Ask intimidating boss about priorities

How to Ask Your Boss About His Priorities without Sounding Disrespectful

In this time of confinement, we are each more aware of our limited resources: finances, time, energy, focus, humor, patience, and more.

Knowing our priorities helps us invest these personal and professional resources more wisely.

Our work priorities depend upon those of our boss.

Do you really know what three numbers keep our managers up at night? What are they measuring?

They be looking at different issues during confinement than in “normal” times

  • Cash
  • Sales pipeline
  • Employee health
  • Access to technology
  • Employee morale
  • Team communication
  • Employee autonomy
  • Interruptions during a workday

Especially during a crisis mode, it is vital to (re)align our efforts with our boss’ imperatives.

YOU and YOUR BOSS

How is your relationship with your manager?  Do you know there are 150 Million responses to “I hate my boss” on Google?!  (FYI 670 Million search “I hate my job.”)

Few of us are at ease calling our boss to ask about her priorities.  Coaching clients tell me this:

  • “It’s not my job to ask my boss about his priorities. My job is to follow his directives. He chooses. I act.”
  • “It would not make a difference if I asked my boss about her priorities. I still must do the same work.”
  • “We don’t have that kind of relationship. I am not her confidant. She asks us what is going on in the field. We don’t ask her what is going on in the board room. I think she’s a great boss because she listens to US!”

Employees expect the boss to take the lead.

And yet, you have the most to lose by not being aligned with your boss’ prioirities.  Your peace of mind, energy, and possibly job security depend upon it. 

How can YOU take this positive initiative and ask your boss about his priorities with utmost respect?

Prepare both the PEOPLE and the Content

Often preparation for a meeting focuses on getting the content right.

This process prepares the people too.

Prepare Yourself

The first person to prepare is YOU (and me!).  Mindset matters.

We all have some degree of the imposter syndrome. The underlying questions are, “What gives me the right (validity) to …?” “Should I ask my boss about his priorities?”

Try reframing the situation slightly to focus on results. You’ll discover empowering questions.

  • “How can I ask my boss about priorities in a way that makes her want to share them and even appreciative of the opportunity to do so?”
  • “How can I better help my boss perform well during these times of stress?”

Here, we focus on overcoming obstacles. Merely formulating these questions helps us to birth an action plan.

Prepare Your Boss

It is more the exception than the rule to enjoy strategic exchanges with our manager. He might be taken by surprise by your request.

Consider a two-step process to help him adjust.

  1. Tell him you want to ask about priorities
  2. Ask him

Prepare the Discussion Content & Process

I like to have a basic structure when engaging in open-ended discussions. Sounds counter-intuitive?!
Structure provides safety when venturing into less certain territory.

The following steps guides us in launching and closing the discussion with confidence. You will also gain pointers on how to stimulate the exchange if your first attempt does not generate the hoped-for response.

1. Explain the trigger for the discussion

Your boss might be wondering what makes you act “oddly.”

As humans, we fill in knowledge gaps with our own interpretation. And oftentimes with negative news!
Let her know from the onset this is a forward-thinking exchange. 😊

When you explain the trigger for the discussion, point out your motivation to grow professionally.

2. Confirm your objective to support your boss in her/his priorities

Products and services that sell well are those that satisfy a need. Your boss has needs too, among which performance criteria. Assure him that you are committed to those as well.

It sounds obvious, yet we can get caught up “doing our work” and forget the reason for it. The purpose of your discussion is to add purpose to your work!

3. Present the context which depicts the relevance of your question

As we work in increasingly complex organizational structures….and as we work from home during confinement (!)…your boss might not know exactly what you do.

He might be oblivious to the fact that you spend HOURS on projects that get dropped and that your motivation has taken a toll.

This is your opportunity to provide a succinct glimpse into your preoccupations. You can present these concerns in ways that reinforce the interest of the company or of the department.

  • To best use your time and focus
  • To maximize learning for the department
  • To best reach our quarterly objectives
  • To fully tap into collaborative teamwork

4. Make your ask

Your boss is the person who knows her priorities better than you do. There is a time for you to ask that she express them.

Directly.

Expecting an answer.

It’s O.K to leave a few seconds of silence. They might feel like hours (!). Your closed mouth puts the onus on your boss to speak.

It’s O.K to leave a few seconds of silence. They might feel like hours (!). Your closed mouth puts the onus on your boss to speak.

Many of my coaching clients fall into the trap of filling in silence. It makes them uncomfortable, so they speak.

Change your mindset about silence. Remember that when you ask a question and pause, your silence communicates loudly. It speaks of

  • Intent
  • Confidence
  • Self-Control
  • Interest

And more.

I was recently on a videoconference meeting where the decision-maker had been avoiding making a choice about when to kick-in an emergency plan. One of the participants finally presented the issue as a direct question.

“What is the minimum level of cash that triggers the emergency plan?” Silence.

His silence kept us quiet.

Finally, the manager responded. “I guess I have to make a decision.”

The participants remained silence still.

“Ok…” and we FINALLY got an answer!

Be serious about asking your boss about her priorities…and you will be taken seriously.

5. Prepare to listen MORE

Have you noticed how it is easier to listen when topics are relevant to us?!

The more we understand how our boss’ priorities relate to our work, the more fruitful the discussion will be for you or me.

You can guide the discussion with well thought-out queries.

  • If _____(such and such happened) what impact do you see that having on our work?
  • What might maximize our chances of success?
  • Where are the risks higher and where are the stakes lower?

6. Have a back-up plan

I teach a class on resilience. One of the keys to being able to pick up and get back into the game is to have a Plan B.

Think of professional soccer players. They fall all the time. And get back up again. They even have training sessions on how to fall so that they can rise up again quickly.

A Plan B gives room for margin.  You and I don’t have to be perfect on the first attempt.

A back-up plan is like a life vest. When we swim out of our comfort zone and into deep waters, we have something to keep us afloat.

As a Plan B, anticipate several of your boss’ priorities and ask her to comment on those and even to rank them in order of importance.

You could even present potentially conflicting priorities and explore how your manager evaluates and compares them.

7. Link strategies to actions

In the interactive story mentioned above, The Calamities of Jade, Jade had been previously assigned a Project A. She brings it up during this strategic discussion with her boss. “How does Project A fit in with your priorities? “

(We don’t know the answer yet. In fact, it’s YOUR vote that determines it! Click here to vote on #SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork.)

Our companies thrive because ideas get implemented. Your boss’ priorities impact decisions about how you and I spend our time, energy, attention, affection, and finances.

In the end, it comes to “Just doing it.”

Gain clarity on what needs to be done!

8. Close with thanks

Thank YOU!

Working with a Challenging Boss

How is your relationship with your boss?

I help managers and high potentials manage themselves and their bosses with confidence.

You spend most of your hours at work.  If your manager is a source of discouragement, you carry that with you in all facets of your life.  You used to have the commute ride home to unwind.  With confinement, that discouragement enters your own home.

Let’s (re)build your confidence and your positive impact.

Send me an email to share your goals and the obstacles that keep you from reaching them.  Let’s connect to see if my online training and coaching is the right solution for you to boost your confidence and your career.

Cover photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Resilience to keep from hitting wall

Resilience: How strong is yours?

It’s the second week of confinement in Paris. It was tougher to set myself to work this morning than last Monday.  How about for you?

The realization hit.  BUMMER!  This thing is going to LAST. 

I’m going to need two vital skills:  Resilience & Endurance.

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Revolutionized World Overnight

I am reconnecting with friends by phone.  Many conversations begin with, “I can’t believe how our world has transformed, quasi overnight…” 

Life two weeks ago

At work

  • Which products and services to push?
  • Where to invest for growth?

At home

  • With whom to go out for some fun?
  • Where shall we meet to eat?

Today

At work

  • Which which employees to keep?  And for the others…??!? 😕
  • Where to find funds?

At home

  • What can we do at home?
  • Where can I find pasta?!

Last week’s vital skill:  Adaptability

Transformation went into full swing last week as companies put in place remote working and dealt with the overextended Internet.  Everyone had to be adaptable.

Did you too have the sound cut in videos and it took forever to exchange files?  We dealt with it.  If Internet cut, we used the phone.

Last week we were in frequent contact with colleagues.  We were establishing remote work.  This week we are trying to initiate “business as usual.”  That’s when we discover that we’ll need to change our weekly team meetings.  They were designed to be face-to-face.

Last week we understood when people checked in a few minutes late for the online meeting, but this week it’s less unacceptable.  That’s TOUGH, especially in cultures where the 9 o’clock meeting begins at 9:09.

On the personal front, maybe you had cleaning help and now….  Who will take the initiative to scrub the toilet and swipe off the toothpaste guck in the sink?!  And this is on top of extra childcare, longer lines for grocery shopping, and more.

What Skills for Today & Tomorrow:

Resilience & Endurance

Growth curveWe each want MORE than survival.  Thriving would be nice.  We want to grow.

In an ideal world, we hope for a perpetual upward trend.

OK, I can get my brain around the fact that there will be ups and downs.  But more ups than downs!

Now, with the upheaval of our society, I finally recognize that success might look more like this:

Stuck. need resilience BAD

What are the keys to thriving in this confused context?

Have you tried to unwind an unruly KNOT?

As a child, I used to have long red hair that I could tuck into my pants…until my dad was in charge of me for a few days.  Unlike my mom, he did not brush my hair daily.  My hair got tangled up.  A little the first day.  More the next. Until the only solution was to cut my hair short. (Now it’s short!)

Hair is easy to fix.  Life, career, client and relationships, and family are another matter.  That’s why these are ESSENTIAL.

Resilience – noun.  The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Endurance – noun.  The ability to bear an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.

Resilience BUILDING

How strong is your resilience?

Resilience is like a muscle.

When our resilience muscle is in shape, we can handle challenges and come out of top.  Obstacles are just that:  obstructions in our path that require a strategy to overcome. Until we reach the next one.  We might stumble, but we have the physical and mental strength to get up and try again.

When our resilience muscle is out of shape, obstacles become a wall.

Runner with resilience
Will you keep running…or hit the wall?

That’s what I want to help you avoid.

PLEASE plant the tree before you need shade.

Huh?

You and I have a long, tough road ahead.  Life has always been a marathon…and this next one might take us through desert terrain.  We will need shade for restauration and a fresh perspective.

NOW is the time to build the resilience muscle.

That’s why, during confinement, I am posting a daily #ResilienceBuilder.  It’s one step to gain the positive mindset, the constructive communication skills, and the endurance to thrive, even during tough times.

It’s my gift to you and you’ll find it on the Facebook group #SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork.

Enjoy your daily #ResilienceBuilders…and good mood boosters! 😃

P.S. AND they are designed for YOU to buid resilience and for you to HELP YOUR TEAMS OR KIDS build resilience too.

#ResilienceBuilder
#ResilienceBuilder
unanswered emails

Collective Intelligence Solutions – “No one answers my emails!”

Do you ever feel like your communication goes into a big blank void.

“Hello, is anyone out there?”

A client, let’s call her De Nise 😉, shared this challenge.  She sends out emails…and no one responds.

Silence.

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWorkDe Nise shared:  “It’s an important issue I am writing about.  Does no one care?  How can I make them more responsible?”

Tapping into Collective Intelligence

I proposed we try a collective-intelligence solution-finding.  It is a tool available to you on the Facebook private group SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork.  Click below for your invitation to join.

Here is how it works:

  • A person shares a work challenge
  • I work with that person to clarify the context of the issue
  • In a moderated discussion led by me, we invite members of the community to share their perspective and what they would do if they were in this situation.

Did you catch that?  NOT what the other person should do. What they would do if they were in that situation. 

Why go through this process?

What Collective Intelligence can do for you

You and I can get stuck in our mindset.  We think the same way over and over.  People are creatures of habit, and each of us has thinking patterns as well.

These thinking routines are helpful in many situations.  We don’t have to reflect deeply on how to sit down on a chair during a meeting or on how to open our computers.

Yet we get trapped in patterns of thought.

I remember a very aggitated fellow conference speaker.  We were before an audience of several hundred people and he could not get his password to work on the computer.  He muttered under his breath: “I have not changed the passcode…The computer worked yesterday!…Do I have a virus? 😨…Why did I not put my presentation on a USB key!….”

And he retyped his password over and over again to no avail.

I suggested he might check the Caps Lock key.  “What is it?  I never use it. That’s not possible.”  Yet this key on the keyboard can get accidently pushed and stay pushed and changes lower case letters into CAPITAL LETTERS.  Well, he was typing 3pASSWORD3  instead of “Password” and no wonder his computer did not open.

An outside perspective gave him a solution he would not have considered in his habitual thinking.

Collective intelligence brings fresh perspectives.

Collective Intelligence at #SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

So what happens on the Facebook private group SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork?

Below is a recap of the exchange between myself and my client as we tapped into collective intelligence.

YOU TOO can experience this constructive group brainstorming first-hand on Thursday, March 12 at 2:00 p.m. Paris time.  Click on the button below to get your invitation.

Collective Intelligence Business Case:
No one answers my emails!

My client (we are calling her De Nise) shared her frustrations about no response to emails.  Faced with a communication void she lost confidence in herself and began questioning the value of her contributions at work.

(You may have experienced similar feelings over different issues.  Feel free to post your specific situation on the group SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork and we’ll help you find alternative answers.)

Example of discussions on SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork:

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWorkDe Nise No one answers my emails! It’s so frustrating. 😠
Aren’t they concerned? How do I get others to be responsible?

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre It’s a bummer De Nise to feel in an information void. Did you know that our brains are wired to fill in these data gaps…and it does it with thoughts of what we fear:
– “Are they speaking behind my back?”
– “Are they questioning my performance or capabilities?”
– “Is my work insignificant?”
– “Do I have the email version of bad breath (people stay away and you are not sure why)?”

So let’s get a fresh, more positive (and productive) perspective.

We can start by focusing on a specific situation so that we can fill in the data

  • To whom was the email addressed? (ex. just to my boss, to my 5 colleagues, to….)
  • Can you summarize the message in one sentence?
  • How long was the email?
  • What did you ask?

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWorkDe Nise – In this one urgent case, I addressed the email to 5 people, a mix of clients and of suppliers. We are working on a full-day presentation for the client company and the day’s program is timed to the minute. I am the event coordinator. At our rehearsal, the client managers were not ready with their individual presentation. We are heading for a disaster if the client managers speak overtime…and when they prepare at the last minute that is what usually happens. I sent the email to my boss and colleagues at the event management firm, to the client coordinator, and to the venue manager.

No one seems concerned. Am I the only one to be responsible?!

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – Would you be open to a fresh perspective and to hear what other people might do in your situation?

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

De Nise – Sure , why not .

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – I presented this situation to my own mastermind group and here are people’s response to the question: “If you were in this situation, what would you do?”

  • “I would re-read my email from the perspective of the receiver. Is it clear what is expected of them? Where are there ambiguities? Then I would re-write a short email making a clear request.”
  • “I would call up each person concerned and ask them how they view the situation and what they suggest to respect both the timing and the managers’ egos.”
  • “I would send out a note about best practices for presentations at an event like this. It would include tips about slides (one point per slide, limit the text, make it legible from afar…). It would indicate an approximate minutes per slide (ex. from 3 to 8 slides for a 5-minute presentation).”
  • “I would write an email entitled ‘Action Steps’ and indicate a clear next step such as ‘Managers to submit their slides for a 5-minute presentation by ____ (date).”
  • “Are there regular follow-up meetings? I would do nothing now and add ‘Timing and Manager Presentations’ to the agenda for the next meeting.”
  • “I would ask my boss what is expected of me. Whose job is it to manage the timing? If it is not my job, then let the other person do it. If it is my job, then I would connect with my counterpart at the client to see how we can better communicate the time-limit to the managers.”
  • “I would not take it personally. We get so many emails; they get lost in our mailbox. I would simply send another email…and make the title catchy.”

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

De Nise – WOW!  I had not realized there were SO MANY WAYS to address this issue !

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – So, which one will you try this week?

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

De Nise – I have to choose ?

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – You mentioned you were willing to try something new. That begins with choosing a novel approach. Which one will you try?

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

De Nise – I am not comfortable with some of these ideas, but I could send out the guide for best practices with indications of how many slides per minute. This would give us all a reference point and if a manager submits 40 slides, I can refer him back to the guide. I feel more confident this way.

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – Great, let us know how it went.

A week later…

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – De Nise Sooooo…. How did it go?

 Avatar SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

De Nise – Well, I ended up doing nothing then and waiting for the next meeting. No one mentioned my email, but we addressed the issue. I realized after our exchange that my email was not clear. It only mentioned a problem and no solution. And it would have been more effective if I addressed the issue either directly with my boss or with my client contact. I am now more conscious of how I write emails.

Thanks. I had felt quite vulnerable, but this ended up being very HELPFUL.

Denise Dampierre SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork

Denise Dampierre – That’s what the group is for.  Keep it up!

Get your issue resolved with Collective Intelligence

Soooo…what did you think?  I would very much appreciate your feedback.

You might prefer to do so in a setting with more confidentiality and even anonymity.  (You can use your first name only on Facebook)

Rendez-vous on the Facebook private group SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork !

Last photo with my dad

TGIF – Remembering Al McDonald, my father

Hello.

I have been silent these past weeks.  My parents recently moved to a senior residence.  Once Dad was assured that Mom was settled in, and I had just had time to hang pictures on the wall, my father passed away.

This newsletter is quite personal, and I share my faith in Jesus Christ.  If this turns you off, now is the time to close this email.

So, here goes for a politically incorrect and totally genuine TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, and Fun.

Trust

I am trusting in eternal life.

My father, Al McDonald, died last Thursday, one week before Thanksgiving.  I am trusting in eternal life that is a gift through Jesus Christ.

It is with sad but grateful hearts that we commemorate the extraordinary life of co-founder Alonzo (“Al”) McDonald, who passed away this past week at the age of 91. Al’s remarkable life included service as CEO of McKinsey, President and Vice-Chairman of the Bendix Corporation, White House staff Director for President Carter, Deputy Special Trade Representative, and Harvard Business School faculty member. Al also founded and chaired the McDonald Agape Foundation, and served as founding Chairman of the Trinity Forum, which he helped launch with Os Guinness in 1991. 

extract from The Trinity Forum newsletter

Click here to read the tribute to Al McDonald by author Os Guinness.

Dad himself wrote about his faith in three essays printed by The Trinity Forum.  You can get free copies (scroll down on this page for instructions):

Trusting in eternal life means believing that the best has just begun.  I consider that eternal life begins NOW…and the best experiences we have in our life here on earth are merely signposts of our life after death.  Life as we experience it daily resembles the light of a lamp, whereas life after death is like basking in sunlight.

I am trusting that my father is in the best time of his life ever!

Gratitude

Grief is real.  We grieve because we love and were loved.  What a privilege to have shared tenderness with my father throughout various times in my life.  I am grateful to having loved, to continue loving, and to be loved.

Al McDonald young father
When he believed in me even though I fell LOTS.
Al McDonald father
During my awkward years. Gotta have vision!  (No Photoshoping!)
Al McDonald grandfather
When he welcomed my husband and invested in our kids and the next generation.

Inspiration

Here is what I learned from my father:

You don’t try, you don’t get.

Opportunities come to those who take risks.  Wise risk-taking centers on identifying your personal perspective on potential gain and potential loss.

Dad spoke of decision he had made where colleagues had focused on the discomfort (moving internationally with young kids to a country speaking a foreign tongue) or the downsides (leaving headquarters and the center of power).

He had seen and sought out challenge and growth opportunities…and choosing the less travelled road made all the difference.

Keep growing.

My dad embraced life through learning.  He devoured books.  He sought opportunities to go out of his comfort zone.  And he only settled for excellence.  If we could do better, then why settle for less. 

When he read our report cards, his tone of voice changed from satisfaction to questionning when an “A” turned into an “A – “!  Yes, he put on pressure to perform!

Maybe in reaction to this intensity, each of his four children chose a career path quite different from his.  And yet, we each integrate love of excellence, hunger for understanding, and wonder of life.

Be strong
…and sometimes that means being weak.

For the first half of his life, my father sought strength through power. He reached his level of professional success through exceptional strategic intellect, political savvy…and some bulldozing.

When I entered college, my father’s faith in Jesus Christ had a transforming impact on his life.  Before, Dad “did the right religious moves.” On Sundays he was a respected church member.  Yet, during the week, he forged forward, sometimes leaving debris on the wayside.

Then he chose to follow Jesus. Not just to proclaim allegiance, but to put his beliefs into action.  I remember a special dinner when I was in college. He asked for forgiveness for the mistakes he may have made as a father.  It’s not that he suddenly became Mr. Nice Guy and immediately adopted non-violent communication tools.  It was a beginning of a new trend, of seeking strength through humility.

The end of his life is crowned in tenderness.

Last photo with my dad
My last photo with my father.

Fun

Dad had two things read to him the day he died.  The Bible and the lunch menu.  He loved God’s word and fine dining.

We are having a party to celebrate his life and legacy.  I am soooo looking forward to being with people he loved and to cherishing his memory and their company.  It’s bittersweet…and also fun.

 

Next…

I am taking time off from these TGIF letters.  We can be so busy doing.  Doing our work.  Being busy.

I want to take some time to be.  Sip tea with my mom.  Bask in sunshine.  Celebrate Christmas, family, and life.  Clarify priorities for the new year.

Let’s stay in touch.  With love and appreciation,

Denise

TGIF - Halloween in Paris

TGIF – Collective Intelligence on Halloween

Helloooooooo…..  How was your week and Halloween?  It inspired me for the TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, and Fun.

Trust

“What do you do when there is a relationship challenge at work?” It’s a question I often ask folk around me.

Many people respond with some kind of avoidance.  Either to avoid the issue  (“I pretend it’s OK.  It’s not worth making a fuss over it.”) or they try and create distance with the person (“I look for another job.”)

I have been helping professionals find alternative ways to handle these uncomfortable situations and to come out with win-win solutions.  We meet as a group with the specific purpose of identifying alternative ways to manage difficult and delicate situations.  The results are amazing.

I am trusting in the power of collective intelligence.

People feel heard.  They realize other people share similar issues.  When someone else experiences the problem, they are able to step back and find helpful solutions to get unstuck.  They also hear of alternative ways to overcome the problem, ideas they would not have come up with on their own!

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. – John Donne

Here is how it works: one person presents a challenging issue.  The others share what they would do if they were in that situation.  We address topics as varied as

  • How to manage the colleague who is trying to impress your boss when you are presenting a new project
  • How to get team members to meet their deadlines
  • For are a company with a kitchen for coffee and tea.  How to handle doing the dishes in a fair and just way?
  • How to better include the foreigner (or woman or the “different one”…) in decision-making
  • ….

I lead these groups within companies (where people know each other) and with groups that get together with the sole purpose of transforming “stuck-in-the-muck” into do-able inspiration.

Gratitude

I am reading Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Aldom.  It’s a collection of conversations between a previous student and his dying professor (he has ALS known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.   The body loses muscle control, starting from the feet and moving up.  There is no cure.)

Here is what Morrie Schwartz says about the window. (!!!!)  How often are you and I grateful for a window?!

He nodded towards the window with the sunshine straming in.  “You see that?  You can go out there, outside anytime.  You can run up and down the block and go crazy.  I can’t do that.  I can’t go out.  I can’t run. But I appreciate that window more than you do.

I look out that window every day.  I notice the change in the trees, how strong the wind is blowing. It’s as if I can see time actually passing through that window-pane.  Because I know my time is almost done.  I am drawn to nature like I’m seeing it for the first time.

Inspiration

Here are a few more inspiring nuggets from Morrie

“Everyone knows they’re going to die, but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.

Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

It is inspiring to read about death without it being gory or dreary.  Death is a reality.  Maybe you too have aging parents.

Thank you Morrie for the inspiration to challenge me to live every day as PRECIOUS.

Fun

Collective intelligence and Halloween got me thinking.  Lots of eyeballs giving fresh perspectives and many brains all together.

eyeballs and brains

Yes, we did have Trick-or-Treaters come by our Parisian home.  I offered them eyeballs, brains, or toffee….eeeeehhhhhh!

“Can I taste an eyeball?” !!!!!

Cracked me up.  Lots of fun.

 

Wishing you a great week.  A bientôt (next week), Denise

TGIF - Trust Gratitude Inspiration Fun

TGIF – Thanks for saying, “Thank you”

Hello.  I just returned from a visit with my aging parents.  What a bittersweet time of memories and tenderness.  That’s why I am trusting in gratitude.  Read on for the entire TGIF rundown – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, & Fun!

Trust

Thankfulness is a game changer.  I’m trusting in gratitude.

This past week, I spent doing some pretty unpleasant, menial tasks as I cared for my parents.

Holding hand of aging parent
From Long Island Pulse online magazine.

Their genuine and heartfelt thanks made serving them easy and tender.  I experienced first-hand how gratitude transforms a chore into an opportunity to connect.  I am trusting in the transformational power of gratitude.

Image from Tinybop

Gratitude

I am grateful for the clear-headedness of my recent workshop participants.  I was leading a session on project management and one of the members fainted.  One second she was standing.  The next she lay inert on the floor.

The group of upcoming leaders rallied to her succor: two rushed off to secure medical assistance, others led stragglers out of the room to keep the place calm, others kept talking to her and rubbing her face, … Each person found a practical way to contribute to an unexpected and potentially dangerous situation.

Everyone survived…and as a group, we thrived.

Inspiration

On September 30, 2019 Jessye Norman died and left this earth.  What an inspiration of character, hard work, grit, as well as talent.

I love how she interpreted the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, at the 200th anniversary of the French revolution.

Jessye Norman’s dress à la French flag. Seen here with the designer, Azzedine Alaïa.

Here she is captivating the French audience with her talent.  Click on the image to enjoy the short video!

Jesse Norman sings La Marseillaise

Fun

Tomorrow I’m going apple picking!  Fun & Yummmm…

 

Wishing you a great week.

A bientôt (next week), Denise

Neat & New Stuff

Enjoy these posts inspired by my father’s wisdom:

“Aging isn’t for sissies!”

What’s YOUR Focus Word?

Boy looking through telescope. Searching Focus word!

As life passes, one realizes time is…limited.  That’s a focusing thought!  Read on…

 

When It’s Urgent to Reflect

Man reflecting in parkI wrote this post after a hearing a professor speak on leadership and reflexion at a Harvard Business School reunion.  My father had encouraged me to attend the school and the place holds a soft spot for us.   Read on…

Serenity.  To Accept the Things We Cannot Change

Serenity of lighthouseWe cannot change the passage of time and the impact it has on our bodies and our relationships.  But discover what we can do about it!  Read on…

Interview with Elizabeth Moreno, CEO of Lenovo France

Jumping across rocks. Risk taking.Lenovo speaks of taking risks:  how she learned how to embrace risk-taking with confidence and thrive.  Read on…

TGIF - sooo much homemade jam

TGIF – 5-Minute Daily Preview. Sweet!

Oh, what a beautiful day.  It’s Friday and TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, & Fun!

Trust

At the beginning of each day most days,  I take five minutes to think of the people with whom I will be connecting during that day.  I am trusting in how these few moments change me.

When I approach an encounter with fine-tuned expectations and a productive attitude, the exchange we have later in the day benefits.

Previewing the day

Here is what I review in those brief minutes:

  • How do I feel about meeting with them?
  • What might they be anticipating?
  • What result would I like from our exchange?

AND

  • What attitude do I need to have to make it a positive encounter?

These five minutes boost the pleasure and the efficiency of my time with these folks.

I might have taken a person’s work as a given and take time to recall and appreciate the effort they invested.  Or I realize that I need to clarify the desired outcome of a meeting.

These 5-Minute Previews also make me mindful of and grateful for the unplanned encounters during the day.  It’s a gift when

  • At the coffee machine, we meet the person we were trying to track down
  • We were able to connect with someone by text and get the needed information or support

I am trusting in applying respectful communication tools and to staying respectful even especially when it’s tough.

Gratitude

It’s bee-thanking time again.  We harvested our hives and put the honey in jars.  And thanks to those buzzing beauties, the fruit trees were pollinated, and I was able to make a TON of jam.

The grocers at our local market must be thankful for me.  My “jamming” keeps them in business!

Honey and homemade jams

Inspiration

I am hoping to be inspired by Marie Kondi, the tidying specialist.  The first chapter into her book prepared me to be inspired.  She speaks of changing mindset which then, naturally, leads to altered behavior.

This is what I teach in my constructive communication classes!

And yet, I feel (fear?) that reading the book implicates work.  Effort.  Part of me prefers to take life easy AND not deal with the consequences!!!!!  Sooner than later, reality checks in.

That’s what my trainees must feel (fear?) too!

I’ll read the book…or watch the Netflix.

Tidy up and spark joy

Fun

The exchanges of our family WhatsApp group have been particularly fun-filled this week.

When used well, WhatsApp groups can create community and bring people close together despite long distances.

Warning:  Especially when the group is large, it’s good to set ground rules.  Twenty “😍” and “👍” get redundant.

Here is a glimpse of our family “discussion” when one son took his driving test…

Fun family conversation

What fun are you planning for this weekend?  We all benefit from some nice, clean (tidy) fun!
😀😀😀😀😀😀 ….

 

Wishing you a great week.

A bientôt (next week), Denise

Neat & New Stuff

4 Gifts Colleagues Crave…and Never Make the List

Birthday Wishes for adult

What do you offer your team members for their birthday?  Chocolate? Nothing!  

Try these gifts which build belonging and confidence.

Read on…

The Million Dollars Birthday Chair

Boys blowing out birthday candlesGet lots of bang for little buck with this fun way to celebrate birthdays.  Works with kids of all ages, those at home and folk at work.

Read on…

 

TGIF-rain in paris

TGIF – Us vs. Them

Hello for the weekly rendez-vous on Friday.  TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, and Fun.

Trust

I am trusting in the Power (and sweetness) of Diversity.

Diversity in icecream. Tin Pot Creamery

This past Monday France was on holiday for Pentecost.  It is the Christian “Diversity Day,” and what happened that day holds insights for how we create or break a sense of belonging. Let me explain.

Pentecost is a day when the group became defined by its center, not by its barriers.

Pentecost marks the day when the news about Jesus’ resurrection became international news.  His disciples, mostly uneducated small-town fishermen, spoke Hebrew and were following the Jewish calendar of celebrating Passover in Jerusalem. The city was full of people who traveled from other nations to celebrate the feast.  According to the Bible*, on Pentecost the disciples were given a supernatural ability to speak these foreign languages and told about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

In 2019 terms, this is like being confused while watching a foreign movie without subtitles. Then, amazingly, the actors come to you and play the scene in your own language and you understand.

What does this have to do with diversity?  Many groups are defined by their border.  It’s a barrier which describes who is “in” and who is “OUT.” 

  • We are women, you are men.
  • We are Ivy League School graduates…What’s your background?
  • We are…

and the list goes on.

Pentecost is a day when the group became defined by its center, not by its barriers.  By making the news of Jesus available to people of all languages, the focus became Jesus and not the cultural barriers.

Jesus Mafa African Mary & JesusI am trusting that each of us will choose to focus on common, centering principles such as justice and equal rights.  You and I, as we lead by example and act within our circles of influence, can make a difference in building inclusive cultures within our companies and communities.

And, I love this image of the Madonna and child by Jesus Mafa.  Why should Jesus look like a well-fed, richly clothed Italian infant from the Renaissance period?!   This image made me aware of some of my unconscious biases.

Maybe you too have seen the T-shirts that read, “I met God.  She’s black.” 🙂  When we meet God, I think every one of us will be surprised.

*For the Pentecost story, see Acts chapter 2

Gratitude

Thank you to the people who support the “cause” of others

  • For the men promoting women to leadership
  • For the whites insisting on equal rights for people of other races
  • For the atheists welcoming prayers of the faithful
  • For the healthy investing in equipment for the disabled

I am also grateful to one of my sons, he was about 10 years old at the time, who said, “Mom, you do stuff for Christians.  What do you do for non-Christians?”  That question changed how I invest my time and energy…and eventually to why I am writing you right now.

Thanks, darling.

Inspiration

Following up on these meaning-of-life thoughts, my inspiration this week comes from an Excel file!!!!!!

Isabelle Roux-Buisson is mentoring me on an entrepreneurial project, and she sent me an “Assumptions Dashboard” spreadsheet.  This has been so helpful and grounding.

assumptions entrepreneurs make

Entrepreneurship is like navigating in the fog.  We move forward step by step and try to get as much clarity as possible.  Writing down assumptions gives shape to potential obstacles.  Testing these premises opens the way for opportunities.

Her inspiring impetus boosted me to test market presuppositions and to move from the “I hope” stage to the “that door is closed but this one is open!” phase.

Isabelle is a senior executive in the tech field and a jury for the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition in Europe.  You can learn from her too!  Here is her interview on how she developed Emotional Intelligence throughout various stages of her career.

Fun

Last week, I hinted at our D-Day inspired haircutting ritual.  The Allied forces brought the harbor to Arromanches-les-Bains; we bring our hairdresser to our home.

It’s been going on for over two decades.  That means it’s working…and we make it fun!

Haircut at home for boys
Haricut at home for men

All six of us pass through Adrien Bracon’s expert snips.  When the kids were tykes it was exhausting having them sit still BOTH while in a barber’s chair AND while their brothers’ Chewbacca (massive head of hair) got trimmed.  HELL.

Instead we sip flavored coffee, exchange music, and send emails (!) while getting our hair reshaped.  And since there are six of us, haircutting time always falls around mealtime.  We easily transition to wine and cheese.

These pictures were taken at the same place with the same people, 15 years apart.

I love to take the bore out of a chore.  What small shift in perspective – a reframe – could make your life more pleasant? 

Get in touch.  This is what I talk about with clients: transforming a relationship challenge into an opportunity for growth.

See below the article on fresh perspectives inspired by inclement weather.  The cover image on the TGIF is from Christophe Jacrot, an amazing photographer taking pictures in the snow and rain.  It’s been raining every day in Paris this week.  That was less fun for me, but the plants love it!

Looking forward to being in touch next Friday.

Neat & New Stuff

Interview with Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-BuissonIsabelle shares how she leaned on emotional intelligence (EI) skills throughout her career.  Each stage of leadership requires different skills to connect with and motivate team members and other stakeholders. She shares how learned about emotional intelligence and then intentionally integrated these skills into her management style.  Read on…

3 Managerial Insights from Snow in Paris

Paris in the snowIt’s not literally freezing in Paris, but the weather sure is cold for this time of year and intense precipitation falls every day. This post presents fresh perspectives on work that were gained from inclement weather.  It’s a reframing with the intent to make your management as productive and more fun.

Read on…

Looking for Interview Suggestions

Can you recommend a wise leader with a message related to building constructive conversations at work?  Many of you appreciate the interviews I led with tried and tested leaders who overcame challenging conditions.

It would be an honor to know about them and to possibly interview them.  Please send me an email.

Remembering Normandy D-Day

TGIF – Remembering D-Day

Seventy-five years ago, yesterday, the Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches and defeated the Germans in the Battle of Normandy.  An Allied victory for World War II was in sight.  Nazi exterminations and indoctrinations would be exposed and stopped.

June 6, 1944 remains one of the world-changing days of history.  Our world would be vastly different without that day.  There would be no state of Israel.  Europe would have been “culturally cleansed.” My imagination cannot fathom the consequences.

The above photo is from the movie, The Longest Day which recalls the event.

Trust

Today, I am trusting in Democracy.

It’s a scary thought as I view political unrest among nations.  It is true of countries that boast democratically elected governments and those of other regimes.  So what gives me hope?

Normandy d-day
Town center is named after D-Day, June 6 in 1944

Democracy can and does evolve.  After World War II, when many of the French political leaders were tainted with collaboration with the Nazi’s, the country adopted its 4th constitution.  In order to limit abuse of control, power was concentrated in the legislative branches.  In a divided country, there was insufficient support to implement unpopular reforms.  War, again, led to the establishment of the 5th Republic.  The president, elected by the citizens, runs the country with consultation of the prime minister which he appoints and who is approved by the elected legislative representatives.

With the recent Yellow Jacket unrest there is talk of a 6th republic.  What is the role of the citizen?  What does representation mean in the Age of Information?  Who decides what?

My trust in democracy is like faith as described in the Bible:  confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

I see the need for an evolving democracy.  I trust it will come about.

Gratitude

Gravestone from Normandy D-Day
Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.

THANK YOU to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for you and me 75 years ago.

When our sons were young, we visited Omaha Beach, Arromanches-les-Bains, and the American Memorial and Cemetery in Normandy.  As the boys read the gravestones, they calculated the ages of the soldiers.  Many were 19,20, 21 years old.

These young men did not all fight by choice.  They left behind grieving families.  Each one was a person with a unique story…even the unidentified soldiers.

I am grateful for their sacrifice to me, an unknown stranger of a future generation.

Inspiration

During our visit to the Normandy beaches I discovered the artificial harbor at Arromanches-les-Bains.

Frankly, I had not thought much about wars and how they are fought, lost or won. In this quaint seaside town, I learned of the vital importance of logistics

  • Medical supplies for the wounded
  • Food for the soldiers
  • Gas for the tanks
  • Bullets for the guns

Because of these needs, the Germans expected the Allies to land in an established port.  The waters of Gold and Omaha Beaches were too rough to allow for unloading from tankers and transportation on land.

That’s where the Mulberry Harbor played a vital role.  The British devised a transportable harbor.  What inspirational, ingenious out-of-the-box thinking!

On the horizon, you can still see the sunken cement blocks that created the artificial harbor.

D-Day landing in Normandy
Mulberry Harbor on the horizon…and in front!

Fun

I had fun looking through old family photos to find those of our Normandy beach outings.  When I came across these I laughed out loud.  The hair!  The boys’ energy!

Stay tuned for next week.  We use the Allied philosophy on hair-cutting.  Bring the barber chez nous!

Clearly our family is not perfect…nonetheless, we are precious!

LOL

In the Spotlight

When Values Translate into Behavior

Inspiration from the Normandy D-Day that you and I can apply at work and at home.  It’s about choosing where to invest our time, attention, energy, and finances in order to reach our goals for 30 years from now.

Read on…

Precious or Perfect?  Wisdom from Notre Dame

Being good enough.  Is that perfection?  But we’ll never reach it!

Inspiration from the drama at Notre Dame on the dark sides of perfectionism.  All it takes is a spark to burst into destructive flames!

Read on…