Friday, July 31, 2009

The answer is coming. It's just out of sight.

I've been sitting with a “problem” for months. I use quotes because I know from experience that I see problems only when my perception is limited. When my vision expands (or clears), I see the solution (hidden like a fortune) inside my problem (cookie).

In the theatre, I faced this paradox countless times. I would be staging a scene and find myself trapped in an “impossible” dynamic. I'd need an actor to be in a different place. Or a “vital” prop would be unavailable. Or time, money and resources would evaporate as opening night approached.

In each case as I “sat with” my insurmountable problem, an unforeseen solution would materialize. One moment I am stuck and then I see an opening. Have you had this experience? It's a hoot.

The solution only appears when I'm relaxed and patient. But it always appears.

Today I'm sitting with another impossible dilemma. I have a book to write, a great part time college gig, and a growing training business. How can I find the time to write and keep growing my business without giving up my great part time job? If I need to give something up, what should it be, and when? I've been posing these questions for months. No answer has emerged - yet. Perhaps the timing is not right for my writing or a change in direction. I watch and wait. I know that working with the flow of events is essential.

The answer is coming. It's just out of sight.

© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Managing Emotions--Good Article

Here is an excerpt from a helpful article in There are plenty of practical tips that are not about repressing emotions (not good) but managing emotions (necessary). To read the entire article click here.

When you're feeling cranky, it's often easy to pinpoint (or point fingers at) the problem: your boss, your husband, traffic. But while any one or all may be a problem at the moment, they are not in control of your reaction to them. You are.

Managing how you respond to others is oftentimes simply a matter of managing your thoughts, says Steven Alper, LSCW, a consultant with the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine who teaches stress-reduction techniques to executives.

For example, if your boss gives you an extremely tight deadline for a project, it's easy to get caught in an endless spin cycle of whining: I can't believe she did this to me again! Doesn't she realize I have 10 other things to do this week? Not to mention a family at home that needs me--not that she would know what that's like.

In other words, you're wasting precious time and energy ruminating about the past (all those other 11th-hour assignments) and fretting about the future (not finishing in time to get your kids from daycare).

The solution, instead, is to bring yourself into the present. Either get to work, recruit help or explain to your boss why the deadline is unrealistic.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Teacher Models Emotional Intelligence

Thank you to the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) for permission to link to this terrific article from their March 2008 publication (Childhood Education). Author Sue Grossman courageously details the complicated and contradictory feelings a teacher may have for a student. It is only when we are this honest that we can learn to manage and transform our negative feelings. Then we can stop these hidden emotions from causing unseen reactions in ourselves and others.

Here is a quote from the article.

All good teachers try hard to treat each child fairly and kindly, with care and concern. Indeed, we are ethically obliged to do so (National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2005). As we are human, however, we may occasionally meet a child to whom we react negatively (Maxim, 1997). This was certainly true for me as a kindergarten teacher. It is not something to be proud of, but we must admit
it honestly in order to work through it and thus ensure fair treatment of each child.

The subject is only sparsely addressed in the early childhood literature (Checkley, 2006), and only a few references to teachers’ feelings about specific children can be found (Katz, 1995; Maxim, 1997). This is unfortunate; if ignored or denied, such feelings have the potential to do harm. Like steam in a pipe, feelings unexpressed or ignored will escape somewhere and may result in an outburst toward an undeserving child (Checkley, 2006).

Many of us have been taught throughout our lives to be “nice,” and that
it is unacceptable to have negative feelings, especially about children. We are condemned as heartless and cruel if we do not like all of the children we teach. Yet it simply may not be possible to like all children. As an acquaintance of mine once said, If there is even one child whose absence from school pleases you, you do not love all children!

Being Forced to Face Feelings
Passive children were always a challenge for me. I much preferred the rambunctious, out-of-bounds ones with spunk and energy, even if they needed to be reined in a bit. Alice Ann appeared to be a typical 5-year-old as I observed her at play with other kindergartners. When I spoke to her, however, she would stare at me, mouth a bit open, silently unresponsive. She seemed intimidated by me, yet I thought of myself as a nice person and a reasonably good teacher whom children should like and certainly have no reason to fear! How a child responds to you has an effect
on how you respond to him or her.

You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom

This is a video from yesterday’s Newshour program on PBS. It is a great overview of the benefits of social emotional learning in the classroom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.
Chinese proverb

Monday, July 20, 2009

Our Greatest Time Management Challenge

I teach a terrific Time Management class. It is full of great tips and proven principles. But lately, I’ve been contemplating the deeper issues of time. Everyone seems to feel deluged with duties. My clients speak of time pressures and seek desperately for a magic bullet to solve their workload dilemmas. How did this happen? Even 15 years ago, the cultural pace seemed slower, didn’t it? Are technological advances speeding up our lives? Or is it the increasing number of brilliant minds who churn out more to learn, know, and experience? I cannot keep up with the books, articles, and emails that interest me.

Meanwhile, I’ve recently been talking with several friends who are depressed. Like everyone else--their “to do" list is enormous and growing. They have too many errands, too many details to juggle, and too much to learn in a day. I can relate. Without enough “down time,” I feel overwhelmed and spent. I want to hide from the world and recharge. I’m lucky that my schedule often allows me to do this. But my friends don’t feel able to get off their treadmills. Is this why they’re depressed? Some psychologists believe that depression is our psyche’s way of getting us to go inward, to the deepest parts of ourselves that need attention.

As our “needs” and “oughts” grow we will all be forced to make hard choices regarding our time. If our employers are asking too much of us, will we be able to suggest changes? Time is a finite resource. We can learn to be efficient and use it well but we are human beings—not machines. We cannot force our bodies, minds, and spirits to exceed our own capacity for work. In this era of technological wonders, accepting our human limitations will be the greatest time management challenge we face.

© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Friday, July 17, 2009

Creating Exceptional Service to Retain Your Greatest Asset—Happy Customers.

Almost everywhere I shop, I’ve noticed that customer service has greatly improved. If I make a special request, it is usually welcomed with a smile and quick action. This is one benefit of our current economic downturn.

My friend recently had a different experience. “Jamie” wanted to make a quick stop for some bagels at local chain. She stepped into line-- where customers ordered sandwiches. But since Jamie didn’t need a sandwich, she asked the manager, standing nearby, if she could just get a couple of bagels to go. The manager didn’t smile but accommodated the request, bagging the bagels and leaving them with the cashier.

Jamie entered the payment line. There was only one person ahead of her but it was a complicated transaction. After some waiting, Jamie left without the bagels. She had wanted them and was ready to pay for them, but she wasn’t willing to wait. Jamie was frustrated with the manager. “She did the least she could to satisfy my needs. She never glanced my way after delivering the bagels. If she had, she could have seen that I was still in line. She could have offered to take my payment, even if they had to enter it into the cash register later.”

Also, this manager is not modeling great customer service to her team.

How can service providers (especially large chains) motivate their employees to care about the customer? While incentives or penalties (carrots and sticks) can create temporary motivation, the greatest motivators are intrinsic to the employee. One of these intrinsic motivators is “knowing that I helped someone else.” Helping others feels good, especially if we are acknowledged for our efforts. Managers need to not only model and emphasize this natural impulse, they also need to remove any company protocols that covertly punish an employee’s extra effort.

Hopefully, Jamie’s actions will alert this manager that her current behavior is unwise in this (or any) economy.
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Emotional Intelligence and Intuition

Lately, I’ve been thinking about intuition and Emotional Intelligence. Writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and António Damasio have explored how “hunches” come from unconscious processes that involve our emotional brain. These intuitions provide extremely valuable information. Emotional Intelligence helps enhance this faculty.

Here’s a lengthy quote from Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline, on this subject.

Bilateralism is a design principle underlying the evolution of advanced
organisms. Nature seems to have learned to design in pairs; it not only builds
in redundancy but achieves capabilities not possible otherwise. Two legs are
critical for rapid, flexible locomotion. Two arms and hands are vital for
climbing, lifting, and manipulating objects. Two eyes give us stereoscopic
vision, and along with two ears, depth perception. Is it not possible
that, following the same design principle, reason and intuition are designed to
work in harmony for us to achieve our potential intelligence?

Systems thinking may hold a key to integrating reason and intuition. Intuition eludes the grasp of linear thinking, with its exclusive emphasis on cause and effect that are close in time and space. The result is that most of our intuitions don't make 'sense' - that is, they can't be explained in terms of linear logic.

Very often, experienced managers have rich intuitions about complex systems, which they cannot explain. Their intuitions tell them that cause and effect are not close in time and space, that obvious solutions will produce more harm than good, and that
short-term fixes produce long-term problems. But they cannot explain their
ideas in simple linear cause-effect language. They end up saying, 'Just do
it this way. It will work.'

As managers gain facility with systems thinking as an alternative language, they find that many of their intuitions become explicable. Eventually, reintegrating reason and intuition may prove to be one of the primary contributions of systems thinking.

How do you unite reason and intuition?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Emotional Intelligence Will Make You More Productive

While developing emotional intelligence is hard work, the payoffs are great. I love this quote from Daniel Goleman.

"Negative emotions, especially anger, anxiety or a sense of futility, powerfully
disrupt work, hijacking attention from the task at hand."

Daniel Goleman (from Primal Leadership)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Anger is Not the Problem

A friend recently confided that he had “acted badly” at work. He had raised his voice and snapped at his team. Now he felt ashamed.

I asked him to describe the situation.

“Greg” had repeatedly asked his logistics team to bill their trucking partners using new parameters. Time and again, Greg discovered that several of his staff were still using outdated pricing. This was unacceptable!

His anger seemed understandable to me—Greg’s directives were being ignored. Of course he felt angry. But instead of recognizing that his anger was an internal message to take action--Greg simply felt that it was “bad.” Ironically, suppressing his anger led to a bigger outburst. If he had allowed himself to simply acknowledge his mounting frustration--first to himself, and then to the others--Greg could have expressed himself with more skill.

While anger can lead to many harmful behaviors, anger itself is not the problem. If we feel ashamed of our anger (a common response) it will be even harder to navigate this emotion.
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved