Meditation for the Meditation-Averse

There are many people who don’t find meditation relaxing. As a matter of fact, for these folks, meditation can be anxiety-producing. Quiet space can become a vacuum for worrisome thoughts to seep in and flood one’s mind with a torrent of terror.

Here’s a meditation method that helps the meditation-averse. It is centered on the breath, brings one into the present and challenges one’s focus at the same time. This form of meditation takes up a lot of mental space and allows little room for the usual culprits to find an opening.

1. Find a quiet spot to sit up tall with shoulders relaxed (not too comfortable of a spot to make you sleepy) and close your eyes.

2. Start with 10 breaths by slowly breathing in through your nose on breath #10 and breathing slowly out on #10. Do the same with breath #9, #8…to #1.

If you lose your place, or other thoughts sneak in, that’s ok, just go back to the breath # you remember. You won’t want to start over, so the object is to keep the count in your head as you breathe. Gradually, work up to 15 – 25 breaths for a sitting.

If you still find your mind drifting to unhelpful thoughts, then make it more challenging. Count each breath backwards as before, but when you inhale do so on a count of 4 (about 4 sec), hold your breath for a count of 7 (about 7 sec) and exhale for a count of 8 (about 8 sec).

This method requires a bit more “thinking” than the average meditation guru would recommend, but it can help meditation-averse folks get the benefits of traditional meditation.

Need more ways to regulate your emotions and improve your focus? Try CoreCoaching. Contact me at [email protected]

The Chronic Interrupter and Over-talker

These folks talk incessantly, often off topic. They see that you want to make a comment or ask a question and talk over you about something else interesting to them. Some people get so deeply into their monologues that you, as the listener, may feel invisible.

Interestingly, this anxious behavior mounts in the presence of authority figures (parents, bosses, etc.) who are typically judgmental or punitive. These over-talkers are avoiding the topics that may elicit shame or blame. Conversely, when they are surrounded by their peers in more accepting situations, this behavior is reduced. As a founder or manager, there are ways to help the over-talker be less anxious and fearful.

  1. To help them get comfortable with you, have more frequent conversations on lighter topics that do not arouse this fear response. Let them know the lighter topics to be discussed in advance of the conversation, if possible. Reinforce any positive restraint to over talk.
  2. For heavier discussions, get responses to these concerns writing.
  3. When an exchange must occur in person and the over-talking persists, mention your frustration – you may need to talk over them until they stop talking! Tell him or her that because you want to help these conversations be more productive you will signal (raising an index finger or standing up) your desire to speak.
  4. If they ignore the cues and appear totally helpless in curbing this behavior, the most helpful thing you can do is suggest they seek professional help.

Social anxiety is a common communication problem. It can be highly dysfunctional and prevent a person from contributing to the team in a positive way. Look into CoreCoaching. Contact me at [email protected]  

A Tight Ship

A Tight Ship (definition): A well-managed and disciplined organization. This expression, dating from the second half of the twentieth century, alludes to a vessel whose ropes are taut and seams well caulked, indicating that it is well managed.

The SIX FUNCTIONS OF TEAMWORK embody the notion of A TIGHT SHIP: (Five of these functions are found in Patrick Lencioni’s book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – a must read for entrepreneurs)

First, a small business can be highly functional, valuable and competitive if every crew member continually works to strengthen their core. This means all worries and personal problems must be left at shore. A competent crew member is physically and emotionally ready for the journey — well-rested, nourished, energized, focused, ready to step up and able to manage the stressors along the way. A strong core within each crew member fosters a “tight ship” mentality. The other five functions of a team provide for smooth sailing.

All hands on board trust one another and depend on each other for the success of the journey. Without trust the mission will be stalled by shaky stops and starts, disloyalties, lost time, mutinies and burnout that impede progress towards the goal of the expedition. The Captains (the executive team), with their over-arching duties and responsibilities, must be a cohesive unit and ONE with the journey. They trust their Chief Mates (managers) and crew to secure and steady the ship in the following ways:

Healthy conflict is welcomed as one shipmate may notice a problem or disagree with a directive. Crew members are encouraged to speak up for the sake and safety of the mission. It’s up to the Chief Mates and the Captains to listen to these concerns and coach up a crew member to avoid escalation of the conflict. The Chief Mates need to have the authority to recommend that a crew member gets sent back to shore if the conflict is unresolved.

The crew is committed and dedicated to staying afloat and making the trip successful. Friendships are important, but keeping the ship stable and moving towards its target is the crew’s priority. To be anything less could jeopardize the mission. However, crew members who share this priority can be a very powerful asset when extra effort, sacrifice and going above and beyond the call of duty is required. Friends who support each other for the success of the mission make friendships stronger.

Each shipmate, for the journey to endure and be successful, must be accountable for their actions. This includes following the chain of command, meeting or exceeding expected job performance, conserving resources by carefully watching costs, managing distractions and eliminating sources of strife like skipping on their shift or skimping on their duties.

Tight ship teamwork depends on the managers’ ability to optimize results and secure a competitive edge. A tight ship is strong, agile and reliable, able to take on new missions or to rapidly change course as needed in today’s business world. New trends and policies may require a shift in direction to avoid stormy seas or to weather the competition. It is the responsibility of the Captains to remain focused and vigilant in their roles, and rest assured knowing that the Chief Mates will keep the ship tight.

Does your small business run like a tight ship? If not, I can help. Contact me at [email protected]

Help Your Home Life Survive a Startup: Avoid the Spillover Effect

Founders who are passionate and obsessed with their startup, work long hours and leave work stressed out tend to bring that tension home. Perhaps you’ve heard the following refrains:

You seem so distant when we are together.

Are you hearing me?

There’s no need to raise your voice over this.

If the answer is yes, the stress from work is spilling over into your home life. This is making your home life less satisfying, which puts you in a worse mood when you return to work the next morning. Unless the spillover effect is tempered early on, this cycle only intensifies.

Here are my top three suggestions for reducing the spillover effect:

  • If you tend to come home and want to kick the dog, accept that you may need a buffer before you walk in the door. For example, stop off at the gym for 30 minutes to exercise, or decompress on the drive home by listening to soothing music or a comedy podcast.
  • Re-frame the sources of stress that could have a positive outcome. For example, a prima donna employee who threatens to leave may be a welcome loss. Or a demanding, but caring customer who is pointing out deficiencies in your product may be doing you a great service.
  • Instead of letting your evening be consumed by complaints and worries  open up a journal and write down, complete with expletives and emojis, the stressors and your feelings about them. If your partner wants to hear about your day, at least you’ll have exploded on paper prior to walking in the door. Writing things down also helps you move from emotional to problem-solving (critical thinking) mode a bit faster.

Need more help regulating your response to startup stress? Share your story with us at [email protected], and I’ll blog back some solutions!

Let’s Have Some Fun Being Accountable

If you ask your staff, What are you doing to get more done?, you’ll get a some blank stares and some good answers like: I limit social media, filter email, turn off my phone, shorten conversations, etc. The follow-up question results in more blank stares: How well are those efforts paying off?

Because I’m known to be somewhat of a task master, when I say to my clients – Hey, this exercise will be fun! I get a few smirks. It has elements of surprise and learning that helps the bottom line, and makes for good group discussions, so it’s within the realm of “fun.” Here’s how it works:

Each staff member cuts out five 4 inch strips of paper. They write a day of the week on each strip, mix them up and put them in an envelope. For four weeks, at the end of the work week, each person closes their eyes and picks out one day of the week from their envelope. If they pick “Wednesday” they need to recall what they did for every hour on Wednesday. If they don’t remember, they can look back on their plan for the week (assuming that they had a plan!!) to see what work was accomplished or how they spent their time. At first, the reports are pretty dismal, the average report ranges from 30-40% productive use of work time.

This exercise has many advantages: It makes people more conscientious about how they use their time at work. It helps one see the value in making a plan for each day. Knowing that Friday is coming up soon, and not knowing which day will be pulled, improves the consistency of their efforts. It also helps one use the anti-distraction strategies more consistently and judge their effectiveness. This exercise also makes leadership clarify expectations for productivity.

I shared this exercise with three different companies.  By the 3rd week, at all three facilities, productivity overall kicked up between 20-30%! Now, that’s fun!

Give it a try at your startup, and let me know the results!                                        [email protected].

 

Coaching Up or Out?

In my last CE post I talked about coaching valuable, but problematic employees. I will refer to these employees as Ms. or Mr. X.

In hindsight, you may have noticed these problems (a haughty attitude, lack of cooperation,frequent complaining, etc) coming early on, but chalked it up to Ms. or Mr. X being “new to the team.”

You get busy, and in the back of your mind, you hope that Ms. or Mr. X  will respond to peer pressure, conform and the problem will vanish. It’s highly unlikely.

So, the next question is − coach up or coach out Ms. or Mr. X? Prior to that sit-down conversation, prepare your talking points. What characteristics will make this employee coachable? Is Ms. or Mr. X:

  • open to learning? (Ask for examples.)
  • confident enough to accept their limitations? (What are they and do you agree on the problem behaviors?)
  • ready to listen and appreciate the gift of criticism (Ask for examples.)
  • willing to persevere to change (How will change become visible immediately?)

If “coaching up” is the decision, then create a plan to monitor these changes (daily, weekly or biweekly check-ins and by whom). Expect the employee to summarize in writing this meeting and the commitment to change. That is your documentation. Review the plan for accuracy.

You may think this process is a “bit tough” on the employee in question. Yes, they may pass on the challenge and quit. But, in fact, you are helping Ms. or Mr. X succeed in the workplace and in life. You are also demonstrating leadership and supporting your team by addressing the aberrant behavior head on.

Founders: Interested in learning more about building core leadership skills? Send along your queries and workplace conundrums to me at [email protected]              

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