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Thursday, June 2, 2022

June 2022: Summer Suggestions


If you read my previous post, you know that I have a little more time in my schedule these days to read and reflect (at least theoretically!). So just two weeks later, I already have a bundle of recommendations for you. 

Since the pandemic began, my clients have needed a steady stream of resources related to stress management and the many ways that COVID and world events have turned our worlds upside down. Despite the ongoing stream of bad news that seems to bubble up every other day, I do have a list of links that pertain primarily to a favorite topic of mine: #leadershipdevelopment. Please let me know if you find any of these useful!

⏱ How to Help an Employee Who Struggles with Time Management. This is very good - a much more holistic approach that doesn’t reduce the problem to just finding a new #productivity app. I especially like the way it challenges the manager to recognize how much their own communication and delegation matters. 

⏳ Best Time-Saving Google Assistant Tricks. I have a significant number of clients who are neurodivergent, meaning that they are on the autism spectrum, ADHD, dyslexia or a few other neurological diagnoses. Sometimes, these folks struggle with staying on task or losing track of time. I have shared this link with several of them and they have told me it has been helpful. Note that these tricks are also useful if you are someone who often engages in deep work or really gets into flow, yet still needs to keep track of commitments at times. Last but not least, here's a useful link on time blindness, which is something often experienced by those with ADHD. Even if you do not struggle with this, you might manage someone who does and it could be a great opportunity to dialogue about how to work within the constraints created by that.

🀷🏽‍♀️ Best Practices for Hiring Gen Z. Given the roller coaster ride we are currently on, I cannot tell if we are still in the Great Resignation or a recession or what!? Nevertheless, talent managers and leaders are experiencing new challenges almost daily as they try to figure out how to recruit new hires, manage expectations around remote and hybrid work, and retain valuable employees. I thought this article did a good job describing what it's like to recruit and hire new graduates. We really do need to become students of who they are and what they want, because they bring some very new expectations to the workplace.

⁉️ Creative Questions. These could be used in a variety of contexts. For example, I am often asked by clients for help with coming up with creative questions to open meetings that are fun but also build trust and connection on teams, but they are useful in job interviews too. And honestly, they would be fun around the dinner table with friends too! 

πŸ—£ Ask a Manager. Where has THIS been all my life? You can also follow them on Twitter. I also recommend "Ask a Boss." Obviously, I recommend proactive professional development for managers and leaders and not reactive "hair-on-fire" crisis management, but this could be a good site to bookmark as a reliable reference for problems in a pinch.

Final Thoughts. As I s-l-o-w-l-y recover from my broken ankle, I am doing as best I can to live day by day and cultivate patience. In recent reading, I came across this quote from Simone Weil, a 20th century French philosopher and mystic:
We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.

May we each do our best to patiently persist through the highs and lows of these days. Thanks for reading. Please reach out with questions or feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

May 2022: Know Your Limits

 

I wish I could say that I found this photo on the internet in preparation for some lofty thoughts on self-discipline... but alas, it is a photo of my own left ankle the day after I had surgery to repair it due to an unfortunate lapse in judgment on my part. I wiped out on my motor scooter (first accident in 15 years of scooter ownership) on May 8 and broke my left ankle. Super dumb mistake... I was pulling into a parking garage and went around the gate thing because scooters park for free but I miscalculated and the gate came down and knocked me off my bike. The scooter basically landed on my foot and turned it 90 degrees. Not pretty. Surgery was on May 11 to reattach cartilage, insert plate and screws. I’ll have a second one in mid-August to remove the screws.

So I am essentially house-bound all summer... still able to work, read a bit, stream a show or three, and visit with kind friends who drop off a meal or send me funny texts. I initially decided this was going to be the Summer of No, but I have since regrouped and copying a friend who is getting treatment for cancer, I'm calling it now the Summer of Slow.

I was reading some writing this morning from a man slated for execution on death row, who wrote,

As I sit here in this execution watch cell on Texas death row, with a camera surveilling my every move, I’m thinking about acceptance, and I’m thinking about survival. Years ago, I came to understand and exercise this power: “Change what you can. Accept the rest.” Now that last part doesn’t mean that you give up. But by accepting things as they are, you in turn are able to gain a certain amount of control over said situation. You feel me?

I am currently in the thick of contemplating that. I have come to the realization that even at my age, I still need to learn a great deal about which are the things I can change and which are the limits I need to accept. I am someone who perseveres, who pushes, who fights back. For those who are familiar with the Enneagram, I'm an Enneagram 8.

All that to say, I am reflecting on what expectations look like from here, on what it means to be productive, on what is important. While I have posted more than once here on those topics before, they certainly have new meaning these days for me. What follows are a few resources that are somewhat in that vein. Thanks for reading.

6 Powerful Questions to Steer Life & Work. It is so easy to get swept up in the day-to-day demands of work, and it never hurts to STEP BACK and reflect on where you are headed. As Stephen Covey says, "If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” There are certainly a ton of ways to pull back to get the big picture, from SWOT analyses to retreats to strategic planning sessions... but here's a spin on all those that might prove helpful. Check it out.

5 subtle signs you’re headed for burnout. I regret to say that this is one of the top three things I have been talking about with clients for the last several months. And it does not seem to be changing as we head into some choppy waters regarding the economy. Take a few moments to read through this one - it can't hurt.

COVID memorialA poignant reminder (covering just a sliver) of HOW MUCH we lost in these last two years. We have all been so desperate for the pandemic to end, yet I do not want to blow by the profound losses either.  (And let's be honest, I was unfamiliar with the majority of these remarkable people.) So far, the main lesson I have gleaned from my accident is that I have to keep working on tangible ways to slow down. Let us not blow by the significance of what has happened in the last 2 1/2 years... This website gives you a chance to reflect.

CliftonStrengths podcasts on Wellbeing. Anyone who has worked with me in the last 10 years or so knows that I often start the conversation with StrengthsFinder. I continue to find it a useful, objective way of engaging in work around leadership development, motivation, team-building, and self-awareness. The good people at Gallup have started a new podcast series, called oddly enough, The CliftonStrengths Podcast. This season they are discussing how to understand and leverage our strengths around issues of wellbeing. I am taking notes as they work through all 34 Strengths, and you can find the transcripts in my initial link for this recommendation.

What am I watching and listening to in my Summer of Slow? I am just getting started, but here are a few of my favorites.

  • Survivor 42 (yes, I'm a sucker for this show)
  • Love on the Spectrum (Netflix), US edition. Just started it this week. I've absolutely loved previous seasons.
  • Grace & Frankie. It has been on for seven seasons and I have not watched any, but heard a strong recommendation and I'm enjoying it so far.
  • Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (CNN). Season 2 is here! If I can't travel, at least I can go to Italy vicariously.
  • Building Off the Grid (Discovery, but I'm watching archived episodes on Sling). I'm not entirely sure why I like this show so much, but I do.
  • BBC Sounds. This is the BBC's own podcast platform.  DO NOT MISS "Soul Music" or "In Our Time."
I'm a genuine podcast-a-holic, so I'll leave it there because I love too many to list. I'm sure I'll share some in another post as the summer unfolds. Again, thanks for reading! Please reach out to me with questions or feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me.



Monday, April 4, 2022

April 2022: Endurance


Last month I noted that the intense nature of these last two years feel more like ten years on most days. Watching this horrific war unfold in Ukraine has only intensified the weight of the challenges we are seeing and experiencing. 

In multiple conversations with clients last week, I used the remarkable events at this year's Oscars (which already has its own Wikipedia page!) as a metaphor for what it feels like is going on everywhere: difficulties and conflicts seem to escalate to 11 immediately, which tells me that we are each fraying at the seams. We are exhausted emotionally, and now have little bandwidth for anything unwanted or unexpected. Given the content of what I am talking about with clients these days, I am certainly seeing that. My last recommendation for this month's post speaks to what we need to seek after as we press on.

With all of that in mind, I found these resources most helpful. I hope you enjoy them too.

🧭 Redefining Your Purpose in the Wake of the PandemicIn conversations with many clients from all over the world in these past two years, I have found that one "upside" of the pandemic has been that many, if not most, people have gone through some sort of existential crisis, taking some time to reflect on the meaning, direction and purpose of their lives. This is obviously a bigger topic than this article can cover, but it does provide a starting point. 

πŸ“ The Imperfectionist: The reverse golden rule. Admittedly, after reading Oliver Burkeman's book, 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, I've become a bit of a groupie for everything he writes... This is a brief and worthwhile tidbit from his newsletter.

❤️‍🩹 Ann Patchett: Behold, These Precious DaysPerfectly delightful conversation about writing and what it means to be friends through suffering. Take the time to listen to it. 

πŸ’° Are you middle class? Use this cost-of-living calculator and map to find out. Admittedly, these sort of things are too fun. Take a spin with Family Budget Calculator and the Family Budget Map. Make sure you zoom in on the Family Budget Map to do some comparisons. WOW. Scary as it might be, it certainly is worthwhile to get a gauge of how you are situated economically. And while you're at it, read this random U.S.A. fact of the day regarding the change in population in America's ten largest cities between 1950 and 2020. 

⚓️ Endurance: Shackleton's lost ship is found in Antarctic. I have been a huge fan of the Shackleton expedition for years. The story of the entire experience is utterly spellbinding (this is my favorite account of it) and a remarkable study of #leadership. And now the wreckage has been found, 100 years to the day of Shackleton's funeral. Make sure you watch the short video of the wreckage on this link. The story is one we may need to be reminded of as we persevere through seemingly endless challenges....

Thanks for reading. Feel free to pass it along to someone you know. And send me feedback or questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

March 2022: Are We There Yet?

 George Takei (Sulu from Star Trek) posted this on Twitter today:


These past two years have been the longest decade ever.


I could not agree more. Just when we thought Omicron was winding down and COVID-19 was moving from pandemic to endemic stage... we are here, with the first ground war in Europe since WW2. I include this photo simply because it made me smile in the midst of so much sad news. This is the author Margaret Atwood at a protest in Toronto. Between her cat beanie, the Ukraine flag and her impish smile, I was encouraged.

I share this month's links and recommendations with the hope that you will find them motivating, useful, and enlightening:

🌎 The Culture Map. I've recommended this book before... it is currently on sale for cheap on #Kindle (don't delay -- it probably won't last long). I have a small number of tools I use with clients to assist with #leadershipdevelopment and #managementconsulting. This one is in the top three for me. I recommend it HIGHLY.

⏳ We Need Time to Rehabilitate from the Trauma of the PandemicAnecdotally, my conversations with several clients verify the recommendations in this article as they start returning to the office, or even just meet together for a 2-3 day meet-up to reconnect. We need to ease back in carefully and intentionally. Also, this one: 6 red flags your body is breaking down from overwork. It is crucial to be mindful of how we are doing. Take a peek at the six red flags and see if any of them apply to you. Why not?

πŸ—£ Interview questions you should be asking if the job is remoteGood questions for both interviewers and interviewees. I have sent this to some clients who are in the job hunt and think they want to find a remote position; I encourage them to really think through their responses. All of the questions are spot on, but questions 6, 7, and 8 are especially insightful. If you are having to shift your team to remote status for the foreseeable future, I recommend using all these questions to set up clear expectations for your collaboration moving forward.

😱 At what age does mental speed slow? OK, maybe I noticed this one because I turned 61 last month... according to this article, it doesn't look so good for my team! 😳 However, I got this one from a client and thankfully it is a bit more optimistic: When Working Harder Doesn’t Work, Time to Reinvent Your Career. This one is a thoughtful spin on the midlife crisis. Make sure to read it.

❤️‍🩹 It's Your Friends Who Break Your Heart. This is a long read, but a worthy subject. So many good insights that were so helpful to read. It gave me hope that I'm not crazy when I think about some of my failed friendships. It also explains why our relationships have suffered during the pandemic.

πŸ™ˆ And now for something utterly random... From Gretchen Rubin: "One group of product researchers argue that, when it comes to texture preferences, people fall into four groups: chewers, crunchers, suckers, and smooshers. Check out table 4 to find out your texture preference. Apparently, I’m a “smoosher.” I love that word, and I love soft, spreading food textures—Greek yogurt is one of my favorite foods." Personally, I am also a smoosher. Chocolate pudding and cool whip are favorites of mine. Use this article at your next team meeting for a unique (and hilarious?) icebreaker.

❝ ❞Final thoughts. I read this recently from Ryan Holiday:

Don’t work for the external rewards. Because they will not come. Or worse, what does come will not be a reward at all. Instead, do your work because it’s right. Because it’s who you are. Because the alternative is even more unthinkable.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to forward this to friends and colleagues. Send ideas, questions and feedback to me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. 

Thursday, February 3, 2022

February 2022: Choose Your Own Adventure


OK, so January this year was just... weird and hard. It was cold, long, and COVID-confusing. Normally it is a somewhat dormant month for me with clients, who are (in normal years), either struggling to rev up for a new year, or scrambling to complete year-end requirements. But this time I was packed with appointments, and most of them were of more a reflective, existential nature. People needed to talk through mental health challenges, motivation, or just plain old stress. I am grateful for the many significant conversations, but hoping and praying that February is a bit of a lighter load for all of us.

With the hope of stirring the pot creatively or giving you a smile, I'm adding some resources that are perhaps a little off the beaten path from my normal fare. Let me know what you think!

πŸ“² Turn an old phone into a free wireless security camera in minutes. OK...wha-a-a-a-t? I haven't tried it yet, but heck yeah, I have some old phones laying around. I'm a bit technology-challenged, but if any of you try this out, please let me know if it works for you.

🌡🚲 They’re building a 15-minute city from scratch in the Utah desert. As someone who has not owned a car since 2010, and rides a motor scooter or bicycle to most places, I will tell you that this seems appealing. Perhaps as people start taking remote jobs in locations where they want to live, concepts like this will become even more feasible? Interesting reflection to ponder.

πŸ“½ The Banality of Genius: Notes on Peter Jackson's "Get Back." Between Thanksgiving and Christmas I pushed through the 8 hours of the "Get Back" documentary about the Beatles on Disney+. Sure, the whole thing got tedious at times, but overall I believe it not only captured the reality of the creative process (95% noodling/procrastinating; 5% something mildly worthwhile), but good grief, we got to watch the Beatles create music and do their last concert! If you are interested, this is the best review/essay on the documentary I've seen so far.

πŸ›₯ Rotterdam bridge to be dismantled so Jeff Bezos’ yacht can pass through. Apropos of nothing. But so... lame.

⏳ If you need a new tool for organizing your tasks, projects and plans... OK, I can't help myself. I found something SUPER DUPER useful and need to share it. I'm a huge fan of mindmapping, and the best website I have used is MindMeister. Here is a 1-hour "how-to" on how you can maximize and organize ALL of your stuff into a dashboard: MindMeister for Personal Productivity - Jan 2022. The first 10 minutes might be a teeny bit tedious as he sets the context but HANG IN THERE. It's worth it, I promise! (PS if you're hooked on MindMeister, don't let the annual fee daunt you. Dig around and find their .edu discount. If you've got an .edu email address, you're set!)

πŸ€” Embracing Sadness in the Pursuit of HappinessHave no fear, this is actually an uplifting episode. I found it very useful and it gave some practical advice.

As always, thanks for reading... please reach out with feedback or questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Onward and upward!

Thursday, December 30, 2021

January 2022: How Did I Get Here?

I traditionally take this week between Christmas and New Year's to get some "balcony time" to reflect on the past year and prepare for the new one. As one website states, "So many things call for our attention at work every day that we can get completely caught up in the day-to-day business of business—what’s happening on the 'dance floor.' Getting up in the balcony allows leaders to gain perspective and shape vision."

As you can imagine, this time in the balcony was especially... a lot to process. I used some directed questions (see below) to get me started, and I let myself really remember how completely bat*$(# crazy this year was. Which is saying something because 2020 was certainly no joke either! I won't cycle through the summary of this year's headlines that will loop on repeat in the next couple of days on every news outlet, but WOW. The lyrics to Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads keep rattling around in my head... (Especially "And you may ask yourself, 'Well... how did I get here?'")

In the midst of it all, my work with clients has plowed ahead. I am still digging in with several clients in terms of #leadershipdevelopment -- creating new manager training competencies, constructing more efficient and relevant onboarding processes, shaping better employee engagement activities, to name a few. But on top of that, I am kept very busy by providing workshops and conversations on #stressmanagement, #resilience, and overall #wellbeing. And recently I have had some truly powerful discussions around #neurodiversity. I am learning so, so much. 

To indicate the interest I am discovering around these concerns around #wellbeing: I post about once a week on LinkedIn, and I average from 15 to maybe 300 views... but two weeks ago I posted an article titled "Feeling constantly stressed? Blame your 'threat brain'" and it got 3,817 views! Alrighty then.

So here is what I am reading and using with clients. Please do let me know what connects for you.

🎼 🎧 Science-Backed Productivity Playlists to Help You Dive Deeper Into Work.  Personally, I need something in the background to help me focus when I need to put my head down and laser in on one thing. Here are some playlists that might be helpful to you if you like to do that as well? 

😡 Staying Sane at Work. This is a podcast interview with Dr. Laurie Santos, who leads the most popular course on Coursera, which I have taken and recommended here, The Science of Well-Being (I still REALLY recommend it). This interview appears on the "Ten Percent Happier" podcast, which is a tremendous resource for those looking for creative, helpful methods of #self-care.

πŸ“† End of Year 2021 Self-Reflection Questions. These are the ones referenced in the first paragraph above. Listen to the podcast given in the link, or scroll down and just use the 10 questions given. Questions 1, 2, 6 and 8 were the most productive for me. How about you?

✍🏾 Feeling Anxious? Journaling Might HelpFollowing up from my post in November on the value of journaling: Here is a quote from this month's article that sums up why I journal every day: "When people use writing to express themselves, Dr. Wright said, they 'increase emotional regulation, clarify life goals, find meaning, and give voice to feelings, which can help construct a meaningful story.' She added that looking back through old journal entries can remind the writer of the times she struggled but persevered."

✅ 22 for 22. Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them a bucket list... but I appreciate setting my sights on some things to work on and look forward to and challenge myself to try in the coming year. I did this last year via Gretchen Rubin's challenge to do the same (21 for 2021) and many were accomplished. Do this in a way that is life-giving and fun.

πŸ‘‚πŸ½ What You Discover When You Really Listen. I have learned that the activities of coaching and consulting with others (coupled with decades of pastoral care in my previous careers) requires focus (as opposed to multi-tasking), presence, curiosity, and the ability to keep going through the layers. This TedTalk by Hrishikesh Hirway captures that process -- it provides valuable insight for managers and leaders, but also for individuals as they relate to everyone important to them. Amazing.

πŸŽ™ Podcasts that I Can't Stop Listening To. Sometimes I feel like I could create a separate blog just for this topic... I am regularly awestruck and energized by the content I run into. My two latest favorites feed off of the recommendation directly above ~ perhaps you've already discovered Song Exploder on Netflix hosted by Hirway, which unpacks the process, in tremendous and fascinating detail, of how a song is written through in-depth interviews with the songwriter. But there are only a few episodes... so if you want a steady stream of new songs, I recommend the Song Exploder podcast. A similar podcast, yet totally different, comes from BBC Radio 4 that is called Soul Music. The title is a bit misleading... it does not solely cover soul music; rather, like Song Exploder, it explores stories behind all sorts of music -- but from the perspective of the listener, interviewing people who have had their lives (and souls) deeply impacted by a particular song. The episode of U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For is outstanding. P.S. If you enjoy this exploration of the creative process, sign up for several hours of watching (which I found tedious occasionally, but overall very worthwhile) the documentary on the Beatles called Get Back.

🧊 ⛏ 25 Icebreaker Questions for Meetings and Groups ~ latest updateI try to regularly compile list of questions for teams to use to break the boring chitchat at meetings, so here's my newest list. Previous lists can be found at https://bit.ly/KSLD25Qs and https://bit.ly/KSLDTeamBuild.

There are even more things to recommend, but that's enough for now. I hope I get to connect with you in the new year. Please feel free to reach out with questions and feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, December 2, 2021

December 2021: What is Work?


During calls with clients one day this week, I "went" to Bosnia, Thailand, and England -- and Chicago in the US. I could never have imagined that work could look like that even ten years ago. It is equal parts fascinating and disorienting. Each day, week, and month I am seeing more and more how work is shifting and changing: when it happens, how it is accomplished, who I collaborate with, how we communicate, how it grows... just to name a few of the transformations I'm witnessing and experiencing.

This month's post is all about the ways I'm thinking and learning about "work." There is no order of importance or sequence here... each thing I list this month simply speaks somehow to the question of "What is work?"

πŸ•° The Future Of Work Is Asynchronous—And These Companies Are Leading The WayI'm having so many conversations about this, but it requires a massive paradigm shift in the way projects are managed and work is accomplished. Once you actually start understanding and using these new, foreign words "asynchronous" and "synchronous," this article might help you jumpstart the paradigm shifting process. Go ahead -- take the leap!

🧠 Neurodiversity at Work. I have already shared this individually with several people and with a team of managers. This is a tremendous episode. We ALL work with and know neurodiverse people, even if we don't realize it... ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, autism spectrum: all fall under this grouping of neurodiversity. This podcast episode is wonderful and enlightening, including interviews with a man on the autism spectrum who worked as an intern at Procter & Gamble, a supervisor of neurodiverse employers, and a clinician. Please listen and share this with others. We all need to keep learning about this to be better colleagues, supervisors, friends, family members and citizens.

πŸͺœ HBR Ascend. This is my new favorite Instagram account, though I've linked you to their website here. It is designed to "help young professionals find their place in the working world and realize their personal and career goals." Lots of good material on starting a career, well-being, and pursuing professional development. Everyone would benefit from the content here.

πŸ‘¨πŸ½‍πŸ’» Workers of the world, stay home! I know, there are so many opinions swirling about remote work. But this interview with Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel is a discussion about the real issue: how we define, measure and accomplish work in the 21st century.

πŸ™πŸ½ Pico Iyer and Elizabeth Gilbert – The Future of Hope. Admittedly, this conversation is really about LIFE, not work. It seems to capture so much of what we have all gone through since March 2020, and I just had to include it. Listen to it in a quiet space. It is very tender and thoughtful. 

🏴‍☠️ Random Stuff! These were all fun things I bumped into when I needed a brain break so my brain wouldn't break... (har de har har).

  • Free Classic Books Online. A very clean and simple website called "Library Athena." But of course you have read these lovely works already! 🀣
  • How Bowling Balls Are Made. Could. Not. Stop. Watching. This.
  • Book DonkeyIn case you need to be reminded of your many blessings, and of the beauty tucked into so many places in the world. 
  • Cool organizational tool. I received this from a client (and former student who is now a stud!). Looks so-o-o-o nice.

Final thoughts...

"We are what we repeatedly do."
Aristotle (via Will Durant)


Many thanks for reading.... As always, feel free to reach out to me with feedback or questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me

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...