Develop your virtual offsite to be more than another Zoom meeting

Is it time to consider hosting a virtual offsite or leadership retreat for your team?

We’ve spoken before about the benefits of having a leadership offsite that doesn’t have to be a luxury getaway trip. Obviously right now, we’re facing travel restrictions and public health restrictions on gatherings in public spaces, but that doesn’t make the need for a gathering any less.

If anything, after months of figuring out how to work remotely in some capacity, changing how we deliver goods or services and dealing with worries about the pandemic, folks need some teambuilding and enrichment.

We know that a good offsite for employees:

  • Builds trust and connections
  • Inspires creativity
  • Makes people feel appreciated and valued
  • Clarifies and kickstarts goals
  • Enhances camaraderie and team cohesion

So many companies are separated right now, with some team members in the office and some at home — and new hires who’ve never met their colleagues in real life or gotten to know them other than on a screen or, if you’re lucky, from six feet away with masks on.

A virtual offsite done right can do a lot for our teams. If you’re familiar with The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, then you’ll know that offsites serve a valuable purpose for building a healthy team dynamic. Namely, overcoming:

  • An absence of trust
  • Fear of conflict
  • Lack of commitment
  • Avoidance of accountability
  • Inattention to results (focusing on individual goals/status rather than collective success)

Hosting a virtual offsite is an opportunity to strengthen your team. So, how do you do it right?

Take time to prepare a robust virtual offsite

Figure out the technology piece: We’ve learned good remote meeting practices in the last year, like the essential tools for facilitating remote meetings. We recommend hiring an experienced online facilitator (that’s not a plug for us, just a facilitator in general) who can manage the logistics of admitting people, coordinating the virtual breakout rooms and troubleshooting any glitches or problems. Knowing which tools to use and a little bit of rehearsing before the virtual offsite is key.

Consider things like:

Having a special welcome screen when people join the virtual offsite. It’s an opportunity to cover a bit of the housekeeping and give them instructions or reminders (like how to maximize their viewing window, open chat and raise their hands). You can also do something fun, like have a poll ready for them to take or an activity to do while they wait for the meeting to start. Many groups ask participants to include certain details in their name on a virtual call, like title, location and preferred pronouns. If your folks know each other, you could change the name to “Name and favorite day of the week” or favorite food, favorite travel destination, etc., etc. — something to spark some curiosity, interest and maybe even conversation.

Setting ground rules, just as you would at an in-person offsite meeting. Ask folks to mute when possible, return from breaks on time, raise their hands to speak or use the chat to raise questions and introduce themselves before they speak and headline comments. Since people are likely participating from home, remind them not to worry if they have to deal with a fussy child or barking dog. Ask participants what other ground rules are needed (remind folks rules don’t have to be “don’t do this” or “always do this” but can also be, “We’re okay with this…”).

Starting with an icebreaker or activity. An interactive meeting helps to keep people’s interest, and making people feel connected is particularly important in a virtual setting.

Be strategic with the topic for your virtual offsite

Build in specific learning opportunities: What’s going to be most useful to your employees? In our experience, learning about something that applies to everyone — like leadership and teamwork — makes everyone on the team feel like they are valued and that the offsite was valuable. Stay away from silo-specific discussions in an offsite. If you’re going to discuss an area that is definitely under one person’s purview, be sure to set it up in a way that that person is listening to others’ views. For example, if the offsite is to discuss the marketing planning, have the VP of Marketing set up the topic and then have someone else facilitate the discussions. Remind the VP of Marketing ahead of time to be listening to understand, to take a “yes, and” approach rather than a “yah, but,” etc.

Keep in mind things like:

Using presentations sparingly. Anything that is presented should be well written and focused because long or rambling presentations are not engaging. Encourage presenters to have a short list of key points and to speak briefly to each point. At the same time, encourage them not to read from a script. That loses the audience in an in-person meeting and it’s even worse in a virtual one. Screen sharing will let everyone follow along, but minimizes the participant windows. So, use screen sharing intermittently — don’t hesitate to share for a few moments, then unshare to discuss, then share a new slide, then unshare to discuss. (If you’re not a whiz with the technology, use that facilitator/producer we mentioned to control that side of things.) The focus should be on making the most of discussion.

Making the most of technology to involve participants. You can get very creative with this (and this is when it’s helpful to hire an experienced online meeting facilitator to run the technology for you). There are ways to send groups of participants to separate breakout rooms seamlessly, while facilitators “pop” in and out to see how things are going. We do this extensively with Zoom for our leadership courses and it works VERY well. Breakout rooms are proving enormously helpful to engage people who don’t speak up in the main room, and to help focus small groups on different topics. You’ve likely always used “breakouts” in your in-person training courses (“Okay, all the folks who want to work on X, go to that corner of the room…”) but how often have you done it in your management meetings or offsite meetings? With Zoom and other platforms it’s easy and very helpful.

Each breakout group can prepare slides (on a Google doc or other shared platform, or using the Zoom/Teams whiteboard) to present to everyone after the breakout. There are also tools for voting (and not just yes or no, but on a scale of 1 to 5 how much they agree for instance), for polling for various results and for “stamping” icons if you want people to indicate on a shared screen what matters to them or something they want to know more about (like they would with a dot on a wall chart at an in-person event).

Running the chat throughout the offsite. A well-run chat board is a place for team members to raise questions or share ideas, and also to build community back and forth individually. This is important when not everyone wants to talk on camera.

Keep people as your focus for the virtual offsite

Focus on your team: While you’re planning, remember to include strategies to keep your team engaged online. A remote offsite isn’t the same as having everyone in a room together with catered coffee breaks and lunches. Knowing how you’ll break the ice, having some fun and celebrating wins with your remote team is important.

Other considerations include:

  • Pacing of the meeting. When people are sitting in front of a screen, we sometimes forget they still need a brain and body break. Build in 10-15-minute breaks every hour to 90 minutes. This way people can refresh, deal with personal or work-related issues quickly and come back ready to focus.
  • Encouraging people to move. Baseball games have the “seventh inning stretch” for fans to get up and move a bit because sitting for a long time is hard on the body. Some of our clients will build in group stretches or pause while people take a quick walk around. Is someone on the team a fitness instructor or yoga fanatic in their off hours? Would they be willing to host a “stretch break” for the team? If so, tell everyone else they can turn off their camera, if they wish, and follow the instructor for a few minutes of rejuvenation.
  • Ending the meeting on a high note. Thank everyone for participating. If there are decisions, tasks, goals coming out of the meeting — summarize and review them. Ask participants for their feedback, just as you would at an in-person offsite meeting. What did they like? What could have been better? Some people end with an inspirational video or send participants a $5 coffee card.

When a virtual offsite meeting is done well, you and your team will reap many benefits.

Coach’s Questions:

What have you been doing to keep your team connected? Are there opportunities for you to develop some teamwork and leadership skills? Who might really benefit from a virtual offsite right now? What can you do to engage your team?

We offer all of our leadership development courses virtually — if you’re looking for a learning offsite, or want to supplement your planning offsite with some leadership learning in a fun environment, check out what we offer.

The power of peer learning with other leaders

Want to accelerate your leadership?
Peer learning is one of the most effective strategies for leaders who want to boost their success.

One common feeling among executive leaders is loneliness or isolation. It makes sense that you’re going to feel a bit lonely at the top — you’re not going to hang out with your team members the way you would with peers, and you may not want to appear vulnerable to other executives or to your boss or the board members.

You can find ways to conquer the loneliness of leadership, because the best leaders don’t stay isolated. They find ways to connect with peers in other industries or mentors.

When you connect with other leaders who are facing the same kinds of changes that you are facing, you will benefit in a few ways:

  • Building a network of support so that when you have a challenge or concern, you have people who are at your level who understand your situation. When you trust people, you can be vulnerable and vent or share, knowing that you won’t face any repercussions.
  • Gaining from varied perspectives, which might help you figure out what will work for your situation. Just as teams bring different ideas and talents to a project, sharing ideas and experiences in a peer learning group will help you expand your leadership toolkit. Think of it as building the perfect peer leadership team; when The New York Times analyzed several team studies, it found that, “groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems.”
  • Stretching outside your comfort zone, because you’re hearing things that have worked for other leaders that you can try, you’re being challenged to do more, you’re feeling supported with ideas and ways to innovate and maybe there’s someone who boosts your confidence.
  • Practicing how to give — and more importantly — accept constructive feedback. It can be very tricky for some of us to accept criticism and it’s helpful to know how to share honestly with compassion and understanding. Peer learning is an ideal training ground to observe and try different communication techniques.
  • Reducing your stress level because you don’t have to go through things alone. You can turn to your peer learning group for support and advice. At other times you might be the one able to comfort and assist others, which is a great way to feel useful. We saw in the last year how many leaders were focusing on their team members, but leaders also need to cope with challenges like Covid-19 anxiety.

Finding ways to learn with peers who work at the same level as you but in other organizations or industries is the best antidote to feeling lonely, isolated or unsupported in your leadership.

Coach’s Questions:

When have you felt isolated and unsupported as a leader? What effect did those feelings have on your leadership? What tools could you use or learn to help?

Peer Group Opportunities:

At Padraig, we offer two peer group programs and we’re launching new cohorts of both.
Registration for The Partnership and Registration for The Network.

Here’s what some of the current participants have to say has been helpful in our coach-led peer groups:

Booked time! Having dedicated time, with a professional to keep the topics and conversations on track for developing/planning as a leader.

Everyone in the group is open and honest and that makes for much more spirited and genuine discussion.

Realizing that I’m not the only one with “imposter syndrome”. This has been very beneficial to me.

Hearing from the other participants has been very rewarding for me. It helps me understand my struggles and growth areas are different but the same as others. 

Networking and learning from our coach’s coaching style has been most helpful.

While the group sessions have been great, the opportunity for 1-1 coaching has been valuable in terms of my personal development.

 

The PartnershipOur peer group program for experienced leaders. This program brings experienced leaders together in a small group with a certified executive coach for monthly group coached sessions and 4 private sessions, over the course of the year, of one-to-one coaching.

The NetworkFor new leaders and those who aspire to leadership roles. This program offers coach-led group discussions as well as four fundamental leadership courses, over one year. The program meets monthly alternating between 90-minute group coaching sessions and full-day courses. Participants in this program develop peer bonds as they become leaders — solidifying their connections for years to come. Each successful participant graduates with our Certificate in Leadership Foundations.

Learn more or register.

Or, host one or more of the programs privately in your organization.

As always – our programs are available as an exclusive offer for your company, as well. If you would like to talk to us about organizing one or more of the workshops or peer groups at your organization (online or in person when COVID permits), then please click here and we’ll call you or email you (your choice).

 

 

Is escalating conflict threatening your team?

In our last blog, we looked at conflict and individuals: How to recognize it in ourselves and others, and how resolving conflict always starts with “the why.”

Escalating conflict isn’t just stressful for individuals, of course. It can wreak havoc with teams, leaders and workplace morale overall.

Productivity and performance suffer for a few reasons:

  • A team that lacks cohesion is not going to be as effective as a team where everyone trusts and works well with each other.
  • What happens when there’s escalating conflict in the workplace? Leaders are going to be dealing with the fallout — everything from team members seeking advice or support to missed deadlines and everything in between — instead of their own work.
  • When there’s escalating interpersonal conflict, some folks involved are going to lose focus and be anxious or stressed — and even bystanders might be on edge. It’s not unusual to see increased sick time and longer breaks as people avoid work.
  • If there’s tension in a workplace, everyone can feel it. There’s a current of unease that ripples through, and many times there are destructive behaviours at play like gossip and triangulation that can make things much worse.

As a leader, you might not always catch on that there is escalating conflict until things boil over. People can be angry with each other but appear very civil — or you might be so busy focusing on other issues that you haven’t noticed the subtext.

Here are some ways to tell when escalating conflict is an issue:

  1. The focus shifts from the problem to the person. “He’s being unreasonable with his expectations of us on this project.” “She’s not willing to be a team player.”
  2. Issues are rehashed. Time passes and people are still bringing up earlier resentments or frustrations. “I can’t rely on them. They’re going to miss the finer details like they did on XYZ.” “They made a mistake on X last month and…”
  3. There’s resentment. This can show up as people who don’t want to work together on new projects. “Do I have to work with her? She’s going to take all the credit and I do all the work.”
  4. You get a sense that folks are disengaged and reluctant to discuss things. People become frustrated and discouraged to a point that they don’t want to discuss it anymore. This is characterized by a “what’s the use?” attitude.
  5. People are taking sides and align with a group that believes one way or another (often belief is tied to ideas about others). This is often characterized and grown by Triangulation. ‘Don’t you think Jason is taking the wrong approach on this?’
  6. Time and effort are spent protecting those groups. Folks are entrenched and focus on reinforcing their opinions rather than tackling the issues or problems and finding ways to agree. It’s an us versus them scenario. Everything is black or white, right or wrong — and we are right.
  7. People become openly hostile or isolated. This is when we start to see negative remarks out loud or under the breath, shouting, people storming out of meetings or avoiding discussions and interactions with team members.

When Is Conflict Good?


If you follow us and our leadership beliefs, you’ll know we often talk about promoting good conflict for team cohesion. We believe successful leadership teams MUST have good conflict to continue to succeed.


Good conflict is when members of a team trust each other, and consequently, they can have lots of differences of opinion around ideas,
goals and directions. In that case, conflict helps to find the best solutions and best ideas; it helps to drive a team toward excellent decisions.


Bad conflict, on the other hand, is interpersonal conflict. This happens when two or more people have problems with each other (and often fail to address it head-on). When trust is broken, and the dispute is personal, it has the opposite effect of good conflict on a team.

Suggestions for resolving team conflict as a leader

Be proactive. Conflict often starts with small disagreements that escalate fast. So, if you see or sense some conflict, don’t leave it to team members alone, or HR, to resolve.

Stay calm. Getting emotional will exacerbate the problem, especially if others are already getting heated.

Listen. Try to communicate in private and seek to actively listen – not just to the words, but to the emotion, to the underlying causes, to the assumptions being made. You can catch those underlying things by listening carefully and with a goal of understanding the person’s point of view, observing body language, noticing facial expressions and listening for changes in tone of voice.

Seek to be fair and impartial. Even if you initially agree with one person or group, set a goal for yourself to be impartial and listen to all points of view. There is almost never one “side” that is all right or all wrong.

Bring people together with some ground rules. Mandate things like keeping a moderate tone, listening to understand, asking open questions for understanding (not for “gotcha”), encouraging folks to share their worries, frustrations and ideas.

Try to catch your own assumptions and those of others. There is ALWAYS the possibility you are getting it all wrong. Try using phrases like, “so what I think I heard…” or “what I’m understanding is…” and see if you are understanding what others mean.

Acknowledge the conflict and engage to seek resolution. Once the conflict has been recognized, everyone involved needs to agree upon reaching a resolution. Try to see the conflict from the viewpoint of your other team members and focus on the things you can agree on.

Be patient. Resolving interpersonal conflict can take time. It starts with both solving the small issues and helping people to see good intent from each other on the bigger stuff.

Follow up. Don’t assume one intervention solved the problems – these things take work.

Depending on your personality style, you might walk right into high conflict situations with confidence, find conflict very uncomfortable or you might prefer to try to make peace or focus on tasks rather than get to the root of things. There are also going to be some folks you’re much more comfortable talking with than others because the personality styles of your team members affect conflict in the workplace, too.

The good news is that you can learn ways to manage and address escalating conflict — ways that take into account different personality styles.

If you’d like to learn how to fix problems and build a stronger team, our live online Productive Conflict Course is designed to help people at all levels in an organization learn how to deal with conflict. This isn’t a conflict resolution course, but rather a way to become more aware of conflict behaviours (yours and other people’s) and how to adjust them — which makes it ideal if you want to register for yourself and some members of your team. Learning how to make conflict more productive improves relationships and workplace results.

Coach’s Questions:

What signs of conflict on your team have you noticed? Or have overlooked? What could you do better or differently with your team to manage conflict? What steps will you take to get there?

How resolving conflict starts with “the why”

Are tempers flaring in your workplace? Have you witnessed some heated conversations? Have any team members sought your help resolving conflict?

What about you? Do you feel exhausted, short-tempered? Does one of your peers push all the wrong buttons? Irritate you every time you have to work together?

Whenever there are relationships, there is bound to be conflict. Whether it’s with coworkers, family or friends, conflict is a catalyst for negative feelings ranging from frustration and anger to anxiety and sadness.

The first step to resolving conflict is to understand why it happens.

Conflict can be exacerbated by stress and a variety of other factors, including:

  • Personality styles: We all have different personality styles, which influence everything from how we approach situations to how we prioritize things in our lives to how we interact with other people. Add in power struggles, cultural differences and varied belief or value systems, and it’s easy to see how not seeing things the same way leads to tension and conflict.
  • Communication issues: How often does a misunderstanding end up causing discord or even a big fight? Depending on personality styles, some folks have no problem facing issues head on, while others are conflict avoidant. Then there are folks who like consensus and will do everything to keep the peace — and those who want time to figure out what their position is. If we aren’t resolving conflict, it can fester and become an even bigger problem.
  • Poor leadership: Without strong leaders, conflict can fill the void created when team members don’t feel valued, motivated or directed toward a common goal. Issues can also arise when leaders don’t actively work to build relationships, or when they forgive or overlook poor behaviour. How many of us have witnessed high performers who don’t play nice with others?

There are ways as leaders that we can actively work toward resolving conflict. This includes:

  • Taking a moment to read the room. Life can get so busy that we’re distracted and don’t take time to notice what’s going on around us. With many teams working from home some of the time or perhaps most of the time, is there more tension or less? Do you sense any subtext during team conversations? Is it harder to get an impression of that via Microsoft Teams and Zoom calls?
  • Not assuming everything is fine if no one is complaining. Make an effort to check in. Start with yourself. Do you notice any areas of conflict or frustration? Then check in with your team members, friends and family members. What relationships need some work?
  • Never ignoring conflicts in the hope they just resolve. Have you ever thought to yourself, “maybe this will clear itself up?” Yah, me too. But, more often than not, conflicts will escalate when we avoid difficult conversations (we now try to turn difficult conversations into essential conversations).
  • Learning how to productively manage conflict. At Padraig, we use the Everything DiSC assessment tools to help leaders and teams learn how to build better relationships, improve communication and solve problems. There are simple shifts that help with resolving conflict and we now offer an online, live course devoted to improving conflict.
  • Creating a culture where staff feel able to raise their concerns. Your team members are more likely to seek your advice if you’re not only approachable, but they see that you take their worries seriously. When you build strong work relationships and encourage team members to speak up, folks will trust you to manage disputes fairly and effectively.
  • Promoting and valuing differences. Thank people for offering differing opinions, beliefs and insights. Consider what they’re sharing and see where you can use this information to improve how things get managed in the workplace. We know that businesses that are inclusive and don’t tolerate harassment or other discriminatory behaviours flourish. If there are team members who don’t feel safe and supported to share their ideas or concerns, there will most likely be interpersonal conflicts and unhealthy team dynamics.
  • Listening to understand. What kind of listener are you? Are you listening with the intent to respond? Listening, really listening, is an important foundation for effective communication and can help you figure out what’s really going on. Have you made assumptions about that frustrating person that are wrong? Have they made assumptions about you?
  • Staying calm and in control. Take a deep breath, mentally remove yourself from the situation and don’t argue back or become aggressive. It takes practice, but being mindful of taking a non-judgemental stance is extremely helpful. Remember, as a manager or leader you’re setting an example for the rest of your team.
  • Ensuring you see the person and not the problem. It’s easy to focus on the problem or the issue, but what’s happening for the person or people involved? Sometimes people have other things going on that affect their performance. Are there stressors you don’t know about? Do they have very challenging personal circumstances? Has Covid-19 affected things? Sometimes showing compassion or empathy helps us determine solutions or supports that help to ease conflict.
  • Seeking to understand the whole issue. When you become aware of a conflict, there is often more going on than what you see on the surface. Is it possible you’re not seeing the whole picture? Remember there may be more than one way forward or solution. Ensure that those who are involved in the dispute are also involved in creating the solution.

We can’t eliminate interpersonal conflict from relationships and when it crops up, wishing it away never works.

Learning how to manage and address conflict is what leads to better decisions and not just a stronger team, but a stronger and more competitive organization.

If you’d like to learn how to fix problems and build a stronger team, our live online Productive Conflict Course is designed to help you learn how to deal with it. This isn’t a conflict resolution course, but rather a way to become more aware of conflict behaviours (yours and other people’s) and how to curb them. Learning how to make conflict more productive improves relationships and workplace results.

Coach’s Questions:

Where is conflict happening and it’s being overlooked? What would be better for you, your team and your organization if conflict was better managed? What steps will you take to get there?

 

 

Learning From Adversity: Moving to Resilient Leadership

If there is one thing we’ve all shared over the past year, it’s adversity. The degree to which we’ve experienced it, embraced it or denied it is unique. It’s created hardship for many and unrelenting hours of service for others. Whatever your experience, it’s real.

I’ve been talking and writing about leadership in a VUCA world over the past few years (if you’re unfamiliar with this managerial phrase, VUCA is short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). I anticipated it would grow over the next 5-10 years. And then BAM! Within a matter of weeks in early 2020, VUCA became our new reality. With the worldwide pandemic upon us, we’re truly living within volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

As a leader, this is the time to take a deep breath and reflect on how you’ve managed your adversity. There is no right or wrong, good or bad. Taking the time to deeply understand how you’ve stepped toward the adversity – including how this has affected others – provides important information on your leadership. In fact, examining your response to adversity as a leader is necessary as we move toward the next stages of this universal pandemic.

This reflection requires us to start by looking inward at ourselves and moving outward to our influence on others.

It begins with curiosity. Taking a deep look inside yourself – without judgment. I suggest asking yourself the following kinds of questions, each based on 3 fundamental aspects of your experience – Isolation, Change and the Unknown:

Connection

  • Have I felt isolated and/or trapped?
  • How has being at home with others been difficult?
  • Have I felt heard and supported?
  • What’s changed in me as a result of being isolated?

Wellness 

  • How has my sleeping been affected?
  • Did I create physical routines to support my fitness?
  • What was my level of interest in food and eating?
  • Did I find myself worrying about my health?

Healthy thinking

  • What is my self-talk telling me?
  • Has my self-talk become more damning?
  • Am I saying “No” more often than “Yes”?
  • Am I leaning toward judgment versus curiosity?

Meaning 

  • Am I losing a sense of what I am here to do and be?
  • Am I drawing on my values to help propel me forward?
  • Have I leaned on my ability to choose and make decisions for myself?
  • Am I overly concerned with things beyond my control?

If we can be honest with ourselves as we answer and ponder these questions, we can begin to name what’s going on for us. This allows us to move from our flight, fight or freeze state to re-employ our brain’s prefrontal cortex.

This region of our brain contributes to various matters such as focusing one’s attention; self-monitoring; impulse control; short-term memory; managing emotional reactions; time management; reasoning; anticipating events in the environment; planning for the future; and adjusting complex behaviors.

In short, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for our higher order thinking. But here’s the rub: It takes way more energy to function than other parts of the brain. This is why it’s hard for us to change and adapt in times of stress and fear.

While I’m definitely not a neuroscientist, I do know from reading and working with clients that when we harness this part of our brain, we can manage way more effectively. The good news is that our brains are equipped with neuroplasticity – the ability to continually form new neural connections.

Re-employing our prefrontal cortex using our neuroplasticity comes through intention. It takes willpower, focused attention and mindful action.

Where does this lead us? To resilience: the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. (according to the American Psychological Association)

Join us for our 5 part series on resilience building.

Resilience takes work by asking ourselves the hard introspective questions, particularly when threats and stress surround us. Resilience is a process and skill we can deepen over and over again.

If you find yourself reacting to situations through a negative lens, that’s a clue it’s time to take a deep breath and calm yourself so you can be open. Doing this allows you to “see” more options and to react with less of a fear response. In doing so, you’re building new neural pathways.

How often during this pandemic have you felt overwhelmed or fearful? Now think about how your staff may have experienced you. Were you calm, open and present? Or might you have left them feeling unheard, anxious or unclear how to move forward?

The stronger your resilience, the greater your ability to move outward to influencing others. This part of your leadership is critical in supporting others as they navigate ambiguity and uncertainty.

Research shows that a resilient leader can have significant positive effects on employees and organizations. To put it another way, leaders with high resilience model a strong commitment, control and challenge in their approach to stressful events. Employees experience this and are more likely to adopt similar behaviors.

As we move through this pandemic and beyond, your ability as a leader to develop your resilience will have an enormous effect on how those around you are able to weather their own challenges and maintain a healthy organization.

Coach’s Questions:

What uncertainties have you faced in the last year? If you could do something over again, what would that be? What steps can you take this week to build your resilience?

 

 

This week’s Coach’s Questions Blog is written by Padraig Coach, Eve Gaudet.

 

 

 

 

How to be a better leader: Top leadership skills & habits

 

It’s possible for good leaders to learn to be great. How? By learning some key leadership skills and habits.

In this video, we highlight the leadership skills that make good leaders great.

 

Learn how to delegate: It’s hard for some of us to trust others on our team to complete tasks we know we could do it ourselves (especially for new leaders). Being able to delegate effectively not only lightens your workload so you can concentrate on other matters, it engages your team and improves morale. When you give responsibility to your staff, you guide, coach or teach them.

Coach’s Questions:
What are you currently working on that could and should be delegated to someone else?
How would things be better for you if you could delegate that work?

Improve your ability to give and receive feedback: It’s human nature to want to avoid uncomfortable conversations, whether you’re hoping things will just improve or the problem will go away before you have to address it. but great leaders turn difficult conversations into essential conversations to prevent problems or issues from festering and getting worse. This allows you to help your team members perform better or improve what they produce, all of which goes a long way to fostering a sense of overall team cohesiveness. As well as being able to give feedback, great leaders are open to hearing the good AND the bad (even handling criticism) from mentors, team members and peers so they can course correct as necessary.

Coach’s Questions:
What difficult conversations have you been avoiding?
What could having the conversation improve?
Have you invited feedback from those around you?

(Pro tip: Our Essential Conversations program is an excellent start to help you have difficult conversations and to make them easier next time ).

Involve your team in goal management: This includes setting performance goals for your team, but focuses on delivering the goal. It’s about taking your team from where you are now to where you want to be. Leading your team to identify goals and then master the daily tasks to achieve the big goals is the first step to organizational success. Some leaders use weekly or bi-weekly meetings to check to see if the team is on track in spite of daily challenges. Consider whether you’re rewarding success for working toward long-term goals or for fighting fire after fire.

Coach’s Questions:
How do you engage people in setting goals for your business?
What could you do better or differently?
How often do you check in to see if your team is on course to meet those goals?
What kind of check-in process can you build-in and commit to?

Practice humility: Some leaders, often those new to leadership roles, might overcompensate and act more confident than they really are. This is a missed opportunity because practicing humility, being vulnerable and embracing who you are opens you to greater understanding, connections and room for growth. Displaying exaggerated confidence is not uncommon and it’s usually because a leader is struggling with Imposter Syndrome (thinking you’re not good enough, you’re not fully qualified or that you received a promotion earlier than you should have). Trying to be more transparent about what you don’t know (but can find out) or can’t answer (but will do some research) goes a long way to building trust with your team.

Coach’s Questions:
How critical is your self-talk?
What can you do to encourage yourself as a leader?
How have you been vulnerable with your team?
What could you do to show humility in your leadership?

Enhance your self-awareness: If there is a gap between how you see yourself and how others see you, there could be things that don’t go the way you think they should. Does the way you see yourself match how others see you? Being able to understand how you affect those around you lets you adapt and shift the way you relate to each team member. It also helps you make adjustments to how you approach prospective clients.

Coach’s Questions:
If you asked mentors, peers and team members to honestly and openly share their perceptions of you, what would they say? Why not ask them?
What can you do this week to see how you see yourself differs from how others see you?
How can you change how you are perceived?

(Pro tip: We have some amazing assessment tools to help with this process — and a coach can help, too.)

Cultivate a desire to serve others: Leaders who are able to use a desire to be helpful as a lens through which they see their team reap enormous returns. People follow leaders who have earned their trust, achieving moral authority that others want to follow — not because they have grand titles or exercise coercive power. It’s the difference between being a boss or a leader and it requires humility. Genuinely wanting to help your team also helps when you need to communicate with your team to drive them to action. They will trust not only your leadership skills, but also have confidence in your feelings towards them.

Coach’s Questions:
Do you serve your team members as a leader?
How could you be more helpful to your team?
What steps can you take to be a more effective communicator?

The really good news is, each of these six leadership skills can be learned and added to your leadership toolkit. As you think about these ways to be a better leader, consider:
How deep are you into your own leadership strengths?
Which skills would you like to practise and promote to others?
What will you do today to advance those skills?

 

 

3 simple steps for releasing anxious thoughts

Living with stress and anxiety can take a very real toll on our mental AND physical health if we aren’t able to manage anxious thoughts in a healthy way.

We’ve all certainly had some extra worries in recent months, whether that was leading people on the frontline or transitioning folks to working remotely. And now, the second wave of lockdown in some regions and waiting for the Covid-19 vaccine has many leaders struggling to cope with return to work anxiety.

When we surveyed readers and clients a few months ago, we had a tremendous response and many of you shared how anxiety is particularly amplified for you right now.

Trying to figure out the way forward when there are so many uncertainties is unprecedented for most of us. (Pro tip: Cultivating an attitude of gratitude for dealing with uncertainty is possible — and helpful!)

To help, today we offer you three simple steps to help release anxious thoughts:

  1. Acknowledge what is at the root of the anxious thought.
    Many of us try NOT to think about what’s making us feel anxious. We try to think about something else, get busy or ignore it — but it’s still there. Others feel consumed by anxious thoughts and can’t stop thinking about them. Just take a moment and think about what has you worried and anxious. This is the tricky part: Recognize and acknowledge what’s making you anxious, name it, but don’t get caught into the bad habit of spiraling the thought into all the potentially awful outcomes that could result. The first step is just to notice and articulate to yourself what is causing anxious thoughts for you right now. It can sometimes help to write it down.
  2. Take a deep breath to calm and relax your body.
    Whenever we are anxious, our bodies go into a temporary state of alarm. This puts us into the fight, flight or freeze response because the mind is preparing the body to deal with a threat. It’s entirely natural and normal to feel anxious (that instinct keeps us aware and vigilant!), but if allowed to build or spiral it can work against us. Take a moment and breathe in deeply (fill your lungs), slowly inhaling and then even more slowly exhaling. This is important because when we’re feeling afraid or anxious, we either stop breathing or breathe shallowly. Restoring oxygen to the brain in a calm and measured way actually counters that stress response. As you breathe in and out, notice the rest of your body: Are you clenching your jaw? Is your neck tense? Is your heart racing? Are you holding tension in your back or lower back? Are your arms tense or your hands clenched? How does your stomach feel? Keep breathing in and out, slowly and deeply, while you mentally take an inventory of tightness and tensing. As you do, gently stretch and release tension from every part of your body. Many people find it helpful to start at the top of the head and work their way down to their toes, inhaling and exhaling as you notice each different part of the body.
  3. Let go of the anxious thoughts.
    After you feel less anxious and tense physically, keep breathing in deeply and shift to releasing whatever anxious thoughts you have. As you breathe in, contemplate what’s worrying you (count to 4 or 5) and then visualize that anxious thought leaving your mind as you exhale (count to 6 or 7 — the exhaling is always longer). Repeat this, slowly, a few more times and be really mindful of acknowledging the anxious thoughts and then letting them leave your mind.

Once you calm your mind and body of anxious thoughts, you will feel better able to cope with moving into action. Not that you have to tackle the world, but you can start to determine your daily and weekly goals while also potentially putting things in a bigger perspective.

If you start to feel those anxious thoughts, pause and go through the three steps again. And if you sense there is quite a bit of employee anxiety on your team, share this article with them.

Coach’s Questions

What anxious thoughts came to your mind reading this? Try going through the three steps slowly, right now. How do you feel? What changed?

 

Strategies for managing performance reviews during a pandemic

Whether you still have the dreaded annual performance review or you’ve moved to ongoing performance management conversations — or you have some blend of the two — performance management during a global pandemic takes on some new dimensions.

First: Do them, or skip them?

Whether you have performance reviews regularly or annually, should you do them during a global pandemic? With folks working at home, or possibly working in periods between lockdowns, is there value in continuing to have performance conversations?

  • Con: Performance reviews tend to be dreaded by some (managers and employees alike) and thus add to anxiety and stress while increasing the workload for managers.
  • Pro: When performance conversations are done well, they provide critical information to both the employee and the manager, helping everyone succeed.

Effective performance conversations require some groundwork or even the best of intentions can backfire. When strong performance appears to have gone unnoticed, it demotivates. When poor performance isn’t identified and managed, it can leave that employee struggling and others resentful. (Pro tip: Review our keys to having effective performance conversations.)

The verdict: Increase the frequency

At Padraig we’re big believers in constant honest feedback with two-way conversation. During a pandemic — when so many are struggling through (visibly, or not) — is the time to have more performance conversations rather than fewer. In a two-way conversation, we listen to the employee as much as we talk to the employee – finding out where they feel they’re succeeding and where they feel they’re struggling. This is an opportunity to find out where a team member needs help and what kind of help would be, well, most helpful.

Doubling down on performance conversations takes on a different appearance than the traditional annual review. This current time of ongoing uncertainty might be the ideal time to shift from one annual conversation to regular, ongoing opportunities to touch base and check in with team members. It could also be an opportunity to teach managers and leaders how to use a coach-approach to help employees learn and grow – moving away from the direct, demand, tell approach. (We’ve talked about using a coach approach during the pandemic and also using a coach approach to build a stronger team.)

It’s also an ideal time to help managers learn to build performance discussions into every weekly or bi-weekly private conversation they are having with staff. (Not having those conversations? Now is a great time to start because regular conversations help you avoid poor performance from members on your team.)

Should we focus on the same things?

Performance reviews should focus on expectations you’ve set, in advance – otherwise they’re an unfair surprise. So, if you’re about to do a performance review for 2020, it should continue to focus on whatever you stated were the goals, expectations and competencies for that employee. However, if some of those goals don’t seem relevant or achievable in a work-from-home environment, or when roles and goals have shifted during the crises, or when folks spent a good portion of the year furloughed, then it’s time to adapt them a bit.

For example, if your goals were stated as a finite number – produces x widgets per month – then perhaps the goal needs to be amended to recognize challenges. Perhaps you could change the number given months that weren’t worked, or say something like, “ramped up production of (something other than widgets) products after we shifted quickly to changing demand.” Or, perhaps, “produced an average of X widgets per month during times when the production facility was able to operate.”

Or, what if you’ve stated that Adaptable and Flexible is a competency someone should aim for? Perhaps you evaluated that in the past as being willing to work late when the project needed it. Looking at this competency in a new light could be: Did they manage to adapt to changing conditions? Were they flexible in shifting their workplace? It will be important to recognize that in 2020, being Adaptable and Flexible didn’t mean adapting and flexing to the usual customer demands, or to the usual production cycle. This last year, that has meant adapting and flexing in a chaotic and uncertain environment, while also worrying about your health and safety in new ways — and while having your routines upended while worrying more than ever about family and friends. The takeaway? Evaluate something like “Adaptable and Flexible” with a charitable view. Did they manage to maintain some form of the competency in unprecedented circumstances? Were they able to succeed in some of their work while having to adapt to working from home, managing kids and pets, helping parents, working alongside their spouses and worrying about the general state of the world?

Have a two-way conversation

Regardless of whether you’re having a performance conversation once a year or once a week — during a pandemic, or not — the conversation should be just that: a two-way dialogue, not a monologue where the boss talks at the employee. Now, more than ever, listen to understand.

Ask open-ended questions like:

  • What went well for you this year?
  • What are you most proud of in the work we’ve done this year?
  • What would you have changed this year, with your own work – if you could do it over?
  • What can I do to make your job easier?
  • What can the company do?

Then, listen. Listen to understand, not to respond. This means:

  1. Don’t worry about what your next question will be.
  2. Try not to take things personally.
  3. Focus on them and their needs. Even a “poor performer” often has challenges that are holding them back – more often than not, they’re not trying to be a poor performer.

Listen intently and empathetically to their answers. Ask more curiosity-based questions as you seek to understand.

Give specific feedback

Avoid saying broad and general things like, “You did great this year,” or, “You need to work on X,” without giving detailed examples. Instead, say things like:

It was especially appreciated when you did X because it allowed A, B, C to happen.
As you know, I’ve had some concerns about X because it affects A and B.
I feel like you’ve made some progress on X by (give a specific example…).
I would like to see you continue that trend and see you achieve Z.
How are you feeling about it?

Note: This feedback invites a dialogue with an open-ended question, but it’s anchored by specific details that provide context and a clear expectation.

Be human

Step away from trying to appear to have it all together. Don’t act like you’ve got everything under control if you don’t. Briefly acknowledge struggles you, too, have had. Now, this isn’t the time to make the conversation all about you and your challenges, but it is time to be human, to acknowledge that it’s been a hard year for all of us and to show that you’re not only giving employees some slack for a difficult year, you’re giving yourself some, too.

Trying to sound too strong, too put-together or too on top of things makes you seem unapproachable and intimidating — and likely you’ll appear to be lacking self-awareness since folks might perceive that you don’t have it all together either. Acknowledge that.

What about performance pay and bonuses?

If expectations have been built, or promises made, that performance pay or bonuses will be tied to performance evaluations then you’ll want to stick with that or risk destroying morale. If your organization can’t afford the same levels of bonus as years past, then be open and honest about that as soon as possible – but keep some level of bonus tied to performance.

In most cases, financial compensation matters far less to employee satisfaction than do other things like – feeling supported, feeling appreciated, seeing their role in the organization’s success and feeling like they’re contributing, being part of a team and having a boss who understands them. So, why do we encourage you to continue with some sort of bonus? Trust.

Looking back at the 2008 recession, we are able to see now that the companies that opted to cut the bonus entirely (rather than reducing it but still paying something to top performers) suffered more in the long term. Turnover increased and employee satisfaction dropped.

People aren’t usually upset about the cash as much as they feel deceived by the promise of a bonus that was made or the expectation that was allowed to continue. If the organization has led people to believe performance begets bonus and has not clarified early on that this would have to change due to recent circumstances, then failing to provide something feels like a broken promise. That dissolves trust and leaves those employees feeling like they weren’t appreciated, that their contributions were taken for granted and that they were cheated.

Setting expectations for the year ahead

Now is also a great time to start building, or changing, expectations for 2021. If you are optimistic about bonuses provided certain goals are met, share that with your team. If you’re not so sure, talk to your employees: “If we aren’t able to continue paying bonuses in 2021, what would help? What would support you and show you that we care deeply about you, even if we can’t afford extra payments?”

And, of course, if your company is giving financial assistance to employees who are facing tough times, be clear that it isn’t a performance bonus – it’s assistance for all. Few things diminish motivation and pride in a job well-done more than if folks think poor performers and high performers are rewarded equally.

Before the conversation, think about how you would like to adapt your goals or competencies for 2021. For example, you might want to define what your leadership competencies look like in an uncertain year. One focus might be to shift from “Achieves sales targets” to things like:

Adaptable:

  • Identifies unique ways of creating value and encourages others to achieve the same.
  • Remains resolute and calm when faced with challenges or seemingly inadequate resources.
  • Develops strategies to reflect our changing business priorities.

Creative:

  • Rethinks processes to find customer solutions in times of change and uncertainty.

Team Management:

  • Encourages collaboration through virtual and non-virtual methods.
  • Acknowledges individual employee’s situation to accommodate corporate needs and employee needs.

The keys are to identify objectives and competencies that will aid in achieving goals but that don’t focus solely on the end goal. It’s important to articulate the reframed expectations in advance, so your leaders and staff know what’s expected and what they should be trying to achieve.

Coach’s Questions

How will you approach performance reviews this year? What changes can you make? Has how you’ll measure success changed? How will you define good performance for 2021?

Can lessons learned in 2020 improve our workplaces?

There were a lot of lessons learned in 2020.

Some people discovered something new about themselves.

Some found an inner strength and drew on their resilience.

Others acknowledged the fragility of health – both physical and mental.

Many of us have been shaken by uncertainty – our societal bonds, our economy, our income, our healthcare systems.

Some of us re-kindled old friendships at a distance and found new perspectives on relationships.

Many of us learned a new technology and “you’re on mute” became perhaps the most common phrase of 2020.

We picked up new hobbies and games, sometimes rediscovering our youthful joys.

And, of course, some folks learned they like working from home while others learned they don’t.

Whatever your journey and experience, whatever you have learned or unlearned in the crazy year of 2020, there are a few things we can think about as leaders as we prepare to tackle 2021.

A broader view of leadership in the New Year

We need a new leadership agenda that empowers teams, including teams with members who may not see each other, to continue to build trust, challenge each other and double down on their commitments to one another, as well as a leadership agenda that supports individuals’ well-being, nurtures optimism and that builds resilient workers within resilient organizations.

So, what does that mean?

Work and home balance or work-life synergy has always been a challenge but it was brought into crystal-clear focus during COVID. Some employers and some employees want to go back to pre-Covid times, which may have meant long hours at the office but a clear separation of work and home. Others want Work From Home to be the new norm in a flexible, knowledge-based economy.

I think the lesson learned is that neither is optimal and that as employers we must be more flexible than we were ever willing to be before. This means changing how we measure contributions and progress – shifting from bums in seats and long hours at the office, to teamwork, engagement and deliverables. We have to prepare for an ongoing remote workforce (it’s here now, to stay) that is less visible the way brick and mortar in-the-office team members are.

This means leaders have to make a much more concerted effort and take a much greater part of their days and weeks to mold the culture of the organization. As leaders, we have to shift from being deliberate about the deliverables and the culture grows from that, to being deliberate about the culture with the deliverables and success flowing from it.

That also means that companies and employers who have people working from home must help those folks ensure it is a home workplace that is conducive to healthy, team-driven work – that includes:

  • Finding ways for teams to be teams – using technology, schedules and innovation to connect people and meet your business goals.
  • A way to shut down and walk away at “closing time.” A way to turn off and tune out. That seemed impossible for many people before COVID and even more so now that their office is in their dining room or guest room.

Much greater focus on mental health
We know COVID has been highly virulent and has been deadly to some cohorts of the population but less so for others. There’s been a fair bit of debate about social responsibility – staying home to let others live.

What we’re starting to see now are the effects on everyone else who thinks they were somewhat immune to COVID. That includes fear and anxiety, mental fogginess as we juggle newfound uncertainties in life, a deepening of depression – folks who had occasional blues are struggling with full depression and others who have never felt a struggle with their mental health are now confused and worried, not knowing why they’re so tired, or foggy, or irritable or emotional.

And while there’s certainly been more discussion about mental health that we have seen recently, this, I hope, will be a priority topic in workplaces and elsewhere throughout 2021 and beyond. We haven’t yet fully acknowledged the damage being done to the general population’s mental health, and workplace mental health, by the changes we’ve gone through and the incredible, ongoing, uncertainty we all face.

At Padraig, we coach mid-level and senior level leaders in the private sector and public sector – arguably some of the most privileged, successful, protected people in our society – and we are hearing, constantly, from them the strains on their mental health and those of their loved ones, their peers and their staff.

Where our conversations before may have focused on how to help that one employee who isn’t making the grade, they’re now focused on how to help all their employees get through the day – particularly when, as leaders, they can’t see those folks. Where our conversations before may have focused on deliverables and goals and finances, we now spend a fair bit of time talking about their own fragility, their fears and uncertainty.

The importance of slowing down
The response we used to hear most often to, “How are you?” was, “Busy.” Now, it’s, “Getting by, considering.” Many of us have let go of “busy” as a source of pride, or martyrdom, and started focusing on what we need to do to get by. Thankfully, we’re starting to focus on what is bringing us joy or comfort right now, not what is making us busy.

In the office, keep the focus on being productive, not busy. We’ve said it before: You can be very busy and not accomplish much. Productive means that you’ve made progress toward the goals that you’ve set. (And as strange as 2020 has been, a new approach to goal setting is still important as we head into 2021.)

Communicate frequently
Good communication is integral to leadership, but never more so than when you’re managing remote teams or a combination of remote and on-site teams. Leading a team through uncertain times also requires more communication, not less.

As leaders, we’re not going to have all the answers with so many uncertainties. We can share what we know, take concerns higher or search for answers and strategize with our teams to change as required. We need to keep asking what our team members need and how they’re doing.

Don’t abandon your core mission in a crisis – double down on it
If you were out at sea in a storm, even if you were handling water on deck or damage to the vessel, an overarching goal would be to keep the ship on course. If you lose your direction, all could be lost. Strong leaders recognize the power of vision, mission and values during troubled times.

As a leader, your core mission will be both creating a personal vision and creating – or embracing – your corporate mission. These are powerful tools, which you can use to provide focus and direction as you adapt and navigate your way through short- and long-term decisions. Why do you do what you do? How do you want to be? How do you want to show up as a leader? How can you adjust your business without losing sight of your mission?

Patrick and other experts were interviewed by Richard Cloutier of CJOB for his year-end program. Click here to listen.

Coach’s Questions

What were your biggest lessons learned in 2020? How is your leadership different heading into 2021 than it was going into 2020? What is your vision and mission for 2021?

 

 

 

Goal setting 2021: Where do I start?

Usually at the end of the calendar year, we reflect on our successes and challenges and then set goals for the New Year.

After the year we’ve just had, many folks are finding it hard to even consider goal setting for 2021. I don’t know anyone who predicted a global pandemic when goal setting this time last year.

I appreciate the honesty of people who have shared their feelings about leaving 2020 and trying to reconcile setting goals when they’re feeling, well, pessimistic. I’m hearing things that, frankly, resonated with me and others on my team. Things such as:

Is it even worth my time setting goals for 2021 with all the continued uncertainty?

How do I begin setting goals when we can’t predict what’s next?

What do I do with the goals from last year that didn’t happen?

If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2020, it’s that being able to shift our perspectives during challenging times is key.

Yes, it’s been a very difficult year in many ways. But what’s been positive?

We’ve seen leaders adapt and change, shifting teams to working remotely or business operations to online systems. There have been plenty of people who have innovated, organized and rallied. Artists, musicians and actors shared their talent to buoy the spirits of people around the globe.

That got me thinking. During lockdown last spring, one of our blogs that really struck a chord with readers examined what does being productive mean during a pandemic. Many people were feeling pressure to be productive, to accomplish big things and do something more or different or significant and we theorized that perhaps productivity wasn’t actually the right measure.

It’s still important to set goals. It helps us to focus, work towards what matters to us and to prioritize.

But what if goal setting for 2021 isn’t about the typical personal bests and professional successes? Perhaps those aren’t the right sort of goals for heading from a year filled with uncertainty into another year that could be just as unpredictable.

  • What if, instead, our goals are about things like:
  • How we see the world
  • How we live life
  • How we show up to ourselves and others

These are things that matter and can be life-changing, whether Covid-19 is becoming a memory or we’re still in a crisis partway through 2021.

Maybe, just maybe, we as leaders and our team members will benefit from goal setting that gives us a positive mindset.

Psychologist and New York Times best-selling author Shawn Achor has done extensive research on mindset and is considered one of the leading experts on positive psychology for corporate education programs. He’s worked with over a third of the Fortune 100 companies and is highly sought-after as a speaker by organizations around the world.

In his TED talk (one of my favourites), Shawn says: “It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, it’s the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

He explains that while many of us believe that if we work harder, we’ll be successful and then we’ll be happy, science shows the opposite is true. The human brain actually works better and we achieve greater success when we’re feeling positive or happy.

Why? The feel-good hormone dopamine that our bodies release when we’re feeling positive doesn’t just make us feel happy. It’s a neurotransmitter that activates the learning centres of the brain. Positivity makes us work harder, smarter and faster.

It’s true: Scientific research confirms there is a happiness advantage. Our brains perform much better — 35% better for those of you who like stats — when positive than when negative, neutral or stressed.

When the brain’s level of positivity is high, we:

  • Are more productive, creative and resilient
  • Have more energy
  • See intelligence rise and accuracy improve

When an organization or team of people improve their positivity, business outcomes that improve include:

  • Employee retention rates (less turnover)
  • Lower burnout rates
  • Improved sales
  • Higher productivity

And the good news is — you can learn to be positive even if you’re feeling pretty pessimistic.

So if goal-setting for 2021 that improves your mindset appeals to you, there are a few things you can do to train your brain to be more positive. These include:

Cultivating gratitude: It might seem difficult or maybe even impossible, but we can develop an attitude of gratitude even when facing uncertainty. Jotting down three new things you’re grateful for each day for 21 days in a row will rewire your brain. Taking just a couple of minutes daily will teach your brain to search for positives before negatives. The result? A more optimistic and happy mindset, which is more successful. And they don’t need to be BIG things — just 3 things you are grateful for.

Keep a gratitude journal: Writing lets us work through things, clarify our thoughts and learn. We’ve said for years that journaling is an important leadership habit. Consciously writing about one of your three positive things lets your brain relive the experience (cue the dopamine!). So jot down your three things and then write a bit about one of them. Why are you grateful for it or them?

Pay it forward: Give other people something positive to think about! Be intentionally kind when you can. This could be acknowledging someone’s hard work, expressing gratitude with a thank you note or treating someone to a meal. Put positivity out into your circles at home, work and community and you’ll reap what you sow.

Make time for mindfulness: Regular readers may remember when we blogged about the benefits of being mindful amid all the busy demands of life. Our brains benefit from rest and meditation; that’s scientifically proven. Try meditating to reduce stress and improve your focus. That link to our mindfulness blog includes a lot of tips and suggestions to help you start.

Get moving: Exercising improves your mood and reduces anxiety. Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to boost your happiness advantage. Start small — maybe a walk around the block to start the day.

Coach’s Questions:

How have your thoughts about goal setting for 2021 shifted? What can you do today to ensure your brain is positive and not negative, neutral or stressed? What goals make you feel more optimistic about 2021? Who else would benefit from this?