Resilience: Why Not Stay Inside and Wait Out the Storm?

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flower bud in the rain

We can’t completely avoid the change or adversity that storms into our lives, but there is a temptation to ignore the emotions that come along with it. Feeling disappointment, sadness, and loss is awful! Why would we want to do that?

While painful in the beginning, dealing with our emotions helps us in the long run. We maintain a healthy emotional life by naming our emotions, accepting them, and then releasing them. If we stuff emotions or ignore them, they become like small, annoying insects that keep buzzing in our ears for the rest of our lives.

One of the most profound things I learned in my coach training is this: the things that we can’t be with run our lives. If we can’t be with anger, then we avoid all situations that might make us or someone else angry. Think about the effects if we avoid disappointing people at all costs! If we can’t be with confrontation, we are constantly putting up with things that we don’t want to endure because we don’t want to start a fight. We want to use our coping mechanisms and face the situation and our emotions. We must walk through it now or avoid it forever.

Although our initial impulse may be to avoid uncomfortable emotions, they are not all bad. Discomfort is a powerful motivator and can lead to positive achievement if we maintain a positive mental state. Remember, how we view the situation makes all the difference.

There is an interesting TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal. She researches stress, and she discovered that stress doesn’t kill us – the belief that stress kills us is what kills us. Our perspectives have a tremendous effect on our bodies! That is important to keep in mind before, during, and after challenging times. Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU&t=34s

In the video, McGonigal also talks about the hormones that our bodies release when we are feeling stressed. One of them is oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone” because it also releases when we touch other people. Oxytocin makes us want to interact and bond with others. So, when we are stressed, our bodies are helping us by encouraging us to reach out to other people.

Remember my learning at the Military Child Education Coalition workshop. That which does not kill us makes us stronger – as long as we have hope and support. We get both of those things when we reach out to others.

Finally, keep in mind that each time we overcome a challenge, we become more resilient. As we face adversity, change, and the emotions that come along with them, we build confidence. When the next challenge comes along, we can think to ourselves, “I’ve done this (or worse) before, and I can do it again.”

Creating a resilient life and using positive coping mechanisms greatly increase your chance of not only surviving adversity and change, but also thriving. Every storm that we weather makes us more confident that we can successfully face the next one. We create a spiral of success that carries us more easily through life’s storms.

Note: I’m re-running this series on resilience that I wrote back in 2017.


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.

 

Resilience: Coping Mechanisms to Help You in a Downpour

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During the Downpour

Everything that we do to cope with stress somehow relieves the overwhelming emotions, if only for a while. Sometimes that can result in actions that harm us, like using drugs or drinking too much alcohol.

Here is a list of positive coping mechanisms that will help during times of adversity and change. Some of them will resonate with you, and some of them won’t. It’s like a menu; choose things that appeal to you. It’s a good idea to experiment with some of these techniques so that you are familiar with them before the next downpour in your life.

Exercise. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Studies have shown that walking 30 minutes a day is more effective at relieving depression than prescription drugs. Even mild exercise releases the endorphins that make us feel better.

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is also called Tapping. I must admit that in the past, I was not a fan of Tapping. It wasn’t until my latest overwhelming life event that I realized its value.

EFT helps you to name the emotion that you are feeling, accept it, and release it. It can feel a little silly because you are tapping various places on your head and body while saying things out loud. I usually think the statements rather than say them out loud, and that helps me.

However, the results that people experience are impressive. Tapping has been shown to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here is an interesting article on PTSD and Tapping: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201110/energy-therapy-acupoint-tapping-the-best-ptsd-treatment. There is even a World Tapping Summit.

I am not going to outline the process, but here is a link to a website that will give you more information: https://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html. And here is one of my favorite YouTube tutorials on Tapping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3sd9AoBjcc. It’s done by Cheryl Richardson, one of my favorite life coaches.

Positivity Portfolio. A Positivity Portfolio is another tool that can lift your spirits and inspire hope during a struggle. It’s a collection of pictures that evoke positive emotions for you. You can include pictures of puppies, family, friends, beach scenes, and hobbies you enjoy. You can collect the pictures in a physical binder or an electronic folder. Some people use Pinterest!

Looking at your Positivity Portfolio puts you in a positive frame of mind, which makes you open to new information and gives you the ability to see a broader view of the challenges that you face. When we are in a negative frame of mind, we have tunnel vision and are unable to see possible solutions. We also are not open to new information and perspectives when we are feeling negative and hopeless. A Positivity Portfolio helps us create a feeling of positivity that allows us to be more creative and hopeful.

The research on positivity and the Positivity Portfolio was done by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection.

Cognitive Restructuring. Cognitive restructuring sounds like a hard and technical concept, but it’s not. It’s simply creating new thought habits. We are intentionally changing the way we think. It’s very powerful.

Worrying and negative self-talk are habits just like any others. We can change them with some effort. I designed a mental game to help me change my worrying ways. I pretended that every thought was a request for something I wanted. When I thought about something, I was placing an order for it.

When I thought, “I am not going to have enough money this month,” I was placing an order for that to happen. Immediately I would think or say out loud, “Cancel that order!” Then I would replace the “order” with a new one: “I have plenty of money to make it through the month.”

During challenging times, it’s easy to worry and participate in negative self-talk, but we can change our thinking patterns. Any time you catch yourself worrying and creating a worst-case scenario in your head, cancel that order! Replace the negative thoughts with a thought about something that you want to happen or with an affirmation. Creating a positive internal dialogue makes life way less stressful.

Meditation. Regular meditation is one of the ways to increase your resilience. However, meditation is a great coping mechanism even if you haven’t meditated before. The best way to meditate when you are in a crisis is a guided mindful meditation.

In a guided mindful meditation, the person guiding you will direct you to pay attention to different parts of your body. Usually, the meditation starts at your toes and goes up to your head. Search for “mindful meditation” online, and you will get a lot of options. Here is a link to some good ones from UCLA: http://marc.ucla.edu/mindful-meditations.

A mindful meditation gives your brain a break from all of the thinking and worrying that it does in challenging times. I feel like my brain has had a nice nap after a mindful meditation.

One-step-at-a-time thinking. I use this one a lot during stressful times. I make a list of priorities and things to do. Then I put my head down and focus on the tasks one at a time. It really helps when the situation feels overwhelming and big. I think it’s similar to Dory’s “just keep swimming” philosophy. Put your head down, and keep moving one step at a time.

Aromatherapy. Essential oils have amazing properties! Lavender is a relaxing oil with a pleasant smell, but there are lots of others. Be sure to get a good quality oil. I have used Young Living Oils for decades, and I also like Rocky Mountain Oils. I made a roll-on blend of Roman chamomile and lavender in organic almond oil for my granddaughter. I gave some to a friend for her baby, and she uses it as a perfume for herself, too. She says that it helps everyone stay calm!

Sleep! Getting enough sleep is always important, but it is essential when you are facing trying times. I know, it’s even harder to sleep when you are in the middle of turmoil. Do your best to keep a schedule, and get yourself into bed on time. When I’m upset, I sometimes let myself fall asleep on the sofa, which leads to a fitful night of sleep. I feel awful the next day! Do your best to get in bed and get up at regular times. It will help your outlook on life and increase your resilience.

Journaling. Writing things down is a great way to process information and gain some clarity. For me, it feels like a release of toxic emotions. I vent onto the paper and write any and all horrible things that I am thinking. It’s like I transfer most of the emotions from me to the paper, and I feel better. The emotions are still there, but not as intense as they were before. I have a note at the front of my journal of ickiness that instructs anyone who finds it to throw it away and take no heed of what I’ve written. It’s just me letting off steam.

Help others. We get a good feeling when we help others. It increases our sense of connection and takes our minds off our own problems for a while.

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It’s best to have a wide range of coping strategies. The list above is a good start, but it doesn’t include everything that you can do. If you enjoy a hobby, that can be an excellent thing to focus on. When I am completely overwhelmed, I take video game breaks. I will set a time for 15 minutes and play Plants vs. Zombies. When I play, my mind is completely focused on the game, and it gives me a break from worry and stress for a little while.

Keep in mind that even healthy coping mechanisms can be bad if taken too far. For example, if we exercise to the point of injury or constant exhaustion, we aren’t taking care of ourselves; we are abusing ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Try different coping mechanisms, and see which ones work for you. Absolutely reach out for help if you find yourself using negative coping mechanisms. Remember, you never have to face adversity alone!

Note: I’m re-running this series on resilience that I wrote back in April 2017.


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.

Resilience: Making Yourself Resilient Before It Rains

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resilience community

It’s hard to be resilient if you feel like you are constantly being bombarded by life’s events. A good way to create resilience is to create as calm a life as possible before we are caught in a downpour. I know, easier said than done, but we can create more order and peace than we have now.

A good measure of a calm life is Emotional Pennies. We only have so much of ourselves to give each day. Think of the emotional energy that you spend as Emotional Pennies. Imagine that you start each day with 100 Emotional Pennies. You can’t carry any over to the next day and the goal is to end up with as many Emotional Pennies as possible at the end of each day. The more pennies you have at the end of the day, the more energy you will have to enjoy your evenings and get a few things done.

Some common things that we spend emotional energy on are work, family, health, other people’s problems, spirituality, friends, and things over which we have no control. Your list may not have all these items, and it probably has quite a few more. Which of these are wise investments, and which are wastes of our Emotional Pennies? As a general rule, we want to avoid any situation that constantly drains our emotional energy with no hope of the situation improving or resolving.

A good test question to ask is “If I face this situation and invest some emotional energy into it, can I resolve it so I never have to put another Emotional Penny into it again?” It’s worth a try if you think you can improve things. If it turns out that you can’t, do everything possible to remove yourself from all Emotional Penny-sucking black holes.

When I coach people, the common black holes for Emotional Pennies are a lack of organization and routines, negative people, and a negative attitude. You may have different things that use emotional energy; the key is to identify and eliminate those things.

Count up how many Emotional Pennies you spend each day for a week. When I did this exercise for the first time, I was surprised to learn that I had spent all 100 Emotional Pennies on my son’s school before lunch most days. I spent some extra Emotional Pennies trying to fix the situation, but in the end, I decided to homeschool him for that year.

In addition to eliminating things that unnecessarily drain our emotional energy, we want to build some positive things in our lives to help us be resilient. One of the most important things to create is a community that we can depend on.

In general, I have done a terrible job of doing this. Thank goodness my sister and a few good friends were willing to jump in and help when I had brain surgery while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. You never know what rainstorm is going to fall on your head, and it’s an absolute necessity to have a community of family and friends who are ready to support you.

I did some training for the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC). A group of facilitators would go in and talk with community representatives about how to help military children who face quite a bit of adversity. My big takeaway from that training and the research of Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg is that to make it through adversity, children need support and hope. That’s what adults need, too.

We get our support from our community, and a big portion of our hope comes from it, as well. It’s important to have people around who tell us that it’s going to be okay at a time when we aren’t so sure about that ourselves. Hope requires a big picture perspective that is difficult to get on our own when we are mired in emotional turmoil.

We can also foster hope by creating a positive attitude. A positive attitude is something that we can choose and create. A great beginning is to notice the good things that happen each day. We are hardwired to notice and hang on to the negative events of life, so it’s important to intentionally notice the positive things.

In addition to noticing, put a positive emotion to the event. Here is a list of positive emotions from Dr. Barbara Frederickson: awe, interest, inspiration, serenity, amusement, gratitude, pride, joy, hope, and love.  Noticing and naming positive emotions is the first important step to creating a positive attitude and outlook. Research shows that an increase in positivity results in an increase in resilience.

Here’s a summary of what to do to create a life that makes you more resilient:

1. Get rid of unnecessary energy drains in your life. Getting organized can be a huge help.

2. Gather a community to support you. It can be family, friends, and your spiritual community.

3. Create a positive attitude. Begin by noticing the positive events each day and naming the positive emotions they evoke.

Resilience is a trait that we can cultivate, and creating a peaceful life is the first step because it gives us a firm foundation to stand on when adversity and change threaten to wash away the ground beneath our feet.

Note: I’m re-running this series on resilience that I wrote back in 2017. Life isn’t normal right now, but we can still check in on our Emotional Penny use. I find myself spending Emotional Pennies trying to maintain the same standards that I do during normal times. I keep reminding myself that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and it’s okay to relax my standards a bit. I’ve lowered the bar in all facets of life and feel less stressed for it.

 What are you spending Emotional Pennies on that you could let go of during this time of enormous stress and uncertainty?

We can still have community by phone and video. If you reach out and don’t get the response that you need, consider a therapist, coach, or counselor. Many are meeting clients virtually now.

 A positive attitude can go a long way – even during a pandemic. Noticing the small moments and naming the positive emotions that you feel can create huge shifts in difficult times.

Resilience: What is resilience?

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resilience intro

I did a series of blogs about resilience in April 2017 as part of “Kathy’s Bloom and Flourish Model.” It seems like a good time to rerun the series. Many of us are facing challenges that we’ve never seen or imagined. I know that I am. So here is information that will help us manage this crisis with as much ease and grace as possible.

Resilience

April showers bring May flowers! Sometimes it’s more than a little rain; it’s a deluge! This month we are going to talk about how to survive and bounce back from adversity. We will talk about how to create a foundation that will make us more resilient and also discuss some coping mechanisms that will help when we are caught in the middle of a downpour.

What Is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. It’s our capacity to bounce back when we are hit with adversity and change.

Resilience is different from grit which is another popular concept. Grit is perseverance, the ability to stick with something over a long period of time. It’s an admirable quality, but not what we are going to discuss right now.

We are going to talk about how to get through the April showers of our life so we can go on to bloom and flourish.

When facing adversity, we are often told, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That cliché is not true.  Without some coping mechanisms and a firm foundation, a trauma can indeed damage us. We don’t come out stronger. We come out weaker and broken.

However, there are things that we can do to make ourselves more resilient. We can learn and practice methods that will make us stronger. We will talk about creating a life that fosters resilience, and also coping mechanisms to use in the middle of a change or crisis.

Much of our resilience is determined by how we interpret the events that occur in our lives. Becoming aware of the emotional charge that we unnecessarily attach to events is the first step to becoming more resilient. It is a mental shift, and it can be life-changing.

Here is how our thought process works:

Event > Appraisal > Urge to Act > Action

First, we think about an event that is happening or could happen. Then, we appraise that situation or event, and we decide if it’s good, bad, exhilarating, scary, or calming. Once we appraise the event and attach an emotion to it, we have an urge to act. If we are angry, we might want to yell. If we are sad, we might want to cry. The emotion and the urge to act are closely tied and happen very quickly. Sometimes, the action follows before we stop to consider the consequences.

The event is just an event. It isn’t inherently good or bad. For example, public speaking isn’t inherently scary or fun, but people attach those emotions to it. Isn’t it fascinating that one event can be appraised so differently? It’s important to remember that public speaking is just talking in front of people, and the emotional charge is something we add to it.

We can get rid of a lot of stress if we can neutralize the emotional charge that we attach to things. For example, let’s say someone pulls out in front of me on the highway. It’s just an event – not good or bad. I get to appraise that event. I can get angry at the person’s carelessness or I can accept that we all pull out in front of someone sometimes. It’s just a part of driving.

I get to decide whether or not to charge the event by attaching a strong negative emotion to it. Stress isn’t caused by an event; stress is caused by our reaction to an event.

[This reminds me of the difference between the order to “Stay at home” and considering myself “Safe at home.”]

Sometimes all it takes to get rid of an emotional charge is to notice that we are feeling a strong negative emotion, name it, observe where we feel it in our bodies, and then take a deep breath. Observing ourselves re-engages our neocortex and gives us a chance to respond intentionally instead of as an immediate reaction to a feeling.

The awareness of our reaction to an event and the subsequent intentional choice of how to view the event is the first step to becoming more resilient. For example, the loss of a job can be scary and overwhelming. It will lead to some tough times and decisions. The loss of a job is also an opportunity to create a new life, perhaps in a new place. We determine whether our situation is a hopeless crisis, a grand adventure, or something in between. The important thing to remember is we get to choose.

[Now we get to choose how we react to a global pandemic! It’s planet-wide and very personal. I already see that my challenge is not reacting to my family from a place of stress and worry. I am choosing to take a breath, lower the bar for my daily expectations, and savor moments in an unrushed way. Everyone will remember their experience of COVID-19 and how we made them feel during it. They will not remember whether the furniture was dusted and everyone spotlessly clean. They will remember if they felt safe, loved, and supported. That is my choice.]


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.

 

60th Birthday Reflections

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60 bday 1K

Today is my 60th birthday. Birthdays that end in “0” make us want to reflect on our lives and our accomplishments. I am no exception – and I have more time than usual for some introspection. Here is my list of life lessons learned:

1. Let kindness and honesty be your guides. These two considerations must be taken together. Brutal honesty all the time is not kind, and not necessary. On the flipside, we can believe that leaving someone in the dark is kind, but honesty is usually much better. There is a balance to consider.

I keep way more things to myself than I did in my younger years. No one wants or needs to hear my opinions on every little thing. However, sometimes I feel a need to speak up. The questions I ask myself are: “Will knowing this help the other person in the long run?” and “Am I saying it for them or for my own ego?”

Everyone has to make their own decisions on how much honesty is kind. I tend to lean toward truth and appreciate it when others do the same with me. In my experience, people figure stuff out eventually. When they discover that you’ve known all along, there is a breach of trust that can never be fully repaired. Trust is the commodity of relationships.

2. Exercise self-control. Exercise is the appropriate word here because the more we use our self-control, the stronger it gets. Without self-control, we can’t honor #1 on the list because we are always blurting and giving in to our ego’s needs.

The big regrets that I have in life are when I lost my temper and lashed out at someone. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but I still feel bad about a few times when I lost control and yelled at my children when they were young.

3. Self-care is crucial. We cannot exercise self-control and make intentional choices around kindness and honesty if we don’t take care of ourselves. My biggest losses of self-control happened when several things in life were not going well. Stress puts us on edge and robs us of our ability to see the big picture and choose our words and actions wisely.

The antidote for stress is self-care, which will look different for each of us. For some people, self-care includes running or walking. For others, it means writing or drawing. We all need to have more than one self-care technique in our lives that allows us to center and regroup. Meditation is one great self-care technique that has tons of research proving its benefits.

4. Spend your emotional pennies wisely. I try not to spend emotional pennies on things that I cannot influence or control. If I can control it, I can change it. If I can influence it, I must decide if changing the thing is worth the emotional pennies that it will cost.

The most helpful phrase for me when conserving emotional pennies is “the chair is a chair.” You can read my blog on the quote from Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith. Basically, it means that certain people and situations are not going to change, and it’s best for me if I accept that.

5. Connect with others. I learned this one late in life. We humans crave connection with each other. I have always accepted the value of rugged individualism and was determined in my youth to make it on my own. Sixty years have shown me that it is impossible to make it on your own. Success happens with the support of a community.

Happiness also happens with the support of a community. The micro-moments of positivity we share with others are one type of building block we need to build a positive outlook on life.

6. Prepare for the worst, but expect the best. I am a firm believer in being prepared if everything goes to hell in a handbasket. However, I don’t believe in dwelling on the possibility. It’s important to assess, prepare, and then focus on a positive outcome that we want.

I ordered gloves and masks well before there was a shortage and then went on not thinking about it. I bought an extra six-pack of toilet paper at the grocery store while plenty was on the shelf but didn’t stress about it.

On a grander scale, when I was a stay-at-home mom, I put the utilities in my name to build credit. I went back to school and got my MBA. My goal was to be able to jump to self-sufficiency if anything happened to my then-husband. He would get irritated with me and insist I expected the worst of him. I pointed out that he could be hit by a bus on any given day. The fact that he was in the Army made his demise more likely than many others.

However, I never dwelt on the possibilities of my ex’s death or infidelity. I just prepared for the worst and went on living life and expecting everything to go well. The worst did eventually happen. I am grateful for a life of not expecting it – and for being prepared so I could move to self-sufficiency with relative ease.

7. Work to be vulnerable and loving despite the cruel blows that you will suffer. First, everyone suffers cruel blows in life. Cruel blows are a part of life. I’ve learned that it’s best to expect them and to not take them as personal affronts. Suffering disappointment, humiliation, and failure makes us human and more empathetic to the plight of others. Suffering is also an opportunity for growth.

And if you just scoffed or huffed at me, I totally get it. It sounds like a superficial platitude to me, as well, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I chose the word “work” for a reason. As far as I am concerned, putting my heart out on the line, knowing it will be crushed again, is work. It’s not easy at all and it’s a constant challenge.

Brenė Brown’s research on vulnerability helps me. She talks about the courage required to put yourself out there as a possible target for ridicule and deception. Maintaining that courage is work, but it’s worthwhile work. We cannot live a life full of joy and accomplishment if we live safely protecting our hearts. She talks a lot about this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

As I look back over the last 60 years, I haven’t been timid very often, but I have become bitter at times. Since I’m reviewing things that greatly influenced how I live, I feel I must include these charts from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church.

Men's Journey (Rohr)

Women's Journey (Rohr)

Side note: These graphs depict different paths for men and women. I believe that this is because of how we are socialized, not because of major, inherent differences. I also hope that younger women find that their path is not so different as the one Rohr describes for men. I can’t speak to their experiences, but the graph resonates with me and my experience in many ways.

I discovered these graphs in my oldest son’s coat pocket when I was in my late 40s. (I was about to wash his coat per his request – not snooping!) They changed the trajectory of my life. I could see clearly that if I did not change, I was headed for the Embittering Journey, and I didn’t want to end my life bitter and resentful. I worked to embrace joy and acceptance.

Now at 60, I find myself in danger of becoming the “Witch on Her Broom” who is filled with rage. The last bit – “going nowhere – except to blame others and protect herself” – is a particular danger for me right now. That’s why Brown’s writings about vulnerability resonate with me.

My life lessons list, which is as much a list of goals for living my life as anything else, is a result of wanting to become a Holy Fool. I want to “live with paradox and mystery, with compassion and forgiveness.”

I know all of those things are mine if I make some intentional choices. I love the Magic Wand of Destiny!


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 PERSONAL Integrity Test of COVID-19

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Last week I talked about the importance of businesses maintaining customers’ trust during the current pandemic. Now, I want to get a little more personal. Let’s talk about our actions as leaders. So far, many of the examples during this crisis are not good.

The most heinous and trust-busting actions have come from our elected officials. There is a group of senators who knew of the coming pandemic. Did they take actions to prepare the United States of America? Did they consider the health of their own constituents? Nope. They sold stocks. They knew the market would crash, and they took care of themselves and a few wealthy donors.

In case you aren’t clear, this is horrendous leadership behavior. It is actually outrageous. Our response to this sort of action by our leaders should be outrage! Leaders have power, and with great power comes great responsibility. I cannot think of a punishment great enough for people who put personal monetary gain over the health of people depending on them. Seriously. This is an epic leadership fail for the ages.

The examples go down in the seriousness of their consequences, but not the display of bad judgment. Jeff Bezos owns Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, and he makes $8,961,187 an hour. He sent out a memo to Whole Foods employees, urging them to share paid time off with employees who become ill. Hmmm. This is a double-whammy of bad judgment.

First, grocery store employees are part of our frontline. We all need food and depend on grocery stores to provide it. Bezos can easily afford to cover paid sick leave for anyone who falls ill during the pandemic. In this instance, he is not taking care of the people who create his wealth or earning their loyalty or trust.

As a Whole Foods customer, I feel he isn’t doing much for me, either. He is encouraging people to work while they are sick, because no one wants to go without pay if they can avoid it. As a result, he is putting my health at risk by not ensuring that only very healthy people are handling my food. He has lost my trust as a customer, as well. He doesn’t seem to think that I or his employees matter very much.

I get a lot of emails from what I call the “Woowoo Community.” Some of the people in it have made a lot of money helping people feel better about themselves and even feeling better through alternative health options. I’m seeing a lot of “We’re in this together, so I am offering my deal at half off.” Hmmm. How generous. These are people who claim to care about my well-being but are really looking at the pandemic as a marketing opportunity. Shame on you! Offer your deal for free if you really want to help. Otherwise, keep it the same price and stop pretending that you care about my well-being.

I could go on and on with truly outrageous examples of poor leadership during this time of vulnerability. I think that it is high time that we got outraged about a lot of it! Leaders acting without integrity is one of the things that pushes my buttons and invites me to throw a lot of emotional pennies in a very forceful way. I’m working on using my emotional pennies in ways that will move us all forward to a good outcome. Sometimes it’s about using emotional pennies wisely for a good cause, not trying to avoid spending any at all.

However, there are some bright spots out there. One is Brené Brown. A recent Facebook post from her is below. I agree with her assessment and advice 100%.

brene brown FB

Down on the frontlines, there are examples of humans being humane. These are true leaders. All of our healthcare workers and their families are making great sacrifices for the greater good. One of our local mayors is working tirelessly, and with a little ferocity, to make sure people don’t go hungry. Someone in my condo association put up a message offering to deliver food or run errands for anyone unable to go out. Even those who stay home are showing integrity and care for others. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to face ourselves without any distractions.

Here is the bottom line:

  • Leaders with great power have a huge responsibility to use that power for the good of all – not just personal gain. I don’t mind people making money, but it should never be at someone else’s expense. And no one should ever receive personal gain through the abuse of power given to them as an elected official.
  • Those of us without great power can make a difference by holding leaders responsible for their actions. It’s important that we call out outrageous and unacceptable behavior.
  • Lastly, we can help. We are all leaders, and as Brené Brown says: “Our choices affect everyone around us. There is no such thing as ‘individual risk’ or ‘individual wellness.’”

Our best choices are kindness, compassion, and a dogged determination to ensure our leaders – with power and information that we do not have – act appropriately for the good of us all.


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 Integrity Test of COVID-19

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Since all of our lives have been turned topsy-turvy in one way or another by COVID-19, I feel compelled to write about it. If nothing else, the newly-declared pandemic is testing our mettle and our integrity. I sincerely hope that those two things are all that get tested and that the measures we are taking help us avoid the horrible moral dilemmas faced by Italian doctors.

The Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has published guidelines for the criteria that doctors and nurses should follow when deciding whom to treat and whom to abandon. They simply do not have the resources to take care of every critically ill person. It reads like a triage recommendation for wartime. They are urged to treat those with the best chances of survival. Of course, that means that people like me – a few weeks shy of 60 years old with a bit of mild asthma and a few platinum coils in my brain – would literally be left for dead.

My survival and the survival of many of my fellow Baby Boomers depends on us not overwhelming the hospitals here in the United States. The best chance of preventing that catastrophe is for businesses and schools to shut down for a while – which can mean an enormous loss of income. I have already lost one speaking gig and am moving a two-day leadership seminar online. My income will be delayed for a while, but the situation is manageable for me.

Other organizations are not so lucky. For example, airlines are going to be hit hard. Sports teams have already canceled and lost significant income. Austin, TX, lost South by Southwest and the income generated by it for hotels, restaurants, and stores. Is the sacrifice worth the societal gain?

I’m reminded of the Tylenol scare back in 1982. Six people died in Chicago after taking Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide. I was 22 at the time, and I remember thinking that Tylenol was never going to recover from the scandal. As you well know, they did. They survived because they acted with radical integrity and did their best to protect consumers.

In addition to cooperating with legal entities, Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s parent company, ran national advertisements telling people not to take Tylenol capsules. The company did a recall that cost $100 million back in 1982 when recalls were unheard of. They also told consumers that they could trade in bottles of capsules for the harder-to-tamper-with tablets.

There was no evidence that any tampering happened outside Chicago. There were some copycat killers, but authorities knew pretty early on that the bottles had been bought, tampered with, and then replaced on store shelves. Despite that knowledge, Johnson & Johnson went ahead with the national recall.

They had 35% of the market share for pain relief before the murders happened. Their market share dropped to 8% immediately. However, one year later, they were back on top because they had maintained their customers’ trust and earned their loyalty with their admirable actions.

Instead of one company facing a crisis, many companies are now facing the same crisis caused by COVID-19. Many people are calling the closures and cancellations an overreaction. In my mind, the most important thing to maintain during this trying time is people’s trust. No one is going to trust an organization less for taking actions to protect people’s health.

I, for one, appreciate every person and organization who puts the greater good over their own profit. They will earn my loyalty and respect for however many years that I have left because they are working to keep me from being cast aside as a result of some poor doctor’s moral dilemma about who is the “right” person to save.


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.

 

Integrity and Your Golden Ruler

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Integrity meme

NOTE: This is a blog that I wrote back in 2015, but the topic has come up a lot lately.

We are happier, more confident, and more successful when we live in alignment with our values. Imagine a ruler that shows the values that are most important to you. I call mine my Golden Ruler.

Ideally, we want to hold each action that we are considering against our Golden Ruler and see if the action is in alignment with our values. For example, kindness is one of my main values. I want to be kind and be known as a kind person. However, I have a tendency to be a little snarky and sarcastic sometimes. I’m hilarious when I’m snarky, but the laugh is short-lived and I don’t feel good about the action because it’s not in alignment with my values. If I stop and ask myself, “Am I about to say something unkind?” I am measuring my possible action against my Golden Ruler. I feel better about myself and my life when my actions are in alignment with the values of my Golden Ruler.

In my leadership seminars, we talk about our values quite a bit. It’s important to know what your Golden Ruler looks like! We talk about how we want to be remembered when we are gone and what qualities we want to define us. We talk about specific examples of how we live those values. Then I ask them to tell a partner about one time when they didn’t live their values.

Without fail, everyone has to tell the story around the action. They explain why they “had” to do what they did that one time. They RATIONALIZE the behavior. That’s the red flag. If you hear yourself rationalizing a behavior, you are convincing yourself to go against your own values. You aren’t rationalizing behavior that goes against my values or your neighbor’s values, you are rationalizing to yourself in order to make it OK to violate your own values. This was a major revelation for me.

The concept really hit home for me when I was working with a particularly difficult group. This group was always late. Management did not support the training. People drifted in and out and no one really paid attention. It was the worst group I ever encountered in a decade of training in industry. When I was getting ready for one of our sessions I thought, “Why am I bothering to prepare? They are never on time. They don’t really care. There is no good reason for me to spend time prepping for them.” Wow. Then it hit me. Being prepared and professional is important to me; it’s who I am! I was letting other people’s actions and attitudes influence my actions. I was letting them influence who I was and how I showed up in the world. Scary!

The phrase I use in leadership workshops is “Rationalization is bad judgment’s best friend.” We use bad judgment when we violate our own code of conduct and make it OK by rationalizing it. Rationalizing a behavior helps us sidestep that fact that we are using bad judgment.

Acting in alignment with the values on our Golden Ruler is acting with integrity. We are doing what we feel is right no matter what the circumstances are. Integrity is a solid, constant thing that lives within us. We are happier, more fulfilled, and more successful when we remember that we have the power to choose our actions no matter what the rest of the world is doing.


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.

Better to Be Warm or Competent?

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businesswoman leader welcomes you with a handshake in her group

Research shows that we determine how we feel about leaders based on two factors: how lovable they are, and how fearsome they are. These two dimensions account for 90% of the impression that a leader makes on us.

Lovability includes things like warmth, communion, and trustworthiness. Fearsomeness includes strength, agency, competence, and confidence. According to a Harvard Business Review article by Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut, and John Neffinger (titled “Connect, Then Lead”), we care about these two qualities because they answer two important questions:

  1. What are this person’s intentions toward me?
  2. Is he or she capable of acting on those intentions?

I know many leaders who actively work to project strength and competence. I don’t see as many who worry about how warm they seem. According to the research, they are missing the boat.

Leaders who are competent but lack warmth can elicit envy in others. Envy creates both respect and resentment. We will follow that type of leader but judge any missteps harshly. In addition, we don’t trust leaders who don’t seem to care about us. We are more likely to fear them, and fear makes us less creative and less resilient. A leader who inhibits people’s problem-solving abilities can’t be classified as extraordinary.

The research shows that it is better to start with warmth in order to create a positive and lasting influence. Our personal needs are to be listened to, understood, and respected. When leaders meet those personal needs, they help to create trust and the positive relationships upon which great leadership depends.

I found one study by organizational psychologists Andrea Abele and Bogdan Wojciszke particularly telling. When leaders were asked what type of training they would like for themselves, they chose training based on competency and skills. When asked what training others should take, they picked soft-skills training.

In another experiment, they asked leaders to describe an event that shaped their self-image. They listed achievements that highlighted their competency and knowledge – things like earning an advanced degree or a pilot’s license. When asked to describe a similar event for someone else, they chose something that focused on the person’s warmth and generosity – things like volunteer activities and helping others.

I’m not sure why we don’t value compassion and generosity in ourselves. Maybe we believe that we have it already. From working with scores of leaders, and quite a bit of work on myself, I know that we rarely have an accurate self-image.

Here is a quote from “Connect, Then Lead” that helps to explain the power of warmth:

“But putting competence first undermines leadership: Without a foundation of trust, people in the organization may comply outwardly with a leader’s wishes, but they’re much less likely to conform privately – to adopt the values, culture, and mission of the organization in a sincere, lasting way. Workplaces lacking in trust often have a culture of ‘every employee for himself,’ in which people feel that they must be vigilant about protecting their interests.”

The authors are describing psychological safety! One of my favorite soapbox topics! Without psychological safety, teams, groups, and organizations cannot excel. The authors tell us that one way to promote psychological safety is to lead with warmth and show people that we care about them.

They describe the ideal as a “Happy Warrior” who starts by showing warmth and then demonstrates their competence and strength. Cuddy, Kohut, and Neffinger write, “Happy warriors reassure us that whatever changes we may face, things will work out in the end.” Not many people love change, but we face it with more ease when we believe that our leader has our back.

The bottom line is that we willingly follow leaders whom we trust to have our best interests at heart and who also have the strength and competence to be effective.


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.

Don’t Yuck My Yum

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I recently came across the phrase “don’t yuck my yum” in a third grade classroom. I had to ask what it meant. The explanation that I got went something like this: If you tell me that you like Pokémon cards and I say that Pokémon cards are stupid, I am yucking your yum.

At first glance, it seems pretty straightforward. I might translate it to “Don’t rain on my parade.” Whether it’s a yum or a parade, we don’t like people belittling us for liking something. I found a great video about the effects of childhood yucking-someone’s-yum here.  We are shaming and shoulding on others when we yuck their yum. Not cool.

However, I am a curious and cantankerous person by nature, and I began thinking about all the angles of yucking a yum. Does that mean that I cannot express an opinion about something that you like if I don’t share your enthusiasm? Must I pretend to like what you like so I don’t hurt your feelings?

I’m afraid that I am guilty of yucking a lot of yums if stating that I don’t like something fits the criteria. To me, I am stating a fact. You like it, I don’t. No big deal. A friend and fellow coach confirmed my feeling on the issue. She said, “Sometimes I tell you about a recipe that I like, and you say that it has too many steps and ingredients for you to do it. I know that you don’t like to cook, and I don’t feel like you are inferring that my recipe is bad or that you disapprove of my liking to cook.”

However, not everyone is a fellow coach who doesn’t take things personally. I can see how a sensitive person or a person who doesn’t know me well could feel that I’m yucking their yum when I state that I don’t like something. I am going to be a little more aware of how I share my opinions in the future, but I do believe that we are all entitled to our feelings and opinions!

The difference is whether we are sharing how we feel about something or dissing the something in question. I can say that I don’t enjoy playing Pokémon, and that’s fine. I can say that Pokémon cards are stupid, not fun, and only babies play the game; that is not fine.

Another thing to consider is: Do we have to share our opinions all the time? Must I tell you what I like and don’t like? We can build positive relationships by being curious about a topic, even if we don’t like it ourselves. I could ask, “What is your favorite Pokémon card?” or “What is the best part of playing the game?” I might find I could like it more than I initially thought. I don’t have to tell the person that I don’t care for it right off the bat.

So let’s go to the other extreme: I really like you, and I’m trying to build a relationship with you, so I never yuck your yum or tell you that I don’t like stuff that you like. I am not being authentic. In fact, I could be misleading you quite a bit about who I am. If you like to hike and I just go along with you in order to be with you, there may eventually come a time when I’m tired of pretending and tell you that I don’t like to hike. You would probably be surprised and a little hurt that I had, not lied exactly, but not been totally honest.

From a leadership and relationship perspective, yucking someone’s yum is like most leadership and relationship concepts – it requires awareness of the situation, emotional intelligence, and some good judgment. Most of the time if someone is telling us about something that they like, we can just get curious and ask questions. If they ask us to join them, then we can state that, although it’s wonderful that they like it so much, we would not be interested. Not yucking someone’s yum is a worthy goal – and it doesn’t mean that we must be inauthentic or not set boundaries.


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.