Now others are giving themselves the gift of a clean inbox upon return from vacation.
Recently I shared about how to allow your teams to totally unplug. Watch my video on my vacation confession of how I was not following my own advice nor was I sharing it with the entire team.
Now others are giving themselves the gift of a clean inbox upon return from vacation.
When I think of the 4th of July, my mind immediately jumps to fireworks and the way they light up the sky and our spirit. This picture is my son after being able to take the lead on lighting fireworks (notice the lighter in his hands). Did you know that our passion can do the same thing? Passion excites us and lights us up to chase our goals and dreams. What are the fireworks in your life?
Think back to a time at work or school where you enjoyed a project you were working on. Did it feel like work? When we are passionate about what we are doing, the time we spend “working” seems more like time spent playing.
This is a lesson I’ve used as both a parent with my kids and as a leader at Actualize. With my kids, this lesson has helped me come up with summer projects to keep their academic skills sharp - projects they actually enjoy and do without me telling them to!
A few years ago, at work, our team was complaining about how we were setting goals and doing performance reviews; They weren’t sure how what they were doing aligned with our firm’s mission. We decided to shift our goals to focus more on our people. We came up with 3As – accountability, acumen and aspiration – to help our employees identify areas that they can be accountable for that will not only hone their skills but also help them aspire to reach more goals.
This week, I challenge you to think about where you might be pushing someone. Where might you be pushing yourself? How can you align your goals or your team’s goals with joy? What lights you up?
In Culture Infusion, I noted the importance of finding your passion and using it to fuel both your personal and professional lives. We can find inspiration anywhere and everywhere, as long as we are open. I discovered this truth anew when I attended the National Kids Yoga Conference in October 2017; I had no idea I would be leaving with a new partner and co-creator—the Amal Alliance—as well as a new cube idea—The Happy Cube—for my wellness company, Zendoway.
All the cubes I’ve created so far have meaning, but this one is special because it was made to provide emotional support to children in refugee camps. We even worked with psychologists to get the wording just right and make sure teachers can use the cube with children who have survived trauma to guide them in coping with their emotions.
The Happy Cube is intended to engage children through movement on multiple emotional levels inspired by self-compassion, mindful expression, self-regulation, happiness, and loving-kindness.
When we give back, we share a deeper sense of connection. This is true both personally and professionally. In my book Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture, encouraging team connection and giving back is principle 9. Giving back is engrained in the culture of Actualize Consulting, and as one way of enhancing corporate social responsibility, we encourage cause-related employee activities that we are passionate about.
So far, I’ve sent 150 Happy Cubes to the Amal Alliance’s Smile 4 Happiness pilot program, which “aims to channel inner strength and positivity through recreational activities, athletic programs, mindfulness, and fostering creativity for displaced youth.” For every Zendoway Cube package purchased, I will donate an additional cube to a displaced child in an Amal Alliance safe learning space.
I’ve always been passionate about kids. They are the reason behind why I started making Zendoway cubes in the first place—as a way to get breathing into my kids’ schools without using words like “meditation.” What started out as one cube has morphed into 12, and now even counselors and corporate offices use them. At Actualize, we give out a Principles cube—which outlines many of the components of Culture Infusion like breathing, communication, and the 3P Method—to all new hires. We encourage them to keep it on their desk as a physical reminder to take care of their well-being.
More cubes and their uses:
1. Questions. This is a cube designed to empower, with questions that focus on training us to think positively and reflect inwardly. It’s perfect for meetings since it makes a thoughtful icebreaker.
2. Play, Happy. With questions and activities perfect for children, these make a great mindful gift for any event to which children are invited.
3. Yoga Poses, Chakras. Because these cubes are perfect for stretching and affirming our bodies, they make great activities for corporate retreats and team building. They make it easy to teach a little bit of yoga and meditation to fuel team well-being—no experience needed.
If you have a passion, chase it. It will take you places you’d never expect and can turn into incredible things—much like the Smile 4 Happiness initiative.
If you’d like to learn more about the Smile 4 Happiness initiative, you can check it out here: http://bit.ly/PRzendoway or the cubes here: www.zendoway.com/cubes.
Earlier this year, we were actively hiring and desperately needed team members who could start immediately with little guidance; we wanted to balance out the hires we’d have to actively train with those who would could jump right in and get to work. The easiest way to achieve this was to recruit a former employee back to Actualize Consulting.
The first possibility who crossed my mind was someone I knew would be a perfect match for our project needs. Someone who would not only succeed but also shine. Long story short, this Star Player welcomed the opportunity to come back to Actualize. Why?
At Actualize, we strive to operate by the 9 principles we’ve outlined in Culture Infusion, and we know that’s what has made us so successful in our employee relations. A foundational part of what fuels our culture is our desire to lead with intention and the knowledge that we can only lead effectively once we have reflected inwardly.
Through that reflection, we’ve seen how much our working and professional life can improve from simple changes like prioritizing personal wellness. We insist that our employees find themselves and their passion, and we support their aspirations and recognize the need for a work/life balance.
Also, even though most of our employees work remotely, our team is still our family and we encourage team connection whenever we can through wellness weeks, retreats, competitions, community service, and more.
These healthy habits have had a domino effect, leading to more positive changes and improving the way we communicate and handle conflict. And as we’ve taken a step back from the office politics and our personal egos, we’ve become more apt to take accountability and use empathy and active listening in our day-to-day lives.
All of this stems from one underlying theme: We are successful because we care.
If you are interested in creating a sought-after workplace, here are 3 good places to start, all of which were key reasons our star player returned to Actualize:
For our Star Player, this balance was extremely important: “Based on my proven track record, I was offered a lot of flexibility. I am able to work from home, part-time, and do not need to travel.”
A big reason our team is so willing to share their skills is because we give them a safe space to do so, and we show them the appreciation they deserve.
This story is a testament to how the principles in Culture Infusion have not only kept our turnover rate to less than one percent for the last three years but also made the company attractive enough for former team members to return.
Do you want to learn more about working with me to enhance your organizational culture? Email me today.
When giving feedback as a parent, team leader or both, instead of criticizing and making another person feel bad, ask them how you can support them in their mission to reach their goals.This is my favorite question to ask because it allows us to support and inspire others rather than tearing them down. This is a good tip for performance reviews in the workforce, but also in our personal lives. How can I support you? Want to learn more, watch the video below.
Do you ever feel like you can’t take off work? Or at least like you can never totally unplug from the office? I’ve been there, and I know the feeling. All too well.
In our company, each of us wears many hats, and we check in regularly to keep things running smoothly. In the past, we tended to check in even during vacation; nothing kept us totally away from the office.
Thankfully, that has changed. We’ve finally learned how to support each other in fully unplugging and taking real vacations. With the strategies below, we all feel fully covered and are able to take time off to be with our loved ones and care for ourselves.
When my grandmother passed away recently, I was beyond thankful to have our time-away strategy in place. And when Lori, my newest hire, wrote the following after returning from vacation, I was overjoyed:
“As a new team member at Actualize Consulting, I didn’t know what to expect on my first day back from vacation, but I knew ‘re-entry’ was a real thing. I opened the welcome back email from my manager (Kerry Wekelo), and I was presented with a warm welcome and a list summarizing updates from the past week along with projects to attend to. I’ve read Kerry’s tips in articles and in her book Culture Infusion, but now I was experiencing and internalizing one of her actionable tips on a deeper level. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I felt a sense of calm come over me and ground itself in my core (which is the best most centered type of calm).”
This is powerful stuff. What would it take for your company to help its team members unplug and re-energize?
This week I was inspired to do a video about the lessons I continue to learn from my grandparents. This week was my grandfather's ACTION to stay in bed to comfort my grandmother. Below are a few pictures of them in their younger years. Now in their 90's.
It was time for a trip to go see my grandmother in her final stage of life.
Arriving at the JetBlue counter, I ask if they can add my TSA precheck. I’m met by a blank stare, followed by, “I’m sorry. You are at the wrong airport.”
Wrong airport?! I return an equally blank stare.
Taking a deep breathe to calm myself, I watch my mind processing the options like an analytics program processing a complex set of parameters. I choose the “pay the change fee and fly out of the wrong airport” option since I know that frantically trying to get to the right airport in time for my flight would not bode well for my mental state. I am proud of making that small decision to stay, even while distraught with the original mistake that resulted from not supporting my own mental state.
I wonder if you also know what you should be doing to prioritize your mental health, your personal wellness, but then watch life take over while all your knowing goes by the wayside. You lose your identity being your kids’ personal chauffeur, handling aging family members’ affairs, and falling prey to work’s increasing demand to be plugged in at all hours.
In my life, falling back into old patterns of being often means letting busy-is-better suck me way too easily into its stress-filled vortex. Busy is my choice of drug as it comforts me by keeping me from facing the grief of my grandmother’s transition, the sadness of the constant gun shootings in schools, the uncertainty of our nation.
I type mental health statistics into the Google search engine, and find I am not alone in my distress. According to the latest “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation” survey, the most common sources of stress are:
Eight years ago, I made it a priority to focus on my mental health and personal wellness. At the time, I was successful at work by many definitions of word. But I was not leading our organization to our best potential. In 2010, with our company’s turnover rate at 33%, I knew that even in the midst of financial gain, those numbers did not represent true success. Over time and with the support of our CEO, I was able to integrate mental health and wellness practices into the rest of the organization. This resulted in six daily principles that have given our company the space to create and maintain a thriving organizational culture—a culture that has led our company to drop to less than 1% turnover from 2016 to the present.
The six principles are:
1.Breathe: Use Your Breath to Self-Soothe
In times of stress, we can turn to our breath. It is free, accessible to us at any time, and a powerful antidote to anxiety and the physical symptoms of stress. This, in turn, can clear our minds and help us make better choices. If I had not taken the time to simply breathe at the wrong airport, for instance, I may have made the mistake of trying to get to my original flight.
2.Move: Utilize Movement as a Tool to Shift Your Mood
Movement is another way to care for your own well-being. When I cannot easily access the answer to conflict or when a team member, friend, or loved one comes to me in a state of confusion, my go-to response is to encourage them to take a walk or move in some fashion to clear the mind. From experience, I know that the best ideas don’t generally come from sitting in front of a computer or endlessly rehashing an issue. When I take the time to move is when the answers magically surface.
3.Nourish: Check In with Your Emotions before You Make Food Choices
It has taken me years to realize that during emotional turbulence, focusing on healthy and balanced food choices will support a healthy mental state. Now, I simply pause before making an unhealthy choice, and I ask myself what the underlying unmet need is—what is it that’s turning me to my comfort foods of ice cream and cookies?
The shift in my approach is not in depriving myself of the emotional eating; it’s simply in bringing awareness to it. And in that process, sometimes I still eat ice cream for dinner with the awareness that my food choice is because I am upset or stressed. But most of the time, I pivot to a more balanced healthy choice of protein and fruits and vegetables. The key is allowing the healthy choice to at least be placed on the mind’s table.
4.Communicate: Listen to Understand
One of the most vital aspects of success in our personal and professional relationships is communication—the thread that connects us together. We are often so focused on talking that we forget to listen to others first. We miss out when we don’t listen, because taking time to listen sparks creativity and boosts esteem.
5.Challenge: Pause to Pivot to a Positive Possibility
Years ago, I started using the 3P Method as a guideline for handling conflict, and now I encourage others to think through these steps when negative emotions arise. This works because I recognize there are always going to be challenges. If you take a moment to allow the feelings with the intention of moving to the positive, it saves energy by not spinning into the negative.
6.Routine: Do Something that Inspires You Each Day
One of the first questions I ask when faced with my own personal stress or someone coming to me in distress is, ““What are you doing that inspires you each day?” Then I encourage making a list and completing one activity each day that the person loves. When I’m feeling down or stressed is often when I’m forgetting to focus on my inspirations such as cooking and spending time with my kids. Having this downtime from work supports my success.
Keep Moving Forward
It takes diligence and awareness to stay on track to be our best personally and professionally. I must continually remind myself of these six principles to find the balance that supports my well-being. Each time I stop focusing on the principles, I too easily fall off the wagon of self-care and find myself not moving forward. When I stop using these tools, I make silly mistakes, forge ahead with less-than-best business decisions, and stop giving the gift of focusing on my loved ones with my presence.
The good news is that the tools are always there at my disposal. Because of them, I know what feels best, my standards for quality of relationships and work product are higher, and I can always choose to keep moving forward.
Have you ever pushed someone to do something they did not want to do or did not have the ability to do? Pushed and pushed and got no results? Or poor-quality results at best, mixed with a good dose of resentment? I surely have, and I suspect you have too.
Personally, I find it challenging to remember not to push. But my life has recently been giving me powerful reminders:
By nature, I thrive on multitasking and marking items off my list. I am the person who puts something back on my list after finishing it just so I can feel the satisfaction of checking it off my list again. (A bit beyond obsessive, perhaps?) I also suffer from impatience and forgetting that tasks done incorrectly are teaching opportunities.
Recently, I realized I needed to stop pushing others to fit my mold of getting things done and checked off their lists. Nobody likes to be pushed; it tends to frazzle even the best of us. I needed to slow down, give more direction and guidance, and be a teacher for my team. I knew that when I could allow my team’s unique gifts to shine, focusing on how to use their best qualities, we would all benefit from a stellar work product.
Next up was me pushing my son, Blaine, to memorize his multiplication tables. My initial strategy of making him re-write the tables before taking a test was failing. He was miserable, and I was distraught with my own pushing.
One day, Blaine got up and started tossing a soccer ball against the living room wall while singing his table of 6’s (see video). Watching him, I flashed back to his unconventional ways of reading in first grade and his teacher’s concern that he might be unable to read. Surprised at her concern, I noted that Blaine could read just fine at home. Laughing, I told her I let him read upside down on the couch. She was intrigued by my technique, and together we figured out that Blaine was having trouble focusing when the teacher’s pushing and pressuring him to read was making him uncomfortable.
Flash forward . . . I suddenly realized I’d been taking the same pressuring approach with Blaine’s multiplication tables. So, the other night when he suggested we play basketball at his sister’s soccer practice, I played ball with him as he sang his multiplication tables. I’m proud to say that after only a few weeks’ practice, he has them down pat.
Empowered with our new approach, I asked Blaine how he wants to keep his reading and writing muscles strong during the summer. He said, “I love to write when given an assignment, and Audrey does book reports. Can we do that, too?” So, we chose a book he had just bought, and he plans on doing a book report this summer.
Letting Blaine lead the way has been a success; he’s shining!
When Even Allowing and Letting Go Does Not Work
As my Grandmother lives her final days of life, I am reminded that allowing may not always work and that, in that case, letting go is necessary. For three years, I have allowed my Grandmother to make her own decisions, only trumping her when her safety was on the line. In the past few months, however, she has resisted further care despite her need for it. When I’ve hired people to help, she’s kicked them out.
Most recently, I’ve had to hire 24/7 care because she’s begun experiencing panic attacks due to her inability to walk and care for her basic needs. Even though the increased care is to honor her request to keep living at home, she is resisting and complaining and making it hard to help. Out of respect to her spirit, I am staying on the sidelines and taking care of all the details behind the scenes, realizing she is fearful of the uncertainty of her last days. I’m letting go of needing to make her happy. I’m letting go of the need for her validation that I am doing a good job. I’m letting go of wanting her care to be perfect. I’m letting go of caring what others are saying. I’m letting go fully and completely. Instead, I’m focusing on loving her. Having compassion for her fear. Focusing on the beautiful memories.
I wrote the above prior to making another trip to see my Grandmother. My intention was to let go of any outcome, and my mission was to shower her with love. Upon my arrival, my Grandmother asked, “Why are you here?” When I answered that I had come to give her love in her time of pain, I could see her physically soften. That I had no agenda gave her peace.
In our visit, my Grandmother was able to give me instructions and paperwork for distributing all her possessions. She gave me, her only granddaughter, all her jewelry, much of it personally designed and created by her. She also gave me her wedding bands from her marriage to my paternal grandfather I never knew and to the grandfather I always knew as Grandpa. She had been holding on until she could release all these items into safekeeping.
My Grandmother was letting go with grace, and I could feel her peacefulness. She signed the do-not-resuscitate form and asked to just take a pill since she was ready to go. I had to laugh and say, “Grandma, you can’t just take a pill. You have to go naturally.” Then she asked to stop taking her medication. So now we are keeping her comfortable and letting nature take its course.
My Grandmother and I are both allowing life to unfold with peace, love, and grace.
Show Up with Love
I used to think that allowing and letting go is enough. Though they are both essential, I learned from my Grandmother that showing up with love is the remaining piece to the puzzle, a lesson I’ll be eternally grateful for. It causes me to reflect now on other areas I am pushing or holding onto, not allowing the natural flow. I give myself compassion for forgetting, and when I remember times I’ve forgotten, I begin again. I know in my heart that if I allow it, love will open the door for grace and peace to flow.
Do you have something you could allow versus push, or something you desperately need to let go of? Why not give it a try? And whenever in doubt, just show up with love.
Has the circle of life ever taken you on a roller coaster ride? As I write this, my grandmother is in her final stage of life in hospice care and my daughter is in her last month of elementary school. One moment I am fine, and the next I’m a hot crying mess as memories of good times now past descend on me. Fundamentally, I accept life and death and the changes happening so fast as my kids grow up. But somehow as I sit between the opposite ends of life—my beloved grandmother’s impending death and my daughter’s new chapter of life—the meaning of life and my own role in the grand scheme of things invites deeper reflection. Am I living to my full potential of joy? Spreading enough love? Learning and growing daily? Connecting with the people who are important in my life?
When hospice told me to get my grandmother’s affairs in order and I secured a company for cremation, they asked if I would like them to write her obituary. I considered their offer but decided to take on the task myself. I had been the primary person managing my grandmother’s care and household for the last three years—making multiple trips from my home in Virginia to hers in Florida as her needs changed—and this task, I knew, would be a sacred one. Here are the lessons I learned from writing my grandmother’s obituary:
1.) Ask your loved ones about their lives, even the small details. As I used the hospice form to fill out my grandmother’s life details, I was disappointed in myself that the names of all her siblings did not come easily to me; I had to research and even look up one of her sibling’s obituaries. Years ago, I had interviewed my grandmother and written a small book to celebrate her life, but in going back to it now, the content feels superficial and high-level; in the face of death, our views change. If I could do it all over, I’d spend more time with my grandmother and maybe even create a video featuring her life.
2.) Make time to spend with your loved ones. Life is fragile. Work can wait. What is the worst case if you miss a deadline? Have you experienced a sudden death that made you wish you had more time? My grandmother has made it to age 91, but in 2016 I lost my childhood best friend. Life is short; make the time!
3.) Write down what you want your legacy to be. While you’re at it, ask your aging family members how they would want to be remembered. Include the details—they are the personal touch that celebrates the gift of each person’s unique personality.
What one step can you take to spend more time being with and getting to know your loved ones, young and old alike?
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