Lead Meetings Uncommonly Awesome!

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Have you ever been in a meeting where the conversation just drags endlessly on, and nothing gets decided on…ever? People talk over one another and the only outcome is to schedule a follow-up meeting?

If you’ve nodded yet, you’re not alone. Did you know that 49 percent of meetings are considered to be a waste of time? So half of the countless hours we listen, debate and respectfully challenge, are better left unattended? Wow! That statistic is alarming. If only there was a more productive solution. Well, I’m going to share an excellent five-tiered solution, but I first want to ask you a question that will lead to one of the five components that I’ll dive deeper into shortly.

When you were a kid, and attended elementary school, did you sit in a desk and work fairly autonomously, facing the front of the room, likely with a larger-than-life-sized chalkboard staring back at you? I know I did! Interestingly, classrooms today are far different. Small groups of students are seated together and are expected to do countless activities as a team. And in our workplaces, many of us are now working in open-plan offices where we are seen and overheard by our colleagues, without a lick of privacy and solitude. This means our schools and workplaces cater to the likes of extroverts far more than introverts—who crave quiet, low-key environments to think about and process issues, before formulating their view and recommending solutions.

No quiet = no input.

No quiet = perceived lack of interest or disengagement.

No quiet = no solutions from 30 to 50 percent of the workforce.

But how do we fix this huge engagement and results problem? We need to fundamentally change how meetings are facilitated.

The responsibility of a meeting’s effectiveness lies almost solely on the shoulders of the meeting facilitator. Their role is clearly not an easy one—yet, often is the difference between meeting success and failure. A facilitator needs to listen, extract information, make decisions and drive actions that are in alignment with the desired outcomes. And in order to manage meetings well and foster productivity—they need structure and order. For without these elements, meeting drudgery can go on forever and not accomplish a thing. The five key roles of a meeting facilitator include:

  1. Identify the objective of the meeting and prepare the agenda.
  2. Communicate the agenda, meeting expectations, and the decision-making process—all in advance.
  3. Determine facilitation strategy and coordinate meeting logistics.
  4. Acknowledge differences in contribution preferences and how they impact interaction.
  5. Address challenging behaviors in a professional and prompt manner.  

As promised earlier, I want to continue to explore role #4—to acknowledge differences in contribution preferences and how they impact interaction.

It’s likely a fair question to now ask if you know whether you are an extrovert, introvert, or maybe a combination of both (known as an ambivert)? If interested in knowing, you can take this short online quiz to find out @ https://susancain.net/quiet-quiz/.

Introversion and extroversion go to the heart of who a person is: how they work, how they live, and how they interact. And now that your style is clear, let’s look at what facilitators can do to lead meetings with enhanced involvement and collaboration between all contribution preferences—including introverts, ambiverts and extroverts:

  • Ask questions in advance. Clarify what ideas will be discussed in advance of the meeting so ideas can be considered, analyzed and thought through by everyone before being put on the spot.
  • Request that ideas are put in writing. Ask people to write down their thoughts and bring them to the meeting so they don’t feel that silence is the better choice. Collect the written ideas and capture them on a whiteboard to review together. This ensures some individuals aren’t jockeying for airtime.
  • Consider online versus live brainstorming sessions. Allowing quality time to think and share perspectives online without being seated next to your colleagues makes it easier to formulate your own thoughts and opinions rather than agreeing with what is heard in a live brainstorming exercise.
  • Put a problem on a piece of paper, pass it around, and each person adds his/her solution. This allows for everyone to contribute and share unique ideas without being potentially criticized.
  • Invite several introverts to share their thoughts first. This strategy reinforces that the views from introverts are valued too, especially when they’re heard in the first few minutes.
  • Ask both styles to appear on the agenda in prominent roles. Often times, extroverts are asked to share their findings in meetings and the opinions of introverts are more easily overlooked. For example, research indicates that in a typical six-person meeting, two people do more than 60 percent of the talking. In bigger groups, the problem is even more serious.
  • Allow people to work the way they want to. Encourage extroverts to socialize and share ideas when they feel compelled to and give introverts the freedom to take a walk to recharge or work from the coffee shop next door if they need a break from the team environment.
  • Encourage each style to be more open to differing styles. Inspire extroverts to listen, reflect, and become more open to the perspectives of their more silent peers. Incite introverts to speak up by helping them feel comfortable enough to contribute.

Clearly, it’s important to acknowledge and prepare for differences in how people like to contribute in meetings. And when it’s fairly balanced, meeting attendees can harness their strengths using their preference in terms of how they like to process questions and share their respective input. Because a meeting with too many extroverts can suffer from ego issues, while a meeting with too many introverts can be lacking a collaborative dynamic.

The secret to success is to do COMMON things—like facilitating meetings—uncommonly well…which is a skill worth celebrating.

***If you’re organization struggles with facilitating productive meetings, connect with me about my in-person or virtual program entitled, “Master Meetings! Schedule Less. Achieve More.” (I recently spoke in-person on this topic at the Annual SHRM Conference & Expo in New Orleans, LA.)

Are You Ready to Hit a Home Run?

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

With the pandemic predominantly in our rear-view mirror and most companies bringing employees back into the workplace—either full-time or in a hybrid format—building camaraderie and figuring out how to operate as a cohesive team again can seem uncomfortable at best, and at worst—quite daunting.

Yesterday I had the distinct honor of leading a team building workshop for a local firm. They wanted me to deliver a program that would help demonstrate their commitment of investing in their people, create a welcoming culture as they head back into the workplace, and have some fun reconnecting with familiar colleagues—while introducing themselves to new, unknown faces, too. It was a huge success! Teams were engaged, laughing and having tons of fun—while unbeknownst to them—were also participating in “structured practice” for real-world situations they are confronted with on a daily basis in the workplace.

Clearly, this company understands the importance of team building. Many do not. Let’s compare it to baseball, for a moment. With baseball season now in full swing, baseball players practice together to become stronger, more cohesive teams. Because without the dedicated time, energy and effort put forth in practice, successfully executing during a big game would likely prove to be an exercise in futility, with a win being almost an impossibility. The same is true for your employees. Just as baseball practice helps players systematically develop a range of skills related to their athletic ability, team building helps employees enhance their skills across various aspects of teamwork—such as planning, communication, delegation, trust, creativity, resource management, and decision-making, to name a few.

In addition to creating a more unified company culture and enhanced morale, there are definite halo benefits of team building, too, including:

  • It strengthens trust in low-risk situations so it’s ready to come into play when the stakes are higher.
  • It generates greater acceptance of ideas and helps to resolve conflicts.
  • It helps employees feel valued for their ideas and contributions.
  • It enhances motivation and encourages productive problem-solving.
  • It unites people and allows employees to get excited about work again.
  • It helps employees unlock their creative and learning potential.
  • It encourages team members to express themselves authentically.

By this point, you’re probably very intrigued as to what team building workshop I led. The wildly successful program was entitled, “The Marshmallow Challenge.” This powerful, remarkably fun and instructive design team building workshop enhances a team’s ability to generate fresh ideas, build rapport, effectively collaborate and integrate prototyping—all of which lie at the heart of effective innovation. The lessons learned are universal. Following the activity, teams were asked to reflect upon the experience and share aloud their findings related to communication, decision-making, teamwork, etc.

The goal of The Marshmallow Challenge was simple: Build the tallest free-standing structure in 18 minutes using only the four supplied materials, with the marshmallow needing to be on top. The 13 teams of six-people each (with most participating in-person and the balance engaged virtually across multiple locations) had three winning teams. And in addition to earning some bragging rights, each person on the winning teams earned a fantastic prize!

  • Third place winners each received Succulent Smores—including chocolate-filled marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey chocolate bars. How fitting, right?
  • Second place winners each received a signed copy of my latest book entitled, The One Choice Rule: Transform Your Life and Work by Changing Your Mindset and Behavior.
  • First place winners each received a fabulous gift-basket! They were able to pick from seven uniquely designed baskets filled with high-quality goodies!

So if your job is the big game, then team building activities are your practice sessions. And if your team or organization are seeking a home run and ready to step up to the plate, connect with me today!

Take Your First Step to Feeling Fabulous

A few months back I decided it was time to lose some weight and get into better shape. I have always been active and worked out on a regular basis, but I wasn’t as consistent as I knew I should be. I looked into a program my neighbor belongs to and decided to also enroll.

January 3, 2022 was the start of my new fitness program—not because it was the start of a new year, but because I woke up and decided it was time. The program runs in 8-week segments and provides a workout plan and a meal plan. It’s designed for all fitness levels, can be done at home, and everything (plans, live/recorded workouts, nightly talks, Q&A, etc.) is shared through a private Facebook group. And I was frequently reminded that this was not simply a “program”; rather, this was a journey of new habits that would prove to be (supposedly) transformational.

Habits…changing them can be tough. Really tough. Why? Because they feel warm and squishy, comfortable, easy, and part of our engrained routine. However, they also bring about guilt and regret sometimes, especially when the habit is one that you have wanted to change. All habits are clearly not created equal. Some have little impact on your life, and others, referred to as “keystone habits,” can affect your life immensely. Keystone habits are very different from regular habits, like posting a daily message on multiple social media platforms. A regular habit is a positive thing to do, but whether you choose to do it or skip it, it doesn’t have a huge impact on the rest of your life. By contrast, a keystone habit, like consistently exercising five or six days per week, is a habit that can also lead to other positive, unintended outcomes like:

  • Stronger and more flexible body
  • Enhanced mood
  • Decreased level of stress
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Heightened brain function

When you choose to make keystone habits a non-negotiable part of your routine, you change. You take more control of your life and the positive ripple effect naturally occurs. It can be…transformational.

What habit or behavior are you wanting to change in your life, and why do you want to do it? It should be meaningful to you, it also has to be something that you believe in, that you value, that you want to get behind and commit to. You have to know the work ahead of you will be worth it.

Do you want to go back to school and earn a diploma or degree?

Do you want to feel happier?

Do you want a job you enjoy?

Do you want to make more money?

Do you want to find love?

Do you want to stop smoking?

Do you want to be more confident?

Do you want to say “no” more often?

Do you want to laugh more?

Let’s revisit the behavior I wanted to change: Lose some weight and get into better shape. This was definitely a loose and undefined goal, and one that I quickly fine-tuned.

I am proud to say that after following the program for eight weeks, I exceeded my fitness goal! I lost 12 pounds, shed a lot of fat, and added some lean muscle. Equally important—I am in the best shape of my life and am feeling better about warmer weather quickly approaching. But the benefits of this keystone habit didn’t stop there. I’m not only eating much healthier, but I have also dramatically decreased my sugar intake. I stopped drinking [diet] soda, decreased my alcohol consumption, and now workout consistently six days per week—mixed with cardio and weight-training. Plus, I drink a gallon of water per day. Yes, you read correctly! At least one gallon of water every day. I’m stronger, more flexible, haven’t experienced a migraine in eight weeks, my stress is less, I sleep great, my productivity increased and I’m even happier than I was before. In all honesty, my muscles are sore on a regular basis, but that should be a given, right? Just in case you’re curious, the amazing and transformational program that I joined is: E2M Fitness. Check it out!

So what habit or behavior do you want to change to help you get one step closer to becoming your greatest self?

Aim for awesomeness. Strive for spectacular. And allow yourself some wiggle room for slips and trips. It’s all about progress, not perfection. Instead of thinking, “Unfit and frumpy in my fifties,” it sure feels incredible to chant in my head, “Fit and feeling fabulous at fifty-four!”

Common Sense is Like Deodorant

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Where has common sense gone? Common sense is clearly not common practice. For example, if you’re driving in the left lane on a highway and are backing up traffic because you’re going too slow, common sense says to move to the right lane; or, when an elevator door opens and numerous people are trying to get out, common sense says don’t try to step into it until all those who want out have safely exited; or, if you wear black at night…common sense says others can’t see you.

Common sense is a form of practical decision-making and the ability to imagine the consequences of something you do. It stops you from making irrational mistakes and makes it easier to make choices on what to do. With that said, some find it harder to think through the consequences of their actions and need to learn common sense. I guess that is why common sense is like deodorant; those who need it most rarely use it.

Developing common sense may seem like a difficult task; however, by being more aware and reflecting on situations before you make decisions, you will gain more common sense and make smarter choices more easily. To apply common sense to your decision-making, consider trying these strategies:

  • Compare the risks and rewards of a decision before choosing what to do. Look at the positives and negative outcomes that could come from a decision you’re making.
  • Trust your initial feelings so you don’t over-analyze things too much. Whenever you’re faced with a decision, take notice of what your first instinct or answer is. Think about what good or bad consequences could come from the decision, and if the decision seems like the best one, it just may be.
  • Look at your situation from another perspective to think through it clearly. You may notice that it seems easier to give advice to someone than it is to tell yourself the same thing. When you’re faced with a tough decision, consider what you would advise s/he to do based on what you feel is the smartest or best decision for that person.
  • Ask someone you trust for feedback if you aren’t sure about your decision. Reach out to a trusted confidant and talk through possible decisions so you can gain his/her input. Others may have more life experience than you or could have faced a similar situation in the past.

In addition to applying common sense to how you make decisions, here are several ideas of how to practice common sense on a daily basis:

  • Think before you speak (text, email or post) so you don’t say something you regret. Before you say anything that could be taken as offensive or hurtful, consider how it would feel if someone said the same thing to you.
  • Don’t do things that you know are bad for you. If there are things that you know are bad for you, don’t do them since they can have negative effects on your life.
  • Pick options that are the most practical in the situation. When you’re faced with a decision, take into consideration the pros and cons of each choice to determine which one is the most practical. Think the options through before you react so you make the best choice going forward.
  • Be more observant of your surroundings. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and pay attention to how people react around you to specific actions.
  • Accept that there are some things you cannot change. Bad things happen to everyone. Realize and accept that there are some things you can’t change. Instead, ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do right now to move forward even though this negative thing just happened?” Moving on from things outside of your control can decrease the victim mentality and create a more positive mindset for the future.

Practice common sense today and make it more common than yesterday. So the next time someone says “hi” to you, say “hello” or a similar pleasantry in return; or, if you’re more tired than usual, dedicate more time and effort to getting more quality sleep; or, if you’re feeling a higher level of stress, engage in some physical exercise to reduce it. Just be sure to shower after and use deodorant—a common sense point worth mentioning.

Three Expectations that Kill Happiness

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Expectations are strong beliefs—unyielding personal perceptions—that something will happen or be the case.

This past Sunday I heard a thought-provoking message about expectations and how they are sometimes about hope and other times about things not going our way. Regardless, expectations are about what we perceive them to be and if they are viewed through a pessimistic lens, some can be real happiness killers.

For example, “Life should be fair.” If you have this expectation, you will certainly be disappointed…often. Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people all the time for no reason. And likewise, good things happen to bad people too. Expecting that you will have a similar number of difficulties/failures and wins/successes as everyone else is not logical. Instead, ask yourself, “How will I push forward and persevere when faced with an inevitable hardship?”

Another expectation to be mindful of is “Everyone should like and accept me.” The truth is, they don’t and won’t. You don’t like everyone you come into contact with, so why should others feel an unwavering admiration toward you? Instead, focus on earning the trust and respect of those individuals who mean the most and let go of trying to catch the disease to please.

“That thing will make me happy,” is another dangerous expectation. What do you predict will make you the happiest? This is a tough question to answer and even tougher to actually guess right. Will becoming rich make you ecstatically euphoric? Will buying a new car drive elated heel-clicking happiness? Will earning that next promotion yield enduring cloud-nine blissfulness? These enticing dangling carrots do not cause or bring happiness. And worst yet, as we adapt our circumstances, our new normal will emerge, and the continued quest for extraordinary exhilaration ensues. Instead of looking for things to make you happy, being consciously aware of what you’re grateful for can actually change your level of happiness. Gratitude is a powerful antidote and one often overlooked to remedy discontentment and dissatisfaction. What are you grateful for?

Rather than expecting things should always go your way, being hopeful and optimistic that goodness will come and then choosing to take action to help make that happen—will likely result in a positive expectation that becomes reality.

During November—a month designated for giving thanks—choose to be hopeful about positive changes on the horizon, exercise focus and discipline to help you attain your goals and what you desire most, and then challenge yourself to exercise gratitude every day this month. Don’t be a happiness slayer; instead, the key is being the architect for designing a new reality for you.

The Secret Word that Drives Amazing Relationships and Exceptional Results

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

In church this past Sunday, the pastor said the most misused and misunderstood word in the English language is “love”. He said that love is not an emotion; rather it is a decision. He went on to say that we don’t fall out of love with someone—instead we choose another preference—meaning we choose to walk away from a relationship because we prefer to no longer be with this person for one reason or another. I thought this point was very interesting and highly relatable to business relationships today.

Do you demonstrate love to your customers on a regular basis? If not, why have you chosen not to?

If you answered “no” or “not as much as I’d like” to the question above, here are three strategies to help you drive positive relationships and achieve exceptional results:

1. Listen to Learn. Rather than tuning into the infamous W.I.I.F.M. (What’s In It For Me) station, differentiate your organization by asking questions and listening to their answers. Most businesses and people today, listen to respond. Instead, listen to learn. Focus on understanding what your customers need rather than what you want to sell them.

2. Be Real and Genuine. Customers usually don’t fall in love with a business; they instead, become loyal ambassadors who choose to continue to partner with those specific individuals who are personal, relatable, real and genuine. And when you demonstrate a sense of vulnerability with your customers, they will often return that gesture which certainly deepens and strengthens the relationship.

3. Deliver Exceptionally Well. Whatever product or service you offer, customers need you to follow-through on what you said you would do. Give them what they asked for and what you promised—like guidance, knowledge, expertise, support—to resolve an issue or fulfill a need/want of theirs. Once you engage with customers to solve their problems, only then can you begin to offer new ideas and suggestions about another value-added option to help them achieve even greater results.

Make the choice to exit the pit stop and accelerate full speed ahead toward falling in love with your customers [again]. When you do, they’ll understand you have their best interest at heart which will open the door to a long-lasting, loyal relationship.

Demonstrate Value and Become Indispensable!

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Organizations need talented individuals who consistently bring value to the organization and to its customers. The more value you bring with you to your job, the more valuable and indispensable you will be viewed by your employer. Not only will you command a higher salary, but you will likely be considered for new opportunities far more than others.

Please don’t mistake indispensable for irreplaceable—because they are not the same thing. As it’s said, everyone can be replaced. But to be indispensable means that you are so good and efficient at your job, that your boss and co-workers don’t want to imagine replacing you. You are the go-to person they count on; the one who simply gets things done. So how can you gauge your level of value?

Consider asking yourself these seven questions and reflect on your answers honestly. Do you have numerous favorable responses or does the self-assessment demonstrate a less-than-positive picture?

  1. Does my work and results exceed expectations?
  2. Am I learning, growing and improving every year?
  3. Am I spending most of my time at work with top performers, emotionally intelligent individuals and those who are upbeat and positive?
  4. Have I recently added to my job description on my own initiative?
  5. Do I set and achieve goals for myself beyond those my supervisor appoints?
  6. Do I regularly ask for feedback on my performance from my boss, peers and direct reports (if applicable)?
  7. Do I collaborate well with others and have good professional relationships?

In addition to the value you bring to your job, have you considered the value or worth you place on yourself personally?

Consider this scenario: If I offered you $20, would you take it? What if I crumpled it up? Stepped on it? You’d probably still take it, right? And do you know why? Because it’s still $20; it’s worth hasn’t changed. The same goes for you. Your worth doesn’t change because someone crumpled you up or stepped on you. You are still just as valuable as you were before.

In times of uncertainty—clearly like those we continue to be in—self-reflection occurs often. Looking at ourselves in the mirror sometimes brings worry, anxiety and even fear. These negative feelings occur because of the unknown and the feeling of a loss of control. The good news, is that we all have some control, and focusing time, attention and energy on those things within our control is a positive choice. Did the answers to the seven questions above reflect optimism or cynicism? Someone who thrives on learning and growing or simply being complacent? A determined achiever or an unaccountable quitter?

All of the above attributes are choices—not talents—and all of them are available to you without paying $20. And what makes you indispensable isn’t usually a certain set of skills or experiences…it’s you. It’s your personality, work ethic, self-discipline, perseverance, flexibility, resilience, optimism, happiness, level of self-worth, etc. Choose to dream more, learn more, achieve more and you will become more.

Achieve an Amazing Wellbeing

According to the State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report just published by Gallup, Inc., negative emotions — worry, stress, anger and sadness — among employees across the world have reached record levels. Not only did 41% of employees said they felt worried often throughout the previous day, 57% of employees cited daily stress levels now topping the charts. Worse yet, though, seven in 10 employees were found to be struggling or suffering — rather than thriving — in their overall lives. This statistic related to wellbeing is alarming and something that needs to be improved.

If your organization, team or you need to focus more on enhancing and/or achieving an amazing wellbeing, here are five strategies to consider implementing:

  1. Determine and live your personal values. Many people don’t have strong values or convictions and end up following others. Determine what’s important to you—not your neighbor, your uncle, your boss, or your friend—then create a plan for carrying them out, and simply live your plan. Being true to who you are and what you want is pivotal. In short, be you—everyone else is already taken.
  2. Surround yourself with positivity—people, places and possessions. Why? Because what you focus on becomes your reality. Hang with those who are real and exude a positive disposition. Hang out in places where you feel inspired and happy. Hang on to things that remind you of pleasurable experiences and ditch those possessions that bring about negative, unwanted emotions.
  3. Live in the present. As the saying goes, “Learn from the past, plan for the future, live in the present.” If you don’t learn from past mistakes, they likely will be repeated. Setting goals and planning for a bright future provides a path to success that can guide you. Then live in the present by enjoying those precious moments you experience each and every day.  
  4. Treat your body well. Get sufficient sleep, which is different for everyone. Fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive—not just survive—while minimizing the toxins many tend to crave when having fun. And, of course, move—by exercising often. Your body needs to remain strong and healthy and it can only do that when we treat it well.
  5. Experience new things! Don’t get stuck in the mundane, boring and dullness life can bring. Instead, dive in and celebrate the joy found in new experiences you see, smell and taste. Take a new route to work or the grocery store and pay attention. You may discover something cool you’ve never seen before. Try a new activity that could become an envied passion of yours. I could never imagine myself liking to dig in dirt and now creating gorgeous and fragrant flower gardens is a true love of mine. Treat yourself to a new menu item or restaurant. Instead of limiting yourself to the same habitual choices, take a small risk and try a new version of a favorite entrée or a shiny new delicacy. Why not? If you don’t like it, you don’t need to eat it.

So what is being done in your organization to help employees attain a thriving wellbeing and perhaps also better manage negative emotions? Engage and educate your team at an upcoming event or educational/training venue from a trusted workplace culture expert. Several results-focused solutions I offer to address common wellbeing struggles include:

  • The One Choice Rule: Transform Your Life and Work by Changing Your Mindset and Behavior
  • Resilience: Courageously Adapt and Build Back
  • Embracing the Challenge of Change
  • Emotional Intelligence: Managing Emotions to Enhance Relationships
  • Control Conflict! Collaborate More. React Less.
  • Tame the Turbulence! Avoid Losing It. Fly Through It.

Choose to enhance your wellbeing and that of your team and organization. Partner with me to inspire behavior change and Achieve Positive Outcomes!

This blog post is dedicated to those who have lost their battles. May their souls finally rest in peace. And let this gesture honor my former husband’s final wish—after his struggle tragically ended last month at the young age of 50.

“Amazing Grace” – Bagpipe Master

Four Ways to Get Unwanted Emotions Under Control

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Have you ever said something out of anger that you later regretted? Of course! We all have. Emotions are powerful. They determine how we interact with others and ultimately the relationships we hold. Unfortunately, as human beings, we are reaction machines. And as the saying goes, “When angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Here’s how to avoid reacting poorly and better control your emotions when it matters most:

1. Alter your story. How you interpret a situation—meaning the story you tell yourself about a certain set of facts—is what creates your emotions. No one can cause you to feel a certain way. Everyone totally owns their individual emotions. If you want to change your outcomes or results, you must change the stories you tell yourself (the interpretations you make). And just last week I spoke to a SHRM group in Texas about how to better control emotions when it matters most. Here is a snippet of that live + virtual program, focusing on the concept of how to alter your story.

Clearly the stories we tell ourselves impact our emotions, and ultimately our outcomes. Additional strategies to better control unwanted emotions include:

2. Prepare. Think through how the conversation may go. How have you reacted in the past? Have you had a difficult conversation with this person before, and if so, how did s/he respond? Consider and write down what you think the person might say that could potentially send you over the edge. Go through each point and proactively assess why, from their vantage point, s/he would say such a thing. Go into the conversation prepared and you will maintain greater composure and likely handle the situation far better.

3. Listen more than you talk. It feels great to be heard, but if you are not listening to the other’s response, the discussion is pointless. Many people—as unintentional as it may be—focus on what they are going to say next; how they will respond. Instead, try very hard to remain focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. They may not say it as eloquently as some can, but empathizing with them in that moment and acknowledging their feelings along the way is a much better decision than not letting them get a word in edgewise.

4. Label your emotions. Do your best to acknowledge what emotion you are experiencing. Are you frustrated? Do you feel disappointed? Are you nervous? Sometimes the feeling of anger masks emotions that feel vulnerable—like shame or embarrassment. By paying attention to what you are feeling and then labeling it/them, you are consciously identifying at least one emotion that has ahold of you in that moment, which may help you realize how emotions affect your decisions.

Gain control over your emotions and watch your relationships soar! To learn more strategies on how to more effectively do this within your team, across your organization or just personally, reach out to me at tracy@achievepositiveoutcomes.com.

Simply G.R.O.W. for a More Balanced, Meaningful and Fulfilling Life

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

We are constantly bombarded with messages to “buy more, do more, and be more.” Life has become overwhelming for many. We feel we need to look younger, become richer, feel happier, work quicker, be thinner, drive harder, run farther, think bigger, dress trendier, eat healthier, walk taller, drive safer, go faster, live bigger…and the list goes on. It’s exhausting to think about and even more wearying to act out. My cure for craziness—while also focusing on continuing to learn and grow in life—is choosing to live more simply. Now, this concept is simple, no doubt; but certainly not easy—which is why I chose to focus on it this month.

Living simply means cutting out the many trivial and unimportant things you do, so you have more quality time for passions, family, friends, and yourself. It means slowing down and getting rid of the clutter, so you can choose to live a more balanced, healthier, and fulfilling life. It is about being present and living in the moment in a meaningful way.

To live a simpler life—while I continue to target ways in which I can enrich my career and personal aspirations—I choose to apply four key strategies using the acronym, “G.R.O.W.” which includes:

G – Goal-setting

R – Reduce

O – Organize

W – Work

The first component of “G.R.O.W.” includes “goal-setting.” When speaking to groups, I often ask those in the audience to raise their hands if they have a list of goals for the year. Next, I ask them to keep their hands in the air if they wrote those annual goals down and refer to them at least on a monthly basis. It is amazing how many hands go down. Developing a plan and setting goals is a powerful process. It helps you choose where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you need to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that would otherwise lure you off course. By setting clearly defined goals, you can take pride in seeing forward progress and achieving them.

To live a more simple, present and meaningful life, the second component of “G.R.O.W.” is to “reduce” the volume of activities I am involved in. This could mean the number of groups, projects, commitments, or things I am expected to participate in—whether I volunteer for them or graciously have them appointed. Additionally, living simply also means cutting back on the number of tasks I am juggling at any given time.

I am amazed when I hear people proudly verbalize how they can multitask so well. Is this even possible? Can we communicate on the telephone and write an email at the same time? We physically can, but are we doing justice to either activity? Instead of calling this multitasking, I like to refer to it as shift-tasking. We rapidly shift from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively. I’ve seen numerous research studies on the negative effects of multitasking, and some show that productivity drops as much as 40 percent. When I think I’m doing myself a favor by multitasking, I remind myself to think again. Instead of doing two or three things mediocre, I’d rather be focused and excel at one.

“Organize” is the third component of “G.R.O.W.” which illustrates that the more organized our stuff is, the more productive we will be. If I have a messy desk, I can’t seem to concentrate. When I need to regain organizational control, I block off a chunk of time and that is the task I focus on, whether it is for thirty minutes or two hours. A friend told me she read an article, which stated that people generally spend about one year of their life looking for lost things. Imagine if that statistic is true. Purposefully enhance your organizational skills in as many aspects of your life as possible. Whether it is organizing email folders, your wallet, a pantry, a large closet, or an entire basement; the more organized you keep yourself and your belongings, the less you will have to re-organize and the more productive you will be.

The final component of the “G.R.O.W.” acronym for living a simpler, more balanced and fulfilling life is to “work.” Anything worth doing takes strong discipline, dedication and sweat equity—also known as work. Hard work requires us to be present in the here and now, and to focus our efforts on what we are currently doing. And when you look at high achievers, for example, working hard is not an option…it’s their default. And if you happen to be one of the best at what do you, your work probably feels like play. That’s one of the keys to being successful. Find something you love to do, that you’re good at, and that you can get paid for. That’s true success in my eyes.

Living a happy, successful and meaningful life is a conscious choice. Choose to let go of the craziness and instead focus on continuing to G.R.O.W. by living more simply.