Memorial Day

“Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes
that we can never fully repay.
But we can honor their sacrifice, and we must.”

~ Barack Obama

We were recently asked, “What’s the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day?” We all paused for a moment, and then sighed, as we thought of the difference. Veteran’s Day honors all who have served our military, while Memorial Day honors those women and men who died while serving in the military. (Hence the sigh.)

As so eloquently stated by former President Obama, we do indeed owe a debt to our fallen heroes.

We encourage you to take a moment this Memorial Day to pause and remember with gratitude the individuals who lost their lives in service to our country, and the families who have lost loved ones.

As Howard Osterkamp, a Korean war veteran and purple heart recipient, stated when reflecting on his service, “All gave some; some gave all.”

Let’s remember those who gave all.

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Living Thoughtfully: From Black and White to Gray

As we support individuals, teams, and organizational leaders on this wild ride that is COVID-19, we’re observing the many challenges and opportunities in this crazy time. This week we want to address a significant challenge that’s emerging as we—as a country and a world—move from black and white to gray.

By black and white, in this instance, we’re describing the experience for many leaders over the past few months. That is, many expectations in response to the pandemic were clear and crisp; in many ways they were black and white.

Specifically, non-essential services were told to close their face-to-face workplaces, to one of working virtually, and to social distance. Individual leaders didn’t need to make this call but were guided or directed to do so from federal, state, and local government leaders. While hard, it was clear, and leaders got about the business of helping their employees navigate working from home or, if laid off, navigate unemployment.

As we’ve moved through
the initial stages of the pandemic,
leaders are exploring when and how to reopen.

While the mandate is still clear and crisp for some businesses, for many others the decisions about how to move forward are back on the shoulders of leaders. These leaders report feeling anxious about making sure their employees, customers, and clients are safe while balancing the need to earn as much money as possible and as soon as possible so that their businesses can stay afloat.

This week, we want to support you as you’re making these decisions and working to interpret the sometimes nuanced and evolving messages. We understand if they make you anxious. And we want you to remember that they make your employees anxious as well. Gray can do that.

The first thing we want to encourage you to do is to acknowledge how stressful and uncertain these next few months feel.  

  • Acknowledge this to yourself and increase your focus on taking care of yourself.

    This level of uncertainty is extremely hard on you.

    It takes a toll on your brain, making it hard to think, to process new information, and to learn. It takes a toll on your body as your body interprets your anxiety and stress as threat and keeps you on high alert. It takes a toll on your relationships with family, friends, and coworkers as you feel increasingly stretched and, perhaps, near breaking.

  • Acknowledge this to your employees and commit to remaining in dialogue with them as you make decisions.

    Your staff will feel much more confidence if they know you’re taking this seriously, they feel they matter to you, and they understand how you’re thinking about and making decisions.

The second thing we’d recommend is to err on the side of people while committing to increasing revenue and profitability

  • While you need to ensure financial viability, if you lose your best talent you’ll be in real trouble.

    Consider what you must do to increase revenue and profitability and what it takes from your employees. Then, with that in mind, begin to create a plan that takes into account the safety and success of your people.

    At the end of the day, you can’t earn revenue or become profitable if your best people have either literally left the job or have emotionally given up because they don’t have confidence in you as a leader.

  • Share your thinking with your leaders first to refine your approach and clarify your rationale. Then share with the entire organization.

    Remember, you’ll be more credible as a leader when your employees know that you’ll share your thinking, your rationale for decisions, and your plan for their safety while creating business success. Let them know you’re open to considering their recommendations and to hearing their concerns.

    We’re working with some incredible leaders who are doing townhall webinars weekly, others who do email updates daily, and many who have an open-door policy to anyone who has questions, suggestions or concerns. In this case, of course, it’s not literally an open door but you get the idea.

This week, spend some time considering how you’re navigating the movement in our world from black and white to gray, acknowledging your own and your employees’ stress and committing to creating solutions that navigate the important line of safety and financial success.

While the following article doesn’t quite reflect black and white, it comes close as leaders consider safe ways to move forward.

CSC Video: From Black and White to Gray

We’re here if you need our support.

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3 Steps to Successful Virtual Delegation

There are many challenges to leading and managing, and one of the most difficult is delegating in a way that is effective and ensures success.

We’re hearing from our clients that they’re having an even harder time delegating in this new virtual team environment. 

In our experience delegating
is a challenging skill, one that’s
made more difficult when working virtually

Leaders and managers are often told by their superiors to “just delegate that,” but when they do, they don’t always get the results they’d hoped for. Frustrated, they tend to give up and take the work back onto their already full plate. This isn’t sustainable in the best of times, and it’s particularly problematic under the current circumstances.

Today we’re going to review our 3-step process that will create more successful results when you delegate to others. You’ll find that these 3 steps are even more important now that many of us are working virtually.

It’s important to remember that the individuals you are delegating to will be most successful when they’re engaged in the process and can influence how it unfolds. Yet often when managers are delegating work, they hand off a task with no context, without sharing what success looks like, and without explaining how they’ll need to work with (or around) others to get the task done.

The Three C’s to Successful Delegation

Step 1 ContextExplain the larger context to the person you’re delegating to.

When you ask someone to do something for you, they’ll be much more likely to succeed if they feel respected in the process, they understand what you’re trying to achieve, and if they can see that their contribution is important and valued. Tell them:  

  • what you’re trying to get done 
  • how it fits into the big picture 
  • why it’s important to the team, department, and/or organization
You’ll have engaged them in the larger process so they can see that their work matters.

Step 2 ContentTell them the specifics of what you need done. Really talk it through with them and describe:

  • what success looks like
  • any specific steps you need them to take
  • who they need to work with or check in with to gather information
  • what the timeline is for the effort
  • what the potential ripples will be of this going well or going poorly
If people know what you’re asking of them, they can give you feedback on whether they can actually do what you’re asking and in the timeframe that you need it.

They’ll have an opportunity to influence you as you determine how you’d like them to move forward.

Step 3 ConnectionBe explicit about how you’ll follow up and/or how you’d like them to follow up.

Delegation doesn’t mean you hand something off and act like it’s no longer your concern; therefore, agree to regular check-ins to cover topics like:

  • schedule delays
  • obstacles
  • questions or clarifications
  • regular status updates
People do best when they feel connected to the person who has delegated to them and have an ongoing understanding of the how they are doing on completing the work.

The ability to delegate is critical to success in work and life. It takes some time and effort to ensure it’s done well; but what you’ll find is that as you delegate effectively to the people in your life, you’ll build a trusting working relationship that will allow you, and them, to be more effective and successful.

This week, as you consider delegating, practice these 3 steps and see what a difference it can make.

And, when things are delegated to you, ask your manager to give you clarity on the 3-C’sContextContent, and Connection—so that you can be highly successful in your contributions as well.

We’re here if we  can be helpful—either by phone,
 Zoom, or the virtual platform  of your choice.

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Living Thoughtfully: Protect Yourself & Protect Others

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been in communication with Dr. Kenton Gregory, a Gates Fellow for Intellectual Ventures Laboratory and Professor at OHSU, to get his guidance on how to advise leaders in healthcare and other industries as they make decisions about how to move through the madness that is COVID-19.

This week we want to share with you the one thing that Dr. Gregory said is critical to protect yourself and protect others. This simple act can transform our world as we reconnect with loving our neighbors and ourselves!

The most important single factor to allow safe return to work and somewhat less social distancing is . . . wait for it . . . FACEMASKS. Worn by all in all social contacts.

This does not even require N 95. If both parties wear masks—even homemade (but not bandanas)—you protect each other.

I protect you and you protect me.
That is the message.
We care about each other
and we protect each other—that’s it.

The flip side: if you don’t wear a mask, you don’t care about me, you only care about yourself. This is amply demonstrated by broadcast news of some politicians.

None of us wants to wear a mask,
but it’s all about the golden rule.

It’s hard just to protect yourself. You need a special expensive mask, you have to know how to adjust it, take it off, and dispose of it without contaminating yourself, etc., which is hard. But it’s easy to protect someone else.

What could be better for society?

Selfishness, self-serving behavior, and narcissism are expensive and punished in this global pandemic and helping others is rewarded and appreciated. Linda, as a psychologist, you will see some meaning here for leadership success and will hopefully be helping leaders understand it—I just know the science.

Caring for one another is good for each and every one of us and is key to your success as a leader.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be presenting a series on Why Mattering Matters. It matters in so many ways. And now—in this incredibly simple way—it matters to keeping us all safe and alive.

We’re here if you need our support.

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3 Steps to Great Impact

We’ve been working with a small team of leaders over the past year to support them in increasing their ability to create engagement within their organization, to develop alignment across key leaders on some core decisions, and to inspire a sense of possibility in the people they lead.

While the challenges of the pandemic have made these goals more challenging, there are still critical goals that need to be met for organizational success. Last week they asked us,

“If you were us and could do
only three things to achieve our results,
what would you do?”

We love great questions, thank you! If it were us, we would:

  1. Ensure that the executive leadership team is engaged in developing their skills.
    Executive leaders need coaching and support to learn how to align on both what to get done and on how they get it done together.

    Executive leaders—like all people—are messy and fallible. They’re humans who are doing their best to succeed but are sometimes at odds with one another. They’re hurt by differences of opinion and approach and often communicate to the organization in ways that cause friction.

    In our experience, if the executive team is not demonstrating the behaviors they’re asking of others, their credibility is questioned, and their teams begin to lose confidence in their ability to lead the company.

  2. Remember that all decisions have ripples.
    Some of the ripples will be planned (or even hoped for), but many will be totally unexpected, and some will be quite disruptive. There are always unintended consequences to decisions.

    Before you make a decision, do your very best to consider the ripples from the broadest possible perspective. Once the decision is made, be open to understanding all the ripples that can come from the decision.

    Leaders are more powerful when—in the face of negative ripples from a decision—they’re grateful to hear about them as soon as they’re spotted. They thank the team for feedback, and they work with the team to respond effectively.

  3. Focus on creating a culture of possibility thinking.
    Through words, actions, and responses, communicate that you believe deeply that there are possibilities inherent in every obstacle and challenge.

    Creating a culture of possibility during rapidly changing environments requires moving quickly from the shock and distress of the obstacles and challenges to the exploration of the opportunities therein.

Remember, with intentional leadership you can create a culture where a possibility mindset is the norm and where problems and mistakes become opportunities for shared interventions.

 We’re here if we  can be helpful—either by phone,
 Zoom, or the virtual platform  of your choice.

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Living Thoughtfully: Combatting Erosion

In the face of this coronavirus pandemic, there’s been tremendous uncertainty about how life will unfold. People are working in new ways that require different routines, skills, and decisions, which can be quite challenging.

There’s so much out of our control that’s central to our sense of safety: money, time, connection, presence with loved ones during celebration or loss, and the list goes on. We’re hearing from people in different industries, roles, and locations around the country say, “I’ve got nothing left.”

The ongoing uncertainty,
with no end in sight, leaves people
feeling a little bit less each day.

We’re seeing the impact of erosion. It’s uniquely challenging and can be hugely undermining—often more challenging to individuals and communities than explosive experiences.

Think of it this way: when something significant happens—in a more explosive way—we know what to do. We either run away to get safe or run in to help others. Sometimes we freeze, but more often than not we run toward or run from.

With erosion, nothing looks particularly dangerous. It’s just a small change, a simple change. Much like the stone that can be worn away over time by a drip of water, a change that can sound appealing at first is not a problem, until it starts to erode our sense of ourselves.

We’re seeing that erosion is
a greater concern for all of us right now.

Many of us experience erosion as internal friction and, in turn, believe there’s something wrong with us. We feel less confident, less competent, and less of the person we know ourselves to be. A lot of small drips add up, and it’s hard to spot the danger in them. Therefore, it can feel like it’s a personal failure—an inability to handle the change in pressure.

And think of all the drips—having meetings by Zoom, not eating lunch with colleagues not getting those few minutes before or after meetings to connect more personally, sitting in uncomfortable chairs because you never really needed to use that desk in the living room in a regular way, working harder for less, not having a moment free of your loved ones, applying for support like unemployment or a business loan and having the application go into a black hole—small drips, over and over and over.

The drips are eating a hole
in our sense of self, leaving people
feeling broken and struggling to name why

Identify the drips so that you can confidently see them. Consider naming them “erosion”. Once you can name it, you can start to work with it. You can see that there is nothing inherently wrong with you.

Talk to colleagues and friends about how you are experiencing erosion in your life. Take some time to be alone. Negotiate to use your office for some part of your week, etc. Once you know the specific things that are most erosive to you, you’ll have identified some places where you can make a few changes, so you aren’t being worn away.

Taking care and listening to yourself is so important during erosive times. You matter to us, to your loved ones, and to the world. Please, take good care.

We’re here if you need our support.


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Don’t Give Up, Show Up.

We’re so grateful for your kind words, questions, and suggestions in response to our posts over the past weeks of COVID-19. What amazing leaders you are!

In response to the April 13th, 2020, post Living Thoughtfully: Listening to Your Wisdom, a colleague of ours (a woman in health care leadership) has given us permission to share her beautiful response:

I have worked hard to take care of myself through this time—exercising each day, eating well, and trying to bring healthy snacks and foods to fuel me and those I am working most closely with. My daughter, who is a senior in high school and struggling with all of this loss herself, and my husband have been working hard to help and support me through this time.

That said—I have had some VERY low moments, personally, as I have navigated this challenging time.

Moments where I had absolutely no hope left.

Moments where I didn’t want to get out of bed to face another 16-hour day after only 3-4 hours of sleep.

Just as I was hitting the wall, a dear friend said to me, “When you have nothing left—no hope and no sense of purpose or strength, just show up.”

I must have looked confused over our FaceTime call, because she continued, “I have known you many years and watched you navigate hard things. When you show up, just your presence brings people hope. It gives people confidence that if you can show up and be physically present, then they can too.

And then, you start navigating. Your brain engages, and in the presence of being together with others, you rediscover your footing and start making a plan.

You find your hope, your purpose,
and your strength again—in others.
And they find theirs in you.
Don’t give up, SHOW UP.”

This struck me. It was something I could do. I could take that one small action. I could sit with my daughter, or sit in a conference room, or call in to the next video conference call. And then, by doing that one thing—by showing up, I actually was able to start planning and finding hope in working with others. Taking one small step forward. And then the next.  It is how I have made it through these days.

When I read your message, Listening to Your Wisdom, and read “The work is to breathe through it. In some ways, it becomes a unique dance—panic, return to wisdom, retreat to fear, and then finding the courage to show up with love. Always with love.”  I was reminded again about the power in just showing up, and I found myself wanting to share with you because you added something more.

You reminded me that it is also about
showing up with love.

It is true that this IS a dance. It is normal to move in and out of panic, fear, and then return to wisdom and showing up with love. This is so helpful.

As you lead in your life, in your work, and in your world, remember that there is much that happens when you show up:

  • your very presence brings people hope
  • your brain will often shift from hopelessness to responding successfully to what’s right in front of you
  • you will prime your brain and your heart to connect with the people in your life, which will also help you to reconnect with your sense of meaning and purpose
  • you will have the power to move through the dance, with love
“Sometimes the bravest and most important
thing you can do is just show up.”

– Brené Brown

This week, try showing up with love and see how the world around you shifts.

 We’re here if we  can be helpful—either by phone,
 Zoom, or the virtual platform  of your choice.

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Living Thoughtfully: It’s Going to be OK

Today’s Living Thoughtfully post comes from Linda.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember
that it’s going to be okay.

Thirty years ago, I delivered my stillborn son, Tommy. I can remember it like it was yesterday. At the time, I had a 2 ½ year old daughter and my pregnancy with Tommy had gone well, easily really, until it didn’t.

One day, while sitting with a client, I felt Tommy leave. I know that sounds kooky, but that was my experience. I recall saying to him, “where have you gone?” The next day I saw the doctor, and the following day I delivered his body.

It was an extraordinarily shocking and painful time. My world was rocked, and yet I had my sweet daughter who needed me to find my way through the fog and care for her, play with her, and laugh with her.

We’re experiencing a similar time in our collective lives and have been stunned by the change. One moment we’re heading into spring with graduations, trips, and tulips and the next we’re facing illness and death. And, we need to keep going for our families, our communities, and our world.

These are things that helped me then and are helping me now:

Grieve the loss.
We’re moving from shock to grief as we live through this pandemic—grief that the world is scary and unpredictable, grief that something invisible can create such havoc, and grief that we can’t be with some of the people we love when they are sick or even dying. Grieving, while painful, is the way we integrate significant changes to what was our truth.

Find a way to live in a world forever changed.

Our world is forever changed by this pandemic experience, and we will learn how to live in this new world and shape its course. Show up each day with your gifts and talents, your values and beliefs, and your love for your world. Let the best of you lead during this time.

Look for the gifts.

There are gifts in this scary time, and we are hearing them daily. Families are connecting more regularly by phone and on face-to-face platforms; parents are home with their kids with time to read, play outside with chalk, and make cookies; workers are staying connected in new ways and feeling more alignment in their efforts than they did in their previous work.

There are gifts, but you will have to look for them over time. Over weeks, months, and years. It’s going to be OK, but it’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be the same, and it’s not going to feel comfortable for some time.

It’s going to be OK
because we will make it so.

We’ll grieve what we’ve lost, find new ways to live in this changed world, and we’ll grab the gifts that will unfold over time.

We’ll make it OK. We’ll likely make it better. And still, some days as we go through this madness, we’ll need to sit down and cry.

We’re here if you need our support.

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If I Have to Make One More Decision…

Highlights decision fatigue

The world as we know it has flipped upside down, and there are seemingly more decisions to make than ever. Whether we’re deciding if it’s safe to walk around the block, or go to the store, or reworking our schedules so that we can attend to home schooling our kids, or figuring out what to do to keep our business afloat, the number of decisions facing us right now seem to have multiplied tenfold!

From what we’re seeing in our own lives and in the lives of colleagues and clients, many of us are suffering from decision fatigue.

With decision fatigue,
even the smallest decisions
are challenging.

If you find that you’re putting off important decisions or struggling to decide simple things like what to eat, what to wear, what task to work on next, etc., you may be responding to decision fatigue.

So, today, we’d like to share some steps you can take to improve the chances that you’ll make the high-priority decisions and the moment-to-moment decisions successfully.

Three steps you can take to mitigate decision fatigue:

  1. Make big decisions in the morning.
    • There are studies of courtrooms and medical decisions that demonstrate that decision making frequency and quality decrease as the day goes on.
    • When you know you’re going to be working on an important project for work or for your family, do your best to do your thinking and decision making in the morning.
  2. Limit your demands for choice.
    • Limit the decisions you make in a day by limiting your choices.
    • For example: create a ‘uniform’ for yourself so that you don’t have to think about what to wear each day; write out a day-by-day exercise plan—so if it’s Tuesday, it’s strength training day; ask your direct reports to come up with possible solutions rather than bringing problems to you and asking open-ended questions such as “so, what do you think?
    • Our brains like habit, so use that on your behalf to make decisions about everything from clothing to food to exercise. Save your brain for things that matter most to you—your work and your family.
  3. Fuel your brain.
    • Eat healthfully throughout the day. Include fruit and whole grains that can provide the glucose your brain needs.
    • Sugar or caffeine can sometimes be helpful when you bump into decision fatigue and need a burst of energy, but opt for chocolate-covered almonds or dark chocolate rather than handfuls of M&Ms.

Remember that in addition to all the decisions you usually make, you’ve added decisions related to your health and safety, you’re navigating challenges in connecting with family and friends, and you’re dealing with workplace changes that impact your workflow.

Be respectful of how stressful this is to your brain, and take care of yourself using these steps to help you stay effective and successful.

 We’re here if we  can be helpful—either by phone,
 Zoom, or the virtual platform  of your choice.

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Living Thoughtfully: A Lot of Days in this Morning!

One of the things we’re hearing from friends, colleagues, and clients is that the pace of life has accelerated to the point where it’s hard to catch a breath. This is especially true now with all the changes that come from working remotely or working with a reduced staff due to COVID-19.

Recently, after just one such day, when Linda was late in getting some things done for the business, she said to the team,

“I’m so sorry, there were
A LOT of days in this morning!”

We all laughed because while the sentence didn’t make sense…we knew exactly what she meant.

So today, we’re talking about the pace of life and work, and some of the ways you can slightly shift your days to be more present to all of your moments — especially when life gets hectic.

  • Pause and ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing in alignment with my highest priority goals?
    • There’s a lot to be done in any day, but not all that needs to be done is a priority.
    • We often get caught doing those things we’re most comfortable getting done, or have a habit of getting done, without stopping to consider the things that are our highest priority.
  • Now, of course, this means you need to have a sense of what your highest priorities are, which may require another pause to explore the question, “What three things do I want to get traction on because they’ll contribute significantly to my life, success, and happiness?”
    • Getting traction isn’t always about external movement. For many leaders, getting traction requires taking time to think about the business, an innovative response to key challenges, or a plan for some unique opportunities.
    • Other times getting traction may mean reconnecting in your relationships during a busy time at work.
    • Knowing your priorities will guide how you spend your moments.
  • Spend some time thinking about and feeling the feelings of something that makes you happy, proud, expansive, or deeply connected.
    • Expanding the time that you feel the good things in your life will support you being present to your moments and making them good ones.

This week, pay attention to “how many days are in your mornings”, and explore ways to be present and awake in your moments.

We’re here virtually if you need our support.

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