The Grey Zone Process

Sometimes we all find ourselves in a grey fog. It’s that place where we think we don’t have control so we literally feel overwhelmed or even stuck, unable to move forward. With the pace of change these days it’s not surprising we find ourselves in the Grey Zone more often than we’d like.

Here’s a simple, yet effective process to help find your way through the Grey Zone!

Why we need to Shine light on the Shadow

My general rule when writing my posts is to not dip into political waters. And this post is no exception. But every time I read the news or open social media I’m bombarded with political updates that test my belief in political culture – or at least the culture behind it in many countries.

The current election season in America is a case in point. Although I don’t live in the US, my proximity means I’m not immune to the influence it assumes on North America. We share many, but not all values and viewpoints.

My nature is to look beyond rhetoric and mudslinging to what lies underneath as a way of understanding the values and behaviors of society, where we’re lacking and where there’s possibility. When there’s an earthquake of fear and distrust pushing then it is time to pay serious attention.

If there’s one potentially good thing that could come out of the American election, it is this: to shine a light on the shadow women continue to experience despite great gains towards equality.
out of the shadow

It’s a shadow of haziness where subtle sexual aggression that is often passed of as “it’s just him”, “he doesn’t mean it” or “it’s nothing” slam up against “it’s because you’re pretty”, “you encourage it” or “keep quiet”. And so we learn early on in our lives to keep such behaviors in the shadows out of fear, confusion and safety.

I’m talking about unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women who still believe such behavior is perfectly okay. These are the behaviors that don’t leave a physical mark or make it into the courtroom. These are the everyday actions that women endure, put up with and perhaps pretend didn’t happen. And it still goes on.

I could write a page of examples I’ve experienced in school or workplace during my lifetime, not to mention times I’ve been heckled, groped or harassed socially. I could tell you how dis-empowering it feels being chased around a desk by a boss or be cornered at a family event by a male in-law relative with an unexpected and unwanted tongue kiss.

What I’d rather do is have an open conversation about how this kind of behavior still exists and what we can do about it going forward. The events and behaviors around the US election have given us a huge opportunity to take this can of worms and really examine it for what it truly is.

The truth is the oppression and objectification of women is alive and well and not relegated to a few men in a locker room. It exists in the boardroom, the lunchroom and down the hall by the water cooler.

So what if we all started by suspending judgment on whether or not it exists and start asking each other and ourselves simple questions to help create awareness and understanding of this critical issue:

1. What exists within the shadow of subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women? What does it look like?

2. What do women feel when they experience the shadow?

3. Why do women not call out the perpetrator as an aggression occurs?

4. How have experiences of the shadow gone on to influence women’s lives?

5. What do men feel when they engage in subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments?

6. What do men feel and do when they witness another man engaging in this behavior?

7. How does the current culture of your workplace support, deny, ignore or disallow shadow behavior?

8. In what ways are we culturally enabling this behavior to perpetuate?

9. In what ways can we let go of blame and collaborate to educate each other of the danger and damage of shadow behavior?

10. What will it take for you to become part of the solution of shedding light on the shadow?

You may be thinking this is a simplistic way of addressing a complex issue of long-held beliefs and behaviors. And that is exactly the point.

Yes it’s shameful treatment of girls and women. Yes it’s unacceptable. And yes it has to end. But until we talk about it and try to understand all the perspectives involved, it will continue unchecked.

Whether it’s at the dinner table or at work, let’s use the opportunity of shedding light on the shadow of sometimes subtle and often upfront sexually intimidating or unwanted behavior that has too long been pervasive in our society.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

Need a Break? Take It!

DISCLAIMER – THIS IS ADVICE ON SOMETHING REALLY SIMPLE

This spring and summer was incredibly busy for me – knee surgery, daughter’s wedding, elderly parents’ health issues… You get the picture. By August I couldn’t move! I had nothing left in my gas tank to give.

This wasn’t the same experience I’ve had of being overworked and completely burnt out. This was different. There were no specific issues bringing me down other than an accumulation of life events and other people’s needs of me.

The obvious thing for me to do was take a break. And I did. I re-calibrated by enjoying walking, spending lazy evenings with my husband and basking in the warm sun. Of course I didn’t disengage completely. I still worked with my clients and did the household chores. But I gave myself permission to slow right down and put myself first – no guilt, no shame.

It’s autumn now and I’m back in the saddle full speed ahead with my business, social life and energy to burn.

So why is it we have such a hard time giving ourselves a break?

I know, you’ve heard it before – especially if you have family obligations. How you have to take two hours to pamper yourself or meditate just so you can be alone. Great ideas, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m curious about why, when we’re in the middle of “our time”, does guilt rear its ugly head? That little voice in our head asks, “who am I to sit here lounging when there’s so much to do?”

If who’ve read or listened to Brene Brown you know what I’m talking about! And if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. She has the research to back up this intersection of guilt, shame and putting yourself first.

And here’s a reminder to you: you’re living your life for the long game – the marathon. You need down time to refuel your physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional selves.

Trust me when I say it’ll be worth it. A little magic happens when we remove ourselves from the daily grind, noise, or whatever else you call it. It forces us to slow the pace and look inward, which in turn enables us to become open. Openness is the key to aligning to your authentic self and seeing opportunities, possibilities, hearing what others are really saying and experiencing the beauty of the everyday.

Sound a little flaky? It’s not! Sure there’re times when the speed and intensity of your life increases. But living with constant haste should not be your normal. Giving yourself a break more than occasionally is actually how you’re meant to live. I’m not talking about mental health days. This is about building “you time” into your daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly schedules. Your life and those closest to you depend on it.

I went looking for an inspirational quote about guilt to end this blog. I couldn’t find one because guilt is really only useful when you’ve done something detrimental to yourself or others. It isn’t related to doing something right or good for you like taking a much-needed break.

So go ahead and give yourself permission to put yourself first and take a break. It’s that simple. Chances are, others will thank you for it!

 

 

Picky is Actually Strategic when it comes to social media

How many of us find ourselves being picky about who we date or spend a weekend with? I bet most of us. So why is it we aren’t picky about who we connect with via email and social media – especially when it comes to business?

I recently posted a tweet about Twitter being the airport lounge of B2B. Got tons of hearts on that one. I also wrote a blog about the new noise causing stress – social media and the barrage of emails from people selling us things. I get it. Social media has become the grand master for small business marketing. It’s super cheap, highly accessible and can be done in 10 words or less. Sounds great!

The problem is that entrepreneurs cast their nets so widely I feel like I have to duck and dive with all the free offers and promotions. The other problem is the majority of entrepreneurs/on-line businesses all sound the same. (Believe me – I’m not saying I’m an exception.)

How is it possible to figure out who’s who in the zoo? Let alone if what they offer is of any real value. It’s the Wild West out there and anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a coach or strategist. Suddenly everyone’s an expert. And maybe social proof isn’t – well just isn’t credible anymore?

For me, the amount of time I’ve used up trying to keep up with everyone online is taking a huge toll on my business and stress level.

So I’ve decided I don’t have to follow the lemmings. I can be picky. In fact, I’ve decided that being picky is actually strategic when it comes to social media.

Let me explain.

I’m shaking up my approach to inviting people into my world.

Before I subscribe to your site I check out who you are, including credentials. Do you give any deets on your FB page about your biz, education or past employment? Is your LinkedIn bio up to date and factual or is it stuffed full of filler? And how and what do you say in your tweets? I’m not a fan of constant profanity or meanness so if that’s your game, chances are you aren’t making it in my door.

Over the next few months I’ll weigh out if the value you offer me is worth the follow. A big name doesn’t always equate to a follow. I’ve unsubscribed to even the biggest names in the biz. They may be amazing but they aren’t for me.

And speaking of value, I’m looking for sites and people who challenge the status quo to help me stretch my thinking or who offer up well thought out systems for my business. Most of all, I want to surround myself with people who authentically want to make the world a better place.

By now you may be saying to yourself, “she doesn’t get it”. Social media is ALL about connecting, sharing information and staying on the pulse of culture. Here’s where I diverge. I’m in business and I admittedly use social media for the cheap marketing. BUT, here’s the difference, like any shop or service business owner, I want to work with a specific clientele and there are people who want to work with someone like me. So, like my clients, I want to be picky in whom I serve.

And guess what? Given this is business, being picky is strategic. If I’m not strategic on where and with whom I spend my scarce time, I won’t be giving my clients what they deserve.

I’m all about quality. If I follow you, I’ll spread your love. If I work with you, I’ll spread your love. Which may be odd considering that on-line business seems to be all about quantity (or am I missing something?).

It makes me wonder if we’ll hit a saturation point in this Wild West? In the meantime, I’m more than happy if you use a similar strategy when adding me to your community.

Are you being strategic in your business?

Why you should be afraid of the noise

I remember taking a big sigh and letting out a lot of unwanted air when I stopped working for a large organization.

Slipping into my home office every morning with my hot latte felt like heaven – no chitter chatter, no one else’s lunch bag ruffling and best of all, not having to listen to the unsubstantiated theories on who’s going to get then next coveted job.

Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed my shoulders starting to tighten and my head slightly ache by the end of my workday. I don’t keep music on when I work, and my client appointments don’t take up every hour. So what was underneath this tension? These feeling were the same as I used to get at my former workplace.

At first I felt a little panic creep in. Was I headed to toward the big S(tress), god forbid. Was I afraid? You bet!

So then I started to purposely pay attention to what was going on around me. Where was I letting my attention roam? What was I hearing? What was I doing?

Eureka! I discovered that I was, in fact, in the early stages of noise stress.

But how could that be? My ears weren’t hearing banter, shuffling, clicking or muffled sounds of tense board meetings.

The noise was coming from my computer in the form of emails, instant messaging and social media in the form of a constant onslaught of written words aimed at grabbing my attention.

In my quest to feel “connected” with the world, I had managed to follow every successful on-line entrepreneur, coach, techie and writer out there! They all seem so smart and successful. I could learn from each of them. They could be my online mentors. And they offer great free advice.

And don’t get me started on Groupon and other online markets. Like a great fashion or home décor magazine, they have everything I don’t need!

Now I don’t for a second blame anyone else for enabling this noise – and it’s definitely noise – creep into my head. I did it to myself.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t take control over what you let into your inbox and social media feeds, the noise level will just keep rising. It’ll draw you into the care and feeding cycle of social media. Worst of all, it’ll impact your production, your time, your mental health and even your confidence (cause let’s face it, there’s always someone smarter, better looking and more creative in the virtual world).

So what to do? Here are 6 tips I’ve found to dim the clamor and relieve the tension in my shoulders:

1. If you work from home, keep your work email and social media feeds free from on-line shopping carts – after all, if you work in an office for a company you wouldn’t go shopping on work hours (I hope)

2. If you do work for someone else, leave your personal iPhone, or Android safely in the bottom drawer of your desk with the ringer and buzzer off

3. Schedule time once or twice a day to check your social media if you must; otherwise wait till evening – it’ll all still be there

4. Choose to follow only your top 7 on-line mentors – the people that you continually get value from and unsubscribe to everyone else

5. If you do subscribe to a new business/website to get their free opt-in or make a purchase, immediately unsubscribe afterwards. If you think they’ll give you ongoing value with amazing information, keep the subscription BUT drop another website/business off your list that isn’t giving you real value

6. And finally, be mindful of those who follow you and make it worth their while every time you tweet, write a blog, or email – make it your goal to be on their top 7 list!

I’m so glad I got afraid of the noise. It made me realize I only want a community around me who share ideas, believe in the idea of reciprocity, have something relevant to say and most of all, who I can give value to.

Now how about telling me how you manage the noise?

Wait! Before You Jump Jobs


Have you ever found yourself desperate to find and move to a new position or career? Or you’ve been let go (outplaced) and need to find your next corporate home? The pressure is on. You start applying for everything under the sun. You’re sure the “right fit” is just around the corner.

Whoa! What you might really need is a time out. And I don’t mean taking a holiday or battening the hatches.

I can’t tell you the number of clients who’ve found themselves in this spot. And, more importantly, they share one thing in common. In their frantic quest, what they don’t realize is they’re doing more harm than good to themselves.

Let me explain. Ever heard the expression, “I can smell a rat a mile away?” Well, there are two things prospective employers can smell right away in a candidate: low confidence and desperation. Yup, walk into an interview with either odor and you may as well walk right back out the door.

Heck, the best piece of advice I got when I lost my job was, “Don’t even think about applying for positions, let alone search the want ads for at least a few months. You aren’t the best version of yourself right now, so wait until you can bring your best to an interview.”

Here’s the truth: nobody wants to hire someone who has a current dip in their confidence, no matter what the reason. Nor do they want to work with someone desperate. Not that there’s anything bad about being earnest, but desperation tends to make others suspicious.

Moving from one job to another means cleaning up your last job – be it emotional, spiritual or a whole lot of paper to be shredded – and moving forward with clarity, positivity and an open heart. You just can’t take your baggage with you.

So what does it take to realize you are in one or both emotional states and what do you need to do to get past them and job-hunt ready? Remember those clients I mentioned? I’ll tell you exactly what they did.

First, they listened to me asking them to listen to themselves. They discovered their self-talk was less than compassionate and kind.

I asked how they thought they’d appear to prospective employers? For most, it doesn’t take long to get an “aha” – meaning they may not be putting forward the best version of themself.

Net we reacquaint them with their strengths, talents and gifts. We all need to be reminded of how we make the world a better place. Then we move into readjusting their expectations of time. Getting the next job isn’t going to happen right away.

This whole process is done within the construct of coaching (check out my Essential C process). The clients do the work; they have everything they need to figure it all out. I just help steer them to a place where they can clean up and put away any outstanding issues while reminding them they’re capable, experienced and have much to offer.

I know this sounds easy but it takes courage and a lot of self-reflection to move from here to there. Especially since for most of us, identity and self-worth are tied with our work.

I use a metaphor with my clients. It goes like this: when we’re feeling low and all consumed (as we are when our confidence is low and desperation high) we look downward. I’ll ask the client to look up and over the fence toward the horizon. Practicing this throughout the day opens up their chest, breathing and vantage point. It moves them from being an isolated island to being part of something bigger. It’s called perspective.

I know the client is ready to put all their hard work into action when I see them look up at me and I hear “I can do this”.

They can move ahead realistically and with sureness. Having an open attitude improves their chances of finding the “right fit” position.

To recap, if you find yourself lacking in confidence and over the brim with desperation, here are 7 steps to move you from the sour odor of despair to the scent of a front runner:

1. Check if your self-talk is negative, self-sabotaging or unrealistic.
2. Think about how a prospective employer would view you should you interview with them today. Who and what would they see?
3. Talk with a trusted friend or family member about how you view your situation. Or hire a coach to guide and be your champion.
4. Think back to a time you were in a job you enjoyed. What made you successful? Write down the skills, attitude, and service you brought to that position (only the positive ones). Read the list every single day.
5. Take an athlete’s mindset. Set a realistic time frame – like several months – before you start applying for positions. Use the time to train to be successful again.
6. Practice lifting your head and noticing things around you everyday. Whether at home alone or in a crowd of people, notice what is going on way over there.
7. When you hear your own voice say, “I’m good. I’ve got this”, you’re ready to go and create your future.

So go ahead and put on your best scent – you’ve got this!