Life would be easier if…

Have you ever thought to yourself, “life would just be so much easier if [insert event, complication, person, etc.] weren’t around?”

But would it? What would life be like without person/event/complication? In most situations, those very obstacles make us the people we are capable of being. The real trick is learning how to be more present in those moments to judge them less and understand them more, to respond and not react. Consider the person who regrets something they’ve said as soon as the words leave their mouth. Reaction. Consider the person who hits instead of talks. Reaction.

Now consider the consequences of those actions.

But what if instead of reacting, of saying something you didn’t mean or doing something you didn’t mean to do, you let yourself take a moment to observe, consider the information available and choose how to use what you now know to respond with intention?

Consider the person who thinks about what they want to say before they say it, letting them process the real message they want to share. Response. Consider the person who thinks about being physical before actually hitting someone, and instead uses words or chooses another action, like walking away. Response. 

We talk a lot about responding vs. reacting because it requires significant self-awareness to act with intention. Reacting is programmed in our heads; it is part of our fight, flight or freeze survival instinct. Sometimes, it’s what is needed to keep us safe. But in most cases, responding, or acting with intention, provides a more successful outcome. Think about a difficult situation you were faced with. Consider your actions:

  • Did you respond?– You see where you are and you see where you want to be. You start to consider how to close the gap between the two to get to your desired outcome.
  • Did you react? – You see where you are. You ruminate on what has happened, unable to look ahead or gain control of your emotions, making it hard to take thoughtful actions toward achieving what you want.

I recently came across a great reminder about the power of looking forward: “There’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror; where you’re going is so much better then where you’ve been.”

Take Action
If you find yourself wondering what life could or would have been like, take a moment to stop and notice what’s happening around you and to reflect on your reaction. What situation caused you to think of what could have been? Is it fact or is it something you believe to be true?

Instead of saying “what could have been,” how can you change the question to an actionable statement: “I wonder what would be if I…”

See things clearly. Choose wisely.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading That’s Life

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This Can’t Be It, Right?

Not sure about where your life is right now? It’s ok, we’ve all been there. We start to question if we made the right choice in jobs or careers. If we made the right choice in our partner. If we made the right choice to become a parent. To buy a house, get the dog, move to a new place entirely.

Life is full of choices, and sometimes, we can find ourselves getting so caught up in the pace of our everyday life that we forget to check in with ourselves to ask: Is this what I want? Or is this what others are telling me I want?

Sometimes, that check-in happens before making big decisions. Sometimes, it comes after a big decision has been made.

If you find yourself asking, “how did I get here? or “this can’t be it, right?” then this program is for you.

Join us for a 4-week program to learn how to ask yourself the tough questions – and be honest enough to get real answers. Take the time to get to know the real you and how to connect that you to the opportunities in work and life that fit, whomever you may be.

Sign up here.

Disclaimer: This program is designed as a coaching program. Participants will be given access to proprietary tools and a thought process created by The Forte Factor, but these tools do not provide the solution to your question. You are responsible for identifying your goal and working on achieving it. You define success. As a coach, I am here to be your accountability partner. I’ll help you stick to your action plan to work toward your goal, but I will not tell you if your goal is right or wrong, good or bad, productive or unproductive. That is for you to decide.

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The Imagine Game

My (almost) 3-year old loves to make inferences, to guess why something is happening the way it’s happening. And his younger brother gets equally excited to hear all the ideas and to jump in when he can.

For example, our dog could start barking. It immediately results in a flurry of questions about why she’s barking so I’ll turn the question around: “Why do you guys think she’s barking?” Their eyes light up – especially my 3-year old who is so excited to share his ideas with me – and the reasons come pouring out.

“Maybe there’s another dog out there! Maybe it’s a cat? Maybe it’s the wild turkeys again! Maybe it’s nothing… she barks at nothing sometimes. Is it a truck? A car? Did a tree fall down…?”

Regardless of the question, the ideas go on and on until he either finds one that suits him or he and his brother end in a fit of giggles.

They love this “game” so much, I created the “Imagine Game.” The rules are simple: notice something about your surroundings and ask why it is the way it is.

Why do you think that dump truck drove by so fast?

Why do you think it’s so windy?

What do you think we’ll find over there?

It’s a fun game that gets the kids’ creative juices flowing and gives me a little insight into what they’re thinking and feeling that day.

But it’s more than just a fun game to play with my kids. It got me thinking about our behavior as adults. Why don’t we play the “Imagine Game” when we grow up? Because we spend most of our time in habit and react mode. We’re so busy moving through the motions of the day that we forget to make time to notice what’s happening right in front of us, to give it some thought and see where those thoughts take us. It might end nowhere; it also might lead to an idea or thought that may otherwise have been unreached.

Imagine is one of the coaching tools we use at The Forte Factor to encourage our clients to take a step beyond their limits for just a moment to imagine the achievement of a goal or what could be possible.

By allowing yourself to imagine and hold a different outcome in your view, you open up possibilities that a mind in react mode can’t access. 

Taking a few minutes of the day to imagine something without restrictions can not only get the creative juices flowing, but it also allows you to see what could be. And you just may discover that your first step to reaching your goal(s) is to imagine getting there.

Take Action
Take five minutes today to notice something about your world and imagine why it is like it is. What’s the weather like? What is traffic like? What do you hear when you stop and notice? Pick something and focus on it. Ask yourself why it is the way it is. Allow yourself to imagine the scenario playing out.

Now, think of a goal you’ve set for yourself. Imagine yourself achieving that goal. What does success look like to you? How did you get there? Use this exercise if you find yourself getting stuck and needing an extra push to keep working toward your goal(s).

Find three places to use the Imagination Game in work or life this week. See how things change.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Be On the Disengagement Hunt

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Experiencing Emotions

Sometimes, you feel angry and you can’t seem to get out of the downward spiral; everything just makes your mood worse. Sometimes, you just need to cry and can’t stop. Sometimes, you’re so contagiously happy you seem to be operating in your own world.

I can guarantee that as a human, you regularly experience these emotions. We all do.

Experiencing any of those emotions is not good or bad, right or wrong. It’s what you do when you experience them that determines your degree of happiness or suffering as you go through life. Remember, life and its events are neutral. We add the meaning. Each emotion we experience is telling us something about us and our world. Sometimes we like it; sometimes we don’t. But when we really tune in, we get to experience all of life.

Consider how you would fully experience these events.

  • You wake up happy, rested and excited about the day. The sun is out, the sky has no clouds. There is the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. Spend a moment with this.
  • You wake up upset and tired. You have a headache. You spilled breakfast on your work clothes and need to change, which got you caught up in traffic and made you late for work. Spend a moment with this.
  • You received some tough health news. More tests are needed but your next appointment is not for two weeks. You will have to distract yourself while you wait for the additional tests. Spend a moment with this.

I’m the first to raise my hand to say “been there!” Whether happy, nervous or sad, our emotions help us make sense of our world. So, consider how you can choose to experience and learn from your emotions – to help you either focus on the joy or the lesson in each moment? Feel, then manage your emotions to help you wisely, successfully and productively show up fully present, aware and authentic in life.

Take Action
The next time you find yourself experiencing an excess of a specific emotion, take a deep breath. Allow yourself the time to fully experience it – what it feels like to be happy, relaxed, worried or upset.

Then ask yourself: what emotion(s) do I want to stay in and what do I want to learn from then move away from? Hold on to those that bring you joy, happiness and contentment. Learn from, then let go of, the others.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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Are you Ready to Act Like a Manager?

Being human means that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. Consider whether you would react or respond to the following situations.

  • Your best employee just gave her notice.
  • An employee has been late to work twice this week.
  • Your department is over budget in its spending for the month.
  • An important email was sent to a customer with typos and inaccurate information.
  • Two employees argue in front of the customer.
  • The office gossips about an employee who is having a personal problem.

You can vent. You can rant. You can react. But if you do, what is likely to happen is that you may not solve the situation but rather aggravate your team or customers in the process.

Instead, you could respond with intention. When responding, you allow yourself to see the situation from external and internal perspectives.

External. Stop and notice what is creating the situation. What information do you need to fully understand the situation to be able to handle it effectively? What are the circumstances, personalities and details affecting the situation? What is working and not working in this moment that is creating this?

Internal. Stop and notice you. What is your emotional state? What of your strengths will help you here? What triggers have been activated that you will need to manage? What situations or events of the past are you bringing forward?

The guidance I share with the executives I coach – and that has direct application for all managers – is to pause for a moment in any of these situations to get informed about the internal and the external. Once you fully understand the situation, the reason for it and what is going on with you, ask yourself this question: “Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want?”

It is in this moment that you can see your habit to vent, rant and overreact, or to wisely and calmly review and manage yourself, will affect the outcome and results you want. To be an effective manager requires that you act with intention, to respond instead of react.

Effective managers and leaders are present to both their situations and themselves. By stopping and noticing both the external and internal, they can more wisely and more intentionally respond instead of react. Relationships improve. Productivity and performance improve. Results improve.

Take Action
Stop and notice a challenging situation happening in your workplace. Take the time to gather the information you need – the external and the internal –  to be ready and able to solve it. With the information about the situation and your own review of yourself, ask yourself Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want? With the information you have, choose with intention what you do next.

This doesn’t mean you won’t raise your voice or get angry in a challenging situation. It just means that you choose that response after consideration of the situation, rather than default to an old habit. And when you take the time to consider what to do, you will likely find that the raised voice or anger, though a possible solution, may likely be an infrequent option in favor of a calm, sane and methodical response.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading A Tantrum is a Tantrum

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Out of Your Clouds

Flying has great wisdom to share.

When you are in the clouds, you can’t see anything. Your view is limited. You feel closed in. You feel restricted.

Rising above the clouds expands your view in every direction. There are no limits. Opportunities can happen. Things feel possible.

In work and life, where are you in the clouds? Where is your view limited and restricted?

How will you get yourself out of your clouds so you can consider new opportunities and make big things happen?

Take Action
When you find yourself stuck or in a challenging situation, ask yourself these two questions to help get yourself out of your clouds:

  1. What is another way to look at [this situation] that will give me a better outcome?
  2. What am I not seeing that I should see or consider that will help me see things differently?

Consider this: when you think you’re not as great as someone else, or lack a certain talent or ability, maybe all that is going on is you are stuck in the clouds. 

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Give Me Clarity – and Courage

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Managers: How to Identify and Correct your Blind Spots

You are a great manager, at least most of the time. But like every other human, some of your behaviors are actually unproductive. This holds significant unintended consequences for a manager. For example, being unaware of an unproductive behavior can lead to disengaged employees, lost opportunities or missed results.

These unproductive behaviors are your blind spots.

So, how do you see what gets in your way (your blind spots) and, more importantly, how do you correct them?

We are creatures of habit, and we are all pretty mindless. This is not a criticism or judgment; it is an observation. We do so much in our day out of habit that we are not mindful and intentional in some of our choices and actions. And the more mindless we are, the more our unproductive behaviors (blind spots) show up in our days, negatively affecting our results.

A blind spot for a manager could be any of the following:

  • Always telling employees what to do instead of asking, guiding and supporting.
  • Watching for what’s not working with employees instead of what is working.
  • Being cheap with praise for work well done.
  • Being overly compassionate where others don’t see you as a leader, or overly dogmatic where others don’t want to work with you.
  • Holding others to behaviors that you don’t maintain for yourself.
  • Communicating in one method with everyone, regardless of its ineffectiveness.
  • Fear of confrontation or conflict.
  • Arrogance and disconnection from others.

Since blind spots are unproductive behaviors that you cannot see, the first step to improving your performance is to identify your blind spots so you can work on them. To do this requires intentional and focused work on yourself to increase your self-awareness.

Here are two things you can do now to identify your blind spots.

  • Self-evaluation. Make time without any interruptions. Focus on how you manage others and your work. To summarize what you notice, draw a line down the middle of a page. The left column is for you to summarize what works in the way you manage. The right column is for you to summarize what doesn’t work in the way you manage. The list of what’s not working will help you see your blind spots.
  • Ask others. Using the same what works and what doesn’t work format, ask several of your peers, direct reports or others to honestly share their perspectives. With their results, simply ask what the results share about your habits. Highlight any needing attention.

Being aware of your blind spots is good. It provides you with the information you need to improve on what’s not working in your management style. To make those improvements, consider how you can mindfully address and correct a blind spot. Consider these two ways to act on your intention to make improvements.

  • Rank your unproductive behaviors as most urgent / important to correct to the least urgent / important. With this awareness, consider ways to improve it. Work with a peer, your manager or with a coach to brainstorm ways to make improvements. From the list of ideas, select the best idea(s) and build and implement a plan to improve. Ensure your plan includes improvement metrics. You must be able to see and measure progress to eliminate the blind spot.
  • Engage an accountability partner. We all know we have things to work on to improve our performance, but we don’t do them. This is why some people go to a gym instead of working out at home, or walk with a friend instead of walking alone. We frequently need to be accountable to another to keep us on track. Identify a peer, colleague or coach who can help you stay on track by regular check-ins as well as monitoring progress.

We are all human. We each have habits that get in the way of what we want to achieve. This is particularly obvious when we manage others. Tune in to identify your blind spots. Build and implement a plan, and work with a partner to make improvements. For every blind spot you eliminate, you improve your impact and performance.

Take Action
Take 10 minutes today to ask yourself – honestly – what’s working and not working in the way you manage others. What do you need to see in your approach that you are not currently seeing? Then ask a colleague to give you honest and productive feedback. Uncover your blind spots so you can shine light on them to correct them.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave You in 2019 (and What to Do About it)

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Define Your Edges

Think of your life as a road. Your destination: a great life. How you get there is your choice. It’s led by your interests and abilities, which keep you moving along your road, and your values, which serve as your guardrails, the edges that keep you on your road. With a clear vision of your destination, along with clear values, you can keep yourself moving forward on your road in life.

Your guardrails also play an important role in helping you understand when you get triggered. When you have greater awareness of your values, you can better recognize when someone or something bumps the guardrails, challenging your values.

As an example, let’s say excellence is one of your values and a colleague turns in average or poor work. When you are aware of why this irritates or aggravates you (it triggers your value of excellence), you are in a position to intentionally and thoughtfully respond instead of react. You can share your expectations and why the performance challenges a value. You have the ability to solve, stay calm and keep moving.

If you don’t have a clear understanding of your values, you will find yourself all over the place. You won’t be able to stay focused on your goal(s) because you can become easily distracted by all that life can present to you, show you and challenge you with. These distractions require you to need more energy, focus and determination to get back on the road to continue your journey.

But, if you know your values, you’ll see them as providing the edges – the guidance in how to stay on your road and to better understand when you feel triggered. With this awareness, you can use your energy to stay on your road, making your moments count because you know where you are headed and what matters to you.

So how do you develop your guardrails? It’s all based on your values, which you have the responsibility to define. Most of us develop our values over time. Sometimes they come from our families and upbringing. Sometimes they come from us seeing what we don’t want to help us clearly define what we do.

Regardless of where you learned them, it is up to you to constantly review them to determine if they are still yours. It’s not uncommon to discover that a value that was part of your family may no longer be a value of yours, or a belief that came from your school may no longer be true for you.

Your life is your road. You define the edges. Create them, review them and live them so you can stay on your road and constantly move forward in your great life.

Take Action
Reflect on what values guide your decisions and your life. Articulate them. Then consider where you got these from and if they are still for you. Now you have your guardrails. Your road through life just became clearer and easier.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading That’s Life

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“Not Bad” Doesn’t Mean Good

Is your personal performance standard to consistently do good or great work, or is it to do just enough not to get fired?

So many of us have dropped our personal performance standard. As a coach, I routinely work with people who are okay with doing average. When asked how their weekend was, the answer is “not bad.” When asked how they are doing on their goals and objectives in the workplace, the answer is “not bad.”

“Not bad” doesn’t mean good.

So, what causes us to settle?

I see it this way. We are each born with amazing potential that remains hidden in us until we do two things:

  1. Identify it.
  2. Choose to use it.

To discuss potential, we talk about strengths, interests and values. Knowing and using these is how to bring your A-game – not your C-game.

When you know and use your strengths, you lead with your greatest abilities. You tap into what is strongest and best in you. Imagine your impact and potential when you know and choose to use your strengths.

Consider this:

  • Interests: When you know and include your interests in your day, you feel energized. You respond differently to things you like than the things you don’t like. You give it more effort, greater thought and therefore greater results. Imagine your impact when you know and choose to incorporate your interests in your day.
  • Values: When you know and include your values in your day, you have greater clarity in how to move through your day. I like to consider values as our guardrails; they define our edges so we feel balanced and confident, letting us focus on our strengths and interests throughout our days. Check in on your values to determine if excellence is one of your values. What would it take to develop this value and what would be the impact if it guided your approach to everything you do?

Now, with this perspective, think about your workplace relationships. Which ones are “not bad” and which ones are good or great? What do you do differently in those that are better than average and what is the impact on you, your performance and your degree of impact and happiness in the workplace? Who do you have to be to bring your A-game to your workplace relationships?

Now, think about your workplace culture. Where is it “not bad” and where is it actually good or great? What could you do to share your thoughts with management to improve the employee experience? If you are a manager, how can you engage your employees to share their perspectives and opinions and raise the quality of the workplace culture, thereby increasing engagement to drive productivity, performance and retention?

Finally, think about your work. Where is it “not bad” and where is it actually good or great? Are you in a role that needs what you do and like best? Does your work inspire you to play full out or do you do just enough not to get fired? What can you do to better align yourself to a role that amplifies your focus on excellence, or how can you change your internal talk to do and be your best, regardless of what is going on around you?

Take Action
You choose how to show up to work and life. Sometimes the workplace can make this easier for you. However, it is always your choice to accept “not bad” or good / great as an outcome. Stop and Notice where you play small and where you bring your best. Make one change in something you deliver as “not bad” and raise it to good or great. Notice how work and life improve when you raise your standard.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Be on the Disengagement Hunt

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Dog Wisdom

Every morning is great, never a dark thunder cloud.
Every morning starts new, with wagging so proud.
Not stuck in the past, not worried about money.
Not complaining the day is not just that sunny.
Not holding a grudge, or upset with their friends;
Not worried about fashion, Facebook or the Benz.
Not wondering if today, things will all go their way.
But present in each moment of each blessed day.

Dogs don’t need much – they all just want love,
Add some good food, and a family to be part of.
Not much more – no high expectations;
No fancy car or elaborate vacations.
They want some attention and moments to share
Their spirit, their wisdom, and how much they care.

Then, there are we humans with lives oh so rough.
All worried and nervous about having enough stuff.
We get challenged by looks, comments and frowns;
We get upset, sad and all versions of downs.
Little things upset us and lead us astray,
We get all upset when things don’t go our way.

We have our couldas and wouldas and things that we ought
From voices of others, from things we’ve been taught.
They keep us all twisted and scared without reason.
They keep us alarmed and concerned in each season.
The world takes us down with our focus on lack,
On limits and problems and meaningless yack.

We don’t see what dogs see – a new view each day,
To have fun, to live life, to be happy and play.
All around us is wisdom, of how to live right,
To live with a focus of play and delight.
Tune in to those eyes that have no conditions,
And the tails that wag without any suspicions.
Tune in to the greeting, delivered on demand.
Tune in to the love, given so freely, so grand.

There is much to learn from the Pug or the Lab,
The Schnauzer or Shih Tzu, with coats oh so fab.
The Shepherd and Sheepdog, the Maltese and Beagle,
The St Bernard, the Boxer and Great Dane so regal.
They have just one wish – to have a great life.
They have no agenda, no interest in strife.

There are just some days that I am really seeing
That dogs are way smarter than we human beings.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading See the Bigger Picture

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