Category Archives: Conflict management

Do People See You a Leader or a Liability?

Russian Rainbow Gathering. Nezhitino, August 2005
Image via Wikipedia

While I’ve always been rather moderate in my politics, I am a child of the 60’s. One of the phrases that was used a lot back then by the militants and flower children was ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

As you review your own behavior in life, do you make sure you’re part of the solution or would others see you as part of the problem?

When you’re part of the problem, you probably feel victimized by your circumstances, powerless to change them and/or resigned that nothing you do can fix what’s really wrong with your world.

This likely leaves you reluctant to take action, bitter and resentful, maybe even hopeless.

You would recognize this by the language you use privately in your own head and in conversation with others.

“Why bother?”

“If only those idiots over there would get their act together…”

“I can’t…”

“I have to…”

They all reflect a loss of power, a lack of empowerment, an absence of responsibility for causing the world to be the way you say it should be.

So, I’ll ask again, “Are you a leader or a liability?” And just as important…how to people SEE you?

Leaders get ahead, get promoted, get great clients.

Liabilities get ignored or worse yet, fired, retired, RIFed (reduced in force), laid off or go broke.

So what does it take to be seen as a leader in your company, community, business or family?

Three things distinguish leaders from whiners and naysayers.

1. Leaders DO SOMETHING CONSTRUCTIVE to fix the problem once they’ve identified it.

The don’t sit around and blame The Establishment, their bosses, employees, kids or spouse for their problem.  They name the problem and communicate. They make requests or demands for it’s resolution…from someone who is empowered to take that action.  They might even take the matter into their own hands and fix it themselves.

2. Leaders strive to bring opposing sides together to see an outcome that will benefit the larger community. They care about the impact of their actions on others.

Collaboration is the strategy true leaders use to create common goals and passion for making them real.

3. Leaders encourage others to feel empowered and helpful, not righteous, smug and victorious, wanting to suppress the rights of others.

When people are working on altruistic causes, they WILL feel enlightened. Their Spirit will know they are on the right track.  Certainly some leaders can push non-altruistic, selfish causes, but their followers will tend to feel entitled and indignant rather than grounded in the common good.

Liabilities, on the other hand sit back and point fingers. They lay blame and accuse others of being the Bad Guys without offering any proactive suggestions to improve conditions.

They enact a quiet, and sometimes, not so quiet, mutiny. They sabotage forward movement. They throw rocks into the cogwheels of progress. They pride themselves in making life difficult for others.

They may be proactive but could tend to use domination and force rather than collaboration and power balancing.

So, how would the people around you see you? Are you bringing solutions for the betterment of all or waiting for someone else to step forward while complaining they aren’t acting swiftly enough?

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How to Sharpen Your Instinct for Empathy

It’s helpful to trace and understand the origin of the two words.   For a more elaborate explanation, read this article, empathy vs sympathy.

I’ll summarize here.

Empathy was brought into the English language from the German word Both are acts of feeling.  With sympathy, you feel FOR the person.  You may or may not fully understand their predicament, situation, problem or feelings.

With sympathy, you feel sorry for the person.  With empathy, you truly understand the sorrow, from their perspective and the world they endure as a result.

Empathy takes more work. It requires more imagination in that in order to empathize with a person, you must attempt to understand their thoughts: walk in their moccasins, so to speak. Empathy helps you identify with and feel closer to the other person.

While sympathy is also a tender feeling, it keeps you at a distance and sometimes even a bit above the person. Your perspective reflects that the person is somehow not only less fortunate than you but also ‘less than’ you, at least at the moment. The ‘less than’ may an assessment of their (perhaps temporary) competence or power level.

The most frequent expression of sympathy is felt when you hear that a person you know has lost someone close to them to death.  Feeling sympathy is almost an immediate reaction on our part.  Empathy would step in if you were very close to the survivor and understood, to a strong degree what the impact of that loss actually meant to them.  it might also kick in if you’ve lost someone
yourself and can actually experience that feeling of grief.

So, how does one bring empathy into existence when there is no tragedy to demand its emergence?

Here are three ways to sharpen your instinct for empathy.

1. Practice recognizing the signs that you’re about to distance yourself and dismiss the other person.
Empathy is an exercise in self-awareness and flexibility.  When you sense an arising experience of some negative emotion (disgust, sadness, anger, resentment), know that the first signal is your OWN emotion.  Once you know it’s YOUR reaction you’re trying to tame (rather than the other person’s), you’ll have more success in flexing and responding.

2. Imagine the other person’s life and try to feel what they are currently feeling.
Take into consideration not only their current life, but years past that have formed their perspective and outlook on life.  Be curious about how they have come to adopt their opinions. Ask open-ended questions that will help shine a light on their internal thoughts and help you understand them.

3. Legitimize their feelings
Even if you struggle to understand the feelings or opinions yourself, acknowledge that the perspective is a legitimate one for the person holding it. When you tell them you could see how they came to believe what they believe, it will be easier to have a meaningful dialog.  The natural tendency is to disagree with them; to dismiss them as a nut-case.  It’s hard to solve problems when you each think your ‘adversary’ is a lunatic.  Someone has to have some collaborative energy.  It might as well be you.

As Michael Jackson said, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.” If you’re always looking for someone else to change their ways, they won’t. If you keep denying their opinion, they’ll hold on to it that much stronger.  Meet them where they are.  That’s how you find common ground.

From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed in 5 Simple Steps

A lot of people these days are trying to do more with less which leaves them feeling a bit anxious and stressed. It’s critical that we invest time in making sure we’re living our best life and that often requires that we take a more proactive approach in directing it.

When we don’t do that, we work on other people’s priorities and end up feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Women in particular feel the stresses of juggling family, career and self. Work life balance is completely missing and it seems there is no way out.

One of my fundamental beliefs however, is that “We all have more options than we generally see and more control than we tend to take.”

One way to take that control is in implementing the RENEW My Life System: From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed in 5 Simple Steps.  Here are those 5 simple steps.

1. R=Reveal & release the obstacles on your path
This step is critical in figuring out what is really bothering you and weighing you down. You are probably clearly aware of the more obvious ones, there I’ll bet there are many more that have become mild irritations that you don’t even notice anymore. Do an assessment and Clean Sweep of the domains of your life (relationships, work/career, physical environment, etc.) and get really clear about exactly what needs to be dealt with.

2. E=Elect and claim the future you desire and deserve and make it happen
When you are caught up in the daily grind and treadmill of life, your dreams end up languishing on some mental bookshelf collecting dust and growing weak or dying altogether.  You must reclaim those dreams and believe that they are truly yours.

Your limiting  beliefs get in the way, so it’s important that you do what it takes to stay positive, focused and committed to reaching your goals and knowing that you do deserve the life you envision.

3. N=Nurture your mind and soul with empowering beliefs and behaviors
You have heard on airplanes how important it is to put on your oxygen mask first when traveling with children. The same is true for you in life on the ground.  Put on your mask first.  Do the things that bring you joy and courage. Stop wishing and complaining. Take action!

4. E=Eject the things that no longer serve you
As you become more focused on your own life goals and what’s really important to you, you will become less tolerant of the situations and people around you that are inconsistent with your renewed vision for your life.  Find the courage and make choices that will bring your desired life closer to reality.  Make requests of others.

Eliminate distractions and tolerations.

5. W=Win at the game of life
Set yourself up for success. Focus on what’s really important. Start delegating. Keep growing. Invest in activities and programs that will help you develop more power, confidence and mental muscle.

When you use these 5 RENEW steps, you’ll find more work-life balance and joy.  The overwhelm will diminish and you’ll be happier with your life, family and circumstances.

How to create more balance and renew your life

New video of me sharing what has my attention these days in the area of life purpose, work life balance, goal setting, achievement and fulfillment.

Top 3 Tips for Overcoming Adversity

Last week, I found a pair of sandals I hadn’t worn for years: didn’t even recall that I owned them until I opened the box they were in and saw them.  (Hmmm. What does that say about my shoe collection? It’s not that big…really!)

Anyway, I remembered the shoes were quite comfortable and excitedly slid them on right away.  I took a few steps and suddenly my past was in my present. I had worn them during the spring and summer of 2001 when I was in a job I hated and in a marriage that was just about dead and taking our souls with it.

I flashed back to walking through a quiet neighborhood in Palo Alto CA past modest (but way overpriced) homes with beautiful flowerbeds, enjoying the sunlight on my shoulders but grappling with the heaviness in my heart.

All of the anguish rushed right back: so much so that I immediately took the shoes off, put them back in the closet and entertained thoughts about giving the to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

It’s strange how we store memories in our bodies in ways we don’t hardly know. Even though it had been almost 10 years since they’d been on my feet, I was right back there on the streets in northern CA, sad and angry.

So here I am now in Phoenix, enjoying life as an entrepreneur, living with a man I could have married 36 years ago instead of just 6. (That’s another story.  If you haven’t heard it, ask me about it next time you see me.)

I shared my keep-them-or-give-them-away dilemma with my husband a couple of times until he basically said (lovingly), ‘make a decision or quit lamenting’.

Great advice!

Here’s what I’ve learned from this .
1. Choose your future
Sometimes it’s hard to envision a positive future when your present is flooded with unpleasant thoughts, feelings, emotions and circumstances.  You have options.  Bring the future you desire into existence through the power of declaration.

2. Never give up
Too often, people are discouraged from their goals when they seem difficult to accomplish. It would have been easy to put those sandals back in the box and drop them off at a donation center.  But I choose to keep them and therefore deal with the (what turned out to be) temporary discomfort of the memories.

I decided I could make NEW memories in the present.  So I started wearing the sandals at every opportunity and – Voila! The pain diminished.

It was similar to the breakthrough I had when I quit smoking 15 years ago.  I realized that when the urge to smoke struck and I distracted myself for just a few minutes, THE URGE WENT AWAY!  That was mind-boggling for me.

The same thing happened with the shoes.  When I decided I was bigger than the memories, they started to fade. My body started experiencing and remembering NEW details that over-wrote the ones that had been stored in the shoes and the soles of my feet laying dormant until they were joined together again.

Because of the choices I made, the nicotine lost its grip and so did the memories of the bad job and ex-husband.

3. Move steadily forward toward your goal.
On occassion, an image or conversation from the past returns to my consciousness.  Because I believe and say “You are not the boss of me!”, the pictures and words don’t take hold.  They are disempowered. They learn their new place in my life and I am free.

So when adversity strikes, look toward the future with determination and faith and act consistent with your desires.