Don’t Panic (Unless You Absolutely, Positively Need to Panic)

I had a great weekend visiting family and family friends. We talked about everything from our kids to hobbies to our jobs. At one point, one of the family friends shared an incredibly wise mantra that I want to share with you: Don’t panic until it’s time to panic. I’m going to take it a step further: don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic.

We live in a world where anxiety and panic-mode are seemingly the norm. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Oh, that gives me anxiety.” Or “ugh, panic mode setting in!” These phrases regularly show up during a normal day. Why do so many things seem to push us to the edge?

It is because we react instead of respond.

Don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic reminds you to beaware. To be aware of the situation. To be aware of yourself. To be aware of how you’re showing up to the situation – reacting or responding – and which one will help you create the best outcome.

A big part of our coaching process explores the difference between reacting and responding. By understanding the difference, you have the ability to choose how you want to be. The noise, challenges and pace of life don’t have to make you panic. You have the ability to sort through what is going on to determine what to do and how to respond. You become smarter on your feet. You become more thoughtful in your everyday actions. You become more aware and mindful about your world and your role in it.

Don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic.

Be aware. Be thoughtful. Choose how to respond (not react). Notice the difference.

Take Action
What is something you can do today, or this week, to start to catch yourself in reactionary mode? How can you move yourself from reaction to thoughtful response?

Notice the difference it has on you and your world – your work, your relationships, your well-being. Set yourself apart from the rest. Don’t bring panic until you have considered other, more constructive options. Only then, when it’s absolutely, positively time to panic, can you panic.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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Get Organized: Webinar

Organization is THE big trend this year. People are talking about it everywhere, referring to “getting organized” as “ridding yourself of clutter.” There are seemingly hundreds of “get your house organized” articles that offer different tips to get your space cleaned up. And don’t forget about Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix this year. Be honest. Have you applied the Marie Kondo approach to determine if you find joy in the items in your home?

But getting organized is more than just throwing out the things you haven’t used in a while. It’s a mindset shift. It’s the opportunity to focus and get tuned in to what you really want, and finding ways to get there.

On Tuesday, February 19, we’re launching our new webinar program, The Lunch Hour Coach, with our first webinar, “Get Yourself and Your Space Organized: How to be Effective, Efficient and Extraordinary.” Attendees to the webinar will gain insight into how to get yourself tuned in and focused on achieving your goals by leveraging The Forte Factor’s proprietary coaching process and tools.

Webinar: Get Yourself and Your Space Organized: How to be Effective, Efficient and Extraordinary
Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m. ET
Cost: $20
Register online:

*all registered attendees will receive the recording at the completion of the webinar.

The Lunch Hour Coach provides you with a 1-hour coaching program, offering easy-to-implement tips to keep yourself tuned in and present in all aspects of your life. We’ll discuss a variety of topics, ranging from life events to situations in the workplace, and welcome any suggestions, as well. So, stay tuned for our webinar calendar or contact us with any topic ideas you’d like us to address.

We’re excited to kick off The Lunch Hour Coach and look forward to having you at your first webinar on February 19!

Have an idea for a webinar topic? Let us know!

Three Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Stick

By Jay Forte

We’re over a month into 2019. How are you doing on those resolutions?

Face it, we all have good intentions. We intend to eat right, exercise more, be more present in our relationships and leave less of a footprint on our planet. Then, our days get busy and we default back to our old ways, only to move through another year without living to any of our commitments or resolutions to be better. Why is that?

Well, it has a lot to do with your brain. You process so many things in the course of a day that your brain defaults to what it knows for most things. That means that until you build a new habit that is stronger than your old habit, your old habits will continue to lead. I like to think of habits as brain ruts (neural pathways). The more you practice something, the deeper the rut. So many of your habits, even if they are unproductive (like eating the wrong things, watching too much television, driving too fast), are deep ruts. The deeper the rut, the stronger the habit.

So, until your resolutions become deeper ruts than your existing habits, you will continue default to your habits. This is why it is so hard to stick to our resolutions and commitments when they are different than what we’re already accustomed to doing.

Here are three ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine to build deeper brain ruts so your resolutions to be better can take root and become your new way of being.

  1. Do something that really matters. Don’t create resolutions or changes that others require. For you to make a change that sticks, your changes really have to matter to you. When you see the value of your change, you are more likely to keep going to make it your new habit. This requires reflection and thought on your part. One of my mottos for my coaching clients is: tune out to tune in. Disconnect from your noisy and busy world to find the quiet and time to reflect on what is most important to you. What is a goal you want to achieve that is really important to you? See it. Focus on it. Be committed to it.
  2. Make it easy and able to be repeated. Repetition is critical to the way we learn best and fastest. When you identify what it is you really want to change or achieve, identify what things you can do every day to that will help you with your goal. It could be setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier to get up and journal before you start your day. It could be buying sparkling water each week at the grocery store to eliminate the presence of sugary sodas in your house. It could be walking with a friend every morning who acts as your accountability partner. Make your changes small, easy and able to be repeated. You brain will quickly learn this new behavior and help you replace the old habit with your new habit.
  3. Check in, manage and measure your progress. Coaches are successful with their clients because they help them clearly define what they want to achieve and hold them accountable by constantly reviewing and measuring their progress. You can’t achieve or change what you don’t measure. To make a resolution or change stick requires you to regularly assess your progress in a way that can be measured. For example, let’s say you decide that walking each morning is your way to get exercise, appreciate your neighborhood and stop yourself from hanging out in the kitchen where you eat things that are unhealthy. How many times a week do you want to commit to walking? How long do you want to walk for? Who will walk with you? Answer these to define your goals then chart your progress. Hang your progress chart on the fridge to keep it in front of you. Then assess how you feel as you make progress. The good feelings that come from doing what is better for you can help you maintain your commitment when your old habits try to take control. The more success you see from your progress, the more your progress will continue.

Many of us mean to make the changes we define for ourselves, but with the pace of life and the distractions of a world that always has our attention, it is difficult to replace old habits with new and better habits.

Take Action
By better understanding what it takes to build a new and better habit, start with something that really matters, make it something that you can easily do over and over and measure your progress. Following these three simple steps can help you improve your ability to make a change that sticks. How can you refine any of your New Year’s resolutions to follow these three steps so your resolutions become a habit and not just a good intention?  

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

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3 Ways to Get Your Employees to Want to do More

By Jay Forte

Sometimes it feels like you are in a tug-of-war with your employees – always tugging at them to do just a bit more, think a little more, create a little more or be a little more focused on a customer. You can see it, but they can’t, or don’t, or won’t.

Let’s look at why this is happening.

  1. There is a lack of alignment. How excited would you be to do more in your job if it doesn’t align to your strengths and interests? We choose our level of effort in our work, and much of this comes from how we feel about our work. The more confident and capable we are, the more interested we become. Hiring and developing employees into roles that align to their abilities, passions and interests encourages their productivity, contribution and performance. If employees are low on energy or off in their performance, where in the organization would they be a great or better fit? What needs to be in their days to help them feel capable and competent – and excited to do and be more?
  2. There is a lack of inclusion. How many of your employees do just what the job says, likely because you rarely ask them what they think, suggest and propose? One of the holdovers from our industrial age is the management mindset that managers tell and employees implement. Today’s thinking workplace needs the employee to be actively involved, included and thinking because they are the eyes and the ears of the business. They interact more significantly with customers and therefore have greater information and ideas about how to answer the question, “What could make us better?” To share this information, at least initially, employees need to be asked and invited to contribute – to be included. Regularly ask employees for their thoughts and ideas from every part of the organization. As they are invited to share, they see that doing and being more is encouraged, applauded and even rewarded.
  3. There is a lack of development. The workplace keeps changing which constantly requires new skills. For employees to do more, they need to have the best skills. This requires regular and recurring feedback and development. Again, how competent and confident would you feel if you don’t have the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and have the skills to contribute? Make education, learning and development a regular part of every employee’s workday or workweek. Empower employees to constantly use their new skills and assess the impact.

Most employees actually want to do and be more in their roles. They, however, are stopped by outdated and ineffective management or cultural practices.

Take Action
Stop and notice what you do that disengages your employees. Gather the information you need to shift to behaviors that are more effective and productive. Alignment, inclusion and development are key to raising your employees’ productivity.

And remember: an added benefit of an employee who wants to do more is that they may think twice before looking for the next opportunity.

Consider reading Move Learning Off the Back Burner

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Think Like A Coach to Improve Your Interviewing Process

By Jay Forte

Face it, your interviews are boring and stale and probably pretty ineffective. You ask the same kinds of questions. You do the same limited preparation. You just want to find someone who is reasonable, so you can just be done with interviewing.

In my informal poll of the many CEO groups I speak to, nearly two thirds of them say they, and their organizations, don’t like interviewing. They do it because they have to. They do it out of habit instead of intention. And their results show it. Low engagement. High turnover rates. Poor workplace culture.

So, shift with me for a moment to understand how a coach prepares and hosts a coaching call or meeting to learn from it for improved interviewing and hiring success.

First, coaches prepare to coach. In our preparation for every client, we first look inside ourselves and center ourselves; we work on being present and ready to deal with whatever comes up in our coaching sessions. We eliminate distractions, clear our minds, become aware of our biases and choose to be ready to gather and use the information in our coaching session to help our clients. We do this on purpose. We are tuned in, ready and thinking.

Let’s use this approach with the interview. To interview well, you must be ready to interview. This means you must be present, clear and eliminate any distractions that will take you away from the purpose of the interview, which is to gather enough of the right information to determine whether this candidate could fit the role and your company. For that, you must make the time to fully understand the role – what it does, its performance expectations, its performance success attributes and your role in the interview process – and understand the workplace or organizational culture – what it believes, its mission, its values and its focus on customers.

Second, as coaches, we gather information. Jumping right into issues is generally too much too soon for a coaching conversation. Using a few well-thought out questions like, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” or, “What challenge have you successfully dealt with today?” sets a positive tone and encourages the client to talk. Talking is how they share information, which is necessary to help a coach to determine what to ask and do next.

It is the same in an interview. With clarity of the attributes, skills and experience you need a candidate to have to be the right fit for the role, create the interview – the meaningful interview questions and activities – to deliver this information. Today’s interviews need to include activities to provide greater information about a candidate’s abilities; it’s more than simply asking them what they would do or have done in a particular situation. Though questions are important, gather greater information about behaviors and skill levels by having candidates demonstrate their abilities through activities. These could include providing feedback, creating a spreadsheet/memo, selling a product, assessing a challenge or problem, etc. The purpose of the interview is to gather information, so ensure each component or segment of the interview delivers meaningful information. I call it the Prove-it-to-Me Interview.

Third, as coaches we assess what we hear from our clients to determine what to say and do next. Well-crafted questions and intentional listening prepare us to be fully present in the responses from clients. From that information, we can then guide, challenge, support or encourage – whatever we feel the situation requires – to help the client move closer to their goal.

In the interview, use the information gathered from the questions and activities to assess and evaluate the candidate’s skills and abilities. Those involved in interviewing must know what successful responses or behaviors look like to effectively evaluate. Be ready to drill down into any candidate’s responses the way a coach does to fully understand, to be able to wisely assess for fit and alignment. Then, as an interview team, come together to share your assessment and evaluation of each candidate.

Those who interview can learn a lot about interviewing from coaching. The process shares similar goals of being fully present, understanding the situation and gathering and assessing information. What in your interviewing could benefit from coach-like thinking?

Take Action
Stop and notice what works and doesn’t work in how you interview. Then, using the ideas presented, make improvements to your interview process to hire talent that is well-aligned to their roles. Small improvements that result in hiring the right people can yield exceptional organizational results.

Consider reading Stop Promoting the Wrong People into Management Roles

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How Your Memories of Childhood Can Improve Your Future

By Kristin Allaben

I recently saw Mary Poppins Returns and though I loved the movie, I was surprised by how emotional I felt while watching it. I cried at the obvious things – the song to the wife, the song about where lost things go – but also at other little things, like watching the original Banks children say goodbye to their childhood home and the final scene when Mary Poppins leaves (again).

It took some personal reflection to understand why I was so moved by the movie. I mean, it was wonderful; the actors did a phenomenal job and the story was fantastic (no surprise). It shared the same type of entertainment (singing and dancing), powerful messages (anything is possible) and magic the original movie did. But what made the movie so touching?

I admit, it took a very uncomfortable few hours for me to put my finger on it, but I think I figured it out. Every theme in Mary Poppins was about enjoying life as it is – making the most of every moment – and learning from each moment to make the next one better. The themes in Mary Poppins Returns were also about making the most of life, but with a sad underlying tone about the realities of growing up. The magic isn’t the same.

It made me think about one of the questions we share with our coaching clients: what is something you loved to do as a kid that you don’t do now?

Why is it that as we grow up, we seem to believe that we are required to let go of our big dreams, our magic? Why does it need to be traded in for adulting?

As your coach, I’m encouraging each of you to revisit your dreams and your magic this year. Think about how you defined pure joy as a kid. What were you doing when you felt that pure joy? Why did you stop doing it? How could you bring it back into your life in a meaningful way?

Most of us trade joy for achievement in our ‘get it done’ world. We are taught that doing things for the love of them is less productive than working the to-do list. How will you reflect on your view of work and joy, and intentionally find ways to bring in more of what makes life great?

Take Action
Anything is possible. Such a powerful phrase. Couple that with I love doing this or this is my favorite thing to do and just imagine the opportunities you create for yourself. Take the time to reflect on some of the things you used to do that made you happy. Find a way to make time for them in a meaningful way, and then consider how you can bring others into that joy with you.

Consider reading Looking Back, What Did 2018 Tell You?

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3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave you in 2019 (and What to Do About It)

By Jay Forte

Some of your best employees will leave you because you are not intentional about giving them a reason to stay.

Similar to the behaviors you follow to create a high-value relationship with customers to inspire their loyalty, you must also do the same for employees. This requires you to know what engages and retains your workforce, and to have a plan that routinely delivers it. Without this process in place, the organizations that make this effort will attract and poach your best employees.

Here are the three reasons why your best employees will leave you, and some thoughts on how to stop it from happening in 2019.

  1. You manage instead of coach your employees. Employees want a supportive, encouraging and guiding relationship with their managers. They want to feel valued, respected and included. Our industrial age trained managers to direct, tell and control – an outdated approach with today’s workers. To help employees choose to stay and perform at their best, help your managers learn how to think and act as coaches. The shift from managing to coaching is the single most important talent engagement initiative every organization should be focused on.
  2. You don’t make employee development a daily event. Employees know that in a fast-paced and constantly changing workplace, it is important to constantly develop the best skills. Organizations that provide continual (i.e. daily) performance feedback through coach-like relationships, as well as active on-the-job skill development, encourage their employees’ engagement and loyalty. Consider training managers to provide recurring performance feedback using the “what’s working, what’s not working” approach. On a daily basis, review an element of employee performance by assessing what worked and what didn’t work in the performance. Engage the employee to be more mindful in their performance, to consider ways to do more of what worked and to develop a plan to improve what didn’t work. This encourages adaptive learning and continual development, while also ensuring that all development is built both around technology and human connection.
  3. You don’t align the career path to the employee’s strengths and interests. Employees perform best in roles that need what they do and like best. So many organizations insist on moving employees through existing career paths that routinely take them from what was once a highly engaging role for an employee to one that can quickly become disengaging. This can be the result of a number of factors, but primarily it’s due to the fact that they lack the competence and abilities to excel in the role. Review your current career paths or advancement approach to ensure they, like when you hire, assess for employee alignment and fit, rather than just tenure with the organization. The goal in any career movement is to ensure the employee’s or candidate’s success. An assessment process must always exist to ensure alignment.

You must be intentional in creating a process to bring in the best talent, and once you have that talent, you must be intentional in developing a plan to keep it. Your organization, its culture and its focus on developing the relationship employees have with their managers all influence an employee’s interest in doing good work and choosing to come back each day.

Take Action
Stop and notice what works and doesn’t work in the way you engage, develop and retain your employees. Do more of what works and address what’s not working before your talent finds an organization that does all the right things to keep their best employees.

Consider reading High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

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The Value of Setbacks

By Jay Forte

“Don’t let your setbacks set you back,” Stacy Abrams, the Democratic candidate for the Georgia Governor role shared in a recent TED Talk. There is so much wisdom in that line.

So many times, we give up, give in and retreat when we’ve experienced a setback. We get the wind knocked out of us – figuratively or literally – and we run away, focused on our hurt, disappointment or frustration. We use our energy to justify that whatever didn’t go our way wasn’t really worth it anyway. It is easier to give up instead of to get up.

But whoever said anything about work or life would be easy, especially about the meaningful things?

A setback is really something that didn’t go as planned. It could be a promotion that is given to another. It could be your best employee just gave her notice. It could be your largest customer decides to shift his business to your competition. It could be someone in your family becomes ill or hurt. It could be the offer you placed on your dream house was rejected.

Every setback has valuable information for you if you choose to see it. Reflect on how you view setbacks. Do you see them as opportunities for disappointment and despair, or opportunities to become better, wiser and more resilient? Same situation, different outcome. You choose how you are with what work and life sends you.

Questions you can ask yourself when faced with any setback include:

  • What does this setback tell me about me, my approach or my effort?
  • Why did this setback happen?
  • How can I make a success out of what has happened?
  • What would someone courageous and resilient do here?

I regularly share in both my coaching and in the programs I teach to CEOs that life sends us two things: successes so we learn to celebrate, and setbacks so we learn how to be resilient in a world that constantly changes. Both are necessary, but the real progress happens in the setbacks. That is, if you have the courage and tenacity to see and use their value to be better in the next moment.

Take Action
Stop and notice a recent setback. Reflect on how you responded and why. Now, remind yourself that a setback is just new information. Reflect on what this setback taught you about you – and how you can use it to be better. Consider sharing this approach with others who matter to you in work and life.

Consider reading How to Succeed in Changing Times

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That’s Life…

By Jay Forte

If you were to really stop and notice your behavior, would you say you are a doer or a complainer? When things don’t go your way, do you reflect, consider and move forward, or vent, complain and gripe? What would others who know you well say?

Complainers vent more than they act. For them, when something doesn’t go their way, it is someone else’s fault – the weather, the politics, the economy, a teacher, a boss, a spouse, the holidays… fill in the guilty party.

Doers, however, take action. They see that no matter what comes their way, they can step up, focus on moving forward and make things happen.

I am reminded of the lyrics in the Frank Sinatra song, That’s Life:

“Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.”

He didn’t sing, “Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face, I find 10 people and go complain about this place.”

So, how do you move from complainer to doer?

You start by noticing your behaviors. Sure, there is a complainer in all of us, and sometimes, the human response is more than acceptable. But pay attention to your responses when something is aggravating, frustrating or irritating. Do you lead with and dwell on complaining, venting and griping? Or can you move on toward a productive next moment? Not sure? Your friends will tell you.

If you know or now realize you are a complainer, go buy yourself an egg-timer. Find a small hourglass timer or buy one with a dial you can set. When you notice yourself in venting and complaining mode, turn the hourglass timer over or set the twist timer to 2 minutes. When time is up, so is the complaining. Then, focus on solving and taking action. I have seen this approach work well with some of my Corporate Coaching clients as a more effective way to manage their teams: vent for a few moments then shift to solving. Limitless venting is unproductive.

Take Action
If you find complaining is your way at the moment, make a commitment to take action, to be aware that sometimes, that’s life. Learn to openly, gladly and wisely use what life sends to choose the best outcome. And when it doesn’t go your way, as the song reminds us, get back up and get back in the race.

Consider reading Acknowledging Emotions

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The [Destructive] Power of Unmanaged Managers

By Kristin Allaben

Everyone knows how infectious certain behaviors are. When you’re around someone bubbly and happy, it doesn’t take you long to feel the same way. This also holds true for someone who is not happy. Whether they’re frustrated, disgruntled or genuinely mad, these negative emotions, especially when perpetually present, can be toxic to those around them, frequently smothering the positive emotions. And putting those negative emotions into the confined area of a workplace in the form of a disengaged employee can lead to a disastrous impact on the morale and productivity of a company.

I personally believe that a disengaged employee is one of the biggest signs that something went wrong. It could be that they were hired for the wrong job, been poorly managed, could be in a dysfunctional workplace culture or maybe an adverse event happened at work.

But frequently, I find the underlying reason for disengaged or disgruntled employees is unmanaged managers.

Unmanaged managers are not in control of their emotions; they let their aggravations and frustrations affect their mood, resulting in a toxic environment and poor relationships with employees.

Know anyone who fits this description? Unfortunately, I do.

I’ve seen first-hand the destructive power an unmanaged manager has on creating and fueling disengaged employees. Just a few things I’ve seen throughout in my career:

  • A parent was reprimanded for leaving work early to be home with their sick child.
  • A female employee was asked to prove her knowledge with industry stats before she could speak in a meeting with the all-male senior executive team.
  • A creative employee was consistently told no and belittled for presenting new ideas that challenged the status quo, just to discover the same ideas were presented from a younger employee, and those ideas were accepted and implemented with gusto.
  • An employee asked a question and was belittled and embarrassed by the manager in front of the team for “not knowing.”
  • Insulting comments were directed to an employee that had nothing to do with the employee but were instead the result of frustrations stemming from an earlier and unrelated event.

There’s little room for misinterpretation; these are real-world examples that led directly to the creation of disengaged employees.

The common thread in each of these situations is the unmanaged manager. When unable to manage his or her emotions, the unmanaged manager misses the opportunity to coach, teach and guide. Instead, they belittle, demean or ignore, all three of which can lead even the most passionate and dedicated employee to wonder what they’re doing there. In a workplace with a less than 4% unemployment rate (as of September 2018, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures National Employment Monthly Update), a manager must be the greatest advocate for employee engagement. And we know that employee engagement leads to greater employee productivity, performance and retention.

So how can you manage the unmanaged manager? It requires two things.

First, senior management must be aware of the behavior and the impact it has on employees. Frequently, the unmanaged manager exists because he or she has been allowed to behave this way by their superiors, behaviors that should have been coached out of them long before they were managers to a larger team. Awareness, coupled with coaching to improve the behaviors, is the best way to not lose your best employees.

Second, employees must be given the opportunity to voice their concerns, to feel like they are part of the organization. Regularly gathering employee perspective through surveys can help identify an unmanaged manager before too much damage is done.

If you continue to allow an unmanaged manager to run the show unchecked, you’ll soon find that your best employees will leave and spread the word that yours is not a workplace of choice. Remember the power of social media, particularly with disengagement.

Take Action
Consider your workplace. If you’re a disengaged employee, ask yourself why. Is the job the right fit for you? If it isn’t, what can you do to find a better fit? If it is, what could be making you feel disengaged or disconnected?

If you’re an unmanaged manager, bravo. The first step is to admit that your management style may need some adjusting. Consider hiring a Corporate Coach to learn the benefits of being a mindful manager and incorporate coaching techniques into your day-to-day management style. Making some little changes can make a world of difference to your employees, their performance and their loyalty.

Consider reading When is it Okay to do Just Enough at Work?

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