Your Response is Everything

August 30th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” —Aldous Huxley

How are you responding in life?

We all know that life is full of high and low moments. One moment you’re feeling on top of the world and a few days, or minutes, later something happens and you feel like you’ve taken three steps backwards. Charles Swindoll famously said “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react.” Your response in these moments is critical to your success and happiness in life.

Responding to challenging situations is a choice. When faced with something difficult, most of us simply fall back on an instinctual reaction driven by the fight or flight part of our brain. In that moment we often feel threatened which triggers our ingrained behaviors to take over. This rarely produces a good outcome.

The first step is to remain calm, which is a lot easier said than done. Research has shown that under stress our field of vision shrinks to 30 degrees. We are literally stuck in “tunnel vision” which prevents us from seeing the situation clearly. However, if we can take a few deep breaths and remain calm, we give ourselves a chance to step back and objectively assess the situation. We can distinguish the facts of the situation vs. the assumptions we might be reacting too.

Once we have slowed ourselves down, we can determine how we want to respond. Our focus needs to be on what we can influence in the situation. It’s quite likely that there are many factors we can’t influence. Rather than wasting time complaining about those factors, choose to take action on what you can influence. While you can’t control what other people will or will not do, you can choose the tone and words you want to use when you respond to them.

It can be difficult to deal with challenging situations that aren’t unfolding the way we want them to. You can choose to react in a way that attempts to control the situation and the people involved or you could decide to complain about how powerless you are. Neither of these responses is helpful.

When you choose to remain calm in order to step back and assess the situation, you can take action in the areas you can influence and you won’t feel powerless. Although the outcomes may not play out the way you want, your approach will create the confidence and resilience you need to weather the inevitable peaks and valleys that life brings. Then, even during the challenging moments, you can honestly say that you are happy.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one strategy you will use to help you respond more effectively.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Excellence vs. Perfection

May 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”—Harriet Braiker

What are you striving for?

I like to say that I’m a “reforming” perfectionist. I have learned over the years to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies but I still have plenty of room for improvement.

The idea of striving for perfection is very alluring. When you set perfection as your standard of success it drives you to work hard and may enable you to achieve significant accomplishments. However, it will often leads to a standard of unrealistic expectations, which lead to impatience, increased anxiety, or a general reluctance to take risks.

Excellence is a healthier target. Each of us will define excellence differently. What matters is that you are continually taking steps to fulfill your personal potential and make a positive contribution to the world. Rather than expecting to complete any task perfectly and free of mistakes, challenge yourself to make progress each day. As long as you are continuing to improve and developing new skills, approaches, and mindsets you will be taking a step closer to achieving your personal definition of excellence.

Replace the idea of being a perfectionist with the concept of being an optimalist. In the book: In the Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Sharar talks about how our desire for perfection is the number one obstacle to our ability to find happiness. Ben-Sharar states that perfectionists reject failure and expect life to be an endless stream of positive emotions, which means they also reject reality. On the other hand, an optimalist recognizes that failure and negative emotions are an inevitable fact of life and uses those experiences as learning opportunities to improve.

Choose to give yourself a break. When you recognize that the route to success isn’t a straight and flat path you’re able to accept and weather the inevitable peaks, valleys, twists and turns that life throws your way. While it’s important to continually challenge yourself to improve, choose to focus on excellence rather than perfection and accept that even when things don’t go as you planned there is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one area of your life where you need to replace perfection with excellence.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Embrace Abnormal

April 19th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” —Maya Angelou

Are you hiding behind normality?

You have a choice to make. Either you can decide to play it safe and follow the crowd. Or, you can choose to embrace what makes you unique and the gifts you have to offer. Normality is a myth and success depends upon your willingness to affirm who you are and what you have to offer.

It takes courage to be true to yourself. As you step out and let the real you shine through, there’s always a risk that others aren’t going to like you. Even those closest to you might not agree with your beliefs or approach. However, no matter what you do there will always be someone that doesn’t care for you. The greater risk is living a life of mediocrity.

A seed of potential exists within every one of us.  Unless we’re willing to take the necessary steps to cultivate our potential it will never blossom. The first step is to become clear about who you are.  Discover your passions, values, and strengths so you understand the impact you want to make.

Once you have this foundation of self-awareness in place you can begin to develop your potential. Actively look for opportunities to use your strengths. Start sharing your desires with close family, friends, and colleagues to see what ideas they might offer for practicing your strengths. The more you experiment the more clarity you will have about what is a best fit for you. Additionally, you will continue to refine your strengths.

Accept that it’s okay not to be normal. The concept of being normal is a myth and only exists when people continue to feed the belief that we have to fit in to some popularly accepted norm. No body is normal. We are each unique with our own set of strengths, challenges, desires, and fears. Recognize that these are the things that make you amazing and embrace who you truly are. Then you can begin the path to happiness, success, and fulfillment.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify three strengths you possess and share one of them with someone.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

Leaders Maximize the Talent of their Teams

February 8th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“A successful person finds the right place for himself. But a successful leader finds the right place for others.” -John Maxwell

How are you helping your employees maximize their talent?

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to cultivate the talent of your team. You need to understand and accept that each member of your team is a unique individual and it’s your job to capitalize on the talents and strengths they bring to the table.

You must first be able to recognize the talents of your various team members. Most people aren’t very good at recognizing their talents. Because these aspects of ourselves come so naturally, we take them for granted and assume they aren’t that important.

As a leader you need to be on the look out for evidence of talent and share your observations with your team members to help them appreciate the impact they make. Additionally, spend time coaching them to explore what tasks they enjoy as well as which ones come very naturally and effortlessly to them. Help your team identify how they feel while doing these tasks and why they enjoy them.

Once you’ve helped your employees begin to recognize their talents search for opportunities for them to develop their talents. You might send them to a conference or seminar where they can acquire knowledge or develop skills that will help them apply their talents. Or you could provide them with new assignments to give them an opportunity to apply their talents in new ways.

Finally, you need to take a few steps back and consider how to leverage all of the talents on your team. This could possibly entail rearranging the way work is completed in order to allow different individuals on your team to play to their strengths. As you become more aware of the talents on your team, you might even realize there is a need for some new roles. Your team might just have the talents necessary to address a unique need for your organization and/or customers.

Finally, you could come to the conclusion that the best opportunity for one of your team members to maximize their talents is to move on to another position either within or outside your organization. Good leaders realize that what is best for this individual is best for the organization. When they actively support an individual making the move that is right for them, these leaders demonstrate that they put their team first and create an environment of trust.

It’s the responsibility of a leader to nurture the talent of their team. The best leaders are adept at recognizing, developing, and leveraging talent in a way that achieves results and creates a foundation of trust.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one talent in each of your team members.

Make it an excellent week.

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Life is an Adventure

January 25th, 2015 § 4 comments § permalink

“An original life is unexplored territory. You don’t get there by taking a taxi, you get there by carrying a canoe.”  —Alan Alda

Are you charting your own course?

Life isn’t a guided tour. You can’t sit back and wait for someone to point out the direction you need to take. You’re the captain of your life and it’s up to you decide who you want to be, what you want to do, and take action to achieve the life of your dreams.

Your path is unique. There’s value in listening to others share about their experience and lessons learned. Although you can likely learn a lot from those who have gone before you, they can’t speak to what is right for you. Only you can determine what is right for you.

You have a responsibility to design a life that is right for you. You’re unique and here for a reason. Make time to get clear about your strengths and define the impact you want to make with your life. Once you have this clarity, you need to take action and use your strengths to be of service to others.

I believe you’ll experience fulfillment from being the authentic you. Once you begin to live your unique life, and make your unique contribution to the world, you’ll be filled with a sense of satisfaction and contentment.

That’s not to say your life will be nothing but smooth water from that point forward. You’ll inevitably experience some rough rapids, demanding courage and the willingness to make course corrections along the way.  Rely on your strengths and authentic self to guide you back on track.

The world needs what you have to offer. Everyone benefits when you are able use your strengths to be of service. Are you ready to pick-up your canoe and chart your own course?

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one action you can take to become the captain of your life.

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

A Leader’s Top Responsibility

January 11th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

 

“The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the ideas but to create an environment in which great ideas can thrive.” – Simon Sinek

What type of environment have you created within your team?

Effective leadership isn’t about giving orders or having all the answers. Although this might have been acceptable 30 years ago, it’s a recipe for failure today. Success as a leader depends on your ability to maximize the talent of your team in order to achieve results.

The key to getting the most out of your team begins with the environment you create. An increasingly complex business world leads to increased specialization. It’s no longer realistic to expect to be able to stay current on the latest knowledge and skills all by yourself. You must develop a team of empowered individuals you can rely on to be the experts in their respective areas.

However, you can’t just tell your staff that they’re empowered. Effective delegation requires you to clearly outline the objectives and parameters (keeping them as wide as possible) while allowing your team to determine the best route to take. It’s also ineffective to take a “hands off” approach. I’ve seen many leaders attempt to avoid micro-management by moving to the other extreme, failing to provide their team the support they need. Make it a point to check-in with your staff along the way to see how they’re doing and help address any obstacles in their way.

In addition to delegating to your team, it’s critical to spend time coaching them. When they run into obstacles don’t simply tell them what to do, rather ask questions to help them identify their options. This will challenge them to slow down and improve their critical thinking. It’s also important to coach when a task you delegated doesn’t go well, which is inevitable. Use open-ended questions to help your team consider what didn’t work and what can be learned from the situation.

Finally, seek and offer feedback to your team to help them grow. When you’re facing a challenge, ask for their ideas. They’re the ones doing the work every day and likely have several ideas about how to make improvements or new innovations. Also be sure to provide them feedback about their performance. Recognize their accomplishments and how their strengths make a positive impact on the team. And when they are struggling, coach them to figure out how to improve.

Your most important role as a leader is to create the environment in which your team can fulfill it’s potential. In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe, Sinek comments that when leaders fail to create the right conditions we’re forced to spend time and energy protecting ourselves which weakens the organization. When you create an environment in which your team is acknowledged for their strengths and empowered to make a difference, trust and collaboration are a natural by-product.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one action you can take to create an environment that fosters trust and collaboration.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Inspired Leadership

January 4th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” —John Maxwell

What’s feeding your leadership?

Great leaders are driven by passion. A longing to make an impact in the world and for the individuals they serve. They aren’t in it for the power, prestige, and money.

The elements of successful leadership have changed in the 21st Century. Leadership is no longer about power and issuing directives. Having a sense of meaning in work is becoming increasingly important to employees. This is especially true for the Millennial generation which will account for 50% of the workforce in 4 years. Success is dependent upon an organizations’ ability to adjust their approach to leadership.

You’ve likely developed goals for the New Year, which you believe, will help your organization succeed. The question is whether your vision will inspire your team. You won’t be able to achieve your vision alone and without a team of inspired individuals, your organization will never fulfill it’s potential.

What impact is your team or department making? How does their work make a difference in the lives of others? Your ability to articulate this bigger picture for your team will make the difference in whether or not they are energized, excited, and engaged or simply going through the motions.

Finally, step back and ask yourself why you decided to become a leader. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, states “Inspired leaders think from the inside out.” Leadership is about making a positive difference in the lives of others. Whether it’s through the product or service your team delivers or through helping your team grow and develop, you need to remain focused on who you are there to serve. Once you are inspired, you will find it much easier to inspire your team.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Define whom you serve as a leader and the impact you want to make in their lives.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

Don’t Let Life Pass You By

May 18th, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

 

“Lots of people let life go by and never accomplish what they want. I wanted to see what I could do.” Edwin C. Moses

What action are you taking to accomplish your goals?

Life is short and you have a finite amount of time to make a difference. Your life is your responsibility. If you choose not to make an effort to achieve what you want out of life, you can’t make excuses or blame anyone else.

The older I get the faster it seems time slips away. It’s easy to allow yourself to be swept along by the currents of life while telling yourself that you have plenty of time to achieve your dreams. In reality, before you know it you’ll wake up one day and wonder how you arrived where you are. You’ll find it heartbreaking as you try to comprehend where the time went and the opportunities you have missed.

It’s never to late to choose to achieve your goals and design the life you want. However, the sooner you begin the quicker you can experience the fulfillment that comes from living a life of purpose. Don’t wait until you have all the answers before getting started or you’ll find your self permanently stuck in fear. Recognize that life is a journey and that your goals and dreams will evolve along the way. The most important part is to be an active participant in your life while remaining open to opportunities to learn and grow.

As Stephen Covey stated in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s important to “begin with the end in mind”. Imagine you’re retiring and are being given an award. What do you hope people say about you? How do you want them to remember you? What difference do you hope to have made in the lives of others? How will your community, industry, and the world be better off because of you?

You are the captain of your own life. It’s up to you to decide what you want to accomplish with the life you have been given. The rest of the world is waiting for you to share your gifts and strengths. Don’t deprive yourself of the fulfillment you deserve!

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify one step you can take to begin achieving your dreams.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

 

 

 

 

Process Over Outcomes

March 2nd, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

“Glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

Is your goal helping or hurting you?

Possessing a goal for yourself can sometimes be a double edged sword. While a goal can often provide motivation and keep you moving forward you have to be careful not to become consumed by the desire to achieve a specific outcome. The challenge is to leverage the benefits goals have to offer without becoming too rigid in the process.

The best goals are built on a foundation of purpose and passion. Rather than concentrating on simply starting a business or going back to school, you need to maintain your focus on the greater purpose behind your goal. Remind yourself daily about the service or product you want to offer and the difference you hope to make.  Maintaining your perspective about why you want to be in business, or go back to school, will motivate you to persevere through the ups and downs as well as remain open to opportunities to fulfill your purpose you might otherwise miss.

Start by creating a personal vision for how life will look and feel like when you accomplish your goal. What does a perfect day in your business or new career look like? Who are you helping? What are you doing for them? Take a few moments at the beginning of each day to think about your vision and visualize your perfect day. As you go throughout your day, watch for moments in which you feel the same sense of fulfillment you get when thinking about your perfect day. Notice what you’re doing and whom you’re doing it with.

Finally, at the end of each day reflect on those moments in which you felt fulfillment and identify potential themes. As you consider the ways in which you are already living your vision you may discover that your desired outcomes have changed. By choosing to consciously consider the purpose of your goal each day you will find yourself motivated and fulfilled on a daily basis. You’ll also remain flexible to new opportunities for fulfilling your goal that present themselves.

Goals are wonderful motivational tools that keep us from becoming complacent. Without a meaningful goal in life, your chance of realizing fulfillment is significantly decreased. However, it’s important to keep your goals in proper perspective. Rather than becoming consumed by the outcome you believe you should achieve, staying focused on the deeper purpose of your goal will ensure that the journey is rewarding regardless of the outcome.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Identify the deeper purpose behind a personal goal and pay attention to how you’re fulfilling that purpose each day.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker, M.Ed., PCC

Define Yourself

January 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

“We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”

—Virginia Satir

Are you proactively defining yourself?

Everyone’s perception is limited. We all believe our perception is reality, but it’s actually only one piece of a bigger puzzle. Each of our individual perceptions are based upon our unique set of experiences and are therefore biased.

You’re the best judge of what’s right for you. Nobody else, your family, friends, or manager are in a better position to accurately assess what you need to do. Others have a valid perspective to offer and you may benefit from learning from their vantage point. However, you need to recognize the limitations of these various perspectives. Ultimately what is right for one person may not be what is best for you.

In any given situation, you’re the one that must decide which route to take. Take time to consider how the various options align with your strengths and values. Also consider which option excites or energizes you. Although having a steady job with an established company may be the best approach for a close friend or family member, maybe starting your own business or going back to school to change careers is what is most consistent with the real you.

You only have one life to live! It’s your life and you’re responsible for making the most of it. Fulfillment comes from refusing to live a second rate version of your ideal life. Make the decision to take your dreams seriously. Start today to define and claim the life you want to live.

Here is this week’s Authentic Excellence Action Step:

Write about how your dream day would look if you made the decision to embrace the life that is right for you.

Make it an excellent week!

J. Matthew Becker M.Ed., LLC