Next Level Blog

Simple, practical, applicable

Mindful Mondays: Ten Reasons Smiling is More Than Lip Service April 21 2014 6 responses

Hi, Diane Eblin here. I’m very excited to start contributing to the Next Level Blog. As a Certified Health Coach, I have worked first hand with overworked and overwhelmed professionals, coaches, and homemakers to help them discover and make the best choices for themselves. Here I will share those simple and practical insights that helped them and could help you too.

smiling-baby1Have you ever had one of those days where everyone you walk past looks like they’re in a bad mood? Furrowed brows, a blank stare into space, a frown or all of the above – you know what I’m talking about.

But wait, maybe they’re just holding up a mirror and reflecting what they see. Maybe it’s you who isn’t smiling.  If you have kids then you know exactly what I’m talking about. They are perfect little mirrors of what we’re expressing. But for those who spend a lot of time out of the home, your co-workers and the people you commute with can become your mirrors too.

Now picture yourself walking past someone who is smiling. I bet you can’t look for too long without smiling too. I bet you can’t even think about a smile without smiling.

OK, still don’t believe me. I dare you to look at these smiles and frown.

Mindful Mondays: What I Learned About Mindful Time Management from Jim Collins April 14 2014 7 responses

jim-collinsThis month for me is all about the big push to finish the manuscript for my book that’s coming out this Fall from Wiley, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. As the title implies, my premise is that being somewhat more mindful in your approach to work and life is an effective alternative to being overworked and overwhelmed.

The chapter I’ve been working on for the past couple of days is the distillation of ten lessons learned about mindful time management from more than 45 leaders I’ve interviewed for the book. One of those lessons is to acknowledge reality.

The reality is that each of us has 168 hours each week. The research I’m reading tells us that the average smartphone enabled executive, manager or professional (most of them in the US in other words) is connected to their work an average 72 hours a week. Let’s assume that those same people spend around 8 hours a day on sleeping, bathing and personal grooming. That’s another 56 hours a week. All of you math majors have figured out by now that that leaves just 40 hours a week for everything else – taking care of the kids, commuting, shopping, cooking, eating, exercise, whatever else you’re trying to fit into your life. Is it any wonder, then, that so many people feel overworked and overwhelmed?

A few years ago, I heard Jim Collins, the leadership expert and author of Good to Great speak on this dilemma at a conference.

Why You Need to Learn to Lead Positive April 10 2014 no responses

book-lead-positiveIf you are a leader struggling with keeping your team and yourself focused on the positive, you’re not alone. As a matter of fact, functional MRI research shows that the neurocircuitry of the human brain is programmed so that 2/3′s of initial neural activity is set to scan for what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

If you or a leader you know resembles that remark, you will want to check out my chat with this week’s podcast guest, Dr. Kathy Cramer. Kathy is a business consultant and psychologist who has worked with clients such as DuPont, Starbucks, and Microsoft and more, as well as many educational and non-profit groups.

Kathy has just released a new book, Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and DoIn the book, she describes how “Asset-Based Thinking” (ABT) can reorient a leader and their organization by helping them steer clear of the “deficit zone” and stay focused on leveraging vs. fixing. In the podcast, she also shares with us her one best piece of advice for leaders who want to lead positive.

Please join us for this brief and informative conversation.

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Mindful Mondays: How to Optimize Your Operating Rhythm April 7 2014 no responses

metronome1From the department of real life experience, here’s a quick post on how to optimize your operating rhythm. As I work on a new book while maintaining a pretty full plate of work with clients, I’ve found that tuning into my operating rhythm is vital to getting anything done.

What, you might ask, is an operating rhythm? I’m sure there are lots of definitions out there. Mine is paying attention to what kind of work matches up best with what times of the day and week. The other big thing I need to pay attention to is when I need breaks. All work and no play not only makes me dull, it makes the work a whole lot harder than it should be.

So, with that little bit of preamble, here are five operating principles for optimizing your operating rhythm. They work for me and just might work for you too.

What Any Leader Can Learn from Common Executive Succession Planning Mistakes April 3 2014 one response

conf-tableEver wonder how smart people make bad decisions? That can happen in lots of situations including conversations around the board of directors table about who the next CEO is going to be.

In a recent conversation with Scott Saslow of the Institute of Executive Development, I got an inside look at some of the common mistakes boards of directors make on executive succession planning. In partnership with the Rock Center of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Scott’s organization has released a new study on best (and worst) succession planning practices. (You can get a copy of the study here.)

In talking with Scott, it struck me that some of the big succession planning mistakes that board members make show up in lots of other leadership situations at any level of an organization.  Here are my top three takeaways on that front:

  • Being overly optimistic about the challenges you’re facing and thinking that external trends don’t apply to your situation.
  • Looking in the rear view mirror instead of the windshield when making big decisions.
  • Not having clear accountability and ownership for big decisions.

Any of that sound familiar?  If so, you’ll want to listen to this brief conversation between Scott Saslow and me to get more insight about how to avoid these kinds of mistakes on the big leadership decisions that you have to make.

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Mindful Mondays: How to Get What You Really Want March 31 2014 one response

eblin-familyBefore we go any further, let me clarify what I mean by the title of this post. When I write “How to Get What You Really Want,” I’m not talking about a bigger house, a nicer car or a more important job. There are ways to do all of those things, of course, but, if you think about it, are any of those things what you really want? My guess is the items on your really want list are more intangible but longer lasting than any of those. It probably includes things like good health, true happiness and strong relationships with the people that matter most to you. This post is about how to get those things – the things you really want.

Getting what you really want comes down to being aware of what you’ve been doing up until now and then making a simple shift in your actions to get what you want. I can illustrate how it works with the stories of three different people who were aware and made the shift:

Why You Need to Flex to Connect as a Leader March 27 2014 2 responses

book-flex

In the nine years since Tom Friedman wrote The World Is Flat, it has become even flatter and smaller. Even if you’re a leader who never leaves your home country, in any given day you’re likely to be video conferencing with colleagues halfway around the world and sitting in meeting rooms with team members who grew up in other cultures, come from different socio-economic backgrounds than yours, are significantly older or younger than you or represent any number of other differences from your own experience and background.

Effectively leading and working in an increasingly global and diverse community of customers and co-workers is a critical skill set for leaders.

Fortunately, there’s a great new book out called Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences that can help you build the empathy muscles you need to be an effective global leader.

I recently had a chance to speak with one of the Flex co-authors, Audrey Lee. In this podcast interview Audrey explains how flexing is the art of switching between behaviors and styles to connect with people who are different than you. She also shares some very helpful insights and tips on how to flex while still being your authentic self.

It’s an information filled ten minute discussion that I think is worth your time.

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Mindful Mondays: Three Ways to Quiet Your Mental Chatter (aka Monkey Mind) March 24 2014 2 responses

monkeymindHas this happened to you lately? You’re in a conversation, or a meeting or working on an important project. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner or the email you forgot to respond to or the March Madness game you watched over the weekend or an errand you forgot to run or someone you need to call or that crazy episode of House of Cards you watched last night. The likelihood is you’re having a whole series of those thoughts, not just one. It sure happens to me; that list of random thoughts I just wrote comes straight from my current playlist.

In doing the research for my new book on mindfulness for overworked and overwhelmed leaders and professionals, I’ve learned that the average person has 70,000 thoughts a day. So, seriously, what’s the likelihood that all those thoughts are going to lay themselves out in an exquisite sequence of hyper focus? Not very likely.

We all have mental chatter. There’s even a Sanskrit word for it – vritti – that the ancient yogis came up with thousands of years ago to describe the whirlpool of thoughts that constantly swirl through your mind. Another great term for the condition we often find ourselves in is monkey mind.

Monkey mind or mental chatter is a fact of the human condition. The trick is to create conditions that make it less likely, recognize it when it’s happening and then change things up. Here are three ways to do that:

Mindful Mondays: Five Ways to Stay Sane When You Have to Slog Through March 17 2014 8 responses

muddy-slogFrom the archives of the Department of Irony, I found myself overwhelmed this past week while working on a book whose title is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative (coming to a web site or book store near you this Fall).

I was at the point in the process where I had to read through about 400 pages of interview excerpts and sort them into working files for each of the 19 chapters of the book.  It was about three days straight of reading, thinking, copying and pasting.  As passionate as I am about the topic and the project, I have to confess. It. Was. A. Slog.

No doubt, you’ve had episodes like this and probably will again.  It’s that important step in the project that can’t really be delegated or outsourced because it requires your judgment and perspective throughout.  And it’s going to be several solid days of work.

So, how do you stay sane when you have to slog through?  Here are five ways to do it that worked for me last week:

Mindful Mondays: What Does Mindfulness Even Mean, Anyway? March 10 2014 no responses

If you do a Google search on the word, mindfulness, you’ll find close to six and a half million results.  Safe to say you could spend the rest of the day reading through all of that and still have a lot left to read.  (Probably not the most mindful use of your time actually.)  In any case, mindfulness is clearly a hot topic as this recent cover story in Time magazine illustrates.

Since I’m writing a book on the mindfulness alternative to being overworked and overwhelmed, I get asked a lot how I define mindfulness.  Before I share my answer, let me say two things as a preamble.I know mindfulness pick me

One, is that if you want to go deeper on this topic you should check out the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg and other contemporary mindfulness experts who have been at this a lot longer than me.  Two, if you’re not inclined to go deeper right now, know that you don’t have to aspire to be a Buddhist monk or nun to benefit from mindfulness.  It can help anyone deal with the overwork and the overwhelm that’s such a fact of life today.

Based on dozens of interviews I’ve conducted with everyday leaders, experts in health and wellness and my own experience with clients and in my own life, my definition of mindfulness comes down to two big ideas:  awareness and intention.

Here are a few quick quotes from people I’ve interviewed for the new book that explain those two big ideas: