Boy looking through telescope. Searching Focus word!

What’s Your Focus Word?

For years now, I enjoy a Word-for-the-Year.  This year it is “Community.”

This focus word is more like a road to travel than a destination.  Think of Robert Frost’s diverging road in the yellow wood.  Frost chose the road less travelled; his focus word could have been “adventure” or “beyond comfort zone” or “curiosity.”  Someone with an inclination towards “security,” “comfort,” or “one step at a time” may have followed the path well-trod.

 You and I face a TON of decisions daily.  Research reveals the debilitating impact of decision-overload.  By the time 5 o‘clock rolls around, our brains are spent from making choices as varied as which of the five cereals to eat for breakfast to allocating resources to major business projects.

A focus word streamlines decisions.  It’s a lens through which we view the world.

Through the perspective of my focus word, community, it does not matter which cereal I eat so long as I breakfast with my kids.  In my business, I’m seeking partnerships.

Don’t you too wish to look back over the day or week or year and assert with assurance that we lived One. Great. Time.

How will we measure “great”?  Through the focus word!

The Focus Word vs. Chaos

People ask me, “But, isn’t this limiting?  One word for the entire year?!”

Science affirms that our natural tendency is towards chaos. 

An unkept gardens grows into a mini-jungle.  Without an agenda and a leader, a meeting can oh-so-quickly degenerate into a griping session or a game of office politics.  No house-rules about eating invite snacking and fewer sit-down family meals.

It takes effort to keep chaos at bay.  Intentionality.   

You and I know that our energy is finite.  Effort is good.  Exhaustion isn’t helpful.  The focus word helps set boundaries that are simultaneously clear and gentle.

The Focus Word & Barrier or Center-Orientation

A mentor speaks of two ways to define groups.  This can be applied to behaviors as well.

  • According to the barriers. 
    On one side people or actions are “in” and others are “out.” 
Star-belly Sneetches are “In”. Plain bellies are “out.”
Center is the focus
  • According to the center.
    Those whose life is most aligned with the center enjoy the greatest sense of belonging and stability.  The core is the key.

A focus word provides a center-orientation to your day, week, and year.

Examples of Focus Words

The focus words frees us from guilt at having missed our goal or “crossed the boundary.”  Tomorrow we are presented with yet another opportunity to move closer to the center.

Here are some examples

Slow

Slow” was one of my previous words.  Changes abounded in personal and professional life and I felt confused and sometimes trapped.  Many circumstances lay outside of my control.  No matter how hard I pressed life’s accelerator, the situation did not move faster.

Slow meant

  • Give people space.  My concern lay foremost on my mind…not on everyone’s.  Respect their priorities too.
  • Grow in the waiting.  Consider this period of my life as a gift to me to prepare for an upcoming action-packed rhythm.  What can I learn about myself and others?  Where do I need to heal/grow/give/be silent?
  • Be vs. Do.  Love myself. Period. And allow others to be vs. trying to change them.  Sooo much easier said than done!

The “Slow” focus word impacted my daily routine (I integrated more time for thinking) and my attitude towards others (I would catch myself judging people and remember to listen and observe before jumping to conclusions). 

When waiting grew frustrating, I would take long walks to review my life’s journey.  Five years ago, I could not have imagined my current life!

Decisions

I worked with a woman who chose “Decisions” as her focus word. 

The word seemed obvious as she faced upcoming transitions.  She grew even more through the more subtle, daily decisions she learned to recognize and take

  • Her attitude in face of uncertainty
  • Her actions when others behaved inappropriately (according to her)
  • Her time management and priorities
  • The food she ate and her exercise practices

Fruitfulness

One woman chose to apply this Bible verse to her life, focusing one of these fruit per year:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5: 22-23

She was mature in years and experience and was going through the cycle again!  Her focus word impacted her behavior so powerfully that friends recognized when it was the year for joy or tolerance (forbearance) or gentleness.

Impact

A focus word has impact.  We grow both for ourselves and those with whom we work and live.  

I hope that at the end of this year, friends, colleagues, and family will feel enjoyment  at being together. ?

Choosing a Focus Word

How do we choose a focus word?  From the heart and soul, not the head.

Psychologists assert that our beliefs, not our intellectualization, impact our behaviors.  A focus word that sticks addresses our emotions and our vulnerabilities.  It goes beyond the rational.  We can be blind to those underlying assumptions and mindsets.

Here are two ways I have found helpful to remove our barriers and identify a focus word.

Ask

I was taught to ask in prayer.  The focus word is a spiritual exercise.  Do you believe in a higher being?  Ask for a focus word. 

Alternatively, petition trusted friends. “If you would give me one word for the year, what would it be?”

When they answer, notice your physical reaction.  Does it hit you in the gut?  Are you comforted in your mind?  Do you feel embraced?

With that awareness, sit with the word for a week.  The initial reaction, whether positive or not, is not always the last word.  Some of us need a wake-up call.  Others crave encouragement. 

To sit with the word, I put it on my calendar as an all-day event that lasts a week.  I see it everyday and let it ruminate.

You can ask me.  Send me a note.  It would be a delight to work together to identify a focus word for the year…it’s a way to build community with you! 

Do the Pizza Plan

Another useful technique is the Pizza Plan.  This four-step process brings to focus important facets of your life (pieces of pizza) and your satisfaction in each (crust and goodies).  This funny-looking pizza gives insight into the challenges opportunities (!) for the upcoming year.

I created a free four video series for you.  Discover it here.

Get more clarity sooner.  Write me. I will walk you through the process and be a mirror for you.  It sure helps to gain fresh perspective!

What is YOUR Focus Word?

Share your word in the comments below.  It’s great to hear from you…that’s community too.

Fanny Smith Ski Cross Olympics 2018

Time Optimization Tips from the Olympics

Time management matters when nanoseconds make the cut for an Olympic medal.

That’s the case with champion women’s skicross Fanny Smith, from Villars-sur-Ollon, who won the bronze medal in the Olympics at PyeongChang.  Our children learned to ski in Villars and I too felt that thrill of the locals when she earned her medal.

Fanny Smith Bronze Olympics 2018

On our local slopes we don’t see these; they are prevelant at the Olympics.  The blue lines on the slopes.

 

Optimize Time with Success Lines

These markers help racers and coaches trace the optimal path to follow.  It’s literally their time-optimization guide.  Stay within the lines to go faster.

How do you track the optimal path and reach your goals fast?  For your life?  For your work? For your relationships?

Time management is an issue for many of us.  Few of us can afford hours retracing our steps.  And yet many of us do so with relationships.  Building positive rapport between people takes time…and it takes even longer to clean up after the s*@! hits the fan. 

Too far off these blue lines and the skiers crash and forfeit the race.

If you find yourself impatient or frustrated or repeating yourself, it’s time to consider.  Might something be out-of-focus: either your goal or the path to get there?

Save Time & Fix your objective

I begin many workshops with an activity* to bring our goals into clear focus.

Step 1—List the Time Consuming Challenges

What zaps your time and energy in relationships?  We clear out what blocks our vision by naming these challenges.

For a workshop for managers of Millennials, we wrote down “Challenges Working with Millennials.”

Participants chime in: resistance to rules, attached to the phone, in need of perpetual feedback, (too) high view of his (untested) capabilities, and even spelling mistakes.

Maybe you don’t work with the Gen Y.  Then tweak the question to match your work dynamics:

  • Challenges of working with off-site teams
  • Challenges of working in Finance/Legal/Marketing in an industrial group

This process of listing difficulties creates a positive group dynamic and opens communication.  Everyone realizes we sweat and worry over similar predicaments.  In expressing these shared relationship challenges, we give ourselves and each other the permission to be human and to learn.

Expressing the negatives has the effect of letting dust settle.  The atmosphere is lighter and we are ready to clearly focus on the positives we seek.

Step 2—Identify the Team Skills to Build

We then create a separate and complementary list to bring the leadership goals into focus.  These are the skills managers seek to transmit to their teams to create a motivating and performing work environment.  We enumerate them under, “Qualities of our Team’s Culture.”

Of course, you seek to develop technical capabilities: mastery of financial analysis or digital marketing tool.  You ALSO aim to build communication and soft skills:  trust, mutual respect, learning from experienced team members, learning from youth, seeking excellence…

Step 3—Assess

Once the two lists are completed, we step back to review them side by side and invite comments from everyone

Some participant are motivated: “I had not thought of myself in the leadership development business.  How inspiring!”

Others balk: “What pressure.  I don’t master all those soft skills.  How can I pass them on to my team?”

Many have questions: “Do I have to do all of them at once?” and “So, what is the link between the two lists?”

Step 4—Use Time Optimizing Success Lines

Success lines help us identify where we are and where to aim.  They’re like a GPS.

These lists represent our leadership GPS.

The challenges point to our present situation.  “You are here.”  This is where we have arrived using our current leadership style.  This is also where you will stay by continuing with your actual managerial tools. 

The qualities represent our desired destination.  Like when your team members jump out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm to get to work and engage with a dynamic team.  Or when colleagues seek you or your employee out for greater responsibilities.

Focus, Focus, Focus

But you may wonder, “It’s just a list…”

Correction.  It’s a lens. 

You get what you measure.  When your bonus is set on profit, you’ll likely avoid high volume, low margin customers.

“Human systems grow in the direction of their deepest and most frequent inquiries.” – David Cooperrider, founder of Appreciative Inquiry, Case Western University

Our leadership focus is what we generate in our team. Your and my focus matters because it changes our actions.

“The act of looking for certain information evokes the information we went looking for—and simultaneously eliminates our opportunity to observe other information.” – John Wheatley, quantum physicist

When we talk, model, clarify, and encourage the qualities we seek in our team, we create clear success lines. And that saves tons of time…and money, and energy, and good spirits.

Positive Communication Tools

A clear focus is the first among many tools to build the qualities in your Leadership GPS.  Check out the workshops to discover others and how to develop them in your team.

Leadership GPS Works In Life too

This optimizing GPS applies in personal relationships as well.

When our four boys were young I embarked on a husband-improvement-program.  As a woman, I KNEW how to be a great dad!!!

Every day for one month I noted one helpful behavior my husband did for the family and let him know my appreciation.  “Honey, thanks for having done the dishes. It’s really nice to finally relax after having put the kids to bed.”

I anticipated behavioral modification in my husband.  This process changed me. 

My previous focus lay on the mountain of chores to be done and how my husband did not do his part.  My tone of voice often sounded critical.  When focusing on his contributions, I became more enjoyable to be around.  Maybe he became more involved or my company became more pleasant; either way, we ALL (sons included) do chores.

Ranking high on the list of “Dampierre Qualities to Groove Together” (our family GPS) you’ll find:

Everyone in the family helps.

Food for thought

  • How many times a day do you focus on what is going wrong? On what is going right?
  • How time effective is your critique?
  • Your critique is welcome here. What do you disagree with in this post?

Tell us in the comments.  Thanks.

 

Cover photo from lacote.ch

Signs with character qualities to build values

Set and Reach Goals – Your GPS

What’s your family culture?  Is it helping each of you thrive…at home, at school, and at work?

The Purpose – Set & Reach Family Goals

Create your Family GPS

  1. Specify the character qualities you wish to transmit to your children in the upcoming months
  2. Plan concrete action steps to reach that goal

For example:

Goals

To listen to each other

Actions

  • To use a talking stick so we don’t interrupt
    or
  • To spend 5 minutes in Conversation Time after dinner

To do our best in work

  • To brainstorm solutions together at Challenge Share on Saturday mornings.  Parents can also share a difficulty.
    or
  • To have Reading Time for everyone, 30 minutes after lunch on Sundays.

 

The Process

Timing – New Year

We can set goals anytime…and yet research shows that goals set at New Year’s are more likely to be kept!  The beginning of the year marks one of the moments for pause, reflection, and new beginnings.

Let’s do it!

Tools – Positive Discipline inspired activities & tools

Through group activities, we help set a family GPS: identify our current situation and set a destination for growth in 2018.

The process is FUN with lots of group interaction, brainstorming and even role playing.

Once the goals set, we explore numerous relationship strengthening tools to apply in the family context to help turn these family aspirations into achievable, realistic, AND enjoyable objectives.

Facilitator – Denise Dampierre

The workshop is led by Denise Dampierre who brings expertise from

  • Harvard Business School – leadership development concepts made family-friendly
  • Positive Discipline – an approach to building collaboration and respect-filled relationships
  • Appreciative Inquiry – inclusive change management which builds on strengths
  • Mother of 4 boys – practical experience tried and tested in with 4 boys withing 7 years

The Specifics

When – Thursday, January 25 from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm

Where – 65, quai d’Orsay, 75007 Paris.  In the American Church in Paris, room G4

How much – 25€ per person

R.S.V.P.