Category Archives: Authenticity

Quiz: Do You Feel Empowered at Work?

081017_QuizDo you operate from a mindset of empowerment or disempowerment? Take your work pulse with these seven true or false questions. 

By Jae Ellard, Founder, Simple Intentions  

1) True or False: “I have a feeling of clear direction and connectedness to the goings-on around me and understand how my work connects to the mission/purpose of my organization.” 

If you answered True: You are likely on the path to feeling a sense of overall empowerment. 

If you answered False: It might be time to reexamine the mission/purpose of your organization and explore more deeply where you feel connected or disconnected and begin to seek where there are paths for alignment. If you answered False, it doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, rather, pause and be willing to see it with new eyes. 

2) True or False: “I tend to feel as if time, resources, and support are scarce to do what I’m asked to do.” 

If you answered False: You likely feel that you have what you need to reach your desired outcomes. 

If you answered True: See it as an opportunity to be creative and explore out-of-the-box ideas to complete your goals, play with what if scenarios, brainstorm, even daydream—sometimes a small shift in thinking can create a new resource or avenue of support not previously considered. 

3) True or False: “I feel as if I have more to gain professionally through my work than I feel at risk of losing something.” 

If you answered True: You likely understand that taking risks is part of being a professional and have developed the confidence to know that a single meeting or project does not define your career. 

If you answered False: See it as an opportunity to explore what’s working, what’s going well, and what you’ve achieved, so when you do face risk, you are clear of all the past gains as well future ones to come. 

4) True or False: “The people I work with are open and collaborative—they want to share ideas and receive feedback.” 

If you answered True: You’re likely on a team where others feel empowered and where there is an elevated level of psychological safety, a cornerstone of a high functioning team, according to a study conducted at Google. 

If you answered False: See it as an opportunity to explore what your teammates are really thinking and feeling, ask questions, and be curious: conversation is the gateway to building an empowered team. 

5) True or False: “I feel energized and absorbed in what I’m doing and feel the value of achieving what I’m committed to more often than not.”  

If you answered True: You’re likely clear on your purpose and your actions are in solid alignment, and you might also be working for a leader/manager who recognizes your contributions. 

If you answered False: Begin to create awareness around what gives you energy and where you feel your contributions are valued. From there, see where this work is in or out of alignment with your values and goals and with that data, small shifts in behavior may naturally occur. 

6) True or False: “My work life feels like a house of cards—if one card falls, the house will crumble.” 

If you answered True: You likely experiencing a time of disempowerment, it might be time to create awareness around which card is most vulnerable and begin exploring options for support there. 

If you answered False: You’re likely in a time of empowerment. 

7) True or False: “I feel like my team has open, authentic conversations as needed about projects and the goings on of our work culture.” 

If you answered True: You’re likely steeped in a work culture where empowerment is a shared value. 

If you answered False: Perhaps your team is facing change, uncertainly, or the goals are not clear. Despite the turmoil, this period can also present opportunities to discuss what’s working and what’s not, allowing a chance for the team connect to some empowered moments, actions, and projects. 

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Magazine] 

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It’s Time to Ghost ‘Ghosting’

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

070617_GhostingIf you have recently been in communication with someone and they ceased contact with you without any warning or justification, and ignored your attempts to reconnect — you’ve been ghosted. It’s a phenomenon that started in the online dating world that has been creeping its way into everyday life as an acceptable means of communication (or lack of). It’s time for us to ghost ghosting.

Most commonly ghosting occurs in relationships that use digital tools as the primary source of communication, such as text message or e-mail. Two people are in communication, when one person, for whatever reason, decides they are done with the relationship and disengages with no context or warning to the other person.

This passive-aggressive and dismissive behavior is on the way to becoming a new type of normal for navigating and managing modern relationships. It’s the equivalent of someone walking away from an in-person conversation while the other person is still talking — an act that most people know is disrespectful and would not likely do, however when done digitally it has somehow become acceptable.

This is not to say that all relationships need to go on indefinitely and that people don’t come and go out of our lives. However, this means that it’s possible to not be interested in continuing, building or deepening a relationship and be respectful of the other person at the same time.

Before you ghost on someone consider some of the following options for more respectful ways to alter the course of your relationships at work, at home and in your personal life.

Examples of ghosting at work are when people attempt to connect with clients, peers and partners and receive no acknowledgement from the recipient of the message. When we do eventually connect, it’s common to hear things like, “I have too many e-mails and didn’t see it”, “I was too busy to respond”, or the ever more common, “it must have gone into my junk folder.” If you are not interested in the transaction at hand, say so, for example, “thanks for the message, we don’t need this service at this time”, or “interesting, we will review and get back to you in a few months.” A no, a not yet, a not now are better ways of building trust and relationships than no response.

Ghosting also happens within family communication too. How many of you blow off texts from your parents (telling you they sent you an e-mail) or glance at a link from a sibling and never acknowledge it? Taking a few seconds to say — “thanks, got it”, “will look at it later”, or even to say, “text isn’t the best way to share info with me”, will go a long way in helping to support family relationships that may already be fragile.

Within friendships circles, group texts can be long and annoying so it may feel easier to ignore it then to ask to be removed, but being honest in the long run will better support the foundation of the friendship. It’s easy to take friendships for granted and ignore a message or two knowing you’ll talk soon and it will be “ok”. That said, over time little instances where a person feels disrespected by lack of communication can chip away at the foundation of a relationship.

Lastly, for dating situations where one party has decided the other isn’t a romantic match, a phone call is suggested. If one must text, a message like, “my feelings have shifted”, “I’m not in a place to continue building something with you”, or “I’ve met someone else” are a kinder, more graceful way to disengage with someone whom at one time you took a fancy to.

Ghosting (or any vague inconsistent communication for that matter) will NOT help to build, nurture or repair ANY relationship and speaks volumes about the character of the ghoster. (Think about it, when is it ever acceptable to totally dismiss another human being and would you want to be known as that person?)

Be clear about the type and quality of communication you deserve as well as the type and quality of communication (or lack of it) you put into this world. Your behavior has an impact each day on every person with which you interact. The choice is yours.

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Transparency

Nicole Christie, Director of Executive Communications at Microsoft and Friend of Simple Intentions

062917_TransparencyTransparency is a raging buzzword in the corporate world. It’s all about telling it like it is, not sugarcoating the story, sharing the whole truth. It’s sometimes half-assed or disingenuous, but as a corporate communications consultant, I appreciate the effort, especially since I’m often the one crafting the message.

Yet transparency in business is an interesting juxtaposition to how we tell our personal stories—namely on social media, where painstaking effort is made to share the highlights, shape the narrative, and filter the photos. No wonder so many of us feel we pale in comparison to what we see online. No one’s sharing the whole truth—the dirty, depressing, ugly side of life.

And don’t we need to hear that?

We all have some level of discord—and dysfunction—in our lives. And when we don’t share this with each other, we feel isolated. Whether we’re sparring with a spouse, miserable in our jobs, questioning our life decisions, feeling disenchanted with the well-touted “wonders” of pregnancy and parenthood, we all experience dissatisfaction and disillusion. And while no one wants to be an online Debbie Downer, if we don’t share the shit, we aren’t truly connecting with anyone.

Mother Teresa said, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” So let’s all lose the filter. Let’s share our messy homes, messy lives, messy brains—not to complain, but to connect. Show us your unshowered, unkempt self, working from home and wondering if you’ve become a social misfit after 11 years of this arrangement (hand raised). Show us not your shiny, happy, well-dressed baby, but the one who’s red-faced, wet-eyelashed, and finally asleep after an epic wail-a-thon. Show us the downside of the perfect job we all think you have, whether that’s boredom, volatility, or all-out stress.

This is transparency.

This is truth.

This is vulnerability—and there’s strength in being real. Or as Brene Brown reminds us, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”

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Straight Talk

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[NOTE: This post originally appeared in the April 2017 print issue of Mindful Magazine]

Rear view of man gesturing with hand while standing against defocused group of people sitting at the chairs in front of him

I’ve developed a theory that the biggest driver of mindlessness at work comes from lack of communication. Most times, this is connected to the conversations we’re not having about our values, or about the boundaries we set (or don’t set) around how we live, honor, or uphold these values at work. You know the type of conversation I am talking about: the really uncomfortable one, where you know what you need to say is going to be awkward and might displease or disappoint another person.

Each day we encounter situations where we halfway communicate what we want to express, request, or need. In many cases, we do this because we fear being judged. Think about it: Have you ever edited a response because you felt uncomfortable revealing yourself and your thoughts concerning a certain topic?

  • Not sharing that you don’t agree that the redesign plan is the best choice.
  • Going along with the excitement around a new initiative even though you have serious doubts about its visibility.
  • Keeping silent about how uncomfortable it makes you that your boss brings her dog to the office every day — and it ends up in your space most of the time even though you really don’t like dogs.

So we halfway share, putting off the conversation we know is coming at some point. And, of course, the longer we avoid having it, the more uncomfortable the conversation can become.
The collective impact from having uncomfortable conversations can be truly transformational. Its effect goes beyond communication in the workplace; it can transform communication in every situation.

The path to navigating this territory with ease starts with awareness. Begin to notice when you are withholding, closing down, or not speaking up. Write about it in a private journal if that’s helpful. Then, with that awareness, begin to experiment with expressing your thoughts, needs, and desires one conversation at a time using the following tips to push through the discomfort.

Offer Context
It isn’t just about assigning blame. It is about creating dialogue around toxic and disruptive issues, so all involved can feel heard and choose to create a different reality. Offer context as to what the issue is, in a nonjudgmental way, this kind of sharing builds compassion and allows everyone to get on the same page. It’s when we don’t offer context that the discomfort grows.

Invite Options
If someone is making a request that isn’t possible, say so and invite a conversation about what is possible. It’s important to ask how that might work for the person making the request. Explaining, offering another solution, and inviting dialogue increases the sense of sharing and collaboration.

Be Sincere
Say what you mean with grace, respect, and as much authenticity as possible. When you speak from the heart, even if others don’t like or agree with the message, the energy behind the intention comes through. Odds are strong that your honesty will help things to shift.

With this in mind, what is one uncomfortable conversation you are willing to have today?

 

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Hospitality in the Eyes of an Outsider

By Joanna Fuller, Friend of Simple Intentions

ubeth (002)In 1992, shortly after the end of the Gulf War, I had the opportunity to spend a month in the West Bank, in the Palestinian territories. A relatively new college graduate with an English literature degree, I was there—ostensibly—to contribute to English classes at the University of Bethlehem.

But in the first class I visited, I opened the door to students jumping around the room and onto tables, staging a failed coup against Prospero in a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was clear they had a much better handle on the material than I did. I didn’t have much to teach them about the play, and instead found myself sitting back, enjoying their banter (all in English, rather than Arabic), amazed at how learned these students were, and how much they had to teach me about English literature.

I don’t remember much more about that class, to be honest.  But what I do remember vividly is how one of the students, Fatima, approached me, introduced herself, and insisted that I visit her home for lunch that afternoon. She told me to bring along all of my American girlfriends.

A few hours later, six young women from America joined six young Palestinian women in Fatima’s home. Fatima’s mother had gone next door to ‘borrow a chicken,’ which she magically transformed into platters of shawarma, accompanied by stacks of warm pita bread, mounds of deliciously sour labneh, and overflowing plates of saffron rice. After lunch, in the privacy of her home, Fatima and her friends removed their hijabs, tied them around their (and our) hips, turned on the music and taught us to dance. They told us that all their neighbors would consider it an honor that we’d chosen to be guests in their home.

I was surprised, to say the least. Not only that someone would go to all that trouble for us, but without hesitation, or planning. That summer was the first time I’d traveled outside the West, and I hadn’t yet learned what hospitality can look like in other parts of the world. It was the first time I’d heard the belief that many Middle Easterners share: that you must always treat strangers well, especially those traveling from foreign lands, because they could very well be ‘angels sent by God.’ It was a wonderful new way of experiencing hospitality.

Twenty-two years later, arriving as a newly sworn-in Peace Corps volunteer in Mongolia, I experienced a different but equally surprising reception. I laughed and in truth, bristled a little, when I first heard how the people in my community referred to me: as манай Америк хүн (pronounced manai Amerik hun, meaning ‘our American’). Fellow volunteers across the country shared the same experience, and none of us were sure how we felt about it. It was both flattering and slightly off-putting to feel like a town status symbol, along with the Land Cruisers and modern apartments owned by the wealthier families.

Hidden in that designation, though, is something I failed to realize at first: манай Америк хүн wasn’t so much an expression of possession, but of responsibility. I’d chosen to come live in their community and my Mongolian hosts considered it their duty to take care of me and to make sure I had what I needed to survive—be it a bed, a pair of winter boots, or enough meat in my freezer.

Just like in Palestine, it wasn’t always easy to be an outsider in Mongolia. But if there was one luxury I came to appreciate, it was the special status my American-ness afforded me – one of acceptance.  I could be completely different from the people around me, and it was not only OK, it was expected. There was a reason that explained all the ways in which I diverged from the crowd, and rather than causing people to reject or distance themselves from me, it instead somehow drew them in, and motivated them to take an interest in my well-being.

Today, it’s hard to believe I’ve been home from Mongolia for nearly six months. Since I’ve returned, people have continued to ask me how re-entry’s going. For the most part, I’d actually say it’s been amazing. (The WiFi! The paved roads! The bagels!) But it’s also been fascinating to find that I’ve been using the cultural integration tools taught to me during my Peace Corps training just as much here in America as I did during my time abroad.

In order to join the Peace Corps three years ago, I left a job of nearly twenty years and with it, the comfort of working at a place where I knew the ropes, and where my colleagues trusted and respected me. Looking to forge a different path upon my return home to the U.S., I took a new job in a new organization, with its own unique culture and systems and lingo and social dynamics.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been the ‘new girl’ in an organization. I don’t always know what I’m doing, and often have to muddle through first being bad at things (and people seeing that) before getting good at them. I’ve shown up, ready to dive in and get to work, only to first find out how much I don’t know and how much I need to learn from others. I’ve had to rely on people to show me how to do the simplest tasks, including how to make coffee and how to operate the copy machine.  I’ve gotten lost trying to find the restroom. I’ve had to remember what it feels like to have people make assumptions about me based on my appearance, my age and my title. Not because they’re not enlightened or evolved—but because they’re human and that’s what humans do. I’ve had to catch and stop myself doing the same to others.

The biggest difference is that, here in America, I don’t get the benefit of the mini-celebrity status I enjoyed in Mongolia and the Middle East, the status that made people want to drop what they were doing and take shared ownership in my well-being. In America, people have a lot going on, which means that often, I’m left to my own devices, and to learning by trial-and-error. Some days it feels like much more error than trial, and that’s when I have to remind myself to:

  1. Take time to listen and observe; resist the urge to act immediately and instead focus on truly understanding the situation and how I can best be of service.
  2. Anticipate that in the beginning, anything I try will take three times as long as I think it should, and likely be twice as expensive. Remember this is normal.
  3. Be gentle with and extend myself grace when things don’t go according to plan.
  4. Avoid being an island; while my natural instinct might be to withdraw or turn inward to hide my mistakes or feelings of vulnerability, continuing to reach out to others is the key to survival.

And while it seems sometimes as if every single person in America is time-starved and under pressure, I’ve been so grateful for those who’ve surprised me by their willingness to stop, take the time to connect in a meaningful way, and extend a hand to someone trying to fit into their new surroundings. Our American culture isn’t one that always allows for spontaneous afternoon lunches or dance parties, but there are at least a few hospitality angels out there doing their best. I’ve come to appreciate what a gift they are.

More than that, I’ve realized how important it is to be one of them, and what a difference it can make to another human when you’re able to show up, unhurried, and offer them your time and presence.

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The Power of “No”

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Magazine]

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

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

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

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

Break the Hedging Cycle

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

Say It Right

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

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

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

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We Leak Our Truth

By LeAnn Elkins, Friend of Simple Intentions

“MomLeak Our Truth_0630, you’ve been giving the baby about 30% too much formula vs. water.  Please use the measuring spoon I’ve put in the diaper bag and then add the corresponding amount of water.”

Yes, this is my son giving me feedback on how to properly fix a bottle for my grandson. I could take it as a personal attack on my abilities as a grandmother, but instead I know my son. He has, for as long as I can remember, been a factual and data-based communicator. This request was no different than his request as a young boy on how to prepare his sandwich with the appropriate proportion of peanut butter to jelly.  He is simply “leaking his truth!” His particular truth being a strong sense of correctness and order in everything he does and wanting those around him to do the same.

We leak our truth, whether we know it or not, and it’s a steady, unstoppable drip. Our truth is not necessarily what we say is important or even what we think is important. Our truth is:

  • the reaction we have to situations
  • our values in action
  • those inner most thoughts and feelings about self and others
  • how and where we spend our time and money

Though it can be challenging, there are indeed times where we can recognize our leaks. Often it takes others pointing these leaks out for us to truly understand their presence. Try out an exercise to identify your own leaks. Start by writing down some descriptors of self and what you most value. Share this list with a trusted colleague and/or friend, asking them to add to the list using their experiences of you. Have this person share with you how you “leak truths” about yourself as they occur. Look at your list often and compare it to what’s happening in your day to day actions. You may be amazed at how often you leak your truth without realizing it – and you also might find that these truths are not in alignment with your perception of self or stated values.

What this is really about is having the courage to own your truth. Instead of trying to be whom you think others want you to be or who you’ve been told to be (which can lead to so much wasted energy and even stress), just be you – the truth will leak out anyway! LOVE and HONOR these truths and how they are serving you and those around you. Get to really know them and let them shine — this is the authentic you and you are enough!

“This above all:  to thine own self be true.”  William Shakespeare

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