Monday, July 6, 2020

July 2020: The Self-Care Edition

I felt some sort of tectonic shift on July 1. I spent time reflecting on how we had just finished the first half of 2020 and what an incredibly difficult and weird time that had been. I wanted to hit restart and move in a different direction. So the conversation I'm having on repeat these days is about how I'm learning to shift from a sprint to a marathon mentality. In other words, when quarantine kicked in near the end of March (WOW, that feels forever ago!) I hunkered down and just pushed hard through sheer adrenaline. This was a new experience, and we all figured it would last just a few weeks, right?

But here we are some four months later, and we ALL need a new plan. I've had experience getting through crises ~ after all, given where I live in California, I've had to evacuate three times since 1990 due to wildfires and I've survived multiple earthquakes. I've also navigated through the suicides and terminal illnesses of those close to me. But this is different. As I've said to several clients, it feels like a slow-motion car crash that never ends. And we all cannot just keep hunkering down. We need to pace ourselves -- this looks like it might last awhile.

So I've been focusing on 5 key questions with clients:

  1. Are you sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours per night?
  2. Are you getting exercise at least 4 days a week (PS are you getting outside?!)
  3. Are you eating intentionally and in healthy ways?
  4. Are you seeking consistent social support? (which is no joke under current conditions)
  5. Are you pursuing some sort of spiritual practice? It could be meditation, prayer, yoga, circular breathing, journaling...

If you're like me, you've read enough about how to work from home. Now it's time to dig deeper and get more creative about how to not just survive this year, but find new ways to live. Here are some resources I've been passing along to others.

Boundaries. As the various parts of our lives now seem to live in the same place, it is becoming all the more important to learn how to set some healthy boundaries. One of the very best resources over the years has been the simply-titled book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. But if you are looking for some short and sweet articles on how to start living out boundaries in practical ways, go to the link at the start of this paragraph. The authors have a great little blog with a bunch of solid articles there.

Managers, Encourage Your Team to Take Time Off. Sure, this article is addressed to managers, and if you are one, take it to heart! But you also may need to advocate for yourself. My friend just took a 4-day, socially-distanced camping trip to get her head and heart cleared after a really difficult few months. Most likely, many of us are mourning the loss of cherished vacation plans this summer. Nevertheless, it is not healthy for us to forgo a break entirely. Employers are finding that workers are actually surprisingly productive as they work from home, but this also means they are not taking some much-needed breaks to unplug and recharge because it feels so complicated.

This article has some valuable ideas for how to be creative in stepping away. I like this quote:
When working from home, encourage your employees to consider “vacations” as tools for focused family time, caregiving, and self-care. Down time is likely to be devoted to supporting good mental health rather than recreation or travel.

The Agile Family Meeting. If you only have time for one article as you scroll through this post, make it this one. It is REAL and PRACTICAL, and touches on something I haven't read many other places. Rather than focus on the very valid difficulties of no school, few childcare options, and parents juggling work and family this summer, this article gives us a truly effective plan. Do not pass this up.


Final Quote
“Real leaders” [are] people who “help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.” 
David Foster Wallace
Thanks for reading. Send me questions or feedback to kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. May your second half of 2020 be... better :) 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

June 2020: Journey and Justice Edition

My goal is to hit "send" on my monthly blog posts by the 1st day of month. Nevertheless, my typical blog content seemed rather unimportant this past June 1, in light of the incredible turmoil our country was (and still is) experiencing. While this springtime journey through COVID-19 and quarantine has already been historic and life-altering, the new addition of George Floyd's murder and the resulting events have my heart and head still spinning.

Thus my content for this month will include the resources that are coming up most frequently in my conversations with clients, colleagues and friends. No doubt you are seeing everyone's recommendations scrolling through your feed... I hope my suggestions are enriching and lend even a small nugget of inspiration or insight.

Management Tools. As we start dipping our toes back into "opening up" or "returning from lockdown" or "Phase 2" or whatever confusing stage you find yourself in, there are far more questions than answers, especially for those teams who have unclear direction regarding best practices for the office. While some parts of the country are giving permission to some groups to return, many have significant hesitations: Do we want to spend the money required to maintain the new standards? What will our employees with children do, given that the majority of typical summer options are still unavailable? What if infection numbers spike again because states opened up prematurely and there was a lack of social distancing during the protests? Here are some resources that have been helpful in those discussions:
    • Architecturally Speaking: Get Ready for the End of Open Office Plans. The subtitle to this article, which actually appeared in my local paper, might say it all: "How Companies Need to Change Their Office Design in the Face of COVID, Effective Immediately." Though it may feel daunting to even consider how to return, this article provides a good place to start.
    • Onboarding a New Leader — Remotely. Despite remarkably bleak employment numbers nationally, I have had more than one client need to hire for some significant roles in their organization. Unfortunately, I've heard the phrase "I feel like I've been thrown into the deep end of the pool" too often. This article reminds you of the key elements to include when bringing someone on in the midst of such chaos.
    • These 9 interview questions will set dedicated remote workers apart. More than one of my clients are genuinely considering how they might offer remote working options moving forward. I applaud this consideration; HOWEVER, I also strongly suggest that employers sharpen their pencils on what to look for if hiring for remote positions. Similar to online vs classroom education options, not everyone is a perfect fit for either one. One client I have is entirely comprised of a distributed, remote workforce, with employees around the world. Even they found these interview questions helpful. Take a look.
    • GREAT QUESTIONS FOR EVERY LEADER DURING COVID-19. I sat through a webinar that was frankly tedious and way too upbeat at most points (thus I'm not recommending it!), but smack in the middle of it was a 10-minute snippet from one gentleman that really got me thinking. He encouraged every leader to ask themselves these three questions:
    ⇨ Do you see this time as a disruption or an interruption? Interruption would cause us to seek to go back to "normal." But how do you need to adjust and move forward?⇨ What is driving your decision-making? Fatigue? Fear? Strategy?⇨ How well-positioned are you for further pivots? Agility and ability are important.
      Mental Health and Self-Care. While much of my work has included conversations around emotional intelligence, well-being and self-care, current circumstances have kicked up the temperatures of these conversations considerably. Not a week goes by now without at least one person in tears as they describe the confusion, disorientation and frustration we are all experiencing. While my goal is to assist people in developing resilience, I absolutely must start with listening and support. Here are some resources that put words to much of what we are going through:
      • If You Feel Like You’re Regressing, You’re Not Alone. More than anything, this article made me say "YES!" out loud when I first read it. Here's a great teaser: "I see this war room fatigue in the leaders right now — and in their teams. It’s real and it is infectious, and it hits you like a hammer from one day to the next." Please set aside just a few minutes to read this one. It provides a very useful roadmap for leaders who might be feeling stuck (paralyzed?) and need some direction.
      • Leading Through Grief in Life and Work. This podcast was moving, yet also quite helpful. It is an interview of a well-known restauranteur who endured the death of her sister and the loss of her restaurant in 2016. Poignant and wise.
      No Justice, No Peace. I have been on the learning journey of peacemaking, community-building and reconciliation for my entire career. That being said, I am still learning. Some might be newer to this pilgrimage and wonder where to start learning. There are too many resources to list here, but these are good places to start:
      • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Remarkable book by a remarkable man. Read this book, then see the movie that came out in January. Then make a donation to eji.org.
      • Strength to Love. These are a collection of sermons by Martin Luther King, Jr, compiled by his wife Coretta Scott King. I have used these sermons with students and interns, and they simply cannot believe these were written over 50 years ago, given their remarkable poignancy for our times (how sad is THAT?). Read them out loud if you can. 
      • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. This book quickly sold out on Amazon in light of George Floyd, though it's still available on Kindle. Make sure you pay close attention as you read, because Kendi is going to make you work as he breaks down your preconceptions in order to hear a new and powerful perspective. While I did not agree with every word written, I absolutely loved the challenge of reading this book and engaging his ideas. Brene Brown also recently interviewed the author here.
      • Movies. SO MANY. Prioritize those made by black creators and artists: Selma, 13th, Harriet, When They See Us, Black KKKlansman, Get Out, Us. Where I am learning the most is realizing how much I need to make sure I am listening to the voices of other backgrounds, ethnicities, and perspectives, and not just those who speak from my own white and privileged experience.
      • Make a plan. What is the next book, podcast or conversation in your queue? I've got With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard ThurmanTHEN plan on remaining on this learning journey the rest of your life. Make it a habit to read and access resources from voices different from your own ~ Read a book once a month. Listen to podcasts intended for diverse audiences. Learn how to engage in conversations around equity, diversity and inclusion. 



      Thanks for reading. Feel free to send me questions or feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. And explore my leadership development resources at KSLD Resources. Be well!

      Monday, May 4, 2020

      May 2020: COVID Conversations...AKA Every Good Resource I've Found So Far

      Up till the last two months, the bulk of my work has been in leadership development and management training. Yet since the coronavirus has taken hold, my consultations have been more focused on helping people develop effective coping strategies both professionally and personally.

      Admittedly, everyone and their brother is giving advice these days. We are not even sure when all this will be over, and what life will even look like at that point anyway. So I hold on to these recommendations a bit loosely ~ nevertheless these are the resources I have used for myself and with clients in the last month and they have been helpful.

      15 tips for sharing parenting duties and workspaces during COVID-19. This comes from someone I've recommended before ~ Gretchen Rubin. One podcaster calls her The Swiss Army Knife for Happiness. This link is flat out practical and down-to-earth. OK, while I'm at it, here's another SUPER HELPFUL one she posted recently on really effective tips on sleep.

      How to Combat Zoom Fatigue. I had a "V-8 moment" when I read this from the article: "Finally, 'Zoom fatigue' stems from how we process information over video. On a video call the only way to show we’re paying attention is to look at the camera. But, in real life, how often do you stand within three feet of a colleague and stare at their face?"

      A New Way to Mourn. Please, please if you only look at one thing from this post, let it be this. This was achingly beautiful and poignant. I cannot recommend it enough.

      A Plan to Safely Reopen the U.S. Despite Inadequate Testing. I have had multiple conversations with high-level, executive leaders who are struggling with how to define the specifics of what it will mean to open up again. While each state will have different rules, all of their standards will not be granular enough to equip each type of entity. This brief and clear article, authored by 7 experts, comes from reliable sources at Harvard Business Review and Harvard Medical School, among others.

      How to Recover When Your Career Gets DerailedI loved this quote: "Don’t underestimate how flattened you are after a career debacle. Give yourself time to recover, gain perspective, and, simply, rest." From a huge transition I had to make during the 2009 financial downturn, I completely concur. Do everything you can to simplify your life and make it possible for you to not have to rush into the next decision.

      Podcast Faves. These have bubbled up in new forms since we've gone into quarantine:

      Virtual Museum Tours. Last but not least, please please check these out. Better yet, run them through AppleTV or whatever gizmo you've got and drink 'em in. 
      Please let me know if you find any of the above helpful... I have been reading a little of Mary Oliver before I go to bed each night, and this one has stayed with me:

      Instructions for living a life:
      Pay attention.
      Be astonished.
      Tell about it.

      Reach out to me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Feel free to share this with others. Thanks for reading.

      Thursday, April 16, 2020

      April 2020 Quashing Quarantine edition: Relationships, Resilience, Refocusing, and Real Leaders

      Greetings one and all, from my home office to yours. April 2020 will certainly go down in history as a month like no other... but admittedly, I fear May 2020 may offer little change? The rest of 2020?

      But rather than go dark on you, I'd rather pass along the many HELPFUL and POSITIVE things I've come across in just these past two weeks. In this past month I have virtually traveled to Romania, Bosnia, Kuala Lumpur, Washington State, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, and many places in California. It has been incredibly profound for me to be sharing the same experience with people from all of those places, at the same time! We are all going through so much and it will take us weeks, if not years, to process it all. As you come across valuable resources, PLEASE feel free to share yours with me. If I get a few, I'll post 'em! Here is what is staying with me this week...

      Esther Perel Zoom Discussions on Love, Loss and Loneliness during Lockdown. Esther (pronounced Ess-tare!) is a gifted therapist (and her Belgian-French-oui-oui accent is amazing) who is able to give words to so much of what we are experiencing right now. She has a wealth of valuable podcasts, articles and short videos, but what I've enjoyed the most right now have been her Wednesday Zooms. These have been the topics:

      Gretchen Rubin WFH Tips. I subscribe to her weekly newsletter and I often find valuable tips, ideas, articles and reflections. Take a close look at the graphic that I have posted next to this. There are some truly useful ideas for how to focus some of your restless energies in productive ways right now.

      A housebound world finds solace in Yale’s ‘Science of Well Being’ course. Guilty as charged! I heard about this course on my nightly dose of BBC World News podcast (a practice I would highly recommend as a counter-weight to the frantic newsifying currently available) and decided to give it a go. On the whole, I like it. The lectures are quick and easily digestible, and I wonder if there has been a more significant time (in history?) to think about resilience, happiness, and well-being. So far (I'm on Week 3), I've most enjoyed a resource they suggest using while taking the course: the ReWi app, which provides some gentle accountability related to self-care. I have used it each night to reflect on gratitude, connection, meditation, exercise, sleep, etc. Just do it!

      Real Leaders are Forged in Crisis. If I was sitting across from you for a leisurely lunch (I yearn for that day!), I would enjoy hearing how your work life has already changed, and how you anticipate it will be changed permanently by this time. On one level, as an independent contractor, my work life has felt a bit tenuous. After all, "leadership development" might be a bit of a luxury? But for several of my clients, the stress and unfamiliarity of work life as it keeps unfolding has fostered some of the best conversations of my career. People are truly grappling with difficult issues and fears, and I feel fortunate to provide some space for those reflections. 

      In light of all that, please do not skip this article. It is challenging and motivating. I love these words from the opening paragraph:
      I know that real leaders are not born; the ability to help others triumph over adversity is not written into their genetic code. They are, instead, made. They are forged in crisis. 


      Goodie Bag: My Current Coping Mechanisms.

      • Some Good News with John Krasinski. This has been THE BEST. My link sends you to Episode 1, but make sure you tune in to Episode 2. Tears. PS He's putting on a make-up prom for Class of 2020 this Friday. SUCH a great guy.
      • DJ D-Nice livestream dance parties on Instagram. He plays lots of current stuff for the young folks, but oh, when he throws back to Earth, Wind & Fire and the Commodores, I'm in 70's funkadelic heaven! 
      • Takeout food. My housemate and I had an especially bad day last week and we did not want to be defeated by it... so we got rib tips and sweet potato fries for dinner. Do not judge me.
      • Homeschooling during Coronavirus? Quite possibly the best little video I've seen so far. Enjoy.
      Again, please let me know what you are experiencing through COVID-19 and beyond. Contact me with feedback and questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Please take good care.

      Sunday, March 29, 2020

      WFH 2.0, Almost April 2020 Edition: Stages of Grief, Social Distancing, Shifting to Online, & Searching for Work

      Oh friends... so many words. There is much that could be said, but I don't want to casually throw out meaningless platitudes or shallow sentimentalities. Rather, I will simply pass along some resources that helped me get through this month a little more easily. Please know I am thinking often about everyone I've worked with. Let's stay in touch...

      That Discomfort You're Feeling is Grief. If you read nothing else on this post today, please read this. Simply put, it is poignant and powerful. It says all the right things about what it feels like to be living through this crisis. Save it and read it more than once in the next few weeks (months?). Pass along to others.

      8 Ways to Manage Your Team While Social Distancing. Earlier this month I shared a resource that highlighted seven things to keep in mind while working from home. Several of my clients passed them along to their teams. Here is another useful article that is geared especially for managers and leaders. Here is the inviting introduction: "To help managers who are new to this – or even experienced managers who need additional guidance in these trying times – here are my best recommendations for supporting continued learning and the emotional well-being of your employees."

      How to Shift to Remote Learning. I am well aware that there are so many articles flying around as higher ed instructors scramble to shift entirely to online learning for every local community college, private school and public university. But I found this article especially instructive. And even if you are teaching lower grades then college, I think there is some outstanding and applicable information to be had here.

      Looking for a job during coronavirus? I have already had more than one conversation with someone who is looking for a job right now, either because they got laid off or simply because they had the misfortune of deciding to leave their old job right before this all hit. Where do they start? This link is a good place to start. And let's be honest, if you are at home with time on your hands because of quarantine, perhaps you should take some time to update your LinkedIn profile and resurrect your resume. If that rings true for you, I would go here first.

      Unlocking Us ~ Brene Brown Podcast. I don't feel like I have to say much here. Just cue it up and listen. She has immaculate timing. This podcast could not be coming out at a better time. Please listen. And if you're looking for another good one, I would also download this one titled Terrible, Thanks for Asking. The episode from March 17 titled "9 Things" is extraordinarily good, but every episode is worthwhile.

      Final Thoughts...


      “Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”

      Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

      Please send feedback or questions to me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. And peruse more leadership development resources at KSLD Resources. Thanks for reading... and take care.

      Monday, March 16, 2020

      WFH Update, March 2020: Coronapocalype Edition

      Well friends.... wow. As we all crawl, struggle, panic, prep and persevere through this #coronapocalypse, I find myself straining to maintain some level of normalcy, while at the same time recognizing that we are all living in an incredibly unique moment in world history. Some of us are sheltering in place and the rest of us are doing our best to practice social distancing (two words I'd never paired together until a week ago...). In the midst of so many unknowns, at least we can seek each other out for support and friendship.

      So here are some things I've been reading and reflecting on...

      Working from home? 7 smart tips to help you get more done. Believe it or not, I have worked from home since 1995. In other words, I have some practice at this remote working thing. There are lots of articles flying around that pretend to offer input on this, but this article has some VALID tips on how to work remotely if this is new for you. I have already had a few clients send this along to all of their employees. AND... here are some simple but useful reminders on how to best run a virtual meetingAs someone who does roughly 2/3 of her work virtually, I can verify that these are excellent tips. I would only expand on tip #3, "Test the technology ahead of time": I recommend signing on with someone ten minutes early to confirm the technology (audio/video, wifi bandwidth, screen-sharing capabilities, etc), and I HIGHLY recommend that people use headsets with boom mics, especially for multi-person meetings. You can hear each person more clearly with headsets, and you cut down on ambient noise with a boom mic. My own headset cost $18, including tax #notdifficult

      On Twitter @julesforrest: "Can we do a WFH workspace setup thread, unglamorous edition? My partner and I are both working from our studio apartment. My setup is a chair in front of the front door and my desk is our clothes hamper." I don't know Jules, but my heavens this threads KILLS me. I prescribe a 5-minute break every hour you work from home to refresh this thread and see the various WFH hacks that people are rigging up (which includes the cute little pupper in the photo). And should you want/need more funny memes on working from home, go hereNew favorite hashtag of mine: #wfh 

      "Real Leaders" podcast series on HBR IdeaCast. This is 4 episodes, and episode 1 is about one of my absolute heroes, Sir Ernest Shackelton, Antarctic explorer. Episode 2 is about Rachel Carson, a key pioneer in the environmental movement. DO NOT MISS THESE! They are equal parts inspiration, motivation and tremendous storytelling.

      How Corporate Cultures Differ Around the World. Just today I had a fantastic conversation with a client in Bangkok about whether they "claim" or "grant" leadership in their culture. Obviously, this is one consideration among many as we engage in global work across cultures. I appreciate this article not only because of the subject matter, but also because it takes a global (AKA, not US-centric) perspective (which is um, more pertinent than ever in light of this global pandemic). One of my growing interests is in the dynamics of leadership development interculturally, as I noted in my December 2019 post regarding Erin Meyers' book The Culture Map. This article is an excellent "Part Two" to that post.

      The Difference Between Leadership and Influence. In the same vein, I liked this reflection because it also explores the concept (as opposed to the methods) of leadership. It is concise, but thought-provoking. It would provide a great discussion starter at an executive team meeting or retreat. Here's a teaser: "You can influence without being a leader, and you can lead without influencing, but you can’t be a good leader without influencing."

      Final Thoughts...
      Stephen Colbert on Twitter, March 11, right before coronavirus was declared a pandemic: 

      "What I wouldn't give for a dull moment."

      OK, maybe one more photo from that WFH Twitter feed...


      Feel free to pass this post to friends, and reach out to me with questions and feedback. Heck, if you've got time, let's schedule a video call! Contact me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. And don't forget my resources at bit.ly/KSLDresources. Keep calm and use hand sanitizer.

      Sunday, March 1, 2020

      Learning, Living, Listening: March 2020


      February was a full month for me… It included trips to Chicago and Boise to work with clients, a garden-variety cold that just would not let go, another birthday (they just keep coming, dang it!), and three new clients.  In the balance, a great month ~ indeed, I am grateful!

      Thus with gratitude in mind, I want to share three different resources I came across in the last month that reminded me of the things that really matter. Amidst the chaos of coronavirus and this election season, I am doing my best to focus on further horizons, on what it takes to make a difference over a lifetime. I hope they encourage and challenge you.

      LEARNING. A Little Happier: Teacher Anne Sullivan Writes About Helen Keller’s Moment of Profound Realization. Ignore the first 57 seconds of this link and then listen undistracted for the next three minutes. I promise that you will be moved as you listen. Then take some time to recall which teachers had the greatest impact on you, and consider where you can do the same.

      LIVING. Third Places. This is a concept that I only learned about a few years ago, but I really resonate with it. As the article says, "Your first place is your home; your second place is your work. Your third places are your regular haunts." He goes on to list the eight qualities of a Third Place. Politics and a potential pandemic will only serve to divide and isolate us further. In contrast, I hope more and more of us can seek to create third places, and also seek to reach into new locations outside of our safe bubbles. Working from home, I am certainly reminded that I need to be more intentional in cultivating third places, and in pursuing deeper and slower conversations wherever I am.

      LISTENING. Wild Work Advice with Cheryl Strayed. This comes from one of my favorite podcasts, hosted by Adam Grant, called WorkLife. Grant is an organizational psychologist who studies motivation and meaning in the workplace. This particular episode revolves around whom we seek out for advice regarding work. It's a great conversation.

      Bonus Content. The Era of Antisocial Social Media. I'm adding this one because I am so intrigued by it. Just when I thought I had finally figured out how to use social media, I came across this dandy curveball… Trends are showing that  younger people do not like social media as much as private messaging! Read this article for some really interesting new research around a rejection of social media. Which is probably good news for everyone, right?

      Final thoughts...

      "Hope does not need to silence the rumblings of crisis to be hope."

      Walter Brueggemann

      Thanks for reading. Please feel free to pass this along to others, and send feedback and questions to kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. You can also find lots of other resources for your work life at bit.ly/KSLDresources.  Ciao for now!

      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...