All posts by Kay

Stop shooting from the lip

How to zip-it and give yourself breathing space

This is a tricky one for so many of us. Wait. Pause. Think a bit. Choose if you’re going to act; to respond. To ‘Zip it’ is such a useful little phrase and it’s easy to remember.

It’s so easy to assume we have to respond, to fire back after receiving a message, a phone call, and an email and just respond – straight away. Either ‘shooting from the lip’ or, when writing, ‘shooting from the fingertip’.

So, instead of the flaming arrow you might send which can end up costing a lot of time and money in confusion and back-tracking, why not try a bit of ‘Masterful inactivity’, which is zipping it in action, or really in chosen and considered inaction. One of my clients named it that and it’s perfect as a mindset. Masterful inactivity in action.

There’s a difference you see. Ignoring things has no energy to it. It’s passive. Whereas ‘Masterful inactivity’, has some energy about it. It’s a decision to wait; to pause; to Zip-It; sometimes to just wait and see how things pan out before responding or acting. Other times just to breathe or to sleep on it. Other times to just let it be and let the other person go or certainly let their ‘vibe’ quieten down.

Instead of responding to those flaming-arrow types of email or urgently urgent phone calls, wait. We have to recognise an emergency and act on it, of course, but most of the time others’ urgencies don’t have to become our emergencies, do they?

Often the person sending the message will either chase you up or – more often than not – call you to follow up or apologise. They often sort out the thing that they pounced on you to do and, if they don’t, then you now have a choice. By waiting, pausing – even if it’s just for 5 minutes – you also give yourself time to breathe. Take time to consider and you often take the energy, frustration and heat out of your own response.

When someone says something to you and you feel the ‘arrrgghh’ of frustration rise up or, often worse, the sarcastic voice which is so easy to use for your response, instead of going with it, wait. Pause. Sometimes you don’t even have to comment and it’s often far more powerful if you don’t. You remember to breathe and you wait. It’s like letting the air go out of it!

If you decide in that moment that you will adopt a bit of ‘masterful inactivity’ then you’ve made a decision as opposed to reacted. Different. The other person will often be surprised by your silence. Also as their own heat dissipates, they may re-think their decision or opinion. You, on the other hand, decided to just park it for a while.

3 tips to take on and try

  1. Be on the lookout for opportunities to adopt masterful inactivity today. When you open an email, read it and then maybe put it into a file you create called ‘Masterful Inactivity’. You can then keep an easy eye on when and how you respond, and it’s easy to keep track of any you decide to file here.
  2. Decide if you’re going to respond to someone or something. Notice how you decide. Are you thinking things through? Are you reacting to someone else’s crisis or demand at the price of your own concentration, your own flow? You may just decide to zip it.
  3. Notice other people and how they react or respond. You’ll realise that a lot of people do zip it and watch, wait and see. Watch how they do it and, depending on how you feel, ask them about it.

Not a new idea I know but it’s one that works. Seneca, the Roman philosopher (5BC – 65AD) said “It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.”

Enough said.

 

Just go to bed.

 Decide what works for you and then, politely go.

Have you ever said “Yes OK” when you know you mean “No way”? Well, I know I have and now, I rarely do.

Listening to a group of experienced, professional and successful women recently, the discussion was around how to go off to bed, go off and exercise, go off and be quiet, go off and sleep when you want to when you’re away on business. If you’re out either socialising or out at a work-related engagement, the question was how to manage your time and energy with other people pulling you in a direction and telling you what you ‘should’ do.

If this sounds familiar to you well firstly, you’re not alone and secondly you owe it to yourself and your precious life energy to learn how to decide what works best for you and then politely, assertively tell others that’s what’s happening. Not apologising or squirming in any way. Just assertively put a boundary around the time you need using your energy and a few key words.

You may be someone who is always up for one more drink, one more conversation, another game of cards, one more – whatever. That’s great and I really admire it, on one level. I find though, I get to a stage, especially when I’m travelling away from home, when I need to go off. Enough is enough and I’m ready for bed, for a rest, for a swim, to make a call, to be quiet.

I’m sure you know what I mean and then there’s the pull from others.

  • “Oh come on, stay and have another X” or
  • “Don’t be a party pooper, let’s go and have a Y” or – worse –
  • “Oh you’re so boring, we’re just getting going and you’ll miss all the fun”

Well, I know and use a few choice words, an energetic stance and then you can quietly – and assertively – go. I do.

Try these on for size if you imagine being at a conference, an event, a party and you’re told you must stay when you know it’s time to go:

  • “Thank you so much Amanda, I know you’ll have a brilliant time and I’m off to my bed so I can be on the ball in the morning. Have a great time” as you start to move, hold your hand out, smile and then, literally go.
  • “You have a drink for me Amanda and I’m going to go for a swim now so I can enjoy dinner together this evening. See you at the bar at 7pm” as you pack up your things, stand up and start to head away intentionally.
  • “I’d love to and thanks for asking me Amanda – I’m going to make a few calls first and then I may join you later” as you smile and move without apologising or feeling awkward.

What’s interesting in moments like these is how much better you feel being firm about what you want or need and not being told what you’ll do. You’ll also often find others wish they’d said the same thing as you but felt compelled to go along instead.

As a professional woman who knows building relationships is a key part of your success, you also need to know what you need. If it’s peace, space, rest, sleep then, it’s yours for the taking.

Going the extra mile when all you want it quiet is self-defeating and sometimes, as Walt Disney said “you have to leave them wanting more”.

Do you show them what you’re made of?

Remember your brilliance so others can reward you for it.

If you’ve ever heard yourself say any of the following, it gives us a sign you’ve forgotten some of the things that you’re really good at or you’ve forgotten some of the key pieces of your career and life journey.

If you ever think these things and then you don’t speak, you’ll know you’re undervaluing yourself or being undervalued or underselling yourself.

  • “I want to be taken more seriously”
  • “I’m often treated like a secretary rather than a director”
  • “I end up undercutting myself – I give people a price for my services or the salary I want and then I undercut myself and backtrack or apologise”

Are you able to hear one or more things you’ve either said or thought in there? I can promise you I’ve heard these phrases so many times in different formats, in different ways and places. I know just like I’m sure you do, that it’s because that person saying those things doesn’t own or express the value, the importance, the difference that their work makes. So, by definition, other people don’t appreciate it, feel how they value it or how valuable it is. how they think about it. It also tells me that they don’t recognise it for themselves. And by definition, they don’t recognise or ‘market’ their worth. Aha.

Now, I never really like to think about marketing myself but, let’s be honest – you do need to be offering yourself and putting yourself forward in the workplace. Showing people what you’re about. So, try this.

If you want to think about it in a marketing sense, think about a four-bedroom house an estate agent is selling and one of the bedrooms is being used as a study. If you’re going to try sell the house, you have to turn that study-style bedroom into a bedroom again because people will look at your house and value it as a three-bedroom house with a study rather than what it is that you’re truly offering which is a four-bedroom house.

They kind of know it on one level, but one of the bedrooms is a study and they’re not seeing it as a four-bedroom house. They have to see it. And an estate agent said to me, “Never underestimate how people need to be shown that fourth bedroom rather than have to imagine it or be told about it.”

It’s the same with you and me.

Never underestimate or assume people get how special and valuable what you do really is. They have to see it or experience it or have it shown to them. Clearly. Don’t assume they can see it for you. They rarely can.

Show them what you’re made of. You owe it to yourself. Why wouldn’t you maximise the opportunities which are so close sometimes you don’t see them? If you help others see your value, they help guide you towards the opportunities too.

My ex-colleague James saw my gifts more clearly than I did and guided me on to the path to where I am now. He asked if I’d heard of coaching back in 2005 when it was virtually unheard of here in the UK. He said I’d always been approachable, smart-thinking, curious and able to connect with people quickly. He guided me to take that first step to what I’m doing now. Pay attention to what people see for you. It’s often pure gold!

Watch Your Pace When Speaking

It affects IF or HOW people listen to you.

Pace, what do I mean by that?

Being used to hosting webinars, tele seminars and Live Events, so much is about your rate and your speed of delivery. So many clients of mine race through their content, their ideas, their input and, the truth is, a lot of the time they’ll be tuned out by those who they need to listen to them most.

People lose interests, they can’t process the information quickly enough so lose your thread, they aren’t given enough time or interest to stay tuned in. It makes a big difference to if or how people listen to you if you take the time – choose to take the time – to vary your pace. Your speed. Your way of delivery.

Now when I’m speaking on stage, on group client calls, I’m very conscious of pacing myself, and in pace also comes your speed of response. Your speed of speaking, your speed of action, and deciding on a non-action. Just as well as how and if you decide to speak or respond.

Here are 5 quick and dirty scenarios and tips to help you pace yourself day-to-day both at work and at home:

  1. When you’re asked a question, wherever you are, take a moment. Draw breath. Don’t just respond as if you’ve had a tennis ball fired at you. Choose what you’ll say. Buy time with “hmm, that’s a great question, in my opinion …” or “tell me more about what you want to know”. Pacing the other person at the same time. Aha!
  2. When you’re telling a story, wherever you are. Pause, speed up with detail and then slow down with the point, the lesson. It adds impact and it gives you a chance to catch up with yourself.
  3. When you’re on a conference call. Know the organiser’s name and use it as you jump in. “John, that’s a great point” not just “err can I just say something?”. Even better, “Hi there John, this is Kay White from London, this is how I think we should go” etc.
  4. From the stage/a presentation. When you’re introduced, take a moment. 2 or 3 seconds to steady yourself, look at people, give them a sign which says, “I’ll start when I’m ready” and it’s amazing the difference it makes. An experienced musician, a pianist for example, sits, looks at the keys, moves on the seat, takes a breath, then starts. Not leaping on stage and starting straight away. The moment needs build up and the pianist knows the audience needs to settle too.
  5. When you’re running a meeting. Rather than feel you have to know everything, ask questions around the table, use people’s names to hook attention and to keep people on track “with 10 minutes left, let’s move on to X” – pacing yourself and your colleagues at the same time.

There are a myriad of other scenarios and tactics you can use. You get the idea though.

Pacing yourself, slowing it down, positioning and settling yourself before you dive in with your thoughts is strategic. It gets and keeps attention and it helps you be more present to what’s actually happening. Now that really is strategic.

Gratitude: 2 Small Words Change Everything

The lessons are everywhere. Just notice.

It’s such a small thing to say ‘thank you’ and these two small words cost you absolutely nothing and yet make a huge difference to if and how people remember you – and respond to you. Thanking people is often the difference that makes the difference as to whether people do what you want, get back to you, take on your opinion and it certainly affects the actual way they do what you ask them to.

To be noticed and remembered for the right reasons, we need to make people feel appreciated. An easy, effective and natural way to make people feel you appreciate them is simply to look for more ways to say ‘Thank You’ to them and to say it more. It’s so simple and it works in so many ways.

Once we start to look for how and where we can be more grateful, more appreciative of what people do and are doing, not just for us but around us, you’ll discover loads more opportunities to say ‘thank you’.

  • ‘Thank you for your help’
  • ‘Thank you for letting me know’
  • ‘Thank you for thinking of me’
  • ‘Thanks in advance for doing that by Friday…’

Telling people you know they’ll do something and thanking them before they’ve done it, that’s where commitment and consistency, those powerful influencers, live.

‘Thank you’ also helps even if you don’t like what you’re being told. Try saying “ah, thanks for letting me know” or “hmm, thanks for telling me that, now what about etc.” If you say ‘thank you’ first, it means that the first thing you say isn’t negative and crucially, it buys you some precious time to decide what you do want to say.

Defined in the dictionary as ‘a polite expression used when acknowledging a gift, service or compliment or when accepting or refusing an offer’, saying ‘thank you’ for something you don’t want or don’t want to do is a really key piece in learning how to say ‘no’ without upsetting people. “Thank you for the opportunity and…”

There’s a great knock-on effect from saying ‘Thank You’ more of course. It makes you feel better too. It’s that whole ‘attitude of gratitude’ and it truly works. Simple.

So many people mutter to themselves ‘Well, they’re just doing their job’ ie why should I say ‘thank you?’ or tell me ‘I was so pleased with how they did that’ and yet when I ask the person ‘did you tell them you’re pleased?’ they invariably say the person was either doing what they were supposed to or they just assumed the person knew they were pleased. Uh oh.

A client told me recently that, as a service provider, when a customer phones her and says ‘thank you’ after she’s sorted things out for them, they immediately get better service from her next time they need her help.

As she then said ‘everyone likes to be appreciated, we’ve all got a lot going on’ and as William Arthur Ward, the famous American poet said ‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’

There you go, simple and easy. Thank you Amanda and I have a TON of Thank You notes to write after all the support, input, guidance and inspiration I’ve received recently!

7 Career Success Traits Learned from Bollydog

The lessons are everywhere. Just notice.

Dear Bolly may have passed on 3 years ago this month and it may sound whimsical or indulgent to share with you career success traits which I’ve learned from our hound but, I am. On a number of levels, I realise how many lessons we’ve learned having been owned by a dog for over 16 years and also realise what novices we were when we first rescued Bolly (or did he rescue us?) in 2002.

You can see on the day we took him into our home how we all had fewer grey hairs and laughter lines but what a lot of life we would live together.

Lurchers are intensively fit and eager creatures. They’re fast and yet they love nothing more than lazing about after a long walk. What came to me is how they operate on so many levels which have similarity in being successful in your career. At the same time, these traits map into our personal lives too. Success in one without success in the other is a life half lived, in my view.

Let me show you the 7 success traits I learned from Bolly – and all the other hounds following in his paws – and how they map across into your career:

1. It’s a marathon not a sprint. After intense periods of exercise and activity, take time to rest. Give yourself a break. Don’t just bounce on to the next task or list. Enjoy the satisfaction and reflection of what you’ve achieved or done and drop a gear for a while. Find a sofa.

2. Notice what you notice. Even though we go to the same park most days, as a hound there’s a curiosity and delight in being there each day. Never oh ‘here we go again’ which we can consider being ‘another day at the office’. A hound is always ‘Yay, we’re here. What’s going on I can explore?’ It’s easy to become cynical with a sense of having seen it all before. You haven’t. The landscape’s always changing. Are you noticing what’s going on and moving with the times?

3. Have half and ear and eye open. Always. It’s easy to assume everything’s as it seems. A hound has always got half an ear cocked. We can become complacent and assume all’s well and as it should be. In your career you need to keep an eye on the competition, your colleagues, the market and be part of the conversation rather than closed off. It’s where opportunity and career agility is to be found.

4. Live in the moment more. Seeing the joy from a hound when we come back into a room having only been out for a moment, when the lead comes out or we arrive at a new place is a great reminder of how easy it is for us to be focussing elsewhere and miss the moments happening right now. Being more present at work and at home as your colleagues and family share things with you is so key to connecting. Giving someone the gift of your presence is often hard with so many gizmos available to distract us. We tend to live in the tomorrow rather than the now and we miss so much as a result.

5. Have adventures but know your way home. Going off and chasing a squirrel isn’t necessarily what I mean but as a hound, that’s often what they do. In our careers, playing by the rules, always walking the path and saying the ‘right’ things isn’t where adventure and entrepreneurship is found. I’ve learned by pushing boundaries – your own and other people’s – you grow and expand and find more opportunity. Always, however, know where home is. Where your bread’s buttered. Where you’re loved.

6. Read energy, not only the words. As a hound, you don’t really understand words, they’re sounds which is why you can read your shopping list to a hound in a loving, fun voice and they get all excited. At work – and at home – it’s easy to miss what’s going on because you don’t pay attention to the energy people have as they speak. We’re often caught up in words and miss the message of a person’s energy, their body language, their handshake, eye contact. Hounds don’t. They watch you like a hawk and read your energy like a book. At work you can ask yourself “what’s this person’s energy telling me which they’re not saying?” and clues will be there for you to notice.

7. Remain curious and playful. Being up for things, being curious and sometimes silly is both infectious and good for the soul. Yours and the souls of those around you. Asking about people, what’s going on with them, how something’s working, what you can do to help – curiosity is a natural state of learning and so is having fun. Bolly was still playing with his trusty old Meerkat toys and chasing a stick right up to the end of his life. We often forget to be playful and take ourselves far too seriously. You know I don’t mean to be the court jester at work but to loosen up, laugh at yourself, play – and not just to win, just to play.

So, what I realise as I finish writing this is how useful lessons and analogies are everywhere for us to notice. In this case, using the words of a well-known UK advert “Be More Dog” is my message, both to myself and to you.

 

How to Embrace the Challenge of Change

Go with the flow of the opportunities and rise to meet them as they arrive.

It’s one of my go-to books. Each year I read ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Ken Blanchard which reminds me how to recognise change and expect it. Not to sit like a rabbit in the headlights and hold my head saying things aren’t fair.

Well, one of the only things you can rely on is that everything is shifting and changing all the time.

Relationships, market conditions, policies, who’s who, technology and why are we surprised?

When you consider what was important to you when you were 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 and so on – you can tell that for the most part, the key drivers for you have changed.

At 5 you probably wanted to have the newest popular toy, at 15 a boyfriend or girlfriend and good grades, at 25 more money to buy your own place, 35 a child or a partner (or a new partner) and so on. Your landscape changed, your desires changed or, as it says in the book, your cheese naturally moved.

When you take a look then at your workplace or industry these days, where companies have to be nimble and respond to market conditions to be able to stay in business, why would it be any different? One of the things I’ve learned is that there is no ‘job for life’ anymore and on some levels that’s a good thing. Companies can’t offer the certainty of it and nor can we, or should we, rely on it. That, in itself, gives us walk-ability. The essence being keeping your eyes and ears open to what’s going on as well as your mind open to how it works for you. Not if, but how? If you don’t believe you want to make it work then that’s where your opportunities to move your cheese lie. They lie with you.

As it says in the book “Every company wants to survive in the future but also stay competitive. While in the past we may have wanted loyal employees, today we need flexible people who are not possessive about ‘the way we do things around here’”.

Here’s a simple set of incisive questions I ask myself and my clients when we see change (another) on the horizon:

  • Where are the opportunities in here for you?
  • What will you have to let go of to embrace the opportunities?
  • What will be the threats?
  • What’s the worst that can happen and how will you handle it?
  • What would you tell me to do if we swapped places?

We all know intuitively it’s an inside job. Change. It’s an inside job. How you approach it, what you make it mean, how you talk about it, how you embrace it and how you allow it to stretch you so you grow with the flow of it.

When you come up against yourself resisting the flow of change either inside of you or external to you, remind yourself of how much change you’ve encountered, handled and benefitted from. Then remind yourself to choose how to approach it. Choose to approach change. Always. All ways.