Yearly Archives: 2016

Maybe There’s Not a Reason for Everything

By Nicole Christie, Principal + Creative Director of NICO, Inc. and Friend of Simple Intentions

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I want to believe things happen for a reason. I’m a hard-wired meaning-seeker, who’s spent an inordinate amount of time asking “Why?” And I’m a storyteller at heart, who wants life to flow like fiction, with a plot and a climax and a resolution that explains it all.

But even if things happen for a reason, it’s rarely—if ever—apparent in the moment. Sometimes when we look back, we can connect the dots—why a relationship didn’t work out, why we lost a job, why we didn’t get the house we swore was our dream home. Only then do we see how it positioned us to gain something else—hopefully something better that we didn’t even know we wanted. Or maybe it taught us something we needed to learn, like patience, assertiveness, or diligence.

And sometimes stuff just happens. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. There’s no lesson to learn, no virtue to gain. And it’s not necessarily cause-and-effect, though many of us like to believe we’re responsible for everything in our lives. When something good happens, we take credit for it—we worked hard, we’re kind, we’re aligned with our purpose. When something bad happens, we blame ourselves—we’re lazy, we’re stupid, we made bad choices. The appeal of this way of thinking is control: if we succeed, we steered the ship; if we failed, we can fix it.

That’s the problem with seeking meaning and reason. We can’t accept that life throws a mean curveball. That we’re not really in control. That the world is filled with things that will never make sense. All we can do is get up, get out, and keep going, no matter what this nonsensical life throws our way.

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Conscious Ingestion

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Huffington Post]

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What do you consciously ingest each day? If you are like most people, food is the first thing that comes to mind – as humans we intentionally consume food daily. It could be said that those who follow trends like mindful eating and elimination diets have a higher consciousness about what they ingest – meaning only that they are very intentional about the food they put into their bodies.

What happens if we expand the concept of ingestion beyond food and consider the content of the world you ingest each day? For example, what type of music plays in your car or office, what type of news do you read and from what source, what type of technology do you interact with and what people and environments do you source from each day?

Now consider, how the content you consume impacts your energy and attitude. Just like with consuming food, not all content gives energy or sits well internally. This can lead to a feeling of emotional or mental indigestion. (And just like with food, sometimes people keep consuming that which is causing discomfort, even after they discover how their body reacts to the input.)

If you feel like you might have emotional or mental indigestion and are curious to explore what types of content may be the source, start by creating awareness around the content you consume each day. For each person the answers will be different – but the questions are the same.

  • What type of sound do you intentionally and unintentionally ingest each day? (Think television, music, YouTube, background noise in your office, the soundtrack on your commute and so on.)
    • What type of information do you intentionally and unintentionally feed your eyes, ears and brain each day? (Think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, E-mails, magazines, books, cookbooks, children’s homework, newsstands in grocery stores, advertisements, signs in stores and so on.)
  • What type of people do you intentionally and unintentionally interact with each day? (Think people at work, on your commute, in your home, in the market and malls, in your neighborhood, your children’s friends (and their parents) and so on.)
  • What is the first content you ingest in the morning? (Your phone, your dog, your spouse, your children, yourself and so on.)
  • What is the first content you ingest before falling asleep? (Your phone, your dog, your spouse, your children, a book, a magazine, yourself and so on.)

Once you have developed awareness around what content you are consuming each day, you can begin to see what content may be linked to any feelings of emotional or mental indigestion. Once you see the link, explore the connection.

The difference between emotional or mental indigestion and physical indigestion is that the solution for content indigestion isn’t always elimination. Instead, it can be an illumination of an aspect of yourself to explore more deeply, which could lead to elimination of that content or in some cases a deeper yearning to consume more.

How could your life be different if you were to create more consciousness around what your eyes, brain, body and heart ingest each day?

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On-demand Teams: The Talent Solution for High Value Results

By Lisa Hufford, Founder of Simplicity Consulting and Friend of Simple Intentions

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We tailor our lives every day in consideration of the factors around us, and the problems we face.  As the weather changes, we change what we wear. If we are feeling stressed, we might hit the gym, or indulge in a guilty pleasure. We adapt.

So why are we not incorporating this innate adaptability into the way we work?  More often than not, we are faced with problems in the workplace that arise and adapt to the change as our flow of work does. To navigate these dynamic problems, we need to build on-demand teams in order to provide adaptability.

Accessing talent on demand allows us to achieve our goals, while balancing the resources we have with the resources we need. The challenge is how to find this balance.  Using a simple methodology, called SPEED, you can incorporate these on-demand teams into your workplace. Utilizing SPEED provides you with a way to access the growing independent talent pool and potential to achieve innovative results that could not be reached with your typical assets.

SPEED means thinking about your team in a much broader sense than simply placing names on an organizational chart. It’s about asking what your business needs and goals are, both now and in the future, and focusing on securing the right talent, regardless of the form it takes.

The SPEED methodology breaks down into five steps: Success, Plan, Execute, Evaluate and Decide. Each step is essential to securing the right talent.

SUCCESS: TAKE TIME TO IDENTIFY THE MOST IMPORTANT OUTCOME. 
The importance in success is to find focus in your project and clarity in the talent you need. Look at your team’s expertise and decide if there is a talent gap that needs filling to make the project a success. Optimizing for the expertise and skills needed for the project goals will help you achieve your objectives faster.

PLAN: GAIN CLARITY ON HOW TO MEET YOUR BUSINESS OBJECTIVES AND FILL THE GAP ON YOUR TEAM.  
You need a sound project description. A project description is essential to establishing exactly what you need a consultant to deliver. You are searching for the tools you don’t already have. Build the description before talking to any candidates, you want them to be able to hit the ground running and add value from day one.

EXECUTE: SETTING AND MEETING EXPECTATIONS. 
Once you have selected your consultant, set the project up for successful execution by documenting the project deliverables in a Statement of Work (SOW), onboarding the consultant, and integrating them into your team. The SOW will keep the priorities of your project clear. Onboarding and team integration will establish a trusting working relationship between the consultant, yourself, and the team.

EVALUATE: MAKE SURE THE WORK IS GETTING DONE AS AGREED UPON IN THE SOW. 
As business needs change, so will the goals and metrics. It’s important to keep this in mind when working with your consultant. Constant evaluation of metrics ensures goals are being met and both parties have the same understanding.

DECIDE: ONCE GOALS ARE ACHIEVED DECIDE IF THERE ARE NEW OR CONTINUING PROJECT NEEDS. 
The achievement of project goals makes us feel empowered to take on the next project faster and in a more efficient way. Each application of SPEED lessens the learning curve. But before we take on our next project, we must decide whether the current project remains a priority. If it is, continue the work and bring on additional resources as needed. If not, decide if the consultant has the skillset needed to help with the next project.

Now that you know the steps, you can embrace adaptability in your workplace. Let’s stop trying to fix our problems with a half empty toolbox. Find the tools you need, in the talent pool you now know how to access. It’s as simple as S-P-E-E-D.

 

Lisa Hufford is the founder of Simplicity Consulting and author of the newly released book “Navigating the Talent Shift: How to Build On-demand Teams That Drive Innovation, Control Costs, And Get Results

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The Energy Spectrum Of Work-Life Balance

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Huffington Post]

Energy ca1007_energyn be described as a feeling you have, a charged or emotional thought you have, the way your body feels, or even the way the room feels in a meeting. You have energy. Your team has energy. The company, your family, and the world have energy. Each person’s and each team’s energy mingles and mixes together and has a resulting impact — sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and sometimes neutral.

If you are a manager, is it very important to have awareness around your own energy, to be willing to see the flow of energy of your team and, when needed, have a conversation with your team about the impact of their energy on team and individual balance.

This is where awareness as a business skill becomes important for leaders and managers. When you have awareness around your behaviors and some of the behaviors of your team, then you can see the impact these behaviors have in terms of the energy or lack of energy people might have, which directly impacts both the quality and quantity of work produced.

As a leader of people, you are in a unique position to be able to see the behavior of your team, which also means you have a choice to see where and when the energy clogs or gushes. You also have a choice to have an intentional conversation about what is happening for the benefit of both the individual and the team.

There are many signs of energy imbalance, some are easier to see and address than others. Most times at work, these imbalances show up as stress behaviors. Managers might notice lack of engagement, defensive behavior, poor collaboration, and ongoing health issues. Interestingly, both too much or too little energy can have a negative impact on teams and outcomes.

Too little energy leads to behavior in which people are either unable to engage or choose to be under-engaged, too much energy creates behaviors in which people are either over-engaged or choose to be enraged. The ideal energy state is that of sustainable energy, a scenario when individuals are able to sustain or balance times of scarce or abundant energy circumstances, resulting in a healthfully engaged state of being.

There are certain markers to each energy state that through developing the skill of awareness leaders can learn to recognize and address before individuals experience burnout or fully disengage from their current role and consider moving on.

UNABLE TO ENGAGE
This type of energy can take the appearance of “burnout” and is usually driven by inability or fatigue from managing too much change and stress. Many times this person may be struggling with multiple and/or major health issues, which results in them missing work or being distracted while at work.

UNDERENGAGED
This type of energy can take the appearance of a “victim” and is usually driven by lack of clarity in roles/commitments or low self-confidence. Many times this person is totally lost and overwhelmed with the work and unable to ask for support or assistance.

OVERENGAGED
This type of energy can take the appearance of a “martyr” and is usually driven by fear of not being “good enough”. Many times this is the person who takes it all on and is unable to do it all (or do any of it well).

ENRAGED
This type of energy can take the appearance of “passive aggressive” and is usually driven by lack of communication skills and/or an inability to express one’s thoughts and feelings. Many times this person is unsettled or angry about changes at work, volume of work, or type of assignments, and is lacking context between action and big-picture vision.

HEALTHFULLY ENGAGED
This type of energy can take the appearance of easy joy and light heartedness, with a positive “We’re in this together” attitude. Healthfully engaged people are able to clearly prioritize commitments, have open conversations about demands, and can identify stress triggers. They might have peaks of imbalance, but are able to understand the end point and are clear about what they need to do to sustain energy and engagement in those times.

There is no right or wrong way to begin talking to your team about energy states of imbalance. If you recognize any of the markers, have a conversation — an authentic conversation about what you have noticed. Try using opened ended questions to invite conversation and use phrases like: I’ve noticed (fill in the blank), tell me what is going on and is there is anything you need?

Regardless of the actual energy state many times people just need to talk it out and feel supported by leadership.

 

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Talk to the Whole Person

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Mag]

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There’s a lot of talk about making workplaces more mindful, but what does that really mean? Mindfulness is more than meditation. It’s just as much about how we communicate with those around us as it is about finding stillness within ourselves.

In the workplace, so much of what we accomplish, particularly as leaders, comes in the form of conversations. And when those conversations can be more mindful, we can develop a kinder, more compassionate culture, while still maintaining high standards of excellence. We can all think of a conversation or two (or five or 10) that we wouldn’t describe as mindful. But what really makes a conversation mindful?

Karen Starns, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Pearson, has had a 20-year career in technology, an industry where, after long hours under tight deadlines, anyone’s mindfulness could go right out the window. For Starns, a mindful conversation is an opportunity to open people up to a broader view and take them to an unexpected place. “Having a mindful conversation means considering the whole person you’re engaging with—not just the project they’re leading, or the deliverable they owe you.” Signaling that you’re aware of how the work gets done (not just that it gets done) and how the person is doing helps you make a more positive connection. Taking the time to “acknowledge an important personal milestone or to offer to juggle workload during a tough time can have an amplifying effect far beyond the situation at hand,” she says.

In other companies mindful communication is ingrained in the culture. At Vera Whole Health in 2008, Chief Visionary Officer Valerie Burlingame set out to build a company that embodies being “present and authentic.” At Vera, they try to help their employees with “particularly challenging conversations, when there may be some resistance or conflict.” They teach them to search within themselves and identify their own “stories, feelings, and wants so that we can be responsible and aware of what we are bringing into interactions.” She goes on to say that this practice has helped the company be more effective at resolving conflict, and helped to foster an atmosphere of trust in external and internal relationships.

For those in leadership roles, a little bit of attention paid to mindful speaking can go a long way. Lisa Hufford, CEO of Simplicity Consulting, has conversations with nearly 100 consultants and clients each month. Her intention for each conversation is to, “Be aware of my own emotions and potential triggers so that I do not let them lead me.” She also encourages her team to, “Visualize what success looks like for the conversation you want to have before you have it.”

She feels that this approach not only helps to create a positive culture, it also directly affects the bottom line, because, “Mindful communication allows my team to cut through the clutter and the noise that can permeate organizations. Being clear about intentions helps us get to the heart of the issues quickly and unifies the group.”

Regardless of what industry you’re in, what your company values are, or what type of job you have, every one of us can have more mindful conversations at work. For starters, you need to be clear about your intent at the outset, consider how you want to express it, choose the right time, and pay attention to what’s going on with the person on the other side of the conversation.

Sounds obvious and easy, right? But when we’re swimming in a sea of busyness, finding time to be intentional about how we enter into conversations can become a low priority. If we’re not careful, we’re practically barking.

Try an experiment this month: Make just one work conversation each day a bit more mindful. Set the intention to be present with the person (or people), get clear on your purpose, and remain engaged throughout the whole exchange. It’s possible to build mindfulness at work, one conversation at a time.

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Celebrating Disappointment

By Christopher Littlefield, Founder of Acknowledgment Works & Friend of Simple Intentions

A photo by Teddy Kelley. unsplash.com/photos/okavjRLgnjo

A few years ago, in the space of a week’s time, my wife found out that she did not get TWO jobs she was a finalist for. Wanting to support her, I bought flowers, made a make shift sign reading “Happy you did not get the job day!” and greeted her with cheering at the door when she arrived home. Yes, my intention was to be supportive and mitigate the potential after shock of the news, but the incident sparked a real question for me: Why don’t we celebrate when things don’t work out?

The immediate answer is obvious; it’s disappointing. Disappointment makes people feel like crap, so why would you celebrate it? But bear with me for a second as we explore the idea. If you think about it, many of the amazing experiences, lessons, and loves we currently cherish in our lives would not have been possible if everything had worked out as we planned. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my ex’s (well, some of them), but I am VERY thankful those relationships did not work out. If they had, I would not have met the love of my life; my wife, Maria.

For many of us it was the disappointment of not getting accepted to a school or program, losing a job, bombing a presentation, getting dumped, or being passed over for a promotion that was responsible for igniting our passion to pick up arms and fight for what we really wanted in life. It is those disappointments that often become the catalyst for the better things that happen in our lives.

So the next time something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, take a few minutes to stomp your feet, cry a little, shake your fist at the sky, but then find a friend and go celebrate because the door just opened for another amazing experience to be born.

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The Power of “No”

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Magazine]

Have you ever said yes to a request at work when you knew deep down you had no intention of doing it? Maybe you said you’d meet a colleague for coffee, take someone to lunch, or participate on a committee, but you really didn’t have the time or desire to follow through. That’s okay. We’ve all said yes to things we knew weren’t really going to happen. In fact, this happens a lot, all over the world, in both personal and professional life. Why do we do this, and how can we shift our responses so they reflect our true intention and capacity?

The behavior of saying yes to things we know we either don’t want to or are unable to do is called “hedging.” It consists of using phrases like “I don’t know,” “maybe,” and “we’ll see,” when really your answer is, unequivocally, no.

When we hedge, our intentions (most times) are good. At work, we hedge to avoid disappointing others—like our customers, our managers, and our coworkers. It’s easy to feel that if you say no to a request at work you’ll be perceived as selfish or rude, or that it might impact your performance review. It’s natural to want to be liked and accepted, and to be considered a team player. That said, hedging can have many negative impacts.

For instance, when we commit to too many projects, assignments, and “five-minute favors” and we know we will be unable to complete them, we wind up creating false expectations, and can become the bottleneck in the system—which is the exact opposite of what most people intend when they say yes. Hedging also tends to create more work (that may or may not be part of your role), causing stress, resentment, and frustration. At the team level, hedging erodes trust, damages reputations, and can cause widespread role confusion.

Break the Hedging Cycle

Start by paying attention to when you hedge and get clear on what you really can, and cannot, do. “No” doesn’t have to be dismissive. A strategic no can, in fact, be a powerful productivity tool and a way to set clear priorities. It can mark the beginning of a thoughtful, intentional conversation about workload, role definition, and office dynamics. When you give a mindful no, you contribute even more to your team by being clear about what is realistic, which allows the organization to better understand needs, plan for resources, and set priorities. This is especially important for companies operating with limited resources.

Say It Right

It’s not all about just saying no—the way you say no is also important. Use a respectful tone and provide as much context as possible to the person making the request. Explaining why you’re unable to oblige a coworker’s request can go a long way—not just in increasing efficiency, but also in building trust. A phrase to experiment with is “that’s not going to work for me, because….”

If you know you can get to the request, but just not right now, set expectations up front on timeframe. “That’s not going to work for me right now, can we talk again in three weeks?” Another option is to offer help in whatever way you can: “I know this is important to you, but right now the core priorities for my job are x, y, and z, and I’m not able to support this request. Can I help you find someone else who might be able to help?”

Most times, when people feel respected, they are willing to work together to find a solution that is realistic and supports the team and organization—even if the conversation begins with “no.”

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