Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

RyanALS2014

Opportunities often come to us disguised as challenges.

We may not find them, much less look for them, because the pain we feel in the moment prevents us from seeing them. I know from experience. I’m guessing you do too.

I recently wrote an article Giving In the Workplace: Make It Work For Everyone. It focuses on the power of ‘giving’ and the role it plays in attracting, engaging and retaining the best talent. It’s no secret that Americans are among the most charitable people in the world. We want to help…especially when we’re faced with a challenge!

So, like many of you, I accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I accepted the challenge to use my voice as one way to contribute to the fight against ALS and support those living with the disease. I also had an even more personal reason: to recognize the amazing work my friend Kathy Bagby has done to raise ALS awareness in memory of her father Dennis Peiffer and others lost to the disease.

We’re making progress in the fight against ALS, but there’s still much work to be done:

  • ALS can strike anyone and knows no racial, ethnic or socioeconomic boundaries.
  • Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year and it’s estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may be living with the disease at any given time.
  • The onset of ALS is insidious with early symptoms including muscle weakness and stiffness. As the disease progresses, ALS causes weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles and limbs, along with those muscles that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and breathing.
  • Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, the disease is variable and many people live a full life for five years or more.
  • There can be significant costs for medical care, equipment and home healthcare. It’s important to understand the details of your insurance plan as well as other programs including SSA, Medicare and Veteran Affairs benefits that may help defer costs related to treatment and care.

ALS is a disease that we can defeat if we all work together. Take a few minutes to learn more about people living with ALS. As one man put it, “I’ve made ALS part of my life…not my whole life.”

So, how can you help? ALS is just one of the challenges so many of us face. The opportunities – the need – to help and give back to our communities are endless. Here are just a few: The Walk to Defeat ALS, Habitat For Humanity, The Race for the Cure, The Hospice Foundation and The Clinton Foundation to End HIV/AIDS. For more information on other ways to give back, visit Volunteer Match.

Oprah Winfrey once said: “When you go to Nelson Mandela’s house, what do you take? You can’t take a candle.”

Giving is personal. Find your passion. Accept the challenge. Make it happen. It’s your opportunity to make a difference in the life of one person…or millions!

Until next time,

Connect, Collaborate and Create! ®

Ryan

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www.connectcollaboratecreate.com

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Next Time Make It Fierce!

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We all make lists: to do lists, bucket lists and, of course, our ‘favorites’ list. My favorite list includes:

  • Favorite summer song: “Mad About You” by Belinda Carlisle
  • Favorite film: “The Color Purple”
  • Favorite television show: “Scandal” tied with “The Good Wife” and “Dr. Who”
  • Favorite food: Sandwiches (does that count?)

Industrial and organizational psychologist Dr. Martha Gottschalk even has a list of things she carries. At the top of her list? The Trusted Notebook!

Like Dr. Gottschalk, I carry a few items with me almost everywhere I go, including my two favorite books: John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” and “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott.

Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” is a favorite because it was the first book I remember reading that, in turn, inspired me to write. Susan Scott’s book has helped me build lasting relationships “one conversation at a time.” My well traveled copy reminds me to stay grounded – to keep it real – especially when people and situations seem a little unreal.

Fierce conversations, as Scott puts it, are “conversations that can change the trajectory of a career, a business, a relationship or a life.” I had never thought of conversations as fierce: robust, powerful, strong, passionate and untamed. My ‘a-ha’ moment? When I realized that Scott was also describing ‘authentic’ conversations.

How many times have you had a conversation worthy of a “do over?” Nothing was solved. The real issues were not discussed. People didn’t share how they were feeling or what they were truly thinking. Relationships were damaged. In other words, the conversation wasn’t real.

Here are the three essential “Fierce” lessons I practice daily:

  1. Be here and nowhere else. It’s more than shutting off the cell phone, powering down the laptop or blocking out time on your calendar. Fierce conversations are built on a common respect for each other. You can only be truly engaged when you are prepared to listen, ask questions, and contribute your thoughts and ideas.
  2. Interrogate reality. Be smart. Be specific. Outline the issues and consider the implications. Work together to solve the problem or take advantage of an opportunity. Most people want to hear the truth – even when it’s a little hard to hear. The truth does set you free.
  3. Own your ’emotional wake.’ Fierce conversations drive productivity and results through people, not at the expense of people. Can teams be successful without fierce conversations? Yes. Success, however, is often short-term and the cost to relationships very high. Owning your ’emotional wake’ requires that you take accountability for your behavior. What you leave behind can either leave people distressed and disgruntled, or engaged and committed. It’s your choice.

So, what’s on your list? Is it Fierce?

Until next time,

Connect, Collaborate and Create! ®

Ryan

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www.connectcollaboratecreate.com

The Truth About Coaching…and More!

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I’m coming out.  I really want to let it show.  Yes, I want the world to know:  I love college basketball.  

Disappointed? Don’t be. I’ve come out about a lot of things in my life. I’ve recently come clean about my addiction to Dr. Who. I once confirmed that I did, in fact, attend a Debbie Gibson concert. Years ago, I even came out of the closet. Not literally, of course. I’m afraid of small spaces.

With March Madness just weeks away, my thoughts have drifted to Cinderella teams and great coaches. It’s no secret that winning teams are led by exceptional coaches, whether you’re perennial powerhouse Duke or the up-start Panthers from Northern Iowa (UNI is my Alma Mater).

Unfortunately, many senior business leaders miss the opportunity, like their peers in the sports arena, to actively lead and engage their teams through coaching.  Two common misconceptions about coaching are:  

  • The more senior you are, the less coaching you should do. Many executives leave the bulk of coaching to middle and front-line managers who primarily focus only on current performance rather than also coaching their teams for ongoing development and growth.
  • Senior leaders and executives require little or not coaching at all.  Many leaders, and their shareholders, believe they should focus only on vision, strategy, and measurable results with little focus on their own personal development. After all, they’ve been there…done that.

Coaching, at all levels of the organization, can be a powerful tool to drive engagement, performance and retention.  A true coaching culture celebrates and leverages success, acknowledges and learns from mistakes and encourages personal exploration and growth.

So, how do you get there? It starts with senior leadership. Think about the coaching experiences that have influenced you the most. People frequently describe them as authentic, supportive, challenging and consistent. Ask a respected coach the secret to his or her success and the answer is, more often than not, “because I had a great coach myself.”

So, start there. Get a coach, but be prepared to do some ‘heavy lifting.’ Stepping away from your role as a leader can be challenging. It requires a commitment to seek and act on feedback that both affirms your strengths and sheds light on areas where you can, and often must, improve. It’s not easy. That, alone, should make you want to do it even more. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along my journey:

  • Be vulnerable
  • Ask questions
  • Listen more
  • Embrace individuality
  • Appreciate and empower others
  • Take risks
  • Rinse and repeat

Coaching works. It engages employees, accelerates performance and improves retention. Guess what? It’s also fun and rewarding.

So, my secret’s out.  Let’s roll!

 

Until next time,

Connect, Collaborate and Create! ®

Ryan

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