Body Language and What it Might be Saying

Don’t get derailed because of your body language.  Here’s a great article on body language and how it might be limiting you. Check it out and be clear about the messages you’re sending. 

Body language and what it might be saying

International Women’s Day

As I reflect on the significance of this day I am reminded of all the wonderful women who have influenced, encouraged and inspired me over the years, and there have been many.

Thank you for helping me up when I stumbled, for being the beacon of light that showed me the way and for reflecting back to me all that I could possibly be!

Who are the women making a difference in your life?

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.” — Eleanor Roosevelt











New YearAs the New Year unfolds before us I wish you the gift of heartfelt desire along with the vision, courage and determination to achieve your greatest dreams.    Resolve to be all that you can be!

Happy New Year and all of the best to you and yours in 2015.



What makes some leaders standout above the rest? Here are three key qualities that will help you to be a more effective leader.

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks.  One of the most impactful moments was hearing that one of the senior leaders in my organization has left.  He’s moving to another part of the organization for a well-deserved promotion.  I’ve been working under his leadership for the past four years and I can say without reservation that he is an extraordinary leader.

If you asked what makes him extraordinary leader my response would be that in addition to being incredibly smLeadership - Copy (2)art, along with his ability to lead an organization that pays out more than $50 billion a year in social benefits, it’s how he got all of us involved in our organization.  It’s called engagement  I know…I know…engagement is a real buzz these days. In my view, this individual exemplified it.  In fact, it was infectious.  In the time that I’ve worked for him it remained one of his key priorities.  He made a number of meaningful changes to keep us informed and hear what we had to say about our business.

First of all he put into place a number of communities of practice, such as a middle manager’s committee, an annual recognition and awards ceremony, regular leadership forums that have gone beyond “talking heads”.  It was impressive to see how he valued the views of his people including his leadership team.  Not only did he keep us informed through his commitment to hold regular executive management team meetings while managing a hectic schedule, he encouraged the sharing of ideas.  He also went the extra mile by holding coffee meetings with different levels of staff and creating a dialog at all levels of the organization.  He was genuinely curious and wanted to understand what was needed to make it an even higher performing organization.

Equally important was how he led by example.  Despite leading during a period of fiscal restraint, workforce reductions and successfully delivering on a number of challenging agendas, he demonstrated respect at all levels.  He was professional regardless of the pressure he was under and instilled success.  Although we worked hard to deliver he appreciated the need to have fun by encouraging participation in   activities to support charitable organizations such as the United Way.  Work life balance was valued.

What I really appreciated was how he made each of us feel.  He believed in what we were doing as an organization and his insatiable need to understand and learn more translated into valuing each of us for what we brought to the table.  He appreciated our expertise, the experience we brought and valued who we were.  When I finished having a conversation with him I felt that my contribution truly made a difference. What’s interesting is that we all felt this way.

I could go on but I think you get the picture.  Leaders that standout above the rest engage their people and their organization and are genuinely curious about what their employees think.  They listen to them and adopt their ideas.  Effective leaders are respectful even under pressure and most of all believe in their people.

I’m curious to hear what some of the qualities are of the outstanding leaders in your life, and how you are incorporating them into your leadership approach.  Post here – I’d enjoy hearing from you!

Leading by Example – Here is an example of how I stepped out of my comfort zone in a practical way

Life begins1

If you read my last blog you know it was about “stepping outside of your comfort zone”.  When we refer to taking that “big step” we conjure up the idea of it being something significant – like a career change or leaving our employment to further our education.  It also applies to our day-to-day activities and so I’d like to share with you one of my recent experiences as a way of affirming the message in my previous blog.

You may already know that I am a motorcyclist and have been for the past five years.  With each passing year it plays a bigger part of my life and translates into miles and miles of enjoyment.  Last year I treated myself to a pre-retirement gift and purchased a new Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic.  I had intended on buying it after I retire from my role as an Executive Director in government, which is still about a year away, but a colleague when hearing about my plans asked a valid question.   “Why wait for retirement?”  She suggested I should be asking “why not now?”  She was right.  My new motorcycle has heightened my riding experience and I have no regrets in having made the investment earlier.

Of course, with it comes the responsibility of regular maintenance which is essential to its continued performance and for retaining its value.  If you are familiar with the Harley Davidson motorcycle there are three oils that need to be changed.  Yes, three of them!  And with my increased mileage the oils need to be changed frequently.  I wondered to myself what it might take for me to be able to do this on my own.  After all, I did work in a service station when I was a teenager.  Admittedly, that was a very long time ago and if I’m honest, the thought made my heart pound!  This was clearly outside of my comfort zone.  It’s an expensive machine and if I was going to do it, I had to get it right.

I thought about my recent blog and the question of all questions came to mind:  Who was I to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone if I wasn’t prepared to do the same?

As I mentioned, I certainly felt like this was out of my comfort zone.  In fact, it was way outside of it.  So, I did what any sensible person would do…I Googled it – an initial step in my research.  I started by watching a few YouTube videos and came across one that was clear and easy to follow.  It was detailed and covered the entire process step-by-step.  As well, I asked questions of folks who serviced their own motorcycles.  In other words, I spoke with people who were experienced.  As well, I sent the video to a friend whose opinion I value a great deal.  He agreed, the video was good and in his estimation this was something I was capable of doing.

From there, I did a cost/benefit analysis and itemized what I would need to do the job.  Besides the oil and filter, there were things like an oil filter wrench, a torque wrench for the derby cover to prevent stripping the bolts, a pan to catch the used oil and a funnel for adding the new.  The initial outlay was about the same as I would pay for an oil change at the dealer.  When I started to look around I found a torque wrench on sale.  It was a big ticket item and as a result increasing my return on investment.  In the mid to long-term, there were definite savings to be realized by me servicing my own motorcycle.

Before attempting this undertaking (yes my heart was still pounding), I arranged to have one of my trusted motorcycle friends come over and coach me through the processes.  I wanted to make sure that if I had questions there would be someone experienced on hand.  That morning I also watched the video again to make sure I had a clear picture of what I was going to be doing, minimizing the risk.  I went through the entire process methodically, arranging the tools, keeping my work space organized, and double checking each step thoroughly.

I’ve pleased to say that it went very well and it felt great!  I was proud of myself for having taken it on and for completing it successfully.  By stepping outside of my comfort zone in a small but meaningful way I accomplished something that was of value to me; and by sharing it here with you and on Facebook with other riders, especially women riders who might want to do the same, my experience may be benefiting others on a number of different fronts.

The message I want to reiterate here is that if you get clear on what it is that you want to do, regardless of its size or scope – providing it’s within your control – by taking a few simple steps to research it thoroughly, speak with those who have experience or knowledge in the field, undertake a cost/benefit analysis while managing the risks, along with being supported by a trustworthy mentor and coach, the probability of a successful outcome is high!  What’s also of importance is getting out there and leading by example.  It takes courage and builds healthy leadership muscle – perhaps the subject of another blog 🙂

I encourage you to give it a try and put the process to the test – take on something that moves you beyond your comfort zone even if it’s in a small way.  I heard it said that’s where life beings – feel the fear and do it anyway!

I’m interested in hearing back from you – post a comment to let me know how it goes.

Have you Stepped Out of Your Comfort Zone and want to turn back? Here are four effective ways to help you stay the course.

Comfort Zone8Recently I attended a workshop on “Authentic Leadership” that was led by Trillium Teams.  It was a day and a half dedicated to increased self-awareness, behaviour styles, and self-management of personal behaviour and how it relates to your leadership and communication style.  The bottom line, if I was to summarize what I took away from the workshop is “how to continually adapt my communication style to support those I lead.”    What was also of great value was getting to know other leaders at the workshop.  Networking is an incredibly powerful and beneficial way to learn from the experiences of others.

After the workshop wrapped up, I had the privilege of spending time with a young manager who attended the event.  As it turned out, after the event both of us took advantage of the location and spent a couple of hours at a nearby spa that has a number of pools and saunas in a natural outdoor setting – an excellent way to wrap up a busy week!

Over the course of the afternoon we had the opportunity to chat.  I learned that she was new to the role of manager.  She shared how she felt challenged by it and wondered if she had made the right career choice by accepting the new role.  She indicated that she knew the work and was very good at it.  What she was calling into question was her ability to lead.  She was questioning herself as to if she was cut out to be a leader.  As we chatted she went on to say how she discussed it with her mentor and was reassured that she was heading in the right direction to support her career path.  What she may not have realized is that she was not only demonstrating one of the key competencies of an effective leader – self-awareness – she was also self-managing by reaching out to her emotional support team.   She had stepped outside her comfort zone to follow her dream and was gaining valuable experience and emotional intelligence by doing it.

As I listened, I recalled a similar experience.  It was a number of years ago when I had stepped outside of my comfort zone and I too called into question my capacity and ability to be an effective leader.  It was in the mid 90’s and I was living and working on Vancouver Island.  Similar to today, the Federal Government was going through a round of workforce adjustments and the office where I worked was being “right sized”, along with my position.  Through a series of events, I relocated to another location and went from managing a dozen employees to more than double.  I knew the work but the scope changed significantly.  I felt overwhelmed – and very much like this young lady I was calling into question my competence as a leader.  I wondered if I was cut out for the job!

Coincidentally, my boss invited me for coffee and asked how it was going.  She was checking in with me.  Just as this new manager had done with her mentor, I took the risk and conveyed how I was feeling and the challenges I was experiencing.  I remember to this day, decades later, how she reassured me by sharing her experience and leadership wisdom.  She reminded me that it takes time to transition into a new role, regardless of how well I knew the business, not to mention a new community.  She told me that if after four months I felt the same way then we should meet to talk about it again.  We didn’t need to have the next conversation, or at least not about that.

Over the years I’ve called on that experience to carry me through a number of life’s challenges, along with sharing it with others I’ve met along the way.  If you have taken on a new role, are transitioning into a new environment, or even getting on a new motorcycle this season, regardless of your knowledge or experience, here are four key things to keep in mind:

  1. As was shared with me, you need to be patient with yourself and recognize that there’s an adjustment period.  During this time, despite feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt about your capacity, do what it takes to stick with it.  The transition time will vary depending on the scope of the change and its complexity.
  1. Seek feedback from someone you trust about how you’re doing.  What’s important to remember is that what you’re feeling on the inside is not necessarily how you are preforming on the outside or how others may be viewing your performance.  Self-perception can be deceiving.  I heard it said “feedback is the breakfast of champions”.
  1. Ensure that you have an emotional support team in place that you call on for encouragement and a safe place to share how you are feeling as you move through the transition and your confidence returns.  This may be a friend, a mentor or a coach to help you work through the challenge.  A coach can assist you develop strategies and a personal action plan while helping you maintain momentum to successfully move through the change and beyond.
  1. Finally, don’t give up!  You never know how close you are to a breakthrough unless you see it through.