Don’t Let Inequality Sabotage Your Success

Don't let inequality sabotage your success - Person wearing two different shoes, one blue, one yellow.

We were in a meeting a few weeks ago with a CEO who was describing a major rift in her executive leadership team. 

In that conversation, she explained how there was a breakdown in the working relationship between two subgroups of her team, and went on to say that one of the members could sometimes have a sharp edge, which “was probably the issue.” She asked us if we would work with the members of her team to help them fix their working relationships.

As we explored what led up to the rift, it got clear that without realizing it the CEO herself had caused the rift in her team and not her sharp-edged employee.  

When we brought her this data, she was bewildered and confused. Without realizing it (and certainly without any malice), she was the cause of the rift. We discovered that a recent decision she had made was interpreted by one part of her team to mean that they weren’t as valuable to her as the other members of the team.

She asked us, “What could I have possibly done to convey this?” 

She had given some members of her team the opportunity to attend an upcoming industry conference and never mentioned it to the others. She looked at us blankly and said, “That’s it?” 

Yes, that was it. You see, people care deeply about fairness. So, it mattered a great deal that some members of her team got something more—without justification or explanation—than the other members of the team.

In the June 3rd, 2017 New York Times, there was a great essay by Nicholas Kristof describing just this issue.

In “What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Fairness,” he describes research that showed that monkeys who were offered cucumbers for their behavior were perfectly happy with those cucumbers until they saw other monkeys get grapes—which they apparently love more—at which point the cucumbers were no longer desirable, and in fact, would get thrown back at the researcher in disgust. As Kristof writes, “Inequality drives all primates nuts.”

So as a leader in society, your organization, your community, and your family, you must make it a priority to pay attention to and address inequality.  

One of the researchers that Kristof interviewed, Keith Payne, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is quoted as saying, “When the level of inequality becomes too large to ignore, everyone starts acting strange. Inequality affects our actions and our feelings… [it] divides us… eroding our trust in one another. It generates stress and makes us all unhappy.”  

With a little work, we were able to get our CEO client’s team realigned and things are proceeding well again. She got a new lesson in leadership: a realization that that she must pay attention to inequalities in order to be a strong, successful, and effective leader moving forward. 

This week, spend some time noticing your reaction to inequalities in your life. Let us know what you see.

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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We may not study monkeys, but we've got the expertise to help you figure it out.
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Don’t Let Fear Stop You

don't let fear stop you

If you’ve been a part of our community for a while, you know that we think a lot about the ways we can support you to move forward on the things that are important to you, bring you meaning, and create the future that you long for.

Sometimes, those words can sound like the phrases on the magazines calling out to you from the local newsstand: “Be happy now!”, “Create the life you love!”, or “10 steps to living with passion.” 

While we acknowledge that we may share a similar ‘vibe,’ our goal is to give you nuggets of information, actionable tools, and simple steps you can take to move forward over the course of your life—to greater personal authority, better relationships, and satisfying success. 

This week’s nugget is simply:

Don’t Let Fear Ruin Your Life

Fear is not failure and it’s not a psychological malfunction. Fear is a part of your very wiring; it’s there to keep you safe and alive. Fear is hardwired in because it has helped us humans survive for eons.

Unchecked fear can keep you from joy rather than protecting you from harm. It can interrupt your ability to pursue that promotion, keep you from relaxing into an important relationship, or get in the way of your peace. 

What can you do when fear stops you rather than protects you?

For most of us, it’s impossible to simply turn off our fear. Our body responds and we have to deal with it. And, the ways your body personally responds to fear will determine the best way for you to respond.

Spend some time this week noticing how fear shows up in you and then explore some ways to move through it.

  • Talk to yourself, using your name, and remind yourself “you’ve got this!” (So Stephanie would say, “Steph, you’ve got this!”) Combining talking with yourself—like you’re your own coach—and using words that are assuring can turn things around and support you moving forward.
  • Move. Walk, dance, run… Doing something physically active will help you release some of the energy that gets built up with fear. 
  • Name it. For some people, it’s very powerful to say out loud to someone who cares about them: “I’m so afraid right now that I don’t know what to do.” For other people, shifting the name from fear to excitement—“I am excited to do this!”—can shift the feeling as well.
  • Ask for support in talking it through. You can discuss: What am I afraid of? Is there genuinely a reason for me to feel that fear? If yes, how do I reduce the thing that’s causing the fear? If no, how do I shift my reaction of fear to recognizing it's not a significant threat?

There are plenty of times and reasons to be afraid. Having the ability to use fear to stay safe is important in the face of something truly dangerous. The rest of the time, fear is just pushing at you. It’s time to push back and not let fear rule your moments! 

We’re here with you,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you need a gentle push to get out of your fear, we’re here to help.
Get started by contacting us today.

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Memorial Days

Woman soldier in uniform having a happy interaction with a child.

For those of you who don’t know this, Memorial Day is described online in this way: 

In years since World War I, the day has become a celebration of honor for those who died in all America’s wars, as well as those who are Veterans and current members of the U.S. military.

In the U.S., regardless of your politics, most Americans have compassion and appreciation for the men and women of our country in uniform. We use words like “He’s in the service” or “She serves in the Air Force.” It’s a service to all of us to have people who are willing to step into roles that protect and defend the safety of our country.

Today, we would encourage you to explore what it would mean for you to show compassion and appreciation to our military brothers and sisters—not just today but all days.  

We encourage you to explore what it would mean to you to show compassion and appreciation for all of those people in your life who are of service to you, your family, your community, and our world.

  • What would you do differently if Memorial Day wasn’t limited to a single day on the calendar?
  • What if there were opportunities to honor our veterans and members of the military regularly? 
  • What would you do differently if you looked for, noticed, recognized, and appreciated all of the people in your life who have enabled you to live the life you lead?

Memorial Day is more than a holiday. It’s a time to reflect on and honor those who have been of service to our nation. To quote Howard William Osterkamp, a veteran of the Korean War:

“All gave some; some gave all.”

Thank you.
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

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Make Your Own Before & After

before and after house renovation

 

Most of us can recall an event in our life that shaped us—something that if asked about you could say, “Before the event I was that way, and after the event I’m this way.” 

Most of these before and after scenarios weren’t necessarily by choice. It usually takes something pretty big for people to be moved from one state of being to another. In fact, most people have a before/after that is related to something where they had little or no control. These scenarios range from the death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a chronic illness, parents divorcing, a job loss, etc.

What if, instead of simply being buffeted by fate, you initiated an event that created a before and after that was good for you? There’s great power in being the person who chose to become someone different by initiating an event or course of action that alters you from before to after

We’ve had the privilege of working with many clients on creating their own before/after scenario:

  • Before: Worked for abusive boss After: Opened her own business
  • Before: Working assembly line After: A degree in counseling
  • Before: Pre-diabetic After: Healthy eater and finished 5K (mostly walking)
  • Before: Day to day fears about finances After: New business model to generate income regularly
  • Before: Individual contributor After: A highly valued team leader

In each of these cases, the Event that facilitated their Before & After was based on a personal goal and a belief in a better future. The ability to dig deep and find the leader in you that can drive a personal goal is the power needed to affect great change in your life.

It’s a powerful message to yourself and others when you claim your goal that comes “after.” First, to claim your goal, you need to know the current state—your “before” state—that you’re living in so that you can set your sights on making the shift that will take you from before to after.

Once you’ve set your sights on After it’s time to start figuring out the steps (the Event) needed to embrace your future state of being.

Spend some time this week thinking about what your world can look like if you move from your current state to a new desired state of being and then figure out the Event that will lead you there.

We’ll be proud to say we knew you before…
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

You don't have to transform your life alone.
We're ready to be your ally for your Before & After plan.
Contact us to get started.
 

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Passion Matters But Purpose Moves You Forward

purpose moves you forward

 

There’s a lot written on following your passion in work and life. Yet, unfocused passion won’t get you where you want to go.  

Think for a moment about the things you’re passionate about. Recently, when we asked several clients about their passion, they listed a wide range of things, including great food, dance, the qualities of good coffee, cheese, wine, etc. 

When we work with clients to define their purpose, it’s often a compelling and active list. Purpose included being a good parent or spouse, making a difference in the lives of the immigrant community, creating a successful business, a product, a worthy collaboration, and making money to take a year off to travel the world, etc.  

Passion is the love or enjoyment of something, whereas purpose is what makes each of us do the things we do in the way we do them.

Knowing your purpose helps you decide, out of all the things you could do, what you will do.
 

Your purpose is the fuel that keeps you coming back, time and time again, to make the difference in the world that matters to you. Purpose moves you forward. 

If you don’t know your purpose, you’ll likely be stalled and find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Purpose helps you rule in and rule out what you deem worthy to spend your time on.

Purpose also focuses your efforts so that you’re more likely to seek the skills and abilities you need that will help you succeed. Remember, it takes repetition and practice to develop the skills that let you succeed, and purpose inspires you to keep practicing.

Finally, purpose helps you stick with the tasks that need to happen for you to live in alignment with your purpose, even when they aren’t fun.  

This week, spend some time considering how you would define your purpose at this time in your life, and then review your days and see if you’re aligning to that purpose.

Here's to your passionate and purposeful life,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Feeling unfocused and uncertain about your purpose?
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The Benefit of Generosity of Spirit

“Generosity of spirit and a gracious approach to problem solving are, with few exceptions, the most effective way I know to earn lasting goodwill for your business.” -- Danny Meyer

We regularly talk with leaders about the importance of approaching meetings, decisions, negotiations, etc. with a generosity of spirit, so we were delighted to be reminded of a quote from the 2008 book Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, that echoed our message:

“Generosity of spirit and a gracious approach to problem solving are, with few exceptions, the most effective way I know to earn lasting goodwill for your business.”
 

So, let’s spend some time today considering what exactly we mean by ‘generosity of spirit.’

Generosity is the willingness to give something to others—that something may be money, gifts, time, etc. Generosity of spirit then is a way of showing up in the world and relating to others with an attitude of kindness, patience, respect, and a willingness to remain open to the possibility inherent in the connection.

In other words, bringing kindness and courtesy to all interactions
—even when they’re difficult.
 

We believe that a generosity of spirit is key to successful organizations and to powerful, sustainable relationships at work as well as at home, in our communities, and in the world. 

This week, we want to encourage you to spend some time observing how you show up with the people you love, the people you work with, and the people you interact with day-to-day. Do you bring a generosity of spirit to those interactions? To all of them? Just some of them?  

Bringing a generosity of spirit to all of our interactions sets the bar for how we relate to the world and ourselves. We know that even with the intention, we don’t always show up at that level. 

Linda recently described sitting in her car feeling furious about someone pulling in front of her… only to see that they were trying to get off to the side of the road because they had a flat. In that moment, she was reminded that most people are doing their best in this crazy and sometimes challenging world and approaching them with that assumption is good for her spirit and better for the world.

What do you find as you consider bringing a generosity of spirit to your world?

Let us know,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If your spirit needs a refresh this spring,
our short online program may be just what you need..
 

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When FEAR Grabs You By the Throat

when fear grabs you by the throat

This week, we got a call from a client who asked to meet immediately. He came into the office and said he was “freaked out” after a meeting with a key client.

He explained that, as a consultant himself, he’d gone to meet with a client—an important and quite large corporate client—and the COO had implied there were concerns about a project he’d worked on for the company. He said that he’d been professional and open in the conversation, but by the time he got into his car he was in a panic.

All he could think about was that he would lose this contract, and if he lost this contract his business would struggle, if his business struggled he’d need to lay off some key employees, if he laid off his key employees, he couldn’t make the money he depended on, if he didn’t make the money he might have to sell his house… you get the picture.

From a vague comment about the project, he was preparing for bankruptcy. And he’s not alone. We all have those times when something grabs us and causes fear and anxiety to shoot through our bodies. And, then it continues to bounce around under our skin for hours or even days.

“What can I do?” he asked.

There are a couple of things you can do when you find yourself gripped by fear.

First: this comes directly out of our Leader in You Framework:

  • Ask yourself:

    • What am I afraid of in this situation?

      In his case, he was afraid that the consequences of this one negative comment would ruin his life.
    • What do I do when I feel that?

      In his case, he got very anxious, then angry with himself, and then unsure about his value as a consultant.
    • What would I do if I felt safe?

      It took us a little bit to get to this, but he discovered that if he felt safe he would connect with the CEO in the upcoming week to get more details on the concerns, and he would send out a note to some former clients to see if there were other projects available so he wouldn’t be so dependent on this one company for revenue.

    The act of leadership is working through these questions and then doing what you would do if you felt safe—even when you don’t.

Second: if you find you cannot interrupt the fear even after going through the process above, then it is important to find a trusted friend, colleague, or coach to talk through your fear and find your way back to yourself.

  • It’s profoundly helpful to take the anxiety that’s swirling around in your head (and body) and explore it with someone you respect. It gives you the opportunity to put your concerns into words and allow you to challenge some of the distortions that fear creates.
  • This process can help you consider a way to move forward, and has the potential to change your relationship with your fear.

If you’ve had the experience of fear grabbing you by the throat, please know that you’re not alone, crazy, or stupid. Our brains can get caught and derailed when we perceive we are threatened.

You probably can’t stop the feelings from ever occurring again; therefore, the goal is to make sure you know how to take steps on your own behalf to remember who you are and all that you have to offer.

Next time you’re gripped by fear, try interrupting it by using the process above. It can really help you in moving forward.

We’re here for you,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Is fear keeping you from being at your best?
Our productivity services could help. Contact us today!
 

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What’s the Problem You’re Trying to Solve?

Person with their computer and a notebook, ready to see strategy instead of routine.

As executive coaches, we often work with teams to help move an organization forward. 

Recently, in one of those team meetings, someone reported out about an activity that was taking 10-15 hours a week to complete, and bemoaned that the employee responsible for it simply didn’t have time for it anymore. People grumbled a little to hear that the employee was not keeping up with the activity, and then began to discuss who they could get to complete the activity faster.

As we watched, we could see that the team was caught solving the problem at hand, but they had not truly identified the more pressing problem—that they had a single activity taking a lot of time and money to complete.

To begin to shift the direction of the conversation, we asked the purpose of the activity and the team responded that it was “important to workflow.” And since “workflow” is clearly important, they went back to determining who had 10-15 hours a week to spare or whether they should hire someone new. 

At this point, we asked, “Can someone share with us the problem that is being solved by the activity?” The team fell silent and then one brave soul repeated, “It’s for workflow.” 

There’s no doubt that workflow is important. So, we asked, what problem with workflow is it solving, and is there a better way to tackle that problem than this activity that is taking 10-15 person-hours a week?

As you can imagine, the team was quite baffled by the question. The activity in question was one that had been around a long time so the very question was hard to digest. What was the problem it was solving? 

One by one they started to realize that this process was a holdover from the early days of the organization. It was done to manage workflow when there were only a couple of people on staff. It turns out that no one really used it anymore, even though everyone was invested in knowing it was being done.

An important question to ask about activities, reports, meetings, and spreadsheets is “what is the problem this activity, report, meeting, or spreadsheet is solving?” If you can’t answer immediately, it might be that it’s not really doing what you had hoped, or it’s an outdated attempt at solving a problem that would be better handled in other ways.

In the case of this group, when they seriously considered the problem they were trying to solve, they created a solution that responded to current concerns and future probabilities. Well done!

This week, determine if there are tasks you need to take a harder look at and see if they’re still solving the problems they need to solve. Is your team stuck in their routine, or is it time to get innovative? 

Let us know how it goes,
Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Need someone to help you or your team ask the hard questions?
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What to Do When You Don’t Get the Job

what to do when you don't get the job

Finding a good job takes time—but also an emotional investment. After an interview goes well, you usually get psyched up and imagine yourself being offered the position. But not everyone gets the job. The sad truth is that good candidates can get passed over. Sometimes you come really close… but ultimately the position goes to the other person.

The process by which employers choose employees can leave us feeling confused and, when we aren’t hired, doubting our worth, our value, and our ability to ever land a good job.

So, what should you do when you are the candidate that gets the “we’ve gone with someone else” call?

  1. PAUSE (and feel your emotions)

    Allow yourself to have your emotions AND don’t let them overwhelm you.

    Take the time to grieve the future that was lost in not getting the job. You might feel anger, sadness, or frustration—any or all of these emotions are okay to feel. It’s an important step in your healing process to grieve this opportunity you really thought was the next step in your career.

    Acknowledging and naming your emotions will help you to honor your experience, but not let it stop you from moving forward fully and confidently.
  2. Reflect

    Take some time to reflect on your experience and think about what you did that you were proud of.

    • Did you craft a powerful resume or cover letter?
    • Did you demonstrate an interest in the interviewer and their experience of the company?
    • Did you tell great stories in the interview?
    • Were you at ease in talking about your skills and your brand?

    Whatever the “wins,” make sure you own them. If you made it to an interview, let alone the final round, you clearly did something well!

    In addition, take some time to think about what you’d do differently.

    • Were there some interview questions that stumped you?
    • Were you overdressed or underdressed?
    • Did you not plan for traffic and arrive late?

    Think of the whole process as a learning opportunity that will make you into an even better candidate the next time around.

  3. Follow-up

    Send a thank you note. Most people understand that you should send a thank you note after an initial job interview, but it’s also a great idea to send one when you don’t get the job.

    This can really help you stand out in a good way. It’s also another chance to repeat your strong points (that align with their company values, vision, mission, etc.), and, if you’re interested, to leave the door open for future opportunities.
  4. Analyze

    1. Make a list of what you loved about this job opportunity.

      • Was it the actual position or the company itself that you were really excited about?
      • Was it the short commute?
      • Was it the opportunity to work with a group of like-minded people?

      The more detailed you can get here, the better.

    2. Next, think about the parts of the job/company that you didn’t like. During the job search process it’s common to gloss over the parts of a job/company that you don’t necessarily like. Now is a great time to go back and highlight those things so that you can make an effort to avoid these in future job searches.
    3. Now, consider this list of likes/dislikes and create a description of what you want to do in your days, the kind of place you want to work, and the basics of money and other details for any position you apply to in the future. You can get creative and use your list to do some targeted Google searches and networking for that dream job.

  5. Move on

    It’s important not to dwell on the loss but to be gentle with yourself if you are struggling to move on. If you were talking to a younger version of yourself, you wouldn’t say, “Just get over it!” You’d likely say, “I believe in you” (and so do we!).

    Then, move onto the next application, and remind yourself that the hiring process often takes time. You’ll be able to focus better on the next application if you can get excited and motivated for it.

Try to look at this experience as something that’s pointed you in exactly the direction of where you’d like to go. You didn’t get this job, and, yeah, that sucks. But you now have a better idea of how you handle the interview process, what you want from a new job, and what you need to do to show up at your best.

Your new future awaits and the possibilities are limitless!

We believe in you,

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

Need support as you refine your job search and interview skills?
We’re all about helping you articulate your passions.
Click to contact us about our career coaching services.
 

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Life Isn’t A Straight Line

Image of zigzag footprints in sand.

Over the past few years, one of our great privileges is running small groups for women in the process of claiming their power. Taking small steps consistently over time, these women make major changes in their lives and their world.  

This week, in one of these groups, one of the women talked about the surprising twists of this last year and seemed to almost feel apologetic for how difficult her life has been. 

Quite often, we see our clients struggle with the belief that many people have lives that are straight lines. They can get caught in believing that others grew up, knew what they wanted to do for work, met a good person to marry, had the successes that they planned for, and then retired. And, with that belief, when their own life isn’t a straight line, they can feel ashamed—like somehow they’ve done something wrong.

But life is never a straight line.
 

Over the course of a life, there are people who change you by being in your life, opportunities you never dreamed of as a young adult, and great sorrows that you couldn’t or wouldn’t have wanted to imagine. And, that’s not because you’re doing something wrong or are somehow psychologically flawed.  

But you may not hear about the zigs and zags of others’ lives because they, too, are feeling that the zigs and zags are proof that they are somehow flawed.

This week, explore if you sometimes get caught in believing that the messiness and twists and turns of your life are somehow an indication of a personal flaw. (If you don’t get caught, we’re delighted!)  

Many of you will likely see the power of the wish that things would go as you expected and some belief that others’ lives are more of a straight line.

Consider how the zigs and zags have really helped you grow and invite you into new ways of seeing the world, of understanding yourself, and relating to others.

Embrace the zigzag!

Your Coaches and Allies at Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you're finding yourself overwhelmed by the zigzags of your life, our short online program can help you refocus on what really matters to you.
 

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  • About the Authors

    Carpenter Smith Consulting

    Linda Carpenter and Stephanie Smith started Carpenter Smith Consulting in Portland to support individuals and teams who dream about having the power, impact and influence to create success and meaning in ... Read full profile
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