What is my outfit telling you?


, ,

what is my outfit showing you 1K px

In leadership workshops, we talk about what we tell people with our clothes, bags, jewelry, and even water bottles. Some conclusions are roundly agreed upon. If you are wrinkled and frayed, we don’t think that you take your job seriously and that you probably have some time management issues since you can’t make yourself presentable in the morning.

I am not talking about things that we can’t control. Study after study shows that tall people are seen as more intelligent and responsible. I’m almost six feet tall, so this one works to my advantage, but it’s just luck. We don’t get to choose our height.

Our facial structure has a huge impact on how we are perceived by others. A symmetrical face makes us more attractive and trustworthy. However, if our eyes are too wide and our cheekbones pronounced, we are assumed to be aggressive. Once again, not in our control!

Let’s talk about things that we can do. Generally, we are seen in a more positive light if we have a pleasant facial expression. Those of us whose resting facial expression looks bored or angry benefit from looking in a mirror and working to change to a more positive expression.

When I was in my 20s, I read an article about wrinkles. It said that we create wrinkles in our face by the expressions we display. One way to minimize wrinkles is to keep a neutral face with muscles relaxed as much as possible. Man, I took that suggestion to heart. I started keeping my face relaxed as much as possible.

Unfortunately, when my facial muscles are relaxed, I look a bit like a serial killer contemplating her next victim. I was editing Army regulations in Heidelberg at the time. My coworkers began asking me if I was okay. They’d say, “Are you angry about something?”

It took me longer than I want to admit to put two and two together. I started intentionally smiling before I looked up from my work when someone asked me a question. The difference in my coworkers’ reactions and treatment of me was remarkable.

However, assumptions about many aspects of a person’s appearance vary wildly. I demonstrate this point by asking participants in my workshop to share their assumptions based on the way I dress. For example, I don’t wear jewelry other than a watch. I ask them to create some hypotheses about why I don’t have on jewelry.

The guesses or assumptions vary wildly. They range from metal allergies to wanting to live simply to not wanting to be bothered by that morning decision. The guesses say more about the person than about me. Remember, we look at the world through our Frame of Reference. What we notice and how we judge what we see is unique to our values, priorities, experiences, and beliefs. We give answers that fit in with our own Frame of Reference.

I don’t wear nail polish, either, and no one ever guesses the real reason why. Why do you think I don’t wear nail polish? Come up with some reasons that make sense to you. The better you know me, the more accurate your answer might be. Got some hypotheses? Really pause and think about it!

The reason I don’t wear nail polish is that it is filled with toxic chemicals. Our bodies continually absorb and have to deal with a cocktail of toxins, and some of them are carcinogens. Are you appalled when you see children with nail polish on? I am! I put it in the category of smoking around children because it is harmful to their health.

Did you see that one coming? Unless you know me well or have been in one of my workshops, I’m guessing that you probably didn’t guess correctly. Through experience, I’ve learned that the nontoxic part of my Frame of Reference is not shared by many other people.

So, what are the takeaways here? First, we want to appear as we want to be perceived. If we want to be seen as a bit of a rule breaker, we can wear funkier-than-usual work attire. If we are ambitious, we can dress like our boss or our boss’s boss. If we want to be considered approachable, we can wear a friendly expression. If we want to be taken seriously at work, we can make sure that our clothes are wrinkle-free and in good condition.

We can take this suggestion one step further and say, “Dress as you want to be.” There is quite a bit of research that supports the fact that our clothes influence our own behavior, not just how people react to us. One study even showed that the cognitive ability of students improved when they wore more formal attire rather than “street clothes.”

I will make a small side note for women here. I just read a study that found that provocative dress results in women being seen as less intelligent and competent. When women wore conservative outfits, they were judged highly. However, unbutton one button on that same outfit or hike the skirt above the knee, and the women were seen as being dressed appropriately to be a receptionist, but not a leader.

Second, when judging others, it’s important to remember that our assumptions are based on our own Frame of Reference. It’s natural to pull on our past experiences, knowledge, and values when making a judgment about something. It’s vital that we remember that we are guessing.

It’s best to label our deductions as hypotheses – predictions that have yet to be proven or disproven. It keeps us from turning an assumption into a fact in our heads. Until we gather more information or ask the person, our assumptions are just something that we made up.

As leaders, one crucial question to ask is “Am I being perceived by others as I want to be seen?” Our clothes and facial expressions can help us be seen as and be the leaders that we want to be. Another important question is “What assumptions am I making based on my own experiences and beliefs?” Great leaders constantly challenge their own thinking.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

The Chair Is a Chair


, , , ,

chair is a chair 600 px

One phrase has been coming up more and more in both leadership workshops and my life: The Chair Is a Chair. The phrase comes from a book by Marshall Goldsmith, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts. Goldsmith mentions the concept only briefly in the book, but it really captured my attention. He writes:

“I end the exercise with a simple reminder that getting mad at people for being who they are makes as much sense as getting mad at a chair for being a chair. The chair cannot help but be a chair, and neither can most of the people we encounter. If there’s a person who drives you crazy, you don’t have to like, agree with, or respect him, just accept him for being who he is.”

I notice in leadership workshops that the participants often want to figure out how to change other people who they believe are the problem. In reality, we cannot change other people. We can only change ourselves. We can model positive behavior, and we can invite positive behavior in others, but we cannot wave the Magic Wand of Destiny around and change them. The Magic Wand of Destiny only works on ourselves.

We can save ourselves a lot of emotional pennies by just accepting that people are the way that they are. Negative Nellies aren’t going to suddenly become positive because we want them to. People are a product of their Frame of Reference, which is made up of their values, priorities, experiences, and beliefs. Perhaps Negative Nellie has had some hard knocks in life and concluded that life is a hardship to be endured. She is doing the best that she can, given her experiences and emotional intelligence.

An important point to remember is that the actions of other people that annoy us are not generally directed at us. There is no need to take other people’s behavior personally. They are who they are with everyone, not just us. We are spending emotional pennies unnecessarily when we react and get offended.

Of course, accepting that someone is a chair doesn’t mean that we can’t set boundaries when the chair’s behavior is inappropriate or downright offensive. However, we can do it without anger. We just let them know what is not acceptable, why it isn’t acceptable, and that we won’t tolerate it.

Enforcing boundaries at work doesn’t usually require official action. Firm but unemotional reminders often are effective. If the chair is a subordinate, coaching might in order. If the chair is a peer or superior, we get to decide if the behavior warrants a trip to HR.

Personal relationships are another thing entirely. We don’t have to stay around chairs who challenge our values and self-worth. Outside work, we get to choose our friends. We also get to decide which family members we spend a lot of time with. Sometimes we are required to interact with family, but we can keep it to a minimum and remember that family chairs aren’t likely to change either. Most importantly, their behavior is all about them and their experiences. It has little to do with us, no matter how many fingers they point at us.

My daughter-in-law wrote an article about Arnold Lobel’s series of children’s books about Frog and Toad. You can read her article here: https://verilymag.com/2019/03/what-frog-and-toad-can-teach-readers-of-all-ages. She analyzes the relationship between Frog and Toad and uses the information to talk about successful friendships.

I like her list of important friendship qualities, and I would add to it that each friend can accept that the other is a chair who isn’t going to change. In other words, they accept each other exactly as they are and don’t wish for or try to get each other to change. Toad is a bit negative. Frog sees the world through rose-colored glasses, and he doesn’t ever get upset about Toad’s negative attitude.

Now Frog does try to change Toad now and again. It’s a behavior we all slip into. However, on the whole, Frog just accepts Toad for who he is. The result is that Toad sometimes tries to improve himself. When we invite new behavior with positivity and acceptance, sometimes the invitation is accepted. We can be happy when the chair decides to improve itself a bit, but it’s important not to get disappointed when it stays the same.

I use Goldsmith’s concept of the chair all the time now, and my life is better for it. When someone is close-minded or mean, I don’t take it personally anymore. I remind myself that the chair is a chair and that it will probably stay a chair for the rest of its life. I also remember that the chair’s actions have absolutely nothing to do with me. When a chair points a finger at you, they have three fingers pointing back at themselves, which is where the problem usually lies.

Here is one last caveat: we are chairs, too! If more than two people comment on one of our behaviors or perspectives, it’s a good idea to do some introspection. We can ask, “Am I the person that I want to be? Do I want to change my behavior?” We can become a better chair if we want to. The choice is ours. Thank goodness we can wave around the Magic Wand of Destiny and make intentional choices for ourselves to create the future and persona that we desire.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

The Three Choices in Every Situation



three cupcakes cropped 600 px

When faced with a situation, we have three choices:

  1. Accept the situation as it is
  2. Try and change the situation
  3. Flee

The choice that we pick will depend on the circumstances. Let’s say that I have a tedious boss who drives me crazy. I could decide to accept the situation. I love what I do, and my co-workers rock. I can accept meddling now and then from a micromanaging boss. Or perhaps I really need this job for now, and I can use mindfulness and positivity to help me manage my emotions.

However, if my boss is overbearing and making my life miserable every day, it might be a challenge to my mental health. The second choice is to try and change the situation. Maybe I could ask for a one-on-one discussion with her. I could use some of my stellar communication skills to find the fact and feeling parts of what is going on. It is probably worth a shot. It is possible that I could go down in flames during the discussion and change nothing. Then, maybe a trip to HR would be in order. In the end, I might not affect any change, but I can try. However, I don’t have to try and change it; that’s just one option.

If I can’t change the situation, and I can’t accept it as it is, it’s time to make plans to move on. Perhaps it’s time to start my own business. Maybe I could take an early retirement. There are several options when fleeing a job that I can’t stand, and fleeing doesn’t have to be done rashly.

When facing a situation that you don’t like, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I truly accept the situation as it is without harming my physical or mental health?
  2. What can I do to change this situation? Do I want to try and change it?
  3. How can I get out of this situation if I can’t accept or change it?

Remember: your circumstances, goals, and values will help you to make the best decision for you.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

How are you looking through your spyglass?


, , , ,

spyglass cropped 650px

We all look at life through our own spyglass. It’s important to use our spyglass to help us keep a broad perspective on the events going on in our lives. If we maintain a big-picture view, small disappointments and challenges don’t seem that intimidating in the grand scheme of things.

However, sometimes when things are scary or overwhelming, we tend to flip the spyglass around and look into the big end. Try it with a real spyglass sometime! You will see only a small circle of whatever you are looking at in that moment. It looks as though that one small piece of the world is actually the entire world.

Let’s say that I didn’t get a job or promotion that I wanted. As a result, I focus completely on that one small piece of life. I’m looking into the big end of the spyglass, and I’m only seeing that “failure.” If I flip my spyglass around and look at the broader view of my life, I can see that not getting the job or promotion is just one small piece of my current situation. I’m free now to take on a better job that could be right around the corner. I have the opportunity to evaluate why I wasn’t the best fit for the job, and I can set new goals. I can also see all the times that I’ve been a success in my life! This disappointment isn’t a pattern; it’s just a learning experience.

We see more possibilities and put things in a better perspective when we look into the small end of our spyglass and see the widest view of the circumstances around us. Great leaders are adept at catching themselves when they are only seeing a small piece of a situation and then broadening their perspective to see the big picture.

When a proposal that I submit is not accepted, I sometimes sit around for an evening focusing on the “failure.” I generally spend a lot of time and energy creating a detailed proposal for an organization. After a reasonable bit of moping, I turn my spyglass around and look at all the great things going on in my life. I have steady work! I have friends! I have family! I have a roof over my head and a car that I adore! I am leading a blessed life. One “failure” does not define me; it’s merely a blip that proves I am getting out there and putting myself on the line for new consulting gigs. When I adopt a big-picture view, it’s easier to gain a balanced perspective.

If things feel hopeless and you don’t see many options, chances are that you are only seeing a fraction of what is going on in your life. Flip that spyglass around! Although a current circumstance can feel huge and overwhelming, it isn’t a complete picture of your life or who you are.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

Wooing Resisters


, , , ,

wooing resisters 600 px

When talking about leading change in workshops, we spend some time talking about how to woo the resisters. There are always people who will be opposed to doing things in a different way.

As early into the change as possible, we want to ask for the input of resisters. Often, they have some valid concerns and can point out potential obstacles and challenges that an organization will face during a change. Sometimes, we can incorporate their observations into the change process. Sometimes, the change is set in stone, and all we can do is listen to their objections. It’s important to let the resister know what can and cannot be done.

When talking to resisters, we often hear a lot of complaints. They are very ready to share what is wrong. We want to find out what an ideal situation would look like to them by helping them to find the dream behind the complaint.

When we complain, we are telling others how reality is not meeting our personal expectations. We have a picture in our heads of how we want things to be that we don’t articulate and often can’t see clearly. As leaders, we want to help resisters clearly define the best situation for them.

We can start by asking them, “What needs are not being met?” We can also ask, “For what are you longing?” We want to get to the Essence-level feeling that the resisters are experiencing. Remember, every situation has a fact and a feeling part.

Then we want to get them to describe the ideal outcome for the current change. We can ask things like:

  • What would the ideal scenario look like?
  • What could be better?
  • Can you think of a metaphor that applies to this situation?
  • What is it like here in this ideal situation?

It’s important that we keep focusing on the dream, not the complaint. We are helping the resisters create a solution instead of dwelling on the problem. Once the resisters have clearly defined the situation that they want, it’s important to do a reality check. How much of the dream can be achieved in the current reality? Organizations have requirements, and team morale is always a consideration. We want to ask the resisters what they believe is reasonable and then share our answer to the same question. Finally, we want to ask the resisters, “What are you willing to contribute or commit to in order to make this happen?”

If a resister is in full resistance mode and unable to see anything positive about the situation, we can help. We can ask the resister to rate the current reality on a scale of 1-10. Let’s say that they rate the current situation at a 3. We would then ask, “What keeps it from being a 1?” We are asking them to tell us a few of the positive things that are going on right now.

Then we ask them to define one small change that would nudge their feeling about the situation up one number. Resisters don’t say “1” very often when asked to rate a situation, but if they do, ask them for one small change that would bring it up to a 2.

When facing a change, we all have a high dream and a low dream for the outcome. We hope for the best and fear the worst at the same time. Asking everyone to define their high and low dreams can help the group get through a change more easily. Once each person has defined his or her high and low dream, they go on to tell the group what would support the low dream and what would support the high dream. At the end of the discussion, the group has a simple list of do’s and don’ts that will help them help each other through the change.

When facing a change, the most important thing that a leader can do is listen. By meeting everyone’s personal needs to be listened to, understood, and respected, we are helping them to accept the change by ensuring they feel that their feelings, dreams, and expectations are not being ignored. We all want to be seen and feel that we have some bit of influence over the situations we find ourselves in.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

Establishing a Group Identity


, , ,

group identity 550 px

Defining a clear team or group identity is one way to create a culture that supports success. One of the best examples of creating a group identity comes from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. A young man named Paul Butler went to Saint Lucia to save the Saint Lucia parrot. The parrot was on the brink of extinction, and the people of Saint Lucia didn’t have strong feelings about the parrot. He had little money and no staff to help him. He created a campaign around the identity of the people of Saint Lucia. Specifically, his message was “We take care of our own.”

The campaign was wildly successful. The Saint Lucia parrot is now thriving. Paul Butler went on to work with a conservation organization called Rare, where he replicated the creation of a local identity over and over. Creating a specific identity is a hugely powerful tool for any group.

In a business setting, the people in the group get to decide who they want to be as a group. It’s important to write down and promote the group’s identity. The group can come up with a name, a mascot, and t-shirt designs. One group that I worked with decided that an octopus represented them, and they each had a stuffed octopus on their desks as a reminder of who they wanted to be as a group. It’s an opportunity for the group to express its uniqueness and create cohesiveness.

I start by having the group complete the sentence: We are people who… Once we have a list of qualities and actions, they decide what sort of animal or creature embodies those qualities. That discussion is usually a lot of fun and involves some very creative thinking.

Once the group has decided on a mascot, we move on to a name. Sometimes it is the name of the creature. One of the most creative groups I’ve had the pleasure to work with decided that a gryphon was the creature that represented them. A gryphon has the head, talons, and wings of an eagle, with the body of a lion. However, the gryphon seemed a little intimidating to some of the group, so they named it “Andy Gryphon” so that it would seem more friendly, like Andy Griffith.

When faced with a problem in the future, the group can ask, “What would Andy Gryphon do?” or “How would Andy Gryphon handle that problem?” The group has established a clear identity that reminds them of who they want to be and how they want to behave.

It is kind of fun to create an identity for a family, too. The discussion of who the group wants to be and how they want to be seen by others can be creative and enlightening.

The Torreys have always been people who take care of people smaller and weaker than themselves. We are a tall, strong, determined group of people who stand up for others. When my two-year-old granddaughter got frustrated with her not-yet-one brother, she gave him a push, which is normal behavior all around.

However, I took her hands in mine and looked her in the eye. I said in a stern voice, “We do not hurt people who are smaller than we are. That is not acceptable. You are a Torrey, and Torreys take care of people who are smaller and weaker than we are.”

She is a pretty smart two-year-old who got her first exposure to the group identity of the Torreys. If she continues with the behavior or does more than a gentle push, there will be more severe consequences. The same sequence of events would happen in a workplace. We start with gentle reminders and then move on to appropriate consequences for unacceptable behavior.

A group identity is a powerful motivator. When someone acts outside the group norm, the team will remind them, “That’s not who we are.” It’s a quick and easy guideline for a group – or family – to follow that gently helps us all stay on track.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

Naming the Emotion


, , , ,

naming the emotion 650px

In leadership workshops, we work on noticing and naming the emotions that we are feeling. Knowing what we are feeling and where we feel it in our bodies is a crucial part of self-awareness. Many of us are not aware of the emotions that influence our behavior.

In every conversation, there is a fact and a feeling part. Of course, we want to know what other people are feeling, but it’s also okay for us to share ours as long as we do it in an appropriate way. Telling people that we are frustrated, annoyed, elated, or excited invites them to share what they are feeling.

In life coach training we are taught to pay close attention to the emotions of our clients and to tell them what we notice. If someone talks loudly while scowling and making fists with their hands, I could say, “It seems like this situation makes you angry.” Usually, the client will check in with his or her emotions and then clarify them. The response might be, “I am not just angry; I am infuriated!”

Of course, the technique works just as well for what we consider to be positive emotions. I could say that a client sounds excited about a situation or opportunity. In addition to verifying excitement, the client often goes on to explain why he or she feels excited which deepens the conversation.

Naming the emotional field is a powerful tool during contentious conversations. Paying attention to someone’s negative emotion and naming it is a great way to keep ourselves from reacting without thinking.

Our neocortex is the advanced “adult” part of our brain. It covers the outside of our brain, and it’s where our self-control and creativity reside. When we get super angry, our neocortex disengages and the more primitive and emotional parts of our brain take over.

One way to get the neocortex to re-engage is to step back and become an observer of ourselves and the situation. We can ask ourselves things like:

  • Why might that person be provoking me?
  • What emotion is the other person feeling?
  • What emotion am I feeling?
  • What is triggering me about this situation?
  • Where am I feeling emotion in my body?
  • What is my ultimate [desired outcome]?

I saw the technique demonstrated in an HBO show that I was watching called Gentleman Jack. The series is based on the coded diaries of Anne Lister who lived in the 1800s. An article that I read said that they based a lot of the dialogue on her diaries. If that’s true, the woman had incredible emotional intelligence, and she was a master of naming the emotional field.

Someone she cared about asked her a baiting, sarcastic question in one episode. She paused, looked at the woman, and said something like, “I am trying to understand why you would make a hostile comment to me. What point are you trying to make?” I think I actually said out loud, “Way to go, Anne!” Fortunately, I was watching it by myself.

She didn’t take the bait. She didn’t get angry herself. She got curious! She named the emotion she observed and then asked a question. Brilliant! It’s a wonderful way to manage a person who is working to engage one in conflict.

Naming the emotional field requires being aware of our own emotions and the emotions of others. We can practice naming our own emotions by setting a timer that goes off throughout the day. Each time the alarm goes off, we pause to consider what we are feeling, where we are feeling it, and why we are experiencing that particular emotion.

In order to name other people’s emotions, we must pay attention to all the verbal and nonverbal cues presented. Then we make an educated guess. Our guess prompts people to check in and determine their true emotions. When they confirm or clarify what they are feeling, we’ve moved the conversation forward and begun to figure out what is really going on.

The feeling part of the conversation holds most of the clues that will lead to a solution or resolution. Exceptional leaders can mine for those clues while managing their own emotions. Instead of a brawl or a standoff, a great leader can create a dialogue that maintains the positivity of the relationship.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

Phases of Life


, ,

phases of life px 600

I was talking to my oldest son, who has two very young children. We were discussing books that tell us how to live our lives. He said that he was tired of books that advocated grabbing life by the horns and living your passion. It’s not surprising that those types of books would overwhelm a man covered over with diapers who exists in a state of constant sleep deprivation.

The book that did give him peace was called Abandonment to Divine Providence, written by Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade in the 18th century. It’s a Christian book that advocates accepting that all experiences are a part of God’s plan. My son said that the book encourages one to live in the moment and accept life’s challenges as growth experiences. He said, “I’ve accepted that I am not going to make any great intellectual pursuits right now.”

His observations made total sense to me. In my youth, I also had the urge to live life all at once. I felt that I had to achieve everything – family, career, financial success, personal growth – when I was in my 20s and 30s. It’s an exhausting way of life and very difficult to be excellent at everything.

Now, I have the advantage of hindsight. When I look back over the almost 60 years of my life, I can clearly see the phases I experienced. I was a child and then an adolescent. I experienced high school and then went on to college. Shortly after graduating, I got married. Six years after that, I had my oldest son, and then my youngest son almost two years after that. Then I was a mom of children, adolescents, young adults, and finally, mature men. Now I am also single and a grandmother. I’ve lived lots of phases and enjoyed each one.

My first lesson about living in the present phase of life was in high school. Many of my peers wanted to be older. Some of them smoked and drank and looked very cool. Being and looking cooler than everyone else seemed to be their goal. They didn’t want to be silly, and their heartiest laughs were at someone else’s expense.

Frankly, I didn’t understand their behavior. I could see that this was a wonderful time in our lives that would never come again. We were young and foolish because of our lack of experience. Trying not to look foolish must have been exhausting.

My high school peers who tried to be older missed much of what is great about high school because they weren’t all-in. I’ve talked before about the importance of being all-in, but I haven’t discussed the broad perspective that helps us live fully engaged.

When my children were small, I longed to get out the door and begin a career. I felt like I had to do it right that second. For many reasons, I became a stay-at-home mom. However, I remembered the lesson I learned during high school and decided that living one way and yearning for another would not be healthy for any of us. I decided intentionally to go all-in during the Mom of Young Children phase.

And we had a blast! We did library story times, mom-and-me swim classes, and music workshops. I changed a million diapers and slept very little. I read about Peter Rabbit, Mr. Gumpy, and dinosaurs. Every now and then I longed to get out and live some of life on my own, but I didn’t. I went all-in on being the mom of young children,

Now, before you think I am bashing working moms, I am not. I know from experience that completely leaving the job market for 15 years is not the greatest idea. It was way harder to re-enter than I thought it would be. One should always be ready to jump into self-sufficiency. Life throws curveballs at you, and sometimes the ball hits you.

What I am suggesting is that it’s okay not to go full-throttle on everything. In truth, we only have so much time in a day. We don’t have enough time to be stellar at many things. Something has to be a priority. Deciding what’s first makes all of life’s decisions easier. Dropping things that can wait a bit or giving them less emphasis can feel like a weight lifted off our shoulders.

In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, the author, Greg McKeown, advocates distilling the tasks in our lives down to the ones that bring meaning and joy. The inside jacket cover says:

“Essentialism is more than a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.”

I want to add that it’s best if we determine what is essential for each phase of life. What’s essential when I’m 26 is not what’s essential when I’m 59. We need to apply the principles of essentialism in each new phase of life.

It’s easier if we realize that we have a lifetime to achieve our goals. We don’t have to get it all done right this second. When my grandchildren start school and become more self-sufficient, my son will have a bit of time for intellectual pursuits. When they start driving, he will have long stretches of time to read while he waits for them to come home safely. When they are grown, he will have more time on his hands than he knows what to do with.

Now, I am embracing the freedom that comes from living alone. I can get up when I want, eat what I want, and watch what I want. It’s fabulous! I spend money on plants and pots to my heart’s content. I listen to my 70s music with nary an eye roll or heavy sigh. I call my condo Xanadu because it’s a bit glitzier than what I had in my previous life, and I change the temperature to match my menopausal comfort at the moment. It is glorious.

Once again, I am not bashing marriage or having a partner. It’s all about appreciating what is in your life and deciding in this moment what is most important. There are glorious, fabulous things about being married, as well. We want to identify the life phase we are in, revel in its glory, and focus on the essentials.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a marathon that takes us through some wonderfully diverse places. If we constantly get ready for the next phase, we are missing the beautiful view and the wondrous people around us right now. Pace yourself! Enjoy the fleeting things in your life. They will leave and be replaced by new fabulous things. Don’t miss any of it by skipping ahead to the end. Live each phase of life fully!

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.


Perils of the Brain Dump


, , , ,

brain dump 600 px

When we visit homes with children, they often want to show us treasured belongings and tell us about things that are important to them. I’ve noticed that some adults behave in the same way. They have an urgent need to expel every thought in their brains through their mouths. I call it a Brain Dump.

The compulsion to say whatever we think is similar to the need we feel to finish things like puzzles. In leadership workshops, I use simple children’s puzzles in one exercise. I often halt the exercise when the puzzle is only partially done. I know from experience that I might as well let them finish the puzzle before they put it away. If I don’t, I hear complaints and there is a tangible feeling of being incomplete in the room. No one is ready to move on to our discussion until the puzzles are done.

I used to be like the children who share their thoughts and observations all the time. I thought it, then wanted to share it. After all, I’m a smart person with brilliant observations to share! Then I realized that no one was really interested in most of what I had to say outside of leadership workshops.

It hit me that my rambling and sharing was actually a colossal waste of time. I was saying things I already knew. The object of my Brain Dump wasn’t listening. Okay, maybe they were half-listening or pretending to listen, but they weren’t taking in the information for later use. Worse yet, I sometimes told stories that hinted at who I was, but they weren’t pertinent to my hapless listener.

I also realized that my Brain Dumps were harming the positivity of the relationship I had with my listener. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a proponent of positive relationships. You will also know that you need a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones in order to maintain a positive relationship. My listeners were not considering my Brain Dumps as a positive interaction.

About this same time, I came across a study, which I cannot find now. If you know of it, please drop me a line. Anyway, whether I’ve remembered it exactly or not, it had an enormous impact on my life.

They put CEOs in a room and had employees go in and talk with them. For the first round, the CEOs received no instructions and they talked quite a bit during the interactions. When interviewed afterward, the employees were not that impressed with the CEOs.

During the second round with a new group of employees, the CEOs were told not to talk. They were to keep silent as much as possible. In the interviews after the discussions, the employees reported that the CEOs were intelligent and good leaders. The CEOs made a better impression when they were quiet! Showing they were knowledgeable experts worked against them.

Unless in a leadership workshop where I was paid to talk, I worked to remain silent as much as possible. It was hard. It takes a lot of self-management to be quiet when you have a burning desire to show your smarts or solve someone’s problem or tell a funny story. It made me feel uncomfortable. It was like sitting and looking at an unsolved puzzle and not moving to put in the piece that I could see fit in one specific spot.

The ability to refrain from Brain Dumping is a sign of emotional intelligence. Quick refresher: emotional intelligence in its simplest form is self-awareness, self-management, relationship awareness, and relationship management. Self-management is one of the trickiest bits, and it relies on self-awareness.

In this particular case, I become aware of the negative effect that my Brain Dumping was having on other people (relationship awareness). I analyzed my need to share and realized that it was tied firmly to my own ego (self-awareness). Then I began to work to change my behavior (self-management), which improved my relationships with others (relationship management). Ta-da! A wonderful example of the power of emotional intelligence.

Exceptional leaders are emotionally intelligent. Like all other skills, we increase our proficiency with practice. I still indulge in bending someone’s ear now and again, but after much time I feel peaceful when I don’t.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.


Are you having a good time? WE LOVE IT HERE!


, , ,

we love it here 600 px

Until now, I haven’t shared with many people that I was a cheerleader in high school. Although I would not become a cheerleader now nor necessarily advocate it for any young person, it’s who I was at that time in my life.

I learned some valuable leadership lessons about motivating others as a cheerleader. I mean real lessons about how to get people to do things, not just yelling in unison. Recently, I realized that one of the most valuable lessons was about motivating myself.

Cheerleading camp was a grueling, week-long ordeal. We got up at dawn and were jumping, cheering, and yelling for most of the day. Several times we met as one huge group.

The leader of the camp would yell out, “Are you having a good time?”

Our thundering answer was, “We love it here!”

I used the phrase and technique on my children as they grew up. I remember several times sitting in the car with them when circumstances were less than ideal. I would ask in a loud and cheerful voice, “Are we having a good time?”

They would answer in a grudging, sarcastic tone, “We love it here.” However, it did cheer them up. They smiled. There is something silly about the process. More importantly, it underlines the fact that we do get to decide whether or not we like it here.

Recently, I was reminded of a story I’ve seen online several times. It’s probably not true, but it contains a valuable lesson. The story is about an old woman who is moving into a nursing home. In the story, she has never seen her room there.

As an attendant takes the old woman up in the elevator, she says casually, “I hope that you like your new home.”

The old woman answers, “I am going to love it.”

The attendant displays incredibly poor customer service skills and asks, “How can you know that? You haven’t seen it.”

The old woman says, “Because I’ve already decided to like it.”

I’ve been having some difficulty adjusting to my new and smaller home, so the memory of cheerleading camp and the story of the old woman going into the nursing home came at an opportune time. They reminded me that I get to choose how I feel about things. I am choosing to love it here!

The cheerleading camp memory and the story also give clues to the answer to a question that I am asked in leadership workshops all the time. At the beginning of a leadership series, we discuss the important qualities of a leader. We think of leaders in our lives who were truly motivating and inspiring. I ask the group, “Did that leader have a positive attitude?”

They always answer yes. Then I ask, “Do you feel that the leader cared about you?” I always get a resounding yes. I remind them of the old saying (sometimes misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt): “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

We don’t give our best to people whom we believe do not have our best interests at heart. Caring is a basic motivational technique. However, caring about everyone can be a challenge. The question that I get over and over is, “How can I care about people who I don’t like?”

I struggled with the answer until I realized that like the old woman in the elevator, we decide to.

Deciding to like a situation or care about a person is not easy because it’s not a one-and-done decision. We must continue to decide every second of every day until one day, it just happens on its own. The new way of thinking becomes a habit that we have created with intentional effort.

There are other things that help us care and have empathy for others. Reading books improves empathy. Of course, there is a lot of research behind the Loving Kindness Meditation in which I firmly believe.

We can wave around the Magic Wand of Destiny by making intentional choices in every aspect of our lives. It isn’t always easy and takes constant vigilance to create an attitude or feeling. However, realizing that we can is empowering and life-changing.

For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.