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Your Perfect Work – Life Scenario

To paraphrase an old saying: The only constant in life is change. Sometimes change comes into our lives as a result of a crisis, through our own choices, or by chance. Leaving a job, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, and embarking on a new venture is a brave step. A transition can be the catalyst for us to think about what we want our life to look like and create a road map for the future.

Developed over many years, our program takes a unique approach to the process of moving your career forward. Many of us have been told from an early age that we must commit to a career path. What we do for a living determines what our lives look like, for better or for worse.

What if we do the opposite: first decide what we want our lives to look like, then see if a job fits? I suggest that you take some time to discover what would make you feel the happiest and most fulfilled before making the leap into your next venture.

A self-discovery exercise that I recommend is writing down your perfect work-life scenario. Beginning to write your perfect work-life scenario can be both exciting and challenging. From my experience, many people either do not think about this step or have not had the chance to try it.

It turns out that the act of writing down your dreams and goals can create higher levels of clarity and commitment than simply thinking about them. Neuroscience has found that if you think about something you desire, and then write it down, you tap into the power of your logic-based left hemisphere and open your subconscious mind to “seeing” opportunities that can’t be observed when your goals are undocumented.

Here are some guidelines for beginning the work.

Be grounded in your expectations, but think big. For example, if the salary listed for a position of interest is $X, but you believe your contribution to the job is worth $X+$Y in compensation, feel free to ask for a higher salary.

Define what your ideal scenario looks like in terms of negotiable and non-negotiable items such as flexibility, night or weekend work, travel, management responsibilities, work environment, vacation time, and length of commute. The point is, identify what is truly realistic for you and don’t be afraid to compromise your values. 

Ask empowering questions to get to the most productive definition of the perfect work-life scenario. Empowering questions are simple, intuitive, open-ended, spontaneous, and typically begin with “what” rather than “why.” Empowering questions lead to clarifications, help to create a new perspective, connect to the individual’s desire for success, and elicit feedback. Dr. David Cooperrider, who is best known as the co-creator of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a methodology for creating strengths-based change, states, “Human systems move in the direction of what they most persistently, authentically, and systematically ask questions about.” So, ask lots of questions of yourself.

Remember- you are building your ideal scenario, so dare to dream and have some fun while you are at it!

Here’s an example of the process in action.

I worked with a client, Bill, who was in transition. He had just left his job with a bad commute. While writing his perfect work-life scenario, Bill spent some time reflecting on what he wanted his life to look like regardless of his chosen career. I advised Bill that he would be tested to see how committed he was to his plan. The test came when he got a job offer with the right salary and benefits, but with a daily commute of three hours. Bill called to ask what he should do. I advised him to review his perfect work-life scenario before making a decision. As a result, Bill decided to pass on the offer and took a transition job at a start-up company where he could get the necessary training to land his dream job at a tech company. He now works from home, spends meaningful time with his family, and travels for work at a level that is reasonable for him. 

When crafting the perfect work-life scenario it is important to note that everyone’s definition of “perfect” is unique. However, you can define what perfect looks like for you as you take the steps to progress toward the vision you have for your ideal work life.

If this resonates with you, or if you would like to explore this exercise in greater detail, contact us now at The Propel Group.

How to Tap the Persuasive Power of Storytelling

Influence is a buzzword these days. From Instagram to the C-Suite, everyone wants it and everyone is trying to get it. But what is influence and why does it matter?
Merriam-Webster defines influence as “the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways.”

Whether we recognize it or not, we use these skills all the time, not just in the workplace. The style or nature of our presence, what we say and how we say it, and the attitude we project—consciously or otherwise—may all influence people positively or negatively.

As valuable as influence is, it is also misunderstood. We tend to think of influence as synonymous with exerting control over others to get them to think or act in the way we would like them to. However, influence is about more than gaining the upper hand. At its core, influence is about courage, personal transformation, authenticity, and movement.
Influence is also about our universal human need for connection and trust. One of the best ways to nurture these connections is through storytelling.

Every culture uses stories to pass on knowledge and wisdom. I am sure we can all remember from childhood a favorite story that a parent or caregiver told us, or recall a time when a coworker kept us enthralled with a rendition of weekend adventures.
It is not surprising that science has found that our brains react in a particular way to stories compared to other ways of transmitting information, such as a lecture or presentation.

Additionally, stories establish credibility and help persuade in a way that facts alone cannot. An effective story is memorable and makes us feel emotions—excitement, empathy, anger, sadness, or happiness. The emotions that we experience cause us to connect with and trust the person telling the story.

This quote, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, sums it up, “Tell me a fact and I’ll listen. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. Tell me a story and it will be with me forever.”

The Hero’s Journey Framework for Storytelling
We all enjoy a great story but do we know how to tell it? One useful framework is the journey of the hero. The Hero’s Journey is an enduring mythological structure defined by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The catalyst for the Hero’s Journey is when something shakes up the hero’s life. The hero must reach within to find courage to change. With the guidance of a mentor, the hero faces obstacles and gains insights that help to bring about the hero’s personal transformation.

Our role in the Hero’s Journey is that of the mentor. As the mentor, here are questions we can ask to prepare for our conversation:

• What goals do you share with the hero?
• What are your shared experiences?
• Why should the hero listen?

From the audience and stakeholder perspective, the mentor’s job is to prove that it is worth it to move from one way to another way—from an old paradigm to a new paradigm.

Think of storytelling as a three-act play. In Act 1 you create the big idea and meet the need for change head-on. This might mean getting ahead of the competition in business or accelerating your child’s dreams of attending college. Use words that trigger movement and imagination to describe life as exciting and snap the hero’s life out of balance.

As with a technology that will upend the market or something new coming down the road, there will always be naysayers. The point is not to dwell on any negatives but to restore hope for the hero and create excitement for the change ahead.

In Act 2, the journey begins. The mentor sits down with the audience and staff to define expectations and paint a visual way forward. In this step, the mentor lays out the journey, making sure to identify specific steps and pitfalls.

In Act 3, the mentor lays out the exact steps 1-2-3-4 to the hero’s new bliss. Change someone’s belief system and reveal what is possible!

Storytelling may seem like an old-fashioned tool but that is exactly what makes it so powerful. Facts can persuade people, but data alone doesn’t inspire them to act. To do that, it takes a narrative that fires the imagination and excites the soul. I hope this encourages you to leverage the power of storytelling to lead change.

To learn more about The Propel Group, contact us now.

How to Rethink Feedback

Whether you are an employee, a manager, or even a CEO, giving and receiving feedback can be stressful. Oftentimes feedback is associated with criticism, which can lead to a minefield of resentment, defensiveness, and avoidance.

How to give constructive feedback is one of the hottest topics in business today. In my 20+ years’ experience coaching leaders how to have impactful conversations, I have found that feedback, when delivered well, has far-reaching benefits for individuals and organizations. So why does giving effective feedback pose challenges?

One of the most thought-provoking articles on this topic that I have read is published by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall in the March-April 2019 issue of the Harvard Business Review.  The article, The Feedback Fallacy, asserts that many of our beliefs about feedback, and the current trend toward candor and transparency in the workplace, can hamper learning and growth.

The authors identify and dispel three common myths about feedback.  The first is that other people are more aware than you are of your shortcomings and are therefore in a better position to point out what you cannot see for yourself. The authors call this the theory of the source of truth.  The problem with this theory, according to Buckingham and Goodall, is that humans are unreliable raters of other humans. Our feedback has less to do with the other person and more with our inherent biases.  The best we can do, the authors point out, is share our own feelings and reactions.  For example, instead of saying, “You need to improve your communication skills,” try, “Here’s exactly where you started to lose me.” This subjective feedback can be valuable, as long as it does not claim to be objective or universal. 

The second prevailing theory holds that feedback contains useful information that can accelerate learning. The authors cite counter research that telling others how to think inhibits, rather than encourages, learning. Focusing on people’s weaknesses triggers the “fight or flight” system, shifting people into survival mode and shutting down learning.  Buckingham and Goodall write, “Learning rests on our grasp of what we’re doing well, not on what we’re doing poorly, and certainly not on someone else’s sense of what we’re doing poorly.”

Finally, the authors assert that performance should not be measured against an absolute standard of excellence.  Excellence looks different for everyone and is highly individualized and context-dependent. In the case of soft skills, feedback empowers the receiver to take in and adapt feedback to their personal style and circumstances.

This posting does not address every detail of Buckingham and Goodall’s article, and I encourage you to check it out. The article examines some common beliefs about feedback that might be keeping you stuck and presents strategies that you can use to cultivate a culture of feedback that is well-managed, thoughtful, and intentional.

Here are some steps you can take to promote more productive feedback: 

Look for outcomes. The authors write, “Excellence is an outcome, so take note of when a prospect responds to a sales pitch, a project runs smoothly, or an angry customer suddenly calms down.” Stop the flow of work for just a moment, turn to the team member who created the positive outcome and emphasize that what he/she did in the moment really worked. “Yes, that!”

Replay your instinctive reactions.  Describe what you experienced when your colleague’s moment of excellence caught your attention. There is nothing more authentic than reflecting what you saw from him/her and how it made you feel. Use phrases such as “This is how that came across for me,” or “Here’s my reaction.” This helps team members see what they did well so that they can build on these behaviors for future successes.

Never lose sight of your highest priority interrupt. If you see someone doing something that really works, make that your high-priority interrupt. Stop him/her and the rest of the team and dissect the success. Not only will that person see and feel like what success looks like within him/her, but the rest of the team can also use the information to grow and learn. 

Explore the present, past, and future. When someone comes to you asking for help solving a problem, start with the present. What is working right now? This prepares the person to be open to thinking about new solutions. Next, go to the past, when a similar problem presented itself.  What did you do (what worked)? Finally, turn to the future. What do you already know you need to do? Operate with the assumption that the person already knows the solution and just needs help identifying it.      

Feedback at its best can help us thrive as individuals, inform better decision-making, and accelerate organizational performance.  The process of giving and receiving feedback might never become one of our favorite activities, but with self-awareness, reflection, and practice it is possible to develop these challenging, worthwhile skills.

To learn more about The Propel Consulting Group, contact us now.