Tuesday, December 29, 2015

3 Lessons From The Stories That Fuel My Life

As we wind down 2015, it occurs to me that our stories are really all that matter.

The story we believe is the story we live.

When was the last time you stopped to look at the story playing in your own mind?

2015 has been a year of transforming stories in my life so I've spent a great part of this year really looking closely at all the story lines in my life.

My personal story.

My marriage story.

My family story - the family of origin and the family I've built.

My business story.

My "place in the world" story.

All these stories intersect and lay out my actions and behaviors that align with what I believe about each of them. When I've stopped and really examined a story, I've learned something new. This year in particular, I've needed stories to propel me forward through some tough times and it was in this place that I got some new revelations about the stories fueling my life. Here are the three things I learned about my stories this year.

Every Story Needs Air

More than any other time in my life, I realized the unintended consequences of not facing a story that lies beneath the surface. As a communicator and storyteller by trade, I was sure I was adept at mining out and telling "the story." Immediately upon seeking help to manage my oversized life this year, I learned that a few stories I told myself and consequently lived were false narratives. It was only in the light of day and actually verbalizing them was I able to snuff them out and live authentically in what I truly believed. When we suppress a story, it does not die. I'd argue that depending on the content of the story, it may actually grow and grow in ways that are harmful to its owner if not properly attended. Give your stories air so you can weed out the ones you want and need versus that ones you need to let go. Further, you never know who needs your story - sometimes stories need air, not for us but for others.

Stories Change As You Do

Three weeks ago, while telling one of my longest held stories to a friend, he debunked it in one text sentence. I just paused this post to look at the text again and seeing it written in black and white still stops me in my tracks. He was right and that revelation has completely changed my view of myself  - with one 8 word text. My story changed. Perhaps years ago but I never noticed or bothered to change the narrative in my head. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that deep down, I knew the story had changed but I never seized on the change to bring it to action. I am a different person from when that story was created. Even as I grew over time and repeated it, I often did it with a tone of disdain or sarcasm yet I held on to the story in its original form. Until I let it go.

Some Stories Need Releasing To Make Space For New Ones

And let go I did. I have not repeated that story again in it's original form since that day. I can already feel a new story around that topic forming. Stories occupy space and energy. Think about it. If we keep stories that have expired or lost their usefulness, we don't have room for new stories to build us and serve us now. This is a hard but necessary lesson I am learning now in earnest. As I close one chapter of my life and start to build a new one, I am releasing stories daily. It is not fun. It is quite painful and there are lots of tears in my eyes these days. But with each story released, I can see a new story forming. The energy we spend holding on to stories that no longer serve us snuff out the opportunities that await us on the other side of them. Release a long held story today and watch a new one form.

So what stories do you need to give air to this day? How will your allow your story to change as you have? What stories need releasing to make space for new ones?

There is no better time than the beginning of a new year to take a good inventory of the stories you believe and live by. Stop and do that today.

Your stories fuel your life. Decide today what life you want.

Monday, December 14, 2015

My Own Personal War On Depression Start Now

The World of A Depressed Person And Those That Love Them
Over the last few years, I've lived through and witnessed the devastating effects of depression on an individual.

From the slow decline and subtle transformational changes to a traumatic event that thrust it into full light, depression devoured someone I loved.

It started with a decline in external connections. Really easy to miss especially in someone who had so few connections to begin with. I didn't pay much attention to what was being said at the time but now it's so clear. Invitations declined. Inquiries brushed off. Negative or neutral comments about every one who showed even the slightest interest in maintaining contact.

Then I noticed the disconnection from our family. Further and further drifts into the internet or other interests outside our close knit family. Almost never truly being present. And when there was presence, there was frustration and irritation. Few smiles, fewer conversations. Raising the issue only caused tension and further isolation - risks I'm not afraid of and continued to push.

Good days and strings of good days declined. I'd hold on to those good times as indications that the poor times were a figment of my overachieving imagination. Pushed along. Pushed forward. Then in August 2014, the final facade in the charade of depression was shattered. A traumatic and swift event stole the final "front" that kept my loved floating through life.

Quickly after the trauma and only at my insistence, a trip to a psychologist rendered a diagnosis and a treatment plan was laid out but never followed. To this day almost 15 months later, the treatment plan sits on a doctor's chart and burning in my brain. After the diagnosis, month-by-month, I watched the further disconnection from reality and the deeper deception that is depression.  I've watched this disease convince someone they are garbage and not worth loving or hiring.


That's what happens when depression is untreated, over and over again - not just to the clinically depressed person but to the people close to them trying to help. What's scary to me is the fact that people live like this in relative obscurity in our society. They have families, marriages, jobs and all the things the rest of us have yet very few people really know and understand their existence. And it is a stark existence. 

I have surrendered my loved one and my marriage to this untreated depression for my own peace of mind.  We are on the upside of this reality and managing well the transition from the life we had to the life that awaits us.

But I am now awake to the horror that is depression. I will no longer suffer in silence. I declare war on depression for the sake of those sinking in battle alone. You are not alone. There are many of us fighting. We may lose battles
but we can win the war.  Depression, like all other evils, counts on our silence.

My ask, take notice.  Don't shy away from conversations. Pick up the phone. Visit people.
Ask for help. Connect with others who suffer. Find support groups. Talk about your suffering.

Do something. Depression counts on you to do nothing.

My relationship with depression is no longer secret. It's public and it's war.

Monday, December 7, 2015

3 B’s of Feedback For the 21st Century Leader

More than any other time in history, we live in an era where people crave and thrive on feedback. With the widespread adoption of social media tools in our lives, we can see, in real time, how everyone around us acts and reacts to our every move. This desire and craving does not stop when we enter our workplace. Now more than ever, it is increasingly important that 21st Century leaders understand the importance of feedback and how it impacts performance for today’s workers.  This trend calls for us to take a look at the delicate relationship between feedback, coaching and evaluation. In theory, these concepts are somewhat interchangeable, but in reality there are very important differences in the delivery of each. Today, we focus on feedback. While informal in nature, feedback is a critical tool in an arsenal of leadership resources to properly manage performance and get the best from our teams. If utilized regularly, it can be a tremendous asset to managing and improving performance.

We believe the onus for how feedback is utilized in work relationships falls on the leader and here are three ways to make feedback a key tool for success:

Be Clear

Make sure when giving feedback to an individual you separate the person from the behavior or action. Make it clear in your language exactly what you are giving feedback on. Try not to use absolutes like “always” or “never,” as most often they are not applicable. You must be direct but always deliver your truth with grace. Give examples in the recent past of the behaviors or actions you’d like to see. Not only does this reinforce what you want, it shines a light on what you don’t want.  Do not mix challenging feedback and positive feedback. Give them the challenges as stand alone feedback.  Clarity is often elusive in work environments so it’s important to address challenges when they occur.  Outline where a breakdown has occurred and allow space for you and your subordinate to solve it together versus you solving it for them.

Be Collaborative

One major difference between coaching, evaluation and feedback is the opportunity for collaboration on what’s next. In a healthy feedback loop, there are opportunities for co-creating solutions. Smart leaders know that they alone don’t have all the answers especially when it comes to bettering the performance of another human. We must be collaborative in our approach to feedback so we get a positive result and the change in behavior or action we want and believe we need. We have to make sure feedback in useful and actionable; that positive feedback reinforces behavior we like and collaborates on ways to spread it to others while challenging feedback opens the door to finding better ways to work together toward our goals and objectives.

Be Open

In many ways, this is the most important part of the feedback circle. You must be open to hearing the response to your feedback. Perhaps, your co-worker is in a very difficult time in life and has a very legitimate reason for the change in behavior or maybe something you or others in management have done created the disconnect you’re now giving feedback on. You also have to be open to receiving feedback. Once you open the “loop” of feedback to give to others, you must be willing to accept feedback about your actions and behaviors and you need to vocalize that. Don’t assume your team knows you want feedback, be direct and ask for it.

Following these tips can open a feedback loop that will raise the bar of performance in any work setting. Not only will it strengthen the performance management process, well executed feedback solidifies relationships and make for a better overall work environment for all.