Yes/No: A Way To Set Your Boundaries

In coaching there is a tool named “Yes/No”. Its purpose is to help you set boundaries when you need to. Say you are in a situation where you are being asked to work very long hours on a project and upper management is putting a lot of burden on staff, without providing the resources needed to get the job done. The situation is draining your energy and frustrating you.

To employ the yes/no tool you would make a list of what you say yes to and what you say no to in the situation. Here are some examples:

• I say yes to maintaining a standard of quality on the project, so that it does not fail.

• I say yes to asking management for what I need to get the job done.

• I say no to draining my energy and getting out of balance because of the long hours and frustration of the project.

• I say no to taking responsibility beyond what I can reasonably do or for what is upper management’s responsibility.

Yes/No is a powerful tool that helps you to maintain the boundaries that you need to thrive and excel in your work!


photo: jon-tyson,

The Many Uses Of Laughter

Laughter is much more than a spontaneous response to humor or pleasure. If used well, it can be a stress-reliever, a reply to the world or a way to defuse a tense situation. Do you consciously use laughter to your and others’ benefit? For example, when the world or your work introduces something absurd do you use laughter to maintain your sense of reality? Or, when you are stressed do you seek out laughter to balance your stress? It is an art, but have you ever used humor in an uncomfortable situation, so that everyone can regain perspective?

Try looking at laughter as a helpful tool. It is a powerful act that can be used in many ways.

Can you think of others ways you use or can use laughter?


photo: caiquefotografias,

What Tools Work Best For You?

PexelstoolsTools are devices you use to carry out functions efficiently. Tools aid you in getting things done. To succeed in your work, tools are essential. They supplement and enhance your own skills and capabilities. You must keep your tools sharp and in working order for them to be useful. Often, you have to adapt them to fit your needs and style.

Tools can range from apps that keep you organized, to methods to track projects and performance, to specific approaches to interviewing and hiring, for example. There are many places where tools are defined and recommended for you. One of my favorites is

What tools do you employ? What tools work best for you?



Who Am I?

ID-10026253When I am working with clients who are preparing for an important event or meeting, we often use a tool named “Who Am I?” I first used the tool with a client who was uncertain of how he would present himself at an upcoming conference where he would be meeting people for the first time. Our purpose was to find a way that he could center, build his confidence and handle himself well.

The tool works like this:

• prior to a meeting or event, take time to identify who will be there and how you fit in (set the context)

• identify why you are attending and why you belong there (center yourself)

• take time to lay out what you want to say about yourself when you meet people and what you will say about why you are there (presenting yourself)

• identify any doubts or insecurities you have about the meeting and address them, so you are not caught off guard – in some cases there may not be anything to do about them, but decide how you will handle them – in other cases, chase them away (build confidence)

• identify 3 or more goals that you have for the event or meeting (focus yourself on results)

So often, preparation marks the difference between success and failure. Staying centered and focused goes a long way in building your confidence and reaching your goals.


photo: Salvatore Vuono,

What I Know

ID-10046071One of the things I have dealt with in my life is an inner need for approval from others. This need resulted in my sometimes being not very quick on the uptake when someone was manipulating or harming me. Eventually, I became self-aware and could discern more easily when a person was acting against my interests or trying to unsettle me. Once I could see these situations, I then had to set boundaries. My need to please would again interfere and I would rationalize and create confusion for myself. What I was really doing was avoiding dealing with the situation.

I developed a tool to help me discern when boundaries were needed. I called it “What I Know”. It took off my rose-color glasses and helped me assess a person or situation in an intelligent way. When I encountered a problem, trouble or unease with a person or situation I would privately make a list of what I knew about the person or situation to date. Only facts were on the list – no excuses or rose-color perceptions. It worked terrifically for me from the start and still does. Some examples of what was on a list: the person had undercut me in a meeting; the person had tried to “bully” or intimidate me; the person had disregarded my input in a disparaging way; I had seen the person manipulate others. Once I made my list, I was able to put the pieces together, see the situation more clearly and take appropriate action.

The ability to keenly assess situations and people, particularly in your work, is essential to success. The “What I Know” tool perhaps can be of help to you too, as you navigate as a manager.

photo: digitalart,

Trying Again (And Again)

ID-100151386Persistence is a lauded value in the work world. However, there is a point of diminishing return – where your or your team’s output of time and effort is not matched by the return you receive. How do you discern when to stop “trying”? One way is to be alert for that point of diminishing return. Are you putting out a lot of time and effort without the results you want? Are you trying again and again and no one is responding? Is your persistence negatively affecting morale? It is natural to try harder, but you do not want to do so blindly. You want to be aware of signs along the way that cue you into the value of your investment of time and effort. Such signs can be: you are not getting the attention of the people you need to; the project is not progressing at a reasonable rate or you are getting increasingly negative feedback on what you are doing.

At the start of a project, create a tool that allows you and your team to continuously measure the return you are getting. Measure such things as stakeholder and internal response to your project, progress on milestones, team morale and enthusiasm for project, ratio of output to return in terms of your time and effort, relevance of project goals as the project progresses, opposition to project or roots of any obstacles you encounter.

Time is precious and you don’t want to waste it. Effort can be redirected and goals or approaches revised when you need to do so. Make your “trying again” fruitful, not pointless.


photo: cooldesign,

Uncovering Underlying Agendas

The agendas people have in the work world can undo the best of your intentions. Uncovering an underlying agenda of a colleague is not an easy task. However, one thing you can do is to take off the rose-color glasses and develop your ability to “read” a situation accurately.

In my early career, I had the best of intentions and often gave people the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to get along and be a good team member. After several disappointing wake-up calls, when underlying agendas caused me harm, I worked at getting smart about agendas. I did not want to swing the pendulum to suspicion or cynicism. I wanted to balance the pendulum, by getting wiser about people and being able to spot their agendas.

I started a practice that helped me quite a bit. I first found my neutral gear in assessing people. Instead of seeing what I wanted to see in people and letting that skew my judgment, I let people show me who they were. I reserved judgment until they did. I also, when I encountered a problem with someone, would write a “What I Know” list about him or her. That list had only facts regarding a person’s actions, not opinions or suppositions. I was surprised how much this helped and how much, in actuality, people would reveal their agendas. By taking off my rose color glasses, I was much more able to see a situation clearly and determine my next steps.

photo; holohololand,

10 Ways To Keep Your To Do List Working For You

1. Start with a list covering a week’s time.

2. Check your calendar to see what time is already scheduled for that week.

3. Include only your priorities for the week. (You can keep a side list for future weeks.)

4. Make sure your priorities align with your organization’s expectations.

5. Be realistic about the time you have – include only tasks you have time for that week. Identify any tasks that are due and there may not be time for.

6. Include contingency time for unanticipated tasks that come up during the week. (For example, include tasks that will take 85% of the time you have that week, with 15% contingency time.)

7. Break the list down to days in the week. By doing this, you will organize what you will focus on each day.

8. Keep your To Do list visible (manually or using an app).

9. Check your To Do list twice a day to see how you are progressing.

10. Don’t stray from your To Do list, unless there is a compelling reason.


photo: jesadaphorn,

Free Flow Management 3 – Visioning

Free Flow Management (see previous blog post ) creates freedom for your team, encouraging innovation and the flow of ideas. There are times, as a manager, when you want to start from scratch and find completely new approaches and solutions in your work. One of the most effective tools I have found for this is visioning.

Visioning is an intuitive process that lets go of mind chatter and allows your team to innovate.  Say for example, you are looking for a solution to a design problem or are looking to find a new approach for customer service, visioning may be a useful tool for you and your team to get there.

It is best to keep visioning simple.  Bring your team together, for about 30 minutes, in a place where you will not be interrupted. Prior to the meeting, design 3 to 4 general questions relating to what you want to do. For example, how do we solve the water retention issue in our design or what is the best incentive we can give our customers. Open the meeting by saying that the visioning is intended to quiet the mind and access intuitive knowledge. You will be asking a series of questions. The team should trust their intuition and pay attention to the first thing that comes in their mind – it may be a word, a feeling, a picture – they should not judge, just allow it to come. There is no right or wrong. If nothing comes, that’s okay, too. Sometimes, it takes time to acclimate to visioning. Team members can have a notebook, if they want to write.

When ready, ask everyone to center themselves quietly. Suggest they close their eyes. Sometimes team members can be uneasy with this. At a minimum, there should be no conversation during the visioning. Then, ask your questions with a few minutes in between each one. Once the visioning is over, ask team members to share what they have visioned. Look for commonalities and record the ideas that are brought forward.

If this tool appeals to you, you may want to start on a volunteer basis with a small group. I have found, over the years, that visioning is a creative, powerful and productive tool that leads to good solutions and positive team engagement. If you have any questions about visioning, please let me know. I’d enjoy hearing about any visioning sessions you have with your team and how they go!

photo: by Stuart Miles,

Tools For Navigating Management

A ship’s Captain would not think of sailing without navigational instruments. What about you? How do you successfully navigate managing of your team? Here are some tools that can aid your navigation:

• Identifying your top values as a manager and honoring them

• Having an ally, outside your organization, who can be a sounding board and provide support when you need it

• Doing an informal 360 review each year to receive feedback on your role as manager

• Identifying the key influencers in your organization and staying aware of what they are thinking and doing

• Designing a process for handling crises when they arise