Thinking Outside the Box: A New Paradigm

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The ability to think outside the box is more than just a skill—it’s a transformative power that can lead to greater productivity and innovation in our personal and professional lives. I’ve been reading up on this topic and have found several truly interesting  resources to share. Below are three different perspectives on thinking out of the box.  Drawing from these articles, let’s explore ways to dismantle the ‘walls’ of traditional thinking and kindle an environment where creativity and groundbreaking ideas can thrive.

The Walls of Conventional Thought

Traditional thinking can box us in with invisible walls. I found it helpful that a Forbes article took the tact of naming those walls after characteristics which limit our potential: blame, complaints, defensiveness, and closed-mindedness. It’s helpful to see each of these in the context of 4 walls to a box that you want to break free from. 

Recognize The Barriers

The first step is to recognize these barriers. The article defines each to help you do so. Then the work is to consciously strive to release those qualities.  You can do this by writing down just 2 or 3 simple changes you can make to get to the productivity and upliftment that await you beyond them. For example, they suggest these four practical starters. Look for how you can:

  • Transform blame into a sense of ownership. Owning it is actually good news, because you have the most power here to do something positive about it. 
  • Pivot from dwelling on problems to devising solutions. Looking for how to solve problems you’re in, with even the smallest positive steps forward, will feel incredibly freeing – and release a lot of energy you may not realize was keeping you down. 
  • Replace defensiveness with openness to accountability. Again, the best thing for progress is if the ball is in your court. You can gain respect for being accountable, and admiration for being willing to make something better. Defensiveness shuts doors to opportunity and connection.
  • Exchange closed-mindedness for a curiosity that welcomes new and diverse perspectives. Innovation relies on being open minded. Curiosity is a great way to test a concept or brainstorm… and it’s THE way great ideas happen. 

Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box.” Deepak Chopra

 

 

Imagination and Fractal Changes

Venturing outside the box also calls for a ‘radical imagination,’ a concept focused on in a Harvard Business Review article. It’s about challenging the status quo with ‘wonder questions’. Again, the benefits of getting curious. Try frequently asking “I wonder why…” 

They introduce fractal changes – the subtle yet impactful shifts in our approach and mindset that impact the big picture. It’s a new perspective that is both simple and radically out of the box!. The article suggests that by focusing on consciously making micro-changes in both our behavior and thought processes, we create a ripple effect that can reshape the larger systems in play.

Thinking outside the box isn’t just a cliché; it’s a vital edge strategy for today’s rapidly changing world. It involves breaking free from traditional patterns,  and embracing both radical imagination and impactful fractal changes. 

As covered in last month’s blog, the journey of innovative thinking starts with a single step beyond conventional boundaries. If you’re poised to embark on this transformative journey, let’s connect and explore the possibilities together.

Embracing Liminal Space: A Courageous Pathway to Growth

White walls and doorway between two rooms to illustrate the topic of liminal space

In our fast-paced world, we often seek clarity and direction, but what about those moments when we find ourselves in a state of transition – the in-between phases of life? This is what we call ‘liminal space’, a concept that, if embraced, can transform our lives and lead to significant personal growth.

Understanding Liminal Space

Liminal space refers to a time of transition, a season of waiting and not knowing. This term originates from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning ‘threshold’. It’s like standing at the doorway between two distinct areas, not fully in one place nor the other. These are the times when old structures or routines break down, and new ones have not yet formed.

Liminality can be unsettling because it challenges our sense of identity and certainty. It could be the time after graduation but before starting a career, the period following a relationship breakup, moving from one city to another or the phase when considering a significant life change.

Recognize You Are in a Liminal Space

Identifying you’re in a liminal space is the first step towards using it effectively. Signs include feelings of uncertainty, questioning life choices, or a sense of waiting for something to happen. You might feel disconnected from your old self but not yet connected to what’s next. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings without judgment- and to even welcome them. 

Using Liminal Space Productively

  • Embrace the Uncertainty
    • Liminal spaces offer unique opportunities for reflection and growth. Embrace the uncertainty and use this time to reassess your values, dreams, and goals. It’s a rare chance to ask yourself, “What do I really want from life?”
  • Practice Mindfulness and Patience
    • This period can teach patience and the art of living in the moment. Mindfulness practices like meditation can help you stay grounded and calm during times of transition.
  • Journaling and Creative Expression
    • Expressing your thoughts through journaling, art, or music can be therapeutic. It helps process emotions and can lead to surprising insights about your future path.
  • Explore New Possibilities
    • The fluidity of liminal space allows for exploration. Try new hobbies, travel, volunteer, or take short courses. These activities can provide clarity and may even open new doors.
  • Seek Support and Share Experiences
    • Talking with friends, joining support groups, or working with a coach can provide comfort and guidance. Sharing your experiences with others who are also in transitional phases can be incredibly validating and enlightening. Your Support Circles can really come into play here. 
  • Avoid Rushing to Fill the Void
    • While it’s tempting to rush into the next phase, remember that growth often happens in the waiting. Avoid making hasty decisions just to escape discomfort. See it instead as a time to mine riches – even if they may not be visible to you yet. Make it a practice in BELIEVING! 

The Courage to Grow

Liminal spaces require courage. They ask us to surrender control and embrace the unknown. However, these periods can be deeply rich in lessons and personal development. By recognizing and valuing these in-between times, we can transform our approach to life’s transitions, seeing them not as obstacles but as pathways to growth and self-discovery.

Liminal spaces are both challenging and enriching. They offer a unique perspective on life and an opportunity to realign with our true selves. Remember that this journey, though uncertain, can lead to profound growth and fulfillment.

If you’re navigating a liminal space and seeking guidance or support, let’s talk.  

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7 Ways to Regain Your Work Mojo After Time Off

Back to the office after a break but still feeling tired and unfocused? Here’s 7 ways to regain your work mojo after time off!

We’ve all been there: You’ve had a break from work – whether a vacation, lone weekend or a sabbatical, Your intent was to come back refreshed, yet upon your return, you don’t feel the energy or you hoped for. Here you’ll find 7 ways to regain your work mojo after time off. 

Whatever your reasons for feeling anywhere from uninspired to exhausted, don’t discount the deep burnout we have from our society’s habits and trends. We know it well: social media scrolling, blue light exposure, the endless news, continued effects from Covid, and even the pressure to do all the healthy stuff we know so much about now (eating paleo/whole 30/keto/macro, getting enough sleep, mushroom coffee SO MUCH), trying to be mindful and present all through. So even if we take a vacation we can end up not feeling quite rested and walk into work with trepidation. 

According to a recent Harris Poll conducted by Zapier, many leaders resonate with this sentiment, with 87% dreading aspects of returning to work. Topping the list? Settling back into routines, catching up on administrative tasks and team goals, and facing the sea of unread messages. 

As leaders—from team managers to top-tier executives—we don’t just bear the weight of our own tasks but also the expectations and effectiveness of those we lead. So, how can we navigate this return transition with grace and efficiency? Here are some actionable strategies:

  1. Prioritize Personal Well-being

Start your day a little early, giving that morning time solely to you and your own restoration. It could be a session of meditation, journaling, a refreshing workout, or simply savoring a cup of your favorite tea. When you prioritize self-care, you set a positive tone for the day ahead.

  1. Draft a Weekly To-Do List

As you plan your week, ease into your tasks. Differentiate between the immediate necessities and those that can wait. Set only three critical tasks for Day 1, diving into at least one before you tackle emails.  Repeat with your 3 top priorities as the only goal again for Day 2.  Done this way, by Wednesday the mountain you felt you were facing on Monday doesn’t look so high anymore.  Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.

  1. Designate Catch-up Time

Block off periods free from meetings and commitments to catch up undisturbed, especially the first hour or so in the mornings. Turn off notifications and zero in on what needs doing. Such focused time often yields higher productivity.  This is especially good to practice that can make a significant difference in how your day goes. Set your alarm to warn you 15 minutes before the time you blocked out ends so you can wrap up feeling you made solid progress.  

  1. Sync with Your Team

Once you feel grounded, organize a team or staff meeting to ensure everyone is aligned. Their support and/or knowing they are indeed on track, can provide a layer of ease and confidence you need.

  1. Cluster Tasks

Group similar tasks, such as answering emails or attending meetings, to make the most effective use of your time energy. Consider a color-coding system or other organizing methods to help you know what needs to be dealt with and what can definitely wait. When you accomplish a cluster, take a break before going back again fresh.

  1. Reschedule Where Possible

Examine your upcoming schedule – at least in the first week or so. Ask what can be responsibly postponed or canceled without inconveniencing someone else? Then do that. You’d be amazed how even freeing up one slot can offer the breathing space you crave.

  1. Evening Restoration

Dedicate time in the evening for relaxation as you assimilate. If life’s commitments seem too pressing, finding small ways to rejuvenate, even if it’s just a few minutes of mindful breathing in the coziest clothes, or a short evening walk, can be really effective and put you in a much better place for the next day.

Use this experience to prepare for future breaks by building in some buffer time before you return to the office. Creating a free day or two before diving back into work makes a huge difference in how grounded and prepared you feel when Monday comes around. It can be used to get your clothes or food together, or get a head start on sorting emails, planning, and setting priorities. If you don’t have this luxury each time, you can use time while waiting on line, on the plane, waiting to return a rental car, etc… using your Voice Memo or Notes app in your phone to jot down a to-do list, or begin establishing the top 3 priorities, decide what you will do first thing in the morning for YOU, and when you come home the first few nights… These will make a significant infusion of your work mojo upon your return.

In the ever-evolving dynamics of leadership, transitions, and returns can be daunting. But remember, with a blend of self-care, structured planning, and a dash of flexibility, you can find your footing more swiftly.

If these strategies resonate with you and you’re seeking guidance in creating a tailored plan for your transitions—or just need support navigating leadership challenges—reach out to me. Let’s transform your challenges into wins together.

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The August Advantage for Year-End Success

Big sky over the flat ocean

Unlock the August advantage for year-end success during the relative pause offered by this month. Transitioning from beach to business post Labor Day may feel like a jolt, especially as the year-end’s hustle and bustle starts with September’s arrival. But though your mind may still be basking in summer’s relaxed rhythm, believe it or not, that’s the perfect state for cultivating game-changing insights! Let’s turn this laid-back mindset into a platform for innovative thinking. 

You may say you’re so not ready for that right now.  For most,  our heads are fully into summer relaxation and play mode. But that is the exact mindset for the richest, most innovative thinking to be done! To help you, I’ve made a guide of questions you can answer with coffee one morning, or ponder while biking, walking or paddling, sunning, gardening, or washing the car or dishes. You can record notes on your phone as you go, or sit down to jot down notes after reflection. Just take a look, and you’ll see what I mean. 

REFLECTIVE THINKING

Think back to January 1, when you had the entire year ahead of you. Remember the goals you laid out?  It’s essential to recognize your progress and how you’ve developed, as well as seeing what popped up that added new goals or may have taken things in an entirely different direction. 

  1. What achievements can you celebrate thus far? What were the wins, big or small, you’ve had in the last 8 months?
  2. What unforeseen events shook your world? What surprises, hurdles, or new openings altered your personal and professional path?  Did any leave an indelible mark on you? 
  3. Reflect on the episodes, exchanges, or instances that have deeply resonated with you. These can be poignant dialogues, breakthroughs, or lessons.
  4. How are you spending your time? Take stock of your current pursuits and duties. Pinpoint the assignments, ventures, or actions that have engaged most of your resources and attention recently. It’s very grounding.
  5. Where do you yearn for more clarity or knowledge? Becoming aware of this is most valuable.

FUTURE THINKING

This is where you look ahead to how you want to wisely use what will be left of the year – because by August, we are well into the 3rd quarter and Q4 can fly.

  1. What will make this year look like success to you?  What is left to do? This will function as your north star, directing your actions and choices in the future.
  2. What elements will lead to a memorable Q4? Investigate the factors that can lead you on an enriching, meaningful path in the coming months (A hint is to synchronize your pursuits with your principles and ambitions). 
  3. Who may provide the most assistance to you? Pinpoint the people in your support circles who hold the expertise, insights, or means to bolster your objectives. Nurture those impactful relationships.
  4. Flesh out #5 above, where you identified where you wanted to be clearer or gain more knowledge. What can you do in answer to those?

SUPPORT THINKING

You can go deeper with these questions by discussing them with friends, your peers in other or similar professions, or colleagues. 

  1. Who would you be interested in joining forces with? Think about potential partners, be it workmates, acquaintances, or advisors. 
  2. What do you need your colleagues to know? Consider the information, insights, or support you require from your teammates or coworkers, and name your needs to enhance collaboration and productivity (Communicating your needs actually fosters a more effective work environment).
  3. Are there any talks you need to have with your principle or partners to make them aware of what you may have come up with as you thought this through?

After reaping August’s potential yourself, this is a great exercise to do in September with your team or staff to help them transition productively. They’ll get a fresh focus on goals and priorities both personally and aligned with yours or the company’s to bring in a strong and fulfilling year-end succcess across the board! 

However, this moment is your secret weapon to jumpstart your journey towards year-end success, taking advantage of August’s serene ambiance to reflect and prepare. If you’d like help expanding on these questions and insights, setting clear intentions, and laying out a solid path for the rest of the year, contact me and let’s have a conversation. 

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Skill Will Matrix: Build Your Own Effectiveness With a More Effective Team

Last month, we talked about the role of boundaries in leadership in the workplace. In it we covered how knowing your staff’s strengths and weaknesses are the key to setting boundaries – and that boundaries are actually welcomed. Because boundaries help everyone know what’s ok and what’s not within a company, so they can tailor their responses accordingly – whether working with you, co-workers or clients.

As the boss, manager or team leader, boundaries help you too; each day there are many interactions in which you will be reinforcing those as they arise, in both obvious or more subtle ways.  So while company guidelines are there, there’s the next level: the more finely tuned boundaries between you and each staff member. Knowing what each individual is capable of is a critical element in defining, conveying and upholding those. And as you do, you will find more ease and confidence in delegating and managing. You will be freed up to do more, while enjoying more office harmony and success achieving goals 

A game changing tool I’d suggest to better assess each individual is the Skill/Will Matrix. Created by Max Landsberg, it shows how to” build your own effectiveness by building the effectiveness of your team members.” That bonus alone is worth the exercise! 

The Matrix helps to frame not just their skills but their motivation level. Combined, you can see each person more clearly and tailor your management of their needs and maximize their potential in achieving the company’s objectives- and your goals too.


The Skill/Will Matrix

The Matrix is a simple chart with four quadrants, each representing a category that denotes levels of skill (high or low) and motivation or will (also high or low). The idea is that each of your people roughly falls into one of these categories. If you understand each person this way, you can engage and manage them in a way that truly fits them. In doing so, you will help each employee grow to be their most effective.That leads to an engaged, happier, more accomplished work force. And you will not only will the satisfaction level be palpable, you will delegate more effectively, thus freeing you up. And the rewards are felt by all as you achieve greater success individually and as a team and a company.

The Four Quadrants:

The graphic above shows four sections in the matrix:

  • Quadrant 1: High Skill, High Will
  • Quadrant 2: Low Skill, High Will
  • Quadrant 3: Low Skill, Low Will
  • Quadrant 4: High Skill, Low Will

Identifying each person by a quadrant is not to put them in a generic box. It is a way to understand and better help them (and you!). Start by determining what quadrant each person may fit into, generally speaking. Then, take a look at their responsibilities, personal goals, workflow and how it relates to their deliverables. 

Skill vs. Will

Skill level can depend on their training, and past work experience. Their level of competence makes all the difference in how well they function in their job. Fortunately, people can be trained to do more or better, in most cases.  Will, or motivation, is a little tricker to assess and work with. There are people who could be more motivated based on a new title, more responsibilities, monetary goals or a sense of success, satisfaction and team camaraderie.  Looking more closely at these clues will unlock the most effective ways to communicate, motivate, and match tasks to skill sets. 

For example, if someone is highly motivated but needs more training to move up, then you can talk to them about getting that training. If another is highly motivated and highly skilled, perhaps you can give them more responsibility, have them oversee others, or check in on them less than you had been. 

Matrix Driven Solutions

Within each quadrant you see there are suggested actions that work with the level of skill and will combined. Note that all include praise and endorsement. I’m a big believer in that. 

If there are productivity issues, is it due to a team with mismatched skills or motivation for the task? Can you provide training to the ones who need it to create better results?  If someone is not as motivated, what steps can you take to work with them to increase that? Would one of your highly motivated people thrive in a different section of the company that is a better match for their skill set? Would a new title or pay grade create the necessary motivation in one of your highly skilled people?  I found this article to be a nice source of specific actions you can take for each quadrant.

Know this is a fluid process, especially because your people will inevitably grow from it! Expect that some may move from one quadrant to another over time. Motivation may increase in all as the team works better – and as you enjoy the fruits of the process as well. Plan to do a personnel review every six months or so, using this tool.

If you’d like to read the Landsberg book which started it all, it’s called the Tao of Coaching. It’s well worth the read as its focus is on creating more time for yourself by delegating well, and enjoying that you are building good teams and working effectively with them… all of which enhances success! 

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How Creativity Enhances Your Ability To Lead

I coach leaders of all kinds, with a focus on their own development of themselves. Learning how creativity enhances your ability to lead is an important skill to hone, especially in today’s new work world. Several of my blogs speak to this, particularly February’s on adding self care to your leadership toolkit.   Seeking to add creativity into self care, elevates the benefits in your professional roles as well as within your self personally. 

Creative time can filter into your work life as enhanced problem solving and innovation, visionary thinking, and improved connection with staff.  An added bonus is your own continued career satisfaction and growth!  Both harmonize with how business is changing from the top down model of leadership to this brave new work world we’re navigating.

Forbes echoes this, saying, ‘effective leadership can require inspiration, which is often better evoked through curiosity and imagination rather than pragmatism.’ 

QUALITIES OF A CREATIVE LEADER

So how do you distinguish what makes a creative leader?  When you read the list, I bet you will think of a few people this describes.  Most of them are quite successful — like Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey. But you don’t have to be at that level of wealth, notoriety or celebrity. There are many, many creative leaders making differences in their way in all levels of the work world.

  • They are intuitive, passionate, authentic 
  • They are curious, think out of the box
  • They inspire and invite ideas and creativity of their team or in their company
  • They grasp that business models are changing, as is the world
  • They will take risks, and are willing to make mistakes
  • They can see and make connections, and strive for everyone winning
 
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
 

HOW TO ADD CREATIVITY:

While I have suggested breaks for self care through the day, adding in creativity works on a whole different level.  Rather than doing a chore or surfing the net, try some of these:

  • Go to a museum, or an outdoor sculpture garden. 
  • Paint, learn a craft, wood work, fly a kite, do a puzzle – especially if you’ve never done them before.
  • Take your camera out specifically to photograph things for the sake of seeing differently. Do a study on the weeds in your yard, the patterns on your front steps or kitchen floor, spider webs – you name it. Art is everywhere. 
  • Repair or restore something with your own hands.
  • Play music.  Lay on the couch or floor and listen to every note like you did in high school! Dance to it. Sing.
  • Put yourself fully in the moment with grandkids and see the world as newly as they do. Engage fully in their activities with them – finger painting, frosting cupcakes, blowing bubbles, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk.
  • Spend time in your local library – preferably in the hidden areas.  National Geographic and Time have gorgeous images to look at and interesting stories to read.
  • You know the coffee table books that are mostly decor? Crack one open, and take the time to enjoy it. 
  • If you’re a hiker, biker, kayaker, or boater, do it wearing “different colored lenses’. Turn your attention from tracking miles, speed or heart rate to truly noticing  the nature around you, how your body feels with each motion.  
  • Break your routines. Try something entirely new. Say yes to things you often say no to, just to see what you learn. Go a different route and explore some new surroundings.
  • Find time for introspection. It really frees your mind and allows creativity to enter!  This could include swinging on a hammock, driving yourself to a park with few people with a picnic lunch, meditating, dancing to some favorite music, or taking a bath 
  • You may want to keep a private journal as you go. Writing something down has a way of setting intentions in your subconscious and you will be amazed at how things manifest. 
  • Educate yourself more on a topic. Read articles, do a workshop, talk to a coach.

Finding Time was my most read blog post, which confirms that it is half the battle as people strive to work new activities into their lives. I recommend reading it, as it offers solid ways to create more time to do what you really want or need to do. Even if you don’t want to add anything new to your current activities, you can achieve creative benefits by simply shifting your perspective while doing what you are doing- arguably a creative act in itself!  I’m suggesting you give a try, even for a month – and preferably a lifetime!

This video by John Spencer helps to define what I mean.

INCORPORATE CREATIVITY AT WORK

After you’ve been doing a few of these things, shift the skill of thinking from a different perspective to your work life. What is an alternate approach to your daily responsibilities and interactions with clients and co-workers? What would be some ways to bring creativity into your work and see how that develops?

  • Can you set new goals using your expanded perspective?
  • Who exhibits creative leadership in the company, your field, or the world?  Observe them, read their articles, books, or biographies. Follow them on social media, watch their interviews or output on youtube, and LEARN. 
  • What situations are opportunities to practice using your intuition instead of only relying on your head, or being led by the bottom line?
  • If you have new ideas, how can you express them constructively with others on your team?
  • What of your work or role requires the most creativity? Can you do that in the hours when you feel the freshest?  

I have written about the paradigm shift that has happened in business, jump started by Covid 2+ years ago. That business model of the future is here. There will be a direct correlation with how much it will thrive based on how you and/or your company embraces and acclimates to it – at a time when interesting the right people to fill roles and being sure they have what they need to deliver their best work is imperative. New roles are being created – ie: remote work schedulers, online meeting trainers, touch-less technologies, take out and pick up or delivery services,  online sales managers, etc… Employee well being, inclusiveness and safety concerns are more top of the list, and as a leader, working creativity into your perspective and reflecting that in your actions will take you where you need to go. 

If you would like support in working through how to utilize creativity in your role as a leader, let’s talk.