Thursday, February 7, 2019

So Many Resources! Pick one or three...

2019 has gotten off to a jam-packed start for me... I've gained a couple of new clients, I took a trip to Chicago before the Polar Vortex hit, and I'm teaching a new class of Sociology interns. It's diverse and delightful!

Nevertheless, with Maximizer as my #3 Strength and Input at #5 (and Learner at #7), I still really
love taking in new information to the fullest extent I can manage. So here are several great resources I've already enjoyed.

READ. Get Stuff Done! Aside from stress management, one of the main topics I have with clients is in regard to productivity. They always seem have so much to do and not enough time. Here are two interesting articles that might stir the pot for you if this is something you want to work on.

  1. What happened when I followed Ben Franklin’s schedule for a month. The title alone intrigued me. Once you get past the fact that he woke up at 5 AM everyday, it is difficult not to be challenged to try his approach. Here's a teaser: he suggests two hours a day for lunch!
  2. How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You're DoingGot this one from a client! It provides a great differentiation between deep work and shallow work.
LISTEN. How to Succeed as a New Manager. I am a compulsive podcast listener and I really liked this one. I liked it so much that I created a worksheet to go with it and sent it to a bunch of my clients. Let me know if you would like to have a copy. Even though the podcast itself lasts a little bit over half an hour, the section on being a new manager is only about 15 minutes. Check it out.

GROW. Take 5: How to Take Charge of Your Professional Development. Let's be honest, there are so many (TOO MANY) "top five" and "best 3 ever" lists out there, most of which are shallow and obvious. DO NOT OVERLOOK THIS ONE. Short but substantive. And #5 is my favorite.

BOOK. Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Three hundred pages into the book (which I'm enjoying), I still can't shake the import of her opening questions:
  • Are leaders born or made? 
  • Where does ambition come from? 
  • How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? 
  • Do the times make the leader or does the leader shape the times? 
  • How can a leader infuse a sense of purpose and meaning into people’s lives? 
  • What is the difference between power, title, and leadership? 
  • Is leadership possible without a purpose larger than personal ambition?
My next book to read is Leaders: Myth and Reality by General Stanley McChrystal.

I will end with this... listening to an interview of Mary Pipher, a renowned sociologist, she said,
“We spend much of our lives keeping appointments we did not make.”
In other words, we all have to deal with circumstances beyond our control and still keep going. My hope and prayer is that I can walk alongside a few people as they keep these unexpected (and often unwelcomed) appointments. Let's do this for one another. Thanks for reading!

For more information, feel free to contact me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me.





Sunday, January 13, 2019

NY Resolutions? Let's Get Real

Hi Friends,
I don't know about you, but I'm finally getting over the hump of holidays and year-end and new year and all that jazz. I am slowly easing into a rhythm for 2019, and almost never accidentally write "2018"!

So now is the time I would rather talk about New Year's Resolutions... you're hopefully over the panicked rush of the first days of the new year, you've dusted the glitter off from the holiday party, and you're ready to reflect for a few moments on some #lifegoals for 2019. Here goes!

Is Listening to a Book the Same Thing as Reading It? It would not be fair of me to ask you to consider what goals, large or small, you want to set up for this year if I was not willing to share some of mine as well. I want to continue one goal that I started last year with relatively decent success: that is, I want to read at least one book per month. And that means, really read it. Like sit on the couch and take it in. Regardless, this article by a reading researcher gives a good pro's and con's listing of audiobook vs print.

How you can ditch your car, save money and live better? If we haven't met in person, you may not be aware that I am a devoted non-car owner. I sold my Subaru Legacy Wagon in 2010, and haven't looked back. (Here's a link from my old blog about why I did it...) I have owned a fake Italian scooter (the Genuine Buddy 125 pictured to the right) since 2007 and just ticked over to 29,000 miles on it! I also ride a snappy little bike called the Electra Loft 7i for errands around town. Or take the bus. Or walk, God forbid!

And before you think I'm getting all judgey on you and think that if you own a car I think you're disgusting, please have no fear. I simply want to throw out a challenge to say that all of us could indulge a little less in gas guzzling. Even if that means taking one less trip a day in your car or, if you're like me and live on the coast and are single and able to give up a car, consider it. In the almost 10 years that I've been doing it it, it has only become easier, especially with Uber, Lyft and Zipcar. I have decreased my impact on the environment and it is tremendously cheaper. And yes when I need to drive, I do. I just rent a car. Just pause and consider it. That's all. I don't need to recommit to this, but want to lean in 2019 back into the bike and bus more and not just take the scoot everywhere.

15 Bad Work Habits I’m Ditching This Year (and You Should, Too!) Numero Uno on the list is one of the TOP issues I address with clients.  When I ask groups about this, I get a raised hand and "guilty as charged" response from about 3/4 of the group. Explore the rest on the list and see where you might need to make a change. Let me know if you want to talk through any of the others!!! (See #7...)

How Can You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions? and Want To Be Happier This Year? Follow This 2019 Productive Habits Calendar (With Author Gretchen Rubin) Here are not one but TWO dandy motivational plans for how to dig in to your resolutions. I'm especially impressed with the second one -- it maps out a reasonable year-long strategy for incremental change. Don't freak out - just give them both a peek.

The 19 New Leadership Books to Read in 2019. I cannot recommend any of these because I haven't read any of them yet, but I DO recommend Adam Grant as a resource for leadership development... I am currently reading Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin and completely nerding out on it. Its combination of history with leadership principles is a happy place for me. Listen to Larry Wilmore's interview of DKG if you need to get motivated to pick up the book - it did the trick for me.

How to Motivate Yourself to Do Things You Don’t Want to Do. Last resource - might be saving the best for last. If all the previous links feel overwhelming, start here with something small. Incremental changes more often than not lead to longer-lasting change than ambitious moonshots. Be gentle with yourself.

I will end with a hearty quote from Leadership: In Turbulent Times, relating a hard lesson learned by Lyndon Johnson:
But to what end did one accumulate such power? Regardless of one’s impressive title, power without purpose and without vision was not the same thing as leadership.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Human Resources in the 21st Century?

When I started working as a teenager in the mid-70's, we still used:

  • landline phones
  • typewriters
  • carbon copies in those typewriters
Not to mention that this job was in a bank, where everyone came when they needed cash out of their checking accounts - no ATM's yet, either. And we were only open 10am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.

My how times have changed.

My observations is that the majority of changes in the workplace have come about due to advances in technology. Though I show my age here, I distinctly remember those early computer science courses on mainframe computers, my first bulky cell phone in 1999, and how I bought a copier that doubled as my computer printer at Costco for my home office. Compare all those old-school, pre-2000 changes with a video call with my laptop and bluetooth earbuds that I had last week with clients in Bosnia and Thailand. It's all I can do to keep up, but it's pretty cool all the same.

That being said, I am surprised at how much has not really changed when it comes to the people part of the workplace. Interoffice politics rage on, interpersonal conflicts continue unabated, and most clients I talk to are at a loss as to who to talk to about it when they are impacted. And while some companies have robust policies and company handbooks and HR departments pursuing 110% compliance, many other companies outsource much of their HR and "hot potato" the rest. 

I have come across three interesting links this week that speak to HR, or the lack thereof. Perhaps one of them scratch where you itch?

Here's Who You Can Turn to When You Can't Count on HR (or Your Boss). I liked this article because it captures the quandary many of my clients experience, though it's a bit more negative than what I see. It's not always that they cannot count on their boss, but that their boss is as stumped as they are as to how to turn things around. Fast forward to the "external experts" section of this article for a description of what I do....

How to Hire the Right Person (NYTimes Hiring Guide). I was really impressed by this resource. If, like some companies, the whole recruiting / interviewing / onboarding game is divided up among several of you, this might be truly helpful. Check it.

Why your HR Officer is Leaving. Keep in mind that this comes from the Chronicle of Higher Education and speaks directly to HR in the world of academia. But when I read it to an executive leader for a company I have worked with, she agreed immediately with all of the points that were made. Again, I think that we have to think long and hard about what we need HR to do and make it a priority. I think this article states it well:
I am concerned, but not all that surprised, by this new level of frustration and anxiety. While I happen to think it is an exciting time to work in a role that can influence cultural transformation, I appreciate that the work feels harder than ever. But it is important work. And while the #MeToo movement, the demands for pay transparency, and the discoveries of previously suppressed misconduct can be embarrassing for organizations and challenging to manage, it feels like — as a nation — we are finally engaged in important conversations about our most important values.

Let me know what HR looks like in your workplace ~ I'm super interested! Send me emails at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Pursuit of Happiness?

While the bulk of my work is focused on leadership development, I want to start with saying that you cannot lead anyone until you lead yourself. And that requires ongoing, transformative work in self-awareness.
one of the major premises of leadership development for me is that

So today’s post is in that spirit. I was recently struck by this article from Fast Company, This is what you’re getting wrong about your pursuit of happiness, though I want to say at the outset that a topic as huge and life-encompassing as the meaning of the pursuit of happiness cannot be solved in one little article from Fast Company! But I was especially intrigued by the “Ten Worlds” described in this article. They proved to be thought-provoking for me personally.

For example, I was especially drawn to the worlds of Realization and Learning. Regarding Realization it says,
The world of self-improvement. Here, you’re obsessed with self-examination and personal growth, but it can lead to self-absorption. The delusion is that you think you need to grow to be happy.
Indeed, I am constantly looking for new ways to be productive, or measure my exercise, or read a new book, or learn how to eat better, or… You get the picture. To lean into Strengths Finder language, I think this sort of drive is a product of my Activator, Maximizer, and Achiever, all of which are in my Top 10. And yes, I agree, at times I can fall down the rabbit hole of self-absorption, wanting to make myself my #1 project and lose sight of the bigger, more important things around me.

Regarding Learning, it says,
The world of mastery. In this world, you feel a relentless drive to learn and accomplish something that creates value and meaning. The delusion comes when you think happiness comes only through accomplishment.
Again, circling back to Strengths Finder, I see #5 Input, #6 Arranger, #7 Learner in flying colors here. I LOVE learning new things related to whatever project I am working on, and no amount of information is uninteresting to me as I dive in. But yet again, I can get lost in the swirl of discovery and think I am actually something special as I tune in to the topic.

Where the article gets tricky for me is how the Ten Worlds authors assert that nine of the ways we pursue happiness are delusions and only one world, that of "enlightenment," can provide true happiness. Admittedly, I haven't read the book, and am taking the word of the author of this article, where he says,
While Lickerman and ElDifrawi call the worlds “delusions,” they can make you happy. “For example, freeing yourself from pain will make you happy,” says Lickerman. “The delusions come when you expect the happiness they make to be permanent. Having perspective is helpful. In the 10th world, happiness is permanent.
I could not agree more -- nothing I pursue will give me permanent happiness. To believe otherwise is certainly a delusion. I am not the master of my domain, and so many circumstances outside of my control greatly impact my sense of happiness. That encapsulates the hard-knock lessons of my life, thank you very much.

Yet the Ten Worlds authors' claim that their view of enlightenment provides permanent happiness. REALLY? Furthermore, they assert that this enlightenment is not mystical or religious. Hmm. That's where I diverge from them. I too agree that we need to lift our heads and be in awe of the beauty of creation and, as they describe it, "the sublime order of things."

But for me, the awe immediately takes me in a mystical and religious direction. Beauty and creation cause me to wonder about their design and purpose, and quickly plunge me into an existential exploration into the meaning of my life and that of those around me.

What about you? What makes you happy? I deeply appreciate this statement by the authors on their Ten Worlds website:
The world in which we spend most of our time will determine how happy we're able to be. What determines which world we inhabit at any given time? Our beliefs. But not just any beliefs—specifically, our beliefs about what we need to be happy.
If you can, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the Ten Worlds described in the Fast Company article. Perhaps these questions can stir the pot for you:

  • What are your beliefs about what you need to be happy?
  • How did you develop these beliefs?
  • Are they working for you? In other words, do you find yourself fulfilled and satisfied on a relatively regular basis? Why or why not?
I sense that the Ten Worlds authors and I are both headed in the same direction. I value the hard work of self-awareness, and they encourage a pursuit of the enlightened self. However, I would say that the work of self-awareness is not only internal and self-driven; it also needs a community around you. As Tasha Eurich, organizational psychologist, says in Harvard Business Review,
When it comes to internal and external self-awareness, it’s tempting to value one over the other. But leaders must actively work on both seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them. The highly self-aware people we interviewed were actively focused on balancing the scale.
As I say to my clients, the pursuit of self-awareness is life-long. I believe the same about the pursuit of happiness... though I have discovered as I've gotten older that my sense of happiness is far more subtle and deeply rooted in knowing my purpose and identity, regardless of my circumstances.

Feel free to send me your own thoughts at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Quality over Quantity, Dec 2018

Like you I am sure, I have my hands full as year-end approaches. But in the midst of many to-do lists, I still manage to squeeze in some podcasts, articles, and a book or two. Here are my top recommendations for this month that will hopefully serve as reminders of what it takes to pursue depth and integrity over time. Chip away at them - they will be worth it.

6 Fundamental Skills Every Leader Should PracticeIronic that a written article about developing leadership should say, "Our research and experience have shown us that the best way to develop proficiency in leadership is not just through reading books and going to training courses, but even more through real experience and continual practice." Guess I'll stop reading your article now and get to work!

Nonetheless, as always, HBR comes through with this one and this proves to be a good article for mentoring and developing leaders. Their six fundamental skills listed here are fail-safe. Set aside six months to look at each skill one-by-one with your rising leaders, assigning experiments to test-drive and develop the skills.

Favorite insight: "they found that workers were able to improve their own performance by 20% after spending 15 minutes at the end of each day writing reflections on what they did well, what they did wrong, and their lessons learned." We live in a non-stop world that does not encourage slowing down or reflection. You would do well to cultivate this practice in yourself and others.

The Urgency of Slowing Down. I just listened to this today on a long walk, though it was a rebroadcast from June 2015. Use this podcast as a way to mitigate against the stressful "have-to's" barking at you, and step back to be still and listen. 

The ‘Holy Grail’ of Class Discussion. As I get ready to teach a class again this next semester, I found this article a much-needed reminder. I especially loved this:
But in those discussions, are your students actually talking to one another? Or does it work the way it often works in my class: The instructor asks a question, and students direct all of their answers right back to the instructor. Getting students to interact with one another, instead of responding individually to the instructor, might be the holy grail of small-class discussion.
I think the same thing could be said of weekly staff meetings, dontcha think? I'm not really kidding. Regardless of where you are gathering people for discussion, I found some questions in this article that focused my preparation in helpful ways. Tell me what YOU think!

How to be More Productive. I would say my top two most talked-about topics with clients are 1) How do I deal with my annoying co-worker and 2) How can I get more organized? With that second woe in mind, I give you this article. Though it has been said in multiple ways, it really is true that the important things need to get done more than the urgent things. This article gives some practical ways to approach that tension.

Favorite quotes. This month's nuggets come from Albert Einstein, and need no explanation. Happy December!



“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” 

He also reportedly said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Favorites: October 2018


This is a various and sundry list of stuff I have liked and used lately, from the sublime to the mundane. I receive nothing from endorsing these things (though I welcome it!). Here goes:

Favorite new book. I have jumped on the BrenĂ© Brown train and pre-ordered her latest book, Dare to Lead. I am halfway through Part One and like it so far. It is providing some new insights on management and leadership. I will add that I am a tiny bit skeptical at the same time -- the book is getting heavy marketing on Instagram and Linkedin and the book's language borders on cheerleading at times... Nevertheless, if you want to wade through some of those somewhat minor things, I am finding that the content is already very solid.

Favorite podcast. It feels like I have a new favorite podcast every month and this month is no exception, though actually I have two for this month. The first one is called The Sleeping at Last podcast and it is produced by a guy named Ryan O'Neal (different from the actor) who was part of a group called Sleeping at Last. Anyway, he is producing songs built around the nine types on the Enneagram and it Completely. Blows. My. Mind. Just listen to it if you are interested in or seeking to know more about the Enneagram. Second, and this one is just for fun, is one called Last Seen by WBUR in Boston. It follows the famous Isabella Stewart Museum art heist from 1991 and tries to solve the crime. It's a fun diversion.

Favorite snack. Granted, I don't know if this is a snack or a treat, but Trader Joe's Scandinavian Swimmers are a favorite impulse buy of mine. I've always said Swedish Fish are my favorite candy, but frankly I'm a little torn... these are a teeny bit chewier, softer and quite yummy. Yes please!

Favorite show. Like podcasts, I have two faves at the moment. The latest season of Great British Baking Show on Netflix has won me over. I was pretty determined to not like the new one because I was bitter that they're getting a little more commercial and that the original hosts, along with Mary Berry were leaving, But I like all the changes and they've kept all the best parts in my opinion. I wasn't sure about the hosts at first but they have grown on me. Second favorite show right now is Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain. Sadly, I only watched the show very occasionally when Anthony Bourdain was alive, but now that he is gone, I am finding it a very unique and powerful show. It isn't really so much about food as it is about anthropology and sociology and he does an amazing job capturing the spirit and heart of every country he visits. I really like it, and he is quite a complex and intriguing human being. I have so many questions...

Favorite form of transportation. If you have known me for a while, you already know that I sold my car in 2010 and now get around by my scooter or my bike, along with an occasional bus or Uber ride. I bought my latest bike in December and I'm still completely in love with it. It is the Electra Loft 7-speed and it has got this beautiful subtle color they call Green Tea. If you are at all in the market for a bike, I cannot recommend this one enough. It is comfortable, fun and so enjoyable. I always feel like I am on vacation when I ride it.

Favorite playlist. I could name several, but my current go-to's on Pandora are Instrumental Folk (music to work by) and Avett Brothers (cooking, cleaning, mindless email).

Favorite advice column. The Sweet Spot in the New York Times. I am listing this column as a favorite because I am still mourning the loss of one of my past favorite podcasts called Dear Sugars. They just finished for good at the end of the summer and I'm still in mourning about it. But this advice column is written by the same people who hosted it, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, and while it does not capture the energy of the podcast, it's a decent substitute.

Speed Round:

  • Favorite lunch spot. Whole Foods Salad Bar - always a party in my mouth! And it supports all of my high maintenance food intolerances.
  • Favorite coffee spot. Sorry, I have to go local - Handlebar Coffee is HEADS above the rest.
  • Favorite place to rely on while traveling for work. Feeling slightly guilty admitting this, but it's Starbucks. I just KNOW I can get a reliable coconut milk latte there, and the Sous Vide Egg Bites are FABULOUS and give me the protein boost I usually need when I'm scrambling between airport gates.
  • Favorite cat. Obviously. Still Oliver!
Please share your favorites, big and small. If I get enough of them I'll run a fan favorites post. Fill me in!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

What Do You Really Want?

We all have goals. Big ones, small ones. One of my small goals is to read at least one book per month. In the past few months I've read Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, Educated by Tara Westover, The Unseen Real by Stephen Seamands, Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown, The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, and Lessons in Leadership by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

September's book was... wait for it... The Jesuit Guide to (Almost Everything) by James Martin. I know, I know, not a super sexy title. But I appreciate Father Martin's Twitter feed a lot, and when this book popped up as a $1.99 Kindle deal, I thought, "Why not?" Though you may have no interest whatsoever in this book, I do encourage you to take a few moments and consider one section I read as I was hurrying on September 29 to finish it by the end of the month (sort of lame, I know).

In the thirteenth chapter, which focuses on discerning purpose in life, be it in work, job, career, vocation and life, these two questions halted my hurried reading:

  1. What should I do?
  2. Who should I be?
The rest of the chapter explores these questions in careful, non-anxious details. These are not pushy "shoulds" here. I loved it.

The author points out that we need to probably discern between our wants and our desires. Huh? Then he quotes a writer named Margaret Silf, who states profoundly, "There are deep desires and there are shallow wants."

The entire chapter of Fr. Martin's book -- heck, the whole thing -- does a much better job than I can here in shaping this conversation, but I was especially struck by some questions given that came, once again, from Margaret Silf. Take a deep breath, turn away from distractions, and consider these:

Is there something you've always wanted to do but never managed?

What are your unfinished dreams?

If you had your life over again, what would you change?

If you only had a few months to live, how would you use the time?

If a significant sum of money came your way, how would you spend it? 

If you were granted three wishes, what would they be?

Is there anyone, or anything, for whom you would literally give your life?

Take time ponder one or more of these questions. The responses you make to yourself -- provided they are honest answers you feel you ought to give -- will be pointers to where your deepest desires are rooted.

Look closely, take time to reflect on what you find. There may be patterns in your desiring that help you more fully understand who you are.


I have decided to reflect on these quarterly (yes, I've put them in my calendar already!). Perhaps you might consider doing the same? 

While much of my work with clients revolves around managing this, leading that, confronting this, strategizing that, I am grateful that I also often end up talking about bigger and deeper things like calling and purpose with people as well, whether they are fresh college graduates or executives preparing for retirement. Can I encourage you to set aside some time soon to reflect on these questions? I did just that last weekend and I am so glad I did. Let me know how it goes.





FAQ

Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eter...