Power Vision… not just for Super-Heroes

Power Vision… not just for Super-Heroes

There are times that feel like a new beginning, and they’re ideal for envisioning where I want to go next in life and how I’m going to get there.

I’ve noticed “visioning” can also be a powerful strategy for many of my coaching clients, but I wasn’t sure why until I recently ran across some fascinating research from the field of brain science.

Why it Works

In a landmark 1994 study, much-honored Harvard professor Stephen Kosslyn concluded that the same brain neurons are triggered whether participants actually saw something or close

d their eyes and envisioned it.

Other studies explain what happens when our visions are thrown for a loop — when we don’t do as well as we expected on a project, for instance, or when we’re blindsided by others’ behaviors. The trigger here is inconsistency between what we see in the world outside of us and the “mental pictures” we maintain inside. Our minds actually work to overcome these discrepancies, either by changing our mental pictures or by determining to change our circumstances.

Put these findings together, and it all makes sense: When we mentally “see” ourselves as successful the mind thinks, “I’m successful.” And if it discovers differences between what’s out there and what it’s been imagining, it gets busy convincing us to bridge that gap.

Weird, huh? Yet history is full of classic examples like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. King envisioned his dream clearly, imagined it was true, shared it with the world, and it happened.

Visioning is also a trusty tool used by elite athletes. And I’ve seen it work for clients in all sorts of contexts including business negotiations, sales presentations, acquiring homes and vacation properties, even golf games.

You’ve probably experienced it yourself.

How to do it Right

Of course, visions aren’t infallible. And there’s more to it than simply wishing to win. But done right, the process enhances our chances of success. Brain science offers a few tips for effective visioning.

  1. Imagine the journey as well as the destination.
    A 2005 study found that university students who visualized getting good grades and the process of achieving that success enjoyed studying more than their peers, experienced lower levels of anxiety, and, yes, earned better grades.
  2. Involve all your senses.
    Imagine what you’ll see, what you’ll hear others say, what you’ll tell yourself, what you’ll feel kinesthetically, and especially what you’ll feel emotionally. Being specific maximizes the gap your brain will want to bridge, setting it up to work that much harder toward your ideal reality.
  3. Keep the dream alive.
    Develop a daily habit of reconnecting to your vision of success. Otherwise you’ll eliminate the internal messages that create dissonance between your actual and imagined situations. Without that incongruity, your mind will stop pushing you to bridge the gap.
  4. Take action aligned with your vision.
    Sitting around waiting for a miracle isn’t powerful visioning. As gambling establishments like to remind us: you can’t win if you don’t play.

Where are you Headed?

Take a little time when there’s a new beginning, whether it’s because the calendar says so or you know it’s the right time, to envision the next stage of your journey, where you’d like to end up and how you might get there. Then let your mind lead you in transforming that dream into reality.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear how you’ve turned barriers into bridges and what those strategies have done for your business and your life. Leave a comment below or write me@conduitcoaching.com.

Making Success a Habit

Making Success a Habit

Living on the leading edge often takes us through some not-so-comfortable growth spurts, which may involve replacing counterproductive habits with healthy new ones. Changing habits isn’t easy; it’s a process that involves rewiring our brains and learning new patterns.

All this work can feel like a big fat barrier. And it doesn’t help to hear our inner saboteurs screaming: “I can’t do that.” “I don’t know how.” “It’s too hard.”

What To Do?

Conscious Competence Learning Model

Guess what? Self-doubt is a normal part of the process of developing new habits. So take it as a marker you’re on track. I like to use a powerful tool, called the “Conscious-Competence” learning model, to help measure where my clients are and where they want to go as they change habits. It outlines four stages:

Quadrant 1: Unconscious Incompetence We don’t know what we don’t know. At this stage, we’re blissfully unaware of our incompetencies.

Quadrant 2: Conscious Incompetence We know that we don’t know. Often it’s a rude awakening that causes us to realize, “Uh-oh. I don’t know how to…”

Quadrant 3: Conscious Competence We know! We’re aware of our new skills and we’re concentrating on developing them.

Quadrant 4: Unconscious Competence It’s natural! Our new skills have become habits we don’t even have to think about.

An Example: Rob changes his Mind

Here’s an example. My client, Rob, had built a thriving business, a talented stable of professionals and a great reputation within his industry. But all that time, he never knew his default mode of thinking was based on fear. Rob was living in Quadrant 1: he didn’t know what he didn’t know.

Eventually, despite his success, Rob realized he felt burned out, riddled with self-doubt, and driven to continually prove himself. In a moment of inspiration, he decided he needed to switch to success-based thinking. But he didn’t really know what that meant or how to make the change. Rob had moved into Quadrant 2: he’d become conscious of his incompetence.

That’s where coaching came in. Rob and I discovered a few strategies that helped him progress through Quadrant 3, where he consciously practiced his new skills, and on to Quadrant 4, where Rob became a habitual success thinker, unconsciously competent in his healthy new habit. The pay-off? Confidence, inner peace, and — not surprisingly — even greater success than before.

Four Simple Secrets to Success

1. Relax; you’re normal! We all have blind spots. Rob discovered he could choose whether to ignore his, blame it on someone else, or use it to show him who he really wanted to be.

2. Define your target. Turns out Rob was quite adept at success-thinking in some parts of his life, which helped clarify what he was after overall.

3. Figure out what helps you learn. Thinking about how he’d mastered new skills before, Rob found he already possessed a repertoire of successful learning strategies.

4. Practice, practice, practice. Stumbles are a normal part of any learning process. It’s getting up and starting again that turns toddlers into Olympic runners. So Rob focused on bite-sized goals, which multiplied his success over time. And rather than dwelling on his stumbles, he celebrated his recoveries as evidence of constructive changes under way.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear how you’ve turned barriers into bridges and what those strategies have done for your business and your life. Leave a comment below or write me@conduitcoaching.com.

Learning How to Say I’m Sorry

Learning How to Say I’m Sorry

Everybody makes mistakes. It’s just part of the human condition. In every workplace, relationships sometimes go off track, causing complaints or hurt feelings, leaving customers feeling disappointed or unhappy. And in some industries, errors can lead to serious, perhaps fatal consequences. When mistakes happen, individuals, teams and organizations reveal their true colors by how they respond. Do they take responsibility? Attempt to make corrections or restitution? Or do they try to deny or whitewash the problem? Maybe even blame the victim?

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Open and Honest = Positive and Productive

Admitting mistakes can be humbling and sometimes feel dangerous. But customers and staff expect and deserve to be treated with respect and fairness—which includes honest communication, especially after a hiccup. Most people can understand and live with mistakes, but they won’t tolerate denial. It’s the supreme violation of trust. Through our work with leaders and teams, we know open and respectful workplace cultures make owning up to errors and apologizing for mistakes possible. What’s more, leaders and teams who know how to hold these difficult conversations and apologize effectively:

  • Inspire trust by modeling resilience and open, honest communication for staff, customers and suppliers.
  • Develop the capacity to re-establish communication and actually expand trust in the wake of mistakes, leading to higher positivity and productivity.

The Effective Apology

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it is a noble and courageous act; it’s also a skill that takes practice and commitment to ensure ideal results. Here’s how to master the art of the effective apology:

  1. Notice and use your co-workers’ preferred apology language. Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, authors of “The Five Languages of Apology,” note these possibilities: 1. Expressing regret—”I’m sorry.” 2. Accepting responsibility—”I was wrong.” 3. Making restitution—”What can I do to make it right?” 4. Repenting—”I won’t let that happen again.” 5. Requesting forgiveness—”Will you forgive me?”
  2. Try Debra Schmidt’s (www.theloyaltyleader.com) “LEARN” acronym: Listen to the complaint. Empathize. Apologize. Respond. Notify the wronged party about further developments.
  3. Openly discuss with your leadership team ideal responses based on the concepts of fair and respectful treatment. Most organizations embed these principles in a statement of customers’ service guidelines.
  4. Know that disclosure and apologies are good for the bottom line. In this tough economy, experience shows: organizations attract more clients when customers know they’ll be treated courteously and fairly if problems come up; staff morale rises when employees know they can help clients as needed; and people want to be part of an organization that trusts them to say and do the right thing.

Courageous teams—those willing to adjust their attitudes about apologies—empower and propel their organizations toward greater productivity and mission fulfillment. Our job as coaches is to create safe, trustful environments where these courageous conversations can unfold. With skillful facilitation and consistent support, the results can be remarkable. Are you and your team courageous enough to apologize for mistakes?

Deciphering the Signposts

Deciphering the Signposts

It can be nerve-wracking, standing at that edge between the familiar and the unknown. Everybody, no matter how successful, feels the jitters, even when they’re headed exactly where they want to go. One of my clients, a brilliant woman, world-renowned in her field, admits that just before launching a new initiative, something inside her shouts, “Forget it. I’m an idiot. Nobody will listen to me.”

Signposts along the Edge

In coaching land, we often refer to this transition from the familiar to the unknown as “crossing an edge.” Each of us, when we come to an edge in life, displays an extensive repertoire of completely normal and justifiable edge-crossing behaviors. Such as:

  • A bit of back-and-forthing. “Should I or shouldn’t I take the plunge?”
  • A bit of fence-sitting. “Maybe I can plant a foot on both sides. Or just wait things out.”
  • A headlong rush across the edge. “I can’t wait to explore this new land.”
  • Attempts to defuse our anxieties by blaming others, defending ourselves, curling up with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s-or all three.
  • Second-guessing ourselves. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea after all.” “Better stick with what I know.” “This is too hard; can we go back?”

When we become aware of these behaviors, we can use them as signposts to assure us we’re on track. That client I mentioned? She’s learned “nobody will listen to me” is part of her edge-crossing process, telling her she’s finished her prep work and ready to take the big step.

Reading Others’ Signals

As leaders, it’s often part of our jobs to support others making a change. Imagine how much easier that would be if you could recognize edge-crossing behaviors in your team members. “Of course she’s listing all the reasons why this new idea can’t work. She’s figuring out how to tweak it into an even better solution.”

With a little perspective, you can transform edge-crossing behaviors, even those masquerading as barriers, into bridges taking individuals and teams to the next level. Here’s how:

  • Remember why you’re here. Reconnect to whatever first inspired you to choose your work. In my experience, this is the single most powerful way successful people renew their initial passion. A great strategy to help “kiss you over” that edge.
  • Acknowledge challenges. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them disappear, but can allow them to loom larger. Recognizing challenges and choosing how to address them cuts them down to size.
  • Encourage yourself. Listen for an inner voice whispering, “You can do it!” Trust me, it’s in there!
  • Remember successes. Tackling something new often triggers selective amnesia; suddenly, we can only remember all the times things went wrong. Instead, spend a little time thinking about times you’ve done well. Start a list to have handy for future edge-crossings.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear how you’ve turned barriers into bridges and what those strategies have done for your business and your life. Leave a comment below or write me@conduitcoaching.com.

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

Picture this. It’s early September, the perfect time for fresh starts. On the 21st floor of a downtown office building, a group of high-powered executives fill a corporate meeting room. All are keen to strategize and move forward into an exciting and lucrative new opportunity.

With the aid of an external facilitator, they confidently articulate a vision of their success in five years. But when asked what actions they could take in the next 12 months to make their vision real . . . Dah, dah, dah, daaaah. The room goes silent. They freeze. Like deer in headlights.

From Fear to Fuel

It’s the most remarkable thing. Here’s a group of successful business leaders with hundreds of years of experience amongst them, scared to death by their own “what was I thinking?” inner dialogues. Fortunately, the facilitator knows a magic coaching trick that works like rocket fuel to power them through the fear barrier.

Yes, this really did happen, and yes, the facilitator was yours truly. I’ve used the same party trick for years myself and with all my clients. It always helps dispel the fears and anxieties that commonly crop up when we stretch and take leadership.

Big Breaths

It’s a simple exercise—something we all do several thousand times a day. Just breathe! Try this special kind of breathing I learned from Rick Carson’s gem of a book, “Taming Your Gremlins.”

  1. First, stand up. Yes, really. Get out of your comfy chair and onto your two strong feet.
  2. Now put a hand on your stomach.
  3. Next, inhale, breathing in to the count of five, eight or 10. Fill up your tummy with air; make it stick out.
  4. Keeping your hand in place, exhale to the same count, flattening your tummy as you go.
  5. Good. Now do it again, and again, for a total of three big breaths. For maximum benefit, really exaggerate your stomach’s ups and downs.

Back on Track

So? What do you notice? What’s happening inside you? If you’re like most of us, you feel calmer, grounded, focused and ready to move forward. Such a simple little exercise, but it can help us connect to that wise and true part of ourselves, the part that knows what our next step should be—and knows we can do it.

Those powerful guys who got all afraid and small? With the help of this remarkable tool, they got big again—and even more powerful than before. Maybe because they’d now confronted the risks ahead, they were able to really tap into their brilliance.

I thought of them while recently snorkeling in Hawaii. Exploring a beautiful underwater world filled with green sea turtles and orange Nemo-like clown fish, I became super-aware of the depth and evenness of my breathing. Soon I felt more open to see the best of the above-water world, too.

Next time you’re venturing into new territory, try this handy breathing exercise. And let me know how it goes.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear how you’ve turned barriers into bridges and what those strategies have done for your business and your life. Write me@conduitcoaching.com.