From Debbie’s Deliberations

The Challenges With Asking For More

Sometimes we ask to be challenged with new challenges but we haven’t fully delivered on the previous challenges we were given to handle.  And – why is it that we like to ask for more to do but we haven’t checked to see if we can take more on?  I believe it’s that we get impatient with ourselves, with others, with life, with work, with our trajectory – we just want to hurry up and get there.  Is it because some of us are natural overachievers?  Slow down. Take a deep breath and take stock of where you are and what you’ve accomplished or have yet to finish.  Think about the things you’ve learned, what you would do differently, and what you would do in the same way.  Reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work for you is a good exercise to do before we ask to do more.  As human beings we can only take on so much without sacrificing something else.  What are the things you can or are willing to sacrifice?  Have you thought about what the consequences might be?  You don’t have to dwell on it forever but spending a little time to think carefully about what you have accomplished (or not) and what you are asking to do more of – avoids overload, unnecessary stress, and failure.  

 

Passing the Baton

Sometimes it’s hard to let go, to know when you are no longer being effective or being heard.  Oftentimes, there’s someone else quite capable of taking the baton and succeeding at whatever it is you are trying to do.   Whether you are trying to convince a child to eat their vegetables, or convince a donor to give money, negotiate a deal, or settle a dispute – we miss the cues.  When a person better equipped to do whatever it is you are trying to do raises their hand and asks for the baton – we resist passing it.  We would rather sacrifice success than to do it.  Is it pride, is it our competitiveness to win, is it the way we are wired to think about our abilities?

 Sometimes, we overestimate ourselves and what we can do.  If we only take a step back to reconsider the circumstances, we may find that we could use the help of someone else.  Asking someone else to step in and take over shouldn’t be seen as a set-back or a personal failure, but rather a strength.  The ability to do that may be the missing ingredient to getting it done, to solving the problem, and to ultimately succeeding in life.  Success is rarely a one person sport.

March On

This month the world’s women organized and marched for women’s rights – for the right to be treated equal to men.  All over the world the masses gathered and came together for justice.  My family marched in New York.  My daughters said, ‘for the first time in a long time it feels good to be part of something bigger than ourselves.’  Their generation had inherited the unfair ‘me’ label.  People held signs of all shapes and sizes and sayings.  One 90-year old woman’s sign read – ‘I can’t believe I still have to march for this.’  How true.  How is it that in 2017 women still have to advocate for equality, for choice, for their ‘inalienable rights’?

Marching felt good.  They marched for women but they also march for all those that still feel oppressed, discriminated against, and unfairly treated.  My two daughters have taken this on as their purpose.  They have a movement they want to join, a legacy they want to leave for their own children.   I smiled.  Finally – something people can unite around, something my daughters will look back on and say – I was there.

The Mind-Reading Trap

Sometimes we expect people to do things that we haven’t clearly articulated they should be doing. We think they should be able to read our minds. Why do we find it so difficult to spell things out to people? Do we want to avoid confrontation, are we uncomfortable with telling others what to do, or do we think they are more capable than they really are?

In our angst to get things done, we may be under the misguided impression that the individual has what it takes to get the job done. Even more frightening is that we may not have empowered them with clear lines of authority for what we expect them to be able to do. If people have clarity on what you expect from them – perhaps they will rise to the occasion OR not. In either case, it is tough to judge someone on something that they don’t know they have to do or they feel empowered to do. And lest we forget, any job requires basic individual competencies but the real success comes from having the right TEAM that have complementary skills to help that individual get things done. The individual you have tasked for the job may not have the all the right skills AND/OR have the right team in place to succeed.

So what to do? Communicate. Set the right expectations. Check in regularly. Provide the resources and guidance needed. AND hold the individual accountable. In the end, they may not be able to do the job but at least you will have given them a fighting chance.

How are you perceived?

Sometimes not everything (or everyone) is what it seems. Sometimes we think we know what people really think of us, how we come across, and what they might say when we aren’t there. Some of us don’t care, some of us do. And then some of us partially care and therefore want to know. Whatever category we fall into, most human beings want to be liked, respected, or both. We generally know who doesn’t like us and who does. The hard part is finding out that those that we think like us, really don’t – they just act like they do. This can be a hard blow when you are young, but when we are older, we pride ourselves in not letting this get to us. The truth is that it still hurts even though we are grown. So here are 3 tips on how to cope with this or be prepared for it:

1) develop trust and relationships with a few good people. You don’t need 500 friends, you just need a handful that will be there when you need them.

2) let time and circumstances be the judge of who is a long-standing supporter and a friend and who isn’t. There are some that are ‘situational’ friends and allies. When the circumstances change, they do too.

3) never let anything or anyone surprise you. While we want to believe the best about others sometimes, they don’t have the best of intentions for us. They just look out for themselves and will turn on you in a nanosecond. Don’t sweat it or let it surprise you. Just move on.

Should you get the Mac and Cheese?

Having Mac and cheese as a kid is a treat.  Having Mac and cheese as an adult is borderline sinful.  So when I took my daughter and her fiancé out for dinner at the Waverly Inn in the West Village and we saw Mac and cheese on the menu we went nuts.  The 3 of us read the menu, each of us explaining the virtues of eating healthy fish and veggies.  We then went into a diatribe of rationalizing eating the burger and the French fries, including explaining to each other why eating meat might be healthy for us.  We finally landed on the Mac and cheese with white truffle. To help us decide, we called the waiter over and asked him for his opinion.  He told us it was out of this world.  ‘It’s an amazing experience.  It’s made with four cheeses and generously sprinkled with white truffle for the price of $165/person.’  Oh my’, we responded.  It would be silly not to get the Mac and cheese even at that price.’ My oldest daughter was mortified.  ‘Mom’,no one in their right mind would pay that kind of money for Mac and cheese.’   ‘We totally should’, her fiancé and I responded. And we kept it up.

For a moment, we both gave in and agreed that Mac and cheese couldn’t possibly be good for your health or your wallet, but we quickly gave into our previous conviction that it was.  We firmly committed ourselves to how good the Mac and cheese tasted when we were kids and that if the Waverly Inn served it, it had to be the best Mac and cheese in the world.  The more the three of us argued, the more committed her fiancé and I became.  So we got the Mac and cheese and we split it between the 2 of us.  We explained to my daughter, ‘it is out of this world’ and convinced her to try it.  It was so rich, we were both completely full by our 5th bite but we kept eating, and eating, and eating.

After all, we had convinced ourselves to get it and it was to die for, so who wouldn’t want to eat every last Mac?  We walked back to their apartment that night in Chelsea and somewhere between the first and second block we both confessed that we in fact had stomach pain.  We had had our fill of the Mac and cheese.   Why didn’t we stop eating it when we knew we had enough? Why did we have to eat every last Mac and truffle?  Why did we not show some sense of self-control?   We came to several conclusions.  Firstly, we had to eat all of it because we had to be consistent with what we had to committed to.  Not to eat every last drop would have conflicted with what we said.   Sometimes we continue to do something that isn’t good for us simply because we committed that we would do it.  Even when deep inside of us we know we should stop – we don’t, because we want to ‘save face’ or we don’t want to hear anyone say ‘l told you so.’

Secondly, there are certain circumstances when too much of a really good thing isn’t good for you.  That’s when having self-control and having the courage to say ‘I’ve had enough’ – it’s time to stop doing this’ is important. Lastly, remember that life experiences are priceless.  So when you ask yourself, who in their right mind would pay $165 for a plate of Mac and cheese? We did– and we learned a valuable lesson that we’re still talking about it.

Choose Wisely

Dealing with the unexpected isn’t easy, especially for some people. It can compound anxiety and make you say and do things you may later regret. Some people choose to complain, get angry, and carry on.There’s nothing wrong with that – but there’s a time limit on how long that can be productive. If the driver in front of you doesn’t move fast enough or you get your food cold – complaining and whining will make you feel better and like you got it out of your system for a finite period of time. But then you have to choose when to let it go. That’s the secret – choosing when to let it be and accepting it for what it is.Particularly, when you can’t change whatever is bothering you immediately or when in the big scheme of things, it really isn’t such a big deal. Ignoring the signals that your complaining is no longer productive, can have bad effects on you and those around you.

What we fail to see is that most of life is about how we handle the unexpected, the things we didn’t see coming, the things outside of our control. It can define us. And if we aren’t careful, we may miss the hidden good things any unexpected situation may bring.

So the next time something happens that you didn’t expect, take a deep breath, ask yourself if you can change the situation immediately or not, think hard to see if there may be something good that comes out of it, and then choose your reaction (and how long to react) wisely.

It’s the Little Things That Matter

When someone asked me recently how I was doing, I quickly answered great! I opened my eyes today,I got dressed, I had a cup of coffee with mom and I drove to work. We spend a lot of time working hard to savor the big moments of life – the big vacation, getting the big house, getting a promotion and the next big thing. In our pursuit of these, we often dismiss the little moments – the ones that we have more of in life. Getting a cup of coffee for your partner in the morning, putting your kids on the school bus, going food shopping, cleaning the house. Collectively, the mundane things in life add up to what constitutes most of it – the day the day. Dismissing the little things and taking them for granted is a mistake. It can make us feel like we are constantly chasing something, as if whatever we have today isn’t enough. The happiest people I know, are happy for everything but mostly the little things. The wonderful little moments that occur every day.

So try something new – celebrate what you have today, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear. Take a deep breath the next time you feel you aren’t getting to the next big thing fast enough and be thankful you have what you have. Big or small.

Top Five Things Highly Successful Women Should Remember

These tips are for successful women on the importance on presence, presenting and the perception others may have of you.

1. Be prepared.  Most sophisticated people can tell if you are using a ‘cookie-cutter’ presentation that you’ve used over and over.  Do a little homework about the audience – sense of where they are, what they expect, what the issues are, what will they be inspired by.  Inspiring, motivational, charismatic – AND knowledgeable, capable, skilled, experienced is the winning combination.  Most of these can be learned and you can do this in a way that matches your own personality and sense of who you are.

2. Be observant.  You need only to LOOK at the non-verbal language of those you are addressing to guess what they are thinking about.  An audience will give a lot of context cues particularly when you are not connecting.  You will note that they aren’t listening (like answering calls, texting, sitting away or slouching from the table, looking away, etc.)  This should tell you how engaged they are and if they are interested in what you have to offer. Much of what we communicate, we do through body language.  If you suspect they aren’t ‘present’ – regroup and rethink what you are talking about.   Ask a question to try to reengage and then follow that thread of conversation to see where it leads you.  Call on someone that looks engaged or ready to say something and ask them to share their thoughts.  Be ready to ‘bag’ whatever you were presenting, slides, talking points, etc. in favor of what they want to talk about.

3. Be genuine.  People like it when a leader shares what they care about (including them) and admits what they know a lot about and what they don’t.  Using humor is okay without being self-deprecating.  Some may not know your ‘story’ – so share some of it when appropriate (where you’re from, where you’ve been, etc.) in a succinct and sincere manner.  Remember, under stress you will be tempted or simply forget, to acknowledge others around you.  Make it a point to connect with your staff/ leadership team regularly and with others in the organization when able.

4. Listen carefully.  You may be surprised how much you learn from what you hear AND (equally important) what you didn’t hear about (or from).  The ‘silent’ group can be very influential and the informal leaders for the larger group.  They will be the ones that walk out of a meeting and head directly for someone else that was in the room to ‘regurgitate’ what they heard and give their opinion on the issue.  You can demonstrate that you are listening in real-time by using ‘check-back’ – repeat and confirm what you think you heard.  Top leadership is sometime accused of being dis-connected from the real world issues.  Active listening and follow-through on key or ‘no-brainer’ issues addresses that.

 

 

  • Remember, take advice gracefully.  It isn’t easy to ‘take’ it from the rank and file or others that are in lower ranks of the organization.  You may be surprised at the wisdom that others have/will share when they feel safe/comfortable and believe you are humble enough to accept it.  When needed, circle back at a later time to check in with them/ask about something they said.  People will be grateful that you cared enough to ask.

 

 

7 Tips for Women Managers and Leaders

These tips are straightforward, common sense things women managers and leaders should remember for the workplace.

1. The less you confide in others in the organization, the better. What you intend as harmless chatter with someone that is not trustworthy can do serious harm.

2. Keep your speculations and worries to yourself.  Don’t let your guard down and know when you are being ‘baited’ to give your opinion ‘off the record.’  Nothing is ever ‘off the record’ in leadership.

3. Leadership is a full-time job and the duty clock is never off. Every little sign is being read and your impatience, disappointment or insecurity will be magnified by others.  There is no time for casual and unplanned candor, and messages must be sent only when carefully thought out. Be especially careful about what you put in writing, especially emails—they never disappear.

4. Keep listening to and for advice. If someone wants to speak to you, there is every reason to listen. If criticism is offered, take time to respond with care even if you don’t agree with it.

5. The important thing is to be sure that the important thing remains the important thing. Explain your strategy frequently and then rephrase it and repeat it.

6. Expect the best from others but don’t be surprised if you get the worst.  Be ready for disagreement and sabotaging strategies by colleagues.  If this happens, be careful of your public reaction.  Better to be silent than to speak out abruptly and do damage.

7. Remember – take a deep breath, relax, be yourself, and accept what you cannot change.