How to Boost Effectiveness and Influence

An executive coaching client reported, “I realize that I am closed to some people and situations, and I am beginning to see how this may be limiting my effectiveness and influence.”

I celebrated this insight that marked a profound turning point on his transformative journey that ultimately made a difference for him, his family, and his organization.

He heard me say that taking an Open Stance is a critical skill that:
– Supports our inner development and growth so that we can be the best version of ourselves with more meaning and fulfillment
– Enables positive and productive relationships
– Allows us to manage stress and be more confident in uncertainty, and influence our environment and communities
– Shifting toward an Open Stance fosters greater awareness, adaptability, and effectiveness.

He asked me if I believed he could actually be open more often. In fact, it is a physiological imperative that we protect ourselves and survive. We naturally shift from open to closed when we perceive potential risk or danger. This is a natural built-in process. We need to respect our natural propensity. Often we close without conscious awareness. Our autonomic system shifts into a sympathetic state in the face of danger and we experience contraction and close with a fight or flight reaction.

While this mechanism serves us, we often close or contract when there is no real danger. We can learn to be aware of bodily cues when contracting, reacting, or closing. With this awareness, we can assess whether we are safe enough. When we are unsafe, our body reacts, and energy is diverted from maintenance functions to enable us to fight, flee, or close down in a frozen state.

Many of us have built the habit of staying in a revved-up state of stress, and we are quick to react. Mammals in the wild react when a predator is nearby. When the danger recedes, they shake off the stress and return to a calmer, open state. Some of us have forgotten how to return more often and quickly to what I call an Open Stance; others have called it the tend and befriend and parasympathetic state.

When we learn how to notice our somatic cues, we can more consciously assess our situations and shift into an Open Stance. With intention, we can be more aware of the felt sense of being open and engage in simple practices that support us in being available. We can become more aware of how it serves us and others in our interactions when we are present and open to what is emerging and possible.

I told my client that it is quite natural for us to close, and we need to respect our systems and that of others since our bodies are doing what they learned to keep us safe. At the same time, with curiosity, we can explore and experiment and learn new ways of being with ourselves, others, and our worlds.

As my client embraced the journey towards the Open Stance, he was less reactive and more responsive in his interactions. By becoming attuned to his internal cues, he navigated challenges with greater ease, leading to a newfound sense of adaptability and effectiveness. As he cultivated an Open Stance, others noticed the positive shift, describing him as a much more impactful and influential leader.

By nurturing curiosity and exploring new ways of being, we open ourselves to a world of possibilities, creating a ripple effect of positive change in our interactions and leadership. May you embark on this journey of discovery, embracing the Open Stance to unlock your true potential and impact those around you.

Are You Optimistic About What Is Unfolding?

A colleague was upset that her partner did not want to sell their place and move into a different community. “How can he not see the benefits of moving? It is so frustrating!” She was pessimistic about the future, which strained their relationship. However, she tried to be open to what may unfold. A short while later, she was brimming with excitement. “I am so excited and so glad we didn’t sell.” She joined a house-sharing program. Since she lives near a university, a family quickly booked her home for the trips to drop their son off at college and the related visits, likely for the next few years. In return, my colleague will be visiting Italy for the house exchange. The transaction was very cost-effective and the prospect of international travel is a joy.

We all know that life is filled with uncertainties and unexpected turns. I have spent a lot of time and energy in my life trying to gain a sense of control. I worked hard and experienced stress.

Adopting an optimistic view of what is unfolding has been a game-changer for me. I have come to appreciate the ebb and flow of life and that things are constantly changing. Cultivating this Open Stance posture has helped me to be more in the present moment and experience more joy.

We have a negative confirmation bias and an instinct to survive that has us wired to look for what is harmful and what could go wrong. Now, I reframe setbacks and difficulties as opportunities for learning and growth. I look for what is possible.

Reflecting on the challenges in my younger years, I can now see benefits. For example, I had to work from an early age to pay for college without any support. The work experience built my confidence, and I learned to be a manager and leader early. I learned to trust my ability to overcome obstacles. Opportunities emerged for me.

Look for examples of how resilient you were in the face of challenges and setbacks. Use these examples to remind you of your courage and how life can unfold. Be kind and self-compassionate. Challenges are a part of living. Look for the opportunities and what is possible. Allow yourself to be hopeful and resilient.

Emotions are contagious, and we need more people to focus on hope and what is possible during this time in our world.

What Brings You Energy?

What brings you energy, and what depletes your energy? This is a question I ask my coaching clients and one I have pondered myself.

We each have a signature set of values of what is important to us and what lights us up. Interestingly, these things are so much a part of how we live that we are often unaware of what is most important to us.

Also, we often adopt values and ways of being that become worn-out clothes that no longer fit us. It is beneficial to reflect on what is most important to us during times of transition–partnering, building a family, changing roles, retirement, etc. And who isn’t experiencing a transition these days?

When we know and honor what is most important to us, we experience more meaning and joy. For example, vitality and energy are essential to me. I allow time in my day for exercise. It’s a great way to start my day. I was well aware of this value.

One day a friend told me, “You like to create things.” I had not consciously labeled this value. When I agreed that creating is important to me, I reflected that I feel most alive when I am developing a course for leaders and synthesizing ideas that will be useful and make a difference for people. I ensure I am working on a creative project that will be valuable to others.

When we do what is most important, we experience a sense of meaning, aliveness, and JOYBeing.

Notice what gives you energy and joy as well as what does not. You can ask friends and colleagues what they notice too. Commit to doing more of what is important to you and brings you energy, and see how you naturally influence others in the process.

Magnifying Strengths: Embracing the Power of an Open Stance

Cultivating an Open Stance is about being open to ourselves, others, and our environment. With a sense of compassion, curiosity, and acceptance of “what is,” we unlock the gateway to joy, meaningful connections, and a world of possibilities. 

We have a natural confirmation bias that predisposes us to detect danger and dwell on negative aspects. In our interactions with others, it is easy to notice what we perceive as flaws or negative attributes. For example, we may notice someone’s lack of politeness, and label them as self-centered or focus on their pessimism.    

However, we can consciously develop the habit of looking for strengths and positive attributes in others. Everyone has natural strengths, unique talents, and valuable qualities. Regardless of how different they may be from us, we can appreciate the generosity, kindness, vision, and curiosity that exists within them. 

In her book, Leading hArtfully: The Art of Leading Through Your Heart to Discover the Best in Others, Diane Rogers suggests that we consciously magnify another’s essence. Can you imagine the positivity and profound impact that can be generated when we recognize and appreciate the strengths of those around us? We are creating a culture of positivity and empowerment.  

We all benefit from hearing about our gifts. Too many of us have been conditioned to feel “not good enough.” And too many of us hear about and focus on the areas we need to develop. By doing a simple practice of valuing the strengths of others, we can collectively shift toward a more uplifting and encouraging narrative.

Take a moment to look for others’ strengths, value them, and offer appreciation to them for these qualities. Try an experiment and look for the gifts in others and notice the impact on them and you. For example, you could say to a friend, colleague, or acquaintance, “I appreciate your dedication to volunteering, your positive perspective, or your kind smile.”

Observe the ripple effects of this simple act of appreciation on both them and yourself. A simple Open Stance moment of validation can sow the seeds of joy and possibilities. 

I welcome hearing about your experience and what you notice.  


Finding Focus: How to Reduce Multitasking for Enhanced Productivity and Wellbeing

If you are like me, you may feel like you are juggling multiple responsibilities and find yourself multitasking. I have always aimed to get a lot done and seem to keep adding more things to do!

You may have heard that multitasking can have a negative impact on productivity, focus, and overall sense of well-being. Our brains were not designed to handle multiple complex tasks at one time. Sure, we can be folding clothes and listening to a podcast. However, when we are trying to write an email and respond to others simultaneously, our concentration and quality of output are reduced.   

The first thing we need to do is appreciate the negative consequences of multitasking–reduced concentration, divided attention, and decreased quality of output. 

Then we can focus on prioritizing and allocating our time, energy and attention to what is most important. In fact, if we put some things aside and focus on one thing, we are more likely to experience a state of flow where new ideas emerge with ease.  

Reducing distractions such as notifications, multiple apps, and open windows supports focusing.   

My clients and I have found it useful to block times on our schedules for tasks that involve reflection and focus. When we honor these times for a single project, such as writing an email, blog, or book, we are likely to experience progress.

I have found that focusing on being present and taking moments to breathe, and being mindful support my ability to focus. Writing a list of all the things I have to do, as well as journaling to empty my mind before a project, helps with concentration. 

Researchers suggest that we take a break at least every 90 minutes or an hour. Set a timer and allow yourself to walk a bit, stretch, breathe, do something fun and hydrate. Notice your renewed energy for focus.  

Experiment with being intentional in choosing to focus and immerse yourself in a single task, especially that which is most important to you. Also, notice the impact of giving full attention to a family member or colleague, by simply being present and listening. It could really make a difference in your relationships.  

Let me know what you notice, and I wish you the best with this!

Are You Leveraging Your Strengths?

If you are like me, you may tend to focus on areas for your development. When I coach leaders, they often focus on their weaknesses, such as the need to enhance the ways they interact and improve their strategic and leadership skills. Of course, focusing on building new skills is helpful, and we can all grow and learn.

However, it is also worthwhile to notice and appreciate our strengths and leverage them. Focusing on our strengths can make us more confident and motivated, and support us in applying our natural skills for results.

For example, a client of mine excels in building and fostering relationships. It is natural for her to attract clients and hone in on their needs. With a greater appreciation of her strengths, she was able to apply the skills to build relationships and grow her network with her colleagues within her organization.

It seems obvious in hindsight, but she had not recognized the need to use her natural skills inside her organization. She is not the only one. I have coached many leaders who are excellent at building external relationships and fail to see the benefit of applying the same gifts internally. It took a bit of focus and awareness, and she was able to capitalize on her natural strengths to build solid relationships with peers and others in the organization. This was not only relatively easy, once she became aware and focused, it also significantly enhanced her career progression.

Another leader was skilled at leading meetings and being spontaneous with teams of people. He felt he could not formally present. However, when he realized his coaching-like approach could be a great way to share information and that he did not have to be a “motivational speaker,” he relaxed and excelled at communicating with groups of people. He was perceived as authentic and believable and a great leader.

An excellent way to become aware of our strengths is to pay attention to what we most enjoy and what seems easy. It is also helpful to ask for feedback from others. A possible exercise is for team members to share what they perceive to be each other’s strengths. Funny, how it is often hiding right in sight.

What strengths are you taking for granted? How can you leverage them?

Are There Really Advantanges of Being Open These Days?

It seems counterintuitive; why would we want to be open amid so much polarization and uncertainty?

When we are aware and manage our reactions and shift to being open, we build the mental muscle that enables us to manage stress and be more confident amid uncertainty. We learn to be a better version of ourselves with more meaning and fulfillment. Finally, we are better positioned to influence others and build stronger relationships and engagement.

Coaches, leaders, and change agents need to learn and adopt an Open Stance amid differences and uncertainty. It enhances their leadership effectiveness, decision-making ability, adaptability, collaboration, and personal growth. Taking an Open Stance enables leaders to create inclusive environments, leverage diverse perspectives, navigate complexity, and seize opportunities for growth and innovation.

If more of us developed the Open Stance perspective, we would be better positioned to make a difference during this time in the world collectively.

Are You too Busy?

I have often said, “I don’t have enough time. How can I get everything done.” “If only I had more time.” I hear the same comments from the leaders I work with. Do you feel too busy?

Research by Cassie Holmes, author of Happier Hour, shows that many of us experience a sense of time poverty. Many of my clients fantasize about creating more space, and some talk about changing jobs or retiring. However, even those who have left the workforce often complain that they are too busy and stressed.

The research shows that those with too little time and those with too much discretionary time are the least happy. Those who seem most satisfied are engaged in fulfilling activities while experiencing a sense of being.

What does “being” look like for me? I notice that when I am “being present” with coaching clients and my classes, and when with others and nature, I am open and enjoying life. I experience a sense of spaciousness and trust in life. I sense I am growing and learning. When I try to do too much and focus on all I have to do, I notice a tightness in my body and a sense of constriction. I am often holding my breath.

I aim to stay connected to being as I engage in meaningful doing. I have had to examine old patterns that keep me saying yes to things and an old belief that I will have a sense of being “good” the more I do. We all have old beliefs that take some examination to experience a release and create a new decision about how we want to live. We learn and grow as an acorn naturally grows into an oak tree. Research shows that we actually experience joy from our journey rather than when we achieve a goal. Too often, we just set another goal on the hedonic treadmill.

I am working on paying attention and noticing when I am open and being and noticing when I am overdoing. I then work to examine my choices. I continually check in and choose an Open Stance. Of course, this is a work in progress. I sense that when I am being, I am in the flow of life. I am more relaxed and experience life with an open heart and mind, and I am enjoying the moments. This kind of being is well worth the focus, and I experience joy and aliveness. I remind myself of the joy in being and reiterate my intention for JOYBeing–experiencing joy in being.

How do you relate and manage the relationship between “being” and “doing”?

A Simple Hack to Change How You Experience Your Day

We underestimate how important our mindset is. Some of us naturally see the glass as half full and others as half empty. Some of our perspectives were inherited from our early experiences with caregivers and our life experiences. So often, we are unaware of this context and how it shapes us.

With awareness, we can notice what we are saying to ourselves and build new patterns. We are learning that neuroplasticity allows us to create new pathways in the brain literally. A study conducted at the Harvard Medical School showed brain scans of pianists as they played the piano. Later the musicians were asked to imagine playing the piano. The identical part of the brain became active. When we rehearse, neural pathways are enhanced, and new habits are formed. The good news is that we can become aware and shift our mindsets.

A simple experiment I have been trying is to reframe. I used to say to myself, “I need to do the chores. I need to get work done. I need to…” I am shifting to saying, “I get to … make a meal for my daughter, I get to walk, I get to pay my taxes.” I am grateful that I am healthy enough to walk, cook and work. It’s a simple shift. We know things are constantly changing. How can we enjoy this phase of our life, and what we can do at this time?

Try this simple experiment, and let me know how it works for you.

What is the Top Skills Gap in the United States?

When I was a child, I was dumbfounded that my parents seemed to see the world so differently and seemed to miss each other when communicating. I wondered how they could perceive things so uniquely and then fail to communicate. How can people work together and make things happen when they experience things so differently?  

This became a life question for me. I saw the same kinds of misunderstandings and lack of effective communication in schools and the workplace. It’s what led me to study Organization Psychology, become a coach, and develop the OASIS Conversations process. I believed that since conversation skills are so essential, they must be learnable. 

Former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner says, “As businesses increasingly rely on cross-company collaboration, they’re emphasizing interpersonal communications more heavily. Unfortunately, this is a job skill many employees are lacking.”

LinkedIn analyzed skills shortages based on data from member profiles and job postings across 100 major U.S. cities. LinkedIn found the top skills gap across the United States is communications. Given my experience working globally, I suspect this gap is widespread.  

I am confident that communication skills are learnable and can be enhanced at any stage of life or in any role. Engaging in positive and productive conversations is one of the most critical skills for leaders, managers, coaches, change agents, and people who want thriving relationships and results.  

One of my clients told me that all the leaders in her large organization had learned the OASIS Conversations process. She sees tangible results and better relationships, and it is changing the culture.