Driving home during a sunny rainstorm after a weekend away, I was deep in thought about the week ahead when I noticed quite a few cars pulling over in the breakdown lane and people getting out and looking at the sky. I didn’t see anything special ahead and continued driving a few miles before I happened to look in my rear view mirror and noticed a magnificent rainbow. Oh, that’s what all the excitement was about, I realized, as I pulled over and got out to gaze at the beautiful sight and take a picture. I was grateful I hadn’t missed it entirely.
How many times are we rushing so quickly to the next thing that we don’t pay attention to what is happening right around us? Often, in our everyday life, we commute to work and then are surprised that we don’t remember what happened along the way or how we got there. In this busy world we live in, we often let the routine rule the day or the urgent take hold of us. Many of my coaching clients rush from meeting to meeting with barely a minute to think, and yet how much better it would be if only they could stop, clear their heads and reflect. If we can hit the pause button, it is during the quiet moments that the best results and most innovative ideas have room to blossom.
Carve out some moments of your day (start with 15 minutes) to sit by yourself to reflect or get a journal and write down your thoughts – you might be surprised as what you generate!
Here in the Northeast we recently experienced an official blizzard, aptly named Nemo. The Governor of Massachusetts declared a state of emergency and for 24 hours imposed a travel ban where only essential personnel were allowed on the roads throughout the Commonwealth. Public transportation stopped running at an appointed time as the storm began and schools and companies closed their doors early.
What a wonderful opportunity! How often are we allowed to stop, kick back and count the snowflakes? Certainly for those ‘essential personnel’ in healthcare, utilities, fire/police service and media this was an all-hands-on-deck event with hard work and long hours. I am thankful for these folks and their amazing efforts on our behalf. Yet for the rest of us, the blizzard proved to be an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. It was also a time– either self-imposed or by virtue of losing electricity – to cut down on the ‘noise’, technology and interruption. Uninterrupted, quiet time is something most of my clients don’t feel they have the luxury to take advantage of. Built in time allows us to pause to:
1) Evaluate our previous actions
2) Plan for what is most important to do going forward and
3) Consider what we are learning these activities.
Taking the time to focus on the important things may prompt us to make a different choice, alter a direction or perhaps even stop doing something.
The blizzard showed us, it IS possible to pause- though perhaps we need to self impose or build in this time for ourselves. Challenge yourself to ‘plan for a pause’ over the next few days whether or not the snowflakes are flying!
I decided this was the year that I would finally learn to golf. It’s a sport I have observed from afar, yet never seemed to have the time to pursue. So I found a great pro at our local golf course and have been taking lessons. Learning from a pro is important because the coach can hold up the mirror, identify my weaknesses, help me change my bad habits and leverage the strengths I have. For the first two lessons I didn’t even hit a ball as it’s important to “get the foundation right” (foot position, hand grip, eye direction, stance, etc.) and obtain a ”model/mentor” of what a good swing is all about.
I’ve been struck by the many parallels between learning to golf and the fundamentals of leadership. First, a good foundation is key and that involves taking an inventory of the critical competencies you have already. How well do you influence and persuade others? How effectively do you articulate and deliver your messages? What key relationships do you need to foster in your role and how would you assess them today? How do you get people to listen to what you have to say and follow your lead? Once you have taken the inventory, leverage the strong skills you HAVE and start to gain feedback; then spend time learning and practicing the skills that you NEED to enhance. Some of this you can and should do on your own. Of course the help of a good coach or mentor will provide the professional objectivity, nudging, course correction and accountability necessary to really get in the game or on the course!
As summer flees, the crispness in the air and the shorter days bring us back to our youth and memories of the start of the school year. I fondly remember heading to Woolworth’s with my school list to choose the coveted new brightly-colored notebooks, #2 pencils and the latest designs in paper book covers. September still represents for me a fresh start, a new beginning, and clean slate even though my school days are behind me; my kids are college age and beyond; and my computer, not the mighty notebook, rules the day.
Rested and relaxed after summer vacations, this is a natural refreshing point for all of us. What one change would make a difference for you? What new subject areas might you learn? What new habits should we form? Have we let anything important slip? What hasn’t gotten started professionally or personally that needs attention? As 4th quarter approaches, most corporations, begin assessing what annual business or career development goals have been achieved and what still needs to get done. It’s a sound practice.
This is an ideal time to carve out a little time to consider where you would do well to invest some new energy. Assess what technical expertise, competencies or soft skills you might need to further develop to increase your effectiveness at work. There are lots of opportunities to enhance your “tool kit” through professional association programs, a class online or at a local university or through reading (some recommendations are listed in my website’s section On Our Bookshelves).
Do you also hear the “back to school” call? I urge you to find a spot in your schedule today to brainstorm one new goal and what you will undertake to get there. Mine was starting this blog, something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. You’ll be surprised by how inspiring just a few quiet minutes with a new notebook can be.