by renita kalhorn

persuasion and perspective

Recently I was coaching a group of Navy SEAL officer candidates. Obviously, with all the hours of fitness training and time they’re dedicating (some of them drive four or five hours each way to the gatherings), they all want very much to be offered a SEAL contract. They also want to avoid the fate of an earlier candidate who told the board, with sincere intention and intensity, how much he wanted to be a SEAL and the extreme sacrifices he had made to get there – and who, ultimately, was declined.

He made the mistake that many people make when they are asking for something, whether it’s an introduction, an interview, a job or a raise. They state their case from the least compelling point of view possible: their own.

“Going to business school will help me transition from consulting to finance.”

“I need this raise because we’re having another baby.”

“I want to pick your brain so I can get my book published.”

No matter how sincere or earnest the reason, guess what the listener (at least subliminally) is thinking: “Yeah, so what? Why should I care?”


So that’s the paradox: to get what you want, you have to momentarily set aside your own desire and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Because the most effective way to get someone’s attention is to position your request from their point of view. (Isn’t that what works with you?) Show someone that helping you get what you want is somehow relevant to them and they will be much more receptive to listening to what you have to say. (Savvy parents get this when they say to their children: “If you are dressed and ready to go in 10 minutes then you’ll have time to get an ice cream cone before we run errands.”)

To be able to empathize with and understand what’s important to another person even as you have your own urgent wants — now that is a useful and powerful skill.


First, put aside your attachment to what you want. (Go ahead, just put it right over there.)

Now look at the situation from their point of view: try to understand what they want, why they want it and how they feel about things. It takes ingenuity and patience to think it through (especially if you don’t know them well) but a little strategic forethought does wonders to remove obstacles.

Here’s what presenting your case from the other person’s point of view looks like:

         Want the job? Explain how hiring you will make their life easier and make them look good — not why you want to leave your current job. (In the case of the Navy recruiting board, yes, they want men who are dedicated to becoming a SEAL, but more importantly they want someone who has a balanced outlook and will be a good fit with the SEAL community.)

         Want someone to take your cold call? Acknowledge that their time is valuable: “I know you’re busy so I’ll make this brief. I’m calling to see if I might be able to help you save money on your company’s health insurance.”

         Want more time to produce a deliverable? Instead of telling the client you’re backed up until Friday (your POV), tell them it’s in their best interest that you take the time to thoroughly research the case in order to deliver the most informed advice possible and avoid issues down the line.

         Want to ask a favor via email? Start by talking about the person you’re writing to: thank them (for inspiration, insights or information – it doesn’t have to be earth-shaking to be gratifying) or comment on a recent accomplishment (check their Linkedin account, blog or Google). No-one — no matter how famous or busy — is going to stop reading about how great they are! Once you’ve established a relevant connection, they’ll be much more receptive to helping you.

Of course, this all presumes that there is overlap between what you want and what they want, that there are mutual benefits to be had. Taking some time to think strategically from the other person’s point of view will help them see the connection and smooth your path to getting what you want.

by jennifer bezoza


A great manager does many things well, including offering her people the right type of feedback to encourage, stretch and/or expand their thinking when they need it most.   Despite the common perception that positive feedback is the best motivator, research discussed in an HBR blog focuses on how both positive and negative feedback can be effective for motivating and enhancing performance, depending on the individual and her level of proficiency in a job.  The research, by Stacey Finkelstein (Columbia University) and Ayelet Fishbach (University of Chicago), dissects the function of negative and positive feedback and also when and with whom it will work best.

Positive feedback, the research shows, increases peoples’ commitment to their work, by enhancing confidence.  In contrast,  negative feedback provides valuable information on how to improve.  For individuals who are new in a job and less confident, positive feedback is likely to help one remain positive and comfortable in facing a new set of challenges.   For the seasoned expert, negative or constructive feedback is more likely to give one unexpected insight on how to make incremental improvements, and with a track record of success, one is less likely to be discouraged or offended.

For one of my  executive coaching clients, regular delivery of feedback to employees—particularly constructive feedback—has not been something that has come naturally, even as his team and responsibilities have continued to grow in size and scope over the years.  As a personal development strategy, this leader decided he wanted to incorporate a “feedback model” into regular one-on-ones with employees.

As we spoke recently, a month after setting about this new practice, I heard my client being critical of his ability to implement the feedback model consistently.  As we dug deeper, however, it became apparent that just by adding the topic of “feedback” to his agendas, he was becoming more observant of his employees in both the big and the small ways; while he may not have been executing against the feedback model in the way he envisioned, he was communicating more frequently with his team about what was and was not working, and he also was tuning into each individuals’ behaviors and results in a more nuanced way.

This also made him more reflective about the quality and quantity of feedback he was giving to each of his employees.  He noticed, for example, that he was able to give much more concrete feedback in domains where he had worked previously and to his credit, that he was spending more time with employees who were newer in their roles and dealing with detailed processes and systems that were being challenged by expedient growth in the organization.

For employees who were more experienced and high performing in their roles in functions less familiar to the leader, however, he was challenged as to how to offer value for his direct reports.  Should he gain more knowledge in this domain where he had not worked previously to offer that necessary constructive feedback? Should he bring in outside experts who can help them stretch and further refine their craft? Or should he assume the role of advisor and coach who asks forwarding questions and helps his star performer reflect on the bigger picture without judgment?

All of these are potential directions for this manager, and ones he is considering, all because he has put employee feedback on his list of reoccurring agenda items.

In closing, this experience was a good reminder that a model is purely that – it’s a template of what can work, not a prescribed approach. Relationships and conversations are just too complicated to be limited by formulas.  On the flip side, the story demonstrates how small shifts in awareness and prioritization can have profound positive results for a leader, team and the organization.

by anne lueneburger

Difficult conversations

This shot isn’t from an art gallery. This photo was taken in Shanghai where I was on a coaching mandate this spring. I’m looking at graffiti on a wall just outside the ‘slum’ area at Xiaonanmen station. A minute ago I had been immersed in a world of dense housing with people cooking on gas stoves on the street and scrawny chickens darting across old rubble and waste. A turn around a corner and I was in a rich urban development populated by lofts and artificial beaches, and other hallmarks of a modern metropolis. The contrast of poverty and privilege was stark. The angry expression on this man’s face seemed to represent the tension that often exists between worlds that are so close and so yet so far apart.

Growing up, conflict in my family was characterized by what the French call “soup au lait” (if you have ever heated up milk on a stove, you will know that it can boil over quickly, but then recede just as rapidly the moment you remove the pot from its heat source). Arguments quickly got hot and loud, only to cool off the next moment and certainly be forgotten the following day. Without exception, I found these exchanges stressful. The power imbalance between parent and child often translated into positions of being in the “right” and “wrong” and gave me a sense of helplessness when it came to the final decision. Most frustrating was that there were rarely any takeaways that would result from these arguments. Life would go on and it was “business as usual” – it all seemed to be a waste of time. No surprise then that I entered adulthood with a less than positive attitude when it came to conflict, and a rather unrefined tool kit that was little use in helping me to navigate tension effectively.

Over two decades have passed since then and today I want to share some hard won lessons, be it through formal training or the classroom we call “life”, on how we can create win-win outcomes in conflict situations.

Lesson 1: Stop thinking in positions.

I found myself smiling as I looked at the angry man. Our perception of conflict influences how we take our first step forward. I am no longer captive to my childhood paradigm when it comes to conflict. While some of us are born gifted mediators, navigating conflict can be learned. From what I know today, conflict is neither good nor bad. It is also not about winners and losers.

con·flict  \kän-flikt\ : competitive or opposing action of incompatibles

ne·go·ti·a·tion  \ni-ˌgō-shē-ˈā-shən : to confer with another or others in order to come to terms or reach an agreement

To shift beyond a “fixed pie” mentality we need to explore how we can expand the pie and negotiate. While it may not be feasible to completely obtain our position, it is often possible to satisfy our interests.

In this light, consider what would be acceptable outcomes for you? (And suspend your judgment for a moment and rank them in order of preference…) Also, have a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) in place. What is your best course of action, should you and the other party not come to an agreement?

Lesson 2: Make it a choice.

 “Knowing when to fight is just as important as knowing how.”

– Terry Goodkind

While some may argue that avoiding any conflict is a lost opportunity, a good starting point is to gauge whether we really care or need to engage with the other party. Unless you thrive on the adrenaline rush that comes with conflict, the time and energy involved in negotiation and the effects of this, also needs to be weighed against the benefits. Here are the two questions to answer:

  • How important is this project to me?
  • How much do I value this relationship?

Sometimes it is simply better to walk away.

Lesson 3: Keep your shades clear.


Negotiations are often full of the unexpected and the complex. If you are not being clear about your own values, beliefs, and emotional triggers, then the chances are your shades are dirty. If we are not checking whether our assumptions are true then we risk stumbling in the dark when it comes to influencing others.

As you are getting ready to enter a specific negotiation, here are three questions to clarify:

>What outcome am I looking to achieve?

>What are some of my main concerns, going in?

>What needs am I ultimately trying to meet?

Also take a moment to consider a time when you handled conflict well. Which of your strengths were particularly useful? Now think of a time when you did not manage conflict constructively. What were key emotional triggers that tend to trip you up in general? (Keep a list!) What needs are associated with these?

I often ask my coaching clients to sit the Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory to clarify their default negotiation style and to explore the characteristics of alternative styles they might find useful, depending on the context.

Lesson 4: Rehearse.


You may remember the Hans Christian Andersen parable, The Emperor’s New Clothes, where the emperor’s weavers claimed a new fabric was invisible to all who were “hopelessly stupid.” No one, not even his advisors, dared tell the Emperor that he was naked. One day, as the Emperor strolled through the village, one boy in the crowd shouted that the Emperor wore nothing.

Who in your crowd is willing to shout out and hold you accountableFor tough negotiations, get an objective perspective from someone you trust and who gives candid feedback. Consider roleplaying to gauge how good your influencing skills really are.

Lesson 5: Lead with warmth.

Many of my clients, in particular female execs, are reluctant to accommodate during negotiations: “I don’t want to be the doormat” is a frequent pushback I receive as a coach. However, research confirms: leading with warmth as we aspire to influence others facilitates trust as it communicates that we are attentive to their needs. According to Gallup we are five times more likely to follow the lead of someone we trust.

Warmth expresses itself not only in what we say but also in how we say it. Vision is – hands down – our leading sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources. It is not surprising then, that body language steers how other people think and feel about us, and also how we feel about ourselves as there is a feedback loop: try smiling for a couple of minutes and your brain will increase its serotonin production, which is responsible for feelings of happiness.

Suggest a time for your discussion that accommodates the other party’s schedule. Consider using a more welcoming space in or outside the office. A 2010 study by MIT and Yale brain researchers confirms: offer the other party a comfortable chair and a coffee and they will be more flexible in their demands.

Add competence and a projection of strength to the mix and you become a “happy warrior.”

Lesson 6: Listen. Carefully.

Start any negotiation by inquiring about the other party’s perspective first. Rather than delivering your version of the story and risking a defensive reaction, you are getting a general sense as to where they are coming from.  Also, they are more likely to listen to you when it’s your turn. Questions you may ask are:


>What is their goal or desired outcome?

>How important is this goal to them?

>What relationships play key roles here?

>What are they most concerned about?

>What are some of the influencing factors we might not be aware of?

>What are their specific needs and what outcomes would address those?

Some of this will be hard to listen to and not react. Remember that listening and looking for a place of mutual understanding does not mean you are in agreement with the other person. This is a tough test for your listening skills. Powerful listening means you don’t go into your own head. You fully concentrate on what the other person is saying – as well as to what they are not saying… Observing their body language, facial expression, and tone of voice can give good clues as to what they may care most about.

Bonus Tip1: As you are listening, in addition to an open body language (Lesson 5), send verbal signals of acknowledgment such as “Ok, go on”, “uh huh” or “tell me more”.

Bonus Tip 2: Make sure you get all the broken pieces on the table at once before you begin trying to “glue it back together”.

Lesson 7: Meet them where they are.


Ever heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”? As you are listening, show empathy where appropriate. “I can imagine that this must have been hard/difficult/frustrating…” Dance in the moment, step to their side and let go of trying to control their reaction: you can’t. If you hear common ground, be sure to mention it, “It is clear that this is frustrating for both of us. So, moving forward, what is important to you now?”

Paraphrasing involves restating what was just said using other words. It lets the other party know they have been heard. You validate their concerns. As you summarize milestones, do NOT say “What you are trying to say is…” but rather start with “So if I understand you correctly…”, “In other words, what you are saying is…”, “Let me make sure I got this right…”, or “Do you mean that…?”

Paraphrasing can also serve as an opener to probe for more information: “Can I ask a couple of questions?” Once you have listened to the other person, you have won yourself a hearing to assert your own needs.

Lesson 8: Stay calm…and carry on.

keep calm

It is particularly tough to manage emotional triggers when time constraints are factored into the equation.  In response to requests such as “I need it now!” consider asking “What is important about having it now?” (And if it’s you who puts on the pressure, ask yourself the same question). This might allow you to address an underlying need differently.

Also, if you are someone who needs time to reflect before making a decision, buy additional time. Play back the conversation until now: “To make sure I get what you are saying…” or, “Hold on, let me make sure I get this right, can we back up for a minute and review how we got here….” You may also ask “to enlist third party counsel or check in with the other parties who are involved” prior to making a decision.

If you’re tempted to blow up in the face of antagonism, pause for a moment before you respond: count to three, take a couple of deep breaths. Or take a break, step out into the corridor, go for a walk and remove yourself from the psychological pressure in the room. Imagine it’s five years from now: what do you think you will have learned from this conflict? How will you feel about how you handled it? What advice will the ‘older you’ tell the ‘younger you’ that is experiencing the challenge?

At all times, what helps you control your initial reaction is to keep your eyes on the prize: what is it that you really want as an outcome?

Tip: Ask yourself, before saying something:  “Is it kind, is it relevant, is it true?” If the answer is “no” for any of these, bite your lip and choose words that meet all of these criteria.

Lesson 9: State your case. Tactfully.

Now it is time to share your perspective. Your goal is for people to understand your view without making them defensive. The more you can bring their filters down, the more likely are they willing and able to hear you.

Own what is yours. Apologize for any wrongdoing on your part first. And where there is room for doubt, consider stating it in a more ambiguous fashion, such as “The information I got was that our client proposal came out as scheduled. I’ll have to take a closer look into this.”

Be specific about what you need. Rather than playing the risky game of having others guess as to what we want, be direct and as succinct as you can. For example, “I need for you to say what the priorities for this project are.”

Attack the problem. Not the person. If the goal is to fix the problem, pointing fingers will cause the other party to check out and become defense. One way to overcome this temptation is to focus on the future.

Lesson 10: Brainstorm & Agree on “what’s next”.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

You understand what the other party’s needs are (in addition to your own). You have identified common ground. Now you are ready to develop acceptable solutions. Select those options that will work for both of you. “Reality-test” them, using criteria of fairness and reciprocity, to ensure that needs are met on both sides. Mention their needs first, use the “we” as well as the “and” perspective as you are asserting your own needs:

>“If we move forward with this option, how can we make sure it addresses your need for abc and my need for xyz?”

>“I know this is important to the two of us. You do need abc and I need xyz. What are options that get us there?”

>“What I heard you say is…and from my point of view what I need is…, how can this option meet these criteria?”

If you are in a genuine deadlock, explore openly the costs of no agreement with the other party, holding up the mirror on what is at stake for the two of you. As a last resort you may choose to let the other party know that you have a BATNA: “I have other ideas on how to resolve this, however, my hope is that we resolve this together.” This tactic works best if all alternatives were not accepted. Never to be used as a threat but used as another piece of information.

Lesson +1: Celebrate agreement. Write it up.

Summarizing the main points of an agreement helps avoid future misunderstandings and sets standards of accountability. Sometimes a simple email to all participants can do the job. Be sure to mention how and by when the solution will be implemented as well as any milestones and metrics.

Now go, and have fun “arguing!”

P. S. Some reads you may want to check out:

  • Cuddy, A., Kohut, M., and Nelfinger, J. (July-August 2013).“Is it better to be loved or feared?” Harvard Business Review.
  • Stone, D., Patton, B., Heen, S. and Fisher, R. (2010). “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most.” New York, NY: Penguin.
  • Kolb, D.M., Williams, J. (2003). “Everyday Negotiation: Navigating the Hidden Agendas in Bargaining.” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Medina, J.(2008). “Brain rules”
  • Ury, W.(1993). “Getting Past No.” New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

by anne lueneburger


A few days ago it was a beautiful summer eve in New York. The city was at its best, with blue skies, temperatures in the mid 70s, no humidity, and just a gentle breeze. As a result, it was with some hesitation that I walked up the stairs of Columbia University’s Grace Dodge Hall, a somewhat somber, old red brick building that would fit perfectly onto Hogwarts campus (apologies: my 10-year-old has been sharing all of her Harry Potter stories lately, and some of her preoccupation seems to have rubbed off on her mother).

Fast forward 90 minutes, and I walk back out into the fresh air, feeling inspired. I had just attended a speech by Professor Warner Burke, a guru on organizational change and leadership effectiveness. The message that he delivered with an entertaining Texan twang: Learning agility is the sine qua non when we want to effect change.

Change is hard, even if it involves desired change (for more, see our article “no pain, no gain” here.) No surprise, without the appropriate outlook, approach and support, about two thirds of organizational change efforts fail, and leaders of change are effective only about half of the time.

What then differentiates high performing leaders of change from those that fail? According to extensive research by Burke and his team (and backed up by other high profile studies) it is not what is frequently used in the process of identifying high potentials, factors such as “past performance” and “competence” as well as “other stuff”. The process of changing dynamics can render past experience irrelevant, and it may require few of the skills and competencies that an individual currently possesses. It reminded me of what leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith summarized so well: What got you here won’t get you there.

Now, what about the “other stuff?” Burke went on to explain that “other stuff” is often a selection bias, based on the similarity between individuals. In other words, if your boss feels like you are in many ways similar to her, you are significantly more likely to be considered a high potential. A longitudinal study within AT&T, for example, found that more low potentials were promoted than high potential ones, as long as they worked for the “right bosses”. Not surprisingly, leaders often use the same selection bias of similarity when it comes to building their teams. This helps explain why there are a good number of underperforming teams, as innovation and change is driven by healthy debate and an openness to see the world in a variety of ways.

Successful change agents such as Brian Walker of Hermann Miller, Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Steve Jobs of Apple are role models when it comes to learning agility. According to Burke’s research, in addition to learning agility, the two other key drivers of successful change leadership are emotional intelligence and optimism (which did not come as a surprise to the psychologists and coaches in the room!).

So, what makes for learning agility?

We know that effective learning has both a cognitive and behavioral component. As we struggle to look into what goes on in other people’s heads, the focus of being able to assess learning agility is to look for the following behavioral components:

  • Feedback seeking.
  • Information gathering.
  • Exposing and learning from failure.
  • Risk taking.
  • Collaborating.
  • Experimenting.
  • Reflecting.
  • Quick study.
  • Swift but not hasty decision-making.

If you are like most of us in the audience that day, then you are probably curious to find out what your particular agility score is… While the full research results and an accompanying assessment will not be available until September, here is a questionnaire Burke shared with those of us who are looking for instant knowledge gratification:

Rate yourself on a scale of “1” [to a very small extent] to “5” [to a very great extent] on what extent do you…
1…seek feedback from others about your work performance?
2…update your knowledge by collecting information from outside sources?
3…discuss with others errors or mistakes you may have made and seek help in understanding what happened?
4…put yourself into situations that involve a high degree of ambiguity about the process and/or outcome?
5…facilitate learning from and among others?
6…collect data to test and try out a new idea about and/or approach to work?
7…take time after an event to consider what happened, why it happened that way, and how things should be done moving forward?
8…move easily between different ideas and perspectives?
9…pick up quickly new information, ideas, and behavior?
10…rely on using what has worked for you in the past?

After you have rated yourself on each question, add up your total score for questions 1 through 9. For question 10, revert your number (i.e. if you rated yourself a “5”, give yourself a “1”, if you rated yourself a “4”, give yourself a “2”, “3” stays the same) and then add this to your total score. Why? Question 10 tests our rigidity factor, aka “we have always done things this way”, which is known to get in the way of agility.

If you score 40 or higher then you may well be on your way to mastery. It’s always good to practice some humility though, as we know that for any self-rating assessment a remarkable 80 percent of us tend to overrate ourselves.

And if you are inspired to grow your change agent muscles (as you know now, seeking feedback is a key component of learning agility!), here is an experiment you may wish to try: Why not have your team score you on the same questionnaire, and compare those results with yours? Now take a closer look at where you think you are compared to your team’s perceptions, and you may find where you could stretch yourself a bit more…

by anne lueneburger

Whether you are a Woody Allen fan or not, he tends to have an interesting lens to see the world… I found his quote on living life as I was reflecting upon what my aspirations and hopes were for the coming year:

“In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people’s shoe feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day, and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm.”

As funny as it is to read this, Woody Allen does have a point. Thinking about our goals for the next year (something most of us do over this change in calendar year) is too narrow of a focus to get it right. It may allow us to be more deliberate in our choices in the context of our most immediate goals. But really, for these choices to be the right ones, we need to know about our general “compass”.  Finding this compass ultimately determines whether we lead a life that carries purpose (or not). Building on what Woody Allen suggests, we need to start with the very final moment of our life, when we are taking some of our last breaths. Who do we want to be surrounded by? What would we like for these people to say about us once we leave this earth for good? What are some of the choices we hope we would have made? And now, taking the wisdom we have gathered, if we had the ability to go back in time, to this very moment, and to talk to ourselves as you if we were looking at this scene through a screen. What advice would the old wise us give give this person? How could we help them be a better professional, and more importantly, lead a better  life? What would we tell them on what matters, and what doesn’t?

In coaching as we partner with clients to help them to set the right priorities and to make good choices, we use this exercise, ‘Create your own legacy’ on a regular basis.

What do you want your legacy to be? The North of Neutral team will take this winter break (we will be back on Monday, January 28th) to fill it with activities around the holidays and some of our regular client work. But we also commit to setting aside time to reflect upon our own legacies as we move into 2013.

In this spirit, we thank you for your loyalty over this past year and look forward to serving you in a strong, positive way in this coming year – to offer you our attention, time and ideas, all of which are intended to give you the results and legacies you wish to create for yourself.

Happy Holidays!


by anne lueneburger

I’m referring to the proverbial frog that, placed in a pot of boiling hot water, immediately jumps out to save himself. If placed in cold water that is gradually heated, however, the frog never realizes the danger it’s in and is boiled alive. [Note: we know from contemporary science that real frogs will, in fact, jump out of the pot after some time – but never mind that for now!] The hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of becoming aware of, and responding to, stress as it slowly creeps up on us a bit at a time.

Stress build-up is what many of us experience as we build our professional lives. When we’re stressed, a hormone called epinephrine (or adrenaline) makes our pulse beat faster and makes our blood pressure rise. As a result, our body quickly moves blood and nutrients (aka energy) to the places that need them the most. Just think of working on a complex client request with a tight deadline – your brain is like a sponge and sucks up loads of energy. This isn’t in itself a problem, but if we don’t find ways to ‘decompress’, then our stress levels will continue to rise. By the time we realize this, it can be too late. Constant stress can take the joy out of our lives and can make us sick – it can even kill us.

Now let’s give our frog story a bit of twist: what if the frog in the pot is more in tune with his environment and how it is affecting his well being and his chances of survival? What if he notices, and starts analyzing, the rising temperature and what this means for his future? The chances are that he’ll jump out in time.

So, what can you do to be this frog, who is strong on self-awareness and conviction, and who perceived the important changes in his environment?  Check out these two videos for starters…

Video Part 1:

Video Part 2:

just for today

January 15, 2012

by anne lueneburger

This may sound counterintuitive as most of us start the new year by thinking ‘big picture’ and what we hope to accomplish and achieve over the coming twelve months. But this is also in part the reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail: we bite off more than we can chew.

So, if you are like many of our clients who hope to make this year a happy year filled with more courage and less worrying, more productivity and less procrastination, and more connectivity and less conflict, how about breaking it down into a smaller program? There is a collection of timeless nuggets of wisdom by Sybil Partridge that can increase our portion of ‘la joie de vivre’:

1. Just for today I will be happy. This assumes that what Abraham Lincoln said is true that,”Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Happiness is from within; it is not a matter of externals.

2. Just for today I will try to adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my family, my business, and my luck as they come and fit myself to them.

3. Just for today I will take care of my body. I will exercise it, care for it, nourish it, not abuse it nor neglect it, so that it will be a perfect machine for my bidding.

4. Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought, and concentration.

5. Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways: I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. I will do at least two things I don’t want to do, as William James suggests, “just for exercise.”

6. Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress as becomingly as possible, talk low, act courteously, be liberal with praise, criticize not at all, nor find fault with anything, and not try to regulate nor improve anyone.

7. Just for today I will try to live through this day only, not to tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do things for twelve hours that would appall me if I have to keep them up for a lifetime.

8. Just for today I will have a plan. I will write down what I expect to do every hour. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. It will eliminate two pests – hurrying and indecision.

9. Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax. In this half hour, sometimes, I will think of what my purpose is on this earth so as to get a little more perspective into my life.

10. Just for today I will be unafraid. Especially, I will not be afraid to be happy, to enjoy what is beautiful, to love, and to believe that those I love, love me.

happy holidays!

December 18, 2011

by anne lueneburger

As coaches, we commit to “walk the talk.” As such, we embrace living lives that are balanced and fulfilled, both personally as well as professionally. Part of this balance means we take time to enjoy the winter holidays. While we will continue to work on a number of assignments and remain dedicated to our partnership with wonderful clients, we will take the time between now and January 15th off from writing our blog. If you have some time and wish to explore some of our past blogs, simply scroll down and check out the Archive. If you, too, are able to make this a time when you slow down the rhythm of life, take a step back and enjoy the beautiful season with family and friends – congratulations! This is another step towards building sustainable happiness and well-being. We will be back on January 15th. Until then, happy holidays!

by anne lueneburger

I had just completed an engagement in LA and arrived at LAX to fly back home to NYC. The airport was jam packed with travelers, many flying home to join their families for Thanksgiving. People were pretty stressed out. One man hollered at another traveler, who he thought had cut him off intentionally in the long security lane: “I have an artificial leg, you jerk!” Which resulted in that person breaking out in tears and sobbing their way through the gate…

Holidays, more so than any other time, make it clear how stressful modern life can be. Time is a precious resource and when we have to, in addition to every day responsibilities, juggle last minute work deadlines and family life, even the most effective time management specialist can run into a dead end and have an emotional melt down. After all, there are only 24 hours in the day.

As a coach I have seen clients reap huge payoffs when they shift their focus more towards managing their energy than their time. Different from time (which comes in a fixed ‘quantity’), we can deliberately expand our levels of energy, and in theory there is no set limit. Also, while time is largely controlled externally, we are able to exert a greater degree of control over how energized we are.  There are essentially four levels when it comes to managing our energy: emotional, mental, spiritual and physical.

As many holidays, including Thanksgiving, center around food – and as food is one of the main sources for physical energy – let’s think about this a bit more. After passing through security, I had a few minutes before my plane took off, so I bought the latest book by Michael Pollan: ‘Food Rules’. Maira Kalman’s beautiful illustrations in the book reflect its content: simple yet powerful. Rather than strain the reader with overwhelming detail, like many of the thousands of guides to a healthy diet out there, Pollan manages to boil down the essentials into an easily digestible (no pun intended!) format. He offers about 20 rules or so for each of the book’s three sections:

Part I:           What should I eat? (Eat food)

Part II:         What kind of food should I eat? (Mostly plants)

Part II:         How should I eat? (Don’t eat too much)

These rules serve as general guidelines which can make decision making about what to eat much easier. Following these food rules will certainly fuel your energy and likely save your life. In addition to what he says on his video above, here are a handful of Pollan’s rules that I found particularly ‘sticky’:

O Avoid foods you see advertised on television

O Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the supplements

O Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature

O The Banquet is in the first bite

O Leave something on your plate

Pollan fleshes out most of his suggestions with helpful examples, some research and further explanations. Faced with the holiday feasts, Pollan’s final rule (#83) gets us off the hook: “Break the rules once in a while.”  What counts is not the special occasion, but our everyday practice.

I hope you will have a fun holiday with your family and friends, and based on Pollan’s final suggestion on breaking the rules, remember to feel good about eating everything that’s on the table – even if it’s not all good for you…as recharging our batteries and building our energy levels also comes from spending time with loved ones.

In this spirit, if you want to start these days with some chuckles, check this out:

Happy Thanksgiving!

anything is possible

October 26, 2011

by anne lueneburger

“Anything is possible” is inscribed on a belt my husband had made for me when we first started dating. I loved the belt (and still do) and its hopeful message. However, at the core I did not really believe that anything is possible. It sounded too good to be true.

Well…maybe anything is possible if we put our hearts and minds behind it. Take the story of Sarah Churman who was born deaf and remained so.  Now, at 29, Sarah has received a new kind of hearing implant, which allows her to hear her own voice.  Sarah’s husband Sloan filmed the first time she hears herself speak, which is a powerful reminder not only of how precious our senses are (and how much we take them for granted), but also of how adaptive we are in the face of their loss if bolstered by our passions.

As you will hear in the video, adaptation in Sarah’s case meant that despite a severe hearing loss, she cultivated perfectly clear speech.  She explains: “My whole life I’ve been complimented on how well I speak. I don’t really have an answer for you other than I have always had a passion for reading, grammar, and English.”

So if Sarah was able to speak English well despite not having been able to hear her own voice all that time, what does that mean for the rest of us and our challenges? No doubt, developing a passion is a powerful engine to make the seemingly impossible come true, is it not?