Category Archives: Success

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?

 

FacebookLinkedInShare

Live Your Values Through Your Work

By Mellicia Marx, Founder of Poplin Style Direction and Friend of Simple Intentions

031617_LivingValues_small

Author Mellicia Marx pictured top left at the 2017 YouthCare Luncheon

Early in my career, I was drawn to public service and the nonprofit world. Why? It seemed obvious. Careers in these sectors were the best and perhaps, realistically, the only way to give back and make a difference in any significant or productive way. After all, making the world a better place is central to the job description. Later, I thought, corporate America could also offer the same opportunity, but only if you were able to land one of a company’s few corporate social responsibility roles.

Eventually, of course, I discovered that none of this was true. It turns out you can live your values no matter your industry; that you can have a meaningful impact on the people around you by nurturing your own strengths and sharing them with others. It can even benefit you in your career. And you don’t need to uproot your life to do this — really.

Now I’ve left non-profits and public service. I run my own small business as a personal stylist — I help women communicate who they truly are, using personal style as a lens. And it is by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. By providing clear guidelines to help a woman know what flatters her frame, and guidance about how to convey what makes her uniquely her, I plant a seed that helps her flourish in all aspects of her life. Especially gratifying is to work with a client a year or two after we first met, and to see how her life has been influenced by our work together. Peoples’ lives are being improved, or even transformed, by this work. And I can see it at close range, in a way I never could earlier in my career.

And yet, there’s more. In addition to my work with clients, I devote a great deal of my energy into my volunteer work with YouthCare, a Seattle-based nonprofit devoted to empower homeless youth ages 11–24 in my community. It’s a rewarding and rejuvenating part of my everyday life — and it presents yet another opportunity to channel my personal values into something meaningful and productive.

We all have the ability to seamlessly integrate our values into our work and life, with less effort than perhaps is common belief. And as I have learned first-hand, this not only makes a positive impact on your community but can propel your career or enhance your business in unexpected ways.

Leverage Your Expertise

What do you have to offer to your community? For starters, you are almost certainly an expert in something — most likely the thing that helps you put food on the table. What value do you create with your work? How could the community benefit from it? In my case, as a personal stylist I can help people with a problem we all experience, regardless of lifestyle, income, or even housing status — what am I going to wear today?

By partnering with YouthCare, I’ve made my expertise available to a segment of the population who, it turns out, can really benefit from it. Working together, we’ve created a styling session program for youth in YouthCare’s Barista Training Program. We teach them what clothing is appropriate for job interviews and the workplace, then help them “shop” from a boutique of quality clothes donated by the community — and my client base. It’s a successful, thriving community program that is really just an extension of the work I do every day with my clients.

Think about your own work. Do you have skills you take for granted, but that just might be incredibly advantageous to someone in need?

Identify Your Resources

Let’s face it: we live in a hectic world where time is at a premium. Maybe, given the pressures of your career and the time it takes up, volunteering is a separate, subordinate dream that you might eventually realize — in retirement. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can actively benefit your career by way of volunteering.

In my case, I’ve found that by threading together my volunteering and my business, I have tangibly enhanced my clients’ customer experience. I offer each client the opportunity to donate her extraneous clothes after we have gone through the step of editing her closet. I take those pieces to YouthCare for our styling session program, and the organization sends tax information back to the client. It doesn’t stop there. I also invite clients to attend graduation ceremonies for the youth finishing up the Barista Training Program. There’s no obligation, just the chance to see the impact of their donated clothes on the lives of young people in our community. And I host tables at YouthCare’s annual luncheon (pictured above) and invite clients to attend — I regularly have over twenty attendees. Every once in a while, I share stories about youth on my blog and Instagram and tag clients who donate with a public thank you.

This approach is in line with my values, and is good for business in so many ways. Not long ago, I started working with a new client transitioning to female after she read my blog posts about working with transgender youth. I also have clients who reach out after our initial styling sessions because they have more clothes to donate; this allows me to stay connected with clients in the long term without needing to “sell” them something. And client surveys show that learning about my work in the community contributes to their choosing to work with my company.

Living my values not only enhanced my sense of fulfillment but helped build my business and brand – this can be true for anyone, regardless of job title.

Select Your Cause

Youth homelessness is particularly upsetting to me. These are just kids. They’re kids who didn’t have someone to help them buy their first car, or encourage them to take the SATs, or even help them choose their first bra or tie their first tie. They live a challenging and often dangerous life. But I’ve found that one afternoon of warmth and attention from our team can really shift the path for some of these kids. They know that someone, who is not paid to care, really does care. They know that there is no question too embarrassing to ask, and they know that when they leave they will not “look homeless” — something so many of them fear on a daily basis.

For you it might be the environment, or animal welfare, or social justice that fuels your passion. Think about causes that mean something to you. They might even be naturally aligned with the expertise you have to offer. Then do some research, find the organizations that are doing the best work in that field, and ask how you can help.

Yes, some jobs offer more flexibility than others to choose how one spends their time and resources. But it doesn’t take much. Every time you write a letter, make a call, or spend an hour with someone in need, you are positively contributing to your community — and maybe even your career.

 

FacebookLinkedInShare

An Uncomfortable Conversation About Stress

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

WARNING: This content may be uncomfortable.

Just like balance, stress means different things to different people and stress impacts each person differently. What is stressful to you might not be stressful to your manager, coworkers, friends, or spouse. It is important to remember that when it comes to defining stress, everybody has their own idea of what is acceptable, tolerable, and comfortable. Before we talk about resolving stress when we experience it, it’s important to understand WHY we experience stress.

At its most basic, the answer is survival. Fight or flight. We want the ability to experience stress — it is what has kept us alive as a species. When we face danger, such as being chased by a wild animal, the body secretes into the bloodstream stress hormones (called adrenaline and made up of cortisol and a few other hormones), this initiates the body’s “fight or flight” response. This hormone cocktail causes a quick gust of energy, a burst of increased immunity, tunnel vision and tunnel hearing to help you move away from danger, and lower sensitivity to pain as not to distract you if you get hurt as you flee from the source of danger. After experiencing this flood of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, it’s important that the body and brain move to a relaxation response after the perceived threat has gone away so hormone levels can return to baseline. Research says it takes 40 to 60 minutes for this to happen.

If the body and brain don’t have the chance to relax then the body stays in a stress state because it perceives that danger is still near. When we were cave people, it was much easier to tell if a threat had moved away — the tiger was gone. In our modern world, many times the threat or cause of stress does not move away as quickly or in some cases at all, and our bodies and brains stay in a state of mild, persistent stress.

When the body doesn’t reach a rest state after a prolonged period of time, the result is a chronic stress state. Chronic stress can disrupt the immune system, sleep patterns, digestion, growth, and even reproduction. When the body feels perceived danger, it will prioritize its survival systems. Things like digesting lunch go to the bottom of the to-do list when the body thinks a tiger is going to attack.

As you are well aware, lots of things can cause modern day stress. The most common big stress triggers in life include moving, switching jobs, divorce, and death. Common situations that can lead to chronic stress states include unhealthy relationships, over-committing oneself, dysfunctional work teams, and unrealistic expectations of self and others.

Just as many people don’t know what balance means to them, the same is true for stress — many people are not clear on what causes them to feel stress in their daily lives. In my research, I’ve come to believe that most modern-day stress is linked to communication, or rather lack of it. And the topics we avoid talking about most often relate to our values. A lot of stress comes from the conversations we don’t have about our values with others as well as the conversations we avoid having with our selves. A great way to better understand what is driving your stress is to consider what conversations you are not having right now.

What stresses you out? Remember most modern day stress is linked to communication, specifically when we are hedging, when we’re not aware of how our complaints and criticisms are intermingled, and when we might be withholding to avoid feeling discomfort.

How do these situations make your body and mind feel? What symptoms let you know you are heading into the stress zone? For example, do you get stomach aches, skin rashes or headaches? Do you crave certain foods? We all have a stress “tell” — something our body does that sends a message to us to slow down and pay better attention.

What do you do to take care of yourself when you are feeling stressed? This is a big one as many people I work with haven’t considered how to intentionally care for themselves when they experience stress. We will all experience stress throughout our lives. But how do we want to manage it? Being active, time with friends and family, meditation, engaging in a hobby, being in nature — there is no wrong way to move yourself out of a stress state. Just know what ways feel right to you. The most important thing is to KNOW what is causing your stress, or what is likely to cause stress in the future so you can then nourish yourself when you encounter it. Know your answers and follow through.

As you reflect on your answers, begin to become aware of where your behaviors are supporting you and where they are sabotaging you. Notice the choices you make, notice when you feel in balance, notice when you feel out of balance. Then make the necessary shift.

[Note: This post originally appeared on Thrive Global]

FacebookLinkedInShare

What Mindfulness Does For Sales

By Jordan Weinand, Founder of Glowsoul and Friend of Simple Intentions

011817_whatmindfulnessAll folks who sell for a living want to make the next big deal. The overwhelming pride you feel when you’ve helped push the quota past expectations is worth every ounce of work you put in. It feels really good when your boss is pumped enough to reach into the pocket and splurge on your success during happy hour too.

If there was a step-by-step guide on how to achieve consistent sales results, we’d all be eager to pay up.

Hard work and grit. Yeah, it makes sense that we need both of those, however, it’s not easy to teach those characteristics. On all accounts, it requires you to find it from within. If you’re not breaking yourself like Rocky Balboa, the next best way to find yourself is through Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the mental state we reach when we focus our awareness on the present moment. During this state, we are acknowledging and accepting of our feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Mindfulness has tons of benefits, below are three that will help you sell the next biggest deal on your team.

Memory Improvement

Have you ever forgotten the fine details about your prospect’s needs and lost a sale because you couldn’t remember how exactly to tie in your service? I have, my pen only writes so fast! If I could ask for one superpower it would be a better memory.

There are ample ways of increasing the stickiness in your storage capacity. A few I’ve tried are: story-based association, poem memorization and reading books. Another, that has helped a ton is mindfulness and meditation.

The “Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Group,” found there are structural differences between brains of experienced meditation practitioners and those who aren’t.

In this Harvard Gazette article, detailed by Sue McGreevey, MGH Communications, the group found increased grey matter (found in regions of the brain associated with hearing, emotions, and memory) in test subjects who practiced meditation for 27 minutes a day, over an 8-week span. This is helpful to know as I’ve personally noticed better detail recollection with meditating and mindfulness.

Gain Empathy

It’s been documented that since the 1970’s we’re becoming less empathetic and compassionate. Sarah Konrath from the University of Michigan says she’s seen a steady drop since 1990 in these areas. Mindfulness and meditation can certainly boost this lack of empathy. While long-term benefits of mindfulness include increased memory, stronger overall health and cognitive skill speed, increased compassion is the main focus.

When being mindful you’re often sitting in a quiet space for any length of time and guiding awareness to the present moment. The aim is to focus on the now and be thankful for all you have in the instant. The immediate effects often are an appreciation for oneself, others and the materials you already have. When I focus on mindful selling, I become appreciative of my managers, prospects and the opportunity to help. Showing empathy in sales has a sweet referral ROI along with a fast track to trust.

Lose Stress

Between a 50-call day, preparing demos for prospects and managing current partners, the mounting stress can be real, especially if you don’t have an outlet. In the same Harvard study, the subjects reported a lower stress level and did have lower grey matter density in the amygdala, a little nugget of grey matter involved with emotions and plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

Amishi Jha, of the University of Miami, thinks that while stress can be reduced in eight weeks of a mindfulness training program, the structural changes in the amygdala could push better studies in curing stress related disorders like PTSD. With less stress, you’ll be eager to keep your nose to the grindstone and build that awesome sales pipe, even if you have PTSD from being bombarded with NO’s.

Much of sales is mental. We are humans with a very curious, powerful structure upstairs that constantly is powered up. The mind needs massaging and relaxation. Feeling refreshed during long sales cycles grows your grit, improves your memory, shrinks your stress and forces you to be empathetic. Test it for a month and try to find favorable techniques. You’ll notice a quick turnaround on your overall perception of smiling and dialing. If nothing else, you will at least have 20 minutes of peace and quiet.

FacebookLinkedInShare

On-demand Teams: The Talent Solution for High Value Results

By Lisa Hufford, Founder of Simplicity Consulting and Friend of Simple Intentions

1012hufford_speed

We tailor our lives every day in consideration of the factors around us, and the problems we face.  As the weather changes, we change what we wear. If we are feeling stressed, we might hit the gym, or indulge in a guilty pleasure. We adapt.

So why are we not incorporating this innate adaptability into the way we work?  More often than not, we are faced with problems in the workplace that arise and adapt to the change as our flow of work does. To navigate these dynamic problems, we need to build on-demand teams in order to provide adaptability.

Accessing talent on demand allows us to achieve our goals, while balancing the resources we have with the resources we need. The challenge is how to find this balance.  Using a simple methodology, called SPEED, you can incorporate these on-demand teams into your workplace. Utilizing SPEED provides you with a way to access the growing independent talent pool and potential to achieve innovative results that could not be reached with your typical assets.

SPEED means thinking about your team in a much broader sense than simply placing names on an organizational chart. It’s about asking what your business needs and goals are, both now and in the future, and focusing on securing the right talent, regardless of the form it takes.

The SPEED methodology breaks down into five steps: Success, Plan, Execute, Evaluate and Decide. Each step is essential to securing the right talent.

SUCCESS: TAKE TIME TO IDENTIFY THE MOST IMPORTANT OUTCOME. 
The importance in success is to find focus in your project and clarity in the talent you need. Look at your team’s expertise and decide if there is a talent gap that needs filling to make the project a success. Optimizing for the expertise and skills needed for the project goals will help you achieve your objectives faster.

PLAN: GAIN CLARITY ON HOW TO MEET YOUR BUSINESS OBJECTIVES AND FILL THE GAP ON YOUR TEAM.  
You need a sound project description. A project description is essential to establishing exactly what you need a consultant to deliver. You are searching for the tools you don’t already have. Build the description before talking to any candidates, you want them to be able to hit the ground running and add value from day one.

EXECUTE: SETTING AND MEETING EXPECTATIONS. 
Once you have selected your consultant, set the project up for successful execution by documenting the project deliverables in a Statement of Work (SOW), onboarding the consultant, and integrating them into your team. The SOW will keep the priorities of your project clear. Onboarding and team integration will establish a trusting working relationship between the consultant, yourself, and the team.

EVALUATE: MAKE SURE THE WORK IS GETTING DONE AS AGREED UPON IN THE SOW. 
As business needs change, so will the goals and metrics. It’s important to keep this in mind when working with your consultant. Constant evaluation of metrics ensures goals are being met and both parties have the same understanding.

DECIDE: ONCE GOALS ARE ACHIEVED DECIDE IF THERE ARE NEW OR CONTINUING PROJECT NEEDS. 
The achievement of project goals makes us feel empowered to take on the next project faster and in a more efficient way. Each application of SPEED lessens the learning curve. But before we take on our next project, we must decide whether the current project remains a priority. If it is, continue the work and bring on additional resources as needed. If not, decide if the consultant has the skillset needed to help with the next project.

Now that you know the steps, you can embrace adaptability in your workplace. Let’s stop trying to fix our problems with a half empty toolbox. Find the tools you need, in the talent pool you now know how to access. It’s as simple as S-P-E-E-D.

 

Lisa Hufford is the founder of Simplicity Consulting and author of the newly released book “Navigating the Talent Shift: How to Build On-demand Teams That Drive Innovation, Control Costs, And Get Results

FacebookLinkedInShare

Celebrating Disappointment

By Christopher Littlefield, Founder of Acknowledgment Works & Friend of Simple Intentions

A photo by Teddy Kelley. unsplash.com/photos/okavjRLgnjo

A few years ago, in the space of a week’s time, my wife found out that she did not get TWO jobs she was a finalist for. Wanting to support her, I bought flowers, made a make shift sign reading “Happy you did not get the job day!” and greeted her with cheering at the door when she arrived home. Yes, my intention was to be supportive and mitigate the potential after shock of the news, but the incident sparked a real question for me: Why don’t we celebrate when things don’t work out?

The immediate answer is obvious; it’s disappointing. Disappointment makes people feel like crap, so why would you celebrate it? But bear with me for a second as we explore the idea. If you think about it, many of the amazing experiences, lessons, and loves we currently cherish in our lives would not have been possible if everything had worked out as we planned. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my ex’s (well, some of them), but I am VERY thankful those relationships did not work out. If they had, I would not have met the love of my life; my wife, Maria.

For many of us it was the disappointment of not getting accepted to a school or program, losing a job, bombing a presentation, getting dumped, or being passed over for a promotion that was responsible for igniting our passion to pick up arms and fight for what we really wanted in life. It is those disappointments that often become the catalyst for the better things that happen in our lives.

So the next time something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, take a few minutes to stomp your feet, cry a little, shake your fist at the sky, but then find a friend and go celebrate because the door just opened for another amazing experience to be born.

FacebookLinkedInShare

Is “Office” a State of Mind?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Magazine]

It used to beDefining office_0615 when someone talked about being at the office they meant they were at an actual physical space. With the rise of workplace flexibility, global work teams, and technology to support a slew of telework options, “office” has become an elusive concept.

The number of “mobile workers” in the US will reach 105 million by 2020, estimates market intelligence firm IDC. That means almost three-quarters of our work force will find themselves with flexible office situations. It’s no wonder, then, that many Fortune 500 companies are committed to attracting and retaining employees by offering flexible work environments and promoting diverse work styles.

Depending on what you do for a living and how you like to work, you will have your own unique definition of “office”. For some, office still means a physical space – like a desk or a cubical (or, for the free-spirited, their favorite café). For others, office means a device, like a tablet or phone. For these people, they’re “at the office” whenever their device is on and in their vicinity.

For others still, office is a state of mind – it’s whenever you have work thoughts, which for many people is a lot of the time. It’s easy to see how nontraditional work situations can take on a life of their own, and lead to more stress rather than more flexibility. That’s why it’s important to define what “flexible work” means to you.

A recent study in the American Sociological Review found that workers with well-designed flexible work situations are less stressed, experience less burnout, and have increased job satisfaction compared to their peers in a typical workday situation.

Simply giving employees more control over their schedules and shifting emphasis to results rather than hours logged allows employees to be effective and happy. Go figure.

What’s imperative is that managers and employees work together to establish what is acceptable within the company or team culture. This is a huge opportunity to build trust and prevent confusion by discussing upfront what “office” means from the employer’s perspective. Then everyone can work together to construct what a workday at the office ideally looks like.

In order to have a balanced, mindful approach to flexible work situations, consider the following.

  1. Your Physical Space

If your office is an actual space, notice what you need in that space. If you work from home, is there a well-defined space in your house where “office” takes place, or do you “office” a little bit everywhere? If “office” means a device, ask yourself when do you engage and disengage with the “office” (your device): Is it a set time, like 7 p.m., or is it when you reach a specific physical destination?

  1. Your Mindset

If your office is a mindset, think about how you can intentionally tap into and let go of work thoughts. Perhaps you can establish a “stop work thoughts” mantra that helps you bookmark the thought, for example, “Thank you, I will come back to this later.” Or you could intentionally take a few deep breaths to redirect your energy, or try to set a concrete time when work thoughts are just not welcome.

  1. Your Time

When does “office” begin and end for you? Flexibility is about choice, and if the choice is to be always on, the power of flexibility is diminished. Embrace and enjoy the flexibility to work wherever and whenever by being intentional about how, where, and when you “office”.

Tips for how to work anywhere

  • Make sure some of your “office” hours overlap with a standard workday
  • Find time for face-to-face meetings and schedule them regularly
  • Avoid working on sensitive documents over public Wi-Fi
  • Block out brainstorming time in your calendar – “think” time is part of your job
FacebookLinkedInShare