Holiday Tips: How to Deal with Your Toughest Critics (i.e. Your Family)

Are you eagerly awaiting your family holiday event? Or are you dreading being stuck in the same room with “those people” for an extended period of time?

If the latter, you may find yourself bringing this unproductive mindset and emotion to every aspect of your life. Whether it’s work, your personal life or relationships, feeling anxious or frustrated can introduce a level of unintended hostility around the holiday season.

We put together a few tips to help you stay calm and enjoy the season, regardless of what family members (or other relationships) may do to test or challenge you.

1. Acknowledge you can’t control everything. You certainly can’t control a group of unique people, especially a group that, despite coming from the same background, have unique life experiences that have made each of them exactly who they are today. We aren’t supposed to be the same – imagine how boring that would be. And others aren’t for you to control; they get to be who they are. Instead, accepting each person is who they are allows you start to see value in their differences. The brother who knows a lot about investing. The sister who is running marathons. The cousin who has a different political perspective. The critical aunt that is actually just trying to helpful. Don’t try to control it – step back and try to see the value in others. When you do this, this same group of challenging people can become a group of remarkable people.

2. Change the topic. So, you tried to see your family as remarkable people and it isn’t working. They still argue and can be critical. One of the best ways to interrupt a negative exchange or interaction is simply to change the topic. People love to talk about themselves, so this can be a very well-timed strategy to ask great Aunt Polly about that time she met Uncle Paul. And if you ask an open question that requires more than a one-word response, it can create the space for a productive conversation that everyone can enjoy. Consider having some questions prepared that you can use to keep things more enjoyable.

3. You can leave. Okay, you tried to see the value in others. Then you used some redirecting topics to change the conversation. Nothing seemed to work. So remember: you have the ability to physically remove yourself if things start crossing a line, or, if you’re hosting, you can ask someone to leave. Spend some time with yourself to identify your triggers and where your line is. Keep your energy up, even if your line is crossed. After all, getting angry or feeling victimized can only lead to unproductive outcomes.

I think holidays were invented to bring us together – and to celebrate each other. Putting a group of people in the same room who come packaged with unique abilities, interests, beliefs and experiences, regardless of the reason, will not always work out. Though you can’t control them, you can manage yourself.

Remember: you choose who you want to be and how you want to show up to the moments of your life. Develop your techniques to help others get along. Celebrate when it happens. Have a plan when it doesn’t.

Take Action
What is it about the holiday season you love the most? You dislike the most? These are important questions to answer before attending any holiday function as they can open your eyes to triggers that you may have overlooked. Prepare yourself for any holiday function by having a plan for them and a plan for yourself. Having a plan is key to making the most of every holiday.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Expect the Unexpected to Make Life Better

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Get Clear: What do People Applaud Me For?

This week, our Get Clear question is: for the you here today, what do people applaud you for?

This is an important question to ask yourself for two reasons. First, to gain greater awareness of your strengths so you can use them more intentionally in your days. And second, to gain awareness of the strengths others see in you that you may not be aware of.

In our work with thousands of people and hundreds of companies, we can tell you that a seemingly universal truth is that everyone can identify what they think is wrong with them vs. what is right. Nearly everyone can easily list their faults and weaknesses, mostly because the world is quick to point them out. You’re too talkative, too direct, too confrontational… the list is endless.

This is why this question is so important. The goal is to help you start to discover, see and understand what others see as great in you, what they applaud you for.

Once you hear from those who know you well, stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself what about you is remarkable. Don’t hold back. Don’t play small. Notice everything others positively comment on and applaud. Start a list. Keep adding to the list as you identify more things to help you balance what you know of yourself so you can see what greatness others see in you.

Take Action
Ask yourself your Get Clear question of the week again: What do people applaud you for?

As you identify any new strength or ability this activity helps you discover, add it to your expanding understanding of yourself. Spend a minute understanding what others applaud you for so you can get acquainted with it and start to build on it. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn stated, “There is more right with you than wrong with you no matter what you think is wrong with you.”

Get clear. Be the real you. This is the key to a great life.

Are you part of our 2020 Vision Facebook Group? Sign up now to have your chance to connect with our team of coaches and engage with other community members to help you gain even greater clarity about yourself and your goals for 2020.

By The Forte Factor Team

Consider reading How to Help Your People Improve

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Being Happy Is Your Choice

We hear it over and over – life is hard. Life has some hard spots. True. But most days, there is more right than wrong, good than bad, amazing than average, building than diminishing, possible than impossible, wonder than sameness. But in a world where the bad is seemingly magnified, it requires a mindset shift to see the positive more than the negative.

Here’s the truth: life is about perspective. We have been trained to focus on the challenges and dangers in our world. We are trained to tune in to things that can harm us, hurt us and create problems. There’s little wonder that, with this perspective, most everything we notice is a problem we are just finishing, just starting or one that is on our future. Most people live life like they’re moving from problem to problem to problem. Who wouldn’t get worn out, angry and bitter with that view?

The consequence of this negative perspective is self-perpetuating. The more you notice problems and get yourself down because of them, the more problems you notice – and on it goes. You spin faster and faster making it more difficult to notice any of the amazing, wonderful, awesome and spectacular things that go on every day, right in front of you, able to make you see that you have a great life.

So how do you learn to see the bright side and not always focus on the dark side? Tune out, tune in and readjust your view.

Tune Out
With the magnitude of negative news and fear-based reporting in our world, it is important to disconnect from this input to allow yourself to consider the positive, not just the negative. If you receive a constant feed of negative, it will become the lead influence in your thinking. You will spend your time being pessimistic, and here is what is alarming: you will justify that you are right to be so negative.

You need to disconnect from the continual negativity to be able to see and develop the positive.

Tune In
Tune in means pay attention to what is good, right and working well about you and your world. What are your greatest abilities that help you excel? What are you passionate about and interested in that helps you feel engaged, activated and happy in your day? What in your world or workplace is working well?

If you don’t look for it, you will not find it. But as soon as you learn to tune in to what is great in you and in your world and workplace, you will see that there is always more right than wrong, more beauty, greatness and goodness than the other side. It takes new eyes to see it.

Readjust Your View
FUD – fear, uncertainty, death. Drama and difficulties. This is the stuff that seemingly sells best. But when you shift from fear to love, and from worry to happiness, you take control as the owner of your life. Making an intentional mindset shift to adjust your view, combined with tuning out the noise and tuning in to yourself, lessens the impact on you. You are a victim to this until you choose not to be.

Consider all of the metaphors here – you drive, you paint your canvas, you run your race, you build your dream. From a more positive, energized and engaged perspective, the results in each of these situations will be remarkably better. Seeing it is the first step.

Take Action
Develop a practice to tune out with regularity to be able to tune in to see things clearly, to then readjust your view. Start each day with a focus on gratitude in the silence of the moment. Allow that silence to create a clearer view of you and your world, and how you want to see yourself doing work and life. Happy is a choice. It can be yours, but you have to want it and be willing to work to achieve it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading To Change a Habit, Try Something Different

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How to Help Your People Improve

There is a lot on your plate. What happens on a daily basis at home, combined with the ever-evolving experience at work, can be a lot to manage. Take a look at work, specifically. The general description “work” has become more complicated and complex; few days at work are the same as the day before.

So, how can you keep your employees engaged and performing at a high level? Through skill development. Having the best skills enables an employee to be more engaged, more efficient and more effective. In my experience, the best way to build education and learning into an already busy workday is through active learning.

Consider these three ways to bring active learning into each of your employees’ days.

  1. Create learning expectations. Add learning a skill, habit or other performance improvement idea to each employee’s weekly to-do list. Have a weekly check in on things done and things learned. This does two critical things. First, it creates valuable manager-employee relationship time and second, it draws attention to the urgency, need and importance of continual learning. This makes learning a cultural value.
  2. Create teachable moments. In every moment, there is always something to learn. Think and act as a coach who uses interactions to ask key questions to help others think, consider, reflect and respond. Consider questions like, “What is another way to handle this?” Or, “What did this situation tell you about your abilities, about our culture, about our customers, about working effectively with others, etc?” Or, “What could you do to make this better?” Stopping for a moment to draw attention to or focus on a situation can help everyone learn from the moment.
  3. Connect your people with internal mentors. Mentoring is the process of accelerating learning where a person with greater skills shares what they know with those who have lesser skills. Identify the skills the workplace needs and those on the team with these skills. Create the opportunity for a mentor to share what they know and feel is valuable and important. When done well and with intention, it leads to a wiser, more able and more connected team.

According to the Gallup Organization, today’s employees want to grow, learn and develop because they are aware that those with the best skills have the best opportunities. This benefits the organization because employees with great skills are more engaged which helps them be more efficient and effective. A true win for both employee and organization.

Take Action
Develop a cohesive active learning plan for each of your employees by defining their success and challenging skill areas. Be clear of the existing skills each employee can further develop, as well as the skills they each need help developing. Use this information to identify your skill mentors to make learning and performance improvement the responsibility of everyone in the organization. Not only does the organization become wiser, but employees build stronger performance relationships with each other.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to Do More

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Get Clear: When you were young, what did you love to do?

Our goal over the next eight weeks is to help people learn how to get clear about what they want in 2020. After all, 20/20 vision is considered perfect vision.

To kick-off our weekly Get Clear efforts, we asked: when you were young, what did you love to do?

Some of the answers we heard, at face value, talked about hobbies people enjoyed or spending time with family or friends. At face value, those are great answers that tell you a bit about what someone’s childhood was like. But the answers to this question actually have a lot more meaning.

The reason for this question is that when we were younger, we were more connected to our true selves, something we lose touch with over time because we aim to please. Whether done intentionally or subconsciously, we modify who we are to please and accommodate the people and world around us, and the unintended consequence is that we can lose our true selves.

To help get clear about yourself – so you can make wise and meaningful decisions about your life and your work – you need to connect to your true self to have accurate and complete information to work with.

So, when you were younger, what did you love to do? I bet some of this is still there for you.

When Jay was younger, he was always writing. He had three brothers who were always outside and active, but he was always inside dreaming, inventing and writing stories. As time went on, he was guided to pursue a career that seemed more achievable than writing. He never really thought about being a writer until someone suggested he write a book about the ideas he had to create a remarkable workplace. That rekindled the flame for writing and reminded him how much he loved it. A year later, he wrote his first book and a second book the following year.

Writing, dreaming, storytelling, writing poetry, thinking about big ideas has always been a passion for him. He explained, “When I step back into it, life is better, fuller and more connected to who I really am. I now write everyday – blogs, articles, programs to teach others and anything that helps me get my ideas out to share them with my world.  And it was only in reconnecting to what I was truly passionate about as a kid that I realized that the something I loved to do as a kid holds the same weight today. This passion helped me define and develop my career, a career that uses what I am passionate about every day. Sometimes by allowing yourself to think back to when you were younger, you see things that you gave up on – for whatever reason – that belong back in your days.

Take Action
Ask yourself your Get Clear question of the week again: when you were young, what did you love to do? How is this still important to you? Does it (or can it) fit into your life? How does this help you get clear about what belongs in your work and life that fits the real you?

Now take a moment to reflect on that answer. Get clear. Be the real you. This is the key to a great life.

Are you part of our 2020 Vision Facebook Group? Sign up now to have your chance to connect with our team of coaches and engage with other community members to help you gain even greater clarity about yourself and your goals for 2020.

By The Forte Factor Team

Consider reading Pay Attention

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Current Strengths and Future Potential

When you really stop and notice, you can discover things about yourself that you would have otherwise missed. Consider the strengths you become aware of and tune in to. These are the key to activating your potential.

But what, exactly, is potential?

I believe your potential is what you are capable of doing, being or contributing. Perhaps ironically, most of us have never been introduced to our potential for a number of reasons. It could be because of overly supportive parents who created an easy road and life for us. It could be a micromanaging boss who told you what to do and how to do it. It could be a school system that moved you only as far as the middle of the pack because it is easier to provide the same education to everyone delivered in the same way.

In each of these situations, we were not introduced to or able to develop our strengths, to see what we came equipped with and are made of. We can’t see this until we have a chance to use it.

This is your wake-up call, to seek and act on your true potential. After all, we can’t change and improve things if we first can’t see what is happening. So many of us don’t know how capable we are because we haven’t developed our self-awareness and self-belief. The result is that we have learned we can just get by instead of making a profound difference.

Though it is certainly easier to blame our environments, the process of developing into our greatest selves is our personal work to do. It’s not the responsibility of your parents, boss or the school system. It is up to each of us to spend time knowing ourselves so we can discover what unique abilities we were born with, then constantly work to discover how to bring those abilities to our lives and our world. This is the process of potential.

No one was born with an owner’s manual that summarizes our abilities. We learn them as we live and as we make time to discover them. Once discovered, it’s up to you to develop your abilities to create your strengths. Then, with this knowledge, you have the ability to bring these strengths into your day in a managed and intentional way. This is how you achieve your potential.

Take Action
Information is key to understanding yourself. If you are not aware of your strengths, consider taking an online assessment, work with a coach or carve out some quiet time to reflect on these questions:

  • What am I really good at?
  • What do I love to do?
  • How can I use this to reach my potential?

Use your strengths – they are your key to being remarkable.   

Know your best, bring your best, do great things. This is how to build a great life and a great world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Don’t Do Average, Make it an Experience

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Being Thankful

I can vividly remember one Thanksgiving when my rather large extended family went around the table before dinner was served and each person was asked to share one thing they were thankful for. Some were thoughtful and touching, others were practical. I remember this particular year because I was caught off guard. I listened to my family members all share touching and thoughtful expressions of thankfulness and I nervously waited for my turn. Despite the vivid memory, I truly can’t remember what I shared that I was thankful for, but being about 8 years old at the time, I’m pretty sure I said some standard response of “my family” or “soccer,” or I repeated what a previous family member shared.

Regardless of my 8-year-old memory, the point is that we took a moment to stop and notice what was working in our lives instead of what wasn’t working. This is the formula for gratitude. Or is it?

The tradition of taking a moment to share a reason to be grateful has been evolving into month-long events for families to recognize and celebrate. Some families have adopted an at-the-dinner-table nightly routine. Others have created Thankful Pumpkins, where they write down something they’re thankful for on a pumpkin every day through the month of November, then prominently feature the pumpkin as the centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. And others have used Thankful Jars or Gratitude Jars, where every family member writes down one thing they are thankful for each day and puts it in a jar to be read aloud – as a family – on New Year’s Day.

What I’m seeing is that today’s world, which is so seemingly self- and world-unaware, has moments of great awareness. Moments of enlightenment. Moments when they are so truly tuned in that they can see and appreciate the up and the downs (because the downs help us appreciate the ups) in each of life’s little moments.

And I’m increasingly seeing this in younger kids. In fact, my 3-year-old’s preschool class created “Thanksgiving trees” this year. Each student was encouraged to draw something they were thankful for, thus introducing the awareness and understanding of being thankful (granted, one student featured spiders on his Thanksgiving tree, but the conversations are being had…).

So this Thanksgiving, don’t just take a moment to reflect on what you’re thankful for today. Challenge yourself to adopt this attitude of gratitude every day throughout every year. Just think of how you would change – how you think, feel and act – when you focus more on what is good and right in life instead of what isn’t. And should that be something you do every day?

Take Action
Make some time to truly tune in to your surroundings on Thanksgiving. Where are you? Who are you with? Is someone missing that you wish could be there? How did the food taste? What extra effort went into bringing you all together? What emotions and feelings does this view of the day help you experience?

Now take a deep breath. It’s easier to acknowledge what you’re thankful for than it is to say “thank you,” so close your eyes and say “thank you.” Say it out aloud or in your head. But say it to the universe. To your family and friends. To yourself.

Then ask how you will bring that attitude of gratitude to everything you do, to learn to see and appreciate the good in every moment. You and those in your life will be changed by it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Life’s Little Gifts

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Parents: Are You Helping or Hurting?

I love to laugh, so much so that I find I’m regularly sharing memes and funny articles through just about every channel with friends and family. One such recent find was a brief article in The Onion (for those of you who aren’t familiar, The Onion is an online-only satire publication).

The article, titled “Study Finds Every Style Of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults,” actually made me laugh out loud. It calls attention to the fact that regardless of your upbringing, people are generally just miserable. They find the bad, they ruminate, and then move on to find something else that’s not great. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll ask someone how they’re doing and the answer is a sarcastic, “Living the dream!”

But the article? Yup, it’s funny. I shared it with a few friends and my husband. It seemed even funnier to me now that we have three little boys to “raise right” (did I mention we welcomed our third son earlier this month?).

But then I started thinking: this is exactly what I coach.

We all hear about the overbearing parents that never let their kids make mistakes to learn on their own. We hear about the parents who are seemingly MIA in correcting or guiding behaviors, resulting in children who are undisciplined and, quite frankly, hard to be around. And we have special names for those parents, too (check out our full list of parenting styles we’ve identified through our years of coaching).

And the extreme parenting styles are easy to make fun of because they are the extremes.

But what about the parenting styles in the middle? How do you figure out what’s the right one for you and your family?

My guidance as a coach is to think of your parenting style as either productive or unproductive. There’s no good or bad, right or wrong. It’s about what works for you in this moment to raise happy, healthy and responsible humans.

Take Action
What parenting style(s) do you exhibit most? Do you think it’s productive or unproductive?

If you feel like you’re struggling to find the right mix of parenting styles to help raise your children in a productive way, consider exploring our Get Your Kids Ready for Life program. With our unique coaching approach, you’ll develop a greater awareness of what works and doesn’t work in your parenting, and work toward creating confident, productive and happy child(ren) in today’s world.

Contact us to get started.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Hiring a Parenting Coach Doesn’t Mean You’re Failing

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Believe in Heroes

One of the self-discovery activities I use to help people develop their self-awareness includes this question: “When you were younger, who was your hero?”

When I’ve asked this question over the years, I have heard that certain teachers were heroes for their ability to help someone who never felt heard or valuable feel both heard and valuable.

I have heard that a parent can be a hero because of the way they live their life – always responding to and caring for others; being creative and authentic no matter what; believing deeply in the greatness in their kids; having a unrelenting faith or actually allowing others to determine their own beliefs.

I have heard that a boss or a colleague can be a hero for the way they create or support a workplace that is fair, focused on achievement and inclusive, and never gossips, demeans or belittles anyone.

I have heard that a friend can be a hero because of the way they stay with you through your ups and downs, without any judgment.

The purpose of this question is to help you identify the attributes you see in others that are important to you. We need heroes in our lives because they give us three important things:

  1. Heroes teach us. They do what they do so well that we take note. Maybe we see who we want to be, or how we want to connect with others, or how we want to live, or how to develop and live deep beliefs. Their commitment to who they are expands what we think about, see and consider. Heroes help us learn.
  2. Heroes help us define our values. As we watch and are impressed by others, we start to identify why we are impressed; we start to identify the things that are important to us. It may be that they treat people kindly and fairly; we see these are our values. It may be that they are resilient and tenacious; we see this and we want to be this. It may be that they are excellent negotiators and always seem to find a way to achieve their goals; it identifies that achievement is important to us. By watching others, we frequently get clear of our own values.
  3. Heroes encourage us to be our best selves. Heroes bring their A-game. The show up. They step up. They stand out. The don’t play small. They sit on the sidelines. We see their effort and focus and are encouraged and inspired to tap into ours. We see the impact they have and connect it to the effort they bring.

The thing I have found most amazing about heroes is that they never intend to be heroes. They are humble. They are authentic. They just do what they do because they believe it to be true for them.

My dad was one of my heroes. He defined his values in life and lived them boldly, openly and lovingly. He brought his best to others. He did it not to impress, but to make the world a better place. This was particularly difficult to do raising six kids.

Take Action
Watch for heroes. Believe in heroes. Believe that we can each live consciously, intentionally and boldly what really matters to us, to make things better for all of us.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading The Imagine Game

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You Know You’re a Great Leader When You Do These Things

In the industrial age, we prided our leaders on being direct, assertive and knowing all the answers. We needed them to be a strong central figure to help direct and orchestrate work, manage people and make things happen. When the workplace remained fairly static in what work was and how it was done, it was not only easier to accomplish, but also praised and, to an extent, appreciated.

But then the workplace changed. Much of the make-things economy moved offshore, leaving us with today’s provide-service workplace. Every employee has the opportunity to directly interact with customers. This, combined with the fact that few workplace situations are the same day-to-day, changes not only what we do for work, but also how we work and how we lead those who work.

As a result, today’s workplace needs a new type of leader, one who is a good listener but also able to take charge. One who earns respect and loyalty from their employees and still drives results. One who can admit to not knowing everything, or to admit when they’re wrong, and use the wisdom of others to make wise, sound decisions.

To be an effective leader in today’s workplace, four attributes are required:

1. Today’s best leaders are humble. They are aware that they don’t know everything and are firm believers in the mantra, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” They facilitate open discussions and dialog to gather information to be able to fully understand situations, aware that they are no longer expected to have all the answers. Instead, their role is to direct their employees in how to find, gather or create the information. They leave their ego at the door, allowing them to more confidently connect and interact with anyone in or out of the business. They are more interested in having things done well and done right than being the one to have the answer. They know their role is to facilitate the creation and implementation of the best ideas.

2. Today’s best leaders are curious. Great leaders are masters at asking questions. They are interested in knowing what others think, consider, do and want. They know that the responses provide meaningful information that will help them make wise and more successful decisions. They have trained themselves to stop telling and do more asking. This approach has a significant impact on those around them. Others feel engaged, encouraged and empowered to share, think and contribute.

3. Today’s best leaders care deeply about their people. They know that despite the critical role the performance numbers play, the way to achieve results is through their people. They build honest, authentic and caring relationships not just to get their people to do things, but because they truly care about everyone in their organization. It is obvious when a leader truly cares vs. cares to get a result. Caring leaders inspire employee loyalty.

4. Today’s best leaders commit to helping everyone grow, learn and improve. In a world that constantly changes, those with the best skills have the best ability to contribute and build sustainable careers. Today’s leaders have expectations of their people to constantly look at their work and lives and ask the question, “what could I do to make this better?” This focus on gradual and continual improvement helps their people discover, develop and live their potential, leading to more engaged and successful employees, and an improved organization.

Take Action
As the world and workplace changes, so do the attributes of effective leaders. Stay tuned in, focused and aware of the changes to modify your style to stay effective and relevant. Your people expect it. Your organization relies on it. Your customers depend on it.

Original article appeared on The Ladders, October 7, 2019.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Things Every Manager Can Do to Increase Employee Engagement

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