Letters from the editor

Creating the Outcome You Want

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My clients are high performers with a relentless drive for results. But even with that drive, sometimes people overlook how they can create the outcomes they want.

For example, I met with a leader who was excited about a promising business relationship that could really take his company to the next level. After having two fruitful meetings with this potential client, he shifted into “wait and see” mode because he felt the ball was in the other party’s court.

Although he may not have had as much control as he wanted in this situation, he had much more power and influence than he realized.

To get him thinking about how he could create the outcome that he wanted, I asked him a few questions. Even though you may be faced with a different type of opportunity or challenge than his, the following questions will shift your mindset

and approach — leading you closer to the outcome you want:

What would you like to have happen?

Start by defining what the ideal outcome would look like. Get really specific about the most important elements, for you and the other party involved. These elements could include your role and responsibilities, your working relationship with the other party, your compensation, and so on.

What would it take to make that happen?

Next, consider the key pieces that would have to be in place for the ideal outcome to happen. In the example above, it was more credibility and trust between the two parties. As we talked further, he also realized that minimizing risk for both parties mattered a great deal.

What are the first two steps you can take to lead to the outcome you want?

After you’ve answered the first two questions, you will find that the answer to this last question comes much more easily. You begin to see the small steps you can take to start moving things in the direction you want. Remember that it can be subtle things that you say or do. The most important part is making sure the steps tie to the outcome you want and what must be in place to make it happen. In this example, this leader realized that crafting some kind of pilot project was the best way for both parties to try something on a small scale, to minimize risk, and to advance their working relationship.

Although we don’t always have control over a situation, we can influence the outcome. Just remember that getting really clear about what you want shifts your mindset and helps you naturally and easily start creating the outcome you want.

Are You Taking Your Skills and Experience for Granted?

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I once wrote a proposal for a multi-billion-dollar company seeking to develop its top leaders. Of course, the minute I hit “send,” I realized I had omitted a really important fact about my experience – so important, in fact, that leaving it out meant I had grossly understated my qualifications. I just couldn’t believe I had missed it! Although I had a chance to rectify the situation, this reminded me how easy it is to overlook what you know.

I see the same things happen with my clients. They often overlook extremely valuable lessons and experiences from the past that can help them with what they’re wrestling with today. Their oversight may center on skills that they just don’t notice they have anymore — in other words, areas where they have reached the point of “unconscious competence.”

With the Newberry Leadership System for High Performing Women, I help my clients build critical skills to the point where they are second nature, to the point of unconscious competence. However, I also find myself helping my clients remember what they already know and how to apply it to what they face today.

Here’s a quick example. I once coached a leader who has always been good at building a strong network of advocates. In fact, in the past it has helped her move up the corporate ladder very quickly. However, in the past two years, she has spent less and less time focusing on her network – to the point that she lost sight of its importance altogether. It wasn’t until she found herself in a political situation where she wasn’t supported that she realized just what she had forgotten. That situation was the rude awakening she needed to jog her memory. In our coaching session, we talked through how to bounce back from the situation, leveraging her skills and experiences from the past (and she had many to tap into).

Another one of my clients found herself frustrated about all the unexpected issues popping up on a mission-critical project. She really couldn’t afford any delays. When we started to delve deeper, she realized that she had forgotten about an issue tracking and management approach and tool she had used on another project. By putting that back into play, she got the right information from her team – information to help her anticipate and prevent potential problems.

So, the next time you find yourself dealing with a challenging issue, take time to ask yourself the following questions:

1.What is the underlying issue I’m struggling with?

Don’t get distracted by all the details, really focus on the core issue(s).

2.In the past, when have I encountered a similar situation?

Asking yourself this question will help you remember a past experience that may lend insight into how to approach the current situation.

3.What helped me work through that situation successfully?

What lessons did you learn that could apply here? This will help you remember key elements of what happened in the past, how you handled the situation, and what could be useful as you develop your approach to the current situation.

Keep Your Passion Front and Center

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When I served as a panelist for OCA’s Professional Leadership Summit: What’s Passion Got to Do with It?, I didn’t realize how much I would get out of the experience. It forced me to reflect about my own career and how I’ve stayed in tune with what I’m passionate about over the years. I also benefited tremendously from hearing the other panelists’ stories.

So, I have three tips I’d like to share to help you keep your passion front and center:

1. Set aside time to re-energize and reflect.

As I have analyzed my career path, I realized that every three to four years I have taken some kind of big break—a leave of absence or sabbatical—to help me get perspective and clarity about what’s next for me. During that time, rather than obsessing about my career, I always focused on doing what I really enjoy (e.g., hiking, biking, international travel, etc.), to infuse positive energy into my life and give me the perspective I need to move forward.

I recognize that not everyone can take big chunks of time off. So, the next best thing is to make sure that you set aside time on a regular basis to reenergize and reflect. If you haven’t read it already, there’s a great HBR article, Manage Your Energy Not Your Time, that will help you determine how to recharge on a day-to-day basis.

As for reflection time, even as little as fifteen to twenty minutes, periodically, can really help. I know that one size does not fit all, so figure out how often you should set aside time to stay in tune with your passion and priorities. When you do take the time, ask yourself the following questions:

What do I enjoy most about what I do? What do I like the least? What am I tolerating (i.e., what is weighing me down)? What one step can I take to get more out of what I’m doing today? What one step can I take to move towards more of what I want?

I know that there are so many questions you could ask yourself, but these will get you started.

2. Surround yourself with the right people.

Energy, both positive and negative, is contagious. Surrounding yourself with people who can give you the support you need (whatever “support” looks like for you) and who get excited about the possibilities for you, can make a huge difference. Naysayers certainly have their value (e.g., they can help you think through potential risks) but they can also zap your energy, especially when you are trying to make a big, difficult change.

So take a look at who you interact with regularly or go to for advice, and think about the type of energy you get from each of them. You may realize that you need to make some shifts.

3. Make sure others understand your passion and skills.

Finally, always keep the pulse on what you are known for—your personal brand. If you don’t know what it is today, you don’t really know whether it’s hurting or helping you. So, clarify what your brand is and what you want it to be.

Remember that when that perfect opportunity comes along, you want the key influencers and decision makers to think of you. If there is a big disconnect between what that perfect job entails, and what others consider your skills and passion, you probably won’t get the job. So, set aside even five minutes each week to ensure that the right people understand the value you bring. I present on this topic all the time, so trust me when I say that you can do it tastefully and in a way that serves you and your company.

Let me end this article with a Call to Action. Determine one step you’ll take to keep your passion front and center. Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

Look for the Opportunities Right in Front of You

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I can’t tell you how often I hear people complain that they don’t have time to focus on something important to them. There can be several reasons they don’t dedicate the time or make the effort. For some, fear holds them back. For others, the sense of urgency isn’t there. But in many cases, people simply do not see the opportunities in front of them to make progress on what they want.

So, I work with my clients to develop ways to achieve their goals without adding layers of work—which is key to getting the ball rolling. Below are three simple steps you can take. Think about each of these in the context of what you really want to accomplish.

1. Review what is already on your calendar.

To get started, look 1-2 weeks out on your schedule to see who you have meetings or calls with. You may find that you will be in front of important people with whom you want to cultivate stronger relationships or get visibility. By looking at your schedule ahead of time and in the context of your goals, you can begin to set the stage for making progress on what you’d like to accomplish.

2. Think about how you can make the most of that time.

Next, think about how you can make the most of the opportunity whether it’s a meeting, phone call, or something else. For example, I have a client who has a strong internal network but wants to expand her external network. With her work and travel schedule, she doesn’t have much time to participate in networking events. She’d been struggling to make time for quite a while.

When we looked at her calendar, she noticed that she had a two-day meeting coming up. It was part of a prominent leadership program for which she had been selected and it included leaders from other organizations. So, we worked together to establish 1-2 goals for this meeting. She identified two individuals she wanted to cultivate relationships with and developed concrete actions steps to do just that. Ultimately, she got more out of the program and made progress on her networking goal without adding any time to her schedule.

3. Set up a structure to help you.

Finally, make this process a habit for yourself. If the thought of looking out a week or two in advance sounds overwhelming, you can still make the most of any single opportunity sitting in front of you.

Before each meeting or call you attend, take a couple of minutes to ask yourself:

  • How do I want to show up (i.e., what impression do I want to leave? How can I reinforce my brand?)?

  • In this forum, how can I also make progress on one of my goals or priorities?

  • What one action will I take in this meeting or call?

My clients can attest that this really works! So, set aside time to strategically look at your calendar and set goals for your upcoming meetings and calls. As a first step, pick just one meeting in the next week to try this approach. If you’re really adventurous, block 15-20 minutes on your calendar each week to strategize about the following week’s meetings. You will show up with much more intention and may be surprised at the results you get.

Is Self-Care Really Selfish?

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I have to give my sister credit for inspiring this article. She wrote a book on successful working women, the challenges they face in making marriage work, and how to overcome them. As we talked about common themes that we see in our respective worlds working with high-performing women, we talked about the difficulty women have with the concept of self-care.

We discussed that women often confuse self-care with selfishness. A woman may think, “How could I possibly take time for me right now when there’s so much to do and others rely on me?” In this view of the world, self-care is a luxury, a “nice-to-have.”

A man, on the other hand, knows that self-care allows him to keep going so he can provide the support others need from him. In this view of the world, self-care is a “must have” that provides energy. That doesn’t mean a man will put himself first no matter what. However, he is much less likely to confuse self-care with selfishness.

At the end of the day, what we’re talking about is energy management. Resist the temptation to keep giving and giving without taking enough time to renew your own energy. As you may know from firsthand experience, it can lead to burnout or resentment pretty quickly.

Think about what you will do for yourself this week to give yourself that essential energy you need to stay productive and avoid burnout. Here are some ideas.

1. Say no to something you really don’t want to do.

Whether it’s a personal or professional request, resist the temptation to say yes to something you don’t want to do — and know you shouldn’t be doing. If you feel guilty about saying no, you can always help the person find another resource to help. Remember that this task could be a good developmental opportunity or exposure for someone else.

2. Get exercise without putting any judgment around it.

You might just have 15 minutes to exercise, so adopt the mindset that 15 minutes is better than nothing. If exercise gives you energy, make the most of whatever time you have by taking a quick walk, going for a short run, grabbing some dumbbells, or doing a few pushups and crunches.

3. Give yourself time to decompress before you walk into the house.

Take time to transition out of work mode, so you can leave work stress at the office. Do something to deliberately make that shift, whether you sit in the car for a few minutes to get the solitude you need before you immerse yourself into a house full of children, or just don’t take that conference call on the drive home.

If you regularly put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, identify one step you will take this week to take care of yourself — so you can be there for others. Remember that self-care isn’t selfish.

How to Stop Working All the Time

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At the University of Houston’s Women’s Studies Table Talk event, I facilitated an invigorating discussion about how we live in a 24/7, “give me what I’m asking for right now” world. Many of us work in companies with a high performance, immediate response culture that makes it so hard to stop working all the time. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is possible to stop work from taking over your life if you start with what you can control.

Here are four simple strategies to get you started:

1. Recognize your mindset.

Your mindset plays a huge role in all of this. I’ll give you an example. A retired nurse at our table asked a great question, “Why can’t something wait until tomorrow? In nursing, if you don’t get everything done during your shift, a patient could die. I just don’t understand what can’t wait in business.”

As you know, when you’re “in it,” it is so hard to see how crazy it might look or sound from an outside perspective. It’s hard to keep in mind that for most of us, in our jobs no one will die if everything doesn’t get done today. Just remember to focus on completing what does matter the most. In the end, that’s what really counts.

2. Help others see your focus on business goals and results.

Do you worry about what others will think if you start setting boundaries? For example, will others look at how you work (e.g., your hours or schedule, and whether you’re in the office or working at home) as a bigger indicator of your commitment and performance than your actual results? For example, if you leave work at 5 p.m. every day, even if you don’t have a socially acceptable excuse like a child to pick up, will they think you’re just not working hard enough even if you’re getting the job done?

If this sounds familiar, think about how you can proactively communicate and manage up. Just remember that others, including your boss, are far too busy to notice everything you’re doing, so what they do see is often their picture of reality. Be strategic about providing positive snapshots of your performance — but do it with integrity and authenticity. For example, keep them regularly informed about important issues and how you are managing through them, or your progress on a key business goal.

3. Set personal boundaries.

Setting personal boundaries that allow you to maintain your energy and productivity is critical. Let’s look at a couple of examples. A woman at our table agreed to start turning off her BlackBerry at 8 p.m. every day, which will also help her stop dreaming about work! Another woman said she consistently leaves the office at 5 to make a 5:30 class at the gym, and she has a workout buddy meet her there (which makes it much harder not to show up). As a result, others around her know how important exercise is to her, and she has in effect “trained them” to expect her to leave at 5 no matter what. Both of these women will be so much more productive by setting limits that allow them to recharge, instead of just working more hours that lead to burnout.

4. Ask for help.

I know that asking for help is particularly hard if you’re a high-achieving perfectionist. I will just ask you one question: When you say “yes” to doing everything perfectly, what are you saying “no” to by default? It may be exercise, time with your kids, or time for yourself — the possibilities are endless.

Perfectionist or not, I would urge you to stretch yourself to think about creative ways to ask for and get help. Remember, there are plenty of eager young professionals out there wanting to develop themselves, even if they don’t report directly to you.

Pick one of the four areas above to start with, and find someone to hold you accountable for whatever action step you decide to take. You might be surprised that once you start making changes to stop working all the time, others may be eager to make changes, too.

Enjoy the Journey

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We can fall into the trap of moving from one thing to the next without taking the time to think about or enjoy the journey to get there. As I have coached high performers over the years, I’ve noticed that many of them quickly “check the box” and immediately start planning the next activity, often failing to celebrate their success.

I want to challenge you to think about where you are today – personally and professionally.

1. What do you enjoy the most?

I suspect that most of you, even in the midst of intense working hours, really enjoy certain aspects of what you do or your environment. No matter how big or small, what energizes you about what is going on around you, or what you are involved in? How can you integrate more of that into your life? What would it take to make it happen? Remember that recognizing “what works” can help you draw more satisfaction from it and more intentionally expand it.

2. What challenges you the most?

You might be right in the thick of a big challenge, one that is testing and stretching you in new ways. Sometimes the most difficult situations can lead to the biggest opportunities or offer the most valuable lessons. So take a minute to consider what you find most challenging about what you are doing today and how it is affecting you and your perspective.

3. How do you celebrate your success?

Acknowledging and celebrating your accomplishments can help you recognize what differentiates you – your unique talent, skills, and perspective – and help you put it more powerfully into play in the future. Sometimes humility can prevent people from paying attention to what they really did to achieve a successful outcome. Don’t gloss over it. Consider what each milestone means for you and how you got there, and then plan a celebration that would do it justice.

Remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. This week, take the time to answer at least one of the questions above to help you notice and enjoy your journey.

 

© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

How I Navigated One of My Toughest Years

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This year has been one of the most challenging years I have had in a really long time. It’s been filled with unbelievable highs, and some really low lows.   It has tested and stretched me in ways I hadn’t expected, but in the end has made me a stronger person. And, miraculously, this will be the most successful year for my business.

I didn’t fully recognize the strategies I had deliberately used, until I was recently preparing for a speech about Handling Curveballs. It forced me to reflect about how I stayed on track and kept putting one foot in front of the other despite my challenges.  Here are the five strategies that rose to the top of my list:

  1. Revamping my inner circle That core group of people that I surround myself with and rely on is my inner circle. Over the years, I have learned to carefully select who I allow in it, and proactively adapt it over time, because it impacts my energy so much. We all have days when we know we need to distance ourselves from draining people and situations, and “fill the tank” with people who infuse more positive energy into our lives. Take a close look at your inner circle to ensure it includes people with a good balance of give and take and the right type of energy.

  1. Staying in the here and now When anxiety kicks in, it’s easy to overwhelm and overload yourself with thoughts about what might happen. You may find yourself shifting out of the present moment to memories of the past when something left you scarred, or thoughts about the future which feels uncertain and unpredictable. I have become the queen of telling myself, “All you have to do is choose your next one or two steps. And then choose the next one or two. You don’t have to solve everything right now.”

  1. Managing my pace Whether it’s about getting enough sleep or exercise, my physical health dramatically affects my ability to keep things in perspective and manage my stress. My typical go-to is being active outside – running or heading to the mountains and hiking (even when it’s a really bad time to be away from work). As long as I’m injury-free, that works. But some recurring ankle injuries this year forced me to find other ways to deal with life’s stressors. I have integrated daily guided meditations into my mornings and continue to be more disciplined about getting to bed earlier. By proactively slowing down my pace, I notice more of what’s going on for me and others, which has boosted my productivity and business success.

  1. Asking for help Raised as an independent and self-sufficient woman, I don’t ask for help as often as I should. But when I remember that asking for help also provides others an opportunity to give and ultimately deepens my relationships, I can do it more easily. I know I’m still a work in progress and it is getting easier with practice. If it’s hard for you too, just try it on a smaller scale and notice how it impacts you and others.

  1. Serving others No matter how busy my life gets, I make time to give back. I serve on nonprofit boards and committees at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Dallas Women’s Foundation, Dallas Children’s Theater and Akola. It forces me to get out of my own world and into others. This year, I took a trip to Uganda with Akola. The women’s stories of hardship and resilience affected me so deeply. They have overcome challenges far beyond anything I will ever face, and are now paying it forward. So, my nonprofit work keeps my perspective in check, fills my heart with gratitude, and inspires me to do more. Whether you volunteer or not, make sure you have something in your life that gives you fulfillment.

Before you dash off to your busy day, I want to challenge you to choose one strategy to implement this week, whether it’s one from the list above or something else that helps you navigate through tough times.  And, as always, remember that small steps lead to big results.

Trust, Possibility and Letting Things Unfold

After I left Uganda, I traveled to Kenya for my first safari. On the first day, our guide asked which animals we hoped to see.  In my excitement, I rattled off a few animals not knowing the likelihood of seeing any of them. I was in the moment, simply thrilled to experience whatever unfolded – no expectations; just gratitude for anything that might happen.

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As I mentioned an animal that I would like to see, within a matter of minutes we would see that animal. This continued, one after the other, in the order I mentioned for our entire first day. We witnessed the Great Wildebeest Migration, even thought it wasn’t expected to happen for another three weeks.  Although many people don’t get to see even one river crossing of the wildebeest, we actually witnessed four.  By the end of the first day, I was in disbelief that I had already seen every animal I wanted to.

Later on the trip, driving in the middle of the Northern Mara, a hailstorm came out of nowhere. We were told that they hadn’t experienced anything like this in this area for years. As we scrambled to quickly cover the top of the Range Rover and waited for the storm to subside, I said, "Wouldn't it be cool if we saw a rainbow after this?" A few minutes later, when the hail and rain had stopped, we got out of the Range Rover. I turned to look behind us, and to my surprise, there was a huge rainbow over the terrain. Having lived in cities all my life, I have never seen an entire rainbow, let alone one forming a double rainbow on one end – in Africa, of all places!

Like my crazy travel day earlier this year, this safari made me pause and reflect in a way I haven’t done in years. I kept asking myself, “What should I take away from this experience?”  I couldn’t simply say that what happened on this trip was a set of coincidences – there were just way too many of them.

What continues to resonate with me now, and speaks to what many of us may be experiencing in our lives, is the power of possibility— of saying "Wouldn't it be cool if …?" Sometimes we close ourselves off and take options off the table before giving them a chance.

If you’re a go-getter like me and most of my clients, you might find yourself often trying to control things too much (that's especially true now, as uncertainty seems all around us.) We can get caught up in our own expectations and driving to a specific outcome, especially when we feel like a lot is at stake. When we do, we put out a very different type of energy. Instead of having a sense of openness and possibility, we feel uptight and full of angst. And when we show up like this, we tend to get in our own way.

I’ve personally experienced the difference. A large project that I’ve been immersed in over the past year has tested me in ways I never expected. It has taught me that I have to let go of things beyond my control, be clear about the outcome that I want, and trust more that whatever happens next is what should. My Kenyan safari showed me this time and again, and made it real at a level I never expected.

My next step is to start applying this insight to other parts of my life. As I experiment, I want to challenge you to do the same:

  • Get clear about something that you want or something that's important to you.

  • Be open to it actually happening — even if you can't imagine how it could possibly could.

  • Simply allow things to unfold without demands or expectations.

  • Be grateful for whatever happens next.

Remember that small steps lead to big results. And even one small step toward being open to the power of possibility can have a big impact.

Hurricane Harvey and the Power of One

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The past week and a half has touched me deeply, as I sat here in Dallas in the safety of my own home while many of my Houston clients and close friends dealt with Hurricane Harvey.  

The whole experience took me down a path of reflection that I hadn’t expected.  Many of you know that I lived in Houston for 17 years. I was working at Deloitte in Houston when Hurricane Katrina hit, and I jumped in to help lead the “war room” to coordinate our efforts to move many of our employees from Louisiana to Dallas. During Tropical Storm Allison, I remember watching the rain pouring down for hours and the water rising around us. At some point I fell asleep and woke up to loud banging on the front door. As I jumped out of bed startled, I landed in three feet of nasty brown water. I waded across my bedroom to find my good friend and neighbor checking to make sure we were okay.  I’ll never forget the view of Hwy 59 the next morning, which looked like a river flowing through the middle of the city.

In 2008, during Hurricane Ike, we evacuated because my son was only two. I remember being glued to the TV wondering what would happen. Our house was one of the lucky few in our area that never lost power, didn’t flood, and had very little damage. It became a home for friends who didn’t fare as well. The Houston we came back to looked drastically different than the one we left.

This time, before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, I invited several friends to evacuate to Dallas but they all chose to stay put. One night, I spent hours reaching out to over 60 people individually to make sure they were ok.  Several of them were sitting in closets with their children listening to tornado sirens going off again and again, praying that everything would be ok (especially since water was going to be released from reservoirs as well).  I felt useless from this far away.

In the midst of it all, I was again reminded of the Power of One – the power that each of us has to make a difference in the lives of others.

During this tragedy, I am inspired by what I see—differences disappearing and people simply treating people as people.   People are coming together to offer emotional or financial support, or lend a hand in picking up the pieces. Houstonians have a can-do attitude and resilience like I have never experienced anywhere else. But this time, as I sit in Dallas, I am equally touched by the outpouring of support and kindness I see here.

Just remember that you can tap into your Power of One each and every day, in big or small ways. But if there were ever a time to use it, it is now. Twenty-seven trillion gallons later, the road ahead for many Houstonians is a long one.

Don’t Miss the Chance to Give with Impact

This time of year, I am reminded of how much I already have – and how much I can impact the lives of others. This holiday season, I encourage you to give with impact. Here are two opportunities you don’t want to miss.  

Dallas Children’s Theater

As one of the top 5 theaters for youth in the US, Dallas Children's Theater produces engaging educational plays that promote social values, moral integrity, and cultural diversity. DCT's pioneering efforts to develop innovative “arts-in-education” programs have equipped Dallas-area schools with a powerful resource. DCT also provides up to 10,000 free or reduced fee tickets for children in low-income neighborhoods.

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Support childhood education and get creative with your gift-giving

  • Dedicate a performance to a loved one for $250

This includes an announcement of the dedication*, a certificate indicating the declaration of honoree’s official day, recognition in DCT materials and social media, a show poster signed by the entire cast, a special gift from the DCT store, and a youth admission ticket to an upcoming DCT show**.

*some productions excluded. **applied to new ticket orders only

Buy this gift online at dct.org/dedicate

  • Sponsor an actor or character for $1,000

This includes a backstage tour, an autographed photo of their sponsored performer, and much more. Contact Michael Gonzales at michael.gonzales@dct.org or 214-978-0110 to buy your gift.

  • Make a tax-deductible donation in someone’s name for $25, $50, $100 or more.

You choose the amount.  Donate online at dct.org/give

Akola

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Akola empowers economically disadvantaged women through the income and skills they gain in making Akola's jewelry. At Akola, each necklace made represents a single woman and a single story. Each necklace empowers the woman who made it to actually re-design their stories to become ones read with dignity, grace and honor.

Over the last seven years, the Akola Project has blossomed into a thriving social business that empowers women across the globe. Shop with a purpose this season and give beautiful handmade pieces that not only give back, but that tell a powerful story.

Give the gift of beauty and empowerment.  Shop at http://akolaproject.org/

Akola is a full-impact brand, reinvesting 100% of the proceeds in supporting the women.

Leadership Lessons from an Olympic Athlete

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As you may know, I’m a huge supporter of United Way and have been volunteering with this organization for years. At a recent United Way Tocqueville event in Dallas, I had the rare opportunity to hear Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson speak. As he shared what he had learned from his years of competition in the 200- and 400-meter sprints, I realized how much of what he said applies to leadership – especially to the high performers that I coach.  

Be Better Today Than You Were Yesterday

Sometimes we forget how much we can achieve by taking small steps. In the Olympics, shaving off a fraction of a second can be the difference between winning the gold medal or not — when you won't get another shot for four years. In both your professional and persona lives, taking even five minutes to stop and think about one small thing you can do better than you did yesterday can have a huge impact over time. I’m sure you’ve heard me say by now how small steps can lead to big results.

Have a Race Strategy

Even though sprints are for short distances, they still require careful thought and planning. In the workplace, it can be easy to tell yourself you can tolerate some things for a while, even when you are working crazy hours. When was the last time you sat back and thought about how you really want to achieve your goals? An “all out” strategy may burn you out before you cross the finish line. What one change do you want to make to manage your energy and ensure you have a sustainable approach?

What To Do When Times Get Tough

Everyone hits bumps in the road. Johnson talked about one of his: an injury that kept him from competing. He had skipped some basic steps — consistent stretching and weight lifting — that would have prevented it. What basics do you need to keep in mind to ensure you are getting stronger each day and that you don’t get derailed from what’s most important? For me, it’s making time to reflect so that I can be more strategic, no matter how busy things get.

Another strategy is to simply notice what you have done well and the impact it has had on others. To do that, many of my clients have used an accomplishment log. Reading your log when you feel stuck or when times get tough will help you recognize how much progress you have made.

This week, think about what you can do to invest in your own resilience and long-term performance as a leader, by applying one of Michael's strategies. Read some of the media coverage of Johnson's talk for more inspiration.

Managing Stress When Work Goes Crazy

Over the past few months, I have found myself coaching several leaders facing major transitions and stress. Financial pressure has resulted in one or more rounds of restructuring. With fewer resources, achieving their business targets requires more from leaders who remain. With so much uncertainty in the environment, these leaders are often left wondering what will happen with their jobs, who else they will have to let go, and whether the company will still be a place where they want to work.  

If you find yourself in the midst of a similar situation or other big changes, your mind may be racing with thoughts like these:

There's too much going on. How much more can we really take on?

This is crazy! These changes don't make sense. How much will they really help?

How will my future be affected?

It would be a waste of time to bring forward my ideas right now — everyone is too distracted.

We’ve lost sight of who we are as a company in the midst of all this change.

Our leaders seem misaligned; we get conflicting messages.

Fear and uncertainty can increase your stress, keep you from engaging fully, or realizing that you can still have an impact no matter how out-of-control everything seems.

young stressed overwhelmed man with piles of folders on his desk

young stressed overwhelmed man with piles of folders on his desk

3 Steps to Stop Negativity

Even the most optimistic leaders can have difficulty staying positive when operating in a high stress environment each day – especially if their bosses are also too overwhelmed to give them support.  If you find yourself rattled by stress and uncertainty, try one of these strategies:

Focus on what is certain (i.e., what isn't changing).

In times of upheaval, we tend to focus more on all the changes and unknowns and overlook what is constant. For example, even if your company alters some aspects of how it operates, the overarching values and priorities may still stay the same. Help your team notice these things to give them more stability.

Manage your energy.

Even if you can’t see an end in sight in the near term, minimize the impact of tough spots in your schedule — the tasks and events that you know will sap your energy — and make sure you proactively infuse some positive energy to fill the tank. That could mean a morning workout before a stressful meeting or a few quick, deliberate breaks throughout the day. Take a look at your own agenda for the week right now. What energy-drainers do you see? How can you counteract them? Even something as simple as packing some healthy snacks to keep you from hitting the vending machines during a late night at the office can make a big difference.

Build a support system.

Even if your boss can’t offer much support, connect with colleagues and other people with positive energy so you can lift each other up. When your own optimism drops, tap into the energy of this group to help you recharge and refocus on what is working.

Change is always going to be part of your work environment, but remember that you can take small steps every day to help you feel more centered and in control. You'll find more ideas on managing your energy during difficult times in "Staying Engaged," part of the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.

For Women's Day, Own Your Value — Then Share It

Observed since the early 1900s, this event celebrates the achievements of women and girls — and looks for more opportunities for progress.  

Check out the International Women's Day website for activities in your area. In Dallas, where Newberry Executive Solutions is based, former first lady Laura Bush will be part of the "Voices of Hope" event on March 8. I'm also excited about the graduation of the latest Women's Initiative Fellows Program class at the George W. Bush Institute the following day.

Memo: World Women´s Day

Memo: World Women´s Day

I started off my day by speaking at Ceridian’s global International Women's Day event.  I spoke about the power of recognizing your unique value and looking for ways to maximize your impact. And I want to challenge you to do the same, so that others can benefit from the value you bring.

As an executive coach who regularly works with high-performing women, I've seen that even accomplished leaders have trouble noticing what they bring to the table. I'll tell you what I tell my clients when they're having trouble seeing their own value: Think about how powerful it would be if someone else knew how to do what you do.

This is the first step to having impact on a larger scale. When you know how you make a difference, you can start identifying ways to amplify your contribution.

To help you get started with creating your own ripple effect, answer these questions:

  • What results do you consistently deliver? Don’t worry about how easy it may be for you to get these results. When you’re using your core strengths, the work may not feel that difficult.

  • How do those results that create value? In other words, how do they the impact others and the organization?

  • How do you consistently get those results (i.e., how you accomplish what you do)? Break down what you do so that someone else can understand the essential steps, follow them and get similar outcomes. This makes the process repeatable and increases your impact. To map out the steps, try writing them down, drawing them out, or talking to someone about your process. Remember that these are your own personal best practices. ("Strategically Standing Out," part of the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM, can help you zero in on what's helped you succeed in the past.)

Your answers to the questions above will have you well on your way to building more capability in others and magnifying your strengths.

Let me give you an example from my own business. In my work with executive coaching clients, I saw over and over that helping them implement small, seemingly simple steps or changes led to big results (e.g., over 65% of my clients get promoted). I have now taken the strategies that have proven successful with my clients and turned them into a variety of products, such as books and audio trainings, so that more people can put them to use. My products help spread my impact beyond the clients I work with directly. But I was only able to create them after clarifying what works, the process and tools I use time and again to get consistent results.

Doing the same thing for yourself is one of the most meaningful things you can do this International Women's Day. The issues facing women are complex, and there's no blanket solution, but I believe that individual shifts like these can be the start of powerful movements as we all inspire one another. Picture what would happen if every woman who thought she was "nothing special" started putting her unique gifts more fully into play into the world. Now that's something to celebrate.

6 Tips from LEAD 2016 That You Can Use Today

LEAD

I just got back from the LEAD 2016 Conference and Awards in Nashville. Newberry Executive Solutions and Sysco Corporation received two awards for the results at Sysco for the WOW!Women On the Way to Peak Performance ProgramSM: Winner’s Circle for the Best Executive Coaching and 3rd Place for Best Mentoring Program. We were up against some tough competition! Congratulations to my partners at Sysco, Sandra Carson and Raina Avalon, who are two amazing officers, leaders and role models making a difference every day.

I took much more away from this experience than awards and want to share leadership nuggets from some of the inspirational speakers:

  1. Coach and author Devin C. Hughes: “Catch people doing awesome things every day. Don’t underestimate the power of positive energy. It can be as simple as giving someone a ‘high five.’ Who will you ‘high five’ today?”

  2. Jim Kouzes, co-author of "The Leadership Challenge": Each day ask yourself, “How can I lead better tomorrow than I did today?” Simply start strengthening your leadership by challenging yourself to improve a little each day.

  3. Stephen M.R. Covey, CEO of Coveylink Worldwide: “Nothing is faster than the speed of trust (in getting results).” What are you doing to build trust each day?

  4. Christine Ha, the first blind "MasterChef USA" winner: “Always look for the intersection of passion, talent and opportunity to choose your vocation.” You never know where it will lead you.

  5. Bonnie St. John, the first African American Paralympic medalist in ski racing, shared a powerful diversity and inclusion exercise: Write down names of people who have impacted your life with their leadership. Then write down a list of people who would write your name down. Finally, examine the second list to see how diverse it is. How similar or different are they from you?

  6. Tacy Byham, CEO of DDI: “Ladies, strike a power pose for two minutes before you have to go on stage to present. You will show up with more confidence.”

I want to challenge you to take just one of these nuggets this week, and apply it to what’s going on around you. You might be surprised at the difference it makes. And remember, small steps can lead to big results.

How to Stay Grounded When Curveballs Come Your Way — Lessons From My Startup Journey

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When I started Newberry Executive Solutions in 2008, I didn’t have a specific brand or company in mind that I wanted to emulate, but I did come from a company with a very strong brand – Deloitte. I learned a lot from my 14 years of consulting, coaching and leadership experience there. In particular, I understood the importance of consistently demonstrating value, living and breathing my company values and showing how my company was a leader in its field. When you do this, people will refer you business time and again because they know what to expect and know they can count on your company to get the job done well.

We all hit bumps in the road — those times when it feels hard to be an entrepreneur or to be in whatever role you hold. There are three key strategies that I leverage in my executive coaching work and that I still use for myself today.

  • First, stop and remember what this business or role is really about for you. Tapping into the underlying passion that fueled the startup of your company or the pursuit of this career path is important. What are you really trying to accomplish?

  • Next, get specific about what it would mean to achieve success. How would you be feeling? What would be happening? It’s important to write this out in detail and let yourself visualize it.

  • Finally, surround yourself with people who can remind you of those things, when you cannot do it for yourself. It’s important to set this up in advance, before you hit an emotional dip, so people know when and how to help.

The nerve-racking headlines about the economy we're barraged with now remind me a lot of what was going on when I launched my business. I am a pretty confident person, but I wasn’t mentally prepared for the economy tanking just three months after I started my company. To help myself get over the anxiety I felt, I mapped out how much time I would give myself to be successful – and I defined what success would look like for different increments of time (three months, six months, nine months, one year, etc.). I also focused on just two or three steps at a time. This strategy of taking small steps and staying in the present (instead of the past or future), kept me from feeling overwhelmed by the task of launching a successful business that would develop strong business leaders and provide income comparable to or better than my income at Deloitte.

Fortunately, I didn’t have naysayers around me — because I chose to surround myself with people who have the right energy. Most people couldn’t imagine starting a company at the time I did it, but they didn’t discourage me. My family and friends know that it takes a lot for me to walk away from anything. So, please think about what kind of energy and support you need in your life, to maintain your passion and fuel your efforts. Those day-to-day messages and stories you tell yourself can be the difference between success and failure.

In 2008, I didn’t know I’d be relaunching my company two years later in 2010 in Dallas. These strategies, along with a few other simple ones, helped me double my business that year while retaining my original clients. And my business continues to grow. It’s been an unpredictable but exciting journey. Remember to enjoy every step of it.

3 Tips for Reaching Your Goals

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If you haven’t already, it’s time to look forward and get specific about what you want out of this year. If you haven’t already done so, take time this week to get started. I’ve got three quick tips to help you:  

1. Keep it simple.

How do you want to stretch yourself? Remember not to overload yourself and choose just ONE area to focus on. Whether your goal is personal or professional, make it about getting the right work done. What does that mean? The "right work" is work that makes the highest and best use of your talents and that has the biggest impact.  Keep in mind that 20 percent of your effort typically yields 80 percent of your results.

2. Define the first step.

If you bog yourself down with coming up with the entire plan to reach your goal, you’ll never get started. Start by defining the first step that you will take to move forward in achieving your goal. Taking even one simple step will start building the momentum you need to keep going.

3. Find a supporter.

Accountability is critical to sticking with your goal, so don't go it alone. Whom will you tell about your goal by the end of this week, so that person can help you stay focused on it even when things get busy or tough?

Whatever goal you set, remember you can return to this blog to find ideas and resources to keep you motivated. When you're ready to invest in yourself even more powerfully, check out our products for both individuals and organizations to keep you moving toward the results you desire. Remember, I'm cheering for you in the background (can you see me?) – and that even seemingly small steps lead to big changes.

Why Can't I Get Over This?

Have you ever caught yourself wondering why you can’t get over a setback, a mistake (yours or someone else's), a conflict or a big change?  

Sometimes we easily shrug off frustrations or difficulties. Other times, they really get under our skin. We may stay stuck in frustration even as we push ourselves to move forward and be more resilient.

I’ve found that people often misunderstand resilience. It doesn't mean that we will move past roadblocks effortlessly or just have to find a way to survive them. Instead, true resilience requires delving into our thoughts and feelings and taking a look at successes and failures – so we can learn from them and make different choices.

Recently, I worked with an executive coaching client to help her navigate through a tough situation. Someone at her office “threw her under the bus” in a meeting by doing exactly the opposite of what he had committed to doing. Not only did his behavior fall short of my client’s expectations, it also felt dishonest and disrespectful.

She kept telling herself, "Fine, it happened. I’m not happy about it. But I need to just get over it." Instead of allowing herself to fully explore her feelings, she kept trying to set them aside like they didn’t matter. As you might expect, she just couldn’t. She kept replaying the scenario in her head again and again. Does this sound familiar? When you are stuck in anger or frustration for days, it’s typically an indicator that a core value that you hold near and dear is involved. By taking the time to identify which specific value was violated (in this case, honesty) instead of ignoring it, my client figured out how to work through this challenging situation. She gave the other party constructive feedback about what happened and how it affected her, which finally allowed her to move on.

To help her further develop her resilience, we used a simple two-step process. Here's how it works.

Step 1: Increase Your Self-Awareness

Although it might seem counterintuitive, it’s important to ask yourself, "What am I feeling?" Let it all out, uncensored. It's OK to feel how you feel, even if you're not feeling very kind in that moment! Acknowledging and naming your emotions, whatever they are, will go a long way toward helping you process them.

The next question to ask yourself is "What am I thinking?" Are you falling into any thinking traps, such as assuming you know what others are thinking or downplaying positives while exaggerating negatives? Notice the story you are telling yourself about what happened in this situation.  Take a few minutes to write your specific thoughts and feelings down. It may help you make connections you otherwise might not notice.

Next, ask yourself "How am I framing the situation?" For example, maybe you're framing a colleague's lack of enthusiasm for your idea as dismissive or disrespectful.  Look at the evidence to better understand how you're interpreting the situation, and whether or not it is accurate.  You might realize that your colleague’s behavior had nothing to do with you.

Step 2: Make a Different Choice

Once you’ve identified your feelings and thoughts, and how they are helping or getting in your way, you will notice more options in front of you.  And remember that you get to decide how you want to show up in this situation, regardless of how others are showing up. You may still decide to let all your frustration go and just move on, but that's very different than just "sucking it up" and repressing your feelings.  By treating yourself with compassion and by gaining more insight about yourself and others, it will serve you well. You'll also be a lot happier and more effective without those repressed feelings threatening to bubble up at any moment.

This week, give yourself a little more space to process any setbacks, changes or frustrations that come your way. Take time to notice what you’re thinking and feeling — it's the first step toward true resilience. And remember, that small steps can lead to big results.

Planning for Next Year?

As the year winds down, arm yourself and your team with easy-to-use, high impact tools. Check out our products (including the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklets and Show Up. Step Up. Step Out) to start getting results immediately without breaking the budget.

5 Surprising Insights to Unlock Your Strengths

I am a firm believer that leadership development hinges on knowing, using and building credibility around your strengths. I help each of my executive coaching clients strategically leverage their strengths to create a ripple effect, to improve their own performance and that of their teams. As I work with my clients to take their leadership up a notch, these five insights about strengths come up again and again.  

1. You have more strengths than you realize.

As a high performer, you probably set the bar so high for yourself that you don't recognize all the strengths you bring to the table. Your idea of "average" performance may be what others would call exceptional. By noticing the value you bring andhow you bring it, you can build that same capability in others.

Start by making a list of your top three strengths. To validate this, think about the type of work that others typically ask you to do and what they consistently say about your performance. In particular, what skills and perspectives do you have that would be hard to replace?

2. You have to connect your strengths to the “So what?”

Next, identify what each strength allows you to do that your colleagues cannot easily do. Perhaps you can understand and quickly work through complex issues and communicate them to others in a simple way. But the real value to the business is that you efficiently solve problems and make quick decisions that save the company money. Challenge yourself to come up with at least two impacts for each one of your strengths.

3. Your strengths point to where to invest your time.

One of the first things I ask every client to do is to identify the three areas where they can make the biggest impact on the business. It’s a powerful way to take a critical look at what drives results. When you do it, this exercise will force you to think about what’s most important in your current role and powerful ways to make the highest and best use of your strengths. When you are clear about this, you start to invest in the “right work” and ditch or delegate activities that don’t fit.

4. Using your strengths only gets you half the way there.

You may think that your great work will "speak for itself." But in this era of virtual teams and divided attention, you have to tastefully toot your own horn and give others strategic snapshots of how your strengths have created success for the company. Even when your boss has the best intentions, your results may go unnoticed in the daily hubbub unless you share them.

5. Self-care is a strength, not a weakness

Your strengths won’t go very far unless you have the energy to use them. So take care of yourself: Get 7-8 hours of sleep, take short breaks every 90 minutes, and get up from your desk for lunch. "Powering through" isn't a sustainable long-term strategy, will eventually lead to burnout and certainly won’t convince others that you are ready for a bigger role.

As you consider these five insights, identify one action step you will take this week to clarify or leverage your strengths, or boost your energy if you’re running low.

You can learn much more about identifying and developing your strengths in my book "Show Up. Step Up. Step Out.” Check out the extended free sample on my website.

My Top 8 Life Lessons — What Are Yours?

We all have life lessons buried in our years of experience, living life and watching others around us. When was the last time you took a few minutes to distill yours?  

If it's been a while for you, you're not alone. I often discover some of my most important lessons as I am coaching someone. When this happens, I find myself wondering whether the words I just said out loud were just as valuable to me as they were to the leader I was coaching at the time. It always leaves me feeling like the "Twilight Zone" music should be playing in the background and Rod Serling might pop out any minute.

Despite any "aha" moments we might have, most of us don't write the lessons down unless something prompts us to do so. For me, it's typically when I am asked to speak at conferences or companies, or if I am on a plane where no one can call or email me. For others, it may be when a major life event occurs and they are trying to make sense of it. It's the rare person who makes reflection about life lessons a regular part of her leadership development without someone (like a coach or mentor) suggesting it.

I hadn't planned to generate a list of life lessons on my flight as I headed to the Grand Canyon recently. I was actually trying to take a nap. But I guess my head was too full, and this list came oozing out.

  1. It is OK to want what you want. Admit it to yourself, stop judging and get started.

  2. You get what you give. Be generous.

  3. Accept support no matter how tough and self-sufficient you are. It makes others feel good.

  4. Stop overthinking and go with your gut. It will be OK.

  5. Your body knows when you are taking a wrong turn. Don't ignore your insomnia and pain.

  6. Decide what kind of leader you want to be, regardless of how others are showing up.

  7. Be good to yourself. Empathy isn't just for other people.

  8. Own your value. It is the first step in creating a ripple effect, that positive impact you want to have on others.

As you read that list, what resonated most with you? I want to challenge you to identify the biggest lesson for you this year. It might be one you've learned before but needed to be reminded of. I would love to hear from you.