I have no time to think! I wish I had time to think about things before deciding on which way to go. If only I could have some space to think clearly!
Do any of those sound familiar? If you are in leadership, I bet you are nodding your head! All too often, we feel rushed to make decisions, deal with problems and move things forward. Yet, there is a little voice inside us, asking for a bit more time. At least there is in my head!
This kind of rushed thinking is often more unconscious than conscious. In the last blog post, I talked about what unconscious thought can do to us and how it can drag us into worry and overwhelming anxiety. Today I want to shift into intentional thinking and how it can help you be more purposeful, planful and productive.
There are many kinds of conscious or intentional thinking. Over the next few weeks, I'll talk about conscious thinking types such as:
For this article, though, I want to start with the difference between strategic thinking and planning, sometimes called strategic planning.
Do you have time to strategize or plan?
Most women leaders struggle to find time for either, leaving them feeling frazzled, disconnected and whacking moles. Reacting to a to-do list, chasing down meetings and solving daily problems is neither thinking strategically nor mindfully planning things out.
We often start with planning before we've done the strategizing.
When we do find time, we often start with planning. Planning is setting out the steps and the process for getting something done. But we've often missed the strategic thinking part, considering how all of the dots fit together.
How planning before strategizing can get you in trouble!
Imagine your program just received a new pocket of funding. You know you need to work on it right away, so you start to plan how to spend it. First, you think about which staff has the capacity to add a few more hours for this program.
Then, you grab a calculator and start figuring out the math for how many clients they can fit in. You know you have a conversation with them next week, so you want to figure this out before you meet with them so you can get moving right away.
But wait a minute. Is that the right person for the role? Yes, they may have the capacity, but what else is happening for them? How does their capacity now fit in with a possible expansion of another program or reduction of a third?
And what is the purpose of this program? Does it actually align with this employee's strengths, interests and future career trajectory? Would it split who they report to, now having two supervisors?
What about the fact that they just told you they are expecting. I know, you've got a few months to figure that out, so you'll deal with it then, right?
If you've made these kinds of quick decisions before thinking it out, you know how quickly they can backfire or cause you more headaches in the long run!
What is strategic thinking?
When you are strategically thinking, you are not yet tied to a decision. You are open. Strategic thinking is a right-brain activity. It's the thinking you do when driving or leaning back in your chair.
Strategic thinking isn't necessarily about doing something specific yet because you don't know what the specific is. Instead, it's a high-level thinking process where you step back and see all the moving parts and consider how they fit together, where the dots need to be connected, and how they fit in with your mission, vision, and organizational goals.
What is strategic planning?
Strategic planning is when you are closer to the task at hand, breaking apart and deciding what parts need doing, when, and who can help. Strategic planning is a left-brain thinking activity.
Here's an example of strategic thinking and planning in action
Let's consider another example. Perhaps you are wondering if you should move offices. When you think strategically about moving offices, you might consider how changes would affect the team members, clients, and community partners. You might brainstorm what you'd like to have access to for future programming. When you think strategically, you might think about costs, people to talk to, and considerations.
At this stage of the thinking process, you don't tie to moving or not moving. You are just considering options. Maybe you are also considering staying in the same location, but having more of your staff working from home. But, again, you are just thinking about it at a very high level.
Keep coming back to high-level thinking
At this point, you would keep coming back to the bigger reason for considering a move in the first place. Why is this a consideration? How does it fit in with your program's overall mission and vision? What about your contract or funding obligations? You make sure you look at the impact that a decision to change your location possibly could have on
Step one planning
You may make a decision and then need to create a plan to move forward with a move. But even before then, you may make an earlier plan around getting some input from others to see if it's even viable and of interest. You'd then need to plan how to do that.
To plan the first stage, you may ask yourself some of these questions:
You might be wondering, though, how to be a more strategic thinker and how to no when it's time know when it's time to move to strategic planning. I've got you covered with the steps below.
3 strategies to help you think more strategically
How to know you are ready to move to the planning stage
Consider your answers to the following questions to know if you may need to stay in strategic thinking a wee bit longer.
TBH, Strategic thinking and planning often go hand-in-hand
Note that these two types of thinking don't happen in a linear process. Strategic thinking and strategic planning often overlap. The point here is to help you see the difference. Write it down when you have a planning thought, but don't get hung up on it.
p.s. Inside The Training Library membership site are tons of tutorials, templates and tools to help you think strategically and plan. For example, you'll find resources to help you plan 1-1 meetings and staff meetings. You'll also discover processes that help you plan to keep your emotions in check during difficult conversations. And you'll strategically learn how to plan your leadership growth, impact and legacy.
Become more strategic and plan with intention here.
Thinking. As a nonprofit leader, you probably spend a lot of time thinking. But are you doing the right kind of thinking at the right time?
Over the coming weeks, I will dive into different kinds of thinking. I want to start with unconscious thought. First, let's talk about how unconscious thinking can get you into trouble and then where you probably need to do more of it.
Unconscious thinking that is not helpful
Let's start with what we generally think of as unconscious thinking. This is when your mind gets away from you. Generally, we're talking about worry, anxiety and those racing thoughts that keep you up at night.
Here's the trouble with unconscious thinking as a leader. It can keep you stuck.
Repetitive, negative thoughts left unchecked keep us stuck
Unconscious thinking left unchecked can circle around and around and around. You are digging into a deeper rut that is hard to get out of.
Consider these thoughts
Now put any of these thoughts on loop.
If that loop of thoughts goes on unconsciously in the back of your mind for hours, days and months, you can see how the rut gets deeper and deeper.
It's not as easy as "just think positively."
Many social media posts tell you to think positive – Everything is always working out for me. But it's not that easy! You might say at once, but you'll fall back into that rut fast and be back to, Oh my God, I'm so overwhelmed.
Unconscious thoughts also keep us stuck in beliefs about our employees, community, funders, and ability to have funding to meet our needs.
I often hear the mantra from leaders that they are expected to do more with less. And while there is undoubtedly an incredible amount of truth to that statement, repeating it out loud continuously, in our minds and aloud to other people regularly keeps the belief alive and well.
To get out of repetitive negative thinking traps, you need to shift to conscious thinking
When you realize you find yourself stuck in a repetitive negative thinking trap, you need to shift to conscious thinking. For example, instead of staying stuck in the scarcity mindset of never enough time, money, and staff, you need to shift your mind to examine the following questions consciously:
How to consciously think about your employee's contributions
Another typical thought you may have is feeling like you are chasing your team down to get them to do their work. When we experience irritation in our body, our unconscious thoughts may have us stuck in believing those thoughts are true. When our thinking stays unconscious, it's hard to look for times when our employees take responsibility, pitch in, or take the lead on something. We both know the "positive" is generally not where our mind goes when trying to fall asleep at night.
To consider how your employees are contributing takes more conscious thinking. I doubt you've dug a rut considering the answers to these questions:
The type of unconscious thinking that IS helpful
In the coming weeks will talk about ways to be more intentional and conscious in our thinking. But before we go there, I want to talk about the other unconscious thought that we perhaps don't do enough of. This kind of unconscious thought is what I call creative thinking.
Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes and think I'm not a creative person and creativity does not come into my job. I beg to differ!
The unconscious thinking that we've been talking about above makes me think about someone pacing back-and-forth and digging a deeper and deeper rut in the ground.
Creative thinking is light and easy
Instead, when I think of unconscious creative thinking, I imagine it like a ladybug crawling around on a plant for a few moments, then flying away to the next one and crawling around and exploring it before she flies away again to another location. The red and black ladybug is curious. I imagine she's somewhat relaxed and perhaps even enjoying herself. You need to do more of that!
Here's what you can do with creative thinking
This kind of creative thinking is when you come up with the idea for an activity at a staff meeting in the shower. Or you think about a way to organize the annual report's stats that show it in a more visually appealing way.
Sometimes the creative thoughts come to us when we're cooking, driving or out for a walk. And generally, we're not trying to find a solution. We didn't even know there was a problem that we were sorting through. But suddenly, an idea pops into our heads. It's like an aha, a sense of intuition, or a lightbulb moment. And it feels good!
Do you create space for creative thinking? Most leaders don't
The challenge is that many of us don't make space for this kind of thinking. This creative thinking takes open space with no expectation, no agenda, and no problem to wrestle with.
To create more creative thinking time, make space in your days. It's often called white space, margin or free time. Unfortunately, most of us think we don't have time for this. However, you need to build creative thinking time into your week to get out of your rut and create new, innovative, and fun ways to deal with your work.
3 ways to make more time for creative thinking
1) Shut off background noise
Shut off the podcast, audiobook, Netflix, or whatever else you use to fill your sound space. Instead, let your thoughts roll as you drive, cook, fold laundry, or putter around your house.
2) Take breaks
Simply stepping away from the computer or your office for a few moments helps change the scenery and inputs into your mind. I remember hearing a mantra years ago that movement in your body creates movement in your mind. So, when you're stuck, move your body.
3) Engage in creative activities
Yes, this means arts and crafts, sort of! It could also mean music or the arts. Go to a play, read poetry, learn to paint, garden or grab the colouring book and colour with your kids. Just get out of your left brain for a while and activate the right side of your brain.
Come back next week for more practical strategies to help you think more mindfully
Unconscious thinking is not all wrong. The key is to notice when the unconscious thought is keeping you stuck. If it is, find ways to move from unconscious to more conscious thought. If you want to learn how to do that, come back next week, and we'll talk about ways to be more mindful and intentional with your thinking.
As nonprofit leaders, we spend a lot of time focused on our client's and community's needs and ensuring they have the tools to be their best selves. But, sometimes, we forget to turn that focus around and use those same tools ourselves.
Recently I was talking to a client about setting goals and how to break them down. She laughed and said this is what we do with our disability clients. I agreed and chuckled that I've been writing goals for clients since I was in college!
Another time I was working with a group of family visitors. They were so excited about the resources they had just received to help families expand their children's emotional literacy. Funnily enough, I was working with the leaders to develop their emotional intelligence. The books, flashcards, and stuffies depicting certain emotions could also be tools for team conversations to help them expand their emotional literacy.
In leadership, we get hyper-focused on getting things done, achieving results, and forgetting that we need to grow and develop. And in many cases, we have the tools already available to do that.
Just like there is a focus on increasing emotional vocabulary for children, there is more and more focus on helping leaders improve their emotional vocabulary and thus their emotional intelligence. So let's explore how increasing our emotional vocabulary works.
Understanding the language of emotions
Did you know those anxious thoughts you experience indicate that you feel you don't have control over something? When you realize this, you can start to identify what you do have control over and what you don't. It helps you prioritize, ask for help or let go of what you can't control.
Were you aware that anger gives you the energy to break through a barrier that is in the way of what you want? Knowing that can help you identify what that barrier is and what to do about it. Anger is an action emotion. Conversely, anger differs from feeling resigned, which has you giving up.
Stop ignoring your emotions
Far too often, we overlook the messages our emotions are giving us. But when you learn to understand what certain emotions mean, you'll be a smarter leader!
Leaders manage heavy loads. With this burden, often things come at the leader that triggers them and their emotions. However, many of us, especially women who are fearful of being called emotional, try to suppress, shut off or tune out those emotions.
This is what happens when you ignore your emotions
Two things can happen when you try to ignore your emotions as you push through to-do lists, meeting and dealing with people.
Learning to explore what you are feeling for valuable data
It's valuable data I want to focus on for a moment. When you take time to understand how your emotions are informing you, you'll be better able to deal with all of that.
Increasing your emotional literacy helps you understand what your emotions mean
As I've developed my leadership, I've also learned to build my emotional intelligence. To do that, I've needed to increase my emotional literacy. I needed to learn the language of emotions. I have had to take apart the words surrounding emotions and feelings, understand what they mean, and label what I'm feeling with finer emotional granularity.
Here's how I increased my emotional literacy
To increase my emotional literacy, I've had to figure out what's happening inside me, why, what it means, and where it's pointing me. To help me do that, I engage in self-reflective practices such as journaling. One of my favourite tools to help me decipher my emotions is the dictionary and thesaurus app.
Listen to my real-life example
I sat down to journal one evening after an incident with someone that didn't go so great. I knew I was still stewing about it by sensing the tightness in my chest and jaw! I was irritated and annoyed!
A quick search on the thesaurus app told me that a synonym for annoyed is not happy. That helped me question what would make me happy. Or perhaps what is not making me happy. Some insights came from that, but I dug deeper.
Continuing to scroll through synonyms, I questioned whether I was dissatisfied, gloomy, or miserable. Each of those words has a slightly different flavour. But none of them nailed it.
Sometimes, when I look through the thesaurus, I'll see a word and shrug no, that's not it. But when the word really hits me, it physically hits me. That happened when I saw the phrase let down. I nodded my head! Bingo. I was annoyed because I thought someone would help me out, and they didn't. That meant I had to pick up the pieces, and I didn't have time. I felt let down.
Still digging deeper, I realized that feeling disappointed is synonymous with feeling let down. Suddenly, I realized that I felt both let down. Also, I felt disappointed with this person. Both of those emotions led to my irritation and annoyance.
How my increased understanding helped me talk to the person
That increased awareness, both by developing my emotional literacy and grinding down the emotions to find the specific ones (emotional granularity), changed my mindset and the conversation I was about to have with that person.
OLD WAY: Staying at being annoyed and perhaps angry, I might have reacted with a harsher tone, a level of judgment and maybe even a bit of arrogance.
NEW WAY: However, my tone was softer when I talked with that person with this new awareness.
It's good to remember...
Here's the thing:
My thoughts above come after articles I've written to break down the components of emotional intelligence. I hope to help you understand emotional intelligence and develop your emotional intelligence. Here are more articles for you.
This article looked at The 8 most overlooked definitions in leadership and why they matter
In this article, I covered the following definitions.
In the article Being composed doesn't cut it. You'll need to learn to regain your composure, I looked at these two questions
In the article 3 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader (and having fewer regrets), I help you understand emotional intelligence and how to increase yours.
Another article you may want to explore is Women Leaders that expand their Emotional Literacy will increase their Emotional Intelligence.
Your turn - How will you increase your emotional intelligence?
In my work with women leaders in the nonprofit sector, I provide training and self-reflective tools to help increase their self-awareness. Increased self-awareness gives you an increased ability to bounce back after leadership adversities. Because that's what you need to do to ditch survival mode; Bounce back quicker when you get hit.
If I was your coach, I'd be asking you to engage in reflective practices to increase your self-awareness, your emotional literacy and thus your emotional intelligence.
How will you engage in self-reflective reflective practices today?
This month in my membership, I share the difference between feeling stressed and overwhelmed. There are subtle differences but substantial differences between the two of these. How they impact you, your team and how you deal with them are different. When you understand the difference between those, you'll be able to prevent yourself from going from stressed, overwhelmed to burnt out!! If you want to learn more about the training I offer, check out The Training Library.
I know this from experience.....
Just because you are composed right now doesn't mean you'll be composed an hour from now.
Just because you were composed in that conversation with that one person doesn't mean you will stay composed next time you're in a conversation with that person.
Composed, as we learned about last week, is static. It's this moment.
Vocabulary.com says composure, on the other hand, is a noun, so you can lose, keep, regain, or maintain your composure — your ability to stay calm. If you lose your composure, you're freaking out.
And I dare say all of us have lost our composure at some point.
Two questions you may be asking
The simple answer to both is to become more self-aware.
The longer answer is to commit to developing your self-awareness.
Why self-awareness matters
Being self-aware means you notice what's happening both inside you and around you. That awareness starts with tuning into your body sensations.
Our bodies speak volumes to us. They tell us what's going on and even what we need to do. But most of us never listen.
The messages your body is sending to you that you might be ignoring
THE SIGNS: When you feel a sense of agitation in your body, it may be telling you that you've been ignoring a problem.
Perhaps the headache and tension in your neck are signs that you've been ignoring it, hoping it will go away.
THE MESSAGE: However, this agitation and tension tell you that you need to focus on the problem. Perhaps something is going against your beliefs, values or ethics that you need to address.
MORE SIGNS: Left unaddressed, the tension in your body starts to heat up, and you feel your heart beating rapidly. Maybe you have sweaty palms and pits. Left unchecked, you'll feel like your blood is boiling.
THE LOUDER MESSAGE: Your body is now telling you that perhaps you're feeling furious, angry, or outraged. It's warning you that you need to deal with this before exploding with rage. These body sensations are telling you that something is going on that is very serious, perhaps even dangerous, that needs your composed attention!
AN EXAMPLE OF SIGNS AND MESSAGES IGNORED
Consider how you may start being irritated with one of your employees, Becca, who is late a couple of times for her shift. And then you notice that she's late more frequently. But you think it was just that her child was sick, so you let it go.
▶ You hope it will go away
Then you find out it's still happening. So now you feel your annoyance building. But again, you hope it will go away and that Becca will get back to being on time. Because unfortunately, you've got a lot of other things to deal with and don't have time for this.
▶ You don't have time to deal with it
Then one day, you hear from the team lead, Charlie, that the other team members complain about Becca. You're aware that there's a risk of Becca's behaviour compromising the team dynamics. Now you feel the tension in the back of your head build as you wonder how to deal with it. Therefore you tell Charlie to keep an eye on it because let's be honest, you're too busy to deal with it today. So you forget about it once again.
▶ Oh boy!
The next time you hear about the issue with Becca being late is when you get the incident report. Apparently, the staff on shift, Anjali, had to stay late because Becca had yet to show up. Unfortunately, Anjali, tired and eager to go, lost her patience with the client and overreacted to the client's behaviours. So suddenly, you have an incident to deal with.
▶ You lose it!
When you show up on-site to discuss the issue with Becca, you are furious instead of being calm and collected. In a raised voice, you criticize her, grill her about her whereabouts. Then, you put the majority of the blame for the incident solely on her.
▶ You regret it
Driving home later, you start to feel sick about how you dealt with it. You are well aware of how often you overlooked Becca's tardiness without addressing it. You remind yourself that there is also a high-risk client involved and Anjali. There are many factors in this incident, not just Becca being late.
SELF REFLECTIVE PRACTICE
If you are a very self-aware leader, you'll take some time to reflect and sort through what happened. Perhaps you'll pull out your one-page journal worksheet from your course in The Training Library.
✽ After taking a few deep breaths, you'll note your
✽ Then you'll pick a couple of journal prompts from the list of 30 and begin to answer them.
✽ 5 minutes later, after answering these questions:
▶ You recognize that honesty and kindness, your top strengths, can help you immensely moving forward.
▶ You also realize that you had overlooked your value of a strong work ethic. You know how important it is to you and the team's effectiveness.
▶ You become aware that being too busy, not prioritizing tasks and failing to tune into your inner guidance, aka your intuition, you'd pushed aside an issue far too long.
✽ You practice self-compassion!
As you recognize how you missed several opportunities to address the issue, you'll remind yourself to have self-compassion. Leadership is tough. Being short-staffed, juggling a massive to-do list and tending to your mom's failing health does take a toll on you.
✽ With a fresh perspective, you make a plan for moving forward:
✽ You'll tune in again
If you tune into your body now, you'll notice the tension has melted away, and your muscles feel more relaxed. You may feel a bit energized as you now have a plan to help you address the challenge. Your regained sense of resolve builds your confidence, and you notice you feel optimistic that you'll be composed when you talk to Becca tomorrow.
Remember, you are composed when you are calm and free from agitation. So until you deal with the agitation, you'll struggle to stay composed. Composure is a self-controlled state of mind. You need to create time to gain control of your mind when it threatens to jump off the deep end. It helps to have a system when you do that.
Working through the Inner Guidance Cycle will help you stay composed or regain your composure when you lose it! The steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle are below.
The INNER GUIDANCE CYCLE
A 4-step process to regain your composure
when you feel like your losing it!
STEP # 1 - PAUSE
Step back from what's happening
→ Learn more about PAUSING here
STEP # 2 - PONDER
Tune into your thoughts, feelings and body sensations.
— What's going on in your body?
— What are you thinking?
— What emotions do those thoughts evoke?
So much of this has been unconscious. Bringing awareness to it may provide new insights.
ASK: Are these thoughts and feelings going to get me where I want to go?
→ Learn more about PONDERING here
STEP # 3 - PIVOT
If you aren't heading in the direction you desire, consider what thoughts, feelings, and body sensations will help you achieve your desired outcome.
ASK: What are other ways of looking at this problem, project or person?
→ Learn more about PIVOTING here
STEP # 4 - PROCEED
Choose to move forward with intention.
Sometimes we need to circle back, try again, apologize or set more precise limits. Of course, that's not always the easiest thing to do! But now that we are back in control of our emotions, we can do this we composure.
→ Learn more about PROCEEDING here
Keep accessing your inner wisdom to stay composed
When you learn to use the Inner Guidance Cycle, you'll be accessing your inner wisdom. That will help you regain your composer when you lose it and help prevent you from losing it in the first place!
p.s. If you want to grab the worksheet with over 30 questions to prompt your self-reflective process, join The Training Library and gain access to this course: Quick Journaling for Effective Leadership
If you've ever lost your composure at work ( and we all have), you know how unsettling it can be! It can be embarrassing and sometimes feels hard to bounce back after.
Can't I just shut my emotions off?
What you may want, and I know this, because I hear it from the majority of my students and clients, is to be able to shut your emotions off at work, or at least keep them under wraps. I, too, so deeply wanted that.
But try as I might to shut it off, tune it out or compartmentalize my emotions; more often than not, they came bubbling up to the surface at the most inopportune times or high jacked me out of nowhere.
Shutting off emotions is impossible
Trying to shut off or tune out our emotions doesn't work. What we need instead is to become emotionally intelligent. You've probably heard about emotional intelligence. But what you may wonder is, what is it? And how do you get it/do it/be it?
We will dive into that in the coming weeks. To start, I want to cover the definitions of some of the terms used when talking about emotional intelligence and why they matter to you and your leadership.
Let's dive in.
The 8 most overlooked definitions in leadership and why they matter
Composed and Composure
When we talk about shutting our emotions off, most of us mean that we want to be composed when engaging in conversations, meetings and our day-to-day work.
You are composed when you are calm and free from agitation.
COMPOSED is an adjective, so you simply are composed.
Vocabulary.com says composure, on the other hand, is a noun, so you can lose, keep, regain, or maintain your composure — your ability to stay calm. If you lose your composure, you're freaking out.
When you stay calm under pressure, you keep your composure.
Staying calm under pressure is almost a daily requirement of leadership.
We are constantly bombarded with expectations, rapid-fire communications from emails to chats, multiple meetings in rapid succession and all of this, short-handed. At the same time, underfunded and, well, as you know, in the nonprofit sector, this list goes on.
COMPOSURE is a self-controlled state of mind
Read that last sentence again...
Composure is a self-controlled state of mind.
Meaning....you can think your way to being composed.
Being self-controlled or having self-restraint is described by the character trait of self-regulation.
If you've completed your VIA Character Assessment, you can look back at it and see where the trait of self-regulation lands for you.
Unfortunately, self-regulation is one of the lowest found traits across the world. So don't feel bad if yours shows up lower as well. That doesn't mean you don't have access to it. It just means you need to work a little harder to be self-regulated.
🚦Think of self-regulation as your inner stoplight.
🔴 Red means stop
Can you see why self-regulation of emotions is important?
It's time to look at emotions
Miriam Webster defines emotion as a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as a strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body.
Notice the words mental reaction in that definition. Once again, I want to highlight the thinking part of this definition. You can think your way into different emotions.
There are a ton of other definitions for emotions and explanations of how emotions and feelings differ. Science and psychology continue to evolve on these, and I won't get into it here. But if you are curious, this article is a good starting point to understand the difference between emotions, feelings and moods.
The challenge is that rather than experiencing a single emotion, we feel or are labelled emotional.
Being emotional is when we are dominated by or showing or revealing very strong emotions.
When we are emotional, we often feel and are considered by others to be out of control of our emotions. That's not a very fun feeling!
It's also sadly associated with weakness in the eyes of many.
So what's the answer? It's to become emotionally intelligent.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and to recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.
When we are emotionally intelligent, we tune in rather than shut off our emotions.
And just because we are experiencing a particular emotion doesn't mean we express it freely. Instead, we use self-regulation to consider if and how we express what we are experiencing.
When we are emotionally intelligent, we learn to distinguish emotions and clarify what emotion we are feeling. So instead of the simple three, happy, sad, mad and glad, we use our emotional literacy to go deeper. For example, emotional literacy allows us to identify feeling overwhelmed, jealous, irritated, or rage.
So what is emotional literacy?
Brene Brown describes emotional literacy as recognizing the emotion we are feeling, naming it, and describing what is happening to us emotionally. Brene says we can't effectively move through an emotional experience without emotional literacy.
As a leader, it's helpful to understand the difference between feeling uneasy about a decision our staff made and frightened about the results of that decision.
▶ One may have us bring it up in next week's conversation.
▶ The other might have us picking up the phone immediately.
This ability to clearly label with clarity what we are feeling is called emotional granularity.
Psychologist Lisa Feldman Barret tells us that emotional granularity is the skill of labelling experience with a high degree of specificity.
If you have "finely tuned feelings," writes psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett you're exhibiting "emotional granularity,"
When you can, with a high degree of specificity and precision, get clear on what you are feeling and then put that into words during a tough conversation, meeting or email, you'll be demonstrating emotional granularity.
Examples of a leader with emotional intelligence
Example # 1
This decision leaves me feeling anxious. I worry that the outcome isn't going to be what we expect. I don't want us all to leave the meeting feeling tense. Let's spend a few more minutes talking about options so we can all leave feeling a little more at ease with the next steps.
Example # 2
I've noticed you've gone from feeling peeved to apathetic. It's not helpful when I have no interest or concern about engaging your team anymore. It's been a tough haul these last few months. But your team needs you. So let's see what we can do to help you feel more hopeful and optimistic about the possibilities of what your team can do.
Let's start with seeing if you can feel more curious. How about I ask you some open-ended questions to get you feeling more thoughtful?
Each of these terms works together
To become composed and keep your composure through stressful times, you'll need to self-regulate your emotions.
You'll become emotionally intelligent when you use your expanding emotional vocabulary (emotional literacy) to describe what you are feeling with increasing specificity - emotional granularity.
See how that all works together? 💁🏼♀️
Tune in over the coming weeks as I dive into each of these a bit further to help you become a more emotionally intelligent leader!
p.s. If you are ready to dive into learning how to increase your emotional intelligence by expanding your emotional literacy, check this out.
If you've moved from peer to manager, You know there are some things you need to consider:
With those changes comes the need for new ways of interacting with those you work with. Whatsmore these people may have been your colleagues and who were perhaps even your friends.
Resources to make the transition from peer to manager
In this blog, I gave some strategies to help you deal with friendships when you transition.
In this week's podcast, my guests Nicole and Karen give additional tips for being a successful manager.
Between the two of those resources, you'll find many suggestions, ideas and strategies to help you navigate managing peers.
But, of course, the tricky part is implementing those strategies!
Applying the tips in those resources isn't always easy!
While it's great to say increase your emotional intelligence, get an understanding of your team's strengths or set good boundaries, doing any of those things isn't always as easy as it sounds!
This is where you might have trouble
I wanted to remind you that implementing strategies is sometimes challenging. It's because you may lack conscious awareness of what you're thinking, which leads you to feel a certain way and behave a certain way.
Unconscious thought: Sophia knows I'm not fond of Charlotte. She's heard my sarcasm after management meetings.
Unconscious feeling: Anxiety about sharing a decision Charlotte made that impacts our team.
Unconscious behaviour: When you share the decision, you make sure not to make eye contact with Sophia.
❓ Outcome: How do you think avoiding eye contact could impact this leader's relationship with Sophia?
Unconscious thought: I know Ava is insecure about her writing skills
Unconscious feeling: Hesitancy about her ability to write good reports for the funder.
Unconscious behaviour: Double-check her work
❓ Outcome: What do you think could happen with this leader's relationship with Ava?
Are you getting a sense of how much your unconscious thoughts
impact your behaviour and how they can cause problems fast?
The "solution" takes time
The thing is, it takes time and skill to dissect what's going on inside of you to recognize why you have the subtle or intense emotions you have and why you are reacting in the way you are. It also takes time and a developed insight to understand what's happening or potentially why someone behaves in a certain way on your team.
The process is to become more self-aware
The best way that I know and many other experts suggest is to increase your self-awareness to make sure that you are on top of everything going on, both around you and perhaps more importantly, inside of you.
Because ....your perspective on
Without self-awareness, things can go side-ways
Many managers struggle as they move up the ranks because they lack good self-awareness.
The answer is to work at increasing your self-awareness
Therefore, it's essential to navigate your leadership experience with awareness. Your job then is to increase your self-awareness to successfully transition to supervising your peers or adjust to where you are now. That way, you can keep your thoughts in check, change them if need be, or ramp up thoughts that will move you and your team forward.
2 surprising ways to increase your self-awareness
1) Do self-assessments
Self-assessments help you to get a sense of how you see yourself, who you are and your personality.
My top picks
2) Get feedback from your team
1) Ask them in regular supervision: What do you need me to start doing, stop doing or continue to do.
2) Ask them for Feedforward: Be vulnerable about what you are working on and get them to observe and report what they see.
**This is a webinar for those of you inside of The Training Library
3) Complete The Leadership Circle Profile 360 - I can help you with this. It's a great tool to gather feedback from many evaluators both within your organization and key stakeholders you work with.
How are you increasing your self-awareness?
If you are like most, you think of meditating, journaling and going for walks as ways of becoming more self-aware. I encourage those wholeheartedly! They are my go-to places too!
Your self-awareness increases any time you can pause and tune in, allowing you to notice emotions and feelings, identify values, become aware of judgements and opinions and acknowledge your behaviour.
All of this will help to increase your emotional and social intelligence. Both are critical to leading a team well and doing the fulfilling work you are meant to do!
Do tell me how you are increasing your self-awareness! Perhaps you have some strategies I've not suggested or others self-assessments to share!
Did you know that the more stressed, burnt out and overwhelmed with your job, there's a good chance the more your team is feeling the same and becoming more and more disengaged?
Is your team, and you like Sandy and her team?
Sandy told me the other day that she felt her team lacked energy and enthusiasm for the work and that they seem to have lost patience for each other too! She wondered how much this had to do with her level of frustration, drained energy and apathy for the work. I suggested it might.
Sandy asked me how she could bounce back and get her team to bounce back. They used to work well together, have fun, and enjoy their work. But, the last couple of years had taken a toll on all of them!
I suggested Sandy consider looking at how to re-engage her employees as employee engagement is critical for strong and effective teams. I explained to her the research around employee engagement. Let me fill you in now.
Why is employee engagement important?
Gallup is the leading researcher on engagement. They define employee engagement as:The big problem is that only 20% of employees fall in the engaged category in Canada.
Gallup says eight in 10 Canadians are either watching the clock, doing the bare minimum to get a paycheck, or worse, actively working against their employer.
Sandy has a team of 20, which means she may have only 4 of them actively engaged. When Sandy realized that, she was gobsmacked. But as we looked more deeply into it, she realized that might be right, and she would need to change that quick!
My guess is you may want to consider increasing employee engagement on your team too!
What can you do to increase employee engagement?
When Sandy asked me what to do, I did the same thing I'd do if you were my client asking this question.
Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey
Applying engagement strategies to staff meetings
After reading that list, you may have already thought of several strategies to increase employee engagement. Some of those may be on a 1-1 basis, and that's an important part of increasing employee engagement. Sandy knew she needed to meet more with her team and talk to them about their growth and development rather than just putting out fires or dealing with current projects.
Once Sandy came up with some 1-1 strategies, I shifted her attention to working on engagement strategies with teams. Sandy realized how she could nurture engagement when the team was together for meetings. She also realized that she could enlist the whole group as part of the process by structuring meetings differently.
To give you a sense of what Sandy created for team meetings to increase employee engagement and what you can do, I've created a 3 C's approach to help you remember how to ensure you focus on employee engagement during staff meetings.
The first thing you need to do at a staff meeting is to connect to one another as human beings. We are not job descriptions that meet contract targets. We are people who serve other people. Thus we need to connect as people.
To make sure that everyone feels connected in the first 5 to 10 minutes of the meeting, make sure that everyone has an opportunity to share their voice in the conversation.
That can be starting with a one-word check-in, a team-building activity, a gratitude sharing exercise or an acknowledgement of each other. Whatever it is, make sure that everyone has the opportunity to put their voice into the circle.
This is how Sandy ensured everyone connected:
Sandy knew some people would feel this was a waste of time and even roll their eyes at the exercises. She overcame her hesitation by getting ahold of her thoughts before the meeting.
To create a group of engaged employees means they feel that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Therefore, the bulk of the staff meeting must meet that requirement.
Remember these two questions for the Gallup research
Meetings should not be strictly information sharing. During the meeting, you are looking to gather people's ideas, concerns, and challenges. But more than that, you were also asking them to contribute to agenda items, topics and projects.
If your employees ask themselves or their teammates why they are there or the point of the meeting, you've not contributed, and you've not engaged them.
To ensure you are getting employees' contributions, make note as you go through the meeting: Has everyone had a chance to contribute to this meeting once again in a meaningful way?
This is how Sandy ensured everyone contributed.
At first, after the meeting was over, Sandy did a quick review and put a tick mark beside everyone's name that had contributed something to the meeting.
Next, sandy sought out those who hadn't to see if they wanted to add something outside the meeting conversation.
Then, during future meetings, Sandy made it clear that the goal was for everyone to contribute. That didn't mean she'd put people on the spot but created ways of allowing for everyone's voice, like round tables, breakout rooms and voting in polls on virtual meetings.
Commitment is twofold. It's about commitment to tasks and commitment to each other.
First, make sure you know what each person is committing to complete as a result of the conversations during the meeting.
Identify, in writing:
This is how Sandy ensured everyone committed to tasks:
Sandy created a shared document that the team used at each meeting. The team did not take the old tasks and responsibilities off the document. Instead, they were updated, marked as complete or identified as needing further discussion. The document served as a commitment device, holding everyone, including Sandy, accountable for what they said they'd do.
The second part of commitment is to make sure you end the meeting with a commitment to each other. Once again, we are people, humans in relationships. That means we have to continue to strengthen those relationships.
As you end the meeting, provide space for each person to engage.
If time permits, this can be done as a roundtable, allowing everyone to contribute one word to the question,
This is how Sandy ensured everyone committed to each other:
When Sandy found time-crunched at the end of a meeting, she simply asked for a physical gesture of commitment.
A final reminder about created engaged teams
I'm guessing you may be thinking that you don't have time at staff meetings for all of the above suggestions. If so, I'd ask you to reevaluate the purpose of your staff meeting.
A meeting, by definition, is an engaged conversation.
If you are only sharing information, that's not a meeting. It's an information-sharing session. So if that is what you are doing, then define it as such.
If you are having a meeting, ensure to create connection, opportunities for contribution and a level of commitment to each other. Because when you connect, contribute and commit with a team, you will have an engaged team.
Are you at the point where you know you need to have another tough talk but don't want to? My client Jessica had that challenge this week. She was dreading it!
In our coaching session, Jessica learned to shift the way she thought about the upcoming talk so she could shake the dread and slip into confidence. Do you want to know how Jessica did that?
Let me walk you through the steps I walked Jessica through to help her regain her confidence to deal with the situation.
Which of these types of tough conversations bothers you most?
Jessica and I talked about 3 kinds of tough conversations. She realized this one was the first but that she'd experience all of them at different times. I bet you have too!
Your thoughts make a tough conversation challenging
The similarity between these types of tough conversations is our perspective. We THINK they will be tough. Therefore, our perspective or view on what will happen makes us believe the discussion will be tough.
Jessica had certainly done this. She could feel the anxiety in her body, feeling she'd be met with aggression when she addressed the issue, and Jessica was worried she'd fall apart.
Which of these is your go-to reaction?
Imagine a tough conversation situation that you know needs dealing with. Which of these is your typical reaction?
Option # 1: You hope it will resolve itself, and you put that conversation off, and off, and off until it's a huge issue.
Option # 2: You are anxious about dealing with the conversation, so you armour up, put your feelings aside and head into the conversation, perhaps someone aggressively.
Your version may not be exactly as above, but you get the point. Jessica knew she was heading in the direction of the second. She thought if she could stuff down her emotions and deal with them matter-of-factly that she might get through it without falling apart. However, she was also very worried that it may not work either.
You think your way into doubt, fear and hesitation.
Jessica was losing sleep over this upcoming conversation. You may find that too. The issue at hand goes round and round in your head for a long time. However, if you are like most, you rarely slow down to consciously and intentionally think about it. This is because we don't consciously and deliberately decide how to address the issue at hand ahead of time. Instead, when we've had enough, we react.
In the meantime....
While all of that is happening inside us, it's causing us to think we can't handle the tough conversation, and those thoughts create a lack of confidence to deal with them. I know that is NOT what you want! It certainly wasn't what Jessica wanted.
Jessica and you, too, want the confidence to handle your job, team, and people.
Let's change your thoughts and build that confidence!
You can change your thoughts about that upcoming conversation
Your doubt, fear and hesitation are thoughts. You can change those thoughts. When you change your thoughts, you see things from a different perspective, and it can help make you more confident in the situations.
It's time for a different strategy for tough conversations
When we start by taking time to think strategically about the issue, we can get control of our thinking mind, plan for how we will manage our emotions and strategize a way to address the situation.
▶ Step # 1 - Schedule in thinking time
Rather than having thoughts about that conversation, you know you need to have, show up when you are trying to fall asleep, or some other equally inappropriate time, plan for thinking time. Then, schedule it into your calendar as a meeting with yourself.
▶ Step # 2 - Identify your triggers
When you've already identified this conversation as tough it's because something is triggered in you. It could be any of the following or something else entirely.
▶ Step # 3 - Plan for the talk
Ultimately that's often the one thing missing from an effective, difficult conversation, planning. You need to think strategically and plan for the conversation.
How Jessica did this
Jessica used our coaching time to begin the planning process, and I helped her identify her big trigger. Jessica is a deeply caring person. She has so much compassion, and when someone hurts, she hurts with them. Jessica knew the news she had to give to this employee would hurt them.
Jessica felt deeply that she had to help this employee through the conversation. They were losing part of their job. Jessica knew the resistance she would get would be justifiable. She also couldn't change the decision made by upper management to let go of this employee. She was the messenger.
Being reminded of her strength of compassion helped her prepare and plan how to start the conversation, what to do when she felt herself tearing up and how to respond with compassion to the employee's anger. It would still be an emotional conversation, a hard talk and a challenge for both of them. The difference was that Jessica felt she didn't have to shut her emotions off. She just needed to be prepared to manage them.
👉 This preparation and awareness allowed Jessica to feel way more confident and in control heading into that talk.
When you plan for your next tough conversation with conscious intention, you'll see how skilled you are. You will regain control of your emotions. You will think about how you CAN handle it. You'll feel more confident and capable because you are!
If you'd like some help to plan for your next tough talk and a worksheet to guide you through the process, check this course inside of The Training Library: Preparing for a tough talk so you can handle it with integrity.
The key take-a-way
Tough talks are tough because you THINK they are tough. Think about them differently. Pause and plan for them. Prepare for your next tough talk. Perhaps it will shift from a tough talk to a critical conversation when you do. Or maybe you'll see it as a serious talk that's important to have. It may turn into a profound or thorough discussion.
Words matter. So do your thoughts. Choose wisely and with intention!
It's only February, and it's been a long year already for many of us. We are tired of the pandemic, tired of navigating working from home in the office, tired of winter, the cold, snow and the short days. And we are exhausted from whatever else is on our plates.
Yet, we want to come to work feeling energized and excited and to work with a group of employees who were also engaged, energized and excited to be there. We want to make an incredible difference, and we want a team that's alongside us and doing that work together.
So how do you move from tired, lethargic, and feeling apathetic to being excited, energized, and engaged? Here are three ways
Re-energize your team
Re-energize your people one by one
Let's start with understanding what it means to have energy.
VIA defines that energy as zest. Zest means approaching a situation, or life in general, with excitement and energy, not approaching tasks or activities halfway or halfheartedly. Zest, one of the 24 VIA character traits, has the strongest ties to overall life satisfaction and a life of engagement. But here's the problem: zest is consistently one of the lowest scoring traits worldwide. That's a problem if you and many others on your team are struggling with energy and enthusiasm.
3 ways to re-energize your tired nonprofit team
Let's look at the 3 ways to re-energize your tired nonprofit team.
Regardless of how much zest you have, you'll probably want to increase it or, at minimum, maintain it. Because it's tough to have the energy and enthusiasm to lead your team if you feel like a sloth?
If you are curious where Zest lands for you on the VIA Character Strengths Assessment, click here to do the free assessment.
If you are a member of The Training Library, you can use the various worksheets in this course to help you use your signatures strengths and strengthen your lesser-used strengths.
Strategies for increasing your zest
Re-energize your team
Even if you move to increase your zest or energy, you still may not be the most energized person on the team. That may not be your natural state. However, it might be for someone else. When we use people's strengths, they are more engaged, happy and impactful at work. So look around your team. Who is the most energized person? How can you leverage their excitement enthusiasm for work?
Tony Swartz from the Energy Project is called the Chief Energy Officer. Perhaps there is someone on your team who would like that unofficial title. Alternately, it might be a shared responsibility.
Re-energize your people one-by-one
While in general, we need to look at boosting our energy, which will boost team morale, you'll also need to focus on individual challenges. Your job as a leader is to look at each individual on your team and support them in whatever way they need. This level of support requires you to tune in to your social intelligence lean into empathy, compassion and presence. Be aware of what each person is going through and consider helping support each of them in the way they need you.
Moving your team from tired, lethargic, and feeling apathetic to being excited, energized, and engaged happens when you re-energize yourself, your team and your people one by one. You can do this! Start by choosing to take action. That will get the ball rolling and your energy in the right direction!
As much as you'd like to get back to programming, training and the day-to-day running of your organization, most nonprofit leaders are dealing with some version of the following questions:
Whatsmore, those are just the big questions. As a nonprofit leader, there are so many decisions you need to make around Covid these days that I bet your head is spinning. No decision is a one-size-fits-all either, as each program, staff, and community has unique complexities and nuances.
And, it's constantly changing!
While you may think you are ahead of the game and have things under control for a moment, the game changes in a blink of an eye. New rules, new policies, and new expectations are handed out, and you are expected to follow suit quickly and without clear guidance or direction for your particular situation.
If you aren't careful, it will negatively impact your team
With the accompanying pressure to decide quickly, these changes and expectations can be overwhelming to a leader and challenging to a team. Not only are you stressed, but your team is feeling confused, frustrated and maybe even unsupported. This "perfect storm" leaves you in a precarious position if you're not careful. A stressed-out and overwhelmed leader, combined with a frustrated and disjointed team, is breeding grounds for a toxic work environment.
What's the answer?
So what's a leader to do?
The short answer is to be very self-aware!
As things change rapidly, you'll need to manage what's happening outside of you by working on what's happening inside you.
A lack of self-awareness will get keep you stressed out big time
Mind chatter, racing thoughts, and late-night worrying will keep you in the trap of feeling like things are spinning out of control. But, while it might seem like the world around you is spinning out of control, you'll never deal with the issues in a level-headed way if you don't rein in your thoughts and get control of your inner world.
Self-awareness will help you manage the stress effectively
Self-aware leaders can acknowledge what's happening inside and around them. They recognize the anxiety building, the tension headaches, and the inability to focus. But they don't stop there.
A self-aware leader takes all of those thoughts and discerns what they want to do with them in the direction they want to go.
Self-awareness allows you to put your racing thoughts into perspective
They'll take those thoughts and rub them up against their values, ethics and morals, the type of leadership traits they are developing in themselves and the impact they want to have in their team and their communities. Then, by putting those thoughts in perspective, they can better choose if those thoughts are helping them or hindering them. And if necessary they'll choose again.
An example of a more self-aware process
First, we need to slow down and recognize what's happening inside and around us. That starts with pausing.
Then we need to ponder. Pondering helps us unpack what's going on in our thinking minds.
Consider this train of thought
OMG, I can't lose my staff, and I will if we mandate vaccinations.
And then, what will we do if we mandate the booster and then a fourth booster?
People are starting to push back.
Ugh, I don't know what to do!
STEP # 1 - Unpack the thoughts
💬OMG, I can't lose my staff
✏️Can't - That is absolute, black-white thinking and perhaps not helping me
✏️What values are coming into play with this thought?
💬And then, what will we do if we mandate the booster and then a fourth booster?
✏️This is me being worried about something in the future. need to come back to mindfulness and work on what I can handle in the present moment.
💬People are starting to push back.
✏️I'm aware that I dislike conflict. I'll need to handle those tough conversations with courage.
💬Ugh, I don't know what to do!
✏️That thought leaves me feeling a lack of competence and confidence.
STEP # 2 - Choose a new train of thoughts
💬 OMG, I want to find a way to retain my good staff.
Things are changing quickly, and I can only deal with what's here now
As my team members get frustrated and push back, I need to use every tool in my toolbox to support the team, maintain our working relationships and develop alignment going forward.
I am figuring out what to do, step by step. Then, when I don't know, I'll be honest and work through what I need to learn and where I need to ask for help.
Available on Amazon
Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.