Maybe We Just Aren’t a Kind People

By Jay Forte

Why is it we pull together when confronted with a catastrophe? Remember how we felt after 9/11. We cared about each other. We loved each other. We helped each other. We didn’t see our differences; we saw our similarities. We wanted to hear each other’s stories and cared enough about what they were going through to really listen and to try to help. We were united.

Now look at us. We see each other as enemies. We can’t listen to people who don’t share our perspectives. In fact, we demean, criticize and hurt those who don’t share our beliefs. We lose family and friends over a variety of hot button issues, like equal rights, free speech, racism, the environment and a variety of other things that fill the news.

I can’t remember a time when we have had so little regard for each other. We are so focused on having what we want that we forget we share the country with others. This realization could incite a range of emotions, but for me, it’s disappointment.

I’m disappointed with the churches that support and condone hatred and disrespect of anyone. I’m disappointed with anyone in a political office who disrespects any part of our population. I’m disappointed with anyone who thinks some of us are more valuable or more important and treats others poorly as a result. I’m disappointed with people who don’t have room in their heart for those who are suffering, homeless or in pain just because they don’t look like, act like or live like we do.

This behavior is seemingly so apparent that it makes me wonder: maybe we just aren’t a kind people.

But, we weren’t born hateful and judgmental. We learned it. So, if we can learn it, could we also relearn how to be kind?

Our country is an experiment. Could people who look different, believe different things and live in different ways learn to see what is great in each other, collaborate with each other and find a way to peacefully live with each other? Could we show the rest of the world that we don’t always agree but we commit to solving our issues fairly and respectfully? Could we show the world that when we are kind, caring and respectful of each other, we unite to do remarkable things both at home and in the world?

I believe we can.

If we are mindful enough, we can learn to shift from seeing what is different with others to seeing what makes them remarkable (because there are remarkable attributes in all of us). And as such, they deserve our respect, care and support.

Our founding fathers’ intention in creating a country committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness wasn’t about who could have the most stuff, so we could feel more important than others. It was the belief that we must work together to build a culture that allowed everyone to self-realize, to cultivate their potential so they could deliver that potential back to our world. This is how things improve. This is the formula to be our best to make things better for all of us in our country.

And if we can do this within our borders, we could learn to do it and teach others to do it with everyone on the planet.

The result? A kinder and more mindful world where everyone has a life that matters. We all live under the same big sky. Whatever life sends, we have the collective genius to handle it. But to do this, we need everyone. We need everyone to contribute their ideas, support and remarkable abilities. Life is big and complicated, but we have what we need to handle it wisely and well. To do this, we will have to learn – or relearn – how to be kind.

Take Action

Check in on yourself. Are you kind, caring and respectful to everyone? If so, bravo! If not, check in on whatever beliefs you have that give you permission to behave otherwise. Kindness encourages relationships; being unkind discourages them. Relationships drive trust, and trust drives the ability to work together and solve life’s challenges. Maybe it is time for a belief adjustment.

 

Consider reading Your Personal Board of Directors

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The Post-it Note as a Mindfulness Tool

By Jay Forte

Everyone is talking about mindfulness, but we can’t truly gain the benefits of being mindful unless we’re clear on what it is. So, let’s start with a couple of quick definitions:

  • Awareness means paying attention on purpose, in the current moment, without judgment. In other words, awareness means paying attention, intentionally tuning in to be present to gather the information that is in front of you.
  • Mindfulness, in my definition, means using that information to seek out, create and act in a way that can make your next moment more effective.

Awareness provides the information; mindfulness uses it to be better or to make better decisions.

A couple of examples.

Let’s say you have to talk to your son about something that happened at school. When you are aware of his body language and emotions, you can then better assess what and how to respond, leading to a more successful outcome. By being aware, and using that awareness, you can choose on purpose what and how to respond. Without this awareness, you could mindlessly react and miss the opportunity to accurately assess the challenge and work with him to come up with a solution that works.

Let’s say you are in a meeting with your team. When you stop and notice who is contributing and who isn’t, you’re tapping into an awareness that creates the ability for you to be mindful – to intentionally bring in the more introverted members of your team with a focused question or invitation to contribute. If you are unaware of who contributes because you are plowing through your agenda, you will miss the opportunity to activate the thinking of your more timid employees.

See, the challenge we all have is that we spend most of our time in our habits, doing what we always do and unaware we are doing it. To become more present and aware, we have to interrupt our habits to be able to gather the information in this moment, to mindfully use it to make our next moment better.

Enter the Post-it note.

A well-placed Post-it note with an important message for you can act as a great interruption to pull you out of habit mode. The Post-it note might say, “pay attention,” or “stop multitasking,” or “ask questions,” or “everyone contributes,” or even “go walk around and talk to your employees.”

You create the message you need to be reminded of and where to place it to be sure it gets your attention to interrupt your habits. This encourages you to be more aware, more mindful and more intentional in your actions.

Because your brain is powerful, it will soon look right past your Post-it note. So change out the colors regularly or move your note reminders to different locations, all within view. The benefit is that you will create an awareness and mindfulness tool to help you tune in, pay better attention and choose more wisely because you have given yourself the ability to see and consider what you regularly miss.

Take Action

Start today. Leave Post-it notes in areas that will get your attention, with messages that will remind you and encourage you to be more aware, so you can be more mindful. Where are you going to put your first three Post-it notes?

 

Consider reading The Way to a Great Life? Tune In, Reflect, Then Respond

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Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

By Jay Forte

You have some amazing and remarkable employees who do great things in your workplace. And then you have some employees who do just enough not to get fired.

Sure, these employees show up, but they don’t have the energy, drive and commitment to do the important things in the workplace that advances performance and success. Is it you or is it them?

It is likely a little of both.

The Gallup Organization regularly cites statistics on the engagement levels of employees in the workplace. And alarmingly, nearly 70% of employees are in some form of disengagement. This disengagement happens for many reasons but the most significant are the lack of job alignment and meaningful relationships with managers. Both need to work in concert.

Let me explain.

Alignment is the process of knowing the success attributes of any role and using those attributes to wisely source, interview and hire someone who fits that role. This also applies to knowing and using the success attributes of any role when developing or promoting employees. It is critical for someone to have the abilities needed to be successful in a role.

Alignment, however, cannot stand on its own. You also need a strong, effective and professional working relationship.

In a 2015 study by Peter Massingham and Leona Tam titled, The Relationship Between Human Capital, Value Creation and Employee Reward, the researchers state, “Employee capability may or may not generate value. It is only when individuals are motivated to use their knowledge that it creates organizational benefit, otherwise it is an idle resource.”

Though you may (and must) hire wisely, the job alignment combined with the quality of the relationship the employee has with his or her manager ultimately dictates success. When we feel inspired by those we work for because they make the time for us, value us, develop us and treat us like we matter, we volunteer our best abilities and deliver them with greater energy and effort in the workplace. The result? Greater productivity and performance.

When we don’t make the effort to build the manager-employee relationship, we encourage our employees to move to the sidelines, to do just enough to get by, instead of really contributing. Though they may have what it takes to be great in their roles (they have the abilities), they still need the inspiration, encouragement and interest by their manager to move these abilities from idle to full speed.

Your employees choose how they show up to the moments of their days. Do they do just enough? Or do they fully engage, using their greatest abilities to invent, challenge and improve everything they encounter?

This choice is inspired by how you manage. Are you bringing a healthy combination of alignment and relationships to your workplace?

Take Action

Learn how to be a mindful and inspiring manager. Our Executive Coaching guides you through foundational tools to help leaders and managers better connect with their employees and deliver greater results. Contact us for more information.

 

Consider reading Stop Managing and Start Coaching

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Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

By Jay Forte

It starts with the word potential.

Few of us are aware of our potential – of what is possible in and by us. We haven’t discovered our greatness or our core abilities. Instead, we have allowed the world to fill in these details for us and, as a result, we show up as others want us to be instead of who we really are. We miss out on what we are capable of doing, being or contributing, shortchanging ourselves and our world.

And for this reason, people get stuck. They find themselves disappointed, aggravated and irritated with life. They don’t see its greatness because they find themselves in jobs, lives, relationships and circumstances that just don’t fit them.

As poet Mary Oliver says in her famous poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Will you let others direct it or will you learn to discover who you really are, what remarkable abilities you were born with and how you want to develop and live them to make your impact in your world? Or, will you see that a great and amazing life is one you define, but for that, you must be aware of who you are and aware of what is going on in today’s world, so you can connect the two in an intentional way?

If all of us were able to discover, develop and live our greatness or our potential, think of the impact we could make in every aspect of life. We would put ourselves into the places that need what we do and like best. We would support others to discover and develop their abilities and potential so they could own their part of making a better world. We would begin to realize that we each have something important to discover, develop and share with our world – each of us doing what it is we do best to make things better.

Enter coaching.

Coaching guides you into developing clarity of who you are and how to define and work to achieve your potential in your world through an intentional and thought-provoking conversation.

The coaching conversation examines what you know of you, expands this and identifies what interrupts you from accessing your potential or achieving your goals. Coaching is not designed to relive your past or look to correct or improve you; you are fine as you are, no fixing needed. Coaching does, however, focus on helping you become more aware of who you are, your abilities and liabilities, your beliefs that direct your choices and decisions, and how this information is helping or holding you back from living your potential. Only by becoming aware are you able to navigate through these blocks and challenges to live a great, happy and successful life (in the way you define great, happy and successful).

Coaching creates the time and focus to examine the things in our lives that need a deeper review. Through guidance comes clarity. Through clarity comes direction. Through direction comes achievement. This process helps each of us tap into our own abilities and our own understandings to move ourselves in the direction(s) we want but may sometimes feel are out of reach. And in the process, we access what is best in us to deliver the thing(s) we are called to do.

How well do you know you and what you are capable of? How aware are you of the needs, challenges and opportunities in your world? How willing are you to find a way to bring your best and be your best in all you to to make your and our world better?

Want to change the world? Live your potential and help others live theirs. How can you start this process? Engage a coach.

 

Consider reading Are You Rigid or Flexible?

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The Way to a Great Life? Tune in, Reflect, Then Respond

By Jay Forte

Most of us move through life in a hurried and habit way. We rush through our days, rarely taking the time to actually stop and notice ourselves, how we feel and what is going on around us. We eat lunch and dinner without really even noticing or tasting our food. We have conversations during our days that we can’t even remember we had later the same day. We don’t really know what we like or are good at. The reason? We haven’t learned how to tune in, reflect and respond.

Your world is filled with information that is shared with you in each moment. This information has the ability, when used and reflected on, to improve your next moment, decision or response. This is the process of awareness and mindfulness – of tuning in, reflecting and responding in an intentional way to improve your outcomes.

Let’s use this thinking and look at your relationships, work and life.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your relationships. What if you actually looked at someone when you spoke to them, instead of also trying to multitask? (Newsflash: Multitasking is not a success attribute. Your brain can only process one thing at a time, so the more you try to do multiple things once, it actually shortchanges the impact of each thing you are trying to accomplish.) When connecting with someone, pay attention to them – what they are saying, feeling, thinking and saying. Then reflect on what they said, felt, thought or felt. Only by doing this can you have a more meaningful and intentional response.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your work. How much of your work day are you in habit mode, doing the same things? What if you tuned in and reflected on what you do, and asked yourself “what could be better here?” Make time to reflect on what, why and how you do what you do to determine if you can improve your performance and connection with customers or clients. The impact could be profound for you and for your workplace.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your life. How much time, effort and energy do you give to living a meaningful life that fits you, your abilities and your interests? What effort do you put in to learn what makes you different, unique and amazing? How often do you make time to reflect on where in today’s world are the opportunities that need what you do and like best? The more intentionally you approach the world – to go out and live it on your terms, not on the terms of the loud voices around you that are generally more interested in your compliance to their beliefs than to help you discover, develop and live yours – the more remarkable it can be. As poet Mary Oliver asks in her poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It’s a profound question.

What’s your answer?

Tune in to notice who you are and what is going on in your world. Reflect on the opportunities to connect the real you to the places in work and life that need what you do and like best. Respond using your greater clarity to live and work as it fits you, making a most amazing life and a better world in the process.

Take Action

Practice tuning out to tune in. Give yourself 5 or 10 minutes of quiet two times a day. Practice becoming aware. With awareness comes mindfulness, the ability to make informed decisions based on information about you and your world to make your next moment better.

 

Consider reading Tune Out to Tune In

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Living Today on Yesterday’s Beliefs

By Jay Forte

Discussing a client’s beliefs is frequently a large part of many coaching conversations. After all, beliefs are what direct most of the behaviors we employ in our days.

Our beliefs are developed throughout our lives. They are reflections of our interactions with parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, bosses, fellow employees, churches and organizations. They are also influenced by social media and today’s 24-hour news cycle.

Understanding how our beliefs are developed is important because our beliefs guide us, and they don’t always guide us well. In fact, many of our beliefs are unintentional – we do what we do because we have always done it.

You need to be aware of what you believe, why you believe it and whether or not it improves your life and makes your world better. If so, continue them. If not, assess where your beliefs came from and whether you want to retain them, modify them or discontinue them.

On the morning of the second day of a multiple-day coaching program, I ask my students to reflect on this statement: “When you went to bed last night, the world changed. What worked yesterday but may not be effective today?”

I ask you a similar question. When you went to bed last night, the world changed. Which of your beliefs should you review to see if they no longer serve you?

This question alludes to the existence of limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is something we believe to be true – whether it is or isn’t – that limits our ability to be fully present, effective or able to achieve our potential for our benefit and the benefit of our world.

Here are some examples.

  • You may believe that because you are the CEO, you have the right to boss people around – or you can see that old belief is now ineffective in today’s knowledge workplace.
  • You may believe that people who drive a specific expensive imported car are snobs, until you meet one who isn’t like that at all.
  • You may believe that life has it out for you, until you stop and notice the actual number of great things going on in your life.
  • You may believe that all successful people have been to Ivy League colleges, only to see that most of today’s most successful people attended non-Ivy League colleges, if they attended college at all.

Now, what if you examined your beliefs to better understand them and to choose those that both serve to connect you more fully to your potential, while also advancing and supporting others in achieving their potential? Which beliefs would you retain and which would you release? A good belief review and editing session is an important and recurring part of all effective self-awareness.

Nothing stays the same. Life is about change. That means to accommodate and use change well, check in regularly on the things that guide you. Be flexible and resilient to live life fully, kindly, successfully and with great intention. Commit to developing beliefs that allow you to be who you really are so you can bring to the world those very things you are capable or called to do.

Don’t be afraid to challenge or release beliefs that no longer serve you. Believe what you believe on purpose, not out of intimidation, fear or compliance. Own what you believe so you live as your true self. Don’t let anyone tell you or fill in your beliefs for you. Consider what you hear from your world then choose and own what is right for you.

This is the key to living an authentic, impactful and world-improving life. You can’t make your impact in life if you live someone else’s beliefs.

Take Action

Need help getting clear about your beliefs, which are supporting and which are limiting you? Contact us to discuss how coaching can help you develop life clarity and become your life’s owner.

 

Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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Bad Days Don’t Have to be Bad

By Kristin Allaben

I recently had a few very challenging and really tough days, back to back to back. My patience was tested, my breaking point was reached multiple times and my ability to “roll with it” went right out the window.

Have you had a day – or two or three – like this? I bet you have; it’s all part of being human.

The real question is how do you feel about those days looking back? Do you cringe? Are you embarrassed? Do you feel guilty?

I admit, there are more than just a few moments within those challenging days that I am less than impressed with myself. But you know what? Allowing yourself to be angry and upset for some time is ok. Sometimes, life doesn’t do what you want it to. Sometimes, you have to admit you don’t have control over everyone and everything in your life; people will do what they’re going to do, young or old. Sometimes being angry is a meaningful and effective response to let off some steam in situations that may seem too difficult to manage.

But challenging days don’t have to be bad. Maybe being angry is an effective response right now. Being angry can inspire action; it can help you move toward resolution. That’s productive. But what about holding on to that anger for 5 minutes? An hour? Tomorrow? Staying angry is unproductive. You may make rash decisions, you may unintentionally hurt someone you care about, you may inspire negativity around you.

Remember: you get to decide how you want your next moment to be.

So the next time you find yourself thinking you’re having a challenging day, ask yourself why. Take a moment to reflect on what you’re feeling. What caused it? How did you react? Then consider what could be a more productive response?

Life will always have some easy and some difficult times – that is life. Being self-aware and self-managed can help you know your triggers and emotions and manage them to make your next moments more controlled, intentional and successful. Remember this: with anger, visit but don’t move in.

 

Consider reading What Does a Good Day Look Like for You?

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2 Questions All Leaders Should Ask Themselves

By Jay Forte

One of the behaviors I see most often when coaching executives is the need to be right instead of being open to the ideas of others.

Humility is an attribute rarely associated with our conventional definition of CEO or executives. In fact, the assertive, commanding and directing personalities have been routinely applauded as the attributes of successful leaders. Though there may have been a time when some of these behaviors did advance success, in today’s world, they do not.

Let me explain.

When any one of us is more focused on needing to be right than to sourcing the best ideas, we alienate, limit and exclude others’ ideas, perspectives or directions. The need to be right over the intent to be successful or productive are two entirely different things. The former keeps you small and limited as you push away others’ ideas and thinking. The latter encourages broad thinking, continual development and improved performance.

Today’s best leaders are those who are open, supportive, good at asking questions and listening; they are committed to their own development and to the development of their employees. They know that in a knowledge economy, the success of an organization is in the brains and ideas of their employees. That means that every manager, leader and executive must learn to ask themselves these 2 questions:

  1. Who do I have to be to activate the engagement and performance of my people?
  2. What in my approach needs to change to connect with, guide, support and coach my employees to discover, develop and use what they are best at to make their greatest impact at work?

The starting point to effectively respond to both questions is to define the success attributes of a CEO, leader, manager or boss in your organization. Don’t define it as it is today, but instead as it needs to be for your organization to be an employer of choice and to consistently deliver remarkable results in today’s workplace. This is your goal. As you start to build your success plan, refer to this as your “right goalpost.”

Next, assess what works and doesn’t work in your current approach. This is your “left goalpost” – where you currently are. By assessing what works and doesn’t work, you gain the clarity and information to know where you are and what is getting in the way to prevent you from achieving the goal you created.

In other words, you have left and right goalposts, your starting point and your end goal. This allows you to see the distance or gap you need to close.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say that as you reviewed your performance as leader, you noticed you are not very self-aware. You don’t really know your strengths and liabilities, so you can’t effectively manage them. As a result, you can be a victim to your triggers and emotions, frequently reacting instead of responding, which shows up in your organization through disengaged employees: your employees don’t really contribute, you see high employee turnover and it always seems like a struggle to achieve your performance goals.

Now you know what you want and you know where you are. You see the gap between the two. With this insight, you can start to identify actions to close this gap.

A potential first action may be to work with a coach to become more self-aware, to be introduced to assessment tools and to create a personal inventory of abilities. This expanded awareness will help you identify your strengths and liabilities; both will need management, which can’t happen if you are unaware of them. By managing them, you become a more intentional and mindful manager, becoming more responsive, more inclusive and more connected to your team and employees. Taking this first step helps you start to close the gap from where you are to where you want to be.

Take Action

Contact me to learn how we help leaders define their goalposts and build success plans to close the gap.

Be the kind of leader that engages, inspires, activates and retains the best employees.

 

Consider reading But I’m Just Not Good At It!

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But I’m Just Not Good At It!

By Kristin Allaben

Think about your day yesterday. Were you asked to do something you just don’t like to do or didn’t feel like you are good at? More than likely, yes, and it probably happened at least once.

Now, how did you respond? Be honest… because your response actually reveals a lot about you.

Each of us have natural strengths and inherent liabilities. Strengths are generally easier to identify. They often show up as our natural abilities, the things we seem to know how to do or how to handle without much thought. Your strengths could show up as your ability to be direct in your communication, to connect easily with others, to be detail-oriented or even to be competitive.

Liabilities, however, tend to be attributes we shy away from because we’re not intrinsically good at them, frequently because they are the opposite of our strengths. This makes sense. If you’re naturally strong at something, then you can’t be strong at its opposite. If you are determined and direct, you are probably not easy-going and a good listener.

And this is ok.

Learning about your liabilities is not a judging moment. They aren’t weaknesses to fix. Liabilities can never be fixed; they are the result of you being stronger on the other side. Liabilities, however, can – and should – be managed.

Easier said than done, I know. I personally struggled with this as I started my coaching career. To acknowledge my liabilities was one thing, but to take the time to understand them and ensure I’m checking in on them was hard because, quite frankly, those liabilities are things I’m just not good at. And, if we’re being honest, there’s a bit of an ego play there, too. To pay attention, on purpose, to the things you’re just not good at is hard.

But having the information about both your strengths and liabilities enables you to more effectively use and manage them. For example, as a competitive person with a direct communication style, you thrive in situations where you can win. But, one day, you may find yourself in a team setting. Being self-aware lets you recognize that working with a team is a liability and you therefore need to manage it. Perhaps you find a way to take lead of the team. Perhaps you encourage a friendly competition within the team to challenge everyone to think more creatively. A number of options exist! But you can’t do this without understanding the role both your strengths and liabilities play in every situation.

At The Forte Factor, we developed our own performance assessment tool that provides our coaching clients with insights into their strengths and liabilities, giving them greater self-awareness to know how to lead with their strengths, manage their liabilities and use them intentionally in both work and life.

So, the next time you’re asked to do something you don’t love to do or know you’re just not good at, how can you use the knowledge of your strengths and liabilities to show up as your best self?

Important Questions from a Coach:

1. How aware are you of your own strengths and liabilities?
2. Think of one of your liabilities. What is something you can do today to manage (not fix) that liability?
3. How will you stop yourself from passing judgement as you gain awareness of your liabilities?

 

Consider reading Acknowledging Emotions

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Stop Managing and Start Coaching

By Jay Forte

When I ask people to describe a coach, responses include words like “encouraging,” “connected,” “interested,” “supportive,” and “committed.”

And when I ask people to describe their managers, most of the responses include words like “boss,” “distant,” “intimidating,” “disconnected” and “challenging.”

Yikes.

If this is what most people think of their managers, how effective are these managers when it comes to activating employee engagement and exceptional performance?

We’ve transitioned from an industrial economy to a service economy, meaning that more employees work directly with customers. Successful organizations know that no two customer-facing situations are exactly the same. As a result, employees need to be tuned in and actively thinking to maximize the service experience for customers.

With a manager who coaches – engages employees into more discussions, sets clear performance expectations, provides recurring performance feedback and helps navigate career and skill development – employees can take ownership of their performance and, as a result, have greater motivation to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

The goal of shifting from managing to coaching is to activate greater achievement and performance. So how can managers shift from the outdated manager mindset to one of coaching? Here are four areas to focus on.

  1. Connect. The starting point for all great coaching is awareness of what makes employees unique and the ability to know how to connect with employees to build a rapport. This includes acknowledgement (taking the time to really hear what employees say) and validation (understanding and respecting their thoughts and feelings). The value in this, other than treating your people like people, is that the more employees feel heard, the more they share.
  2. Engage. Managers traditionally tell more than they ask. By gaining the skill of asking empowering questions, managers not only gain insight into every aspect of the business, but it also activates employees’ thinking.
  3. Guide toward solutions. Once you get your employees thinking by the use of great questions, help them learn to solve more creatively by guiding them to imagine and brainstorm. Help them learn to invent several options to each challenge or situation instead of waiting for your solution. By encouraging employees to imagine new solutions, you help them grow, feel valuable, feel heard and, ultimately, become part of the solution.
  4. Guide toward achievement. Summarizing and bottom-lining help employees move their ideas into action. Using questions like, “What is best option and what is best way to implement it?” or, “Which ideas do you feel get to the best solution and how should it be implemented?” are examples of summarizing and bottom-lining.

What it all comes down to is this: before you can activate the performance power of your employees, you have to be able to connect with them and engage them. This encourages active thinking to find new solutions they can achieve with a greater sense of ownership.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn in February 2017.

 

Consider reading Do You Know Your Employee’s Engagement Language?

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