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Why you should stop Praise & Prizing?
If you have been following the Language series it may not be a bad idea to do a quick review of the last few episodes. Especially that the first four parts constitute Internal Languages and the last three cover our Social Languages. Parts I-IV were building blocks for the next three episodes.
It was a big day for organization X. The day of the interview for the largest and most prestigious project they have ever been invited to. The fact that the project would also open a whole new market for the company had put more pressure on everyone. Everyone involved in the project proposal and interview had been working long hours in preparation for delivering a passionate, creative and top notch interview that would set the team apart.
Everything went as planned. The team left the interview feeling uplifted and confidant. Everyone was in high spirits and it didn’t take long till they heard the winning news. Time to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate.
“ I just want to express a word of appreciation to Margaret. She went out of her way to assure our success on this project. She did great! And I am so glad she is a part of this team. She is truly hardworking.”, the CEO confirmed, in praising the team.
Does the scenario sound familiar? What is not right with the picture? How could the appreciation be expressed to leave a more lasting and more heartfelt effect?
Well, three major red flags. The language of appreciation that the CEO is utilizing is the language of prize and praising. This language is:
How is it indirect?
Well, Margaret is only addressed indirectly as a part of the team. She is “ mentioned” as a third party and pointed out in a group. Appreciation and gratitude should be directly addressed to the individual, not as a third party, if it is intended to leave a lasting impression. Besides, direct appreciation will have a more powerful impact on everyone else present in the meeting as well.
Pause: Can you think of your own language of appreciation? How direct are you? Do you address others as third person or directly? What should change to create a more impactful language?
How is it Nonspecific?
Margaret’s performance is described “ great”! Great in what way? Did she have a strong leadership in regards to cognitive skills or graphics? Was she able to connect to the interviewer’s in a deep professional level or was she able to manage the team perform at their best? Which of her many skills exactly helped the team?
A specific appreciation will help Margaret be more aware of her abilities and the skills she can cultivate on. It will also indirectly help her recognize the areas she can improve.
Pause: How direct is your language of appreciation? Do you easily recognize and admire the gift each individual has to offer? At home? At work?
How does it confer worthiness on another?
This might be the most difficult of the three. It’s such a natural part of our communication that stepping out and looking at it objectively is not an easy task. We all use expressions such as “ She’s so kind.” “ He is hardworking.” “ She is a fearless go getter.”, don’t we?
In a context of appreciation and gratitude, however, when we use this language we are are not expressing gratitude. We are rather entitling ourselves to bestow worthiness and value on another individual. Almost like forcing a character to the other person.
Compare this language with a non attributive language such as:”Margaret, I really appreciate the time you took to orchestrate this presentation. The way you showed up and fully engaged in the process truly made a difference in the outcome.”
Pause: Remember the last time you gave someone the gift of appreciation. How much of it was attributed to yourself? How much of it was an outfit you made for that person and made them wear it?! How much was a clear description of their contribution?
A direct, specific and non attributive appreciation moves the language for praise and prizing to ongoing regard. It will create more sense of fulfillment and personal satisfaction for the person hearing it and it will, for sure, strengthen the bonds between the parties engaged in communication.
Making all these changes in one’s language at once is not an easy task. Where do you want to start from? Can you create a self observation around it? Would it be possible to implement change in small increments?
One can not know until one tries!
Yours, in gratitude
Pause. Breathe. Dream.
As someone raised by a single mom in a society where single parenthood was looked down on, I had a dream. I lived my life, growing up, dreaming of the day I would stand in front of a crowd and speak. Every breath I carried the dream of looking into my mother’s eyes in that crowd to praise her for all the love she cradled me with, to acknowledge all the sacrifices she made for me, out loud. Wanted to let the world to know that I owe it all to her.
Pause. Breathe. Dream.
Yesterday my fourteen year old son was inducted in the honorary membership of NJHS( National Junior Honor Society) during a most professional and touching ceremony at his school. He looked at me with deep gratitude. No words were needed. His smile told me: “This is just the beginning, I assure you!” My dream was just materializing …. with a little twist, with a little delay. I have no doubt my late mom felt it too.
Dreams do come true. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes with a little twist and sometimes we forget, this was my dream.
Never stop Dreaming
At the end of the day what helps you take that breath of contentment? The joy of fulfillment? The feeling of a day well lived?
For me it is knowing that I have made a difference. I have touched someone’s life in a way that the effect will stay not only with the individual but with the generations following them, in every human encounter they make. I look back at my day and ask myself “ If I die tonight, how will I be remembered for my final actions?” It’s not an easy practice but worth the effort.
In order to reach out to more curious, developing souls and make coaching more affordable and fun, I have created coaching groups. Each group consists of four individuals that meet once a week for three months. Each individual works on his/her own topic of growth while getting support from the group. I am finding these coaching groups quite fulfilling and productive. It seems that suddenly the impact is maximized. The group creates a strong bond and they take advantage of having an accountability partner. Seems like a win.
HALO is the name of group. Why? Because it’s a circle that intends to move towards more awareness, more mindfulness, a more self-observant and self-correcting behavior. More Light! Each HALO is named after a native flower in North America. Each HALO bonds through a flower. Encouraging curiosity & love of nature through the group name.
HALO A kicked off and is moving forward beautifully. HALO B is starting on March 17th and HALO C will kick off after the first week in April.
I wake up in the morning, curious about what difference I will be making in the world today. Through my daily interactions, coaching, group coaching and workshops. Grateful that I have found my vehicle.
What is your way of being remembered?
In this holiday season, are you a TAKER or RECEIVER?
No fluff. No long introduction!
It all came about during my holiday gift delivery. You see, for the past 17 years, every December I have been delivering, yes, hand delivering, anywhere between 30-500 gifts to my clients all over the State of Georgia. Plus, few that I mail. It’s my favorite part of the job. I truly take unmeasurable joy in “ giving”, without talking business. There’s never any expectation or demand in return. It’s just the spirit of giving that lights up the season for me. And I would say, more often than not, I am received with pleasure, joy and gratitude.
Most often, I said!
Why not always, you may ask!
Well, perhaps because there is an art to “receiving" as much as there is to “giving”.
Giving with open heart.
Giving without expectation.
Receiving with gratitude.
Gratitude for the thought, for the time, for the endeavor.
What do you think?
During one of my deliveries this year, the gentleman I delivered to, was not in his office. I left the tower of Godiva chocolate on his desk with a note. By the time I was getting ready to leave the building, he was back at his desk. So I appear at his office door just to say seasons greetings. He had obviously discovered the gift since it was no longer sitting on his desk.
Without looking up, he shouts out,” HI, BYE”. Dismissing me without hesitation. Leaving no room for me to say anything. Not even acknowledging that I had driven over 50 miles to bring the holiday cheer to the office. I was taken aback.
After the initial heat of judgement, vexation and disappointment, that fired up my ego, I caught myself. Came back to my center and considered possibilities. Maybe he was really overwhelmed. Perhaps he was having a very bad day. After all, it’s giving without expectation, right? Calmly, I walked out. Drove back in holiday traffic. Lost in my thoughts; what has happened to grace & gratitude? How much are we taking life for granted? How much are we lost in the Busi-ness? How much do our roles define us? Who would I be without the ideatity described on my business card?
Yes. Like they say; this too shall pass. And what did I learn? What was the lesson? What can I or should I do differently? As a coach, this spirit of self observation and learning never leaves me ( I hope).
For me, the lesson was, receive as gracefully as you give. There’s a big difference between “a receiver” and “a taker”. No matter how small or big is the gift. Whether it’s a smile from a stranger, a warm welcome from the waiter serving you or a key to a brand new car; how we receive defines how connected we are to our source. To the Universe. To humanity. How we receive builds or breaks relationships. It sets the path for future. There is always a choice.
Pause: What’s your way of receiving?
Happy Yalda Night ( Winter Solstice)
If I ask you to name three of the "major assumptions” you make in life, what comes to your mind?
Perhaps this is too generalized of a question. Let’s narrow it down. Let’s simplify it with an example.
From the day I was born, in the culture I was raised, I have always, however silently, been told that “mothers are sacrificial, no good deed goes unanswered, integrity and grace are more valuable than money”. I can go on and on.
Pause: What are some of the unspoken rules you were raised with? Some values that have created set assumptions for you?
The list of unspoken rules that etch their way into our souls is infinite. So what happens when the etching becomes so deeply engraved that it would affect all our choices, our interactions and our language? So deeply engraved that we fail to see them as separate from ourselves. They become a part of us. All together they will form our narratives. They become filters which stand between us and the world. The big barrier that holds us captive. A nervous system, wires that have fired together for so long that make it impossible to act outside what they dictate to us. They become the Major Assumptions that hold us. We speak, we decide and we connect to the world from behind the bars of these MajorAssumptions.
Pause: What are some of the Assumptions that create your reality? How do they show up in your choice of words? In your language? How do they affect the way you connect and communicate with the world?
Without a mindful approach to these big assumptions we are, throughout our lives, held by their powerful grip. They become the roadmap of all the decisions we make and take us through life blindly, repeating the same patterns over and over. But that’s the ban news! The good news is that possibility for change exists!
Mindful awareness, can bring a major shift to this equation. With awareness, recognition and acceptance, instead of the assumptions holding us back, we can use them to gain more perspective. Awareness can open the gate so that we can act free from those assumptions and instead of being help by them, hold them as a part of our conscious decision making.
Pause: What are some of the assumptions that you hold as reality? How have they affected your language? How have they affected the way you communicate? How can you hold those assumptions instead of letting them keep you captive?
If you would like to receive a Self Observation on the subject, feel free to email me. email@example.com
I watched him in his circle of friends at the mini MUN( Model United Nations) award ceremony. They were all chatting joyously and a bit nervous. The results would be coming out soon. The Secretary General started announcing different councils and the winners. The heat was going up as the General Assembly and other minor awards were announced. We were getting closer and closer to the highest recognition, the Outstanding Delegate of the Security Council. I watched them all listening, hoping, wishing to hear their own names, yet looking at my son, patting him on the shoulder and telling him to get ready to collect his Gavel.
“ This delegate is an amazing speaker, showed impeccable knowledge about the subject and his country, was most active, a great listener and a respectful debater. He collaborated to pass the resolutions while demonstrating strong leadership skills. And the award for the Outstanding Delegate of the Security Council goes to…..”
Of course, his country was called and he completed his half seated spring and ran to the stage. The position of someone who knows, who believes that his name will be called. As I watched him shake hands and pose for pictures, I was thinking about how much I have learned from this blossoming young adult. And his three year winning streak in every MUN competition, as he likes to put it.
When it comes to assignments, deadlines and responsibilities he plans every detail and writes them down. Sometimes plans are double checked with me to assure availability. Nothing is left to the last minute. Harder and more time consuming tasks get out of the way first.
What are some of the ways you manage your time with all the social media and network distractions present today? How do you set priorities? What are some ways that you manage your time?
Focusing on & Dedication to Goals
The task at hand is what needs attention. Right here, right now. Focusing is becoming harder and harder. There’s hardly ever time for reflection and creativity in our lives.
If he picks up a task you should trust that it will be fulfilled. With his presence, he easily gets into the “ FLOW” state. A state of high functioning and focus where he uses as much mental capacity as he can.
How do you experience “ presence”? What are some of the ways you get in a “ flow”?
Respecting Self & One’s Capabilities
Knowing where to draw the line, how to avoid burn out is crucial. Being aware of ones gifts and skills. Especially for some personality types who love adventure and a variety subjects interest them being able to define what’s best is truly helpful.
He doesn’t allow anyone to push him beyond his capabilities before he is ready. He respects what he truly loves and feels he is best at. He defines his limits and creates a plan to overcome them without getting himself out of balance.
How often do you create pressure for yourself due to “ musts” & “ Shoulds”? How well are you aware of your capabilities? How do you prepare to overcome limitations?
Relationships can have an immense effect on the choices we make and the results we achieve. Setting proper boundaries, defining contracts that are clear and supportive of one’s perspective set the right tone for success.
He chooses friends, team mates and partners very wisely. And he frequently revisits and observes what is working and what is not working. Being kind and generous, for him, is not in conflict with being fierce and strong.
How effective do you set boundaries in relationships? How much do you have to be stretched to break free from a toxic situation, a toxic relationship? How often do you revisit them?
Developing Strategy For Learning & Competing
We all learn differently. And when it comes to competing ( which I believe we are always in the middle of!) it’s important to be aware of the dynamics, the competitors, the strategy.
For every competition, he develops a learning and competing strategy. He defines the competitors’ blind spots and aims for it. He does not leave any ambiguity on the table.
How do you learn? How many hours a week do you dedicate to learning and sharpening your skills? Even if those skills are totally personal. How often do you become curious?
Allowing Time to Rest & Reflect
Rest and Reflect is far from the common descriptions we give them these days. Most often we return from a vacation even more tired and stimulated. Rest ends up being in front of a screen and reflect is summarized in getting drowned in “ mind talk”.
Resting is a walk by the lake for him and those are the times when he reflects on the events, choices and their results and discusses them at times. Nature is the best retreat. Rest is also aways from a screen, creating something. As small as an origami bat.
What defines “rest” for you? How often do you give yourself time to “reflect”, evaluate your choices and responses and your future path?
Giving It All You Got
Whatever he does, he does it wholeheartedly! He lives life wholeheartedly!
I know! New Year Resolution might be quite a cliché. A passé concept. I am using it as a metaphor. Just for the sake of the connotation it holds with deciding to change a behavior or accomplish a personal goal.
A New Year's resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.
Can we agree on that?
As much as we like to be perfect and we like life to be perfect, it never is. There are ( hopefully) always behaviors we like to change or goals we like to accomplish, personal or professional. There is always room to grow.
Pause: Can you think of one thing that can happen in your personal or professional world that would support your vision or your dream?
Staying curious enough will sure open up a couple of subjects, if not more. And most often, as soon as we become aware of the topic we aim for an immediate solution. We decide on a radical change. We press ourselves ( or others) to change a behavior that has probably been created during many years( hence the New Year Resolution).
Pause: How often is a sudden decision to change a behavior effective? How often does a sudden choice to develop a skill initiate action?
As coaches we hear rather common complaints:
Most often than not, a hard and fast decision to change any of these traits is not effective. There are way too many variables that have to be considered and affected before this change can take place. One important one being “Competing Commitments”.
Pause: What are some other things that you are committed to that stand in the way of your New Year Resolution?
Let’s bring an example for competing commitments:
As a leader I may be committed to the value and importance of my staff taking more self initiative. However, I am also,
Pause: Define your competing commitments. What are some commitments that come on the way of the change you wish to create?
Changing from the “ Language of New Year Resolution” to the “ Language of Competing Commitments” will transform your approach. Instead of the burden of a sudden transformation now you can traverse, accept, gently work with all the competing behaviors to get results.
Pause:How can you change your language to include these competing commitments and take advantage of them to create the transformation you wish to see?
By transforming your language, you can transform your reality.
Nothing never will and ever does, fill for the love of a mother. At least not for me.
4 years ago on this day I got the news that I lost my mother to cancer in Chicago airport. I was traveling back to US from Iran. I don't know if I was flying " home" or I had left " home". I know however that I left a broken heart with all the memories of my childhood back where I grew up. Back, where I was taught how to be humble, how to be patient, how to accept & let go, how to be grateful, how to be kind and how to be an Iranian woman. Where, I was taught how to be a mother by the most amazing of them all. Aghdas Sharif. That was her name. The strong, graceful, soft spoken and sacrificial woman that raised me as a single mom. And loved me like no one else.
4 years later, the pain is still there and so is a memory that lights up my heart with joy. The memory of a United Airlines costumer service staff. The memory of her kindness and unconditional love. See, I was standing in the line, hoping to move my flight to Atlanta earlier. There was chaos. A full flight of Marines and their families was cancelled and the line of helpless people trying to find a solution was outrageous. I stood in the line. Crying. Non stop. Like a lost child. This gentle soul was so busy at her desk she didn't have time to breathe. It was finally my turn. I walked up to her counter. I couldn't talk. Our eyes met for a split of a second. And she took the time. She stayed connected. She asked: " Are you doing ok?" And I burst out sobbing even heavier. " I just lost my mom." She stayed with me in her presence. As if there was only she and I in that humongous airport. As if none of the people in the line existed. As if I was the most important task of her day. She walked around her counter. Came right in front of me. She hugged me. Not like a stranger. Not like a sister. Not like a friend. Like a human being sharing the pain of another. She hugged me and the world around us dissolved in the power of her kindness. She cared.
I wish I could find her. I wish I could let her know the warmth of her act of kindness is still with me. I wish I could tell her I carry her in my heart forever. " you are in my prayers"
How often do we stop to be present with the pain of another? How often do we let the light of kindness shine through our hearts in a random act? How much do we allow this busyness to separate us, take us apart further and further? Too much net working, too little caring.
Perhaps it's time to step out, before it's too late.
One Year Tomorrow
The pain seems much more ancient than a year.
The sorrow much deeper than a lifetime can bear.
The Sun never forgot to shine
And the moon never proposed to resign
Flowers still dance in the breeze
With Butterflies, birds and bees
the phone still rings
And the radio constantly sings;
There’s something missing.
So unbearably loved,
No longer heard, no longer smelt,
No longer seen, no longer felt.
There’s a smile, ever so shy and humble
A voice ever so soft and gentle
A touch that used to heal
A heart that could always feel
A love that never failed.
Like a flag losing its pole,
Or a sea without a shore
like a bird without a nest
Or the mountain missing its crest
One year ago,
I lost Love forever.
“Life goes on”, she would say.
Yes, it goes on
But without you
it’s just a hallow drum
hoping to be heard
praying to be loved
( A poem I wrote two years ago for my mom)
Summer seems to be a good time to review and revisit. Before moving on to the third module in Leadership Language, let’s review the first two modules of internal language briefly. Especially with the Leadership Language workshop moving fast forward I thought a pause will be timely.
In the first module we discussed the language of complaint and the passion that lies underneath it. And in the second module we touched on the common language of blame to avoid taking personal responsibility.
Before moving on to “ the language of new year resolution”, Pause and,
I grew up during revolution. Even being deaf by birth could not protect you from hearing the waves of complaint reaching higher and higher. Everyone complained until Shah was dethroned. Did complains stop? Alas! They became even more widespread and even louder. Perhaps because no one focused on the passion people had for their country. No one paid attention to what they were truly committed to; the wellbeing of every individual, now and forthcoming. And perhaps because complain became second nature. A living habit. A safe zone. How does this show up in your organization?
Finding the commitment that lies underneath complain is not always an easy task. At times it may require true courage and readiness to make oneself vulnerable enough. Besides, naturally we always take the easy way out. A strong commitment to a virtue, a value, a personal need or a belief is the fuel feeding the flames of complaint. Where there is complain, there is a passionate commitment. After all, would you complain about the weather if you were not inclined to enjoy a beautiful afternoon by the pool? Would you complain about the new accounting software if you weren't passionate about being efficient and precise? Would you complain about your spouse working late if you were not interested in spending more time together?
Pause. Reflect. Find the Commitment.
I can’t help but think of an expression my mom used a lot having raised eight children. Every time we tried to get away from taking responsibility or blame a situation she would gently remind us of the anecdote: “ You sound like the bride who didn't know how to dance and she blamed it all on the floor being sloped and uneven.” An invitation to observing oneself, however humorous and tender.
Yes, when you don't want to take personal responsibility, there’s always, without a doubt someone or something that can be blamed. So many careers and businesses are built around blame these days that its hard to find fault with blame. It seems that blame has become a natural part of our connections, our businesses and the way we communicate. But are we considering the long term affects of blame?
We blame technology, political figures, nations, economy, every living and non-living thing under these vast skies. We blame each other. All this effort to avoid taking personal responsibility. Is it the bravest, most efficient and kindest thing to do?
Pause. Reflect. Take Responsibility.
Next stop will be “ the Language of New Year Resolution”. Would be helpful to make a list of “ decisions” to change a habit that become “ New Year Resolutions”, hardly manifesting!
When was the last time you recognized a “habit” that is running your life?
Often times when I ask this question, the conversation leads to obvious habits. Good or bad. Things like smoking, drinking, waking up early, working out regularly and such. But that’s really not what I am referring to. I am referring to the habits that we don't easily recognize, the ones that are not evident. Hidden drivers that steer us. These are the habits that really run our lives, shape our responses and make our choices for us.
Let’s make it simple.
Imagine a camera. A camera captures an image through a lens. Of course, the produced image will be affected by the type of the lens we utilize. The lens can bring an object super close, make the surrounding blurry, focus on one point or create many other effects. Habits work the same way. They act like a lens from which we view the world; our surroundings, our relationships, our evaluations of any situation. We are limited by the power of these habits. All the ways we connect to, and communicate with the world, inner & outer worlds, are filtered by these deeply engrained habits, or filters.
How about some examples?
I am often accused of wearing Sunny glasses and just seeing the good in the world. Everything, always, rosy and vibrant! True. That’ s one of the filters I wear. Not intentionally. You may call this a “ good” filter. A habit that keeps me moving forward with a positive attitude, faith and hope. But, the same filter, the same habit, when acting subconsciously can also cause me harm. Many an occasion it can make the reality blurry for me. It can become a hideaway for not seeing what I should see. It filters out all the dangers and negative aspects of a situation when I am facing a moment of decision making and will only allow me to see a distorted version of reality. Like any other habit that we act upon unknowingly, it can have it’s benefits but surely it harms as well.
One of my clients recently decided to start a second Masters Degree in Computer sciences after having an MSc, a PHD, two young kids and a satisfying career. She remembered how she would mix coffee and coke to stay up to study. She recognizes that her health is compromised. But she’s not ready to give up perfectionism. So, she has to do everything herself and never asks for help. Neither is she ready to give up more degrees on her resume. I am all for education. I am all for growth and development. But when “ achieving” becomes a habit, a run-away from personal growth, a safe zone to avoid being present with life; this is when one must pause. How much am I running my life and how much is my life running me.
I am certain you have a million better examples. As John Dryden said: We first make our habits and then our habits make us.”
What habits are making YOU?
What filters do you view the world through?
What can you change?