3 Tips for Putting Down Your Armour

It seems a natural response to being hurt, facing challenges or experiencing unexpected tragedy is to respond with fear and anger and armour up. Armouring up can be anything from “From now on I copy everyone in on my emails to cover my butt.” to “I will not share anything authentic with you again.” to “I’m going to isolate myself from others.”

But research is clear about the role of optimism in resilience. While these armouring up responses are normal, it’s when they become a long term habit that our overall wellness, effectiveness and satisfaction with life can be affected.

While some people seem to be more naturally optimistic, there are times when all of us need to be intentional about it. Here are three practices I use to put down my armour:

  1. Lighten up. Lightening up means that we don’t take ourselves seriously and we put things into perspective, hopefully finding humour in situations. While that may not always be possible in extremely distressing situations, it can also mean giving yourself permission to “park the issue” even if it’s for a short time. This gives your brain a chance to get out of fight or flight. To lighten up, practice the “pause.” When you find yourself overly stressed, anxious, serious, in a rush, etc, take a deep breath, pause for 4 seconds, name what you are experiencing and then ask yourself a question to shift into more optimism. Some of my favorites are “Will this be important a year from now?” “Can I do anything about this?” “Can I invest my energy into something more important or positive?”
  2. Reframe. Reframing means that we interpret and make meaning of our experiences in a way that is optimistic. Resilience researchers followed children raised in neglect or abuse over a long period of time to see how they fared as adults. Those who did well (lived productive happy lives) did not attach the same meaning to their earlier experiences as those who continued in a cycle of neglect and abuse. The “stories” we tell ourselves about what happens to us can be even more important and crucial in determining how we do than what actually happened to us in the moment. Those children who were able to reframe their early childhood as learning experiences that helped them develop their strength and confidence did better than those who told a story of how their early childhood damaged them. Reframing also relates to how we think about things that didn’t go right for us, or failures. Resilient people are able to reframe mistakes or failures as opportunities to learn or create something different in their lives.
  3. Develop a daily ritual that facilitates connection to yourself, others, nature. Some of the things I do are to write down 3 things I appreciate or am grateful for, go for walks, review my file of thank yous from others, watch uplifting videos or read something uplifting, and send a text or email of appreciation to someone. I find that doing this helps me to lean more towards optimism than pessimism, put down my armour and connect to others in a meaningful way.

What are the strategies you use to put down your armour and develop your optimism?

This blog is the A in our PAUSE model of resilience – Active Optimism. Watch for the U in a future blog!!

Why Won’t We Call Time-Outs?

Bang Head Here

Graphic Calliope Learning - Original Source Unknown

No doubt you’ve seen this poster as it’s been around for years.  It’s a good chuckle as it seems ridiculous and exaggerated, but I caught myself doing the equivalent of banging my head against the wall just last Friday and while I didn’t lose consciousness literally, there certainly was no intelligence in my actions. I continued to spin my wheels, get even more upset,  ruin my day, and not get anything done … just move email messages around into different folders and write out a to do list in half a dozen different places.

I know better!  Had I taken myself on a time-out to my newly created workout room for a bit of wild dancing to disco music, I might have gotten a grip, gotten a perspective, renergized myself, found my groove, reclaimed my day, etc, etc.

When we work with teams in our one week leadership programs, we ask team members to choose the 5 cards from our Teamwork card deck that they think will help them be successful. A number of them choose this particular card, Call Time-Outs, the 2 of diamonds, which suggests:

Many a meeting has become unproductive because people mistakenly believe that all problems can be solved on a timetable and ticked off their list. If your team is spinning its wheels, calling a time-out can help break the tension and give people an opportunity to gather their thoughts. Shift your energy by calling the meeting, going for a walk, sleeping on it, or simply moving to another room.

The trick of course is to use the card!  In my role as a team coach, I observe teams who are spinning their wheels and will wait 20 – 30 minutes before I gently ask “Would you like some feedback?”

“YES” is the resounding answer from everyone on the team.  My first bit of feedback is  … get up out of your chairs, take a walk down the hallway and come back. I then ask people to stand away from their meeting table and “observe themselves as a team” and ask them “what was happening on this team?” and “what does this team need to do?” Inevitably, the team gets itself back on track and knows what it needs to do.

I find this phenomena fascinating. Why won’t we call time-outs? I think there are a number of factors

  1. Initially, our self-awareness skills … the ability to stand back and observe ourselves and others in the moment.
  2. Secondly, our belief system.  In particular, our belief about time and that we don’t have enough of it. Our deeply-rooted belief that we can continue to be effective after hours, days or years (yes years … how many of you have not taken a vacation in years???) of not taking a time-out. Our belief that we SHOULD be able to be totally effective and productive ALL the time, no matter what the circumstance (ok shortcut version … perfectionism).
  3. Finally, our courage to act.  To call a time-out on a team can mean rubbing up against other team member beliefs and anxieties about not having enough time or not being good enough.

And, one final thought, sometimes we just need an outsider to help us. Some of us are toddlers when it comes to recognizing when we are tired and need a time-out.

This blog is based on the 2 of Diamonds, Call Time-Outs, taken from our Teamwork Explorer. Written by Tammy.

Don’t Read This If Your Team Is Stressed

Well, here you are reading this so your team (or perhaps more accurately you) are stressed. And I just know what you’re going to say … you have too much work and too little time. So if I suggest anything at all to you at this point, you might just rip my face off (you laugh but I just had that happen and not that long ago). But I will risk it anyway and suggest that at your next team meeting, you ask for 5 minutes and have everyone do the following:

  1. Write down all of the things that you can celebrate right now about your lives, your work and your team. And yes, do feel free to tweet, text or email each other if you simply can’t pull yourself away from your technology.
  2. Make a list of the things you are stressed about that you can control and ask yourselves for each one – 6 minutes from now will this be important, 6 hours from now, 6 days from now, 6 weeks from now, 6 years from now. I’d like to humbly suggest that you put all of the 6 minute, hour, and day things into perspective.
  3. Then, make a list of things you are stressed about that you can’t control and banish them from your heads. As someone once said (and I’m sorry I cannot remember who said it or where I read it), don’t let them live rent free in your head. It’s like giving someone you don’t trust the passwords to all of your accounts and that’s just plain crazy.
  4. TAKE A MINUTE, AN HOUR, OR BETTER YET A DAY OFF!!!! If your team is stressed, you have opened just one too many programs and your computer will crash (I know this because my husband watches me do this all the time and, yes, even that brand new super dooper computer will crash at some point if you just keep installing software on it.)
  5. Next, get reacquainted with the original passion and intent of the team. What is your team being called to do? How does that fit into the overall goals of your organization? How and where does your team need to prioritize its work?  How can you reignite how you all work together?
  6. Now that you’ve rebooted, take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the final bit of advice …

LOOK AFTER YOURSELVES!!!! Instead of winding yourselves up like the Ever Ready Battery Bunny, try to keep our teamwork tip of the week top of mind, or better yet the wallpaper on your iPhone.

Look After Yourselves

Jack of Hearts – Look After Yourselves

Our work lives can be challenging, and demanding. Make sure you take time for yourself on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Ensure that you are in touch with what really matters in life and strive to separate challenges and failures at work from your own personal sense of worth and efficacy. Take time for exercise, rest, leisure activities, family, friends, daily time-outs, and vacations.

How is your team doing?  How do you encourage each other to look after themselves?

Curious about the rest of the tips and want to know all about them now? Find out more.

BTBTYCB Lighten Up

Be The Best That You Can Be — Stage Three — Lighten Up

I’ve been working on this project for a little while and I feel it’s time to give it a little bit of an airing. For a few years I’ve used the phrase “helping you be the best that you can be” to describe my role, whether I’m coaching or facilitating leadership development. I thought it was time to figure out exactly what I meant when I said this. This led me to develop a five stage plan that I believe anyone can follow in order to be the best that they can be. A lofty goal I know, but it has been fun putting this together and I’d love to get some feedback.

The five stages of the plan are:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Have clear goals
  3. Lighten up
  4. Persevere
  5. Embrace paradox

This blog post will briefly outline stage three of the plan. Future posts will explore the last two stages.

Laughter is the best medicine.

Being the best that you can be is too important to be taken (too) seriously!

Allow me to explain. Most of the really successful people that I’ve met always seem to be laughing a lot. They’re having a good time, they’re fit and well both physically and mentally. I don’t think we can ever be the best that we can be if we’re sick, stressed, or in some other way, not at the top of our game. We need balance and laughter in our lives, these lead to health and well being, which are of course precursors to being the best that you can be.

Lightening up isn’t something to do alone. We need to have good relationships with people around us. When we take ourselves too seriously we lose perspective. We begin to believe that our concerns are the only ones that matter. We lose sight of the fact that our success is more often than not dependent on the success of others. And vice versa.

Happy Holidays, enjoy this seasonal break, don’t take yourself too seriously and make sure you find time to laugh with friends.


Work Life Balance

Work/Life Balance

We take a slight risk in posting this picture to our blog … after all we are in our bathing suits!  So leadership is about risk and here we go …

But the picture is a literal and metaphorical example of work life balance, a challenge many of our high tech leadership coaching clients face. The obvious one is that work life balance does involve taking time out for fun and we recently came back from a vacation where we played on tubes in the water 🙂

The metaphorical one is how we rode this tube around the lazy river pool.  It took us an amazing amount of time to get balanced on the tube and while we look balanced in this picture, in fact our journey around the river pool was all up and down and side to side than completely balanced floating lazily along the river.

A lot of our clients think that work life balance is having everything balanced at all times on a daily basis. We think a more powerful metaphor is to think of work life balance as a paradoxical polarity that must be managed, but cannot ever be solved or fixed. We draw on Barry Johnson’s polarity management to help ourselves (and our clients) manage the tension.

If you focus too much on your work life, you will start to experience a downside to that focus.  It could look like too many hours at the office, increased stress, less enjoyment of work, complaints from your spouse, etc. Whatever it is, you need to put some focus on your personal life for a while.  If you start to focus on your personal life too much, you will experience a downside to that.  It could look like missed career opportunities, a disconnect with your colleagues, complaints from your boss.  That’s your signal to return back to your work life. Ironically, the early warning signals we most need to pay attention to are the ones we do our best to dismiss (eg. think spousal complaints 😉

And so it goes … just as Dave and I bobbed up and down on our raft, so too must people swing back and forth between work life and personal life. The trick is to not tip over, which can only be accomplished if we’re aware and open enough to those early warning signals. Sometimes I was perilously close to being dumped in the water and Dave was flying high … but we managed to get back to centre before either of us got too wet!