Thursday, January 2, 2020

Adapting Your Leadership, Asking for Help, and Antidotes for Stress: January 2020

I don't know about you, but having Christmas and New Year's Day on Wednesdays has been a bit disorienting. Work-wise, I've had things to do on both preceding Mondays, so I had to sort of rev up for a work week, and then (happily) key down for the holidays... and then find that I had work to do on Thursday and Friday! Sheesh.

Oh well. #FirstWorldProblems, right? Overall, I will freely admit that I still had some great time to read and reflect during my time off ~ I'm hoping you did as well. The resources I'm sharing this month emerge from that time. I think you will find them helpful and thought-provoking.

Are You Adapting Your Leadership Strategy as Your Startup Grows? In this fruitful and creative era of start-ups, I am encountering a few clients who are facing some real challenges as they shift from being organic to becoming an organization. As this article describes it, "a chief revenue officer who successfully helps the company win an initial group of customers might not have the right skills to actually run a scaled-up organization." This article from Harvard Business Review asks many of the exact questions I am working on with clients who may be five or even ten years into building their company and discovering some new issues as they scale up that they have never faced before. The key issues tend to revolve around the ever-shifting demands placed on the leadership team. I believe this article at least gets the conversation started.

The Art of Asking for (and Getting) Help. A recent discovery of mine has been an interesting podcast titled The Anxious Achiever. Let's be honest... the title isn't super enticing. But stay with me. This particular episode does an excellent job of describing a dilemma I often experience with clients -- as the podcast guest states, in our personal lives we might easily ask for help, whether it’s childcare, errands or emergencies. But at work we fear looking incompetent or weak. Yet asking for help actually fosters reciprocity and teamwork. But how do we navigate that? I recommend this episode because it gives real-life solutions and helpful options.

Is There An Antidote To Stress? The opening to this podcast says it all: "We’re up against a chronic epidemic: stress. In fact, it’s estimated that 80% or more of doctors’ visits are due to illnesses related to stress." YIKES. But if you are at all like me, you might find it even more stressful to hear people talk about managing their stress! That is why I recommend this particular podcast episode. It is an outstanding, engaging, honest discussion on how to manage stress, but it unfolds as a relaxed, motivating conversation with many practical, simple ideas. I listened to it while I was making dinner and it had my attention the entire time. Please check it out.

As you gear up for 2020: One More Thing...
I was committed to spending some time during my break to really think through how I wanted to plan for the new year. But in that process, I realized that before I could move forward that I needed to look backward and spend some time figuring out where were all the places in my life that needed some purging, minimizing or decluttering....

Maybe I didn't always ask myself what sparked joy in my life, but I tried to be super honest with myself as to what I actually needed. During this process (which has not finished yet) I learned two things:

  1. I needed to start by making a list of all the places in my life where there was clutter of some sort, before I manically tried to just get started;
  2. I needed to give myself permission to not try to get everything done in a day (or even a weekend!)

Everyone has their own spots where things tend to pile up, but a couple of websites (and let me tell you there are a few thousand of them dedicated to this subject) got me thinking, and these were some of the areas that I have either started to or successfully purged:
  • Kitchen junk drawer (EVERYONE has one!!)
  • Bedside table drawer (so. much. useless. stuff)
  • Bookshelves (7 bags of books were pulled and I feel like I barely made a dent)
  • Underwear and sock drawer (there, I said it!)
  • Technology stuff (cords, old phones, adapters, blah blah blah)
  • Bathroom drawers (can we say, "old make-up from the 90's"?)
  • Bedroom closets (this is my last and most daunting area)

So this is my word to the wise: before you get ambitious and grandiose about the journey ahead for 2020, take the time to shed the dead weight. It has been a surprisingly motivating process.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up. (Anne Lamott)
Let me know what you think of this month's resources. Go to my resource drive at bit.ly/KSLDresources for even more, or send me an email at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Christmas Gifts to You: December 2019


James Taylor's Christmas album is playing in the background as I write this... though I will admit I'm also wearing shorts and the sun is out here in Santa Barbara. I find it a little surprising that 2019 is coming to a close and that we are about to step into 2020, which sounds meaningful somehow.

Looking back, this has been a full year of literal travel (Chicago, Boise, Orlando, Dallas, San Diego, Malibu, Pasadena, Azusa, San Jose for work; Yosemite, Seattle, Maine and Alabama for fun) and a great deal of virtual travel with clients as well, to Washington DC, Seattle, Boise, Chicago, Sarajevo, Manila and Bangkok. I frequently tell people that I never could've imagined I would be doing what I am doing right now, and I am so grateful for the opportunities that have opened up to me.

In writing my last post on this blog for 2019, I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of the resources I always have available on my Google Drive, KSLD resources. Feel free to shop around there to your heart's content. Below I will list some of the goodies I have used the most with clients this year.

7 Steps To Creating The Best Personal Task Management System With Trello. I would venture to say that the top two questions that clients have the most for me relate to either conflict resolution or project management. Especially for someone relatively new to project management, I recommend they start with the Trello tool. This article is a great intro that walks you through it step-by-step.

The Future of Leadership Development: A Global Mindset. Thanks to technology and globalization, many companies find it almost common place to work on a daily basis with employees who are distributed around the world. Two of my clients have me doing leadership development work with their staff in Thailand, Bosnia, Philippines and Peru. This article is a good baseline to start from. Another super valuable tool is the book titled The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. I cannot recommend it enough and use it regularly with these clients and others.

Share your Signature Themes Report with Someone Close to You. Ten years ago I started using Strengths Finders with churches and with student interns and it ended up opening the door to so much more of the work I do now. I gave multiple presentations in the last two weeks to a variety of clients, from higher education to accounting to manufacturing, and never fail to be surprised by what sort of conversations it is able to spark, regardless of context. This particular document is especially helpful in getting someone to go deeper into the results of the Strengths Finder assessment, especially if they've got some doubts about their report. This document creates some wonderful conversation.

What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It). If I only have five seconds to explain to someone what I am doing right now, I simply tell them that I help companies cultivate soft skills with their employees. This article does a good job explaining why that is necessary. I never could've imagined that 35 years of working with people in my past roles would have led me to this point, but it has been so valuable to be so comfortable in meeting people where they are and helping them figure out what they need to move forward both personally and professionally.

Healthy vs Unhealthy Boundaries. I talk a great deal with people about what it takes to maintain healthy work/life balance, but more and more I am finding that for many people, work IS life. And the struggles they have in their home lives are the same ones they are experiencing at work. Frequently the issue of healthy boundaries comes up and this is a great resource. In addition, I recommend this one on healthy/unhealthy relationships.

14 questions to ask an underperforming employee during a one-on-one meeting. Last week I participated in a great training session with academic leaders who are trying to figure out how to best manage their teams. One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is addressing problems with performance in a way that is not discouraging, but is also clear and effective. I think this is a surprisingly useful article.

An extra: I recommend this for MUST-SEE TV. Last week I was utterly gripped by this documentary titled College Behind Bars, produced by Ken Burns and one of his favorite colleagues, Lynn Novick. Set aside four hours this month to watch this. It is a remarkable story of restoration and redemption, with tons of challenges and heartache along the way. I could not stop watching this.

Final thoughts... as you gather around tables with friends and family this month, I was moved by the challenge to ask this question:
At family dinner, don't just ask kids how the test went and whether their team won. Ask them who they helped—and who helped them. (Adam Grant)
Thanks for reading... feel free to pass this along to someone else, and please do contact me with feedback and questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. See you in 2020!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Podcast Potluck: November 2019

As I have shared with many of you, I listen to podcasts like it's my job! I listen to podcasts when I brush my teeth, when I make breakfast, as I load data on excel sheets, when I walk or ride my bike, when I shower, as I do strength exercises, when I make dinner, when I clean, when I fold laundry... you get the picture. So if you want to discover my latest favorite episodes, from the sublime to the mundane, here goes.

Fresh Air: Second Founding: How Reconstruction Remade the Constitution. Terry Gross is the best interviewer on the air, hands down. I'd recommend almost any episode. But this one in particular, from September 17, was a bell-ringer. I learned so much about the constitutional amendments that emerged out of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and the impact those amendments still have today. I am committed to learning as much as I can about our history, especially as it relates to race. Definitely not pretty.

Armchair Expert: Nadine Burke Harris and the ACEs Inventory. As I've mentioned here before, the host of Armchair Expert, Dax Shepherd, is a bit of a knucklehead. But I have to say, he recruits some outstanding guests. This episode is outstanding - though you can ignore the last 40 minutes of "fact-checking" at the end. Dr. Harris is the first Surgeon General of California and WOW is she brilliant! The ACEs Inventory is a crucial tool being used in treating childhood trauma. My own involvement in working with under-served populations has seen its profound value. Give this a listen.

BBC Global News Podcast. A steady diet of US news gives one the impression that the only news out there relates to the latest tweet from You-Know-Who. So... to get a fuller sense of world news, I listen to this one every day. Perhaps I'm sucked in by all the diverse accents? But nevertheless, it is good for me to hear the latest about Venezuela, Nigeria, Chile, Hong Kong, etc., and not just US politics, which is crazy-making.

Finding Mastery: Apolo Ohno on Competition, Olympic Greatness & Transitions. Let's just say, Apolo Ohno is one VERY intense dude. This podcast was almost like a car crash... I wanted to look away at points because his competitiveness is so focused (and almost weird), but I was equally fascinated by it.

Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel. This one fascinates me, and it has already created copycats. On this podcast you get to listen in on a private counseling session! How wild is that?? It also provides helpful insights into relationship dynamics and just the way different people work. And Esther's Belgian/French accent slays me.

Office Ladies. This one is just a kick in the pants. Pure fun and tomfoolery. Plus, it is getting me to rewatch The Office episodes and that sort of relates to what this website is devoted to, right?? (Who am I kidding?) Just enjoy it.

Plus one article recommendation...

How Timeboxing Works and How It Will Make You More Productive. I have used this with a few clients this month. Certainly, there are so many productivity apps out there. But I find that simple to-do lists just don't get things done on a deeper level. I think the opening pair of sentences about to-do lists from the article sums it up well: "First, they overwhelm us with too many choices. Second, we are naturally drawn to simpler tasks which are more easily accomplished..." YES! I encourage you to give this article a good look.


Quote of the month
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Nelson Mandela 
Thanks for reading... contact me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me and feel free to forward this to others. Ciao for now!

PS Don't miss out on my leadership development resources at KSLD Resources.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Crisis Management, Career Change and Counseling Needs in the Workplace: Oct 2019

Greetings! It feels like September blew by in the wink of an eye. I find myself in conversations with clients about year-end planning and I am slowly setting some 2020 dates in my calendar.  Yikes.

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to share some recent resources that stirred the pot for me and some clients.


Crisis Management 101. I shared last month that sometimes it feels like when I am not talking about how to develop leadership in employees, I am talking to clients about interpersonal conflict in their office. Often I am invited to assist my clients when there is a "crisis." More than anything, I try to remain a non-anxious presence to remind them that no one is bleeding and that "hair on fire" panicked leadership only worsens the anxiety in the system. This article builds on that in some ways, and provides a good baseline of reminders.

4 Ways to Manage a Needy Employee.  I loved the opening paragraph of this article:
These days, there’s lots of discussion about the importance of leaders being more vulnerable and creating psychologically safe work environments in which people can share their feelings. But what happens when someone takes that too far?
I am encountering this issue more and more with clients. Perhaps it is because some people do not have work/life balance, because work IS life? Also possibly, because I find that many younger adults are more free to share about their personal lives in the workplace. Regardless of the reasons, this article has some excellent reminders about how to manage that team member that over-shares and brings their stuff to the office. I found another brief (but good) article related to this issue as it pertains to maintaining professional distance.

6 Fears You'll Have as an Older Career Changer (and How to Overcome Them). I made a major career change at age 47. I discovered MANY things in that process. First of all, "mid-life crisis" is a thing! Secondly, technology is causing the workplace to change at an exponential pace. I had to learn new skills (video conferencing, 1099 income, "branding"?? to name a few...) and have walked friends through these changes as well. This article gets REAL about the many fears one faces in such a transition. Read it and pass it along to others.

Managing Distributed Teams. OK, so this one doesn't fit into the "C" words in this month's post, but it's really valuable if you work with others around the country and around the world, like many of my clients. It's only half an hour ~ set aside work for a brief bit and take notes.

Recipe of the Month: Traybake Chicken. This is for sure my favorite go-to meal in a pinch. Almost every vegetable possible can work.  I made it last night with squash, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, cauliflower and broccoli. The best part of that that all is that you only have the sheet pan to clean.

Final thoughts ~ on leadership.
“The leader is the guardian of unity. He or she must thirst for unity and work for it day and night. For this, the leader must not fear conflict, but rather accept it and strive to be an instrument of reconciliation: the leader must be in contact with all the different elements in the community, and particularly with those who are in pain or who are angry with the community.”
–Jean Vanier, “Leadership,” Called to Community
Please feel free to forward this to others, and contact me with questions or feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Setting Up for September 2019: Reading, Race, and Rallying the Troops

As I write this I will admit I have one eye peeking at US Open Tennis. Though I was never any good, I played on my high school team for three years, even being the captain my senior year. Tennis is one of those perfect sports to watch on TV because you can really take in the whole court. I am so amazed and encouraged by some of the young players rising up, along with some of the long-term champions #queenserena #teamcoco #osakarocks

I had an interesting August: half of it I was out of town either at a conference are on vacation, and half of it I was deep in the weeds with clients. In the midst of it all I was able to read  quite a bit and find some good resources. Here goes.

Reading.  It is hard to know where to begin! One of my goals on my vacations, apart from being outside as much as possible in the sheer beauty of nature (see a photo from my time in Maine), is to read A LOT. I love to catch up on past issues of the New Yorker magazine and read at least three books. All of these goals, I am happy to say were accomplished! Here are some good options for you:

  • 13 books from high school worth rereading as an adultGranted, I went to high school a really long time ago, but I have only read five of these 13 books. Looks like I need to add some books to my wish list. How about you?
  • New Fall Books on Behavioral Science, Leadership, and LifeThis list comes from Adam Grant, whom I find to be a trusted resource on the topic of leadership and the workplace. Check these out.
  • This is WaterIn terms of everything I list on today's post, if you only have to pick one thing, make it this. It is only about eight pages. It is a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, an extraordinary writer. It is truly a game changer. It is something that should be read at least once a year, if not once a month. It is epic, and really kicks my butt. Do not miss it.
  • The 1619 ProjectI have barely dipped my toe into this, and I'm already finding it to be humbling, mortifying, and spectacular. There is also a companion podcast that goes with it. Bookmark this and chip away at it. Related to this, I'm about halfway through How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi. Very thought-provoking and provocative at the same time. The New Yorker also did a fascinating article about it as well.
  • Beloit College Mindset List. This is something produced every year that I got hooked onto a few years ago. It gives some fascinating nuggets from history and trivia related to what shapes the newest Freshman Class entering college this fall. To give you a taste, here  are   the first three: 1) They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them; 2) Outer space has never been without human habitation; 3) They have always been able to refer to Wikipedia.
Workplace Woes and Workarounds. OK Wow, buckle up. What follows is a lot of good stuff. Pay close attention to each one!
  • Walk Toward the Barking Dog (addressing conflict before it happens). Sometimes it feels like when I am not talking about how to develop leadership in employees, I am talking to clients about interpersonal conflict in their office. This one gives some good insights.
  • Leadership Development & Nudge Theory. I know I know, what the heck is Nudge Theory? And while we're at it, what is behavioral economics? All these terms are flying around now and they are a bit confusing. This link won't sum all of that up, but it will give you some good tools in terms of how to use strengthsfinder iin leadership development in light of some of the new research coming out around what motivates people.
  • Dealing with anxiety in high-performance contexts. Two names in this interview caught my attention:  DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love from the NBAIt's incredible. Every single minute. Raw and honest conversation about vulnerability, counseling, support, asking for help, you name it. While you're at it, listen to this one next with Meb Keflezighi, long distance runner.
  • Workplace Woes Q&AThis is a regular podcast for me, and I found this episode especially useful. It's a speed round of commonplace issues: how to best manage an intern; how to advance one's careers through corporate & non-profit board involvement; how to deal with an annoying co-worker; and last but not least, how to find a job when pregnant. Listen up!
  • 8 office icebreakers that won’t make you cringe. Several of my clients want to kick off the fall with a longer staff meeting or breakaway retreat. One of the main goals of these times is to build connection and community among employees. Yet we can all think of a time where we had to do a mixer that we absolutely hated. I thought these provided some good ideas that were more than bearable. If you need even more ideas, go to my resource folder at http://bit.ly/KSLDresources.
Favorite Recipe o' the Month: Winter Squash and Chicken Stew with Indian SpicesEasing into fall means that there is more squash to be had! As a grown up, I have absolutely fallen in love with all types of gourds. Here is a great recipe and the use of the word "winter" in the title is a little deceptive. You can make it now. Enjoy.

Final thoughts.


“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability
 to sit quietly in a room alone.”
— Blaise Pascal

As always, feel free to forward this blog to your friends ~ contact me with feedback or comments at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Happy fall!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Approved for August 2019: Writing, Refugees, Resumes & Retreats

I am sort of enjoying and dreading August at the same time. I have a vacation planned in Maine for the end of the month (cannot wait!) but August also signals end of summer and I feel like I barely started enjoying it (boohoo!) Nevertheless, the great resources for leadership development keep coming my way and I want to share them with you.

These 5 free apps make it easy to improve your writing. I finished teaching a class in June at Westmont College and was reminded once again that the many people do not know how to write coherent sentences!  (Yes, I'm a snobby former-and-eternal English major.) Being a good writer is a commitment, and there are some great resources available in this link. Should you want even MORE resources, I highly recommend my friend Nancy's blog.

Want to understand the current migration crisis, economic trade concerns, and recent Central American history? Given how divisive and complex these issues are, I often want to run and hide. But these two podcasts fed my brain big-time. So I recommend:

  • Dr. Margaret Peters on Trading Barriers. This woman is a scholar at UCLA, trained at Stanford, and previously taught at Yale. I found this interview riveting and enlightening.
  • The Controversial History of United Fruit. This comes from Harvard Business Review and  helps to explain the massive instability now existing in Central America, giving some of the reasons for the current migrant crisis south of our border. It is crucial that we understand and educate others about the context around these huge and difficult issues.

Our 5 Favorite Google Docs Resume Templates (and How to Make Them Work for You). And now from the sublime (migration crisis) to the mundane... I am frequently asked by clients for assistance in transitioning careers or positions. Yet rules for job-searching have really changed in the last 10 years due to the ever-expanding power of technology, the changes in the economy that have emerged since the financial downturn of 2009, and the shifting values of Millennials. I liked this article because it provides templates for some really good-looking resumes. Take a look; at minimum, you should keep your resume up-to-date and these templates might give a tremendous facelift to yours.

6 Tips for Running Offsites That Aren’t a Waste of TimeI am helping to guide at least two retreats at the end of this summer and in early fall with different clients and this article was a good brief checklist of reminders in terms of planning an effective offsite for your staff. I would suggest it highly.

Tried-and-True Recipes. In my last post I committed to sharing one of my favorite recipes each month. This month's candidate is SWISS CHARD AND KALE POTATO FRITTATA. I have chard and kale growing in my little condo side yard and this is a great recipe for them. The photo in the link is rather ho-hum but trust me it's a keeper and very adaptable to whatever vegetables you have on hand. Enjoy.



R A P I D F I R E!
Here are some current faves that I will share in quick succession with minimal explanation. Nevertheless... LOVE THEM!

Food for Thought.
A client stated this recently. We all know the Golden Rule, but do you know the Platinum Rule? 
Treat others as they want to be treated.

Thanks for reading...  please feel free to share with others and send me feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Happy, happy August ~ get out there and have some adventures!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Efficiency, Eating, Epitaphs, Education, plus an Extra: July 2019

2019 is halfway down and I've had a good year so far. I just finished teaching a great group of 22 law students from Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law in Strengths-Finders in order to equip them in soft skills and emotional intelligence. It was a great time and I continue to learn from every group I'm with. I love my work!

I've got an eclectic (sticking with the E theme in the title, get it?!) assortment of resources for this month. ENJOY!

10 Famous Epitaphs: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird. This weekend as I taught I shared at one point from the classic book, Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I continue to benefit from Habit #2, which is "Begin with the end in mind." Every time I refer to this habit, I always remind people, "What do you want to have said on your tombstone?" In other words, how do you want to be remembered? So I found this collection of funny and poignant epitaphs and encourage you to use them as a prompt to reflect: How do you want to be remembered?

Time Blocking: Improve Your Focus And Get More Meaningful Work Done. Efficiency and time management continues to be favorite topic with clients. Here's another good idea if you need some help. Personally, I diligently follow this method described by Cal Newport, as quoted in this article:
“I take time blocking seriously, dedicating ten to twenty minutes every evening to building my schedule for the next day. During this planning process I consult my task lists and calendars, as well as my weekly and quarterly planning notes. My goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right pace for the relevant deadlines.”
African Leadership University.  I found this article in Fast Company magazine. It was super inspiring to me not only for what this leader is doing in Africa but for his ideas about the future of higher education. UH-MAZING. Don't skip it.

I love to COOK and EAT! I have decided to add one of my favorite recipes each month to my posts because that is a big part of my life that I want to share with you. Feel free to share your recipes with me as well. This recipe, Gallo Pinto (known elsewhere as Arroz Negrito), is a winner and can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I like to add some shredded chicken in it if I'm eating it for dinner, and it just gets better as leftovers. It is also a home run with eggs as well. KEY INGREDIENT: chicken broth instead of water!

EXTRA Resource: "It's OK to be a Late Bloomer." Many of my conversations with clients rotate around the tension between pursuing a career and finding your purpose, between burnout and stress management, between when to persist and when to pivot. This interview is a great encouragement to parents of high school or college students, but also those who feel like they are either stalled in their career or having a hard time even getting started. I highly recommend it.

Final thought for the month:
All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us. (Richard Rohr)
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend, colleague or boss. Reach out to me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Happy July!

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...