Prioritizing Is A Priority!

 Prioritizing is a Priority! Tips to improve your personal productivity by Dominique Mas

When September 2017 came along, I woke up each day feeling free. So free! I no longer had to be up at 5.45am to get ready and at school by 7.30am! Some might say I felt very smug about it as I opened my eyes at 7am and thought of my ex-colleagues who were already on their way to work. Not nice, I know! 

Oh, the bliss of waking up and walking the dog with my boyfriend, going to a yoga class or practicing at home by myself and then having breakfast before leisurely starting work… Oh, let’s see, what do I feel like doing today? Yes, I’ll work on the website. That sounds good! For the first time in my life, my time was not regimented by the school bell.

Lead With A Twist started to take off and everything was perfect! Except... Slowly, very surreptitiously, tasks started to sneak into my to-do list. The list started to grow and the tasks to pile up. My inbox was busier, I had to complete paperwork… and before I knew it I started to feel overwhelmed. I was running around, did not take time to meet friends… How could I? I had to build a website, find clients, create workshops, deliver workshops, arrange coaching calls, go to networking events, create content, social media posts… Were those tasks breeding new tasks? The list grew into a monster and I started to crumble. 

Where was the life I had sought when I left my job to work for myself? I soon realized I was making the wrong decisions to take control of my time. While I still don’t think that we can have “work/life balance”, I do think that we can prioritize and make compromises that will keep us happy. In “How Remarkable Women Lead”, Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston tell us to “let go of the notion that you can reach a steady state where you’re in total control. Replace it with managing your actual energy flows - within a personal framework of what is important to you.”

I reflected: “A personal framework of what was important to me. Ok! I can do that!”

I thought hard about my priorities. I had to reframe my thinking and reassess what I wanted my life to be. I asked myself deep questions and took the time to consider each one with care: 

         * What gives my life meaning? How can I include more of those areas into what I do? 

         * What are my core values (See previous blogpost on this here!) and how can I make sure they are            a part of my every day life? 

         * What is MY definition of “balance”? What elements constitute a balanced life FOR ME? 

         * When I say YES to something, what am I saying NO to?

My next step was to consider where I wanted to be. 

        * What do I see as my ideal day or week? 

        * What is the goal for this reassessment? 

Once I had answered all these questions, it became evident that starting my day with yoga, walking the dog with my boyfriend and generally feeling at peace and calm were non-negotiable. Feeling at peace and calm. I left a high paying safe job with health insurance because I blamed it for stress, tiredness and feeling at odds with my values. Was I really going to let myself do this to myself now? NO! The answer was NO! 

It was time to put in place all that my training and readings had taught me. I started to prioritize by making prioritizing a priority! I know that the idea is not to manage time, but rather, to manage attention and energy, i.e. what I choose to focus on and when.

I worked out that for me, the best time to prioritize would be first thing in the morning, at the start of my work day and after breakfast when my brain can perform at its peak. I now spend about 20-30 minutes on Monday mornings prioritizing for the whole week! Here is my process, it might help you create your own! 

  • I have a Pages document that lists all the tasks I have to do. When a new tasks appears in my mind or from an email, I add it to the document without considering it! I just add it there with the level of difficulty I attribute to it. E.g. Today, I got an email with deadlines to abide to for a workshop I am leading in June. I simply added the list of deadlines to my big list of tasks and attributed a difficulty level 1 to 3 to each deadline. 

 

  • On Monday morning, I print blank daily calendars with timing and label them with each day of the week. 

 

  • I add all the obligations I have for each day: e.g. my coaching calls, meetings etc. That gives me a very clear picture of the time I have free each day. 

 

  • According to this and to the urgency of the tasks on my list, I start to fill the time - making sure I have breaks! If I have just a half hour - then I write “Tasks 1”. If I have at least one hour, I usually look at a Task 2 and if I have 2 hours or more, then I’m onto a Task 3. (see example tasks for me below!). I do this in PENCIL! 

 

  • I know that I work better on tasks 3 in the morning so as much as I can, I schedule those early. 

 

  • Once my rough schedule is ready, I do my best to stick to it and I review it every morning for 5 minutes to see if something else has come up that is more urgent or that I no longer need to do. (Remember - PENCIL! Plus, it means more beautiful stationary and who doesn’t want that?!) 

Things always come up, and I don’t always manage to stick to the plan. So… what happens then? 

Remember those big questions I asked myself before I started to use this process? That’s when they come in. What is important to me? What gives my life meaning? Being at peace and calm is one of my values and so, if something didn’t get done… well, it will get done! I don’t panic about it. It clearly wasn’t as high on my priority list as I thought it was! In fact, I often wonder if it should be on the list at all! I figure that the worst thing I can do is to spend energy being annoyed with myself! Instead, I breathe, let it go and decide when I can do it. I take a look at the schedule, move things around and that’s it, done! 

 

Let go of the notion that you can reach a steady state where you’re in total control. Replace it with managing your actual energy flows - within a personal framework of what is important to you.

A clear example is my posts on social media. I started thinking that I had to post every single day as if my life depended on it! Soon, I realized that while posting on social media is important for my business, it is not a huge priority and if miss a day... well... I miss a day! Life goes on and I don't need to beat myself up for it.

Am I 100% calm and at peace all the time? Of course not! Who is? Have I found a way to stay at peace and calm most of the time? YES! I know that I deliver the best possible experience to my clients when I am at peace and calm. I also know that prioritizing each each day makes me certain that I have accomplished all that needs to be accomplished. Everything else is a bonus! I hope that you can find what works for you and see prioritizing as a task in itself!

 

READY TO PRIORITIZE? HERE ARE SOME POINTS TO CONSIDER: 

1. Did you know that prioritizing is a task that demands a high level of energy? That’s right. Our brain is energy hungry and if you think about it, prioritizing is pretty complex. You have to categorize, make decisions, structure, look at the big picture, break things down, remember… all at the same time! That’s a lot! What this tells us is that you need a lot of brain resources to do this - choose a time when you are at your peak! 

2. What is the level of difficulty of each task you have to do? E.g. Filing mindlessly requires less energy than creating something new does! Can you categorize your tasks into levels of difficulty?

3. When do have the most energy? This varies for everyone so you might want to observe your days and make a note of when you feel in “flow”. Consider when you do your best work without interruptions. Make sure you plan those level 3 tasks at those times. 

4. Our conscious brain can only hold a very limited amount of information at any one time: use pen and paper or anything that will help you put things down - not having to remember things will help to preserve brain resources.

5. SLEEP! According to Dr. Jessica Payne “If you’re not getting enough sleep before work, research shows you might as well be working drunk.” While that may sound like fun to some, it’s definitely not productive! 

6. I’m sure you’ve heard it by now! Multitasking is not a thing! This piece of advice from Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT says it all: “Don’t try to multitask. It ruins productivity, causes mistakes, and impedes creative thought.”. 

Finally, here are some examples of my tasks 1, 2, 3. 

Tasks 1: Automatic tasks I can do without thinking.

  • Creating an event on Eventbrite if I have all the write ups and pictures. It’s just a question of uploading. 
  • Adding a detail on my website 
  • Creating a Groupon for one of my offerings - this takes time but I already have all the info, not much thinking is required.

Tasks 2: Tasks that require a little more effort

  • Responding to a client email: this takes some thought. 
  • Reading an article and making notes - this also requires some energy and resources.
  • Creating a write up for an event.

Tasks 3: Creating something new I have never done before.

  • Writing a new blogpost 
  • Planning for my e-book. 
  • Designing a new workshop 

Happy Prioritizing!

What Is Confidence and How Can Women Cultivate It?

 Dominique Mas: What is Confidence and How Can Women Cultivate It? 

Here are 10 badass women's tips and my take on this C word! 

Every time I talk to a badass woman, no matter her age, her position in life, her job... she mentions the C word as a hurdle to overcome. I wanted to dig a little deeper and learn what makes women feel confident as well as what research has to say about confidence. 

I found that there are plenty of tricks and tips we use to make ourselves feel more confident on the moment and those are all excellent boosters! However, from research, I also found that real, deep and lasting confidence can only be achieved in certain areas: those we practice, pay attention to and act upon.  

Let's dig into the research

Before you ask... yes, there is a relationship between our levels of confidence and our DNA... BUT the good news is that only 25-50% (different researchers' opinions differ) of our confidence levels depend on our genes which means that we have at least 50% to work with! 

There are plenty of reasons why women seem to feel less confident than men (e.g. the tendency to dwell on failures, not owning our achievements and attributing them to luck, impostor syndrome etc.) but for this post, I want to focus on solutions. 

Here is what Katty Kay and Claire Shipman (Authors of The Confidence Code) offer as a definition of confidence: "Confidence is the stuff that turns thought into action". Basically, what this means is that if we think we can succeed, we move into action but if we are not 100% sure, we might procrastinate, or simply default to inaction. Does this sound familiar? It sure did sound it to me! It's all about our assessment of our capability. 

The thing is, if we don't "DO", we can't get better... so the answer is, start doing! Here is a quick summary of what The Confidence Code advises us to do:

 
#1 Everything happens so fast these days that you can't wait for perfection: try things out, fail, learn, try again! You will gain confidence as you will acquire experience and knowledge.
#2 Bye bye comfort zone! Get out of it, do something, put yourself out there! It's tough, feels awkward, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Risk is what keeps you growing and learning. And if you fail...  learn and try again, remember #1! 
#3 Overthinking drains our confidence. We all do it and we all need to stop doing it! Consider how you can rewire instead of thinking harder about the same thing. Identify 3 of your proudest achievements, write them down and remind yourself of them EVERY DAY and especially when you need a boost.
#4 Redirect the attention. We've all heard it, women are communal and think of the whole, right? So, we can use this to your advantage! How will others benefit from what you are doing? You are an awesome lady, if not for yourself, do it for the world. It needs you. 
#5 Practice. Practice. Oh and practice. Did I mention practice? Be willing to learn and to put in the time. All great masters didn't spend their time worrying about whether they were doing things right or not, instead, they spent their time practicing until they felt ready. In case you missed it - PRACTICE! 
#6 Stand up, speak up and power up! This does not mean you should be rude or speak out of turn but when it is your turn, assert your confidence, take up space and make sure your chin is parallel to the floor! (Try it now!) 
 

If all else fails, listen to this awesome confidence playlist, contributed by Gina Mariko of Make It Mariko

But seriously, as I talk to more and more women about confidence and the moments they felt it the most, everything comes back to preparedness, knowing their stuff, and putting themselves out there, in any order. I loved reading all the responses I received and you'll see the correlations between all the badass ladies say and what the research shows! We're onto something! 

And for quick boosters and tips from a lot of lovely ladies , check out the end of the post! 

“Confidence is the stuff that turns thought into action”
— Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, Authors of the Confidence Code

 

What 10 Badass Ladies Said! 

  1. What does "confidence" mean to you?

  2. Think of a situation when you felt really powerful and confident. What 3 elements made you feel confident?

  3. What advice would you give to other women who need a confidence boost?


Jules Hannaford, Podcaster and Author of Harness Your Inner Warrior Woman

  1. Confidence is about loving yourself, owning your story and being resilient and taking risks.
  2. Doing a live Hong Kong Confidential podcast at Adelaide Podcast Festival: I felt supported by friends and family. I love being creative and I am passionate about podcasting.
  3. Face your fears and you will gain courage, strength and confidence.

Aya garcia, boxer and photographer 

  1.  Having self love and believing in yourself.
  2. I had my first boxing match in 2012. It was a roller coaster of fear and bravery. I had so much support from my friends and family both in Canada and in the Philippines, my heart was bursting from all the encouragement. I was wearing the Filipino flag colours (so that brought about even more pride) and I had just trained so hard for three months coming up to that fight.
  3. It’s ok to be sad, scared or doubtful but never turn your back on the urge to ask for help, you’d be surprised about how many people out there are willing to help you.

Christina Clare, founder of the michub

  1. Confidence is belief in yourself premised on internal strength
  2. Knowledge of my skill sets, ability to think critically and commitment to empathy as a core value of my interactions.
  3. Think about the thing that makes you unique, and focus on how to make that your strength. 

Bijal Shah, marketer for www.bijals.com

  1. Knowing yourself
  2. Knowing my topic, knowing what I brought to the table, bold colorful shoes to remind myself and the audience that, 'I got this'.
  3. No matter how much you hate presenting or being the center of attention, no one knows your stuff like you do and you've gotta remember that. You are your own expert.

Sonali Nigam, Founder of Mittens: a pet wellness startup

  1. The awareness that I am enough, and while I want to be learning continually, I can do what I set my mind towards.
  2. Being well prepared. Failing multiple times and learning from each failure. Taking care of my kind body by meditating and exercising
  3. Confidence is a mindset that can be cultivated - by trying new things that terrify you, by failing and getting back up and by developing compassion for ourselves.

Karen Ingram, Creative Director

  1. A sense of security in your perspective and/or ability. 
  2. When I am encouraged by people I respect, when I am able to turn a discouraging response to me and my work into "feedback" rather than a sign that I should abandon my ideas (this relates to preparation). Sometimes that's hard to see because I get discouraged so much! Ha! Exercise makes me feel powerful. I have found that running can help me focus, which makes me confident. I started surfing a few years ago, and being able to experience the same ocean on different days gives me faith that there will always be an upturn
  3. Lady, take the feedback but don't give up.

Hannah McCauley, Creative Content Creator & Blog Writer

  1. Confidence means that you are comfortable with yourself and your decisions, and that you don't need validation from others.
  2. 1. Knowing inside and out my thoughts, opinions & WHY I had those specific ideas. 
    2. Having a lot of first-hand experience in the topic that was being discussed.
    3. In my situation, having a partner who was on the same page as I was and was there to back me up if I needed.
  3. In the moments when you are feeling a lack of confidence, remember who you are and what you have worked towards & OWN yourself, your title, and your decisions.

Jacqui Somen, Postnatal Fitness Trainer for 100and8.com

  1. I find confidence in the journey — I remind myself every day that I am awesome and that I also have a lot of work to do.
  2. I feel at my best when I am teaching. It is just an amazing feeling to be able to support other women in feeling their best too. Eating healthfully, getting enough sleep, meditating and moving in some capacity every day help me to feel good about myself on the day-to-day.
  3. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks, set the goals that feel right for you and then make them happen.

Ko Im, Content Editor for nY yoga life & Wellness Teacher

  1. Wisdom in action.
  2. The tone of my voice, how my content flowed, how strong I felt inside out, and the positive reinforcement/feedback for incremental :)
  3. You can either think about everything you’ve done, talk something over with trust circle, wear your favorite accessory whether it’s red lipstick and/or practice without the pressure of perfection.

Susannah Bailin, CEO of AdviceCoach

  1. The expectation that you can handle whatever comes next.
  2. When I gave a talk, I knew the what, why and how. I had prepared to answer any questions, I was deeply motivated by how meaningful it was to me and I was comfortable describing my strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Think about something in the past that you accomplished which was very hard. Remember how you felt before you began and how you felt when you succeeded.

I'd love to hear how you view confidence today and what your first step might be towards empowering yourself!

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And if you need some quick boosters, here are some suggestions from a bunch of lovely ladies! 

  • Watching videos with lots of swears in them. Immersing yourself in the words of confident people to emulate them!
  • Work with a coach to build confidence
  • Lipstick

  • Building confidence with people you don't know to overcome fear of judgment from those you do know

  • Exercise, sleep, and respecting your body

  • Practice until you get it right!

  • Meditation- finding the confidence from within
  • Receiving feedback 

  • Feeling good in my own body after a nice shower, a nice night sleep

  • Wearing your favorite clothes

  • Seeking awkward and frightful situations on purpose just to overcome fear

  • Preparation. Research. Risk Management. 

Leaders! Connect To Your Core Values.

 Dominique Mas: Leaders! Connect To Your Core Values

Lead Yourself to Lead Others! 

When I went to work one day in October 2017, I realized that something was off. I did not feel connected… to myself because I was no longer working towards what was important to me. It took me a while to realize that this “off” feeling, this discomfort in being out of touch was due to a disconnect between what I did and where I was and my values. 

Have you ever felt this discomfort? This disconnect? Probably! 

As the world is more and more connected, you are more and more disconnected. You rush from one place to the next, one person to the next, one screen to the next and take little time for introspection. Suddenly, you stop, burnt out, feeling stuck or overwhelmed and you realize that what you do does not reflect what you stand for. You realize how long it has been since you last checked in with yourself and ask yourself whether you are “in tune” with your values. 

I was listening to Episode 4 of the podcast “Invisibilia” (Season 3) called “The Other Real World” and this is what Betsy Levy Paluck, a psychologist at Princeton University had to say: “We like to think that all of our behaviors flow from our convictions, and what we do is a reflection of who we are and what we think. But we're constantly tuning ourselves to fit in with the social world around us, oftentimes in ways that we can't even identify.” 

So this is it! When your behaviors flow from your convictions, you are whole and as leaders, we need to feel this connection, this wholeness, to know we are leading from the heart. A study by Léo Bruno and Eduardo Lay says that values “may well be the crucial and underlying determinant of leaders’ behavior.” You are interested in reading this, values, then, are probably the crucial and underlying determinant of YOUR behavior!

Going back to different times in my life when I felt disconnected, I realize that those were the most powerful times for me to make huge changes and once I got over the awkwardness of the situation and worked out what I needed to do reconnect, I soared. Having said that, I continue to ask myself if these moments are necessary - what if I stayed connected by regularly evaluating, re-assessing and taking stock of how in tune I am? I hope to give you an update in a few months as I use the following ideas.

Make great decisions! 

Use your terminal values as a guide to your decision-making. When you are faced with a challenging decision, it always helps to link it to what drives you. Is it family? Justice? Adventure? Peace? Whatever your values are, they will allow you to make decisions based on what you believe is right, and this will give you the sense of wholeness and purpose we all long for. 

Let’s talk about purpose

How do your values relate to purpose? In the 70’s, Milton Rokeach distinguished between terminal values and instrumental values. He explains terminal values as “desirable end-states of existence; the goals that a person would like to achieve during their lifetime.”  If that’s not purpose, I don’t know what is! So as you think about your purpose, consider what your values are and how you can include them in your every day life to give it purpose. 

Stay on track!

Oh, what’s this shiny thing over here? Hey, what about that one? Hey, hey! Come back here. Is this in line with your values? Will this add to your sense of purpose? If not, stay right here please. This doesn’t mean that you stop exploring but when you are feeling overwhelmed, more exploration is not what you need. Ask yourself this simple question - right now, is this interesting or useful? If it’s the former, add it to your reading list or maybe to your “explore” folder but for now… stay connected to yourself. 

React mindfully

The word “mindful” is thrown around in so many ways these days. Literally, it means “being conscious or aware” and so, this is how I want to use it here. React in a way that shows self-awareness and ask yourself if your reaction is in line with your values. For example, when you are angry with something / someone, does this fit in with your value of “self-respect”? How can you use your values to inform your (re)actions?  I will leave this open for you to ponder… No two brains are alike and you will find the solutions that work for you! 

Lead yourself and others with integrity

According to the Center for Ethical Leadership, “an ethical leader is a person who acts with integrity”. They define ethical leadership as “knowing your core values and having the courage to act on them on behalf of the common good.” I don’t think I need to add much more to this. Integrity is one of the most valued characteristics of great leaders and in a world with so much healing to be done, you, the ethical leader are the key. Will you have the courage to act on your values on behalf of the common good? Of course you will! 

To integrate your values through the body, stand strong in mountain pose, repeat your value to yourself as you inhale and let it go as you exhale. Bring your hands overhead, and offer your value go into the world because once you know what you stand for, it’s your duty to let others know!  

If you'd like to know more, come to one of my workshops or contact me for a one-off coaching session on values! And please, make sure to let me know how you use your values to drive your behavior! 

 

Patience, You Say?!

 Dominique Mas: Patience, You Say?

PATIENCE: The ability to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset. (from my Mac dictionary)

Synonyms: forebearance, tolerance, restraint, self-restraint, stoicism.

When I asked leaders about a skill they wished they had developed earlier in their career, many responded “patience”. It prompted me to reflect on what it means to show patience as a leader and how it enhances our positive impact on others. I also thought about patience as a skill, because I have caught myself saying “I’m so impatient” or “I just don’t have the patience” so many times. But if patience is a skill, then surely, I can develop it. The question, therefore is not "Am I or am I not patient?", but rather, "What do I need to change to show patience?"

 Lead with a twist, yoga for leadership, educational leadership

What does patience mean in the context of leadership of others?

To me, it means taking the time to understand others’ perspective before reacting. It means taking the time to help others understand our perspective without getting frustrated when they don’t get it, whatever the “it” might be (how to do something or a goal the school / company is working towards etc.). Patience also means giving our team members the time they need to process information, or learn to do something differently. It means understanding that no two brains are alike.

Neuroscience shows that we all have different circuitry and it takes effort and volition to accept the implications of this statement: others cannot understand or perceive the way we understand or perceive and they cannot do the way we do. For example, as an educational leader, perhaps I want everyone to get this new way of entering grades quickly so I can move on to checking the grades. However, one teacher just gets on with it and is done in a couple of days while another keeps asking questions, making mistakes and needs a week to get used to the new program.  Patience will have me place others’ needs before mine – and take the time to ensure I support those who need a little more time instead of getting frustrated with them.

Patience means redirecting our negative emotions such as frustration or anger in order to act from a place of non-violence, support and kindness. It means allowing others to tackle situations and tasks in their own ways and at their own speed without letting our expectations overtake our reactions.

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What are the positive effects of a leader’s patience? 

It is key to understand that our brain is constantly scanning for danger, a trait inherited from our past and still present in all of us. This tells us that we need constant reassurance and all the positive feedback a leader can give us. We need the help of a leader’s positivity and patience to work from a “toward” state, one in which we are not feeling threatened. Our patience will help build trust and certainty for our team members. By being supportive, listening, taking and giving time and using failure not as a reason to punish but as a start for growth, we are creating a safe environment for our teams. One in which they can thrive without having to constantly scan for threats.

A leader’s patience therefore, is a trampoline to productivity! By creating a supportive, caring and open workplace, we are allowing our team members to be creative and open to change. By letting people know our belief that mistakes contribute to growth, we are demonstrating trust instead of triggering a threat response and we are giving our team members autonomy. All of those: trust, support, autonomy are key factors with a tremendous impact on work place morale and therefore on productivity.

Now, that is not to say that we never get frustrated or annoyed. We are human! However, how we choose to handle these emotions is what counts. Patience asks that we redirect those emotions to act from a place of understanding and what yogic philosophy calls “ahimsa”, non-violence.

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So… if patience is a skill, how can I develop it?

Have you heard of “veto power”? Summed up briefly, here is what happens: our brain generates a signal to take an action 0.5 second before we take the action. At 0.2 second, we become aware of the urge to act. At 0 second, we act. (David Rock – Coaching with the Brain in Mind). This means that we have 0.2 second to decide NOT to take the action! That’s right! We have a choice: I give you “veto power”!

And of course, the more we veto our actions, the easier it becomes to do so.

Now, what does this all have to do with patience? Here are some ideas: next time you are about to let someone know you are frustrated with them on the moment, use your veto power and take a deep breath instead.  Next time you want to throw your arms up in the air because someone did the wrong thing… again! Use your veto power and take a deep breath.

When we use our veto power, we are creating new circuitry in our brains, showing it that one way to react is better than the old way and as I mentioned, the more you use it, the easier it gets. The more you take a deep breath consciously, the more patience you are gaining and the easier it becomes to be... well... patient.

Of course, this does not mean we are not dealing with the situation or that we accept everything that comes up. What it does mean is that this gives us the time to reflect and decide how to deal with the situation with kindness. And perhaps, kindness means having a challenging conversation or asking someone to redo something but it means doing so from a place of non-violence, of ahimsa. It means we are willing to work with this person to help them through and give them a chance to be in the right frame of mind when they are receiving the challenging information.

In conclusion, to me, patience in leadership of others means being able to take a step back to have the best possible impact on others by leading ourselves to avoid impulsive reactions. What does it mean to you?

Lead With A Twist, Lead Yourself To Lead Others!

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New Year, New Ways to Listen! Part 3: Listening To Ourselves

Part 3: Listening To Ourselves

Listening is such an important skill in leadership of the self and others: we have to listen at so many different levels. We constantly have to make sure we are listening to individuals, but we also must keep our ear on the ground, ensuring that we know what the mood is in our department, organization, team, group of friends... Finally, we constantly have to listen to ourselves, ensuring we are still in tune with our core values, that we are not bring too self-absorbed, or that our energy is going in the right direction.

 Dominique Mas: New Ways to Listen! Part 3: Listening To Ourselves

Image: Enlumin'art

Here is part 3 of the series! Daniel Goleman talks about leaders who are "attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their job performance. They integrate their guiding values into their work. They can deduce the best course of action. They see the big picture and they’re genuine.” Click here to read the full post.

These are the leaders who listen to themselves and will be able to remain calm and stable for others. These leaders offer consistency as well as a reliable and safe source of guidance. The question is, when you have a million things to do, emails to read, people to support, how do you stay attuned? How do you listen to yourself?

Fortunately, there are ways and they are simple. They do require us to make a conscious effort to be in sync with our body and mind, and the effort is more than worth it! Here are some ideas that have proved successful for me. If you have other ideas, please add them in the comments, the more ideas, the merrier!

1)   Connect or reconnect to your own core values. Can you identify them? If you were to tell us now what your core values are, what would you say? When you take stock at the end of the day, or the week, have you acted with your values in mind? Do you feel that you made the "right" decisions, according to what you believe is the ethical, appropriate course of action for yourself and others? Our team knows when we are conflicted and team members will inevitably feel unstable if their leader is not acting in agreement with his/her own values.

2)   Go inwards regularly: take the time to be alone. This can be tough when you have a family, a job, a dog… but it is not a luxury, as many seem to think. It is a necessity. You don’t have to meditate or do anything (although, it’s nice to meditate! hehe!) but be with yourself. Escape for a few minutes at work, take a walk, alone and just... be. I often ask myself whether I am in the right place. If something feels a little off, can I put my finger on it? Do I need to make more time for myself and dig a little deeper? I do my best to act on the answers I find.

3)   Learn to let things go… this sounds like a beast, I know! But it really isn’t. Think of all the things we hold on to… Did you get annoyed when driving, or getting on the subway this morning? How long did the feeling linger for? Was it helpful? You cheeky monkey, you know it wasn’t! There are so many things we hold on to, not simply feelings: situations, beliefs, old wiring that no longer serves us and fo me, a huge thing I tend to hold on to is outcomes. I am so guilty of this! I set out to get a certain result and I do everything to make it happen. Only sometimes, I realize that the outcome I expected is not helpful… and yet I stick to it. I am learning to let go and be OK with changing or even not having expectations. And so, I know it's not easy, but what are you holding on to that doesn’t serve you? And what could be your first step towards letting it go?

Here is a bonus idea… You knew it was coming, and you were right! Find a meditation or yoga practice that suits you. For some, it’s going to a class, for others, it’s an app or videos… Whatever it is, make it happen. Schedule it for yourself and stick to it. I won’t go over all the benefits of these practices, they have been described extensively.

How does yoga help?

Yogic philosophy: One of yoga’s Niyamas (please see “Yoga and Leadership" on my website for more information on the Niyamas), Svadhyaya, translates as self-study. Svadhyaya is about understanding who you truly are by peeling away all the layers that make you forget who you are. It encourages you to consider your beliefs and their origins, the role of the ego, your conditioning through belonging to various communities (family, religion, neighborhood etc.). Svadhyaya is about listening to who you are from the inside, taking away external influences. It's a little scary, but scary good!

Physically: Sometimes, we just need to go inwards. If you are a yoga practitioner, consider focusing on forward bends. Child’s pose is a wonderful way to go in. If you are going about your day and cannot collapse into Child's pose, but need a little time in, you can simply bow your head, look towards yourself rather than the world.

Finally, since this is the last part of this series of three on listening (click for part 1 and part 2), I want to  go back to leadership and the fact that as in all things in life, balance is key. Listening to individuals, to our environment and to ourselves are all linked. We cannot practice one without the other. Yoga-wise, one of the reasons I so love sun salutations is that they offer this perfect balance of openness, stability and going inwards. How can you bring that off the mat? Into your work? Into your day? Can you create balance and listen to all three? Let me know in the comments.

Stay tuned for the next series of posts!

 

New Year, New Ways to Listen! Part 2: Listening To Our Environment

Part 2: Listening To Our Environment

Listening is such an important skill in leadership of the self and others: we have to listen at so many different levels. We constantly have to make sure we are listening to individuals, but we also must keep our ear on the ground, ensuring that we know what the mood is in our department, organization, team, group of friends... Finally, we constantly have to listen to ourselves, ensuring we are still in tune with our core values, that we are not bring too self-absorbed, or that our energy is going in the right direction.

 Dominique Mas:  Listening To Our Environment

Today, I want to write about listening to our environment. I know, it's not often that we get to sit on a tree in front of the sea exercising our leadership! I feel that I sometimes tend to forget to step back and look at situations from a distance. Being present and observing what is happening around us takes effort.

As leaders, of ourselves and others, we must be able to gauge the temperature, the mood of those around us. Do we really know what is being said by the coffee machine? Do we have insights into conversations that are going on between our team members? Do we know when morale is high? When it's low? What makes it so? Are we aware of the relationships that are developing? Are they positive or toxic?

Listening means remaining alert in order to recognize when we need to adapt or redirect the mood. It also means creating and keeping communication channels opened.

Ways to know what is happening:

Be present. As a leader, you cannot hide behind your computer all day. Get out there, mingle, and talk to people. If there are specific break times in your organization, make sure you spend them catching up with your team. Be human, be social! I had a boss once who would always come out of her office during lunch time and she would stop and take the time to talk to those who were around. She knew everyone and at least one or two important facts about them - family, hobbies... and she would ask questions. She cared!

Ask questions. If you come across someone in a corridor, ask them how the project they're working on is going. If you are leading teachers, ask how their 11th grade class is going... Be specific, make sure your question is relevant to something you know is challenging for them. You'll be able to get a feel for their mood and perhaps, find an opportunity to set a time to meet and help them.

Observe. What do you see when you look around? Smiles or exhausted, frustrated faces? Do team members laugh with each other? Are they relaxed when they interact?

Of course, listening to your environment is just the first step. Once you know what the pulse is, you need to act on it. But that's another topic!

How does yoga help?

Yogic philosophy: One of the niyamas (Please see the page "Yoga and Leadership" on my website for more on the niyamas!), Santosha can be translated as contentment. Now, contentment does not mean complacency! Santosha is about being equanimous, not taking things personally, welcoming what comes and dealing with situations calmly. As we practice Santosha, we are able to look at a situation objectively so we can assess it and make decisions that are based on the greater good. As we listen to our environment, we can practice Santosha to stay balanced, objective and equanimous.

Physically: It order to listen, we must stay open to others. Heart openers and backbends are the key! If you are in the office, and want to stay alert to what is going on, you can simply clasp your hands behind you and bring the palms together, pushing your hands towards the floor. You'll just look as if you're stretching! If you are at home, then try a simple cobra pose. If you are a yoga practitioner, all backbends and heart openers will help and maybe your sankalpa, your intention in your next practice can be to be attentive to what is going on with your team?

Stay tuned for part 3, listening to yourself!

Image: Permengspace (France)

New Year, New Ways to Listen! Part 1: Listening To Individuals

Part 1: Listening To Individuals

Listening is such an important skill in leadership of the self and others: we have to listen at so many different levels. We constantly have to make sure we are listening to individuals, but we also must keep our ear on the ground, ensuring that we know what the mood is in our department, organization, team, group of friends... Finally,  we constantly have to listen to ourselves, ensuring we are still in tune with our core values, that we are not bring too self-absorbed, or that our energy is going in the right direction.

 Dominique Mas: Listening To Individuals

I have noticed in myself that I don't always listen very well. I might nod and smile but if asked to repeat what the person says... well, I can't always do it. It's something I personally want to work on and so, I am writing this for me... and for you!

As leaders of ourselves and others, listening with purpose is one of the keys to truly ensuring we are not using our own biases and filters to assign meaning to what an individual says. Listening with purpose means being silent when others speak, refraining from interrupting, offering our own perspective or opinion or sharing a similar experience, and it also means listening with an intention.  What do you hear when you really want to know what the other person is saying? Can you hear pride in their achievement? Stress? Fear? Confusion? Excitement?

As soon as you identify this,  you can start listening for potential. What this means is how will you help this person? Can you listen for what they are prepared to do? If they are talking about a problem, what are the strengths this person has that you can invite them to use to solve this situation? If they are talking about something they are proud of or excited about, what can you praise them on and encourage them to continue with while perhaps challenging them a little?

Your new way for 2018

Listen with purpose: when someone approaches you to talk about something, tell yourself clearly that you are listening to truly hear what the person is saying. Once they have finished, try to clarify, in as few words as possible, and in your own words what the person said to ensure you truly heard what they said. Try to capture they essence of what they said. They will feel more relaxed for having been listened to and the conversation will be grounded in the trust that what is being said is valued. Once that is done, talk about the potential you heard.

For example if someone is venting about a colleague or a friend, reassure the person that you understand by clarifying what they said very briefly: "So, what I hear is that you are frustrated." Do not dwell on the problem, but rather, on the emotion or general feeling. The person will confirm you understand and if you got it wrong, the person will most probably clarify it again for you. You can then move on to use the potential you heard: "From what you said, it seems that you are willing to change this situation. Do you have any ideas for dealing with this issue?" It's important not to find solutions for others, but to let them find their own solutions... with our support. But that's another topic!

If someone approaches you to talk about how proud they are that they hit a milestone you could clarify by saying something like: " That's amazing! It sounds like you are really having an impact." Once the person confirms that is what they meant, perhaps, you can push them gently "So, what's your next step?"

How does yoga help?

Yogic philosophy: One of yoga's yamas, the first of ethical principles is ahimsa: non-violence. By listening to others with purpose, we are truly being non-judgemental, and we are non-threatening. Violence takes so many forms: simply giving unsolicited advice could be perceived as a form of violence, humiliation, making someone feel silly or ignorant... Yoga teaches us to simply take things as they are, without our own filters and bias.

Physically: Yoga poses you can use to help listen carefully to individuals are heart openers. While you cannot really start practicing poses when you're talking to someone, a very easy way to do this is stand tall on your feet, spine straight, arms alongside your body as you listen and turn your palms so they face forward. (Check out tadasana, mountain pose!)

If this doesn't feel comfortable, try clasping your hands behind your back, or even more simply, consciously sending your shoulders back slightly.

Here is part 2!

 

Image: Permengspace (France)

 

Yoga: the Path to Ethical Leadership

Classical yoga is a system organized in 8 steps called "limbs". This system, when followed in order, aims to create harmony in one's life by transforming the patterns we have created which keep us from appreciating everything simply for what it is. It is the perfect path to self-leadership!

The first and second limbs are called the Yamas and the Niyamas. They are principles which can be considered as a set of do's and don'ts for leading an ethical life.

My Ethical Leadership workshops explore practical ways of applying these principles to our leadership as well as our personal life. For example, "non-violence", the first of the Yamas does not simply refer to physical or verbal violence. In our role as leaders, emotional intelligence and empathy are one way to practice non-violence. We must also ensure that we are balanced emotionally, or in our work and personal lives so we can be stable and grounded to support others.

Deborah Adele in Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice (2009) explains that "Yamas" translates as "Restraints". Mark Stephens (Teaching Yoga) tells us that "Yama explains the principles of ethical behavior one should follow in every day life, in our relationships with others and with ourselves".

There are five yamas:
● Ahimsa – Non-violence
● Satya – Truthfulness
● Asteya – Non-stealing
● Brahmacharya – Non-excess
● Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness

The Yamas are a powerful way to think about how we lead others.

"Niyamas" translates as "not restraints" or "observances". According to Mark Stephens (Teaching Yoga), "the niyamas are personal observances, a means of well-being that brings our attention from relationships with others to the intimacy of our relationship with ourselves".

There are five niyamas:

● Saucha – Purity
● Santosha – Contentment
● Tapas – Self-Discipline
● Svadhyaya – Self-Study
● Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender.

The Niyamas are a powerful way to think about how we lead ourself.

During the workshops, we explore how the yamas and niyamas relate to the 10 most important leadership competencies identified by Dr. Sunnie Giles in her research. A strong leader:

  1.  "has high ethical and moral standards.
  2. provides goals and objectives with loose guidelines / direction.
  3. clearly communicates expectations.
  4. has the flexibility to change opinions.
  5. is committed to my ongoing training.
  6. communicates often and openly.
  7. is open to new ideas and approaches.
  8. creates a feeling of succeeding and failing together.
  9. helps me grow into a next generation leader.
  10. provides safety for trial and error."

After an exploration of the attributes of great leaders and the relationship between the yamas and niyamas with leadership competencies, we are able to start freeing the mind and to start exploring asanas (poses): the third limb of yoga which is about being present in our body. The asanas help us practice and integrate some of those principles and key attributes of great leadership, for example: stability, strength, self-control, openness. The workshops teach participants accessible asanas to develop these qualities in the body and in the mind.

"Pranayama", the fourth limb of yoga, which Deborah Adele describes as "the right use of our energy" is all about the breath. Our breath is a truly wonderful way to come back to the present moment, and to release, in seconds, all the tension it took hours, days, weeks or years to build up. In the workshops, participants will learn some simple breathing exercises they can apply throughout the day, even sitting at their desk, to take a step back, regain control of their thoughts and focus. Leaders who can breathe deeply know how to stay calm, apprehend situations with a quiet mind and make clear decisions.

In the workshops, we will not concentrate explicitly on the next 4 limbs of yoga (Pratyahara – right use of our senses, Dharana – concentration, Dhyana – meditation and Samadhi – unity or the experience of connection).