One simple way to reduce stress and feel better

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills

The other day I was having a conversation with a client of mine. We were discussing their business and the progress towards the goals they were trying to achieve. They said to me “Elena, I haven’t gotten as far down the path towards my goal as I would have liked since we last spoke. I wasn’t even sure how to tell you. It’s hard for me to share this with you because you are one of the most disciplined people that I know.”

When I heard them say this it really surprised me – I almost wanted to laugh. While I’ve worked to prioritize the most important values in my life. I am not as disciplined as I would like to be.

It was brought up again in my conversation with my mentor Doug at Think2Perform. He said to me “Elena, the things that you do to drive results, others know they should also do. But, there is a big difference between knowing what to do to drive results and actually doing those things.”

My response to Doug and my client were very similar responses. For me, when I feel the most stressed, when I feel the most tension, it’s during the time and space between knowing I have to do something and actually doing the thing. Doing something hard is not the most stressful thing for me. The most stressful thing is the time between knowing I need to do something hard and when I actually go do the hard thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tough conversation letting an employee go, if it’s making sales calls for work, if it’s setting a new boundary with a friend, if it’s breaking up with a boyfriend (back in the day), if it’s going to do a tough workout, or if it’s waking up early to do my morning routine. These are all things that can be hard me to do. But, when I know these are things that must happen to live in alignment or drive a specific result that’s important to me, and I don’t do them, I feel like crap. It’s when I’m the hardest on myself. It’s when I feel the most stress.

I’m not the most disciplined person I know. I just don’t want to feel stress, anxiety, and shame. I will do the hard things to avoid those bad feelings. When I do those hard things sooner than later, I feel peace, calm and self-respect sooner than later. I’m a very simple person in one way – I want to feel good more than I want to feel bad. I wish I could say it’s discipline, it’s not.  

Several years ago, I had to let an employee go. It was an extremely stressful situation that was out of my wheelhouse. I needed to work with external partners outside of my team to get to the right way forward. It was an extremely hard season for everyone involved. For reasons that I could not control, that conversation had to be delayed for months. At the point I made the decision to let them go, the stress related to the situation increased. The time between knowing I needed to have that conversation and the time I had the conversation was one of the most stressful times for me professionally. The hardest part wasn’t the actual tough conversation. The hardest part was waiting to have the tough conversation. It was then when I realized the connection between stress that accumulates during the time between the knowing and the doing.

It was after that situation that I really started noticing more about my general feelings of discontent related to the hard things I needed to do. While the difficult situation I shared was the situation that made me notice this phenomenon, I started learning a lot more after that. Guess what? Most of the time I was feeling stress or discomfort, it typically wasn’t because someone was delaying me from doing the hard thing like in the example above. More often than not, it was ME that was delaying the hard thing, and avoiding the ‘doing.’ I learned that if I could reduce the amount of time between the “knowing and the doing,” I could reduce the stress, anxiety and potentially the shame that creeps in when I’m in a state of avoidance. While staying committed to sales calls, working out, or having tough conversations aren’t things that I always love doing, I like doing them more that the way I feel when I don’t do those things. I’m not the most disciplined person I know, I just like feeling content versus discontent. I will do the things to avoid feeling bad.

I told my client; you don’t have to be the most disciplined person you know. Just notice how you feel when you’re doing the work that aligns to what’s most important to you. Notice how you feel when you’re avoiding that work. Then reduce the time between the knowing and the doing, it’s a simple way to reduce stress and feel better about yourself. You’ll feel peace, calm and contentment more often.

I’d love to hear and learn from you. What are the things that you’re noticing about the space between the knowing and the doing? How might you feel if you reduce the time between the knowing and doing?

If this served you in any way, share it with a friend!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

The most radical thing you can do.

The other day I joined my colleague Ryan Goulart on the Think 2 Perform podcast, Making the Ideal Real. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Many of you know I aligned my coaching and consulting business with Think 2 Perform earlier this year (think2perform.com). I’m a little biased. But, I’ve been a fan of the podcast long before I worked with Think 2 Perform. Ryan’s podcast is short and smart – and it only comes out monthly which means it’s a podcast I can commit to. The first question that Ryan asks is always the same, “what does making the ideal real mean to you?” It’s a question that I’ve thought a lot about over the past years. I think it’s actually a similar question that changed the course of my professional life. It was the question that gave me permission to make major changes when I knew deep down I needed change desperately. It’s a question I encourage you to think about. 

When I was prepping for our podcast together, I knew he would ask me that question. AND, I knew I could give him some sort of safe ‘corporate leadership’ response. It would be a response that would resonate with other business leaders. It would even be a response that would serve people well. That type of response would be a safe response for me to offer. But – if I learned anything about safety the last four years, I’ve learned that safe can by synonymous with stuck.

I shared with Ryan that making the ideal real for me is the audacious idea and true belief that I’ve done the work to Know Myself and I’ve done the work to Love Myself. If I don’t know myself truly and I don’t sincerely love myself, I’ve come to learn that it’s damn near impossible for me to live ideally in any other area of my life.

It’s one thing to “know” yourself. I look back now and realize I knew myself at the surface level. I knew my gifts and abilities. I knew my accomplishments. I knew my bank accounts aligned with those accomplishments. I had taken every assessment under the sun. I knew everything about me “on paper.” I even took the time to identify my values. I tried to live my life according to those values. Here’s the problem though, knowing myself on paper and knowing my values on paper wasn’t enough. I was deeply tired and on the brink of burnout. I was living a life always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” I used my values as some sort of crappy report card. In the privacy of my own thoughts, I was never measuring up.

Here’s what’s really frustrating to me now. At that time, I was doing so much to grow. Mike and I were being more intentional than ever to invest in our marriage. I was working hard to be a great mom. I was being intentional about my spiritual life. I was doing more to develop my skills as a leader. I was changing habits to invest in my health. I was working out more, I was drinking less alcohol and drinking more water. While it was all good activity, it would never be enough until I made the decision to truly know myself and love myself.

People talk about negative self-talk. People talk about Imposter Syndrome. No one talks about how to deal with it. But when you don’t deal with it, if you’re not self-aware of the thoughts you think about yourself, it has real impact, EVERY DAY. I believe more than ever that Lao-Tze was right. Thoughts become your reality and ultimatley your destiny. If you’re not living your ideal life, start with your thoughts.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Lao – Tze

If you’re not making the ideal real, start with your thoughts. My negative self-talk was impacting every area of my life. Knowing myself wasn’t just about my personality traits, my gifts, and my abilities. Knowing myself was actually about knowing and being self-aware of my emotions, how I was feeling about myself and how that translated to thoughts and actions. When I allowed myself the time and space to become aware of how I was thinking about myself, I realized I was approaching a crossroads – I was approaching ground zero. I could do nothing – I could stay safe/stuck and wait for an explosion at some point when I least expected it.  Or – I could make the decision to know and love myself.

I ran towards ground zero. Well, if I’m being honest, my therapist Justine held my hand and walked me towards ground zero. She very firmly and also gently helped me get clear about how I was thinking and talking to myself and as a result how I was loving myself. She put a mirror up to my thoughts. It was heart breaking. I would never talk to someone else the way I was talking and thinking about myself.

It was that day that I proactively pursued self-love and compassion. Truly loving myself wasn’t a one-and-done decision. I couldn’t just check that off the to-do list. It was a commitment daily to change the way I thought and trust that different thoughts would become different words, and words would become actions, and actions habits, and habits character. I trusted the science and the scripture that said I could renew my thoughts, that I could create new neuropathways. I trusted that if I did the work to change my thoughts about myself, I could and would love myself.

Do you know what happened? Something radical happened. I learned to know myself – not just on paper, but I learned to know my thoughts about myself. As I renewed my thoughts, as I created new neural pathways, my behavior and my decision making changed. As I changed my thoughts, I learned to love myself.

If you’ve ever heard me speak “on stage”, you know that I’m still on a journey some days to love myself. Some days I still need to remind myself exactly how to think about myself. I literally write down on paper how I want to think about myself in third person as if it already happened. I think it will be a journey I’m always on.

I shared all of this with Ryan on the podcast. I was vulnerable and honest. And, I share this with all of you now. I’m vulnerable and honest with you. Why? Because I believe knowing yourself and loving yourself is the most radical thing you can do for your family…faith…business…community…for yourself. It’s why friends Jocelyn and Jessie and I are creating a community of women that are on a journey to know and love themselves. We’ll be sharing more soon. I can’t wait to invite you to formally join us in this community called the Hive Exchange. If you’d like to learn more, let me know. I’ll make sure to invite you.

While I wish sometimes I didn’t have to do the messy work at ground zero, I’m so thankful I did. It was work that was worthy of my time and attention. The work had radical results that I’m still realizing. Every time I share my story, I hear directly from people that they are on the same journey. I hear they are challenged to know and love themselves in a different way. I hear this from men and from women. I hear sometimes that until hearing me share my story, they didn’t ever give themselves permission to think about themselves, not to mention love themselves. People tell me they weren’t sure that they believed self-love wasn’t even possible.

That’s why I share this with you today. That’s why I shared with Ryan on the podcast. I share because it might give at least one other person permission to share their own journey. Or it might encourage sone other person to start the work themselves, to know and love themselves. And that’s the most radical thing we can do.  

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

P.S. I want to publicly thank one of my mentors Ray Kelly who isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Ray asked me how the blog was going – knowing I wasn’t writing. When I shared I was taking a bit of a break this last quarter as my business was ramping up, Ray did as Ray does, he encouraged me to get back to my ideal self.

Today I Celebrate You: International Women’s Day

In 2005 I bought my first home, 4132. She has two bedrooms, one bathroom and one garage stall. At first glance, she was the most starter of all the starter homes. She had one thing that was unique about her, she had a custom wood built-in that stretches the length of the living room. In the sea of cookie cutter townhomes, that one thing made her stand out. When you walk in, the custom built-ins and electric fireplace create an unexpected warmth. As a 24 year old, recently out of college, I was in a sea of cookie cutter young professionals. I was aware of how much I didn’t stand out. I was desperate to find what was unique about me. It was the first time in my life that I realized I wasn’t quite as special as my parents said I was.

Looking back, that townhome was a companion to me when I had no companion. I didn’t go from my parent’s house to my husband’s house like ‘they’ used to say. 4132 gave me an opportunity to live alone as well as having roommates. It was during those alone stretches where I really got to know myself and make decisions as a young woman based on my own preferences. I know that doesn’t sound so profound anymore but I needed that time to be alone with myself. I needed to really get know myself. I needed to find the things that made me Elena. How did I stand out? Not in a prideful or narcissistic way – I needed to learn what unique gifts and abilities I was gifted in. I wanted to use those gifts to serve others. Also, I wanted to understand those gifts to not just serve others, to love myself. I needed to figure out how the artist created me as her custom piece.

Fast forward twelve years, I’ve decided to sell my 4132. Here’s the problem, since I moved out, I’ve rented her to strangers – strangers that didn’t see her as the gem in the sea of cookie-cutter homes. They didn’t see her as a companion. They didn’t grow up with her. She was a means to their end. And as a result, they didn’t treat her like I would have treated her. Over time, as she’s been lived in and worn down. As new renters have come and gone, they’ve taken their toll on her. Over the last month, I’ve spent more time with her than I have over the last decade. It takes time and money, but when I slow down to think about how I feel, I realize it’s been my personal pleasure to clean her and restore her back to life. She’s getting new paint, new flooring, new appliances, and new lighting. She’ll still have her one custom piece that makes her stand out from the rest. I will personally make sure she’s ready to take in the next young professional ready to learn who they are and step fully into exactly who they were created to be.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was ferociously cleaning the bathroom (I will spare you the details). I was disgusted with the way the last renters treated her. In a moment of being physically exhausted and totally grossed out, I started crying – not just because of my townhouse was treated. I cried because the townhouse was a metaphor for how I felt as a woman. I’m no longer the young, tight, shiny young woman I was when I moved into 4132. Our culture puts an exclamation mark on young, tight, photoshopped beauty – beauty that is fake and unattainable long term. When wrinkles set in, when our hair is graying, when the kids move out, when things are saggy, when youth has passed, women are no longer valued in the same way. Just like 4132, when women are no longer valued, they are treated with less value.

Here’s the crazy thing, it’s taken dang near twenty years to figure out who I am beyond the physical representation that the world values. It’s taken me this long to truly see what makes me unique. The world told me as a young person what would be valued. What would be valued was my body, my beauty and the results I produced. While I love my body and my beauty (which I do not define as the world does), and while I’m proud of my results, I’m so much more than those things. I will never sparkle again like I did in my youth but I have a clarity about me that only time and wisdom bring. I know now who I am – and I love the woman I have become and frankly who I’ve always been. It was just hard at first to remember her because the messaging I was getting from the world was so much louder than then my internal voice. I needed to get quiet and look inward and upward to remember how the artist created me.

I will never sparkle again like I did in my youth but I have a clarity about me that only time and wisdom bring.

EncourageHERELENA

On this international women’s day, I want to celebrate women. I want to encourage you to look inward and upward to remember exactly who you are. The things that make you uniquely you are the things that are meant to be shared and celebrated. Brené Brown’s work teaches us that true belonging can only happen when we share our authentic and imperfect self to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance and self-love. You maybe feel awkward and alone, I want to encourage you to find and share what makes you uniquely you. You are maybe young and beautiful, share what makes you uniquely you. You are maybe middle-aged like me, share what makes you uniquely you. You are maybe an “old” woman by the world’s standards, share what makes you uniquely you. When you share, you give permission to another woman to do the same. I may not be as sparkly as I was in my youth, but I have a clarity about me that only time and wisdom brings. I wish it didn’t take me years to find her. Today, I celebrate every woman, every authentic and imperfectly perfect woman.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Feelings Follow Action

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills, redbirdhills.com

This past week has been one of those weeks, the past month has been one of those months, and you guessed it, this winter has already been one of those winters. It doesn’t ‘feel’ good to be a Minnesotan right now. As a native, you’d think that I’d be used to the overcast, cold, God-forsaken January days. Yes, I am. And also, no I am not. I think I have said at least 1,700 times in the past day, like a broken record, “so, tough day with this weather, am I right?” Actually, the check-out clerk at the grocery store beat me to it so it was technically only 1,699 times. January in Minnesota is not good. We are not ok, send hot beverages, cozy blankets, portable heaters, or a hot tub.

But you know where you’ll find me next January? That’s right. It’s 99.99% likely that you’ll find me right here next January. You’ll probably hear me complain at least one hundred and twenty million, thousand plus nine times (my kids are too grown up to mess up their numbers anymore when they’re exaggerating so I do it myself to remember how cute they sounded). This weekend I accidentally relearned a lesson that I needed to relearn. The lesson is very simple but profound. Feelings follow action. If you want to change the way you feel, you need to change your behavior.

Feelings follow action. If you want to change the way you feel, you need to change your behavior.

encourageherelena.com

Around here, you can complain about January (I’m obviously not above this strategy) or you can lean into January, which accidentally happened this weekend and retaught me this lesson. I wish I could say it was intentional, it wasn’t. Over the weekend, we literally wanted to change the way we felt, so we chose to change our actions. We chose to thoroughly embrace January. The boys went ice-fishing while I went for a long, wintery walk.  They played SO MUCH pond hockey. We met good friends to go sledding. We ate homemade chicken soup. We snuggled up with a movie. We went downhill skiing. At the end of the weekend, I seriously realized how much I have to be thankful for and how seriously fun it can be to live in Minnesota when you choose to live and not just pass the time.  I changed the way I was feeling by simply changing my actions.

When things get hard, when you don’t ‘feel’ good, you might need to ‘act’ differently until you feel the way you want to feel. You might need to be an actress/actor and play the role and do the things that someone who feels different would do, even if you don’t feel different yet. I’ve heard some people say “embrace the suck.” I don’t love that phrase. It’s so negative. Just because things are hard doesn’t mean they aren’t good for us. Most of the things we value most are hard to attain. Deep down you can find beauty and growth in every challenge if you look for it.  

Deep down you can find beauty and growth in every challenge if you look for it.

ENCOURAGEHERELENA.COM

I needed to be reminded that I can change the way I feel by acting differently. When I started noticing over the weekend the changes in how I was feeling, I noticed that it wasn’t just any behavior change that made a difference. The actions that made a difference were the actions that were totally in my control. I didn’t need to rely or influence anyone else to move the behaviors or actions forward. You’ve probably heard of the three bucket theory. Make sure your actions are within bucket one (things that you can control) and not in bucket 2 (things you can only influence but not control) or bucket three (things you cannot control or influence). If I’m feeling unhealthy, I go drink a huge jug of water or slip in a quick 30-minute workout. Those behaviors are in my control.  I know I will immediately feel healthier. If I’m feeling anxious about my business, I start making calls to schedule new appointments. The behavior of making calls is in my control. While I can’t control if someone schedules an appointment, I have learned from past experience that the action of making calls reduces my anxiety. If I’m feeling disconnected, I immediately schedule a date night with Mike or 1:1 time with someone I love. Scheduling 1:1 time is in my control.

The actions that made a difference were the actions that were totally in my control. I didn’t need to rely or influence anyone else to move the behaviors or actions forward.

ENCOURAGEHERELENA.COM

Is there something in your life that’s feeling off? Do you need to change it? OR, do you need to change the way you feel about it? First step is to make sure you slow down enough to understand how you feel. Don’t ignore it. If you’re feeling a negative feeling, anxiousness, shame, loneliness, discouragement, fatigue, indecisiveness, stress or overwhelm? Acknowledge it and name it. Do you need to flip the script? Do you want to change how you’re feeling?  Can you choose to act differently until you feel differently? Changing your mind is hard to do but it can be done. Changing your behavior is something you can do right now. You might be wondering if a certain action or behavior will change the way you feel. Try it, and pay attention. And you know what? If you’re like me, you might just feel better.

Here’s to February 1st.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

True North: A New Years Checklist for Leaders and Business Owners

wind rose with maps on table
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Happy New Year! When you read this it will be January 13th or later. You almost have the first two weeks of 2022 wrapped up? How is your year going? If you’re anything like me you’ve gone from zero to sixty quick! Are you doing what you said you would do? Is your team rowing in the same direction? Or did you actually get thrown into the year without getting grounded on what really matters? Its ok. There’s still time to get grounded and lead well. This is actually the last blog in a series we’ve been going through titled Finish Well. It was five part series we started at the beginning of December. Just to review where we’ve been and where we’re going, these are the five steps to Finish well.  

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT if you must. Read it here.
  2. Your plan to Reflect. What went well? What didn’t go as well that needs to be left in 2021? Read it here.
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them. Read it here.
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

The last step in finishing well is a plan to start the next year grounded in your company Mission, Vision and Values with clear goals. If you feel you haven’t done that yet, here are few ideas to get yourself and your team rowing towards the finish line of 2022. By the way, these same principles can be applied to any business, community or even family structure.

Dirty 30 ‘True North’ All Team Call

Schedule a 30 Minute All Team Call to review with your team what is really important for 2022, your “True North” for the year. The first 10 minutes is to review the Vision, Mission and Values of the organization or your team. This is where we’re going, this is how we’re getting there, and we’ll show up grounded in these values. You might think that people remember this stuff. They don’t unless you consistently remind them. In the first 17 years of being in business, I rarely saw this done. Get people excited and looking towards the True North. If where you’re going as an organization doesn’t excite you as a leader, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. I’ve never trusted my ability to bull shit my team. Meaning, I don’t ever do anything where I have to convince them of something that I don’t believe in. Don’t expect your team to buy what you’re selling if you don’t believe it 100%. I’m not good at faking it. Maybe your company vision doesn’t excite you, then you must have a team vision that gets you out of bed in the morning. Ideally, you get excited about both your company vision and mission as well as your team’s vision and mission. If you are the business owner or CEO, you’re your vision and mission must excite you enough to inspire your team to give you their absolute best. You are the gasoline that blows this thing up. If you’re not passionate, don’t expect them to be. Sometimes leaders and owners say to me, I feel like a broker record. I’m not sure I’m going to go through this again. Do not assume that your people know this, insure that they know it. Ask them to lead their team in the same discussion.

The second ten minutes is describing the big goals you’re going to achieve and the primary leading indicators that will help you drive results in the areas of those goals. This shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re team was along for the ride during business planning. However, if there are new goals or new leading indicators, you may need more time.

Take five minutes is to hear from the group any feedback or questions. Then close the meeting sharing how and when you’ll keep the scoreboard in front of them, so you know as a team how you are on or off track. Make sure you have a scorecard that shows whether or not you’re on track within the time frames that make sense for your business, weekly – monthly or quarterly. This does not need to be anything fancy. This can be a hand drawn thermometer showing progress toward goal by time frame.

1:1 Check Ins with Each Team Member

In one of your first 1:1’s with your team, check in with them about how their work aligns to Mission – Vision – Values. Do not tell them. Ask them to tell you. This give them an opportunity to create their own insight which is way more likely to impact behavior.

Ask them about how their work aligns to the business plan. Do their primary goals directly impact the company goals, and do they have a clear understanding of the leading indicators that impact their goals? And of course, every person on your team should have clear performance goals and leading indicators.

Check in on how will they keep track of their goals and leads so they know that they’re winning? For me personally, some of the most effective scorecards are the handwritten trackers that I must physically create and fill in. When recruiting was one of my top two goals, every quarter I would number by hand a sheet of lined paper how many recruiting assessments I would need to receive, how many interview one/two/three/final interviews/accepted offers and contracts I needed to complete. As I scheduled these activities, I would write the person’s name next to the line in pencil. Once the activity was completed, I highlighted the name or wrote over the pencil in pen. For me, I wanted to have a system of scheduling the activity and a system for making sure the activity was seen and completed. As I would progress through the quarter, I had a clear visual as to the areas where I needed to be more intentional about scheduling activities. This is not sophisticated. There are a million different and more complicated ways to track a recruiting pipeline or any goal for that matter. This is what worked for me. Do what works for you and make sure your people have something that works for them. But do not give yourself an excuse that you can’t have a scorecard because you lack expensive technology.

Will versus Skill

You might be asking your team member to do something this year that you’ve never asked them to do before. Or you may be asking your team to achieve something that you’ve asked them to achieve in years past but they for whatever reason they didn’t accomplish the goal. It is absolutely necessary to make sure you understand why that didn’t happen in the past? Is it a skill or a will issue? If it’s a skill issue, have you demonstrated the skills required? Have you observed them demonstrating the skills necessary enough to confirm they have the skill required to be successful? If you aren’t the right person to do this, can you connect them with someone that can coach them on the skill building? Do you need to invest in additional training, coaching or mentoring to help them? Now is a great time to have a candid conversation about their ability and willingness to achieve the goals you’ve agreed on. Apply Situational Leadership to each task you’re asking them to own.

Every once in a while, I have come across someone that has the will and the skill to achieve the goal but lacks belief in themselves. The level in which you believe you are capable of something is exactly the level that you will achieve something. I am keenly aware of this phenomenon as it impacted me in several areas of my work throughout my early leadership career that were absolutely necessary for me to be successful. I’m sure there is very scientific titles for this phenomenon, but I just simply call it a Belief Block. What I believed about myself was blocking my ability to be successful even though I had the will and skill to achieve the goal. As I learned more about neuroscience, I now know that these are deeply rooted beliefs that need to be replaced by new neuropathways. There are probably a lot of ways to deal with Belief Block, but for me, it was simply re-writing every day in my journal what I believed about myself. I have coached other team members about this as well. It’s not a quick fix. It takes time to literally change your mind, but it’s absolutely possible to change your mind. It takes a lot of work and repetition reminding yourself of who you are and what you can do. I reminded myself daily of who I was, I wrote statements about myself in past tense, assuming the result had already taken place. “Elena is a best in class recruiter, hiring 8 advisors” as an example. Your brain will work behind the scenes to change and make these statements true. Trust me on this one.

Recognize Early Wins

The sooner you can start seeing early wins and recognizing them with your team the more fun it will be to work on your team. People need to be encouraged. I know that I perform better when someone is watching and reinforcing what I’m doing well. Find opportunities to catch your team winning and they’ll win more often. It’s never too early to thank your team for their commitment to the vision and the mission. It’s never too early to thank your people for the commitment to their goals. As the leader of the team, the business, the family or practice, you cannot achieve your goals without their efforts. Thank them, it feels so good…for both of you!   

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Don’t Forget to Celebrate

Hi Friend, on Thursday we spoke all about Systems, it’s the third step in our Finishing 2021 Well Series. Don’t let systems fool you. They aren’t overtly sexy but they make all the difference when it comes to driving results consistently. If you didn’t catch this yesterday (it was a long post!), I am offering a 30-minute Systems Success session in January. This is a courtesy, laser focused 30-minute session where you’ll walk away with feedback and insight on a system that will drive results more consistently or robustly in your business. Sign up by emailing me at encourageherelena@gmail.com.

Just to review where we’ve been and where we’re going, these are the five steps to Finish well.  

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT if you must. Read it here.
  2. Your plan to Reflect. What went well? What didn’t go as well that needs to be left in 2021? Read it here.
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them. Read it here.
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

I almost didn’t include Celebration and Gratitude in this series even though I know it’s such an important part of Finishing Well. People need to know how much their contribution matters and how their contribution aligns with the mission and vision of the organization. Not everyone is motivated by recognition as their primary motivator, but all of the people I’ve led appreciate when their work is recognized and celebrated.

I didn’t initially want to include it because if I’m being honest, this is an area where I don’t feel super confident. When it comes to celebrating people and showing sincere gratitude, I didn’t always take the time to do that well. That was a mistake. I know I could have been more intentional about it. The year would end, we’d take time off during the holidays and then by the time January 2nd would roll around, we were full steam ahead on the next year’s goals. In the last few years as a Regional Vice President in the financial services industry, I did a better job with this. However, it could have still been better and I could have been more intentional. Instead of just celebrating at year end, we had a shared group recognition every time we met as a team where I could offer recognition. Even more special, we opened it up so the team could also celebrate and recognize their peers. I had to create a system around it and then go figure, I did it consistently. We recognized results and we also took time to recognize when we say each other showing up in alignment with our regional values. Honestly, those opportunities reinforced the best behaviors and results more effectively than any other component of our team meetings.

For me, the first role of a leader is to care for the people they’re leading. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a workforce of ten thousand or you’re leading your two kids. Your people need to know that their leader cares. Every night when I lay with my boys, I tell them that I like them, I love them, and that I’m proud of them. Every night I want the last words they hear from me to be a sentiment of love and care. Caring for the people you lead shows up in a lot of ways, it’s not always warm, fuzzy positive affirmation. Sometimes it looks like Celebrating them and showing them Gratitude. Sometimes it looks like creating clarity for them. Sometimes it looks like having a challenging accountability conversation with them because you care about their ability to get what they want for themselves. Sometimes it looks like helping them get promoted and move into another more challenging or fulfilling role. Sometimes it looks like helping them leave the organization into a role that’s a better fit. Sometimes it looks like giving them direct, real-time feedback so they can learn quickly. If you’re a people leader in the home, in business or in community, you need to care for the people you lead. It’s your actual job. If you lead people but you don’t care, you may gain compliance and drive short term results, but you won’t get the best efforts from your team. If you’re a leader and you feel like you’re not getting someone’s best efforts, you might find their perception is that you don’t care. I find this with parenting as well.

If you are a leader who cares for people, you need to recognize them for the work they are doing. People will stay in organizations when they have a leader that cares for them in all the ways I mentioned before. While it’s fun to have reward and recognition events, I’ve found that it’s not the most impactful way to celebrate people. People do not feel personally recognized or personally appreciated when you thank them and their one hundred closest colleagues. That’s a nice thing to do and you should probably do it if it’s the only thing you do. However, it’s not the one size fits all approach to making sure people actually know how much you appreciate them. The best way is to tell people in a one-on-one conversation or a personal note. You would be surprised how far a snail mail note goes to make sure people know you appreciate the work that they do. As a leader, it’s also a really good idea to give your team or family opportunities to recognize each other. You don’t need to be the author of all Celebrations or Gratitude. Consider creating opportunities where your people can celebrate each other.

In every one-on-one conversation I led with the people that worked with me, I started the conversation with “successes from last week.” While that isn’t unique, it became my nudge to make sure I personally recognized my team for the things they felt most proud of. When they would share, I would celebrate them sincerely. Even if they had a less than stellar week, there was still something to celebrate. When my kids get home from school, I ask them “what went well today?” It is an opportunity to hear directly from my boys what they’re most proud of. It also is a trigger for them to think positively on their day, even to find one thing that went well. After going back to school after Covid home schooling, they would often reply to the question “just being at school mom.” We would celebrate that. Now, fast forward 18 months, at night when we say our prayers, my 11-year old always thanks God for the ‘opportunity’ to go to school in person.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity yet, I encourage you to think about how you can celebrate your people this coming week and year. What systems do you need to incorporate to do this consistently? Your team completed another entire year. They likely achieved many important goals. They accomplished a lot in spite of a lot of headwinds. Show them that you care by recognizing what they accomplished. One year, one of my best leaders (in the history of leaders), Tom Young, celebrated our team with a really special lunch. He surprised us with a limo ride to a beautiful restaurant. He toasted our work and accomplishments as we shared a bottle of champagne on our way to the restaurant. It remains one of my favorite memories of celebrating our successes as a team. Maybe you don’t have the budget to do a team lunch with a limo ride (or the go ahead to meet in person yet) but you can have huge impact by sharing one piece of recognition for each of your team members. I’ve also worked with people that shared their appreciation with a gift. It would come in the mail. It was a fun surprise. But I often thought how much farther that appreciation would have gone if the leader would have also reached out personally. What if just four times a year, you started your team meeting sharing one thing that you love about each team member? From time to time, I would do that even for the teams that I didn’t lead. Your peers also appreciate feeling recognized for who they are and what they contribute to your organization. It might take you ten minutes to jot down one thing you really appreciate about each person, but you know what? They feel celebrated and truly recognized.

Life is hard right now for your people. Don’t let work be the hardest thing in their life. People can deal with a lot of shit when they work with a leader that knows that they’re number one job is to care for their people. Celebrating and Recognizing your people is just one way to show them that you care. If your truly interested in Finishing Well, make sure your people are sincerely celebrated for the work they do. Lead on!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

The ‘Not-So-Secret’ thing that Drives 90% of Your Results

Hi Friend, by the time you read this blog it will be the last week of the year. If you’re anything like me your heart will be bursting and so will your waist band. 😊Kids are home on winter break. Things are moving a little slower. Since my leadership career started, I have always needed this week to reflect and recharge in order to start the next year strong. If you’ve been keeping up with the last month of blog posts, you know that we’ve been talking about Finishing the Year Well. In my mind, I finish the year well by having these five steps accomplished.

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT if you must. Read it here.
  2. Your plan to Reflect. What went well? What didn’t go as well that needs to be left in 2021? Read it here.
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them. 
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

It’s going to be fast and furious but we’re going to wrap up steps three and four this week. Then I will share Step 5 on Monday, January 3rd. I hope you plan on sticking with me. I know this isn’t the most inspiring content, but I also know that many of you run your own businesses or are leaders in your company and your homes. I believe that finishing 2021 well and taking time to reflect on these topics puts you in the absolute best position to have a successful 2022. You’ve probably heard John Maxwell say “You don’t learn from experience, you learn from evaluated experience.” Today, we’re going to evaluate our experiences and specifically the experience and results that came from a result of executing systems.

So, why should you evaluate your systems? There are a lot of reasons. I can’t even think about systems without hearing my coach Doug Lennick say “Elena, 5% of long-term results come from Motivation and Self Discipline. 90% of long-term results come from effective systems. What’s the problem with relying on Motivation and Self Discipline? On a good day it fades, on a bad day, it never shows up.” I bet I’ve heard him say it 100 times. The first time I really heard it and understood it, it gave me a huge sense of relief. Up until that point, I felt I needed to be the most motivated and self-disciplined person at all times. Especially in a formal leader role, if I wasn’t the most motivated and self disciplined, how could I expect my team to follow suit. When I realized that 90% of my energy around driving results needed to be focused my systems and my leader’s systems, it really took some pressure off. Only 5% of my energy and focus needed to be spent being the most motivated, motivational and self-disciplined leader I could be. If you were to bet on two things in 2022 to make the most impact in your business, bet on yourself and bet on effective systems to drive results and culture. Those are two bet I would always be willing to make.

SO, what’s a system? A system is a documented procedure that outlines how to do something within your organization or your business to drive results consistently. My coach Ray Kelly always says, “a good system removes discretion at the operating level.” You don’t have to think about it. The system is defined and documented. Within a larger organization, a good system doesn’t rely on just one person. It can be “owned” by someone, but it can also be executed by anyone if the system owner isn’t available. As a business owner and people leader, your need for systems goes up dramatically. You’ll need training systems, communication systems, reward and recognition systems, client experience systems within each stage of your client interactions, you’ll need activity tracking systems and accountability systems. If you’re like me and you’re a business of one, your systems are created as a result of your business plan and the primary leading indicators that drive your results around your goals and values. In my business, I have business development systems, activity tracking systems, personal development systems, communication systems (this blog is an example of one), client experience systems and accountability systems. Within some of my other values, specifically my health, my family and my faith, I mostly have activity tracking systems. I know for some of you that might sound weird. You might be thinking, “Why do need to track the activities you do within your values. If you value them, don’t you just do them?” Well, that would lead me to rely on motivation and self-discipline. I’m actually not the most disciplined person I know, not even close. However, if I know that every month I want to make sure I have a minimum of 23 days of dedicated quiet time with God (I wish I could say it was every day) spent reading, learning and praying, I should have a system to track it and drive the result. If I have a way to track it, I know it will get done. I have a little system built into my morning and I will mark it on my calendar when I’m done. At the end of the week and month, I tally up my results on the little scoreboard I’ve created. Some of you are already cringing on this one because you’re thinking I’ve turned my spiritual life into a check the box activity. Ha! But for me, I know God honors my commitment. Just relax people, it might start as checking the box and it finishes as spiritual transformation over a period of time because God is God and she can do things like that (you’re also cringing that I just called God a ‘she,’ but she told me I was created in her image so that’s why I said that). Bottom line, I know for me, I wouldn’t be growing in my faith (which is my number one value) if I didn’t have a system to support it. In the same way that my marriage wouldn’t be growing if we didn’t have a system to support our relationship growth…welcome to the date night system!

Ok, back to you and your 2021 results. If you crushed your goals, it’s a good indicator that you have systems that drove those results. However, I would still encourage you to evaluate the systems and processes that you have within your business. Did some drive more results than others? Did some systems land flat even though you had a great year. For example, you might have reached your revenue or specific business results but did you miss on some of the systems that support your ideal culture like recognition, development and/or communication systems (which of course can negatively impact employee retention and ultimately revenue if not addressed). Once in a while I will find in coaching business owners that they crushed their goals, but they have no idea how it happened or how to replicate it. This is not the biggest problem. You can work through this with good reflection and evaluation of your business results. However, don’t just move on into your next year without “evaluation of your experience and results.” At that point, you’re just “hoping” things work again, and hope is not an effective system.

If you didn’t reach your primary goals that you set out to achieve it’s also a great time to evaluate the systems you have in your business or organization. There’s a lot of reasons why you didn’t reach the goal(s). There is some really great news for you here. If you didn’t reach the goal, it’s not because you aren’t motivated or self-disciplined enough. That only drives 5% of your long-term results. Perhaps you don’t have the right systems in place. Maybe you don’t have any systems in place. That’s ok. That’s why you’re reading this. Perhaps you have great systems but they all rely on you to execute and you don’t have the time to execute all of them. When you have the right systems in place but not enough time to execute them, it’s time to hire. When it’s time to hire, I like to hire to the least amount of $/Hour work.  For example, if you have quite a few systems that can be executed by a team member at $20/hour and other systems that require a team member at $100/hour. Perhaps you start with the $20/hour systems. I have a few exceptions to this rule but I’m just going to share one. If there are systems that are extremely valuable to the business results that you will not do, or cannot do, you must hire to those systems. It doesn’t matter what the $/hour rate is to execute the system, it must be done. No kidding here, it’s time to hire. I want to also address a trap that I frequently step into. Apparently, I need to learn this lesson occasionally. There will be systems in your business that you can do, you might even be the best at them. That doesn’t mean that you need to do them, or that you should do them. When I “own” too my systems in my business, results typically are impacted…negatively. Or, my other values go to the wayside. If you can’t own the systems well, or if you can’t stay well owning the systems, find someone else to own the systems. I feel like I need to repeat that last statement for the people in the back. If you can’t stay “well” owning the systems, find someone else to own the system.

How do you know you need a system or process in your business? If the long-term results of the business rely on this activity, you need a system. Or, if the activity needs to be done more than once, you need a system/process. How many times have you written the same confirmation email? How many times have you jotted down notes for a prospect phone call? How many times have developed a monthly meeting agenda for your team? How many times have you put together slides for an all employee meeting. How many times have you recreated an event invite? If you do something more than once, create a system/process. If you’re a financial advisor, there is a podcast that speaks to this that you can access at the Efficient Advisor Podcast, found wherever you listen to podcasts, or check out Libby’s website here. Please, listen to it. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast, Libby shares amazing and tactical wisdom around the systems that drove 7-Figure revenue on three working days a week.

If your goals are important to you, develop systems to achieve them. Do not rely on your motivation or self-discipline. Here are some quick and easy steps to follow.  

  1. Choose an activity that needs to be done on repeat in your business to drive results consistently.
  2. Write out the steps to complete the activity. Get feedback from trusted resource.
  3. Document it where your team can see it and access it regularly.
  4. Communicate it to the people that will use it. Then communicate it more than you ever thought you’d ever in a million years need to communicate.
  5. Create a tracker or score board to make sure the system is executed, and the results are documented.
  6. Communicate the results of the system and the connection to your vision, mission and values back to the people executing the system and watch your culture change.

If you bet on two things in 2022, bet on yourself and your systems. They will drive the results.

For my coaching clients, if you’d like support in this area, we will evaluate your systems in January. If you aren’t a coaching client but would like support to evaluate a system that drives results in your business or personal life, I am offering a 30-minute Systems Success session in January. This is a courtesy laser focused 30-minute session where you’ll walk away with feedback and insight on a system that will drive results more consistently or robustly in your business. Please email me directly at encourageherelena@gmail.com, I can’t wait to connect with you on your systems. It will make a difference in your business results and in your life.

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

Blessed is She Who Believed

Photo Credit: http://www.redbirdhills.com

Sometimes this crazy thing happens to me, words bubble up in me and they must leave my body. It’s an overwhelming feeling where I just have to sit down and get them to you. Even though we were in the middle of the Finish Well series, I am interrupting our program to share this message with someone who needs to hear this today. I don’t know who it is, but here it is.  

“Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.”

Luke 1:45

There is a verse that I never noticed before in the bible from Luke 1:45. “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.” Another version says, “Blessed is she who believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” It’s a statement made by Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) to Mary ‘The Mother.’ Quick side note, you know you’ve graduated from any semblance of “Mom Guilt” when people just refer to you as “The Mother.” At first glance, it seems like Mary’s journey was a cake walk. I can assure you, no mother in the history of mankind, ever had a cake walk. No pressure Mary, have a baby conceived by the holy spirit (I’m sure that went over really well with your parents and church leaders). Your community will ostracize you for getting knocked up. Also, a political leader is conspiring to kill all babies. You may want to order an extra bottle of St. Johns Wort. Remember, you can’t take most prescription anxiety meds during pregnancy. You’ll of course struggle with the normal stresses, guilt and mistakes of motherhood, but it will be extra humbling because your kid is perfect. You’ll make mistakes. He won’t. Awesome – a know-it-all. Then fast forward a few years, other moms will reject you because your kid can do nothing wrong. Behind your back, you’ll be referred to as the “ultimate one-upper.” No moms in the PTO will be sharing their struggles with you. Good luck with all that Mary…the Mother.

While Mary doesn’t even quite know what she’s in for, Elizabeth has had her own struggles to deal with. Their culture expected one thing from a woman, produce children. Elizabeth struggled with infertility for decades. To this day, not being able to have a child is one of the hardest internal battles a woman can experience. Finally, Elizabeth was pregnant. We know Elizabeth was a woman of faith, and God was answered her prayers. She was going to be a mom. She went from the overwhelming feelings of disgrace, isolation, rejection and depression to stepping fully into the role she wanted all along, being a momma. And she was far enough along that she could feel the baby move. Thank God, she was past the “high risk” timeframe. But we all know, the fear of losing your baby never goes away, especially since she carried the weight of not being able to have a baby for decades. If I had to guess, her pregnancy was stressful.

Mary gets to Elizabeth’s house; I’m sure she’s feeling every emotion in the book. She’s excited and scared. She’s uncertain how it’s all going to go down. She’s knocked up. She’s unmarried. Is Elizabeth going to believe the whole Holy Spirit narrative and be supportive? Is Elizabeth’s husband going to be supportive? Mary walks in sees Elizabeth and immediately hears “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.” After all of Elizabeth’s pain and heartache and the stress of carrying a baby, Elizabeth chose to use her time with Mary to pour into her. Elizabeth’s stresses don’t go away but she builds Mary up. She reaffirms what Mary heard from the Lord. She instills confidence into her. She says “Mary, you’re blessed. You can do this. God chose you for this opportunity. Turn that frown upside down, someday soon, you’ll do the ultimate motherhood mic drop.” And you know what Mary does, she receives the encouragement. She needed to hear that. She says, “from now on, all generations will call me blessed.” In the worst way, Mary needed that affirmation from Elizabeth. She needed to hear that she was going to be more than alright. She was blessed just for believing God’s promises to her. She chose to believe that what God led her into was going to be good.

Ladies (and gentlemen, this message is for you too!), sometimes you’re in a season like Mary. But sometimes, you’re an Elizabeth. You’re going to have bad days and bad seasons, life is hard. But if God has walked with you through that season, make sure that you’re fully showing up for others that will come behind you. We can’t all be Mary’s waiting for someone else to speak life into us. Sometimes we need to step into our internal Elizabeth and just freaking change the dynamic in the room. Speak life and vision into other women. It doesn’t say, “Blessed is she who had a big title, or audience, or wealth or influence.” It doesn’t say, “Blessed is she that already has everything figured out.” It doesn’t say, “blessed is she that hasn’t experienced stress.” It doesn’t say, “Blessed is she who stays small and waits for full confirmation before stepping into your purpose.” It says, “Blessed is she who believed that what God called her to would be accomplished.” Your journey is different from mine. We’re not all called to do the same thing, thank God. God has called you to something. Believing is the hardest part but it’s time for you to believe him.

But also, it’s time for you to speak life into someone else. It’s time for you to Encourage Her like Elizabeth did. Never underestimate the power of your words in someone else’s life. Sometimes your words will remind her of the promises God already made. Don’t discourage her, don’t wade in anxiety with her. Speak life into her, affirm her, help her believe. Help her step into her blessing.

Christmas is magical. No matter how you celebrate it, there is magic in the story. God used regular people to do amazing things. You aren’t different from Mary. God is still using regular people to do amazing things. Step into your inner Elizabeth and speak life into someone else this holiday season. Step into your inner Mary and know you’re called to do great things, even if it feels hard. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to share my work and words with each one of you. Be Blessed and Merry Christmas!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

2021 in Reflection

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott at Red Bird Hills, redbirdhills.com

Hi friends, we’re one week closer to finishing 2021. Time is flying by, sometimes it goes so fast it overwhelms me. I’m at a stage with my boys where I just want time to stand still. I want them to stay little and with me forever. I want them to always run off the bus and greet me with a huge hug. I want them to always love making a snow fort immediately after a snowfall. I want them to love being at home saying prayers around the lit candles and Christmas Tree. I want to always look back on my life and know I lived it with purpose. This isn’t a dress rehearsal. As Glennon Doyle says, “this is your one and precious life.” Be intentional. Live your life on purpose. Love your one and precious life.

For that reason, I want to take time to think about I will finish the year well. Without a plan, I typically don’t finish well or start the following year well for that matter. If  you think this is about achieving some crappy goals that only serve the world’s idea of who you’re supposed to be, it’s not. Finishing well is all about looking back knowing I lived life on purpose.

As I think about finishing the year well, five components need to be part of the plan. This isn’t just a “year-end” system. This could be your system for finishing the day well. Whether it’s reflecting on my day or year, this is how I think about it.  

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT if you must.
  2. Your plan to Reflect. What went well? What didn’t go as well that needs to be left in 2021?
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them.  
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

The first component for me to finish well is my plan to cross the finish line – how will you follow through on the commitments you made to yourself. You are someone that reaches their goals. Believing that is the first step in reaching your goals. If you haven’t read my previous post yet, you can find it here.

The second component is a plan for reflection. Reflection to me is so important, it deserves its own time. It shouldn’t be rushed. It deserves a beautiful glass of wine or a delicious cup of coffee or tea. On the flip side, sometimes I have the tendency to make things too precious. You don’t need to be sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris or reflecting as you’re watching the waves roll into a Mexican beach for this to be meaningful. This isn’t a marriage proposal. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Carve out an hour or so and put pen to paper reflecting on 2021. I like to start high level at 30,000 feet and then narrow in on the more specific goals.  

  1. What did I love, learn and what will I leave behind?
  2. Values: how did they show up in 2021?
  3. Goals: did I align on the right goals to help me live on purpose?

Love – Learn – Leave Behind

Last year, as part of reflecting on 2020, I did an exercise that really helped me reflect broadly on the year. For the life of me, I can’t remember where I learned these prompts (if you developed these prompts, let me know so I can give you credit). Set a timer for five minutes, keep your pen on the paper and write the things that come to mind within these three questions. What did I love? What did I learn? What will I leave behind?

Set the time again for five minutes. Keep writing until the time goes off. What did you love in 2021?

I loved a renewed commitment to creativity. I loved meeting new friends that I adore and respect. I loved carving out more time for my relationship with God. I loved relearning how to pray. I loved defining my own professional success. I loved finding new business opportunities. I loved fighting and conquering my fears. I loved being available for my family. I loved reading more books. I loved investing in my development. I loved myself more than I ever have. I loved my daily gratitude practice.

Set the time again for five minutes. Keep writing until the time goes off. What did you learn?

I learned a framework for prayer in my bible study this year. I learned all about the speaking industry. I relearned how much I love people when I’m not emotionally and mentally exhausted. I learned to love myself and my body in a deeper way. I learned the need for belonging. I learned how to let go of an identity and career that no longer served me with gratitude and love. I also learned to honor that work and the relationships that supported that work. I learned how to serve my church family in a new way. I relearned that reflecting on my values daily helps me make better decisions.

Set the time again for five minutes. Keep writing until the time goes off. What will you leave in 2021?

I’m leaving behind fear and anxiety. I’m leaving behind environments and communities that aren’t healthy for me anymore. I’m leaving behind self-doubt that slows down progress toward my goals (I’m replacing it with a system to encourage myself). I’m leaving behind relationships that are grounded in scarcity.

While this isn’t my entire list, it gives you an example. This exercise is powerful for me because it allows me to get clear on what needs to continue to be part of my life, it allows me to take stock in what I’m learning and how I’m developing, and it allows me to let go of what isn’t working.

Getting Grounded in my Values

In a year where I experienced a lot of change and needed to make some significant decisions, my values kept me grounded. I make much better decisions when I know and reflect on my values on a regular basis. There were days this summer when I asked myself multiple times an hour, will this decision help me show up in a way that is in alignment with what’s really important to me. If you are someone that hasn’t formally done a values assessment, it’s time. An easy and guided way to do this exercise is available through Think 2 Perform’s website. You can find it here. Once you’ve identified your top values, review each one and how they showed up in 2021. For me, my values are faith, family, health, excellence (stewarding my gifts to the best of my ability) and meaningful work (work with purpose).

  • Did I prioritize my values?
  • From the outside looking in, would someone close to me know what my values were without me telling them?
  • What values were a priority for me this year? Where there one or more values that got pushed to the back burner by accident?
  • Is there one or more values that I want to prioritize in 2022?

What were my goals? Did I focus on the right things?

The last area of reflection for today is reflecting on the goals I set out to achieve. If I reached them, did they get me closer to my ideal self. Did they help step into more of who God designed me to be? One thing that is really hard to reflect on is realizing that I reached or exceeded significant goals that someone else set for me, but I didn’t reach the goals that were in alignment with my values, what’s most important to me. Sometimes this happens because of the nature of working for someone else. Their goals for us need to be prioritized and our work performance depends on it. However, here’s what I’ve learned about personal goals versus work goals (if you work for someone else). Sometimes, I’ve used the “work excuse” to justify why I didn’t reach my personal goals. What I’ve found is when I’m living in alignment with my values, I perform better in other areas of my life. When I’m healthy from a faith perspective, when I’m prioritizing my family, when I’m exercising and eating well and prioritizing my mental health, when I’m living in excellence being a good steward of my gifts, guess what??? I freaking perform better in my work. I kick ass at work when I’m living in alignment with my values. I make better decisions as a leader. I can focus on developing others when I’m not in scarcity mode in my own life. I can lead with more empathy when I’m not experiencing regret or even worse, shame around my values. When I’m not performing well in my work, whether I’m working for myself or for someone else, it’s often because I’m severely out of control with my values. It’s a direct path to burn out for me. Take time to evaluate the goals you set out to accomplish. Did you focus on the right goals? Where they in alignment with your values? No matter what the answer is, don’t judge yourself. Just be curious and learn, what can 2021 teach you?

See you next week to talk about Evaluating Your Systems!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena

5 Ideas to Finish Well

Photo Credit: Tasha Herrgott, http://www.redbirdhills.com

Ok friends, here we are. It’s the first week of December. We have one month left of 2021. It’s crazy to me that we are already at this point in the year. It’s during this time when people in business constantly talk about “finishing strong.” That phrase is very loaded for me. Over my years as a field executive in the financial services industry, I have put together plenty of “finish strong” plans. So – because words matter to me, I’m not going to talk about finishing strong. I’m going to talk about Finishing Well. To me, Finishing Well feels like finishing the year with excellence, reaching the goals that you sought out to reach, but never at the expense of your health, wellness or values.  And by the way, this blog is not just for the “business people.” This blog is for the people that have goals. Goals that are important to you. Goals that are aligned with your values. You might have goals within the team that you lead at work or within your household. You might have personal goals within your physical, spiritual, mental, or financial health.

As a leader that operated with our fiscal year end of December 31st, the last few months of the year were incredibly fast paced and frankly stressful. I found that some years I felt very planful about how to Finish Well, and some years I did not finish well, I felt exhausted and behind the eight ball, crawling over the finish line. Ironically, some of those years where I crawled over the finish line, I reached my goals. It was just at the expense of myself. I don’t want that for you. I want you to Finish 2021 Well. Over the next four weeks, I’d like to share with you what it means for me to Finish Well. In my mind, Finishing Well has five components.

  1. Your plan to cross the Finish Line, SPRINT*** if you must.
  2. Your plan to Reflect on what went well. What didn’t go as well?
  3. Your plan to review your Systems to make sure you sustain your results and wellness into the new year. Or – adjust them.  
  4. Your plan for Celebration and Gratitude.
  5. Your Plan to Kick Off 2022 grounded in your Mission, Vision and Values (MVV) with clear goals.

Let’s talk about the finish line. You’ve got a goal, and you need to reach it before the end of the year. For the sake of example, I’m going to use one of my own health goals for this conversation. Health is one of my top five values and one of my health goals in 2021 was to have 250 workouts implemented between January 1st and December 31st. In general, I needed to work out five days a week to reach this goal.

Ok, let’s pause for a second. The only way you can finish well is if you have a S.M.A.R.T. goal to begin with. It should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. If you’re reading this and you are realizing that although you had some goals that you set at the beginning of the year, you no longer even remember what they were. That’s ok. It happens. But that doesn’t mean that you should take off December and just wait until January to reset new goals. Absolutely not! Dust off the old ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and get to work. It’s a perfect time to break down that annual goal into a monthly goal and win the December race. Cross the finish line. Sprint if you must. You may not reach the goal you set earlier in the year, but you can still reach a smaller December goal and feel great about it.

This goes for those of you thinking of your work goals as well. Perhaps you’re not on track to reach your goal. Do not stop running. Yes, you lost some momentum. Maybe you’d even need a modern-day miracle to get you to the goal. December is as good a month as any to reignite the systems and processes that you would need to reach the goal. Don’t take December off. Don’t lick your wounds. Finish Well. Figure out what it would take to implement in December to be on track for the goal. Why? You need to believe that you are someone that reaches their goals. You are a leader that’s going to figure out a way to get back on track, because those goals matter to you. Achieving them will get you closer to your ideal self. If you rock December, come January 1st, you will have some serious momentum behind you. Trust me. And if you must, sprint through the finish line***. But never at the expense of your health or wellness. If you cross that finish line and you’re completely unhealthy and have nothing left, did you really Finish Well? I’ve ran a few races where I had enough gas in the tank to sprint over the finish line. I’ve also watched racers crank up their speed in the final leg of the race due to pure adrenaline, beyond what they trained for, and really hurt themselves in the process. It puts them back weeks and sometimes months before they can get back to their goals. I’ve seen this happen in business as well. Unfortunately, I’ve done this to myself. This is a direct route to burnout.

Maybe you are crushing your goals for 2021. Maybe you already reached your 2021 goals. Congratulations, that is awesome. I guess it’s time to take the rest of the year off. No, please don’t do that. An object in motion stays in motion. If you want to maintain the momentum and results that you created in 2021 into next year, stay active in the systems you created in pursuit of those results. Finish Well. I remember working with a Financial Advisor that would take most of December off when she would hit her goals. While it was a beautiful thing to do in theory, she didn’t have the infrastructure and leadership culture in place to make sure the rest of the business didn’t slow down because of her being gone. Things dramatically slowed down. It’s possible to take significant time off when you reach a goal, just make sure your infrastructure and culture support it. I also want to challenge you in another area. If your business or your goals are anything like my old business goals, things that you expect to happen can change. Business can get reversed. Hires don’t happen, people fall out of the process. Know, know, know the goal is met before you take your foot off the gas. As the leader of the goal and the people, when they see you lead the team to success, they start to identify as someone that reaches their goals. Claiming that identity is half the freaking battle.

Maybe you’re like me and you’re on track to reach your goal. I haven’t reached my 250-workout goal yet but I’m on track. At the end of November, I had done 230 workouts, but I need to have 20 workouts in December to Finish Well to reach my goal. Given the 4.5 weeks in December, I could coast a little bit only doing a little over 4 workouts each week. But why would I do that? If the goal is in place to get me closer to being my ideal self, and to be ideal, I need to prioritize my health making sure I’m doing 5 workouts a week, it only hurts me to coast. Why would I slow down? Stay in alignment with the systems that have caused you to be successful up until this point.

For me, one of the most important things about reaching goals is believing that you are the type of person that reaches their goals. There was a time that I would set such high goals for myself, then get to the end of the measurement period and feel defeated and frankly like a loser. If you do that too many times in a row, you may fall into the trap of believing you’re NOT someone that reaches their goals. I used to work with someone that set super high goals for our team. We would even have conversations about the fact that they were so high, that even if we didn’t exactly reach those goals, we would be farther along than if we had just set smaller more achievable goals. We knew we were still having good performance, but we were indirectly saying to the people we led that it was ok to not reach our goals. Learn from my mistake, don’t do that. I now set achievable goals that I can feel great about my ability to achieve. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be challenging. I absolutely want to be a good steward of my resources and abilities and set challenging goals, but they should always be achievable. Once I made that change, I realized that I was creating a new neuropathway for myself. I set SMART goals and I achieved them. I was learning that I was someone that achieved the goals I set out to achieve. While I’m not perfect, I desperately want to follow through on the commitments I make to myself. Not only will I achieve the goal which gets me closer to my ideal self, I reinforce the neuropathway that says, ‘I’m someone that achieves goals.” When you start realizing that you are someone that achieves goals, you can start to think bigger about the goals you set.

If you’ve reached your goals, don’t take your foot off the gas. If you haven’t reached your goals, don’t take your foot off the gas. If you’re on track, don’t take your foot off the gas. December is a great time to have your best month ever. December is a great time to remind yourself that you are someone that achieves goals. Cross the finish line. If you must, sprint***! But never at the expense of your health or wellness.

My coach Ray Kelly used to always share ideas with me, he’d call them “safety tips.” Here are a few safety tips for you.

  1. Early this month, revisit the goal with your team. What needs to happen in December to finish well?
  2. Check in with each member of the team to understand from their perspective how their work contributes to the goal. Redirect if necessary.
  3. Check in with each member of the team to understand from their perspective how the work they’ll do in December aligns with the Mission, Vision and Values of the company. For an employee, a goal that isn’t tied to a vision is just doing busy work. My mentor Doug Lennick always says “Give them a mission and vision worthy of their best efforts.”
  4. In a few weeks, we’ll discuss kicking off the new year with clarity of goals, grounded in Mission, Vision and Values. If you lead a team, make sure that you have time on the calendar scheduled with your team during the first week of January to review. In addition, if you lead leaders, make sure that they have time with their teams to align on the goals for 2022 and connect them back to the MVV.

No matter where we’re at, let’s have our best month ever. See you next week to talk about Reflection!

I see you. I love you. I’m cheering you on!

Elena