Time to Focus

I recently found myself with some unscheduled time, and decided to use it to catch up on reading the latest of Daniel Goleman’s books, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. In my work with nonprofit CEOs, I often draw from Goleman’s insights on emotional intelligence.Focus takes his concepts on EI and re-packages them in a new way, encouraging mindfulness to enhance self-awareness and create needed balance. Focus is defined as a mental asset that is essential for achieving success.  It can be trained, like a muscle, to be strong and supportive.  In today’s multi-tasking, multi-technology world, it’s easy to think in short spurts (like tweets) rather than about the bigger picture.  But good leaders need to be able to do both, and to achieve balance.

Goleman says there are three levels of focus: inner, outer and other.  Inner focus incorporates values, intuition, and decision-making capabilities.  Outer focus enables existence in the larger world, and other focus governs social interactions and connections.  Together, these levels of focus provide guidance, intelligence and navigation.  Leaders who are able to cultivate each of these levels tend to be more self-aware, and more able to use their balanced focus to achieve success.

These successful leaders excel at listening to others while creating vision and direction together; coaching others to be better team members; collaborating and building consensus; and building trust.

How can leaders improve their performance and be more successful? Goleman says that by strengthening their focus through mindfulness, leaders can develop the skills to either “zoom in” to the internal environment or “zoom out” to concentrate on the broader perspective, as needed.

I'm looking forward to applying the techniques I possess to encourage mindfulnessand to help my CEO clients achieve balance and focus.

Am I a Great Consultant?

How am I Doing? There are many positive aspects to being a consultant: having diverse and interesting work, getting to know a variety of people, and balancing my time so I can make a 5pm yoga class are just a few.  But one of the downsides is that I don’t always get feedback on how well I am doing in my job of helping organizations grow and succeed in their missions.

What makes a great consultant?  I used my network of colleagues and clients to answer this question, and came up with this Top 10 List:

  1. Be as good at delivering bad news as good news. There’s inevitably going to be a time when you have to state a harsh truth to your clients. A great consultant is able to do this with honesty and sensitivity.
  2. Be able to turn your experiences into examples. A great consultant has theoretical and practical knowledge,      and can communicate both.
  3. Be able to use  your skills in a variety of ways. What works for one client may not work for another. A great      consultant uses their skill set to come up with practical and innovative strategies that work.
  4. Be able to simplify and explain a problem.  A great consultant can provide understanding and insight into a problem by using examples, graphics or metaphor.
  5. Be able to provide more than one solution to a problem.  A great consultant can provide multiple problem-solving possibilities, and can be relied upon to think creatively.
  6. Be self-confident.  A great consultant projects a sense of confidence in their abilities and knowledge.
  7. Be a good listener. A great consultant asks enough questions to get the full story from their client before offering      a response.
  8. Be a team player. A great consultant leaves their own personal goals at the door, and focuses only on their clients’ goals.
  9. Be your client’s most trusted asset. A great consultant develops strong relationships with their clients. Tell them the truth, using sensitivity and empathy, and work hard at ensuring they know you have their back.
  10.  Make it about them, not you.  A great consultant always puts their clients at the center of everything they do. You’re going to help your clients succeed. But you need to be humble and remember that the client is always the star.

What other attributes make for a great consultant? Email me your thoughts!

Innovation: Find Your Own Path

"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"  Ralph Waldo Emerson Many of the organizations I work with are small and, to some degree, struggling to grow.  Their efforts to fundraise, gain visibility, and expand their reach often stretch them to exhaustion.  In that environment, it's often difficult to contemplate innovation, but that's exactly what they need to do.  Pushing themselves to do something different- create a new program, introduce themselves to a whole new constituent group,  raise money in a creative way- is challenging but can lead to a whole new world of results.

One of my clients has decided not to do the "same old, same old" type of program development and instead is moving toward embracing their social entrepreurial side by creating a new app.  The process of bringing the app to fruition has introduced them to new people (including venture capitalists with funding!) and expanded their visibility in an entirely new way.  Their efforts are bringing new enthusiasm to the Board, who are embracing the project and working toward its implementation.

So...be brave enough to innovate, and see if you can forge a new path for your organization!


What Are Your Intentions?

I have never liked New Year’s resolutions.  They feel restrictive and confining, like a sweater two sizes too small.  They are focused on specific behaviors and seem to carry with them the suggestion of failure.  “I will lose weight.”  “I will stop smoking.”  “I will exercise every day.” I’m a goal-oriented person so I bristle against self-defeating goals.

Still, the idea of a resolution or guidepost held real appeal for me.  So, in 2013, I decided I wanted the best of what a resolution could be without the rigidity of a resolution.  I determined to set an intention instead.  Where a resolution is focused on behavior, an intention concerns itself with attitude.  And where a resolution is limited, an intention can be expansive.  Intentions do not need be tied down to specific outcomes.  Intentions, by definition, inspire mindfulness.

The intention I chose for 2013 was “less judgment, more compassion.”  During the year, I actually used that phrase every day, in conversations with clients, friends and family.  Over the course of the year, I found myself thinking less critically and taking more time to explore other angles of a situation or story before forming an opinion.

My decision to choose an intention and bring intentionality to my life was both satisfying and successful.  So much so that I began thinking of my intention for 2014 well before the new year.  I had grown very fond of “less judgment, more compassion.”  While I was reluctant to let it go, a new year deserves a new intention.

But how would I choose my new intention?   Could it ever be as satisfying as my old one?

In late December, I found myself in the Redwood Forest in Northern California.  While walking beneath the redwoods, I stopped and listened and heard… nothing.  At least, none of the sounds I was so familiar with.  No traffic noise.  No television talking heads.  No cell phone ringing.  There was not even the sound of a bird chirping.  I listened more closely.  Only then did I hear the soft sound of the breeze stirring the leaves and the gentle rustle of those incredible trees.

And my new intention came to me: Listen.

I was pleased with my new intention but, after several days of contemplation, I felt that it needed a companion.  But what would that be?  I let the question percolate into the new year and my return home.  Once back in my office, I found myself distracted by the many emails and social media that had accumulated while I was away.  As I was reflexively deleting many of these missives, too overwhelmed to bother reading them all, I realized that I was deleting a lot of valuable information, and missing an opportunity to learn.  And just like that, there it was. The second part of the intention: Learn.

Listen and learn.

Let’s see how that works.