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- The Secret Leadership Skill: Connection
What do Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have in common? They are tangible vehicles for people to connect in a disconnected world. Certainly, Facebook has become the famous/infamous website for people of all ages to share something about themselves in the hopes of finding like-minded souls somewhere in the Universe. Instagram allows a quick picture of something that captures your imagination. And Twitter is—well—just that: character-controlled tweets to make a point and hopefully, become shared. All are indicative of our times. Research now concludes that most Americans report having fewer friends and colleagues with whom they feel close. There’s a sense of aloneness and disconnection despite the growth of instant messages and chat rooms. What is missing is REAL human interaction: conversation! The ability to listen, to question, to empathize, to laugh, and to understand the subtle signs of nonverbal interaction that are indicators of emotional intelligence. People don’t follow leaders who write e-mails. They follow leaders who care about them as human beings, have an ability to clearly paint a picture of the future, tell the truth, and accept feedback and ideas from others. These are skills to be learned, practiced, and honed. To help in this process, I’ve written a small, east-to-read book with simple connection concepts and actions. Talk Ain’t Cheap—It’s Priceless is perfect not only for your own benefit but for everyone who has any kind of leadership responsibility. Wouldn’t you rather talk to your valuable employees and learn what will keep them engaged and connected to your organization? Ignore this simple human connection and you might very well find they’ve left—physically or mentally. Sign up for my eZine "The Resiliency Report" and we’ll send you the digital copy for free. As E.M. Forester wrote, “Just connect!” You have no time to waste.
- Gratitude: Seasons of Grace
And for this we give thanks… Spring: express gratitude for our sheer existence—the wonders of nature, seasonal cleaning of our spirit’s house and grateful sweat. Summer: move from amazement and attentiveness to seeking out, exploring, and cultivating occasions for gratitude. Find realms of the sensory-beauty, recreation, and rest. Don’t forget the aliveness of children. Autumn: harvest the fruit of earlier seasons. Gifts of growing into an authentic life. How we nurture the stories that shape our lives and lead us into gratitude. Winter: envision our grateful self going into the world, multiplying, and strengthening our connections—explore intimacy, community, a fully human life. The surest path to an ever-renewed sense of being alive is through gratitude. The groundwork of any gratitude practice is opening to wonder, recovering the ability to be astonished. This means slowing down and noticing. Remember: hidden mercies crop up in ordinary life.
- Who will mourn you?
The call came yesterday: Glenna Salsbury, an enduring influence in the speaking profession, died after many years battling cancer. Even though many of us knew that Glenna’s amazing fight against cancer had surpassed all odds, the shock still put many of us in a tailspin. What struck me was but another lesson from Glenna’s life is this question: who will mourn you? Glenna didn’t create technology to revolutionize our work, bring peace to our fractured world, or rescue orphans. However, when she was able to attend our conferences, the lines of people to have a few words with her was immense. WHY? The reason: Glenna made every single person feel as if they were the most important person in the world. Her attention was single focused on the person in front of her. Glenna’s brown eyes would stare intently, ignoring anything else around her except that one person. She’d ask critical questions, nod in agreement, laugh when appropriate and end with a hug. There are literally hundreds of my colleagues who mourn her death. As I ponder the fact that more years are behind me instead of in front of me, Glenna’s life offers me hope. I don’t have to do great things. My first task going forward is to make sure that I treat everyone I meet as a special, important person. What about you?? “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.” – Richard Puz
- Boo-tiful Can be Beautiful
My street is a fairly “old” street”. Folks on it are grandparents, empty nesters, and the like. Thus—when a new family moves in with—CHILDREN—the world changes. Add two adorable tabby kittens and all manner of fun begins. It started with the kittens who suddenly appeared, scrambling over our concrete wall and meowing to be let into our house. Actually, they wanted a quick cuddle, a scratch on the head and then “off” to explore. They wore collars but no name. With coyotes in the neighbor, I picked one up and started to walk the streets to find the owners. Where did these kitties come from? It was then I discovered Quinn, an adorable two-year-old who literally grabbed my legs and demanded to be picked up. Who was this child and where did she belong? (I’ll admit, when a toddler puts her head on your shoulder and pats your back, you are in no urgent hurry to find Mom.) Have you ever felt that way—so taken by a child that all work and worry vanishes? I sat Quinn down and she took my hand to lead me to a house that had been outfitted for Halloween. Huge air-filled witches, pumpkins, and skeleton bones covered the grass. And squeezing through the lattice gate came my tabby kittens. For privacy reasons, I won’t post a picture of Quinn or state the home address. But perhaps, you might smile at your recollections from long ago when a child, a holiday season, decorations—and maybe even kittens—pulled your heart into a place of delight. I hope so. It’s boo-tiful
- Three Tools That Will Help Your Business Survive a Recession (and burnout)
Building resiliency in business. This is no easy task. In fact, it took me years to reach a place of resiliency in my small business, especially because I, like many entrepreneurs, subscribed to "hustle culture." When I first started my business, I looked to my peers and to the internet for examples of how to run a business and what entrepreneurship *should* look like. I wanted to know what I should expect from business ownership and what was expected of me as a business owner. In the early days, I was consumed by the excitement of running the business. Naturally, I did everything myself, as is common for new solopreneurs. Each project or task was small and easily managed by one person. But that made me vulnerable to change, including growth. Three years in, I was burnt out. Each task and project had grown significantly, but I was still doing it all, myself. It made my output vary widely — some days I was on the ball, others I could hardly lift a hand to type. I had no insurance within my business to guarantee its healthy growth. It was scaling that turned everything around. Sadly, we don't talk about business scaling for small businesses. It's a word that tends to be thrown around when talking about unicorn startups and Fortune 500 companies. And so, founders like me don't transition from doing everything into the CEO visionary stage of running a business. With over 70% of small business owners burning out, with many abandoning their vision for making the world a better place, this is a cost far too high. I had tried everything else, so I tried scaling as my last-ditch effort before giving up on my vision. During the next year, my business blasted through the six-figure ceiling, but my typical workweek transformed from a weekly 70hr grind to 10hr simplicity. I eventually sold that business and now spend my time teaching others how to scale to build true resilience into their businesses. As we enter a recession, resiliency in business is even more important. Here are the three things you can do to build resiliency into your business, even during a recession. I call them the Three Pillars of Business Scaling™. 1. Automate I guarantee you are doing too much inside your business. It's your baby and it's hard to let go of things, especially if you don't know how to retain a level of quality to the work. But technology is so good these days that it can take an enormous amount of work off your plate while still producing stellar results. This is how business owners make money in their sleep — heck yeah! The best part is (as if that wasn't cool enough) that most automation apps, like Zapier, start at free. That's right — we can use technology to take work off your plate (and get your time back) for FREE. That means that your profit margins will expand since there is less for you to do! Woo hoo! 2. Systematize I know you've heard this one before — systems, systems, systems. Here's the thing: you can't use the Scientific Method of Business™ if you don't have good systems. What's that? Think back to grade school. The Scientific Method was something we learned that helped us study an "if / then" statement. "IF I combine hydrogen peroxide and vinegar in equal parts THEN it will bubble and fizz in a very satisfying way," for example. The Scientific Method is repeatable, well-documented, and study-able. So should be your business! All business is theory, an educated guess. You believe that IF you put out a well-thought-out product, THEN people will buy it. IF you post daily on social media THEN clients will come your way. But are they? Document your systems and begin studying them. You'll notice if the recession effects one of your systems a whole lot sooner and you'll be able to pivot nimbly. An added bonus is that your mind will be free to be the visionary once again. 3. Hire Before you start rationalizing that added business expenses aren't resilient, let's review. We automated a good deal of your work, most (if not all) for free. Your margins grew. You had more time for self-care to avoid burnout and to conduct more business development so your business grew. You then systematized your business, so it was study-able using the Scientific Method of Business™ so your work got even better, was worth more, and you were able to raise your prices while retaining more clients. So, your business is more profitable and has more revenue. I think you can hire. 😉 By that I include using the globalized society we live in to hire in a financially favorable way for your business — either by outsourcing the tasks you hate or hiring a team where the exchange rate saves you money. This was the final step that got me to a 10hr workweek and cleared my plate of the stuff I hated while offering more specialized services to my clients. So, what could the Three Pillars of Business Scaling™ do to build resilience for your business? I offer a free course to help you implement them in your business, and I'd love to help! https://scalinglab.group.app/courses/scaling-minicourse Veronica Kirin is a serial entrepreneur who sold her tech company in order to teach fellow small business owners what she had achieved: the 10-hour workweek. She customizes her Three Pillars of Business Scaling for each of her clients so they can reduce their time exposure and build the structures necessary to grow their business exponentially (aka. Build an Empire). She is also the author of the award-winning anthropology book “Stories of Elders” and creator of the Stories of COVID research which documents the pandemic in real time. She has been named a Forbes NEXT 1,000 Entrepreneur and BEQ's 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40 and has spoken at two TEDx events.
- Retreat In Order to Advance
“The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. And only she who listens can speak.” I remember the thud in my stomach when I read these words by the late Secretary General to the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold. Here I was trying to grow a speaking and coaching business by surrounding myself with busyness, a constant influx of chatter, and an absence of any true internal “listening”. My business had not grown as I had hoped, everything seemed an effort, and I wasn’t getting the sense that my internal compass still pointed to truth north. I knew I needed to take time away. But there was so much to do. I hated giving up what little time I had at home since it took me away from my beloved husband Bill (yes, he meets all my criteria). This time, Bill insisted. And he was right. I have learned the value of taking a 3-day silent retreat so that I can rethink, renew, redirect, and refresh my choices. Amazingly, the family survives without me, no client disappears, and I return re-energized for the year. Many of us have difficulty with being alone. And silence scares us. In a world bombarded by sound, some of us promptly turn on the television or radio as soon as we enter an empty house. I have discovered the deep necessity for silence and alone time. Even if it means checking into a local motel, unplugging the phone, and ordering room service, choosing well demands that we spend time thinking and writing. Yes, writing. I am convinced we do not receive the full power of our thoughts when they stay only in our head. The writing is for you alone. Use a spiral notebook, a blank book, a yellow pad. But write in ink. Write the question you are trying to answer. Write free form all your thoughts and fears and dreams about that question. Wake up in the middle of the night and record a dream you have. Then read it back. Keep the notebook. Pick it up after some time has passed. You will be amazed at the wisdom found there—wisdom that sometimes we don’t get on the first reading our words. If you wish to learn more about journaling as a method for self-discovery, check out the Intensive Journal Workshops offers around the United States by facilitators trained in the Progoff Journal Workshop method.
- Retrain Your Brain for Resiliency!
It seems that our brains are hardwired to focus on negativity bias. Perhaps this is a throwback from the time our ancestors fought saber-tooth tigers and looked for enemies behind every tree. Dr. Rick Hanson from U.C. Berkeley says it’s “Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good.” But psychologist Hanson also teaches that our brains can be rewired through positive neuroplasticity training. Think of it this way: like developing muscle strength through repetition of lifting weights, our brains can develop new patterns through repetition of positive thoughts and experiences. We know that what fires together, wires together. Yes—we are rewiring our brains! Here are three practices you can start immediately: Stop the busyness and breathe. Seriously. Pause. For at least two minutes, just breathe. Notice what is working for you. Think of one thing you are grateful for. You are beginning to develop the skill now practiced in schools and in business: mindfulness! Here are two apps that might help: Focus Keeper and Insight Timer. I use the latter for setting time and selecting sound (ocean waves) for my mindfulness. Perform one random act of kindness. It can be as simple as throwing your neighbor’s paper to their front door, saying good morning to the store clerk or paying for the coffee of a stranger. Your heart and brain will thank you. Bless someone or something. This is not in the religious sense of the word—although you could. It is more like appreciating, honoring, extending compassion.
- GREAT Leaders are GREAT Storytellers
We follow leaders who capture us with stories that draw us in and give us purpose for being part of the company or movement. Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream”, was actually a compelling story that pulled many people into seeing possibilities. Don’t we all yearn for the person who could tell us a story about a world that works for everyone? We would have no close national elections if someone could articulate that story. We buy products when we see or read of the human experience with that product (remember the Maytag Man). And we accept the call to action if we hear a compelling story about triumph over odds. Think about the solicitation letters you get from non-profits. They are often stories of individuals who suffered greatly until the non-profit’s “product” allowed them to regain a semblance of their life. In short, crafting compelling, honest stories that resonant core values in action is a skill worth learning by any leader, manager, sales executive, or parent. In his best-selling book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, Robert McKee, the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer, argues that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living” not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.” Or as USC leadership guru Dr. Warren Bennis states: “Man cannot live without story any more than he can live without bread.” What’s the point you want to make at your next meeting? Is there a story that can be crafted to that point—not a sermon to be intoned? Who has used your product and reported a wonderful story that came as a result of that product? Or did you even say to your client, “Tell me a story about a time when—” What stories are told in the coffee room about what it is like to work where you are? What contribution could you make to this story that could improve the ending? What future do you want? Create a story about it. Remember, people are not inspired to act by reason alone. The heart holds hands with the head.
- Forget Busy. Become Purposeful.
Fully 90% of managers squander their time in ineffective activities. That’s the result of a 10-year research project studying the behavior of busy managers in nearly a dozen companies including Sony and Lufthansa. The researchers, Dr. Heike Bruch and Dr. Sumantra Ghoshal, term this “active non-action”. Focus and energy are dual drivers in overcoming such behavior. Focus is like laser lights concentrated on seeing a goal through to completion. Today’s environment demands that effective managers move business forward in innovative ways, not merely push paper, send out memos or attend meetings to maintain the status quo. Energy results from a personal commitment to a goal that has meaning and passion. One must have both. Here are some steps to increase focus and energy: Take deliberate, thoughtful action toward a goal. Procrastination promotes paralysis. Tell the truth. Don’t deny problems or let the pessimism of others to sabotage a project. It’s not enough to be busy. What are you busy about? Beware of distractions and over-commitment. Pick battles wisely. Fighting everything will drain energy. Guard your time by erecting boundaries during certain parts of the day. Being available 24/7 does not create time to reflect and refocus. Exercise, play golf, garden—whatever allows you to regroup, refuel, and reenergize. Extend your influence, build networks, manage whatever will promote LONG-term results. Gain support by engaging people with the urgency and vision but allow them choices as to how they will meet the challenges and derive personal meaning. “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” – Lin Yutang
- Insights for Tough Times
In going through my article files, I came across this piece written at least 15 years ago. Funny how words from long ago suddenly appear even more true today. As we plunge into September, the back-to-school routine, the craziness and insanity of elections, and the economic uncertainty, I found insights here. Perhaps you will too! High Sierra Pause Just returned from one week above 10,500’: sleeping under the stars and clouds, battling mosquitoes and temps down to 25 degrees at night, plus gorgeous vistas and wildflowers. This year, while I wanted to go, I felt tremendously pressured by the economy and pending work NOT to go. After all it would be seven days without cell phone and email. What if someone needed me. Alas, no one did. Or let me reframe that—people figured out “stuff” on their own. In the meantime, I figured out “stuff” that might very well help me cope with the current recessionary times: No one should travel alone. In today’s crazy world, we NEED other people to share the decisions, the sights, the laughter, and the burdens. Who travels with you? Who has your back when the going gets rough? Don’t push the river. We crossed many a cold, rushing river this trip. I am not adept at standing upright and hopping across boulders that fit legs far longer than mine. The very force of the water intimidates me. But it is what it is. How often do I want something to be other than what it is. I push against reality instead of just accepting and leaning into it. Surrender to the now. How easy it was to suddenly find myself thinking about the work that had to be done when I returned. Every time my mind went there, I mentally pulled myself back. I realized I could do nothing about anything until I returned. NOW was all I could deal with. Great lesson to carry with me back at the base camp I call my office. And so… on your vacation, what lessons did you learn?
- Double Trouble
Surely that’s what Mom must have said when the doctor announced in the delivery room, “Wait. There’s another baby coming!” Actually, in those days, they put the mother on heavy knock-out drops and the only thing she can remember saying is, ”That means we’ll need another pair of skis.” We were born in Denver, Colorado. My twin John popped out first, followed by yours truly six minutes later. According to the birth certificate, we were healthy but tiny... a little over 4 lbs. Appropriately we were born on Labor Day! Each birthday, I must marvel at the odds of two eggs being fertilized. I marvel that we must have been cooing that special twin language even before our parents knew we existed. I recall how Mom said they had to put us into different classrooms in elementary school because they thought we were copying each other. Not so—call it a twin connection. John is the most generous, compassionate, loving, funny and brilliant twin on the planet—in my humble opinion. The fact that his students at Boston College vie to sit in his classes, write him after graduation, and seek his counsel says volumes. Even though John is now retired, they still reach out to him. How blessed I am to share this date with Professor John McDargh. Happy birthday, twinner.
- Seeing Is Not Believing
What started as a “simple” cataract operation that EVERYONE assured me was a “piece of cake”, has become a nine-month saga. From my eye not having strong or enough microfilaments to hold a pan optic lens, to cataract fragments that had to be removed, and now—a corneal procedure called PRK—I sit at the computer only focusing with my right eye. Blurry doesn’t even begin to describe the world as viewed from my left eye. Bill has become my personal “uber” driver (depth perception is off with only one eye). Using the computer makes huge demands on spell check and errors. And reading is—iffy. It’s easy to plunge into the worst possible outcome of not having all my sight back. I refuse to go there. Unlike the traditional adage: “I’ll believe it when I see it”, I’m concentrating on “When I believe it, I WILL see it.” I think this is a chance for me to focus on my other senses. I walk and listen to the birds. I taste the flavors of deep dark chocolate, a gift from the mighty medics I addressed at Fort Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, WY. I smell the salt air wafting from the ocean. I snuggle into the strong arms of my precious husband and feel his heartbeat. What sense might you open to this September?