Haven’t You Ever Heard of Teamwork?

Recently, I had an appointment with a new doctor.  While I was signing in, I noticed several people working behind the desk.  I observed a “forty-something” woman berate one of the younger women about not helping out.  She blurted out a few sentences in a derogatory manner.  Then she said, “Haven’t you ever heard of teamwork?”  She turned to another co-worker and complained to her as if the younger woman was not present.

So what?  This kind of behavior can have a negative impact on patient satisfaction, employee morale, engagement, and office productivity.  If the office staff members treat each other this way, how does the whole practice treat patients?  Fortunately, my new doctor was wonderful.  However, the passive-aggressive behavior behind the front desk was disturbing.  It may negate the environment that the physicians are trying to create.  If it persists, this type of atmosphere is likely to lead to underperformance and high employee turnover.  The younger woman may “get with the program and help out,” but she is likely to become resentful over time.  Negative reinforcement does not bring out the best in people.  Demeaning and passive-aggressive language does not contribute to positive teamwork.  All of these factors could have a detrimental effect on the profitability of the medical practice.

When I observe a scenario like this one, I reflect upon it with curiosity.  What could be going on?  People have different ways of communicating, working, learning, handling stress, etc.  In this situation, I would ask a lot of questions.  What is really going on with the older woman under stress and the younger woman who is not helping out.  Are these behaviors a symptom of a larger problem within the medical practice?  Are the roles and responsibilities clear among staff members?  How do the leaders interact with each other and their employees?

If you are facing any of these challenges, I encourage you to step back and take a look at your whole system.  An immediate reaction might be to reprimand these individuals and move on.  If there are deeper issues at work, reprimanding and moving a few employees around will not lead to a stronger organization.  Resist the temptation to go for a short-term fix. Beyond the stated mission and values of your business, what kind of culture do you really have?  Take advantage of this learning opportunity to evaluate your current scenario and discover what steps you need to take to create a strong, sustainable, and fulfilling business.

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What Do You Do When You Fall?

Sometimes, you take a leap and you fly.  Other times, you take a leap and you hit the ground.  What do you do when you hit the ground?

As I was writing these words, I remembered the film, City of Angels, with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan.  In the film, Nicholas Cage is an angel who decides to take a fall in order to become human and pursue his love for Meg Ryan’s character. He takes this leap without knowing what he will encounter.  When he hits the ground, his face and hands are bloodied. He feels and tastes things he has never experienced.  Despite his pains, he gets up and begins to follow his dream.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUy6v3oGTOo

When you try something new and falter, you can feel bruised, bloodied, and vulnerable. Now, we aren’t jumping off buildings like Nicholas Cage, but it can feel that way.  The question is, “What do you do now?”  If you are growth oriented, you will be there again!  When you have such an experience, what can you learn and take with you going forward?  I suggest considering the following actions and questions.

First of all, take a break and do something kind for yourself.

When you are ready to assess the situation, reflect upon the following questions.  Because this work can be challenging, talking about it with someone you trust can be very helpful.

  • What happened?
  • What were the positives?
  • What were the challenges?
  • What did you learn from the situation?
  • What did you learn about your strengths and what you enjoy doing?
  • What did you learn about your weaknesses and what you don’t enjoy?
  • What did you discover you want to continue learning?
  • What do you want to leave behind?
  • Did you discover that you were pursuing the wrong work, passion, job, etc?
If you don’t stretch yourself, you won’t grow.  How do you know if your stretch is the right one?  You don’t always know.  Sometimes, it is clear that you should go for it.  Other times, the picture is a little murky. In other cases, the signs are all there that you are heading down the wrong path and you ignore them anyway. What I know for sure is that we have to try new things in order to be effective leaders, have successful careers, and live fulfilling lives.  Learning from a challenging experience can help you build resilience and clarify the direction you want to take in work and life.

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Identifying Personal Purpose

Exploring purpose requires you to slow down and reflect.  Put away the blackberry and cell phone.  Take yourself away from your daily routines, so you can eliminate distractions.  I find it very helpful to get out of my office.  Periodically, I will take a note pad and one book to a coffee shop.  When I relax into those moments, I feel inspired, spacious and alive.  I generate all kinds of thoughts and ideas.  My creative juices start flowing.

Once you enter a space of quiet and reflection, I encourage you to consider one or all of the following exercises.  You do not need to ponder them all at the same time.

1) Think of the times when you have felt most alive or in the flow.  What was going on during that time?  What did you love about those experiences?  What did you learn about yourself and what matters to you?  For me, the best times revolve around interactions with people and spending time in natureMihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about “flow” experiences in his book, Finding Flow.  Conversely, reflect upon the times when you felt out of alignment or in a state of conflict.  What was going on?  What did those experiences have to teach you about what you want out of your life?  One of my most difficult challenges was in a former job.  That experience reminded me that I want to be part of a team that values collaborating, developing people, appreciating differences, embracing conflict and focusing on truly serving the customer.  The phrase, “that’s just the way it is” is not acceptable to me.  I also became aware of my reactive tendencies when I am shocked by other people’s behavior.

2) Another way to explore purpose is to pay attention to the frequent clues, signs and synchronicities that show up in your life.  Gregg Levoy discusses synchronicities a great deal in his book, Callings.  These signs show up in a variety of ways including book titles, articles that come across your desk, dreams, conversations you overhear, physical symptoms, music, art, and poetry.  Notice what resonates with you.  During my stressful job situation, I decided to tell a colleague that I was going to resign.  She tried to convince me to stay.  When I got home that evening, I felt sick.  Every bone in my body told me that I could not stay.  A month or two before my resignation, I went to my doctor for a physical.  While I waited in the exam room, I looked up at the magazine rack.  On the cover of the March 29, 2004 issue of Business Week was the headline, “ACT TWO: Ann Fudge’s two-year break changed her life.”  I had several other signs that confirmed my decision to pursue a different direction in my career.

3) A third approach is to create a list of things you want to do, have or become in order to be happy.  Take a look at each item on your list.  Why does it matter to you?  What about it inspires you?  How would you like it to be part of your future?  Some of the things on my list include interacting with people, building community, lifelong learning and development, spending time in nature, laughter and integrity.

Write a purpose statement.

When you have completed these exercises, identify the common patterns and themes.  I have gone through all of these exercises during the past eight years.  The same patterns show up over and over again.  Finally, create a purpose statement that captures the most important themes.  It should be simple and inspiring.  Post the statement in your office or a place where you will view it frequently.  Use this statement to guide your decision making, the priorities in your life, and your professional and leadership development.

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Exploring Personal Purpose

2012 is around the corner.  It is a great time of year to think about purpose.  Although, exploring purpose is not like making New Year’s resolutions.  It is a deeper and ongoing process.  As you reflect upon the past year, can you say that you are living a life that matters?

As Americans, we don’t necessarily focus on purpose.  We are busy living in a quick-fix, instant-gratification society.  I never thought about the subject of purpose until I entered The Hudson Institute Life Launch program in 2002.  I decided to enter this program and the professional coaching certification program because I knew I wanted more from my work.  I had everything I thought I wanted including a well-paying job and a great deal of autonomy.  However, I still had a nagging feeling inside that something was missing.

What is Purpose?

Purpose is the reason you are here on this earth.  It is the inner motivation, which gets you out of bed in the morning.  Once you satisfy your basic needs of survival and earning a living, purpose is what provides meaning to your life.  Richard Leider, the author of The Power of Purpose, says that we ask the following questions in our quest for purpose – “Who am I?  What am I meant to do here? What am I trying to do with my life?”

Why Does Purpose Matter?

Purpose gives you a sense of direction in life.  It provides you with energy and inspiration.  When you are clear about what matters to you and what moves you, you are more likely to live a fulfilling life.  You can more effectively manage the challenges and surprises that come your way because you have a clear sense of what you want.

Leadership and business experts like Bill George, Bob Anderson and Dan Pink have identified purpose as an important factor in successful leadership.  The more a leader can relate his or her personal purpose to the purpose of the organization, the more effective his or her leadership impact is likely to be.  The desire to perform goes beyond short-term results and lucrative compensation plans.

Bill George highlighted Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon Products, in his book, True North.  Over time, she recognized that her personal leadership purpose was to “empower women.”  Her purpose ties in with Avon Product’s vision of being “the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women globally.”  In his article, The Spirit of Leadership, Bob Anderson of The Leadership Circle states, “Leadership is fundamentally about realizing our higher purpose and taking actions that make that purpose real in the conditions of our life.”  Bob’s work highlights the importance of combining personal development with organizational systems change efforts.  Dan Pink, author of Drive, highlights purpose as one of the three elements of true motivation.  He says, “The most deeply motivated people – not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied – hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves.”

Do you have a defined sense of purpose?  Feel free to share your purpose below.  In the next post, I will discuss some ways to identify purpose.

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Last week, I went to a presentation by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze regarding their new book, Walk Out Walk On.  The phrase of “walk outs who walk on” came from some students in India who left school, but did not view themselves as dropouts.  They searched for a new way to engage in learning.  The authors tell us that “Walkouts are people who bravely choose to leave behind situations, jobs, relationships, and ideas that restrict and confine them, anything that inhibits them.  They walk on to the ideas, people, and practices that enable them to explore and discover new gifts, new possibilities.”  As I listened to them talk, I felt some emotion bubbling up to the surface.  They were talking about me.  I walked out of a successful investment career to walk on to something deeper.

Ten years ago, I became restless with my job.  One summer afternoon, as I considered reading the work I brought home, I felt a sense of burden.  Something was missing.  A few months later, I serendipitously read an article about coaching while I was waiting for my car to be repaired.  It was one month after 9/11/01.  I hired the coach who was featured in the article.  From that experience, I decided to pursue a coaching certification from The Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara in 2002.  The coach training program led me into a process of self discovery.  I became clearer about my values, priorities, leadership philosophy and sense of purpose.  I discovered my passion for developing people and creating stronger organizations.

Two-and-a-half years later, after my father passed away, I decided it was time to leave my job and figure out the next step in my career.  It was time for me to move on……..

What do you need to walk out on to be more successful and fulfilled?  You don’t have to leave a job or a career. Perhaps you want to try on a new role.  You may need to let go of an old way of thinking.  Do you engage in a behavior that does not serve you anymore?  Are you restless?

Spend some time in a quiet place without your smartphone or computer.  What do you notice?  What wants to emerge??  Please share your thoughts below.

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