“What’s your strength?”

I asked….and they didn’t know. I was a bit saddened by that. They looked so lost.

I asked them what their strength was; 29 out of 58 wasn’t able to write down anything on the paper in front of them. Just a sad face in the space where their strength was supposed to be.

A room full of young people, 85% had already told me they didn’t know what they wanted to do, or be, or dream of. A few were clear: focused goals and a plan of how to get there….but the majority looked like deer in headlight; “Oh no, will this be another grown-up telling me what I should do..?”

So I told them. Loud and clear, I let them know that I wasn’t going to tell them a single thing about what to do with their lives. A few looked like they were thinking I wasn’t being very helpful. That may very well be true. But I wanted to give them a bigger gift than that.

I wanted to give them a tool to figure it out for themselves.

So we spent an hour together, talking about two major things:

  1. Body language. How to figure out what someone is saying when they are not using just their words. And, perhaps more importantly, how to communicate back and forth on that level.
  2. Strengths. Not weaknesses. Not fixing “what you have to be better at”. I told them to stop wasting their time, because trying to fix your weaknesses is fighting nature. Make sure your weaknesses isn’t putting barriers up for you, but don’t strive to be better than someone else in an area of weakness. Focus on your strengths: Find them, hone them, practice them.

Show off your strengths. Wear them like a badge of honour, a crown on your head, a halo of skill leading your way.

And then we talked about how. And we practiced, because if you don’t know what your skill IS, how are you going to know how to do all that?

More about that later. Sign up to get a notice when I spend time to develop that part of the conversation.

Perspective

When I was younger I was sick for a long time, and my family put so much aside to care for me. They were so worried, and so scared. I can’t even imagine how they made it through what must have been dark and exhausting years of or lives (that I actually don’t remember much of; I think I’m lucky that way). 

I am sure all children feel that they owe their parents a lot, but for me it feels even more true. I owe them years, literally. And that’s why now, when my dad is going another round fighting infections and side effects from the heavy medication he is on to battle his metastatic prostate cancer, I can’t imagine being anywhere but by his side, just like he never left mine for all those years. 

It breaks my heart, again and again, but I will NEVER waiver.

I can understand why children struggle with being close to their parents as the shadows creep in: it is hard to watch someone battle and lose. Especially when they are your hero and the one who taught you how to win to begin with. 

Sometimes I don’t know what to say, and sometimes I find myself being forcefully shrill and cheerful as I try to keep the sadness at bay. And sometimes I can’t do anything but just sit there and we cry. Mostly me. He is still trying to keep it together; I suspect he cries more after I leave, just to protect me. 

He doesn’t know what day of the week it is anymore, and the pain rides his mind like a cruel cowboy. 

But my father still tries to protect me. 

Open plan office pitfalls?!

I like open plan offices, as it encourages communication. But does it work as well as we think?

Think about average number of distractions during an average work day…..Now take that number and multiply it by 23.

That’s how many minutes of concentration you actually lose. You see, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction.

Distractions side track you for up to a half hour!

In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 23 minutes and 45 seconds. (very few of the twitter posts I read are worth that kind of investment, but perhaps I am just following the wrong people… !)

And all these distractions not only hurt effectiveness, they make us stressed, grumpy and less sharp: “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote.

Are we victims or villains?!

 

Interestingly enough, half the interruptions were self-inflicted. Working on a task and switching tabs to check Facebook, for example, is a self-inflicted interruption. As opposed to, say, a coworker walking over to discuss a project.

We are, essentially, playing tennis with our cognitive energies, volleying them back and forth at a moment’s notice. Only unlike a tennis ball, our brain takes a little time to switch directions. More like a really large ferry…!

And the problem isn’t just the time wasted. We’re sacrificing some of our best thinking: if you keep jumping between different topics and thoughts, how deep can you really get into a subject?!

Does this resonate with you? It does with me. I just don’t know what to do about it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST BLOG: Ice Skater Louise Walden-Edwards talks about making ‘A True Champion’…

After enjoying reading Louise’s previous guest blog post, I asked her to write for me again.  This time after a conversation about the responsibilities we assumes as leaders.  Here is what she has to say…

Who does it take to make a true champion?            

When a sprinter is the first past the finish line or a tennis player scores the winning point of game-set-match or even an ice skater receives the championship winning score, it is the athlete that receives the applause, the medals and the glory.  It is the athlete that gets the credit, the prize money and their national anthem played on the top of the podium. 

“What some may fail to appreciate is what it has actually taken or how many people have in fact contributed to the success of the winning individual(s).” 

My own competitive sporting success, over twenty years took ten ice skating coaches, seven dance teachers, two strength & conditioning coaches, three physiotherapists, one sports specific doctor, two unconditionally supportive parents, one patient sibling, a support network of numerous lifelong friends & family members, four ice skating partners, many doubters, hundreds of dedicated fans and yet more people along the way that inspired me more than I can credit. Unfortunately, in sport there simply isn’t enough time or space on the top of the rostrum for all those people to publicly share that moment of attention in a victory. 

Now my competitive sporting career is over and I move through a new phase in my life, I can intelligently rationalise the people involved in my success became part of the team for their own reasons.  Through a very cold perspective, the professionals in the team were paid to help educate and support me and some also continued on to bigger and better things, helped by the results we achieved together. 

“Loyalty is something that I value immensely myself and when the going gets tough, it can be tested.” 

When there can only be one winner and isn’t you, perhaps performance related mistakes are made or it simply isn’t your day, it is still the athlete who is the head of the team and the one to bear the brunt of the criticism and in turn the guilt. For the athlete, there is no one to hide behind or to move on to, they are the face of the operation.  It is the athlete who must carry the responsibility of the team behind them, they are the ones who must endure the physical and psychological pain of injury, lose sleep over the financial hardship of training expenses and consequently battle to hold the team together and boost collective morale when the cracks show. 

What I can now take pride in with an objective view away from my competitive world, is that the one thing that all those people had in common is and was me. I channeled that concoction of talent, the recipe for success and that refined combination of knowledge, into a world-class winning product.

I was in a sense the managing director of the “brand” that won those medals and that in itself, gives me reassurance in my own ability to move forwards and transition from an athlete into so much more in the future.  The principals that I adopted and the skills that I learnt as an athlete through my chosen network, have given me the confidence that even though I may yet have to realise where my future lies, I will make it.

“With a simple dream of success, hard work, determination and self-belief, if you have the right people around you, with the same common goal…anything is achievable.” 

The true athlete in me still full of passion, will forever be touched by each and everyone one of the people who I chose to contribute to my sporting success. I will always believe the connection I made with these people was more than just business and that we created a “family” together, as opposed to a workforce.  Perhaps an athlete with a different attitude of their own ability would feel differently, but as a little girl with a humble beginning, having the phrase drummed into her by her doting mother “don’t hurt anyone on the way up my love, as you may need them on the way back down”, I will always feel indebted to my teachers, mentors and teammates.  

“I believe that everyone in my career and successes even now, plays a part in making me who I am, even if simply to teach me valuable lesson.” 

I know I have thanked everyone profusely for their involvement in my career but my gratitude and appreciation will never feel sufficient towards the people who have helped me achieved my sporting goals.  I think that perhaps in reflection, the perception I have of this is because even though I may not see those people daily as I once did, their values and principles that they taught me are those in which I live by each and every day in all that I do. Regardless whether it be sport, in business or life, all our experiences are what make me me and for that I will forever be grateful. 

Small efforts go a long way

I have started 6 companies, and am working on number 7. I actively run 4. I spend a lot of time with my kids (they are fun 🙂 ), and I chair a charity.

I find it interesting that people think the charity work is all-consuming, and will take over your life, and therefore they won’t volunteer.

Why would you NOT volunteer an hour a year?! You must understand that the “I don’t have time, I work full-time” makes me sigh deeply.

I don’t profess to know what is all going on in your life, and you may battle things I can only imagine. If so, this one isn’t for you, and I wish you strength, courage and best of luck.

But if you can find time, I know that ONE HOUR from each of us, will build amazing things.

Go ahead. Just do ONE.

Have you ever watched a Mother?

If you haven’t read Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t , you have missed out. It is a great summary of information, and great food for thought. (See what I did there?!)

It has a telling title, that makes me think of the animal world, but in reverse. There, the leaders eat first, and the last ones to get fed are the weak, old and sick. Survival of the fittest, in it’s truest and cruelest form.

Humans are different.

We are generous, selfless and caring. We can sacrifice ourselves to save someone elses life. In essence, this is what we want from our leaders: that they care for us first, and put themselves second.

Corporate working life isn’t made for parents

It has rigid hours, it is hard to job share, and being a parent (in my case mother) with young children makes you a risky asset. But take a look at a family dinner. Who is up and down the whole time? Who makes sure mum has taken her medicine, filled the toddlers glass, cut the eldest boys food, wiped up the spill on the floor and pulled out the straw for the youngest? Who is scanning the table for what else is needed, is up to get the salt as soon as it is mentioned that it is needed, and generally isn’t sitting down until either asked to, or when everyone is eating?

Who ever it is in YOUR family, THAT’S your true leader.