Soul Weather

December 5, 2019 9:37 am

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Years ago when going through a dark spot, a psychologist gave me a useful strategy. Every day I would give myself a “mood rating” between 1 and 10—1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. I followed this process long after I came out of the black hole, until I was regularly hitting 5 and above.

It was useful for:

  • Tuning in to how I was feeling;
  • When my rating was less than 5, I had different strategies to help me ride out the troughs;
  • Understanding the links between certain events that had happened on the previous day(s) to how I was feeling on the current day;
  • Ascertaining the impact of integrating new activities into my days and the effect these had on my mood.

And while I took anti-depressants, this was in many ways, the pragmatic side to doing a rough journey.

Speaking with a business owner yesterday, the subject of depression came up and how tough the business road can be at times. These tough periods, when encountered and endured for long seasons can be impactful beyond what we thought possible. He mentioned the constant knock-back of tenders as an example. Another business owner I know was saying how tough things were at the moment and jokingly said that they were having a strategy and planning day and was hoping that the future plan was to shut up shop.

Sometimes, it’s long seasons of drought or hardship; other times we just run out of steam from having been in the game for so long.

Running a business is certainly not for the faint-hearted and the “take a dose of concrete and harden the f**k up”, while it may work for short term obstacles, doesn’t cut it for longer-term marathons.

Maybe you’ve never been at the point of taking medication or a daily mood rating but my guess is that some of you have, and that others of you have employees, friends, and family that have or are enduring similar.

As we come into the holiday season, take time for self-reflection. If you feel you haven’t been hitting your straps for a while, push into it rather than dismissing it. Talk to trusted others about what you are experiencing and maybe, like I did, seek professional help.

Also, be aware of those you are connecting with over the break. Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is an empathetic, attentive, listening ear.

And soul weather, just like natural weather, has its seasons. And while we can’t control the weather outside, we can take steps to understand, nurture and shift the weather inside.

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The Tough and Tender Of Leadership

June 6, 2018 8:57 am

The Tough and Tender Of Leadership

I have always found that improving a business process is relatively easy i.e. find the waste or the input issues, make the necessary changes and you can with some certainty predict the outputs. When it comes to improving our people, the equation, unfortunately, isn’t quite that simple.

In this past weekend’s Herald Sun, Matthew Lloyd (previous AFL Essendon footballer) wrote a piece about new Hall of Fame legend Kevin Sheedy titled “How Kevin Sheedy Influenced My Career From Day One – Tough and Tender.”

Here are a few insights into Sheeds, that are pertinent to anyone involved in the leadership of people.

“It would take a lot for him to give up on someone, much to the frustration of those around him.

When others’ patience had been tested once too often, Sheeds would always look deeper than just the problem that had surfaced at the time. It was his greatest strength but also a weakness, because it did test relationships…

Building genuine relationships with players and gaining their trust and respect is the greatest challenge of any coach. Sheeds had this amazing ability to hit you between the eyes with what you needed to be told, but still have you believing you could be best on the ground the following week.

His ability to understand, accept and relate to the different personalities of his players was brilliant. Tactics will always be secondary to relationships when it comes to separating the great coaches from the rest. “

Tough and tender

Believing in our people; understanding how long we endure with someone; looking beyond surface problems; being tough when we need to, tender when required; relating to, and coaching the myriad of different personalities in our workplaces on a daily basis…while it can be tough, it can be incredibly rewarding.

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Meaningful Work

April 5, 2018 5:32 pm

Some years back, a new acquaintance showed up. His name was Depression. A friend of mine at the time mentioned that a psychologist had said that being busy doing meaningful work was one of the best ways to distance oneself from his pestering presence.

I never forgot that.

When I interview employees these days I often ask them, “what is it that you truly enjoy about your work and what aspects of it do you particularly like?” The thing I have noticed is that once they start talking about what they enjoy, both their eyes and their mouths light up.

Enjoyment Performance Theory suggests that “Employees who enjoy at least 75% or more of their job are three times more likely to succeed than employees who enjoy less than 75% of their job. That makes understanding factors like work satisfaction vitally important for making the right hiring decisions, motivating employees, and retaining top talent.” *

Reflecting on our own careers, and the positioning of our team members, the key questions that arise are:

  • what do I/you enjoy most about what I do?
  • what is the percentage of enjoy to dislike?
  • how can I/you increasingly position myself/yourself in the 75%+ zone?

Meaningful work is work that one enjoys and can provide a sense of purpose. And while it can be challenging, disheartening at times and tiring, living in the 75%+ zone stimulates a fortitude, resilience and momentum that is naturally propelled from within (an intrinsic motivation) as compared to the have to’s of external demands and expectations.

* Harrison Assessments

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In The Shower With Ray

January 15, 2018 1:03 pm

<‘In The Shower With Ray’ photo excluded due to high possibility of massive unsubscription >

Discussing the year that was, over a beer with a couple of business owners before Christmas, they were commenting how the best ideas for their company had come, not from brainstorming in the boardroom but while making toasted sandwiches in the kitchen.

A few days before this meeting I had been reflecting on where my best ideas were generated from and realised that they come mostly when my brain is not busy processing a million bits of information or trying to come up with good ideas.

And one of those places is in the shower.

For me, the shower is representative of environments where creative thinking comes quite naturally and where I have space for my thoughts to roam.

I remember reading about the founders of Snapchat and how the idea was generated in their college days through discussions around sexting and in the midst of their alcohol fuelled parties. The idea that posted photos not coming back to haunt them seemed a great idea. They took the idea, developed it, took the company public and are now worth just a little more than the average person.

Rod Judkins, in The Art of Creative Thinking, says, “Creativity isn’t a switch that’s flicked on or off; it’s a way of seeing, engaging and responding to the world around you.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love says, “Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly pass through us, constantly trying to get our attention.”

If you want a boost in creative ideas this year whether for your organisation or your own life here are a few thoughts:

  • Give your mind some additional regular roam time
  • Keep a journal handy to jot down the ideas that come to you
  • Follow the best ideas through. This is the common failure point.
  • If you have employees, create an anonymous suggestion box (to reduce any fear of a bad idea). This way, whenever they think of how the organisation could do things better or there are different opportunities to be pursued, they simply jot down the thought and drop it in the box. You could even go to giving a prize for the best idea of the month. (I am sure that the idea owner will put their hand up if there was a prize at stake).
  • If you want to get your teams together for idea generation days, make sure it’s in an environment that is conducive to creativity and freedom of thought

The Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi stated, “Be open to what the world is telling you. Life is nothing more than a stream of experiences – the more widely and deeply you swim in it, the richer your life will be.”

Some ideas will stick and if developed and followed through have the potential to be game changers. Others, (such as my thought about changing my blog site to www.intheshowerwithray.com.au) for the moment, need to wash down the plughole.

May the year ahead be one of the long shower and game-changing thoughts.

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Love Languages In The Workplace

January 11, 2018 9:39 am

I remember reading Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages many years ago. The one thing I took with me and have sought to implement over the years (sometimes successfully and at other times dismally) is that each of us hears love, value and appreciation in our own particular way.

If someone speaks to you in Chinese and you understand only English, there is little, if any chance, that you will have any clue as to what they are communicating. It makes sense therefore that if we are to communicate to someone, in order for them to understand us, it has to be in their language – one that they comprehend.

Some people understand our value and appreciation of them verbally and others don’t. The key here is taking the time to understand what the other person’s particular language (or languages) are.

Gary Chapman lists the following languages:

  1. Gift Giving
  2. Words of affirmation
  3. Quality time
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

How do these play out in the expression of value and appreciation to those who work for you and with you? And note, I always advocate saying ‘thank you’ with each of these.

  1. Gift Giving
    Simply put, these people appreciate the smallest of things. It might be a cup of coffee that you buy for them through to a holiday in the Bahama’s for outstanding performance.
  2. Words of affirmation
    The words ‘thank you’ are powerful words. As I posted in my blog a few weeks back, “Gratitude, particularly expressed in the two words thank you to all in our relational sphere, though taking but a second to express, can reverberate through the receivers psyche for a lifetime – making the journey all the more richer.” This can be expressed both verbally and written.
  3. Quality time
    This obviously is a tricky one for business owners and managers but it might mean instead of having coffee or lunch on your own, you take one of your people with you.  You could include an employee in helping you accomplish a task. If you have a long drive to do or a flight to catch you take them with you. The key here is quality time whereby you are expressing interest in who they and how they are travelling.
  4. Acts of Service
    Your manager’s car broke down on the way to work…you make the call and arrange the towing service for him, paying for it in the process. An employee is struggling with his paperwork and you stay back and help him get up to date. One of the female team members expresses how her yard is overgrown and you organise some of the staff to head over on a Saturday morning for a working bee.
  5. Physical Touch.
    Ahh… where angels fear to tread. This obviously is a tricky one and I’m not referring to the types of sexual touch that the media moguls are currently being called out for. From personal experience here, I have found that when some people talk they automatically touch me on the arm. This has proven to be a good indicator that one of their languages is touch. In turn, when I say thank you to them or express my gratitude for who they are or the work they do, I simply touch them on the arm in the process.

The place to start is to understand what your personal love language is and also those closest to you. Then, in the workplace, start observing and trying a few different languages as you express gratitude and value to your team. Some will hit the mark, others will miss and if all else fails, the fact that you are trying to express appreciation and saying those magical words ‘thank you’ will in themselves, move your workplace culture and team members engagement forward.

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The Fresh Breath Of Inspiration

August 25, 2017 10:59 am

Video transcript below…

I’ve just come out to the country and this place is amazing. I always find the country one of those activities and places that deeply refreshes my soul. I’ve been reflecting on this whole concept of refreshment and inspiration. I had a look back at the original Latin of where the word inspire originated from and it comes in two parts. The first part means into. The second part means breathe. Effectively, inspire means to breathe into. I’ve been researching this and thinking through how I can live more consistently in an inspired state and how my clients, those I coach, consult, mentor, how they can do the same because life has a way of sucking the life out of us, leaving us anything but inspired.

I’ve found that there are various connections with people that breathe life into me. Some people are so valuable in my world. There are different forms of spirituality for different people that breathe life into them. There are different activities that also have that work and the converse is true. There are things and relationships that suck the life out of us and it’s really for us, it pays to look at what are the things that breathe life into us, the connections, the activities and what are the things that rob our joy, rob our life, and to start filling our world with breath, with life-giving activities.

I just finished reading the book Tuesdays with Morrie. Great read. Mitch said when he came away from being with Morrie, he felt like he had been rinsed with kindness. My friends, that is inspiration and the more we are topped up and filled with breath, with life, the more we can be an inspiration to others.

My name is Ray Hodge. You can connect with me at rayhodge.com.au and thanks for watching.

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I Want Another Drink

July 5, 2017 2:33 pm

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When I first starting consulting, my first client was an exceptional Life Coach. We arranged that I would consult with him in return for his coaching me. He was very gracious in being my first client. We agreed that when the coaching came to an end, we would share a bottle of Penfolds Grange. We arranged to have dinner and purchased a bottle for a small princely sum. Apart from the wine being the best I have had to date, the one thing I shall never forget is that upon every mouthful, it created the intense longing for the next sip. It stimulated my senses in such a way that I just wanted more.

One of the things I have noticed in my own life and those that I work with is that when we enjoy the tasks and activities (the Grange experiences) that we are engaged in, we are energised in the process. We do a bit, and we just want more – sometimes losing ourselves in the process.  We enter a state of ‘flow’, the term used by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his profound book Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

The converse is also true. If our lives are filled with things that are laborious and that we don’t enjoy, our energy is depleted, stress increases and happiness is what belonged to another era. We procrastinate and avoid those areas as much as possible.

Take time to do a flow – happiness inventory. What are those things that you engage in with ease and that you WANT to do? Some of those I work with have found meaning and joy in varied activities. One works on his cars;  meditation inspires another; my accountant absolutely loves business analysis and for another, it’s time in the garden. When it comes to our actual daily work, what are the elements of it that you truly enjoy doing? Identify these and seek to work 80% of your time in those areas – outsourcing, delegating or stopping altogether the rest. It may take you some time to get there but is worth making the journey.

Similarly for employees. If you can work increasingly on having your people work in their strengths and what they enjoy doing – their happiness and engagement levels will increase thus their productivity and your profitability.

Where our greatest enjoyment is located is often an indicator of where our greatest strengths lie and ultimately our gift to the world – our purpose beyond ourselves.

Whatever it is for you, find those Grange experiences – the one or two things that inspire you and that create happiness and joy in the process, creating a longing for more. Life like wine is to be savoured and enjoyed. And after all, drinking bad wine for the rest of life is not a very pleasant thought.

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Empathy. The Leadership Performance Driver

June 30, 2017 12:41 pm

In last week’s edition, I talked about the importance of validation. The day after I wrote that piece I was reflecting on a conversation with someone I had just met with and realised that I neglected to validate their current experience. Easy to write about, easy to agree with but much harder to do in practice – but absolutely worth the journey.

Validation is expressing to another that it’s OK; you’re allowed to experience, think and feel that – after all, you are only human. When I, on the odd occasion, am in a shitty mood and I choose to be vulnerable and disclose my feelings to a trusted other, their validation strengthens me, helping shore up my inner emotional foundation. It shows me that I’m normal and provides perspective – “you’ve travelled all week, worked 80 hours and then danced all night – no wonder you’re out of sorts with yourself today.” And interestingly, the origin of the word validation means strong, effective, powerful, active. It also forms the basis of the word valiant.

This week, a friend of mine sent me a report compiled by Development Dimensions International (DDI) which is the analysis of 15,000 leaders from 300 organisations in 18 different countries. The findings from the research indicate that EMPATHY is the leading driver that contributes to high performing leadership stating that “Overwhelmingly, empathy tops the list as the most critical driver of overall performance.”

Whether your leadership is in the home, in social settings or at work, if you want to increase your effectiveness it might pay to visit the empathy factor. Empathy is a learned skill and is derived from the ancient Greek word empatheia. This is made up of two words which mean “in or at” and “passion or suffering.” If we take empathy directly from its origin it effectively means that we enter into another person’s emotional state.

And this entering into another’s emotional state is the leading driver of effective leadership? Who would have guessed?

While validation says “it’s OK – you’re allowed to experience that,” empathy says “I get you. I feel what you feel. I hurt your hurt. Your excitement and joy are mine too – let’s go celebrate.”

Leadership isn’t just about vision, planning, focus, inspiring and the host of other traits that exemplify good leadership. At the core of it are the people we are leading – those who are following us. And it makes sense that when those following our leadership know they are important to us, are valued, that we take time to connect with them personally, validate their experiences and walk an empathetic journey them…this creates followers who will largely produce more, stay with us longer, go the extra mile and demonstrate increased loyalty.

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Validation

June 30, 2017 12:34 pm

Speaking with an acquaintance recently they asked me how I was doing. Given they had asked I thought I’d give them an honest answer. I chose to disclose a certain personal area that I was challenged with but instead of acknowledging it they continued talking about themselves.

In this case, my disclosure, the way I was feeling and the challenge I shared were not validated – it was passed over.

When someone chooses to share something of a personal nature, they are trusting us with their stuff. Their vulnerability says something about the relationship you have with them – they trust you.

Validating a personal disclosure happens intentionally. We have to be present in the conversation and then responsive. No response, no validation. The power of validation is empathy without judgement.

That must be difficult for you
I can’t imagine what you’re going through
How are you coping with that pressure?
How is that working for you?
I don’t understand your situation but I can imagine it would be painful.

No judgements but simple statements and questions that validate the disclosure.
And sometimes, people just want someone to listen – the act of being fully present and simply listening validating the person’s situation.

From validation, trust is increasingly built. From increased trust, (and particularly when the discloser asks for it) direction can be provided. Direction and solutions too soon can invalidate the person’s disclosure.

Validation… a powerful connection tool with those in the workplace, home and community and interestingly, my observation would be that those we lead in the workplace stay in their jobs longer and are more productive when validation is evident.

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