willing than ever to cut unnecessary costs. 

While cutting costs, yes, that will include one of the highest values of all to every company. Labor. If you are in a position where you have to lay off, please remember to be considerate and that you are dealing with the most valuable commodity of all, “PEOPLE.” Be kind, Be clear. Leave them with their integrity. In essence, treat them just as you would like to be treated. Be the Leader you would have wanted in a time like this.

  Implement a continuous improvement plan – Look at your systems and processes to find efficiency opportunities. Lead the way in building a culture of constant improvement. You can use these savings to pursue opportunities created by the downturn. 

Commit To Your People:

Negative messages are all too familiar during economic downturns. People are losing their jobs, unemployment rates are going up, and personal and corporate bankruptcies are increasing. These things can weaken morale, both in the workplace and in society as a whole, and it can tip people into a panic, severely damaging their productivity. Don’t abandon your people. Use this time to reinforce how important they are and build the skills they need to help the company survive.    Invest time in leadership skills training – Leadership is key to success and endurance. The more effective leaders you have, the better it is for you, your team, and the organization. OK, you may not want to spend a lot of cash on leadership training. However, when times are slow, you may be able to invest much more time than before in management and leadership development.

 Retain your best people – Part of good leadership is keeping costs under control. However, profits are made by people. Don’t cut back on attracting quality candidates, and make every effort to retain your best team members by treating them with dignity and respect.

   Be creative with recruitment and retention – Salary increases may not be possible, but you can do lots of other things to create attractive work conditions. See our article on Managing During a Downturn for specific ideas. 

 Get rid of poor performers – Poor performers use up your time and energy. They frustrate co-workers and damage overall productivity. Now is the time to get rid of these people, because you can’t afford to keep them. Some of your other team members may be relieved not to have to “carry” poor performers any longer. And when your staff sees that you use budget cutbacks to benefit the team, they may be less upset than you might expect. 

  Build a motivating workplace – It’s easy to focus intensely on specific tasks and the bottom line, especially when performance expectations have such significant consequences. However, as a leader, you can’t let that stop you from

finding ways to motivate your workforce.    

Sirota’s Three-Factor Theory suggests the following: 

 Treat people fairly – When you can’t avoid layoffs, give people as much warning as you sensibly can. Talk honestly about what’s happening, and how cutbacks will affect them.  

Foster good relationships at work – If you have to stop the Friday company-sponsored lunch at a restaurant, replace it with a low-cost potluck event. Try to avoid cutting it entirely. 

 For more ideas on improving individual motivation and performance, see our article on Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors. 

 Project Positive Energy 

Good leaders provide hope and vision. These two qualities can keep a workplace going, even during tough times. People need someone they can trust – and someone who is inspiring and knows how to get things done. As a leader, make it a priority to do the following:

 Expect great things from your people – The more you demand, the more opportunity you give people to perform, which can be highly motivating. However, don’t push too hard and remember to communicate your expectations. 

  Keep in touch with your people – Use the MBWA 

(Management By Wandering Around) technique to find out what’s going well and what needs your attention. Remember to recognize and praise success. In tough economic times, you need your staff to perform exceptionally well: the more they know you care, the more likely they are to respond to your call for action. 

 Be visionary – Leaders with vision, passion, energy, enthusiasm, and real engagement with their staff are the critical drivers of economic growth. Stay focused on the big picture, and manage to the best of your abilities. 

 Take care of yourself – Respect your feelings and emotions during difficult times. Where appropriate, share your concerns with people you trust, and build a network of people you can talk to. On the other hand, if you’re worried continuously, others may sense this. Get enough rest to keep yourself fresh, and manage your emotions to keep your creativity and self-confidence high.  

Take-Aways

  1. Leadership during good economic times has its challenges. But those challenges increase when the economy is tight, and when staff is worried about keeping their jobs and paying their bills.  
  2. In these conditions, leaders and managers must keep a sharp eye on their environment, prepare for recovery, support their people, and project enthusiasm and energy. 
  3. By remaining positive, supporting your people, and looking for new business opportunities, you can help your company survive – and succeed – through the difficult times. Leadership performance is critical to organizational success, so use all of the assets available to you.

So What Now?

Recently we find ourselves submerged in quite a bit of adversity as a nation. We are in positions where we are being told to use discretion when socializing. The new buzz word has become “social distancing.” Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies are now wondering if they have been exposed to COVID-19 somehow. We are all rethinking everyplace they have visited and who has recently been in their orbit.

It is all mind-blowing and gives us all pause. When someone sneezes or coughs, we think twice. We are facing a toilet paper shortage, and there is so much on the news and social media that it is inundating and confusing.
There is still hope. There is ALWAYS hope. I would first like to remind you to check your sources for the information that we are seeing. Everything we see online or even television is not right or accurate. Many conspiracy theories are popping up, and predatory people are not only taking advantage of this situation but scamming in every way they know-how. Now more than ever, we need to be watchful and cautious—especially those who have elderly parents and relatives.
Letting cooler heads prevail now is an excellent time for you to get to know yourself a bit better. The project of organizing your closet can now happen, learning excel can soon occur, did you say you wanted to bump up your typing speed? It is now possible. Ready to work on your web-site? Tighten up your business plan?
We can all make the most out of the time we have to endure within our homes. Streaming is great, but when was the last time you and your family put together a jig saw puzzle? What about a good old fashion game of monopoly? For those of us who enjoy cards: Spades, Bid Wiss, Gin Rumy or Phase 10

Are you thinking about seeing a coach? Guess what many of us work virtually, and now is a great time to find someone to help you with that big decision you are trying to make.

Looking for something to read, Simon Sinek The infinite mindset Siddhartha by Herman Hess, Think like a Freak Steve Levitt, Gun, Germs & Steel-Jared Diamond. Want to wind down try Tuesdays with Morrie. I forget the author’s name, but that book is one of my favorites. Want to scare yourself more, Dean Koontz published a book in 1981 called The Eyes of Darkness with a striking similarity to what we are facing today. He called it Wuhan-400 strain.

All in all, we are trapped in a wait and see mode. We need to help one another, not take advantage of one another. If you are going to the store, ask your neighbor if they need anything. If you have elderly neighbors, check on them. YOu would be surprised what we can accomplish with a text or a phone call. Follow the instructions given by the CDC, and let’s help this pass so that all of our lives go back to normal. Whatever our new- normal is to become.

What Did You Do Today?

Today I took a bath. I stopped. All of the hustle, all of the errands, all of the holiday ups and downs. All of my relatives, friends, and family who were visiting or otherwise waited. I put them on hold for a significant person. Me.

I mixed my essential oils with some Epsom salts, I lit some candles, I grabbed a book, put on some soft nature music, I shut the door, and I relaxed. I did not think, I did not plan, I did not speak. I put myself first.  Mr. Burnout will not catch up with me today. No. Today I listened to the captain of my soul. Me. She told me to take a moment. I did not put her off, I did not make excuses, I did not say “perhaps later,” I obeyed the captain, and I am a better person for it. I feel amazing. I granted myself the gift of a pause so that I can continue with the cause!

My friends and family deserve a fully present me. A me that is attentive and hanging on every last word that they are speaking. My clients deserve my undivided attention, and I cannot give them that if I am split emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Today I took a bath. It was glorious!

When was the last time you were actually kind to yourself? Selfish with yourself? When was the last time you said, “right now is for me? I will not feel guilty”? You do not need to make a resolution or shallow promise you will not keep. No need to over-commit yourself either.  I would like to encourage you to gift yourself with a pause. It is not overrated. It is quite necessary and if you practice, guess what? Repetition=Retention. YOu will create a perfect habit that your body and the captain of your soul will thank you for. In the end, you will enjoy the return you get from investing in yourself.

Why Do I Need A Coach?

There are so many ways we self-sabotage ourselves out of partnering with the coach. For several reasons, the main reason is that we do not understand the role of a coach and how a coach can help enrich our lives. The following are just a few things we say to ourselves to talk ourselves out of progress.

1. I am fully aware of what I need to get done; I’m only procrastinating.
2. I am a high functioning executive who has challenges with organization. Why do I need help from someone to tell me how to organize? I head this organization; this is a non-issue.
3. The things that I need assistance with too small to get a coach involved.
4. I am in a rut. It will pass; it always does.
5. Asking for help is a weakness. I am the person people seek out for help. How would this look?

My question is: If you are so smart, why are you still buffering in the same space? A coach helps stretch those boundaries. If boundaries need setting, set, a coach helps with that as well. Coaches believe that all of us are whole, creative, and resourceful. Coaches have a myriad of tools that help to usher and create change. There are somethings we sometimes cannot do on our own. Think about it. We seek personal trainers when we want to become physically conditioned. We seek nutritionist when we want to make a conscious change in our diets. Who do we seek when we need to be inspired and want to expound on our personal and professional potential? A coach! A coach helps to stretch our comfort zones. They assist and allow us to explore the reasons for the inability to ask for help or delegate appropriately. Time management, disciplinary sessions, etc., whether it is personal or professional, a coach can be a great asset to anyone’s life.

One of the best things you need a coach for can be summed up in one-word accountability. While we seem not to have issues holding others accountable, holding ourselves accountable is a different situation.
There are many coaches available to us today. Many companies retain them to partner with HR for their teams, and they assist with many things. If you have a question that needs an answer, If there are ideas you want to explore, but you do not know how to go about it, do yourself a favor and find a coach! It is the most significant investment you can make in yourself and your future!

Resolution Pulse Check

It is officially March 2019! Three months into the new year. How many of us made New Year resolutions? What were they? If you take a pulse check today, have you stuck to it? If not, do you know why? I’ll bet you I do!

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. The reason I stopped is due to a conversation I was having with an associate. We were talking about it, and he said to me. “I try not to lie to myself anymore.” That shattered my entire world. I thought. Is that what I am doing? Am I lying to myself? Wow, he is a Debbie Downer! That’s such a strongly negative way to look at it. Instead of taking the negative route I put my coach hat on and dissected it. Here is what I was able to discover.

My colleague moved the needle of my awareness; He also helped me to shape bite-sized realities for my teams and all of my clients both personally and professionally by following a little formula.

When we make resolutions, we are not lying to ourselves. They are always made with the sincerest and best of intentions. The issues pop up when these request we make of ourselves are completely unreasonable or vague which in turn makes them unattainable. No matter if the desire is to lose weight, get healthier, grow your business, be a better boss or leader, or snag a promotion.

If the ask of yourself it is too big, you will always start motivated and determined and fizzle out soon after. When you set an intention, it is not the resolution that you break; it is the habit you never formed which makes it impossible to keep the promise. What is the take away here?

Form reasonable habits. Instead of signing up for a half marathon, start with a couple of 5K races. Instead of setting a goal to lose 100 pounds in a year, perhaps 5 pounds a month. Communication challenges with your team? Instead of having full department meetings, maybe a few one on one sessions to try and get to the root of the issue. Doing this is a great way to get to know your team members and find out where the break down might be.

Then create some actionable items to help keep you accountable. Start small. This way there is a plan and perhaps another person who can help to keep you focused and motivated. Once you find yourself hitting the goals you set then good habits form and what do you have…. tada.. resolutions that have reached fruition! Less stress. Less pressure

Remember the only way to eat an elephant is one bite and a time.