Small Actions Lead to Big Results

By Jay Forte

I remember when I was younger and felt like I struggled to make a difference in my work and company. I shared this feeling with my dad – a true philosopher. He reminded me that my role in life – both at home and at work – is not to improve everything. Rather, my role is to improve the things I touch.

What does this mean? Small things done consistently yield great results.

To start, practice tuning in to what is in front of you. Be present to gather information in each moment. This helps you develop a greater awareness of how this specific moment can benefit from what you do and love best.

So challenge yourself. What small thing can you do today, right now, that will improve something?

Consider these examples:

  • You are at the dinner table. You stop and notice that dinner tonight includes a couple of your favorite foods. A sincere thank you to the cook makes a big difference.
  • You are meeting with a customer and notice the customer’s phone continues to ring. You interrupt the meeting to allow the customer to take the call and deal with whatever seems urgent. Once completed, the customer now shows up more present to your meeting, making it more successful.
  • Your teen seems anxious about something at school. Instead of settling down in front of the TV to catch up on Netflix, you ask your teen to go for a ride to get a coffee, ice cream or something from a bakery to create the space and the time to talk. This allows your relationship to continue to grow while, in the short term, giving them the validation that they are heard and valued.
  • You are rushing to grab your coffee on the way to the office. A car is trying to get into the same parking lot as you. You stop and let the car in, something others haven’t done. The driver of the other car gets in line in front of you when ordering coffee and pays for yours for the courtesy.

Small things done consistently yield great results.

Each moment of every day presents us with ways to show up larger, bolder and more connected to others, all of which allows us to improve things in work and life. To have a meaningful impact doesn’t mean you have to do everything; there is always a small something that can be done. Watch for it. Act on it. Everything about work and life will improve as a result.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How will you watch for a way to improve something at home?
  2. How will you watch for a way to improve something at work?
  3. Notice how you feel when you improve something. How will this to encourage you to keep it going?

 

Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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People Are Like M&Ms

By Jay Forte

Each of us is a uniquely capable, talented and amazing person who may experience rejection or dismissal because of how we appear on the outside. A great analogy I like to use is to think of people like M&Ms. On the outside, we all seem so different, but on the inside, we have so many similarities. Our “candy coating” is most often what we notice and comment on – not the remarkable inner “filling.”

I regularly speak to CEO groups about hiring the right employee based on fit. I stress that today’s interviews should be about looking past the “candy coating” of a candidate and instead focusing on the candidate’s “filling” – their thinking, talents, strengths and values. It is these attributes that allow us to see what makes people unique and remarkable, while also better equipping us to assess their fit for the available position.  

Here is a challenge. Stop and notice when you judge another based on their exterior before giving them a chance to show how remarkable and amazing their insides are. Catch how many times you do this and for today, make a conscious effort to notice your judgement and steer away from it. Consider how amazing this person may be. Consider what talents, strengths and values you share.

We respond better to those we feel are similar. So take the time to stop and notice the similarities.

I am constantly learning this lesson as I travel. I see people who look different everywhere. But now I find myself remembering M&Ms. By engaging these fellow travelers in a conversation to get to know their “filling,” I overcome the instinct to judge or make inferences about their “candy coating.” I simply ask them, “What is something great that has happened in your day today?” Their answers remind me that they are just like me – they are working on discovering how to do life, how to be happy, how to [better] care about the people they love, how to achieve their definition of success, how to make some sort of difference in their world. Being open and interested helps them share how remarkable they are, something I would miss if I let my judgments and limiting beliefs take over.

So, remember M&Ms – the different candy coatings mask the remarkable human filling. Ask and listen and you will discover that you are actually quite similar to those who may look the most different from you.

Make time. Care. Be interested. Reach out. You will be more impressed than you think.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How often do you tune in to your thoughts and comments about others?
  2. What is one thing you can do today to be less judgmental of others?
  3. How will you make time to see another’s inner greatness instead of focusing on their external differences?

 

Consider reading What Mask Are You Wearing Today?

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Find Your Voice. Be the Change.

By Jay Forte

Over the weekend of March 24-25, 2018, millions of people – led by student activists –walked, marched and carried signs demanding greater and saner gun laws. It took a series of horrific events to unify them into a formidable powerhouse, focused on inspiring change.

This is a learning experience on a number of levels. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on action. On taking a stand. On finding your voice. On becoming the change you want to see in your world.

Too many of us sit back and wait for others to step up and take action on issues or situations that are important to us. But there are so many places in your day where you have the ability to define what you stand for and then actually stand up for what you believe. It can be something seemingly simple like developing the technology rules for your house to manage your kids’ connection time. It can be something a little more challenging, like standing up to a bully at school or at work (yes, there is actually more bullying going on in the workplace than at schools). It can be something that is deeply important to you, like mobilizing to do something about the sugar in our foods or the number of plastic water bottles floating in our oceans.

So what stops us?

  1. Fear. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of reprisal. Fear of being ostracized. Fear for our job. We play out stories of what could happen to us if we post how we really feel about something on Facebook or Twitter, or what could happen if we speak out about something we don’t think is right at our workplace, church or in our community. We are afraid to challenge the status quo, even when the status quo is outdated, unreasonable and needs changing.
  2. Lack of self-awareness. Many of us don’t know our talents, strengths and abilities. We fail to see how capable we are, that we have what it takes to stand up, use our voice and look to make things better. Because we don’t know how capable we are, we doubt ourselves and yield to the louder voices around us. This keeps us quiet and overlooking things instead of taking a stand to support, defend, challenge or resist. Developing your self-awareness helps you find your inner greatness and values that become your voice as you look at your world and hold yourself accountable to making a difference.

I applaud the student movement that sees the value of life as a greater value than having automatic weapons – and for having the courage, the confidence and the resilience to demand something better, share what they think and hold us all accountable – for taking a stand. Whether you agree or disagree with their message, they are holding themselves accountable for being the change.

As Winston Churchill said, “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

When you get tapped by an event, person or circumstance, will you step up or step back? Will you raise your voice or go down to a whisper?

The world is built by the people who are right here, right now. Stand up for what you think is right. Commit to what makes the world a better, happier, kinder, more loving and safer place. Then find your role in it and take a stand. You could be the one who changes things for the better.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What is one thing you can do today to start to raise your voice on a situation, issue or event that matters to you?
  2. How can you become more self-aware to recognize the places where your voice can and should be heard?
  3. How can you hold yourself accountable for being the change on an issue that matters to you?

 

Consider reading Experience Isn’t Your Enemy

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If You See Something, Say Something

By Jay Forte

If you’ve ever traveled, you’ve likely heard this line announced repeatedly over transit PA systems. It is a reminder to tune in, to be aware of anything that looks out of the ordinary for your safety and for the safety of the traveling public.

See something, say something is a powerful mantra I believe can be used in various aspects of your life. Take the workplace, for example. What if it were your habit to tune in, pay attention and share your thoughts about what works and doesn’t work in how you deliver an exceptional employee experience? What difference could this make in your business?

All too frequently, we move through our days following routine, so much so that we often miss when things change or overlook something new. This is why the expression “thinking outside the box” was created. Its intention was to challenge people to think creatively by activating non-conventional thinking, something that can only be done when you expand what you see.

Most of us look straight ahead; we go through life with blinders on, not noticing anything out of our direct line of vision. So, I think it’s time we updated our terminology. Instead of “thinking outside the box,” let’s “see things out of the corner of our eyes.”

This focus on seeing connects us to our world, but now with the awareness to move our blinders just a bit in both directions to increase what is available to be seen. And once seen, it can be considered. You can’t make a difference and improve things if you don’t first see / notice them.

The see something, say something manta reminds us of two things. First, it offers a reminder to be more attentive, aware and watching. Tune in to every element of your life at work – your workplace (as a whole), your customers, your products, your existing processes. What’s working? What’s not working? What can be improved?

Second, the see something, say something mantra offers a reminder to take responsibility. Once you expand what you notice and see, how are you taking the responsibly to share your thoughts, ideas and possibilities to make things better? Or do you wait for your manager, leader or colleague to propose something, improve something or challenge something?

If you see something, say something. Tune in, watch and notice more. Expand what you see. And when you see new things or ways to make things better, say something. Take responsibility; don’t wait for others.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What is one thing you can do today to expand what you see, to move your blinders and see things out of the corners of your eyes?
  2. What is one thing you have been stepping over that you should say something about to improve it?
  3. How might you use this same thinking at home and / or in your personal life?

 

Consider reading Curiosity and Critical Thinking

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Don’t be A Fixer. Be A Guide.

By Jay Forte

Your friend complains about a challenge with a colleague. You tell your friend how to solve the situation.

Your son complains about how unfair one of his teachers seems to be with the amount of homework she assigns. You tell your son what he should say to the teacher about the volume of homework.

Your spouse complains about putting on some weight and you tell him to stop eating after dinner.

We are natural-born fixers. It seems to be in our DNA to swoop in with our superhero capes to resolve any unacceptable situation or solve a challenge. We shift into “tell mode” and outline the solutions.

Though “tell mode” may be done with the best intentions, there are two reasons why this is routinely unproductive.

  1. Your solution is likely not their Your ideas are your ideas, not theirs. What often seems reasonable for you can be ineffective for them. All solutions must be in the context of who the person is. This is why the best solutions should be suggested by the person with the challenge.
  2. We must each own our solutions. Unless we feel ownership in the solution, it becomes someone else’s idea, which can make us less committed or vested in it as a solution.

So, what do you do when someone comes to you asking for help or guidance? Here are three tips I find to be most effective to move from “tell mode” to a coaching and guiding mode.

  1. Help the person feel heard. Validate their feelings and reflect what you are hearing. Get the facts straight. Sometimes they’re just venting and not looking for a solution. Get clarification from them by asking if they want help and, if so, how they want that help to look. Don’t wonder; ask them. Let them know you understand and are available to help if they want it. After hearing them out, consider asking: “What is it that you need from me?”
  2. Ask empowering questions. Fight the urge to tell them what to do. Instead, ask for their ideas. Consider asking: “What ideas do you have to solve this?” or, “What has worked in a situation like this before?” The request for ideas generally initiates their thinking and talking. They can then start to sort through their ideas and their options. You act as a guide to get them looking at their situation (after all, it is their situation).
  3. Ask how you can support them in implementing any idea they decide to implement. Asking “What do you want to do and how can I support you?” returns the entire challenge back to the person who is experiencing it. They need to own their solution and, by offering to support them based on what they choose to do, you can guide and coach them into finding their solution while ensuring they feel supported and valued.

Though it may come from a good place, our habit is to solve others’ problems; we think we know what they need. How often have you said, “Here’s what you should do”?

And, how often have you heard this and resented the advice that follows?

Help others take their brain out for a spin and be an active participant in solving their challenges. This is a skill that will serve both of you for life.

Don’t be a fixer. Be a guide.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How often do you try to solve someone else’s problem(s) instead of guiding them to a solution?
  2. What can you do in your next conversation to avoid stepping in to solve unless specifically asked?
  3. How can you help those you care about take accountability for solving their own challenges?

 

Consider reading Asking Empowering Questions: Engaging Employees

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Parents: Give Presence, not Presents

By Kristin Allaben

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” –W.E.B. Dubois

I grew up with two parents who taught me a lot about hard work and being humble (I realize I’m one of the lucky ones). These lessons came from their being present; they did not come from giving my sisters and me presents. We weren’t given gifts for every little thing we did. We weren’t rewarded and regaled when we did what we were supposed to do, like working hard, owning our decisions and being our best selves.

Sure, there are certainly situations where gifts as a means to reward or celebrate make sense, like getting an A on a big project or test you know your kid(s) worked hard for, or winning a championship game, or getting into the top choice college. But these types of events are not every day occurrences; they are significant events or milestones.

And that’s the difference that, in my mind, helps separate giving presence from giving presents, of being there every day to support, guide and encourage as opposed to giving gifts.

Today’s world often makes parents feel pressured into constantly delivering surprises, gifts and presents to our kids. Ads for seemingly every product shows us that great parents are the ones who always give their kids exactly what they want. Just look at the market that has developed for 1st birthday parties and what we spend on Christmas!

I decided a long time ago to be a “presence parent” to help my kids sort through great events and challenges, to support and love them, to help them realize that their success is in their ability to find their own way, make their own impact and become their truest self. None of that requires physical gifts.

Be present. Be interested. Not only will giving presence vs. presents create great memories and a encourage a stronger relationship with your kids that evolves as they grow up, it will also teach them that gifts are rewards to be cherished, not something to expect in order to inspire action.

Sometimes, the best gift you can give them is to be with them and be fully present in that moment.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. How can you increase your presence and decrease your presents?
  2. What are the benefits of spending more meaningful time with your kids?
  3. What would the impact of spending more time with your kids be? Would you reduce the number of “things” you give them?

 

Consider reading Overcoming Mom Guilt: Being mindful and aware

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The Power of Stories

By Jay Forte

You have a story. I have a story. Our unique stories tell others who we are, what we’ve done and where we hope to go. They introduce us to others. They inspire us. They make us learn.

However, most of us don’t truly tune in to our own story, never mind the stories of others. We make quick judgements about others, deciding who we like and hate, who is right and who is wrong. But if we were to really listen to each other, we would likely have a profound realization that someone we’re speaking with is actually quite remarkable. You can learn from what they’ve learned. You may even see a bit of yourself in them. You could be changed.

So what stops us from connecting to others and sharing our own stories?

We are in a rush. Our days are filled with responsibilities, obligations and so many things to do. We can blame the world, our work and our responsibilities, but in reality, we choose the activities that fill our days. If connecting with others deeply and in a way that discovers and hears their stories really matters, we would do it. I recently shut the computer down, turned off the office light and spent an evening with an old college roommate, something I would rarely do during the week because of how “busy” I am. By making the time, we reconnected through sharing story after story about life, work and relationships that have shocked, supported, engaged and changed us. I would have missed all this for another hour at my desk.

We are judgmental. How often have you made up your mind about someone only to find you were completely wrong about them? We all judge, it is part of our survival instinct, but most of us do it without realizing we are doing it. We are quick to rule out, cast down, disregard or critique without any true information about the person. I was at the gym recently and watched two women walk by a heavy man on one of the cardio machines. Their contorted faces passed judgment on him based on his size. No words, just facial expressions. It was obvious. I bet if they knew his story they would have had a different response to him (I know he is recovering from surgery and some significant family tragedies). Stories matter.

Suggestion from a coach. I always seem to be in line someplace, mostly waiting get on or off airplanes. Though it’s easier to put my ear buds in and ignore the humanity around me (I am an introvert), there is an incredible opportunity to connect with the millions of stories from the people around me. One of my favorite ways to engage someone in conversation to bring out their stories is to ask, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” The positive tone welcomes the other person in and invites their story. As they share theirs, you will likely be invited to share yours.

Everyone has a story of tragedy, challenge, learning and triumph. And don’t you, too? In a world where we are quick to disconnect, our stories can help us connect. Our stories illustrate that we are all part of something larger, learning as we go and experiencing this great thing called life.

Share your story. Listen to others. You will be changed.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. What could you do today to be more tuned in to the stories of others?
  2. What do you do on a daily basis to be more aware of your own stories?
  3. How could making time to hear the stories of others enrich and improve your life?

 

Consider reading What is Life Teaching You?

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Experience Isn’t Your Enemy

By Kristin Allaben

Just a few short months ago, my husband and I welcomed our second child. There were a number of things we realized we didn’t do during the second pregnancy that we did with the first, like remembering to take those weekly belly pictures or scheduling that extra ultrasound to get those coveted profile shots of baby. With Baby #2, life was busier and those little things were pushed to the back burner to accommodate everything else going on.

I used to get frustrated with (and sometimes down on) myself for not doing everything the same way for #2. My husband would try to lighten the mood by shrugging and saying “second kid.”

It always made me uneasy when we’d use that phrase and, I admit, it took a few rounds of checking in with myself to learn why. To me, it implied a sense of laziness or that you cared less. I realized, however, the “second born syndrome” actually implies being wiser and more aware because you’ve been there before. It’s about experience.

Here’s a great example. New moms are notorious for demanding anyone who wants to hold their newborn to wash their hands. I’ve actually been around a few new moms who went a little more extreme and refused to let anyone in the same room as the new baby if they had a small cough (*ahem* guilty…). With the second, I admit, I was less demanding about hand washing. Sure, I was diligent and asked if someone wasn’t feeling well to not hold the newborn, but otherwise I was a bit more easygoing.

This isn’t because I cared less. It’s because I had experience with a newborn and I learned from it.

We learn from life’s experiences. They help us be better, wiser and sometimes saner the second time around. Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn stated that if we can be present to the information in this moment to learn what it is telling us, we can make our next moment better. We can use what we learn to be wiser, smarter, more confident and more supportive because experience shared something profound with us.

I don’t like the negative connotation associated with the phrase “second kid” or “second child syndrome.” Perhaps I could change it to more accurately reflect the type of parent I become when I intentionally tune in to each moment with every subsequent child: “second born experience.” Maybe this is a more productive way to see how we change and learn, and to appreciate the gift that experience regularly brings.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How friendly and supportive is your self-talk?
  2. How can you be more mindful to intentionally tune in to the lessons life brings you to make each moment going forward even better?
  3. What is one thing you can do each day to make learning and experience a major focus?

 

Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer?

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What Does A Good Day Look Like For You?

By Jay Forte

Too many times, we roll out of bed and get pulled into our normal, daily routine. We move along like zombies, going through the motions until we drop into bed, only to do the same thing the next day.

For many, this can be tiresome and boring. You may feel a sense of emptiness or a desire to do something bigger, something to have an impact on your world.

Rather than continue to slog through each day with little impact, consider asking yourself: what does a good day look like for me?

Reflect on the events of your day to get clear about how you would define a good day and why it would be a good day for you. For example, a good day to you could mean:

  • You work for an organization that values you and works to develop your potential.
  • You spend time with people who love and care about you, and are honest, direct and supportive with their communication.
  • You take advantage of opportunities to run a business, teach a class, use your gifts or make the world a better place.
  • You eat wisely, stay healthy and take time to think, reflect and stay calm.

Only you can define what makes a good day for you. Remember, if you don’t know where you are headed, you will likely not get there. As Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People shares in Habit #2, “Begin with the end in mind.” Know what success looks like for you – be clear, be honest, be intentional.

What would make your day great so as you head to bed each night, you stop, smile and think, “How lucky am I that I have such an amazing life?”

And shouldn’t it be that way? Life is supposed to be amazing for each of us.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How will you make time to review this important question?
  2. How will you encourage others to ask this question to help them define and achieve their idea of a great day?
  3. How will you continually update your response to this question so each day is the best that you can make it?

You own your life. It is up to you to make your life great. Knowing what you want it to be will help you focus on how to make it happen. Get started today.

 

Consider reading Learn to See the Good

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What is Life Teaching You?

By Jay Forte

You didn’t get the promotion you wanted. Your kids didn’t get good grades. Your flight was interrupted by bad weather. Though it may seem like life is working against you, the truth is that it’s just life. How you interpret and use the information in life is up to you. Knowing this, how can you learn to see life as your best teacher?

I believe life really only sends us two things – successes to help keep our resilience, energy and happiness up, and challenges/obstacles/problems to help us learn what we need to do to be better tomorrow. If we can see the events in life as less personal and just events that present us with information, we can more efficiently use the information to be better and move on. However, many of us get stuck in ineffective emotional states.

Let’s look back at the three situations in the first paragraph.

You didn’t get the promotion you wanted. Stop and notice why. What’s not working about your performance that may have influenced the decision? What is one thing the situation tells you about you that can help you improve your performance to lead to greater opportunities tomorrow? Stay calm to learn what life is teaching you.

Your kids didn’t get good grades. Stop and notice why. What’s working and not working in their study habits? What does this information tell you and them about their abilities and interests? What does this tell you about their adaptability and resilience, two critical life skills? How can you help them learn from this to be better tomorrow? Stay calm to learn what life is teaching you.

Your flight was interrupted by bad weather. Stop and notice your reaction. How can you appreciate the fact that life is in constant motion and adaptability is required in order to be successful? What does your reaction tell you about how you handle challenges and disappointments? How can you use this information to be better tomorrow? Stay calm to learn what life is teaching you.

Life is a brilliant teacher. Like with most teachers, it offers both difficult and easy lessons. Though you may look forward to the easy ones, you will always learn more from the difficult ones – the challenges, obstacles and difficulties that force you to think critically – and sometimes creatively – to find a solution you can own to be better tomorrow.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How will you stop and notice the events of life and your response(s) to them?
  2. How will you get in the habit of asking yourself, “What is life teaching me here?”
  3. How will you use today’s life lessons to be better tomorrow?

Life is here to make you better, wiser, more grateful and more amazing tomorrow than you were today. But for that to happen, you need to show up to class.

 

Consider reading What defines success?

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