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Better Business Results Start with You -  How Leaders Learn to Lead Better, Part 3

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 19, 2018 11:37 AM
Better Business Results Start with You -  How Leaders Learn to Lead Better, Part 3

In this three-part series, we’ll examine senior leadership-types we’ve coached, who, while talented, passionate and experienced, weren’t getting the results they had hoped for. In part 3 of the series, we’ll look at how Joseph got his emotions under control and as a result, helped improve the culture of his team. Click here for part 1, and here for part 2.

Joseph, the Emotionally-Triggered Leader

Joseph was a talented, highly-respected CEO of a medium-sized hospital. Everyone knew Joseph as the “go-to” person. He was enthusiastic, extremely hardworking and good at fixing problems.

But sometimes, Joseph would let his emotions get the best of him when he felt people were not working at their optimum level and not holding themselves accountable for their goals and workload.

This frustrated and angered him to the point that he would often say something unprofessional, which usually compounded the problem and resulted in low morale.

We worked with Joseph to identify what his emotional triggers were, so that he could learn to control them and lead his team with the integrity, drive and vision that landed him the CEO position in the first place.  

First, Joseph learned to accept that things were not always going to be perfect. He had previously held onto a belief that if you work to the point that there were no mistakes, everyone would happy -- which makes sense in theory, but isn’t very realistic.

Secondly, Joseph recognized that not everyone could be expected to maintain his high standards. Himself, he was happy working 80 hours a week and working on the weekends. He got a buzz from working that way because he was raised with that style of work ethic. It felt natural and authentic to him.  

Through our coaching sessions, he came to terms with the fact that his way was only one of many ways of working, and he began to understand the difference between working hard and working smart.

Plus, he eventually realized how his style of working had impacted his personal life; he was missing out on the lighter side -- hobbies, sleep and spending time with his family.

Bottom-Line Savings

As a result of his executive coaching experience, Joseph became a much calmer, happier and unifying leader who ultimately led one of the highest-ranking teams in the organization. Plus, his company saved more than $75,000 in recruiting costs due to the fact that his team members experienced a renewed sense of faith in their leader.

What about you? What’s your definition of “hard-work?” Do you observe people on your team and wonder why they can’t seem to get their work done fast enough or with the same quality as yourself?

When organizations invest in the development of their current leaders, the savings is easily quantifiable, and the value that comes from better company morale is priceless. 

Contact us at info@davidcouperconsulting.com to get customized, actionable steps that can help improve your -- and your company’s -- situation.

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Better Business Results Start with You -  How Leaders Learn to Lead Better, Part 2

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 11, 2018 7:36 AM
Better Business Results Start with You -  How Leaders Learn to Lead Better, Part 2

In this three-part series, we’ll examine senior leadership-types we’ve coached, who, while talented, passionate and experienced, weren’t getting the results they had hoped for. In part 2 of the series, we’ll look at the strategies Cindy used to gain confidence in her decision-making skills, as well as the ensuing results. Click here for part 1.

Cindy, the Too-Nice Leader

I worked with Cindy for a year. She was well-respected and often described as “super nice.”

Cindy excelled at empathy and was a great listener. She often solicited everyone’s input and took the time to hear everyone out. But after she would collect all the data and then make an informed decision, she would get frustrated when people didn’t agree with her.

She would sometimes even get angry with the fact that everyone had differing opinions and agendas and often resented that she had taken so much time to listen, only to be greeted with such a disagreeable result.

Soon, Cindy began to have issues with her company’s shareholders. She had tried to mediate -- to explain everyone’s position and her own -- but would get overwhelmed when some of the larger shareholders would push back.

Cindy felt stuck in a constant whirlwind of turmoil, which often led her to tune people out or remove herself from controversial situations. She felt she was being treated unfairly and was ready to quit. 

As we worked together, we helped her identify and remedy some of the most critical issues to Cindy’s stressful experiences.

She felt like she did a great job of listening and working with everyone, but she feared that no matter what she did, it wasn’t going to be good enough to consistently work out well.

She had also faced men in her life that seemed similar to the shareholders she was working with and felt they couldn’t be trusted, which made it impossible for her to mediate or resolve their concerns.

As we continued to dig deeper, Cindy began to see that these were old patterns that kept her from trusting others and working towards solutions.

Through the process of identifying patterns by observing her at work, as well as collecting data from a 360-degree feedback process that included one-on-one conversations, Cindy started to see her issues more clearly.

She began to take accountability for her own patterns, so that others might do the same. Then Cindy did something that seemed very strange to her at first -- she forgave herself, and she forgave others, which helped pave the way for acceptance and a higher sense of value.

Bottom-Line Savings

Rather than quit, Cindy continued in her role, saving the organization close to $100k in recruiting costs, not to mention the unforeseen losses that occur when a C-level executive leaves an organization after a short tenure.

What about you? Do others constantly tell you that you’re “too nice?” Do you feel like a doormat, or like you’re juggling way too much while plastering a forced smile on your face?

If that sounds like you, send us a message at info@davidcouperconsulting.com and our team will help you get customized, actionable steps that can help improve your -- and your company’s -- situation.

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Better Business Results Start with You - How Leaders Learn to Lead Better, Part 1

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 06, 2018 7:48 AM
Better Business Results Start with You - How Leaders Learn to Lead Better, Part 1

In this three-part series, we’ll examine senior leadership-types we’ve coached, who, while talented, passionate and experienced, weren’t getting the results they had hoped for. In part 1 of the series, we’ll look at the strategies Marcus used to find trust in his team, as well as the ensuing results.

Marcus, the Non-Delegating Leader

In my profession as a C-Level and CEO coach, I’m privileged to work with some amazing and talented senior leaders. They all possess a bevy of skills required to not only get the job done right, but to do it with the passion, experience and grit to make a significant difference.

Yet, each of the leaders profiled in this series was not even close to getting the results they had envisioned for their careers, their team or their company.

As I began working with each of these leaders, common denominators began to emerge in each of their cases. Their careers were stagnating, they were experiencing high levels of frustration and admitted that their energy levels had dwindled. No matter how hard they worked, it just wasn’t enough to get the job done. They had even begun daydreaming of finding another position.

Something had to change.

When I first met Marcus, he was working constantly and had no time for himself or his family. He had a team he didn’t trust and felt certain that he had no viable successors.

He spent a lot of time keeping the peace, correcting other people’s work and putting out fires when things didn’t go according to plan.

Marcus had a tendency to concentrate his energy on what other people were thinking and felt a need to make sure everyone was happy. He had difficulty trusting and letting go, much less delegating anything. He also had a pattern of playing the tough father-figure role.

As we continued to work together, Marcus discovered that he was being over-responsible to his team. He recognized how important change was for his own health, happiness and success, as well as for his team.

With actionable steps that included listening and observing rather than fixing, trusting other peoples’ abilities rather than judging and giving immediate feedback when things went wrong, Marcus was able to create a platform for lasting change.

He began to let other people do their work without running in to complete it for them. He started trusting his people. He stopped trying to keep the peace in meetings, instead, letting people speak their mind, even when it conflicted with others’ or his own ideas.

Within a year, he was promoted to a larger C-level role responsible for another department in the company. Another year later, he had two candidates he trusted — and knew either would be excellent successors to his role.

After careful consideration, he promoted one of the individuals and hasn’t looked back since.

Without the new developments in his own abilities, Marcus would not have been able to take on a different, more strategic role in his organization. He would have been too busy doing everyone else’s work and saving the day to delegate responsibilities and tasks, which are crucial for training and mentoring new leaders.

Bottom-Line Savings

By implementing key changes to his belief system, habits and management style, Marcus saved his company $50,000-$100,000 in recruiting costs and costly learning curves. Now, Marcus enjoys the pride and peace of mind that delegating and promoting from within brings, and the company enjoys an improved bottom line. What about you? Do you delegate tasks to your team, then cringe when it doesn’t meet your expectations? Are you experiencing high levels of stress, low energy, or even apathy?

If that sounds like you, send us a message at info@davidcouperconsulting.com and our team will help you get customized, actionable steps that can help improve your — and your company’s — situation.

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Good Leaders Champion the Fundamentals

Posted by Josh Espinosa on March 20, 2018 11:24 AM
Good Leaders Champion the Fundamentals

Good Leaders Champion the Fundamentals 

March is upon us, and with the NCAA college basketball tournament in full swing, it’s a good time to reflect on legendary Coach John Wooden’s enduring legacy, as well as his teachings about leadership.

The late Wooden, by all accounts a gentle soul in nature, has a mythic backstory; from a humble farm in Indiana,

his UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team won 10 championships, with a stretch of dominance that included 88 wins in a row and seven straight titles.

After he retired as undeniably the greatest college basketball coach in history, he became a motivational speaker, and before his death at the age of 99 in 2010, millions of people had heard the gentle general share his leadership wisdom.  One of his keys to success was focusing on the fundamentals, the basics and getting the little things right.

You Know How to Put Your Socks On...Right?

While it’s easy to envision a room full of C-level executives nodding along in agreement with the old coach about much work it takes to be successful or even taking notes about how to be more compassionate, staying true to fundamentals is a different animal. 

Leaders at the executive level are usually talented, intelligent people one might think are beyond fundamentals at first glance. But Hall of Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Walton, who played for Wooden during the early 70s, often talks about how on his first day at UCLA, when the coach took all the freshman aside and taught them how to put on their socks and tie their shoes, which Walton says at the time seemed utterly ridiculous; here were some the best basketball players in the country -- if not the world -- and they were being re-taught things they had been doing since pre-school.

But the coach had a reason.

Running up and down a basketball court is rough on players’ feet, and socks with wrinkles cause blisters. Playing through blisters can lead to compensatory injuries, and in the coach’s mind, it was best to get ahead of the worst-case scenario from the outset.

After the socks lesson, Walton talks about how right after the socks lesson, the freshman went out to see the varsity team practice, and how he marveled at how crisp, fast and tight the team looked. Wooden was doing something right -- his teams had won the last four NCAA titles.

What Kind of Things are Basic for Good Leaders?

The ebbs and flows of business life is wrought with important decisions, stress, passion projects and even a little fun, and organizational leaders often move up the ranks because they’ve spent years being good at their core competencies. 

The thing is though, as the titles get fancier and perks get better, the stakes get bigger and the pressure builds, and all of a sudden, the types of tasks you’re doing are things you never thought you’d do before. Coming up with strategy, managing an organization or a department not just a team and analyzing Q3 reports and making decisions about how to get to different numbers in Q4 are a lot different than operating on a patient or managing a medical or producing a television series.

Of course, underneath all the paper work is the secret sauce that got you there in the first place: your hard work, tenacity, decisiveness or your perseverance, and one of the most rewarding fundamentals that leaders can employ daily is staying confident in their own abilities.

In fact, remembering to be you is just as important as putting your socks on right in the morning.

Interested in Working on Your Fundamentals? 

Naturally, everybody has different attributes that are fundamental to their success. So, what are your fundamentals? And how can you help encourage the people on your team to hone theirs?

David Couper Consulting helps organizations around the world answer these types of questions so that they can foster strong leadership teams. For more information about our coaching and leadership training programs, contact us at info@davidcouperconsulting.com.

Josh Espinosa is a freelance writer and designer. He also founded The Approachable Music Project, a music education program on a mission to make learning to play easier on people.

 

 

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Thanksgiving

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on November 23, 2017 8:14 PM
Thanksgiving

In the US 11/23 is the day that people say thanks and express gratitude.  We also eat a lot and spent a lot but that’s a different story.

Expressing gratitude for some can be hard.  They may have suffered a loss – a job, a home, or a loved one.  Being thankful is far from what they are feeling.  Other find it hard to be grateful because they feel that they are not doing enough, not achieving their goals, or being good enough.And others look at the world with its poverty, disease, and violence and wonder what we have to be grateful for.

I too feel like that.  My partner of 14 years passed away on 11/25/2012 and so Thanksgiving for my son and I are can be bitter sweet - happy to be with friends and family enjoying the day but also sad for what is missing from that picture.

But I am grateful for what I have learned from loss:

  1. Be present in every moment.  This moment is precious and we don’t know what the next moment may bring.
  2. Don’t live in the future.  Yes, you can make plans but if all your joy is waiting until a day sometime then we are missing out. 
  3. Be brave.  Take risks.  Be courageous.  Facing your worst fears brings out the best in you.  Take a baby step and see what happens.
  4. Ask for help.  People like to help.  And if they don’t maybe you don’t need them in your life.
  5. Live your life’s purpose.  Work on doing the things that bring you joy or happiness.

So I’m grateful for the learning that loss has given me and the opportunity to live life to the fullest.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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“Doing Nothing” is Good for You

Posted by David Couper on March 21, 2016 5:47 PM
“Doing Nothing” is Good for You

Meditation has many benefits, but many people struggle to get started because they feel that meditation feels like you are sitting around “wasting” time. This is because a primary goal of meditation is to stop doing other things, so you end up doing nothing… or that’s how it can feel.

But there is a critically important distinction between sitting around wasting time by watching television… and taking, say, 15 minutes to give your brain a break entirely.

Writing in MIndful magazine, Christine Carter observes:

“Our brains benefit when we waste time… When we let our minds go…to daydream, to wander…an area of our brain turns on that’s responsible for creative insight. And our best work comes from those creative insights—the ones that happen in the shower!”

Jon Kabat-Zinn is author of Wherever You Go There You Are, a 1994 book on mindfulness that has gone on to sell over 750,000 copies. He says, “Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.”

In other words, meditation is less about achieving a certain goal - stress reduction, for example - and more about gaining the perspective to have an accurate perception of your situation. In this way, once you realize just how stressed out you are, and why, you will then be better able to turn things around.

When you meditate, you let go of daily concerns and activities. But you aren’t just wasting time. To the contrary, you are giving your mind and body valuable time. Here’s what Kabat-Zinn says...

“To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.”

There are many ways to accomplish this, from taking a meditation class to simply finding a quiet spot in your house and being silent for 10, 20 or even 30 minutes.

The National Institute of Health reports that most types of meditation have four elements in common:

1. A quiet location with as few distractions as possible

2. A specific, comfortable posture: sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions

3. A focus of attention, such as a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath

4. An open attitude in which you let distractions come and go naturally without judging them

If you are tempted to meditate, but unsure how to get started, try this simple exercise from Max Strom, author of A Life Worth Breathing. It’s called Three-Minute Breath:

Set a timer for three minutes and breathe as slowly and consistently as you can. Count each breath, and don’t pause for more than two seconds between your inhale and exhale. Your goal is to comfortably take as few breaths as possible. Most people take between six and 30 breaths the first time, but as you practice this number will go down.

I love this exercise because it only requires a three-minute commitment, but if you do it for a week, you will experience firsthand the benefits of meditation. After a total of just 21 minutes of investment, you will be able to see that the time you devote to meditation will be immensely valuable to you.

Image: Andres Nieto Porras/Flickr

 

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Making Space for New Opportunities

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on March 17, 2016 8:00 AM
Making Space for New Opportunities

Clearing out the clutter in our lives--things we have no use for, grown out of or no longer need--can free us from the past that might be holding us back and opens us up to new possibilities.

I have just read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Her approach to organization is to connect with each item you have and see if it brings you joy.

I am fairly tidy, but there are always areas that seem to defeat me: my papers in my office that need to be filed, the junk drawer, and the cables, which must belong to some gadget if I only knew which one. 

She advises tidying everything at one time, but as I have just moved house and there are still things in boxes, I didn’t want to follow her advice. So, I decided to start small.  There was a small suitcase of ties staring at me from the bedroom floor. I hadn’t got the tie-rack up yet, so the 100 or so ties which usually sat on the rack were waiting to be hung. I decided to work on them.

It was amazingly freeing. I found the ties that I didn’t like and had never liked. Those were easy to get rid of. Then there were the ties that were worn or had marks on them. Those too could go. 

Then it got tricky. Then there were those ties that friends had bought for me: the Paul Smith tie an old chum from England had got me about 20 years ago. I had liked it at the time but now I really didn’t so its time was over. In the book, the writer says that the gift was the point, not keeping it for years, and I realized she was right. I also had to let go of other memories. I put aside the tie I bought in Thailand (no pun intended) which I hadn’t worn and I didn’t like. Finally, the hardest of those ties were the ones that had belonged to my late partner. I hadn’t worn them, but it almost felt disloyal to send them to the “tie heaven”. But I did.

I felt so much lighter and happier to see that I was left with about 20 ties that I loved.  I realized that some of these beauties had been so hidden that I hadn’t even noticed them. 

I also saw that this could apply to other areas of my life. What ideas, projects or even people was I hanging on to, even when their time was over? I had a realization that a dream to travel around the world didn’t make sense right now. I didn’t need to clutter my mind with that longing even though in the future it could be great, just like the tie I was keeping for the time one day in the future I would need it. I saw that a project, which had once been exciting for me, was now past its sell by-date. It didn’t serve me. It was like the tie that I had loved but now looked tired and out of date. And I realized that an old friend who had been very kind at a certain time in my life had grown apart from me. When I met with him, I didn’t experience much joy and it had become a chore, just the same as the designer tie that had been so perfect with the suit I had bought ten years ago but which didn’t do anything for the clothes I am wearing now.

Look at where you are tied down in your life and be brave to clear out your closet and your mind. When you do, you might just find you have more focus, a freedom you haven’t felt before and new possibilities pour in.  And, if nothing else, you’ll have a cleaner house!

Image: storebukkebruse/Flickr

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Finding the Divine Spark in All of Us

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on March 10, 2016 1:55 PM
Finding the Divine Spark in All of Us

This is going to sound like the start of a joke, but it’s not: what do a doctor, nun and prisoner have in common?  The answer is in the title. They all talked about seeing the divine spark in others.

A few months ago, we were facilitating a session on quality improvement in healthcare which starts with open and authentic communication. When we talked about how the doctors were living their mission, one stood up and said that every day he tries to see the divine in others. Today, I was with PeaceHealth, and one of the sisters talked about the importance of compassion and the divine. Last weekend, I was volunteering for The Freedom to Choose Foundation, an organization which helps prisoners learn new communication skills so that they get a second chance and become productive citizens. One inmate said that he looked to see the divine in his fellow inmates as he went about his day.

So, what is this all about? Should we care? Does it matter in business?

Finding the divine in ourselves is connecting with what makes us special. It can shine light on our life’s purpose. It is what makes us keep going.

When we see the divine in someone else, we can put our judgments aside and listen to what’s possible. When we see that something special in a team member, we can slow down and be open to compromise rather than go into conflict. When we see something in others that moves us, we feel connected. Suddenly, instead of a group of people, we are a team acting as one.

The divine in us keeps us going when we are tired and our minds want us to stop and sleep right where we are. The divine in us lets us create and find beauty in music, art or writing that makes us cry or smile or both. The divine in us warms our soul and anchors us in the present when we see a baby smile or a kitten play with a ball of wool or an eagle fly across a sunset.

And how do we do it?

  • We slow down and stop.
  • We listen from our hearts.
  • We take in the whole person in all their senses.
  • We see the seen and the unseen.
  • We connect with that light.
  • We experience the feeling of connection.

I would love to know how you see the divine in others.

Image:  neonquark/Flickr

 

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The Top Tips for Employee Retention

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on March 03, 2016 6:30 AM
The Top Tips for Employee Retention

$11 billion is lost every year in employee turnover (Bloomberg BNA).  So, how do you ensure you hire talent that wants to stick around, and how do you keep them engaged?  Here are fifteen tips to help.

1.  Hire the right people the first time.

Rush to hire just anyone, and you will get just any results. When you take the time to do a thorough process, you end up with thorough results.

 2.  Promote from inside.

When you promote from inside, you already know the person. You know what they can (and can’t do). If they fit the job requirements, they can be a good bet.

3.  Getting excited is good.

When you hire someone, you want someone who is excited about the job. That usually shows up in asking questions, doing research, and talking about their future with your organization. If a potential hire hasn't taken the time to look into your company, what might they not spend time on if they get the job?

4.  The top candidates may not stick around.

Yes, of course, you want to get the best candidates for the job. But when you hire the graduates from the best colleges who every company is fighting about, then can be sure that those companies who lost the first time will keep on fighting to get them to leave you. You may want to look at people who have great skills but maybe went a different route – went back to school after a career-change or had their own business or didn’t get the traditional MBA but got the alternative MBA. 

5.  Don’t expect the person to change.

People can learn. People can transform. People can change...if they want to. So if you hire somene who has anger issues, you are assuming that they are going to be different once they work for you. You may have the best training and coaching, but if they are happy being angry, you are going to be angry at your choice and be happy to see them go.

6.  Pay them at market (and a little more).

Pay someone below what they are worth, and you always run a risk of losing them. If you pay them at what they are worth, you reduce that danger, and if you pay them more, you show you value them in cash.

7.  Money doesn’t buy everything (but it sure helps).

Bonuses, commission, profit-sharing or regular raises show that you do care about your employees in a practical and tangible way.

8.  It’s good to share.

Share when the organization is doing well. Share when there are issues. Share the wealth when things are going well. You don’t want to be known as one of those kids who aren’t asked back for playdates.

9.  Be Fair.

Don’t pay one group of people more than another when they do similar work. Don’t give pay raises to some people and lay off others at the same time. Even if it makes business sense, it doesn’t look fair.

10.  Transparency is talked about a lot.

Leaders talk about transparency but often don’t walk the talk. When an employee finds out important news from Facebook instead of from their boss, then there is a problem with transparency. Explaining why things are happening instead of coming up with PR statements makes people feel that you value and trust them as grown-ups!

11.  Create community.

People often spend more time at work than they do with their families and friends, so create a community at work where people like being with their co-workers and enjoy their time at work.  

12.  Be ready to let those people go who need to go.

Retention doesn’t mean that we keep everyone. It means that we keep the people who work for us – meaning they get the results we want, fit in with our culture and want to be part of our future. People will leave when they see management not dealing with one person who is not a team player.

13.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Ask people how things are going? Find out what is working and what is not. Listen and take action. People leave when they feel that they are not being heard. People leave when they feel that they don’t matter. People want and need to communicate.                    

14.  Work to your employees' strengths.

Even if you do the greatest job hiring, you may find that someone has different strengths which are not being used.  It may even be that this person is actually more suited to a different job. If you don’t help them use their strengths or move to a better fit, you lose their full potential and, in the end, you may lose them completely.

15.  Be gracious in your goodbyes.

People will leave. It’s how life works. I have always wished them well. I want them to be successful wherever they are. If I create bad feeling with them now, then they will never recommend their friends work with us or think about coming back when the right chance shows up.

Image:  Kate Ter Haar

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A Tale of Two Stories

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on February 11, 2016 7:30 AM
A Tale of Two Stories

I booked tickets for my son and I to go and see Cirque du Soleil in downtown LA, and here are two versions of what happened. While we can't change events, we can change how we react to them, so which story works better for you?

We leave the house at 3:00 to get to the event at 4:30. It’s Friday and rush hour, but we should be fine. There is traffic. Everyone is driving crazily. No one will let me in as I try and get on the freeway. The traffic doesn’t move, and my blood pressure is getting higher and higher. What is wrong with Los Angeles? We are heading downtown-shouldn’t everyone be leaving on Friday afternoon?

Put in the directions to the Staples Center – a major arena downtown - in my navigation. It doesn’t have anything about parking. The stupid system takes me into major traffic – one lane is closed for road construction. I am not going to let that car in front. He tried to cut in front of me and that is not going to happen on my watch.

I can’t find the parking. The road on the GPS is one way. Stupid navigation. I pull into a parking lot. It’s only $10. Not bad. I park and then the guy says you can only park until 6:00. I am sure it said park here for the Staples Center. Why can’t people get things right?

I go around the block twice, hit the construction twice, then find a place to park. It is right in front of the Staples Center. Lucky! I pay the guy $20. It's kind of expensive, but we are here.

Get my son unattached from his games on the phone and we try and get in. All the doors are closed. This is ridiculous. What is up? I look at my tickets. The event is at Dodgers Stadium, not the Staples Center. That is across town, and we are at 4:15.  We are going to be late. How could I be so dumb? I always get things like this messed up.

We get on the freeway again and everywhere is jammed. Traffic, traffic and more traffic. We have five minutes to get there in time. I turn off, and the entrance is closed. I do an illegal U turn and drive around in circles trying to find an entrance.  My navigation is no help apart from encouraging me to make a left which would end up with me driving into oncoming traffic!

Finally we get there. We are about 20 minutes late. I am stressed, tired and annoyed.  Why didn’t I stay at home and watch Netflix?

OR

We leave the house at 3:00 to get to the event at 4:30. It’s Friday rush hour, but we should be fine. There is traffic. Everyone is driving crazily, but my son is happy with his game and I am just going with the flow – OK well with the lack of flow. Even though the traffic doesn’t seem to move, it is actually getting there. It’s strange how there is so much traffic going into downtown but it’s not worth worrying about. 

Put the directions to the Staples Center – a major arena downtown - into my navigation. It doesn’t have anything about parking. The system takes me into major traffic – one lane is closed for road construction – but someone lets me in and we are back on track. I let a car go in front—it’s okay; none of us are going anywhere very fast. One more is not going to make a difference.

 I can’t find the parking, but then I pull into a parking lot. It’s only $10. Not bad. I park and then the guy says you can only park until 6:00. Okay, I need to find another place.

I go around the block twice, hit the construction twice, then find a place to park. It is right in front of the Staples Center. Lucky!  I pay the guy $20.

It’s strange all the doors are closed. Then I look at my tickets. The event is at Dodgers Stadium, not the Staples Center. That is across town and we are at 4:15. I start laughing. It shows how much I know about sporting venues in LA – they all seem the same to me. Okay, let’s see what time we can get there. We’ll be fine.

We get on the freeway again and everywhere is jammed. We have five minutes to get there in time, but now I am just focused on getting there safely. We will get there when we get there. I turn off, but the entrance is closed.  I do a U turn and try a few directions before I find an entrance.

We get there. We are only about 20 minutes late. The people show us to our seats – they are great. We sit back and enjoy the show. My son is in heaven, and I am relaxing after our adventure getting there.

What’s the point of me telling you this? We can’t change events, but we can change how we react to those events. So, which of these stories do you prefer? Or would you make up your own story? The point is that we are making it up all the time, so why not make up some good stories?

Image: Hernán Piñera/Flickr

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Forgiveness Heals

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on December 31, 2015 6:00 AM

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Forgiveness is at the core of the healing process, whether it's forgiveness of others or forgiveness of oneself. With the passing of the year and the start of the new one, it's a perfect time to heal old wounds and open the door to happiness.

Every single time I volunteer at the prison bringing the principles of spiritual psychology, when I counsel people, or when I coach my clients, forgiveness is the core of the healing process. It doesn’t matter if the issue is small or big, it doesn’t matter if the person I coach is an inmate or a top executive. Forgiveness opens the doors to happiness for us all. When we as individuals or communities relate to each other from an open wound, we keep creating more pain in our lives, and peace is just an illusion.

Why is it so difficult for us as human beings to let go of anger, hurt, and fear so that we can embrace forgiveness, happiness, and freedom? When we experience emotional pain, we are left with a wound that needs to be healed. If the wound remains open without healing, we relate to everything in the world from that wound. When we walk out into the world relating from our wounds, we answer life’s experience with resentment and distortion rather than understanding. We try to cover up the pain, masking it, and applying bandages to the wound. But it’s like putting a bandage on a nail in your foot. Until you remove the nail, the pain will continue and become infected.

Have you ever poured salt on an open wound? Ouch! That is the feeling we have when we relate from the hurt. The pain escalates. We sometimes don’t even know why we end up in an argument or react with anger. The child inside of us who experienced the pain is still hurting, and when something happens to trigger that pain, we react in a way that may be out of proportion to the actual event. We’ve all experienced this; it’s very human. And it even gets us into trouble sometimes and causes relationships to end forever. The solution is working through that pain, and forgiveness must be at the center of that work.

In order to relate from the heart, we need to transform the open wound into a healed scar.

The wound cannot be healed, though, until we let go of the illusion that the past could have been different. It has already happened and cannot be changed. We must accept our own humanness and the humanness of others. We all sometimes “miss the mark” and fail to live up to our expectations. In some cases, a human being has been so deeply damaged that he or she commits acts that are beyond our comprehension.

Forgiveness has helped me understand that whatever someone else does “to” me, it isn’t about me. It is about their own inner pain, lack of awareness and self-love, inability to forgive, etc. I also realized that when I’ve made mistakes, it wasn’t about anyone else. It was about my own unresolved issues.

When the inmates, and clients of all walks of life I work with get in touch with their own forgiving place inside of them, breakdowns turn into breakthroughs and amazing changes in their lives happen.

Clara Naum, M.A. Executive Coach with David Couper Consulting, Radio Host and Author.  Find out more about Clara and her workshops on Forgiveness and Healing.

Photo via Flickr

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Giving Thanks at the Holidays

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on December 24, 2015 7:30 AM

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One of my clients recently asked these two important questions:

How can Gratitude improve my life in real and noticeable ways?  What is the value of keeping a gratitude log or journal? 

Gratitude is a positive emotion of feeling thankful or grateful. I’ve read several articles about gratitude by psychologists Drs. Blair and Rita Justice, and how it influences our overall well-being. In one of their columns they explain that gratitude “is felt in the same frontal regions of the brain that are activated by awe, wonder and transcendence. From these cortical and limbic structures come dopamine and serotonin, the chemicals for feeling good inside.” Gratitude releases dopamine and serotonin into our bodies and makes us feel good. 

By the way, common antidepressants serve a similar function by artificially boosting serotonin levels to alleviate depression. It's good to know that we can also boost these chemicals ourselves by feeling grateful! Appreciation has also been shown to make electromagnetic heart patterns more coherent (integrated) and ordered.

The Justices cite research done by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, who are researchers in the field of gratitude. In one experimental comparison, people who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events. Dr. Emmons is the author of several books including, “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” which is available on Amazon.

Dr. Emmons suggests that people who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their “set-point” for happiness by as much as 25 percent, challenging the previously held notion that our “set-point” is frozen at birth.

The point I’m making with all of this is – Gratitude may indeed improve our lives in real and noticeable ways, directly benefiting us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. So, why not consider making it a practice, which is as easy as choosing thoughts of appreciation and gratitude – regularly and consistently.

Start with a Gratitude Journal

To support you in creating a new and higher happiness set point, I suggest you start a gratitude journal, in which you write down what you are grateful for – once or twice per week. 

Robert Emmons shares these six research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from your gratitude journal:

  1. Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling.
  1. Don't just go through the motions. Set your intention to be happier. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. 
  1. Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  1. Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  1. Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  1. Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.

Great Holiday Gift Idea – Gratitude!

I’m inviting all of us to make GRATITUDE our most important gift of the holidays! So, in addition to starting your gratitude journal and writing down for whom and what you are truly grateful – ALSO consider giving others the gift of your gratitude! 

Let other people in your life know how much you appreciate them, how you are grateful to them, how much you care about or love them. Compliment others, positively acknowledge them – in person, through email or holiday greeting cards – and even in your meditations or prayers. Stretch a little outside of your comfort zone, and say thank you to more people and in more ways than you have in the past.

As my holiday gift of gratitude, I close with these inspiring quotes on being grateful. Feel free to share these gifts with others!

“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” – Aesop

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” – Jacques Maritain

“At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I've never emerged.” – Patch Adams

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” – Kristin Armstrong

“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.” — Doris Day

“When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.” — Anthony Robbins

With Grateful Holiday Wishes,
Maddisen

Written by Maddisen K. Krown, MA, Personal and Executive Coach, Holoenergetics© Counselor / 
The Huffington Post

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Are you Addicted to Busy-ness?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on December 17, 2015 8:30 AM

Even before I was a single mom, my calendar was filled with triathlons, workshops, volunteering, a coaching practice, writing a book and consulting business travel. Becoming a single mom only fed into this story and addiction to "doing", with lots of opportunities to tell myself that I didn't have time to sit still...there was laundry to fold, poop stains to scrub, dishes to clean, diapers to change, toddler tantrums to address on top of my consulting and coaching, cleaning and shopping, handling the bills and finances for our household. 

After several years of "doing" I fainted in a hotel tub on a business trip. When I returned home my doctor slid a paper prescription paper across her desk that said, "Stop doing and start sitting still". What a wake up call.

I stopped working on weekends and in the evenings. I stopped folding the laundry and took a nap instead. I went to bed early and let dust settle on the coffee table. The cobwebs didn't gather for long, as I thought they would, and our clothes always eventually got folded.

What did happen was an emotional upheaval. All of the feelings and stories, that I was covertly avoiding when I was continually doing, bubbled up to the surface. It was uncomfortable and yet I had to feel my way through the discomfort to change.

The past six months of slowing down gave me the space to learn lessons and discover a new way of being. And in the stillness I embodied a gentler power and experience more success and productivity than before.

Gwen Dittmar is an Executive Coach and the founder of Gwen Dittmar Coaching where she coaches individuals and organizations to find full power.  

Photo via Flickr

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Teams Make the Biggest Sales

Posted by David Couper on December 10, 2015 8:30 AM

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Many sales professionals don’t like to sell in teams. They don’t like to share information, leads, or commissions.

I understand this mentality, but not for the reasons you might think.

My son plays soccer on a U10 (age 10 and under) team, and in his league they have a number of “star” players who can take the ball from their own defensive end of the field all the way to the opponent’s goal, where they shoot and... miss.

These “stars” seldom consider the possibility of passing the ball, so their team can score and win. All they see is the glory of scoring.

In reality, the kids who move up and play at the high school, collegiate or professional level all understand that teams win, not individuals. Once stars learn to pass, they become exponentially more effective. One of my favorite plays is when a striker races downfield, passes to a teammate, and then gets the ball back and scores. In this situation, both players seem to perform selfless acts.

Here’s the secret. Neither player acted selflessly. They acted in their own interests, which means their interest in winning. They won by scoring, rather than being amateurish and racing straight for the goal.

In business, the biggest opportunities require team selling. Take financial services, for example. One professional might have the relationship, but two others have the product expertise. Still another has relationships with key influencers. High up in the firm, key executives may add needed leverage or gravitas at pivotal moments.

This sort of environment stresses out some sales professionals. They worry they won’t get credit for a sale, which means they won’t get paid at year-end. They worry about gaining or losing power.

While these fears can sometimes be grounded in reality, they can also be self-limiting beliefs. You can’t be a major player in such a firm without learning how to sell as a team. If you want to do it all yourself, you can only rise so high and only work on deals that are somewhat significant.

Last year, Harvard Business Review reported that this isn’t only true of large deals; it is where all business is heading:

From 2002 to 2012, the impact of individuals’ task performance on unit profitability companywide decreased, on average, from 78% to 51%. But the impact of employees’ “network performance” — that is, how much people give to and take from their coworkers — increased from 22% to 49%. Even in sales, network performance now accounts for about 44% of the impact.

I know this requires a leap of faith.

Try telling a ten-year-old that to win he has to pass to his teammate, whom he considers to be slower and less talented than he is. The coach tells such players, if you pass more you will score more. It’s TRUE.

When they share the work, share the openings, and share the opportunity to score, it goes so much better.  That is what my son’s team has learned, and as of today they haven’t lost a game all season.

Image: on2wheelz/Flickr

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Loyalty to your Values=Purpose

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on December 03, 2015 8:30 AM

article from Access Development:

  • 56% of executives say promoting loyalty is "not a major focus, but valued nevertheless" (American Management Association).
  • Declining employee loyalty is thought to harm organizations by causing low morale (84%), high turnover (80%), disengagement (80%), growing distrust (76%), and lack of team spirit (73%)  (American Management Association).
  • 52% of Millennials think employee loyalty is overrated (Elance/Odesk).
  • 6 in 10 Millennials cite a “sense of purpose” as part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers (Deloitte).

Can you see where I’m heading? I gave you three statistics on loyalty and then one on a sense of purpose. Purpose is another way of saying: be loyal to your values. Purpose is the sense of satisfaction you get from doing work that is connected to your values.

If you are loyal to your values, you will be attracted to organizations that share similar values. You will be able to pick the right employers, colleagues and even vendors.

Loyalty to your values makes everything easier, because it leads you to people with whom you want to work.

By the way, when I talk about values, I mean a very short list of what matters most to you, a list that could fit in that very small book at the top of this page.

It’s worth making such a list and living by it.

There is nothing self-centered about this. It simply is a logical path to clarity and consistency. It is a path to simple success in a complicated world.

Image: Sidereal/Flickr

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Are You Extinguishing Your Employees’ Light?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on November 05, 2015 8:30 AM

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When we manage others, our words can inspire others to be their best selves or turn away from living up to their potential. How can we be sure that we encourage and inspire others to be their best?

NPR was running an interesting story about a scientist working with genes. The reporter explained how the scientist had been interested in science but hadn’t thought about becoming a scientist herself until a female scientist visited her school. At that moment, the girl decided that she too wanted to have a career in science.

It reminded me of a time when I was about 11 and was in an art class. I was enjoying painting and was very happy. My teacher saw my work and told me I would never be an artist. Maybe he didn’t say that, but that is what I remembered. I believed him and put that career choice to one side. It had never been a really serious job option, but I do love art. When I was younger, I thought about architecture, design and fine arts as career choices, but this teacher stopped those thoughts. Silly because why did I trust him more than my own intuition? Silly because if he was really an expert, why wasn’t he giving Picasso a run for his money? Silly because he didn’t even seem to like what he was doing.

You may ask how was this similar to the inspirational story of the scientist inspired by the school visitor?  Well, just as you can inspire someone to do something, you can uninspire someone to do something different or nothing! 

As a leader, we have to be mindful of when we are motivating our teams and when we are demotivating them. We have to think about when are we lighting them up and when we are extinguishing their light. And we have to take the responsibility of being a mentor, a coach and a role model seriously.

I was excited by how a young person could be put on a career track that they love and which seems to be their life’s purpose. Let's all work on doing that with our teams, our friends and families, and the kids we come into contact with!

Photo via Flickr

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The Needless Death of a Doctor

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 15, 2015 9:00 AM

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Sometime in April, Dr. Jon Azkue committed suicide in his Chicago apartment, not far from where he worked as a senior internal medicine resident at MacNeal Hospital. Jon was 54 and had graduated from Central University in Venezuela.

We do not know what motivated Jon to become a doctor at an age when some people are starting to wrap up their careers, nor do we know what led him to be so filled with despair that he ended his life.

Here’s what we do know.

In the United States, each year we lose the equivalent of an entire medical school graduating class to suicide.

According to the New York Times:

Physicians are more than twice as likely to kill themselves as non-physicians (and female physicians three times more likely than their male counterparts).

As described in this same article, Pranay Sinha, a physician in his first year of residency, confessed over dinner his feelings of inadequacy to a highly-respected colleague.

Sick of feeling like a charlatan, I told him about the trouble I was having with collecting clinical data and presenting it in an organized way on rounds. I confessed that I did not think I belonged in the program. He listened thoughtfully, and then uttered the three most beautiful words I had ever heard: “Dude, me too!”

Physicians are trained to always be right and to be calm and collected at all times. In many respects, they are expected to be more than human… which is impossible because they are human.

Some make life and death decisions on a regular basis. To go to medical school, most endure insane hours and pressure, staggering debt, and an uncertain future.

To make matters worse, our healthcare system often gets inbetween physicians and their patients, confronting them with staggering bureaucracy that not even bureaucrats can tame.

When things go wrong, doctors are the ones who are in the line of fire. We blame them, even when things are far more complex than one man or woman being responsible.

My colleague, Dr. Carla Rotering, observes, “I think we are dying of broken hearts - both from suicide and from physical illnesses that take root in a body that is depleted of physical resources and of hope. The bar for physicians is set very high - by the public at large, by professional expectations, and by our inner agreement to those expectations. We silently agreed to ‘live up to’ those expectations when we entered the field. Now we feel like we have done our best to keep our end of the bargain, but the world of Medicine has not kept its promise to us.”

Dr. Rotering argues that many factors conspire today to put physicians at increased risk. She says, “Our isolation and separation - from one another, from our families, from the larger world - leaves us stranded, alone in the territory of our inner upsets, fears, fatigue, pain, suffering, hopes, longings, and tears.

“Our hearts are closed not just to patients, but to one another and to ourselves.”

I do not know why Dr. Jon Azkue took his life, but I hope his death can cause others to wake up to the fact that human beings require compassionate care. This is true for all humans, even doctors.

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It’s Not All About the Benjamins

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 08, 2015 9:30 AM

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Take a gregarious and loud man to church, and he will suddenly grow silent as he takes his seat. What tells him to do this? Culture.

Strong cultures dictate our habits, actions and beliefs. Weak cultures allow chaos to thrive.

These are a few of the lessons I took away from a recent presentation by Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky, who is widely known as Dr. Gustavo.

In his highly readable book, Culture Trumps Everything, Dr. Gustavo argues that culture tells us which behaviors are acceptable, and which are forbidden. Culture is what says: that behavior may be okay in the world at large, but it is most definitely not acceptable within our organization.

One of the most interesting aspect of Dr. Gustavo’s observations is the tension between social norms and business norms with regards to a company’s culture. Social norms are behaviors such as helping another person carry a heavy load up the stairs, or waiting politely until a receptionist greets the guests who arrived before you. Business norms include working in return for money, or recognizing that you have to work at your firm for two years before you can be promoted.

When social and business norms conflict, business norms prevail. When this happens, outcomes tends to be poor. The more talk there is of money, the less likely people are to help each other. “People work harder for cause than cash,” says Dr. Gustavo.

Many companies assume the opposite - that employees work for money - and thus the best way to motivate them is to use cash. In many cases, that’s dead wrong.

How does this relate to culture? If you make your culture all about money, you will have a hard time fostering teamwork and collaboration. But if you make room in your culture for social norms - be kind, help others, show respect - you won’t need money to motivate positive behaviors. No one pays you to give up your seat to an elderly person, you just do it because it is the right thing to do.

Organizational cultures shouldn’t trump social norms; they should embrace them in genuine and substantive ways. This is how you foster collaboration, teamwork and even innovation. This is how you bring out the best in people.

By offering a wide range of free benefits to its employees - free gourmet food and dry cleaning and other services that make their personal lives easier - Google deliberately brings social norms into their business culture.

Dr. Gustavo quotes Larry Page, Google co-founder, who said, “If you make the world a radically better place, money will find you in a fair, balanced, and elegant way.”

Don’t start with the money. Start with social norms and stick with them. Build genuine relationships with employees and customers. It may sound like a paradox, but the more you are able to take money off the table, the faster your company will grow.

One word of caution: don’t get stuck in the middle. A management team that cares mainly about cash can’t be convincing in claiming that they want to “help others” or be “customer-focused”. Such leaders will sound insincere at best, and untrustworthy at worst.

Image: STML/Flickr

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It’s Time To Take Your Own Advice

Posted by David Couper on September 24, 2015 9:45 AM

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I’m not a doctor or a nurse, I don’t even play one on TV, but one thing I have noticed about my caregivers over the years is that they have given me some great advice about staying well. They have all suggested exercise, weight loss, stress reduction, and even counseling and yoga to deal with life’s issues; yet, so many of them don’t seem to follow their own advice. When I visited my local hospital recently, I noticed how many healthcare professionals seemed stressed and unhappy. In fact, many research studies and my own work experience with healthcare companies show that many healthcare employees are in crisis about their own health and well-being.

A recent documentary entitled “Resilient Nurses” shares how nurses work “12 hour shifts which can lead to sleep deprivation and in turn cause physical problems like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Seventy-seven percent of nurses reported they do not eat properly on a regular basis.”

Our current healthcare system is going through some of the most challenging times we have ever known. One of my clients, a senior executive in a very well-known HMO, said that he had never known it to be this busy in his 25-year career. Everyone is demanding something from you, and it has to be now or earlier. 

Why don’t you follow your own advice?

Here’s the thing—if your patients don’t find the time to take your well-being advice, you know what the consequences will be. Don’t the same consequences apply to you, or have you somehow developed or created a different treatment that we non-healthcare types don’t know about?

My bet is you feel like you don’t have time. Maybe you are thinking, ”I don’t have time to go to the gym, or to the farmer’s market and buy organic kale, or take a vacation in Vail or Venezuela where I get the chance to switch off. I exercise when I walk the halls of my hospital or organization.  I don’t have time for a food break, so I eat food from the vending machine – yes, even those mystery meat sandwiches.  I’ve heard of vacations, but they are a waste of time. People need me!”

Your limiting belief systems will impact your health. Maybe not now, but possibly in your near future.  How can you shift your mindset to taking better care of yourself? How can you find some relief? Here are some suggestions:

1) Shifting Your Beliefs

If we believe that we don’t have time, if we talk about how busy we are, if we think that we won’t get everything done we should, then probably that is what we will get.  Without diving too deep into metaphysics and woo-woo, most healthcare professionals know that patients who talk about positive outcomes, are connected to others and doing things that make them happy, have better recoveries and heal faster.

I would say that is true about how we think of time. 

When I go to the airport and worry about the lines at the check-in, security and even Starbucks, that’s what I will find. I will be rushing, worried about being late and stressed.  When I shift my mindset and start being open to it all being fine, sometimes it is fine (and sometimes it’s not), but at least I have not spent time worrying about it. My stress levels are reduced, and I’m more peaceful.

Don’t focus on how much time you don’t have, but try to bring your attention back to the time you do have.

2) Take 15

Healthcare professionals think about other people first—their patients—but if they do this at the expense of themselves, they may be not serving those who need healing.  Not taking the time to go for the 15 minute walk around the block deprives us of reflection time, fresh air, and exercise, and it potentially deprives the patient of having the healthcare professional in a positive, caring and focused space.

I make time on most days to meditate, reducing my stress and keeping my focus. I spend 15 minutes whenever I find the time because I know that I feel better, I am less stressed with my team, and the day just goes better, and I am less likely to snap at my son when he comes home from school. I don’t do it for me as much as for others.

Think about how you help yourself first so that you can help others better.

3) Have to vs Want to

Some of us are not clear about what we have to do as opposed to what we want to do. ”Have to” do something is when someone orders or insists we do something. “Want to” is when we want to do it. Is the pressure coming from inside of us or outside of us? 

I can find myself doing things that I have to do, when in reality no one made me do them. Sending holiday greetings cards to all my clients was on my list of something I had to do. When I stopped to think, there was nothing that demanded me do it. Of course, it was a nice thing to do, and I wanted to do it, but was it essential? No!

I have seen doctors and healthcare professionals who attend committees because they think they have to, do an extra shift to make some more cash because they have to, or cancel their plans for vacation because something important comes along and they think they have to. 

Ask yourself whether what you are doing is being dictated by someone outside of you or whether the desire actually comes from you.

It’s challenging—that’s corporate speak for “it sucks”— to find time for ourselves. But if we don’t look at the reasons behind our lack of time and see what we can do about changing how we spend our time, we will just be like one of those annoying patients (that some of you may see) who never seem to listen to what you say to them.

I encourage you to take care of yourself so you can help take care of others. It’s a win-win for everyone, especially for you.

Click here to learn more about David’s 21 Day Meditation Program for Healthcare Professionals, Caring for Others; Caring for Yourself.

Image: Aletia/Depositphotos

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You Are Never Just Your Job Title

Posted by David Couper on September 22, 2015 9:30 AM

Healthcare is a system in which many diverse human beings work together to care for many other diverse human beings. Fill a hospital with just doctors or just nurses or just lab technicians, and the system won’t function at all.

The roles are different, but none is consistently more valuable than another. To some patients, I imagine that the nurse’s presence and contribution is more meaningful than the doctor’s. But in other cases, a doctor - or a team of doctors and nurses - literally saves that patient’s life.

The janitor is valuable. So is the hospital’s CEO.

Your ability to contribute something of value is dependent on one thing: your determination to contribute something of value. To do this, you have to be unbound by any preconception about your title or limitations. Respect the system, yes, but above all else, believe in yourself.

By the way, I think Kelley did a great job and managed to spark a worthwhile discussion about our healthcare system and the value of human compassion.

Image: wenzday01/Flickr

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Who’s Taking Care of You?

Posted by David Couper on September 17, 2015 9:37 AM

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In 2014, CareerBuilder asked over 3,200 professionals to report on their stress levels, and health care workers shouted the loudest, with over 69% reporting they felt “stressed” and another 17% saying they were “very stressed”.

Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare, observed, “Stress is part of the environment in many health care settings, but high levels sustained over a long-period of time can be a major detriment to employee health and ultimately stand in their way of providing quality care to patients.”

The health care industry is highly complex, with numerous pressures on its workers, and it would be fruitless for me to try to solve in this article the structural factors that cause workers so much stress. But one thing is clear: if you work in this industry, you better have a personal strategy for moderating your stress and anxiety levels.

For example, I know of one sports medicine surgeon who manages an incredible workload and is routinely responsible for repairing the bodies of injured athletes. He is an athlete himself, and one thing people notice about him is that he only has two speeds: full-speed ahead or very slow. In an emergency or skiing down an expert slope, he moves quickly. But at most other times, he moves slowly. He thinks before he speaks, pauses to make sure he is taking the right action, and listens carefully to be certain he heard what you told him.

This deliberate reaction to stress - to slow down when all around you speeds up - is counter-intuitive, but it works. Stress degrades performance. It leads to mistakes, which can have deadly consequences in health care settings.

If you know you are in a high stress setting, you must devote more time and effort to balancing that stress, so that the work you do is sustainable.

This might mean exercising more, or meditating, or both. It might mean consciously deciding to always be the calming influence in any room. There are many tactics, but what matters most is that you choose a tactic that is effective for you.

A recent research report, Preventing occupational stress in healthcare workers, surveyed 58 studies that included a total of 7,188 participants. It observed:

In 17 studies there was low- to moderate-quality evidence that both mental and physical relaxation led to a reduction of 23% in stress levels compared to no intervention.

From my own experience, I’d interpret this to mean that half-hearted efforts aren’t enough to balance the stress that many health care workers experience. A little bit of exercise or a meditation session every now and then won’t counterbalance near-constant stress. But if you devote real energy and determination to such areas, you can see real benefits.

Here’s the truth: if you love your work, then having a solid plan for staying healthy, relaxed and focused is the only way to keep performing at high levels. You are only human, and all humans need to slow down and recharge on a regular basis.

If you work in healthcare and are looking to slow down and recharge, David Couper Consulting is offering a free 21 day meditation program tailored for you, starting September 28th. Find out more and register. 

Image: opensourceway/Flickr

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Is Your Body Talking to You?

Posted by David Couper on September 10, 2015 9:30 AM

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If we're not listening to our bodies, sometimes, they'll make sure we listen through physical ailments. Just this morning I found myself having an impromptu coaching conversation with our daycare teacher when I noticed she had broken another toe yesterday. Eight weeks prior she’d broken a toe on the opposite foot. So what does this have to do with coaching?

After years of working in pharmaceutical research, collaborating with doctors and personal interest in intuitive and holistic healing, I’ve learned that our bodies communicate with us through major and minor symptoms when we give it no other way to listen.

The daycare teacher, another mother and I slowed down to discuss the symbolism of toes, which according to Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, represent the minor details of the future. I inquired if the daycare teacher could relate to that statement and the minor details of her future.

Tears welled, she got very quiet and in a hushed voice revealed her inner calling and heart's desire – to move to New York- but simultaneous fear of how to, and actually doing it.

Is your body talking to you? What minor symptoms have been surfacing, that seem to have no connection, but could be the way your body is communicating with you?

Slow down, pause and ask what it’s indicating. Your body is talking to you.

Gwen Dittmar is an Executive Coach. Learn more about Gwen and her women’s coaching group by visiting www.gwendittmar.com.

If you work in healthcare and are looking to reduce your stress and overwhelm, David Couper Consulting is offering a free 21 day meditation program tailored for you, starting September 28th. Find out more and register. 

Photo via Flickr

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Two Steps to Greater Calm and Clarity

Posted by David Couper on September 08, 2015 9:30 AM

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Overwhelm is a major cause of stress for many of my business coaching clients. Too many thoughts, too much to do, in too little time, with everything feeling like a priority. Years ago, when I was having my own overwhelm attack, I reached out to one of my mentors who shared this extremely simple and miraculous cure for overwhelm. I call it the Mental Relief Two-Step, because it’s easy and almost as fun as learning the two-step! 

Step 1: List Everything

Grab a pad and pencil (or your tablet or PC) and list EVERYTHING that is on your mind right now – EVERYTHING. That includes worries, fears, to-do’s, errands, appointments – everything!

For example:

  • Prepare draft presentation for committee and send to Pat for review
  • Pick up milk during lunch
  • Worried about Dad
  • Update my LinkedIn profile
  • Very nervous about my committee presentation
  • Set up candidate interviews
  • Overwhelmed, discouraged, and feel stuck
  • Lay out my calendar for the week

Step 2: Prioritize the List

Prioritize the entire list in order of importance, by numbering each item, with 1 being the most important and so on.

For example:

  1. Lay out my calendar for the week
  2. Prepare draft presentation for committee and send to Pat for review
  3. Set up candidate interviews
  4. Update my LinkedIn profile
  5. Pick up milk during lunch
  6. Worried about Dad
  7. Very nervous about my committee presentation
  8. Overwhelmed, discouraged, and feel stuck

Just try this! Believe me; it is very likely you will feel relief just by listing everything on your mind. Also, in prioritizing your worries, you might find yourself laughing as your mind gets how ridiculous that is and releases them. And there’s a good chance you’ll get more done with more peace of mind!

Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.” – Brian Tracy

Enjoy the Mental Relief Two-Step!

Written by Maddisen K. Krown, MA, Personal and Executive Coach, Holoenergetics© Counselor / 
The Huffington Post / nohoartsdistrict.com 

Photo via Flickr

 

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Take a Moment and Take Care of Yourself

Posted by David Couper on September 03, 2015 9:40 AM
2379fuel_gauge

Last week, I was hurrying to go to an exercise class. My car had been on empty for a day and I decided I needed to fill up before I set off on the five-mile trip. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.   Budget completed – check. Sitter with my son – check. Going to do some exercise and feeling good about it – check and double check. 

I went to my usual gas station. I am a creature of habit. But tonight someone was in my “space”. I drove around to the next pump, picked up the handle and filled up my car.  

As I left the garage something was not right with the car. It had no power and was shuddering. I was on a busy road in rush hour, and the car kept going slower and slower. Of course, I was on the phone at the same time during this drama. I hung up and then pulled off into a side street. 

The car is less than two years old. It was serviced the week before. It’s a German car, so usually reliable.  My powers of detection led me to events immediately before the incident. What could have happened?  Could I have put regular gas in my diesel car? Surely not. Only an idiot would do that.

The next day at the dealers, the idiot was told that it was lucky I hadn’t driven too far. They had to flush out the car, replace various things – the oil filter seemed to be one of them. It wasn’t under the warranty because of the “idiot clause.” Luckily it wasn’t $10,000 as the nice guy who worked with me told me it could have been but was just $2000. This was the same day I paid property taxes and my accountant told me I owed money to the Federal and California Governments. 

So what can I learn from this?

What I got from this expensive lesson was that if you rush and rush and don’t slow down, things happen.  Life has a way of making you take notice. I had been busy, hadn’t eaten, hadn’t taken time to relax, focus and center with meditation as I do on a good day. I hadn’t put much “fuel” in, so it was not surprising that I broke down much as my car did. I was on autopilot; not in the moment but thinking about all the things I had to do. 

How many of us are so busy that we are always working out what to do next? Do we miss the present because we are dissecting the past? Are we going through the motions until we get to the really important moment? For me, that was certainly true. That was why I didn’t notice that the “diesel pump handle” was not green like it was normally but the same color as the regular gas. This could have been a clue!

How many of us have said hello to our colleagues as we walked into our workplace and not noticed that something was wrong? Sadly, we only find out later that there was something happening with them – a bad decision, leaving their job or even some tragedy. If we had been in the moment, we might have noticed and stopped and been of service to them. I know I am certainly guilty of sometimes not listening when my son is trying to tell me something that is important to him. I know I sometimes categorize what he says at bedtime as various creative ways of not going to sleep, but I know I have been wrong. He has told me how he misses my partner or was having problems with a nightmare or a bully at school. 

What am I going to miss by not being in the here and now but in the there and gone? How about you?

And as a postscript to this story, when I picked up my car from the garage after it was fixed, the gas was on empty. They had drained out the regular gas and now I needed to fill it with diesel. This time, I am going to be so in the present that it hurts!

Many of us don't take those moments to take notice. Why not take some time for yourself? David Couper Consulting is offering a free 21 day meditation program for those working in healthcare, starting September 28th. Find out more and register. 

 

 

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Finding Power in “Doing Nothing”

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on September 01, 2015 9:30 AM

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I just hung up the phone with a client who said these words to me (nearly shouted them, in fact): “The power is in the space!” You see, one of the reasons she hired me as her coach was because her frenetic schedule and stress level had landed her in the hospital not long before our first meeting. She then went on to say, “This is big. This will change everything.”

The power is in the space? How can that be? Space is full of…well…nothing. How could there be power in nothing? Her old paradigm made much more sense. It told her that busyness is power, doing is power, more is power. There was only one problem; this old way of being was killing her.

Chronic busyness has become an accepted way of life. Our business and personal demands have our calendars busting at the seams. When we do have a spare moment, we find ourselves twiddling our smart phones. Space is the enemy, space is lazy, space is wasteful. Or is it?

I had my own aha moment with this issue after the company I’d helped to build, sold. The integration was difficult and there was constant demand to do more with less. My available work hours were the same yet my workload had grown exponentially. My to-do list was a mile long, I always felt behind, and in my attempt to do everything, I did nothing well. I was a quality-minded employee, so knowing I was doing sub-standard work only made matters worse.

I saw that my experience was just a microcosm of the larger whole. The entire company was scrambling. New initiative after new initiative. Changing course before anything could be finished and measured for efficacy. Instead of creating success, this culture of busyness created burnout, high turnover, and a marked decrease in sales and profit.

What’s the alternative? Slowing down. Doing fewer things better. In short, creating space.

Creating space allows greater:

  • Alignment: leveraging time and space to get everyone on the same page
  • Presence: being fully engaged in an activity creates depth of understanding
  • Wisdom: having think-time allows for brilliant ideas and miraculous solutions to reveal themselves
  • Efficiency: avoiding mistakes, re-dos, and unintended consequences caused by just skimming the surface
  • Rest: recharging fosters retention, creativity, productivity and health
  • Results: aligned, present, wise, efficient and rested employees are able to create stellar results

Indeed, the power is in the space—your power and your organization’s power. Try it. Slow down. You just might be able to move faster.

Laura Dewey MA, Executive Coach with David Couper Consulting and founder of Laura Dewey Coaching, LLC

Photo via Flickr

Take some time for yourself. David Couper Consulting is offering a free 21 day meditation program for those working in healthcare, starting September 28th. Find out more and register. 

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Fuel Up Before You Fuel Up (Clone)

Posted by David Couper on August 31, 2015 4:01 PM

2379fuel_gaugeLast week, I was hurrying to go to an exercise class. My car had been on empty for a day and I decided I needed to fill up before I set off on the five-mile trip.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. Budget completed – check. Sitter with my son – check.  Going to do some exercise and feeling good about it – check and double check. 

I went to my usual gas station. I am a creature of habit. But tonight someone was in my “space”. I drove around to the next pump, picked up the handle and filled up my car.  

As I left the garage something was not right with the car.  It had no power and was shuddering.  I was on a busy road in rush hour, and the car kept going slower and slower.  Of course I was on the phone at the same time during this drama.  I hung up and then pulled off into a side street. 

The car is less than two years old.  It was serviced the week before.  It’s a German car, which is reliable.  My powers of detection led me to events immediately before the incident.  What could have happened?  Could I have put regular gas in my diesel car?  Surely not.  Only an idiot would do that.

The next day at the dealers, the idiot was told that it was lucky I hadn’t driven too far.  They had to flush out the car, replace various things – the oil filter seemed to be one of them.  It wasn’t under the warranty because of the “idiot clause.”  Luckily it wasn’t $10,000 as the nice guy who worked with me told me it could have been but was just $2000.  This was the same day I paid property taxes and my accountant told me I owed money to the Federal and California Governments. 

So what can I learn from this?

What I got from this expensive lesson was that if you rush and rush and don’t slow down, things happen.  Life has a way of making you take notice.  I had been busy, hadn’t eaten, hadn’t taken time to relax, focus and center with meditation as I do on a good day.  I hadn’t put much “fuel” in, so it was not surprising that I broke down much as my car did.  I was on autopilot-not in the moment but thinking about all the things I had to do. 

How many of us are so busy that we are always working out what to do next?  Do we miss the present because we are dissecting the past?  Are we going through the motions until we get to the really important moment?  For me, that was certainly true.  That was why I didn’t notice that the “diesel pump handle” was not green like it was normally but the same color as the regular gas.  This could have been a clue!

How many of us have said hello to our colleagues as we walked into our workplace and not noticed that something was wrong?  Sadly, we only find out later that there was something happening with them – a bad decision, leaving their job or even some tragedy.  If we had been in the moment, we might have noticed and stopped and been of service to them.  I am certainly guilty of not listening when my son is trying to tell me something that is important to him.  I know I sometimes categorize what he says at bedtime as various creative ways of not going to sleep, but I know I have been wrong.  He has told me how he misses my partner or was having problems with a nightmare or a bully at school. 

What am I going to miss by not being in the here and now but in the there and gone?  How about you?

And as a postscript to this story when I picked up my car from the garage after it was fixed, the gas was on empty.  They had drained out the regular gas and now I needed to fill it with diesel.  This time I am going to be so in the present that it hurts!

 

 

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Career Rule #1: Be Loyal to Your Values

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on August 27, 2015 9:25 AM

article from Access Development:

  • 56% of executives say promoting loyalty is "not a major focus, but valued nevertheless" (American Management Association).
  • Declining employee loyalty is thought to harm organizations by causing low morale (84%), high turnover (80%), disengagement (80%), growing distrust (76%), and lack of team spirit (73%)  (American Management Association).
  • 52% of Millennials think employee loyalty is overrated (Elance/Odesk).
  • 6 in 10 Millennials cite a “sense of purpose” as part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers (Deloitte).

Can you see where I’m heading? I gave you three statistics on loyalty and then one on a sense of purpose. Purpose is another way of saying: be loyal to your values. Purpose is the sense of satisfaction you get from doing work that is connected to your values.

If you are loyal to your values, you will be attracted to organizations that share similar values. You will be able to pick the right employers, colleagues and even vendors.

Loyalty to your values makes everything easier, because it leads you to people with whom you want to work.

By the way, when I talk about values, I mean a very short list of what matters most to you, a list that could fit in that very small book at the top of this page.

It’s worth making such a list and living by it.

There is nothing self-centered about this. It simply is a logical path to clarity and consistency. It is a path to simple success in a complicated world.

Image: Sidereal/Flickr

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Keeping Health Care Workers Healthy

Posted by David Couper on August 19, 2015 9:30 AM

Peanuts_image

“Some very talented and socially adept physicians learn to balance compassion with emotional detachment,” writes Dr. Sanaz Majd, “...But for the rest, it’s simply about learning to cope, a survival of the fittest.”

As a health care professional, you work long hours, and encounter kind people who are beyond your ability to help. Since you entered this field to help others, this creates internal conflict and tension. You can’t ignore it; you must manage it.

You also wrestle with conflicting emotions, stressful conditions, bureaucratic roadblocks, and the very real limits of being human. In other words, you are living in a laboratory-like setup that seems designed to cause you stress and fatigue.

Now I’m going to remind you what you already know, but may be ignoring. You have two choices:

1. Ignore the stress, and slowly compromise your ability to be effective.

2. Counter-balance the stress, and preserve your ability to do great work.

#1 is the domain of career burnout. It is what professionals do when they can’t muster the energy to use their own expertise for their own good. People in this category often have difficulty shifting their habits simply because it is the healthy thing to do, so I advise them to think of the people they love and ask, “How will they feel when you aren’t around anymore?”

But let’s be more optimistic, and assume that you want to pursue #2 as a personal strategy.

First, acknowledge that you have human emotions. No matter how professional you may be, certain patients and circumstances will impact you. Don’t bury these feelings. Find someone you trust and deal with them. Start keeping a journal and take time for private reflection. Or you could even emulate Dr. Majd and write publicly about the delicate balancing act you practice.

No matter what approach you take, it’s vital that you do something proactive to deal with your emotions and perceptions.

Sometimes health care professionals have to think outside the box to triumph over such challenges. The Center for Professionalism and Peer Support (CPPS) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston realized that relatively few physicians and other clinicians access support from non-physicians. So CPPS trained over 60 physicians and nurses as peer supporters, all in an effort to help physicians “feel supported, to talk openly about his or her feelings, and to move on to next steps.”

Second, tackle physical stress head-on. Meditate, practice deep breathing, and/or exercise. You can’t simply think yourself to good health. As you know, over time your body will weaken under the weight of steady stress unless you deliberately strengthen and tone it.

Also carve out space for whatever activities - and people - recharge your batteries. It’s tempting to think you don’t have time for this, but if you keep passing up such opportunities... sooner or later your body will give you no other choice.

We’d like to invite those working in healthcare to take some time to recharge with us this Thursday, August 20th, from 12-1 PM PST, for a free webinar with Dr. Carla Rotering on dealing with stress and overwhelm. Register here.

Image: JD Hancock/Flickr

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“Wasting Time” is Good for Your Brain

Posted by David Couper on July 30, 2015 9:30 AM

Download our free "Breathe in Peace" guide.

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How Do You Think About Money?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 21, 2015 9:30 AM

money_chart

To put this simply, Duran asks us to consider the foundation from which we think about money. He writes: when faced with important financial decisions, you will revert to your dominant Money Mind, which will always affect the way you make decisions.

By understanding your starting point - you might think of this as as a concise summary of your biases - you will have a better sense of your natural tendencies.

That is, if you are fearful, you will tend to see the glass as half empty. You may be too cautious, and this may cause you to miss many good investments. In 2008, such a person might have pulled all her money out of the stock market and never reinvested; while the market has gone up, she has earned nothing.

A happiness Money Mind can have the opposite impact, causing people to live for the moment, buy larger homes than they can afford, and take too many vacations.

A commitment Money Mind might cause a person to burn out too young, because he took care of others but never recognized the toll that unyielding stress and responsibility took on him.

None of these mindsets are right or wrong. In fact, understanding one’s Money Mind mainly helps couples or families balance their different approaches. I know of one couple who read the book and discovered he was Happiness and she was Fear. The man’s immediate reaction was “so this is why we have been fighting for 20 years.” The mere exercise of discovering their respective Money Minds helped the couple talk rationally - at last - about money and eventually meet in the middle.

The concept of understanding your biases is extremely powerful and not limited just to financial matters. For example, in our coaching work we often come across clients who have limiting beliefs or engage in negative self-talk. Either one can undermine your talents and slow your career. But if you understand, say, your bias towards being negative or overly critical, you can start to minimize the impact of such liabilities.

One of the main reasons I’m sharing Duran’s book is to demonstrate the power of self-knowledge. For example, he takes you through a few questions that reveal your Money Mind. He then outlines the pros and cons of each mindset. His intention isn’t to convince you to switch mindsets; it is to grow your awareness of how you think and feel.

Once you gain insight into how you think about money, I hope you’ll be motivated to keep going, and unearth how you think about your career.

Credit: Chart is from The Money Code. Image: gfpeck/Flickr

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Serve Investors, Don’t Sell Them

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 19, 2015 8:30 AM

Wall_Street

After two years of thinking about getting a financial advisor - but doing nothing - I finally overcame procrastination and actually met with two of them. My experience reveals the difference between talking about trust versus actually building it.

I was predisposed towards the first advisor who someone recommended to me. My sense was that he advocated a holistic “it’s not just about the numbers” approach. Since my work centers so strongly around people and human relationships, this notion appealed to me.

We set up a formal call, and one of the advisor’s colleagues joined us. To my surprise, the colleague took control of the conversation and adopted what I perceived as a very traditional, overly aggressive stance. He had one focus, and that was to explain why I should work with him. He was trying to close a sale, not understand my needs. As for the holistic approach that initially appealed to me? Whoosh! It simply disappeared. We never spoke about it.

The second advisor was from a seemingly traditional middle market firm. Going in, I didn’t have much of a point of view about him.

This advisor listened to me. He seemed more interested in serving me than selling me. In fact, during a 90-minute conversation, he took a significant amount of time to give me advice about how to manage a rental property, even though he was not - and would never be - compensated for that advice.

One advisor focused on his needs; the other focused on mine. I chose the latter. In listening carefully to me, he gave me reason to trust him with my worldly assets.

The first advisor gave lip service to a holistic approach that took into account my values, fears and aspirations.

The second didn’t waste my time talking about his firm’s “feel good” approach; he simply asked questions and listened to my answers.

The bigger the purchase decision, the more important trust and communication become. Firms that serve individual investors have to earn trust through their actions - not just their words - and also adopt the right communication style for each client. Advisors who simply launch into their standard spiel will face a harder and harder uphill battle.

Since this experience surprised me, I’ve spent some time thinking about it. I wonder if the first advisor fell victim to what often happens in high pressure financial services firms. The marketing and branding teams come up with high-minded, touchy feely concepts that make great TV commercials. But when budgets come up short and management puts pressure on advisors to close deals, all that nonsense gets tossed out the window. They just want to sell, sell, sell.

Service is a way of life. It’s not a marketing strategy. It’s not sexy on a billboard. But it works so much better than all those sexy, flash-in-the-pan ideas.

Image: epicharmus/Flickr

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might also enjoy Customer Service-the Other View

Service is at the heart of DCC's mission.  Find out how we can serve you and your business

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Employees Work Harder for Cause Than Cash

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 15, 2015 9:53 AM

quiet

Take a gregarious and loud man to church, and he will suddenly grow silent as he takes his seat. What tells him to do this? Culture.

Strong cultures dictate our habits, actions and beliefs. Weak cultures allow chaos to thrive.

These are a few of the lessons I took away from a recent presentation by Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky, who is widely known as Dr. Gustavo.

In his highly readable book, Culture Trumps Everything, Dr. Gustavo argues that culture tells us which behaviors are acceptable, and which are forbidden. Culture is what says: that behavior may be okay in the world at large, but it is most definitely not acceptable within our organization.

One of the most interesting aspect of Dr. Gustavo’s observations is the tension between social norms and business norms with regards to a company’s culture. Social norms are behaviors such as helping another person carry a heavy load up the stairs, or waiting politely until a receptionist greets the guests who arrived before you. Business norms include working in return for money, or recognizing that you have to work at your firm for two years before you can be promoted.

When social and business norms conflict, business norms prevail. When this happens, outcomes tends to be poor. The more talk there is of money, the less likely people are to help each other. “People work harder for cause than cash,” says Dr. Gustavo.

Many companies assume the opposite - that employees work for money - and thus the best way to motivate them is to use cash. In many cases, that’s dead wrong.

How does this relate to culture? If you make your culture all about money, you will have a hard time fostering teamwork and collaboration. But if you make room in your culture for social norms - be kind, help others, show respect - you won’t need money to motivate positive behaviors. No one pays you to give up your seat to an elderly person, you just do it because it is the right thing to do.

Organizational cultures shouldn’t trump social norms; they should embrace them in genuine and substantive ways. This is how you foster collaboration, teamwork and even innovation. This is how you bring out the best in people.

By offering a wide range of free benefits to its employees - free gourmet food and dry cleaning and other services that make their personal lives easier - Google deliberately brings social norms into their business culture.

Dr. Gustavo quotes Larry Page, Google co-founder, who said, “If you make the world a radically better place, money will find you in a fair, balanced, and elegant way.”

Don’t start with the money. Start with social norms and stick with them. Build genuine relationships with employees and customers. It may sound like a paradox, but the more you are able to take money off the table, the faster your company will grow.

One word of caution: don’t get stuck in the middle. A management team that cares mainly about cash can’t be convincing in claiming that they want to “help others” or be “customer-focused”. Such leaders will sound insincere at best, and untrustworthy at worst.

David Couper is founder and CEO of David Couper Consulting, a strategic-effectiveness consulting firm focused on the real bottom-line in business: PEOPLE.

Image: STML/Flickr

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You Need a Coach, Mentor, AND Sponsor

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 07, 2015 9:30 AM

mentor_photo

If you don’t know the difference between a coach, mentor and a sponsor, your career could be a long, tough slog uphill. In a perfect world, you will have all three. Let’s start with the differences...

Coach: This is someone paid to help you. In most cases, their mandate is quite clear, such as to polish some rough edges that have prevented you from being more effective in your current position. A coach is all about action and making a measurable difference in a modest amount of time.

When you first start working with a coach, make sure you both have agreed on specific tasks and goals on which you will focus your joint efforts.

Mentor: This is a personal relationship between you and a more experienced professional. That person is often - but not always - in your industry. S/he understands your challenges and opportunities and helps you make wise decisions. A mentoring relationship can be informal, in the sense that neither party ever uses the word “mentor”, but both understand that they are basically engaged in a mentoring relationship.

Working with a mentor, focus on building a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. A mentor is more interested in you than in a specific task or goal. In most cases, they want to see you grow and thrive as a human being.

Sponsor: This is a senior person within your organization; the more senior, the better. You often need such a person to protect your job in tumultuous times, and to help get you promoted in times of opportunity. It can be difficult to survive for long in a large company without having a strong sponsor.

A sponsor is nothing like a coach or mentor. The Washington Post describes sponsorship in this way:

By sponsorship we mean advocating or fighting to get them a job or promotion, mentioning their name for placement on an important committee or visible assignment or actively helping them advance.

 Many mentors give generously of their time and expertise, and expect only that you do your best to take seriously and benefit from their advice. But sponsors often perceive that furthering your career is important to supporting their own objectives.

In my experience, few professionals grasp the importance of this notion: you need to establish a quid pro quo relationship with a senior sponsor. To do this, you must understand what’s in it for another person to serve as your sponsor. This could mean fully grasping – and enabling - your sponsor’s vision and goals.

It’s vital you understand these differences:

  •      A coach is generally there to help you produce specific, immediate results. A good coaching relationship is structured.
  •      A mentor is in it for the long-term relationship. S/he is unlikely to get you another job. Many mentoring relationships are relatively unstructured.
  •      A sponsor can help protect your current job, and also help you get a better one.

This isn’t an either/or decision. Many people have all three relationships. Work towards that goal.

David Couper is founder and CEO of David Couper Consulting, a strategic-effectiveness consulting firm focused on the real bottom-line in business: PEOPLE.

Image: Kevin Dooley/Flickr

Interested to learn more about executive coaching?  You might like this blog post.

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How To Know if Coaching is Worth the Investment

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 23, 2015 8:30 AM

ROI_generator_table

So your ROI formula would look like this: 

(Value of Idea x Percent likelihood) - Cost of Coaching = Total Return

Cost of Coaching/Total Return from Coaching = ROI

Let’s say you choose the doubling revenue as your goal. It’s worth $250,000 to you. Given your past attempts, you feel that without support you have a 50% chance of succeeding.  Your ROI on coaching then would be as follows:

(250,000 x 0.5) - 11,000.00 = 114,000.00

You invested $11,000 and made $114,000, or a 10% return on your coaching investment. 

Of course these numbers are made up. We don’t know how much the coaching costs, how long you will retain your coach, and we haven’t calculated the unmeasurable impact of coaching:  the increase in your Self Mastery, the transformation of your capacity to Be, Do and Have in all areas of your life.

But the formula works to set a framework.

You come into the coaching relationship with a Big Idea, one whose value you have determined for yourself.

You share that expectation with your coach, create a plan that is measurable. Even if the Idea doesn’t seem measurable, “I want to feel less stressed”, “I want to learn to communicate better”, “I want to be healthy and vibrant”, your coach can work with you to create an action plan with measurable signposts on both the inner and outer levels that lets you assess the progress that you’re making.

Rory Cohen is known as the Idea Implementation Coach. Her company, Entelekey, Inc., produces Take 10, a system for implementing Big Ideas. Rory is an implementation faculty/coach for international seminar leaders like Steve Harrison and Alex Mandossian. She blogs on implementation issues for entrepreneur.com and serves as a frequent media guest on national TV and radio, including Entrepreneur Magazine, SmartMoney Magazine and National Public Radio. If you have a great idea inside of you that you haven’t taken action on, visit her at www.take10now.com to find out how you can move forward at lightning speed in just 10 minutes a day.

Photo from Flickr

You might also find one of our other blog posts on Executive Coaching interesting. 

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DCC is Expanding the Team

Posted by David Couper on April 22, 2015 3:52 PM

We believe that when people are happier at work, they do better work and companies get better results. Using deep processes based on positive psychology, we help clients solve their inner issues so that they can get better outcomes on the outside. This approach is unique in the marketplace, and our clients get exceptional benefits from our consulting and coaching solutions. As one of our major accounts said, "If I had got half of what we have achieved in this last year, I would have been happy!"

We are a rapidly growing talent management and executive coaching company with over twenty years experience in the US and Europe that requires an Executive Coordinator to provide support to our founder and CEO, David Couper.  

Read the full job description here.  

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When I’m Not Judging Myself

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 16, 2015 9:30 AM

I, for one, would much rather live with myself from the mind and heart of self-acceptance, than from judgment and criticism. Wouldn’t you?

"If you deliberately plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you will be unhappy for the rest of your life" - Abraham Maslow

Nicola Albini, MA, is an executive coach and high performance strategist. He guides individuals, teams, and organizations to actualize their full potential.Find out more about Nicola and his work here

Photo via Flickr.

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Seeing with New Eyes

Posted by David Couper on April 09, 2015 9:30 AM

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The drive home from my office takes me over a big hill. As I come over the crest, I’m greeted with a beautiful vista of rolling hills with far away mountains in the background. I come over this hill to this view at least five times per week. Up and over. Up and over. Up and over.

You’d think I’d get tired of this, but if anything, I look forward to it more each day. The reason?

I never know what I’m going to see.

The other evening I almost stopped the car because the rising moon nearly filled my windshield. A few days before I was greeted with something I’ve never seen here—ever: Mystical evening fog blurring the hills with multi-layered shades of gray.

Bright and sunny, dark and foreboding, pink and green, brown and browner…there are as many variations as days of the year.

Same hills. Completely different experience.

My experience shifts depending on conditions; nature’s outer conditions and my inner conditions.

Realizing this made me wonder how I can bring new eyes to other areas of my life. Is there anywhere I see people or situations only one way? Do I have tunnel vision? Do I let my feelings skew my judgment? Am I missing important subtleties that could give me amazing new perspective?

So I ask you: Is there any area of your life where you are missing important opportunities because you’re thinking, “No that’s just the way it is?”

Is it?

Is it really?

If you bring new eyes to your life and business, you’ll open the door to possibilities you never knew were there, right in front of you.

Laura Dewey MA, Executive Coach with David Couper Consulting and founder of Laura Dewey Coaching, LLC

This blog post originally featured in our Connecting the Dots newsletter. 

Photo via Flickr.  

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Anatomy of a Big Idea

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 02, 2015 9:34 AM

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The action level thoughts are things like:

“How will I find the time?”

“Where will I get the money?”

“Which path will I choose?”

“How can I stop procrastinating?”

Moving through the action level is the easiest, because all you have to do is take one step after another.  When you’ve gotten to the action level of the idea, you can raise your chance of implementing all the way to 100%.

Distinguish a thought or a ‘want’ from an Idea.

Steve had a Big Idea for his business. He had read all the books on success:  The Secret, Think and Grow Rich, all the classics.

He had a check made out for $1 million taped to his computer where he could see it every day.

Every day for years he would repeat the mantra, “I am rich beyond my wildest dreams,” and every year, he watched his business and his income stagnate.

“What’s wrong?” he’d cry. “Why doesn’t this positive thinking work for me?”

From my perspective, the problem was that Steve had not distinguished between what he wanted, “to be rich,” and what was his true Big Idea.

Big Ideas are easiest to achieve when you can interpret EXACTLY what the idea is.

We tend to think of an Idea as a thing and usually as a thing that we want:  “I want to be a millionaire,”  “I want to be a best-selling author, selling books around the world,” “I want to start a business and earn passive income.”

When I work with clients like Steve, I begin by probing his Idea. The conversation might go something like this:

“’I want to be rich’ is a thought, not an idea, Steve. What do you see when you see yourself ‘rich’? I mean, really SEE, like you can taste it, feel it?”’

“Well,” he said, “I see myself on a sailboat in the Caribbean, wearing shorts and a beard, with my wife and kids playing cards on the deck.”

“Great,” I said. “Now how do you feel when you’re on the boat?”

“I feel relaxed, calm, energized, sexy and full of joy.”

“So now we’re getting somewhere. Your Big Idea has something to do with a sailboat, a relaxed lifestyle, time with your wife and kids and feeling relaxed, calm, energized, sexy and full of joy. I don’t see anything in there about being rich.”

“Well, duh…you have to be rich to have the boat!”

“Maybe, maybe not,” I said. “At this point, we don’t know. All we know now is that if your Big Idea is to be on a boat but you are focusing your attention on getting rich, that might be why you have seemed so stuck lately.”

Instead of focusing on the ‘want’ of “I want to be rich,” Steve would create a Big Idea Blueprint that had the elements that he really could envision. He could envision the boat and the beard, he could envision being relaxed and calm. Once he shifts his focus on the things that are in his true vision, he will start to see movement in his results.

And the side benefit of this approach? Instead of waiting until he makes the money to buy the boat to feel calm, relaxed and happy, by focusing on the elements of his Big Idea, Steve can feel more relaxed, more calm and happier without changing a thing in his outside world. 

Try it yourself. Think of a goal you have, something that has been difficult to achieve.

Now imagine that you have miraculously achieved the goal. Picture it as completely as possible.

Describe what you see in as much detail as you can.

Describe how you are feeling in as much detail as you can.

Are those feelings a better description of your Big Idea than your original ‘want’?

What are the possibilities that open up if your Big Idea is to have more of those feelings and qualities in your life? What are some other ways you can imagine reaching that goal?

Notice I said ‘more’ of the qualities, because just by doing the exercise and imagining the qualities, you should automatically be experiencing more of them than you did ten minutes ago.

Rory Cohen is known as the Idea Implementation Coach. Her company, Entelekey, Inc., produces Take 10, a system for implementing Big Ideas. Rory is an implementation faculty/coach for international seminar leaders like Steve Harrison and Alex Mandossian. She blogs on implementation issues for entrepreneur.com and serves as a frequent media guest on national TV and radio, including Entrepreneur Magazine, SmartMoney Magazine and National Public Radio. If you have a great idea inside of you that you haven’t taken action on, visit her at www.take10now.com to find out how you can move forward at lightning speed in just 10 minutes a day.

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10 Tips for Hiring a Coach for Employees

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on March 26, 2015 9:30 AM

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Somewhere between “this person has so much potential” and “we need someone to turn this person around”, you recognize that it may be prudent to hire an executive coach for one or more of your employees. Either way, it’s not enough to simply hire a coach; you need to match each employee with the right coach.

In other words, you will increase your odds of success by following these ten principles.

1. Has the coach gone through his or her own transformation? Knowledge isn’t enough to make a successful coach. The best coaches understand transformation, because they have experienced it firsthand.

A few years back, I was laid off immediately after a highly successful consulting engagement. My boss asked me into his office and I expected to get a raise. When he started reading a prepared statement written by an attorney, I was shocked. But the upside of that experience is I know now what it’s like to lose your footing and then regain it.

Change is wrenching, difficult and messy. Don’t hire someone who only understands this in theory.

2. Ask about their coaching style. Don’t hire a coach who can’t provide a solid answer to this question. It’s up to the coach to be crystal clear about the way they operate, which then allows you to match a coach with a client likely to benefit from his or her particular approach.

For example, one of our coaches, a physician, coaches one of our physician clients. This works quite well, because the coach speaks in the same manner as his client, citing medical terms and providing evidence for his assertions.

Other times, it might be more helpful to match a physician client with a coach who understands health care administration, because the physician is experiencing challenges that arise mainly from not understanding the “demands” coming from administrators.

3. Pick coaches who listen more than they talk. A person who talks too much is a consultant, not a coach. Consultants have agendas; coaches are open and flexible. Coaches understand that the best plan today might be to listen while the client describes the huge fight she just had with her spouse.

4. Test their understanding of the issues. When you explain the issues to a potential coach, ask them to repeat back what they heard. Check to make certain they understand the substance behind the issues. If they can’t follow your brief overview, they will never be able to grasp the point of view of a client who is having a hard time sorting out the right course of action.

5. Verify they can relate to the person you want coached. Professional coaches are versatile, but they are not magicians. Certain coaches work best with certain clients. A bit of sensitivity in this regard goes a long way. Don’t match a sports fanatic coach with a client who couldn’t catch a ball to save his or her life.

6.  Make certain they have a basic grasp of your business and industry. If everything out of a client’s mouth sounds like a jumble of random acronyms, a coach won’t be effective. S/he must know enough about your business to understand the context and realities with which their client is dealing.

Don’t take this principle too far; you are hiring a coach, not a consultant. The coach doesn’t have to be qualified to perform the client’s job, just knowledgeable enough to understand it.

7. Fit the coach into a larger picture. We look at coaching as one tool within a larger solution. To achieve success, you will also need to involve supervisors, performance feedback, and training. For example, if you provide a coach detailed data about his or her client’s performance, you make it possible for the coach to focus on what has really been happening. In contrast, if you limit a coach to the client’s own perceptions, you base the entire process on what may be a lopsided perspective.

8. Have a plan for monitoring progress. Is the client showing up? Is progress being made? What’s the plan, and how are things progressing? There must be regular communication between HR and the coach, and also with the client’s supervisor. This last part is especially important, because it provides the coach with an opportunity to communicate directly with the supervisor, who may, for example, be inadvertently undercutting the client’s efforts to improve.

9. Be alert for failure. Sometimes coaching doesn’t work. One of every, say, 200 assignments, the coach and client simply don’t mesh. We have over 50 coaches, so if this happens, we have the option to shift coaches. On occasion, a client can perceive that the coach isn’t keeping information confidential or isn’t listening accurately. There are quirks in all human relationships; you need to pay attention and react when there is a problem.

10. Put the costs in perspective. Some of our clients earn over $1 million a year; it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace such a professional. Others manage vital areas in which the expenses can be significant if there is a change in leadership. Viewed from these perspectives, the funds needed to hire a coach seem like a modest and prudent investment in avoiding a major problem. At lower levelsY, you also might have a receptionist or office manager messing things up a bit in a highly visible, client-facing position. A coach can help turn such a situation around quickly, much faster than it would take to hire and train a replacement.

David Couper is founder and CEO of David Couper Consulting, a strategic-effectiveness consulting firm focused on the real bottom-line in business: PEOPLE.

Image: Jeff Pioquinto, SJ/Flickr

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Five Myths about Talent Management

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on March 19, 2015 9:30 AM

2008 study, “only 5 percent of organizations say they have a clear talent management strategy and operational programs in place today.”

3.  HR owns Talent Management

OK, when things go wrong, such as not being able to hire top sales people or nurses, then this is probably true.  Certainly when my company has coached senior HR executives, including the Head of HR for a large healthcare organization, when the chips were down with talent acquisition, the blame was not shared fairly!

But for Talent Management to be successful, we need more than the HR department working on this.  Ideally, this is a collaboration between HR, Training & Development or Leadership/Employee Development, Organizational Effectiveness and Organizational Development AND operations or the business.  Senior leadership and sponsorship is also vital.  Again this is something that is lacking.  According to the 2008 study, only 50% of organizations had a senior person actively involved.

4.  Get Recruitment Right and Your Talent Management Problems are Solved

I wish this was true, seeing how difficult it can be to hire the right talent, but recruiting the right person is only the first step on the journey.  Many organizations put many or even all of their resources into finding the cool candidates and getting them to sign on the dotted line only to find that they move on after a few years or that they can’t do what is expected of them. 

Engagement and Development are just as important.  Engaging your workforce so they feel committed to your vision and mission is crucial.  Engagement is defined by the Conference Board as, “[a] heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.”  Development of your people so that they can do their work more effectively, manage and lead more skillfully, and meet new challenges is also key.

5. Your Talent Management Strategy is Your End Goal  

It’s fantastic that you have a strategy but, unfortunately, that is only the beginning.  For some organizations and consulting companies who support them, the plan becomes the beginning and the end.  A lot of effort is put into research and bench-marking of what other companies are doing in the marketplace and a great report is produced – with a lot of color graphs and infographics.  Everyone agrees and pats themselves on their collective backs.  Then the next crisis comes along or a change of leadership or just normal work happens, and the strategy gets forgotten.

The strategy has to come alive through implementation.  This takes time and needs consistent focus and effort.  It’s also hard to do everything at once, so talent management focuses on succession planning or leadership development and forgets employee development. 

If the strategy is going to transform a culture so that behaviors change and people meet the current and new challenges, it has to be comprehensive.  Planning and communicating that is important.  Keeping an eye on the big picture while making sure the details are in place is necessary to keep moving forward, keeping your employees along the way.

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On Perfection

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on February 05, 2015 9:30 AM

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What does perfection mean to you?  I always disliked the idea of perfection, but a new definition has made me think differently.  Maybe perfection isn't as unattainable as we thought, and we can see moments of perfection all around us.

I am addicted to “Call The Midwife,” a British show about midwives in a poor part of London in the 50’s just after the Second World War. 

In Episode 5, two of the characters face challenges. One of the midwives, a religious sister, has an alcoholic brother, and a couple have a daughter with Downs Syndrome who becomes pregnant. The sister loves her brother but struggles with him drinking and living rough on the street. The husband and wife want to keep their daughter safe, like any parents, but struggle with how to be with her differences.

The program is originally based on the real-life memoir of an English woman, Jennifer Worth. On TV, every episode starts and ends with the older version of Jennifer, played by Vanessa Redgrave introducing and closing the story. This quote is from Epsiode 5. It touched my heart.

“Perfection is not a polished thing. It is often simply something that is sincerely meant. Perfection is a job complete, praise given, a prayer heard, it can be kindness shown, thanks offered up. Perfection is what we discover in each other–what we see reflected back….And if perfection alludes us –that doesn’t matter for what we have within the moment is enough.” Call the Midwife (BBC Television)

In the story, the parents love their daughter so much even though she is different, and, in the same way, the sister loves her brother even though he has his challenges.

For me I have never been a fan of perfection. Perfection always seemed to mean painful, hard, and, in the end, unattainable. 

As much as I tried at various times in my life to write something which looked right, or have the most magical evening where everyone had a good time and there were no mistakes, or make my home just right with everything matching except those things that should never match, it never worked. 

There was always something which would happen. The report would have a typo or the font would change from Roman to Arial. The evening would have a problematic waiter or a dessert which was overpriced and tasteless. The house would be great, but then there would be a stain on the rug or a scratch on the new antique table.

The TV show's definition of perfection is one based on how our hearts connect for a moment with each other and with the world around us. Perfection is that time when someone reads a report and smiles or stops to think because they know that what is there is true for them. Perfection is that time when everything stops at a dinner and you just notice the candle light reflecting on a glass and see how everyone is talking and smiling around the table. Or Perfection is that time when you stop and watch the sun shining in the window and bathing everything in your home with light so your world is golden.

That is perfection for me. It is with us every day, every hour and every minute if we can stop, look and listen. It is not 100% or an A grade; it is that feeling that we find in our heart as we notice life happening around us and realize we are part of it!

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Messages

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on November 27, 2014 9:30 AM

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Tuesday was the 2nd year anniversary of my partner’s death.  He died just after Thanksgiving when we were on vacation. It felt sad and strangely it felt worse than the first year. I was confused why. I had great plans for celebrating and not mourning but somehow they were not working out.

I was in my office trying not to work but not sure what to do and feeling no joy in going out or staying in, eating dinner or going to the gym, or even being quiet or singing along to something silly. I saw a book on my shelves, “Under the Tuscan Sun”. This is the story, written a few years ago, of a woman who buys a house in Italy, does it up and finds herself with liberal servings of olive oil, peasant neighbors, and arguments over construction woes. 

I picked it up and began to read. For the first time that day, I began to relax. I enjoyed living the wonderful countryside and the dreams she made real. A group of us and my partner and I had rented a house very close to the town that Frances May, the author, lived in, and it was like meeting an old friend again. I thought of the good times during that vacation and was thankful for those memories. I felt at peace and carried on reading.

I was down a few chapters when I realized there was a postcard tucked into the back of the book. The card was of the Stars and Stripes wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving from my sister and her husband in England. It was dated 11/25. What a strange coincidence that I should open this book and find this card. A card with the same date as the anniversary wishing me Happy Thanksgiving. It was a message. A reminder that we are never alone. A note to tell me that nothing is ever finished even when it looks like it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Photo via Flickr

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Are We All Alone?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on November 19, 2014 9:30 AM

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I was in Florida for a few days for work and also spent some time with my son enjoying the glorious weather, the pool and the beach. On the last day, we had a couple of hours in the sun before we left for the airport. I tried to relax but I felt uneasy, unsettled and confused. Normally, when I feel like this I would have gone into action. I would have bought another book, found my computer to do some work, or started making lists in my notebook. I resisted the temptation to get busy and so stop the feelings and start the thoughts. 

I eased into the feelings. I realized I felt alone. My son had swam all morning but now wanted to play his game on his iPad, my business partner had left, and I had not made friends with anyone at the pool. I looked around and saw romantic couples, cute families, and groups celebrating birthdays or the game. I was alone and I felt sad. My thoughts were going back to happier days when I would have been with my partner on vacation. Then those same thoughts bounced to the future and being alone having never found another partner. Then my thoughts went crazy. What happened?  Why?  What if?  Why didn’t I? How strange the mind is! I was ready to get a drink – a strong one – but I knew that would stop me from being in the present.

To understand what was going on I followed this process.

Feel the Feelings

I stayed with my feelings and felt them. Instead of trying to feel happy or positive, I stayed with the authentic moment. 

Got the Thoughts

I realized that I was blaming myself for being alone. My partner died in a snorkeling accident. I saw that I sill believed that I could have done something to save him.

Offer Compassion

I had compassion for myself and acknowledged that I had done my best when my partner died. My thoughts stopped bouncing around at warp speed and slowed down. I settled back into feelings but this time, instead of the fear, I connected with my inner self.

Reframing

I realized that these were all stories. I was not alone because everyone in the world is connected. We are all drops of water in the universal ocean.

Moving On

I shut my eyes and just began thinking about all the things that I was grateful for, including the most obvious that I was sitting in the sun by a fabulous pool with the beach in the background. Duh!

After following that process, I felt lighter and clearer, ready to go on with my life.

I am glad I stayed with the feelings and not the fear. I can read a book anytime but clearing my head is priceless.

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Party Pooper or Party Pooped?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on November 13, 2014 9:30 AM

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I must be strange – OK, well some of you already knew that! – but for me, the most fun part of a party is when it is all over, everything is cleaned up and the house is back to normal! Don’t get me wrong; I do like parties, too. I just had my son’s class – kids and parents – over to the house for Halloween, and it was great fun. The kids had a blast, and the parents got to hang out and chat. It was a good time with no tantrums from the kids not getting their turn or the adults getting too many libations.

But I love the after-after party. I have such a sense of accomplishment when the garbage is put out, the big plates I use for parties are put away, and the house is put back to rest. The party is done, people had a good time (hopefully) and the arrangements are off my to-do list. 

I guess although I love the fun of people being in my house, the conversation and the eating and drinking, I also like it when we get back to normal. It makes me happy to see things are settled and calm. It makes me feel calm to see that nothing has changed! My home is still my home, and everything is right in the world.

That’s an illusion. After the party, nothing was the same. There were scratches on the new floor. No big deal, but they weren’t there before and now they are. I may be able to fix them or not. I have a refrigerator full of food because I overestimated how much people would eat and what they would bring. That’s a nice problem to have, but it may end up with wasted food. I also know some of the parents from the class better. As I run in to do drop-off, I can say hello and have some connection. Normally I am running in out of the school at drop-off or pick up and don’t have time to stop for conversation.

What does this mean for those of us at work? I believe many of us are like me. They want the change to be over so that they can get back to normal. They may even forget that the change – the party – could be fun. The chaos of lots of people in the house, dirty plates and glasses, and kids running wild are part of life and enjoying ourselves. Do we really want that all to be over so we can go back to our quiet, tidy, organized lives?

We also may be kidding ourselves to think that, after a change, everything is going back to normal. After something happens, whether it is a party, a system implementation or even an argument with a team member, nothing is ever back to normal. There will always be things that are different. Some will upset us and some will bring us joy. But we will always have the party.

Photo via Flickr

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How Do You Inspire…or Not?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 23, 2014 9:30 AM

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Our words can inspire others to be their best selves or turn away from being their best selves. How can we be sure that we encourage and inspire others to be their best?

NPR was running an interesting story about a scientist working with genes. The reporter explained how the scientist had been interested in science but hadn’t thought about becoming a scientist herself until a woman scientist visited her school. At that moment, the girl decided that she too wanted to have a career in science.

It reminded me of a time when I was about 11 and was in an art class. I was enjoying painting and was very happy. My teacher saw my work and told me I would never be an artist. Maybe he didn’t say that, but that is what I remembered. I believed him and put that career choice to one side. It had never been a really serious job option, but I do love art. When I was younger, I thought about architecture, design and fine arts as career choices, but this teacher stopped those thoughts. Silly because why did I trust him more than my own intuition? Silly because if he was really an expert, why wasn’t he giving Picasso a run for his money? Silly because he didn’t even seem to like what he was doing.

You may ask how was this similar to the inspirational story of the scientist inspired by the school visitor?  Well, just as you can inspire someone to do something, you can uninspire someone to do something different or nothing! 

As a leader, we have to be mindful of when we are motivating our teams and when we are demotivating them. We have to think about when are we lighting them up and when we are extinguishing their light. And we have to take the responsibility of being a mentor, a coach and a role model seriously.

I was excited by how a young person could be put on a career track that they love and which seems to be their life’s purpose. Let's all work on doing that with our teams, our friends and families, and the kids we come into contact with!

Photo via Flickr

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Getting the Whole Picture

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 16, 2014 9:30 AM

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I was recently in London, Paris and Berlin and noticed how healthy some things were getting!  Everywhere there were bikes you could rent and people were using them.  And people were walking.  Exercise was not something you drove to but was something that was happening as part of your daily city life. 

I also noticed the food.  In all three cities, portions were smaller.  I didn’t see many super size anythings, especially in Paris.  There were also more healthier choices in Paris and Berlin – England still has some way to go on there – but there were fresh vegetables, lighter choices and organic foods.  So even though I ate some wonderful bread in France, drank some great beer in Germany and some yummy curry in England, I didn’t put on weight.

But smoking still didn’t seem to be as much as an issue as it is here in the US and especially California.  People weren’t smoking in restaurants or bars, but they still were outside.  I was surprised how many people seemed to be smoking. 

So what to make of all this?  Looking around at Parisians puffing away on their Gauloises, we might say how they don’t care about their health.  But we would be missing all the other information about diet and exercise.  So how does this apply to other parts of our lives?

I guess we can’t make a decision on only part of the picture.  French people smoke so they are not health conscious.  French people use bicycles so they are health conscious.  The truth lies somewhere between.  We can often judge people we work with based on one action or one character trait, but that may not be accurate.  The person who is late for meetings may be very good at brainstorming or problem solving.  To understand someone, we must know them all.

Photo via Flickr

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Meet Me in Paris

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 09, 2014 9:30 AM

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So, some people would say there are no coincidences.  I would have to be one of them.  Recently, I was in Europe meeting with my business partner in London and seeing a potential client in Paris.  One evening, I stopped to have dinner at a little restaurant.

I was on my own. I had not been to Paris since my partner passed away two years ago, and there were lots of memories.  I also had planned to be here with a friend, but unfortunately it had not worked out, and I was sad about that, too.

I love eating and restaurants. I don’t mind having lunch by myself, but in the evening, I prefer being with someone, or if that fails with a book to give myself cover or my iphone to check all those important Facebook updates.  I didn’t have a book and my phone was not working.  So I was forced to just enjoy the wonderful setting in the shadow of Notre Dame and the fantastic meal that I was served!

I was sitting at a table for one next to the only other table for one. There was a guy who I thought was French – he was eating Steak Tartare – who was about my age at that place.  We both ate our meals, and then I don’t know whether he said something or I did, but we began a conversation.

He was American who had lived in England for many years.  I am British living in the United States for many years.  He had worked in Asia; so had I.  He ran a transportation business, well I don’t!  But then we talked about more personal things.

His wife had died ten weeks ago after a long illness and he had cared for her all that time.  I too had lost my partner after an accident.  As we talked, he talked about his philosophy of life.  He meditated.  He believed in much of Buddhist philosophy.  In so many ways, his view of life was mine.  Just like me, he saw the death of someone he thought was his soul mate as tragic but also as something to learn from and grow from.   It was one of the most interesting, powerful and positive conversations.  And all because I forgot my book and coincidentally I sat next to this guy. 

But I know it was not an accident.  I believe we both needed someone to talk to that evening and someone – not just the waitress – put us next to each other!

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Coming Out of Any Closet

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on October 02, 2014 9:30 AM

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I just saw a very inspiring Ted Talk. In it, the woman talks about her experience coming out of the closet and relates it to other hard conversations. She believes, and I agree, that we all share that common experience of finding it hard to tell someone something personal about ourselves, whether it’s that you’re gay, you just declared bankruptcy, or you just got fired. The common factor is we’re human and we’re afraid.

I recently saw this with a hard conversation I had with someone who was working with me. This person was a good person, good at what they did, but not in the right position in my organization. It was hard to tell this person that their role wasn’t working and we needed to rethink things.

Why was it hard? I admit that one of my flaws is “being nice” and that certainly got in the way. Actually this is incorrect. I am not really being nice. I was avoiding the difficult conversation. I was avoiding the truth, avoiding upsetting someone, and avoiding being a leader. Because leaders can’t be “nice”.

It’s not nice to let someone do a job that is not right for them without giving them feedback and either trying to find something that does work for them or let them find another position which is a fit.

It is not nice to say yes to something because you think that saying no will upset someone, especially when this is affecting the overall health of your organization.

It’s not nice to avoid the truth when lies kill trust in you, your company and your culture.

So I met with the person. I was clear about what I needed to communicate. I was authentic in saying what was working and what was not working. I listened really hard and was ready to be wrong about my decision. 

In the end the conversation went well. The other person already realized that things were not working and was ready to move to something that was more aligned with their career vision. It was an honest, powerful and healing conversation.

So if you need to have a conversation you are avoiding, be brave. Don’t be nice; be honest, open and authentic. That is what leaders do.

Photo via Flickr

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Introducing our new VP of Business Development, Ryan Hutto

Posted by David Couper on September 30, 2014 8:50 AM

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A while back, my wife came back from a coaching intensive where many of the top coaches came together for training and she told me about one of the games they played. It was something about “tell me what you most don’t want me to know about you” and they shared that exact thing with one another. Here were a bunch of ultra successful coaches sharing their most deepest secrets and epic “failures.” As I sit here thinking of what I might share in this blog, I thought of that “game” and how much more common it is to share our wins, successes, and the great things we’ve done in life.  I even reflect on how social media has made it more mainstream to accumulate “likes.”

I was going to share with you all the accolades I’ve received and the companies I’ve helped transform during my career. I was going to share impressive numbers and statistics and amounts of money I helped companies earn. I was going to be smart and witty and convince you that I was “good enough” to take over the VP of Business Development position at David Couper Consulting. 

What is present for me, in this moment, is to let you in…to say “hello,” this is me and allow you to get to know me a bit. On the surface, one might think I have the picture perfect life and that everything has always gone my way. I am educated, have a beautiful family, and I’m a pretty happy guy. But, you would only know a part of who I am if we stopped there. My wife and I fell in love and we bought our first home in Los Angeles and lost it a few years later after she was let go from her job. At this point, we had a toddler and a baby on the way. Our life seemed to quickly unravel and spin out of control: the IRS audited us for three years in a row, we became entangled in two legal battles, and we depleted every retirement account we had, just to put food on the table and get by. At one point, we contemplated living in our RV. Nothing seemed to be going my way. I worked long hours. I was sleep deprived. I was unhappy. And it was very clear to me: I was not living the American Dream.

There was a point where it seemed as though we had lost everything we ever worked for. And it didn’t seem like it was ever going to get better. I was suffocating from the pressure and stress of my life.

My wife and I knew we needed a change. We worked on our outlook and made a deep commitment to reframing all of our obstacles as “opportunities” (and it helps that we both have our M.A.s in Spiritual Psychology). We began, truly, looking at the lessons in our experiences. If it had to be hard, we didn’t also need to make it painful. It was easy to see that my deepest opportunities for growth and transformation always came from what I had viewed as “obstacles” and I knew that something very powerful was coming into play in my life. From this place, I was able to co-create this next chapter of my life with intention and clarity. It was a very difficult and growth-filled time in my life, and I’m grateful for having gone through the challenges so that I can come out on the other side more present, more aware, and more engaged in my own life.  I was humbled. I can never go back to my life as it was before:  working 70+ hours a week, disconnected and married to our bills.  

At DCC, it is such an honor to work with companies and their executives to bring lasting, transformational executive coaching and training so that their employees and companies can truly thrive.  I know what it’s like to walk in the dark and blame others for my experiences.  I also know what it’s like to step out of the dark and into the light, my light.  At DCC, I am now living my ultimate dream and fulfilling my purpose to serve others.

Written by Ryan Hutto, M.A., champion of transformational leadership, sales development at fortune 500 companies, and currently the VP of Business Development at David Couper Consulting.

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Cold Hard Change

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on September 11, 2014 10:30 AM

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We bought a new refrigerator recently.  Not really a big occasion.  Our old one was ten years old, was working fine, but was showing its age (like me) with some dents and dings.  A friend needed one for an apartment he was renting so we bought a new one and he got the old one.  It was the exact same brand, model, and size.  When my eight-year-old son came into the kitchen and saw the new one and the old one sitting in the breakfast area waiting to be picked up to go to its new home, he went bananas.

“Dad, I want you to put back that refrigerator.  I loved that refrigerator for ever.”

My years of communication skills training failed me. 

“It’s the same as the old one.  What’s the difference?”

He stamped his foot.  He doesn’t normally get upset by change.  He is adopted.  My partner died and he lost a parent.  He has changed schools three times.  He has changed bedrooms three times, too.  He is resilient.  Or so I thought.

“Dad, put the refrigerator back right now.”

If he had been talking about a loaded weapon, he could not have been more serious.

I just didn’t know what to do.  So I did what many parents would do at that point. 

“Do you want to watch TV as you’re upset, or do some games on the iPad?”

In the week, he doesn’t have screen time so this was a treat.

“No, I want the refrigerator back.”

I didn’t understand it, but at that moment, this change upset him. He didn’t like it and he wanted things back the way they were.  Even though it made no sense.  Perhaps it was just one too many changes in a young kid’s life or maybe he needed to eat or was tired.  But it mattered at that moment, although he was fine the next day when the old one was taken away.

But it made me think about how we deal with change in companies and organizations.

  • Do we not empathize with someone because, for us, the change makes perfect sense?
  • Do we take for granted that everyone will see the benefits of something new and shiny?
  • Or do we assume that after the first reaction, they will be fine with everything?

What I realized is that people can be upset about change even when it is something small and insignificant, and even though we may not be able to do anything about the change, we can recognize the discomfort.

Change is tough even when it is a change that doesn’t even look like a change!

And as a post script we visited the friend who had taken the old refrigerator a few weeks later.  My son saw the appliance, rushed in, hugged it and greeted it like a long lost friend.  The good thing was that he didn’t want to take it with us but was happy to leave it in its new home!

Photo via Flickr 

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Customer Service:  The Other View

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on September 04, 2014 9:30 AM

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In my previous blog, I talked about how it felt as a customer in two different stores.  In this blog, I want to talk about how it feels from the customer associate side.

In Home Depot, the woman who worked there seemed to like her job.  She was interested in what I had to say.  As a result, I felt valued and I felt that I was respected.  It was also a good day for me.  I was enjoying buying the plants.  It was a lovely day, and although it was warm, it wasn’t oppressively hot.  My gardening project was going well, and after a few false starts with expensive contractors, I felt I was on my way and keeping to my budget.  The store was familiar to me, and I had plenty of time.  So, I started out as a happy customer, and the associate only built on that.

In Lowes, I was not a happy customer before I even got to ordering my new vanity for my bathroom.  I had never been to the store before and drove around twice before I found out where the entrance was.  Traffic was heavy, and it took about 15 minutes just to find out how to get in and another five minutes while I waited for a parking space.  I was also in a hurry.  I didn’t want to waste any more time on this elusive piece of bathroom furniture. 

When the associate continued to serve the other customer, I was ready to be upset.  I felt disrespected, ignored and devalued by his not talking to me.  I also began to see how some simple things – like saying to me, “I’m going to be about 5 minutes with these customers, sorry about that” could have helped.

It brought up old stories of not being listened to in my past.  Not the associate’s fault, but his behavior was not helping my old pattern.  I felt even more annoyed when a woman cut in front of me in the line and did not even seem to notice me.

I am sure the customer associate just thought I was difficult.  Maybe he was right.  I was certainly not a happy customer when I went in and wasn’t when I came out.

But here is a different way of looking at this.  Maybe I was ready for the shopping experience not to be a fun one.  Maybe I was so focused on not having enough time and being in a hurry to enjoy the moment and be okay waiting.  Maybe I set up the situation exactly the way it was just because I needed to learn that if I have to wait 20 minutes in a store, life is still going on.  Children will be born and seniors will die.  It’s how it is. 

This could also apply to the customer associates.  Maybe they were ready for the day to be busy, overwhelming and full of difficult customers.  If that was their vision, maybe that was what they got. 

Perhaps if I could have dropped my perceptions and judgments and they had too, we could have had two great shopping experiences instead of one.

Be a nice customer and make someone’s day!

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A Tale of Two Customers

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on August 28, 2014 9:30 AM

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Since I have been doing work on my house and yard, the home improvement store has become a regular haunt. But, on one day, I had two very different experiences as a customer. It was interesting to see how two competitors could be so different and what impact their culture had on their outcomes. 

Home Depot

Home Depot was full of construction guys and the place was like that-a little dusty and dirty. I went to the Customer Service first of all. I wanted to have some plants delivered to my house, as the car was too small to transport them. The Customer Associate explained that I just needed to bring what I wanted delivered to her. So I loaded up my cart and took it to her. She rang it up and arranged the delivery time. Then I explained I wanted grass, mulch and some tall palm trees (this is California, remember). Not a problem. She picked up her walkie-talkie, called her colleague in the plant department and told him to snag me some palms. She then went online and ordered me sod – the technical term – and the mulch. Done! I then asked her about a vanity. She called another colleague who came over. She told me that the one I wanted wasn’t available in stock but I could special order something, which unfortunately would take too long. Everybody was friendly, happy and service-oriented. Everything was delivered as they said it would be. The Customer Associate also called to tell me that the load would come in two separate lots.

Lowes

As Home Depot didn’t have a vanity I liked in stock, I went to a Lowes.

First impressions were good. It was well laid out, clean and bright. As I walked into the store I was excited to see what was there. In the bathroom section, after three minutes of searching, I had found what I wanted. The vanity was the right style and price, and all I needed to do was pay for it and have it delivered. Easy!

The Bathrooms Customer Associate was helping another customer buy a showerhead. When I arrived, he continued to serve the showerhead customer. After a few minutes, I rang the handy bell for service. Nothing happened. The showerhead purchasing continued. The Customer Associate continued to not notice me. I asked another passing Customer Associate if they could help me. No, they could not because they were not in the bathroom department. I rang the bell a few more times and nothing happened. Showerhead purchasing continued to unfold. I asked the Bathrooms Associate – I had dropped the Customer title at this point, as it seemed inaccurate - if there was anyone to help. No, because the other Associate was at lunch. I went to Customer Service. But the nice woman told me that she couldn’t order me a vanity. She actually thought it was a funny idea because she explained patiently to me that customer service was about taking money, not ordering products or even serving customers. I wondered why it was called Customer Service – maybe it should have been called Taking Money Service. I asked about the manager but that person was on the phone. I went back to the bathroom center and found showerhead purchasing was still continuing. Another woman came to the area to buy a toilet. She waited. Finally the showerhead conversation was over, although no head was purchased. The associate served the woman who came after me. I explained that I was there first, but the associate continued with toilet serving. After that deal was done, the Associate came to me. 20 minutes after I first arrived, I got the vanity ordered. It took about 3 minutes to complete the transaction. It was scheduled to be delivered on Monday. It was delivered on Tuesday. 

So, what’s the point? The point is not which DIY Chain is better than another as I have only been to two stores out of many. The point is what did the Customer Associates do or not do that made such a difference. Or even better how were they being?

Engagement

In Home Depot, the employees were engaged. They seemed to be interested in the customers and in finding answers to their questions. Each Associate had written his or her name on his work overalls and some had decorated them. In some ways, this small thing showed that they were part of the chain and were committed to being there. They communicated with me and made me feel welcome. They also apologized to people who were waiting, answered questions while doing other tasks and kept things positive.

Empowerment

They were able to work with other parts of the store to find answers and make decisions. They didn’t need to call a supervisor and could work across departments. The employees had walkie-talkies so they could communicate with their colleagues.

Service Consciousness

They wanted to help customers find answers to their problems. They also took the time to call me to let me know information about the delivery.

Engagement, empowerment and service:  the keys to a good customer experience.

 

 

 

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What Room Do You Need to Clear Out?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on August 07, 2014 12:30 PM

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This past month has been one of clearing out for me. After about six months out of my house after a flood, I moved back in. I was surrounded by 400 boxes and realized I need to pare down and cut back. 

I donated a truckload of furniture, ornaments, pictures and books. I threw out things which I hadn’t used, were broken, or were just past their sell-by-date. I even tackled the attic where things had been packed up for eight years. It was amazingly freeing to release those things. There is space to breathe. It makes things possible.

I also found that I have shed some pounds as I have been eating better and doing more exercise. Again, I felt lighter and more comfortable in my own skin. It gave me new opportunities.

Even in business it can be very liberating to divest ourselves of things we don’t need. In this book “The 4-Hour Workweek”, Tim Ferris talks about how he was spending 80% of his time with 20% of the client base.  He realized that these few people were causing a lot of his headaches. Can we learn from this?  Where can we cut back and focus on what is important? What attic do we need to sort out?

This blog post originally featured in our monthly Connecting the Dots newsletter.  If you'd like exclusive articles and inspiration in your inbox each month, sign up here.

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Forgiveness Changes Lives

Posted by David Couper on July 31, 2014 1:30 PM

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Forgiveness is at the core of the healing process, whether it's forgiveness of others or forgiveness of oneself.

Every single time I volunteer at the prison bringing the principles of spiritual psychology, when I counsel people, or when I coach my clients, forgiveness is the core of the healing process. It doesn’t matter if the issue is small or big, it doesn’t matter if the person I coach is an inmate or a top executive. Forgiveness opens the doors to happiness for us all. When we as individuals or communities relate to each other from an open wound, we keep creating more pain in our lives, and peace is just an illusion.

Why is it so difficult for us as human beings to let go of anger, hurt, and fear so that we can embrace forgiveness, happiness, and freedom? When we experience emotional pain, we are left with a wound that needs to be healed. If the wound remains open without healing, we relate to everything in the world from that wound. When we walk out into the world relating from our wounds, we answer life’s experience with resentment and distortion rather than understanding. We try to cover up the pain, masking it, and applying bandages to the wound. But it’s like putting a bandage on a nail in your foot. Until you remove the nail, the pain will continue and become infected.

Have you ever poured salt on an open wound? Ouch! That is the feeling we have when we relate from the hurt. The pain escalates. We sometimes don’t even know why we end up in an argument or react with anger. The child inside of us who experienced the pain is still hurting, and when something happens to trigger that pain, we react in a way that may be out of proportion to the actual event. We’ve all experienced this; it’s very human. And it even gets us into trouble sometimes and causes relationships to end forever. The solution is working through that pain, and forgiveness must be at the center of that work.

In order to relate from the heart, we need to transform the open wound into a healed scar.

The wound cannot be healed, though, until we let go of the illusion that the past could have been different. It has already happened and cannot be changed. We must accept our own humanness and the humanness of others. We all sometimes “miss the mark” and fail to live up to our expectations. In some cases, a human being has been so deeply damaged that he or she commits acts that are beyond our comprehension.

Forgiveness has helped me understand that whatever someone else does “to” me, it isn’t about me. It is about their own inner pain, lack of awareness and self-love, inability to forgive, etc. I also realized that when I’ve made mistakes, it wasn’t about anyone else. It was about my own unresolved issues.

When the inmates, and clients of all walks of life I work with get in touch with their own forgiving place inside of them, breakdowns turn into breakthroughs and amazing changes in their lives happen.

Clara Naum, M.A. Executive Coach with David Couper Consulting, Radio Host and Author.  Find out more about Clara and her workshops on Forgiveness and Healing.

Photo via Flickr

This blog post originally featured in our monthly Connecting the Dots newsletter.  If you'd like exclusive articles and inspiration in your inbox each month, sign up here.

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How to Handle Conflict at Work

Posted by David Couper on July 30, 2014 3:21 PM

If you've ever struggled with handling a difficult situation at work, Executive Coach Jeanne Verger has some excellent advice for dealing with these situations professionally and objectively.  

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Be Here Now

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on July 24, 2014 1:30 PM

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Overwhelm. Too many things to do. Not enough time to do them. Most of us would agree this is a terrible place to be yet day after day, there we are again. Ugh.

Sure you can look at things like paring down, saying no more often, and delegating. But what about when those options are exhausted? What then?

Well, then we’re left with ourselves and what we have to do. If we have no more flexibility in altering what we have to do…we’re left only with ourselves.

One of my clients recently told me, “I was reading my kids bedtime stories but all I could do was obsess about everything I had to do once they fell asleep.” At first glance, this seems like a viable strategy for overwhelm. “If I think about everything I have to do, when the time arrives to actually do it, I’ll be able to jump right in.”

Actually, at least in her experience, the opposite was true. When the time arrived she found herself exhausted and fuzzy-headed, hardly able to get anything done, never mind done well.

What’s the alternative? I told her my best theory. In her next session a week later, she admitted she thought it sounded nice (albeit a little airy-fairy), but didn’t believe a word of it. In her desperation, she decided to try it nonetheless. What’s the worst that could happen?

What happened was, it worked. She had an easier, more graceful, less stressful week. In the end, she got more done but felt as if it was not hard.

My suggestion was to try this experiment: “Do the one next thing. When you do it, do it with all your heart. Be fully present. Enjoy it. Be grateful that you get to do it, no matter what it is. Don’t think about the next thing until you finish that one last thing.” To guard against loss of focus, I gave her the mantra, “Be here now.” That’s it. It was that simple.

I could tell you all the particulars about why this worked for my client but that would just be more information. Instead, I encourage you to try it yourself. Have your own experience. Experience has the power to create something much more valuable than information…transformation.

Laura Dewey MA, Executive Coach with David Couper Consulting, Author, Speaker, and Founder of Laura Dewey Coaching, LLC

Photo via Flickr

This blog post originally featured in our monthly Connecting the Dots newsletter.  If you'd like exclusive articles and inspiration in your inbox each month, sign up here.

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Managing the Chaos

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on July 17, 2014 1:30 AM

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If you are a human today chances are great that you have a very full plate. If you have a job and a family, you are likely desperately trying to keep all your plates on a tray without dropping any. In my opinion, this is why so many start-up businesses employees feel stressed to the point of non functionality. There’s no way to manage that kind of chaos in the way most of us try to manage.

Let me repeat that last sentence. There is NO WAY to manage that kind of chaos, especially not aloneYou cannot do it all, certainly not if you expect to grow a successful business.  If you find yourself working night and day and still feel that you are accomplishing nothing, you know you are in the ‘doing too much’ trap, and it’s time to stop, take stock, and try a new approach.

Start with taking honest stock of everything you are doing in your day. If you are like most of the entrepreneurs I work with, those projects were not chosen consciously. Take 10 minutes right now and make the following lists:

  • The projects I’m currently working on

  • The roles I’m handling in my life and business (parent, spouse, manager, thought leader, accountant, mail clerk…be honest and list them all)

  • All the things that are on your mind that you AREN’T getting to (unfinished business, creative pursuits, new product ideas)

Now, looking through the filter of your long term goals, evaluate the roles and projects and see which ones emerge as priorities. Which are the ones that if you paid full and consistent attention would make the biggest difference in your feelings of vitality, your relationships, and your financial success? 

Focus on one thing at a time

There is the tendency when we feel overwhelmed to multitask. We eat and drive. We check email and talk on the phone. When I’m really going for it I can be on a conference call, be checking email, cleaning my desk and scratching the dog with my foot.

But research in goal achievement shows us that such multitasking is nothing to be proud of. In fact, when we multitask, we are slowing down our reflexes and our brain function just like we would if we were drinking alcohol. It’s a common delusion that doing more than one thing at a time makes us more efficient.

Once you’ve decided on what your priorities are, you need to experiment with focusing on just one thing at a time. Try it for a week and see for yourself that you will actually achieve more and feel more energized.

How Will I Know When Enough is Enough?

But how will you get everything done that you need to do?

As the bible says, the lillies of the field neither toil nor spin. “Enough” is a decision, not a thing. If you are clear on your vision, have balanced your priorities to include health, relationships, inner work in addition to your business, and you are taking small, consistent actions each day, you are doing the best you can. Act AS IF you’ve done enough, acknowledge yourself, give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate, and watch your results expand.

Rory Cohen, MA, MPH, SCPC is an Executive Coach and VP for Coach Network Development with David Couper Consulting

Photo via Flickr

This blog post originally featured in our monthly Connecting the Dots newsletter. If you'd like exclusive articles and inspiration in your inbox each month, sign up here.

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Looking to Make a Difference?  DCC is Hiring a VP of Business Development

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on July 16, 2014 2:57 PM


We believe that when people are happier at work, they do better work and companies get better results. Using deep processes based on positive psychology we help clients solve their inner issues so that they can get better outcomes on the outside. This approach is unique in the marketplace and our clients get exceptional benefits from our consulting and coaching solutions. As one of our major accounts said, "If I had got half of what we have achieved in this last year, I would have been happy!"


We are a rapidly growing talent management and executive coaching company with over twenty years experience in the US and Europe that requires a senior sales and business development professional to build relationships and generate consulting projects.

Read the full job description: VP_Business_Development_Job_Description

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Four Questions to give you answers

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on July 10, 2014 1:00 PM

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Four questions and four answers can give you a lot of insight. You may want to ask yourself and answer these to give you a sense of who you are and what matters to you. I'm sharing my answers with you.    

Thanks to Rebekah Green and Dror Amir for coming up with this concept:  Four things about me that make me who I am.

1. What Personal Transformation Means to Me and How It Impacts My Leadership …

 

Only by knowing myself and facing both my opportunities and my challenges can I have the knowledge and courage to lead others.

 

2. I Love the Work I Do Because …

 

It makes the impossible possible and shows people that work can be inspiring and impactful.

 

3. I Feel Most Inspired By …

 

My seven-year old son as he learns everything from how big Bigfoot is to whose turn it is at handball. Curiosity in a child is priceless.

 

4. My Favorite Quote Right Now is …

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” 
― Pema ChödrönThe Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

 

How would you answer these questions and what will it tell you about you?

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Why Everyone Needs a New Leadership Model

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on July 03, 2014 11:30 AM

"The female leadership principles I identified are: Compassion – Uniqueness – Empowerment. Women should lead on C.U.E."

These principles are important for women but I believe they are vital for all leaders.   Without compassion you don't understand how people are human - not perfect, not machines, but beings who have successes and challenges.  Without uniqueness you cannot have creativity and originality.  Without empowerment you cannot have a workforce who is engaged in doing the best and the right thing.

This leadership model is not just for 50% of the world but for all people.

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Assessing Your Uniqueness

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on June 26, 2014 12:30 PM

Individuality

How can we take a step back and look at what we have to offer a prospective employer or other people?

Let's look at how to define the "product" we are selling by assessing our skills, knowledge and behaviors.  

We can look at our uniqueness in various ways:

Skills – what you can do – speak French, program in C++ or ride a unicycle.

Knowledge – what you know – all the names of the seven dwarves, how a tractor engine works, or how to make a perfect muffin every time.

Behaviors –  what you do - easily give honest and motivating feedback to others, smile when you meet new people, or love to solve problems.

Experience – what you’ve done – worked in a bakery in Paris, worked in a bakery making wedding cakes, been a wedding planner at Paris in Las Vegas.

Attitude – how you do things – with a smile, with purpose, treat everyone as if they were a trusted friend.

Personality – how do you present yourself – sunny and bright, cool and collected, serious and studious.

Work through your skills, knowledge and so on so you can convert your uniqueness into a product or service.

For example: Jane works in a clothing store. She is something of a misfit because she also loves to teach and would like to work in training one day. Her colleagues either are happy with their job and don’t want a promotion or they want to become a store manager. She gets criticism from her boss when she takes time to teach her colleagues the computerized cash registers. Her boss tells her that she is there to sell not train.

Frustrated with this advice, Jane teaches reading to inner city kids, teaches basic car maintenance at a college in the evening, and she coaches her extended family on how to surf the net.

What is Jane’s product or service?

Jane could sell herself as someone who knows the store (knowledge), understands computers (knowledge and skills), and loves to teach (behavior and attitude). She is a scarce commodity – there will not be many people who have store knowledge, want to train and who have the teaching experience.

Reflect on what makes you unique from the analysis of yourself.  What do you know?  What is your personality?  What experience do you have?

Excerpt from Chapter 3 manuscript of David's "Outsiders on the Inside"

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Addicted to Doing

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on June 19, 2014 12:30 PM

Even before I was a single mom, my calendar was filled with triathlons, workshops, volunteering, a coaching practice, writing a book and consulting business travel. Becoming a single mom only fed into this story and addiction to "doing", with lots of opportunities to tell myself that I didn't have time to sit still...there was laundry to fold, poop stains to scrub, dishes to clean, diapers to change, toddler tantrums to address on top of my consulting and coaching, cleaning and shopping, handling the bills and finances for our household. 

After several years of "doing" I fainted in a hotel tub on a business trip. When I returned home my doctor slid a paper prescription paper across her desk that said, "Stop doing and start sitting still". What a wake up call.

I stopped working on weekends and in the evenings. I stopped folding the laundry and took a nap instead. I went to bed early and let dust settle on the coffee table. The cobwebs didn't gather for long, as I thought they would, and our clothes always eventually got folded.

What did happen was an emotional upheaval. All of the feelings and stories, that I was covertly avoiding when I was continually doing, bubbled up to the surface. It was uncomfortable and yet I had to feel my way through the discomfort to change.

The past six months of slowing down gave me the space to learn lessons and discover a new way of being. And in the stillness I embodied a gentler power and experience more success and productivity than before.

Gwen Dittmar is an Executive Coach and the founder of Entelechy Coaching.  She is running a free workshop on the addiction to Doing in July.  Find out more here.  

Photo via Flickr

This article originally appeared in the DCC monthly newsletter, "Connecting the Dots".  Would you like to receive exclusive inspirational articles and blogs in your inbox each month?  Sign up here.

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The Power is in the Space

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on June 12, 2014 12:30 PM

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I just hung up the phone with a client who said these words to me (nearly shouted them, in fact): “The power is in the space!” You see, one of the reasons she hired me as her coach was because her frenetic schedule and stress level had landed her in the hospital not long before our first meeting. She then went on to say, “This is big. This will change everything.”

The power is in the space? How can that be? Space is full of…well…nothing. How could there be power in nothing? Her old paradigm made much more sense. It told her that busyness is power, doing is power, more is power. There was only one problem; this old way of being was killing her.

Chronic busyness has become an accepted way of life. Our business and personal demands have our calendars busting at the seams. When we do have a spare moment, we find ourselves twiddling our smart phones. Space is the enemy, space is lazy, space is wasteful. Or is it?

I had my own aha moment with this issue after the company I’d helped to build, sold. The integration was difficult and there was constant demand to do more with less. My available work hours were the same yet my workload had grown exponentially. My to-do list was a mile long, I always felt behind, and in my attempt to do everything, I did nothing well. I was a quality-minded employee, so knowing I was doing sub-standard work only made matters worse.

I saw that my experience was just a microcosm of the larger whole. The entire company was scrambling. New initiative after new initiative. Changing course before anything could be finished and measured for efficacy. Instead of creating success, this culture of busyness created burnout, high turnover, and a marked decrease in sales and profit.

What’s the alternative? Slowing down. Doing fewer things better. In short, creating space.

Creating space allows greater:

  • Alignment: leveraging time and space to get everyone on the same page
  • Presence: being fully engaged in an activity creates depth of understanding
  • Wisdom: having think-time allows for brilliant ideas and miraculous solutions to reveal themselves
  • Efficiency: avoiding mistakes, re-dos, and unintended consequences caused by just skimming the surface
  • Rest: recharging fosters retention, creativity, productivity and health
  • Results: aligned, present, wise, efficient and rested employees are able to create stellar results

Indeed, the power is in the space—your power and your organization’s power. Try it. Slow down. You just might be able to move faster.

Laura Dewey MA, Executive Coach with David Couper Consulting and founder of Laura Dewey Coaching, LLC

Photo via Flickr

This blog post originally featured in our monthly Connecting the Dots newsletter.  If you'd like exclusive articles and inspiration in your inbox each month, sign up here.

 

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Is Work-Life Balance Really Dead?

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on June 05, 2014 1:15 PM

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Don’t Miss Your Opportunity to Make a Real Connection

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 29, 2014 1:00 PM

Is-Your-Smartphone-Giving-You-Text-Neck

What would our relationships look like if we looked up from the screen?

This article made me think:

//www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/21/304196338/for-the-childrens-sake-put-down-that-smartphone

I was on the computer doing some work while checking messages on my smartphone.  Two screens competing for attention and the TV on in the background.  My son was talking to me and to be honest I was only half - no a quarter listening.  Then something made me look up.  He looked sad.  There was something going on.  I shut my computer - it was hard - but I went cold turkey, put my phone out of reach and turned off the TV.  

"Dad, do you have a photo of my mom?"

My son is adopted and although we know his birth mom's name - Christine - and some of her background, we have never met her and don' t know where she lives.  My son knows that. 

"No we don't.  Were you thinking about her?"

"Yes. I wish I could see her."

"Me too.  Sorry."

"Dad why did you turn the TV off?"

And we were back to our screen worlds.

How many times do we miss that opportunity to connect at home and at work on personal development or organizational management?  How much effort does it take to close our laptops and listen as a manager or a leader should?  And what leadership gems will we discover?

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Executive Coaching Doesn’t Work If It’s Set Up to Fail

Posted by David Couper on May 28, 2014 2:20 PM

 

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In the realm of athletics or performance, the question “Does coaching work?” rarely gets asked. The proof is in the outcome, and you’d be hard pressed to find a top athlete that didn’t also have a top-notch coach. But in business we still have to justify investing in the kind of coaching that yields those kinds of best-in-class results.

We know why coaching works, on and off the field. This article takes a look at some reasons why executive coaching might NOT work:

Coaching is focused on skills or rehabilitation rather than transformation.

A manager is in trouble, or the organization is in trouble, and a coach is brought in to help ‘fix’ the problem.  Since coaching works best when a person comes into the relationship willing and eager to learn and grow, this problem-based approach creates a situation where much of the first sessions are spent gaining trust and establishing goals and directions. The coachee thinks “If I don’t get this, I’m done”. This is a weak foundation on which to build a powerful coaching relationship.

Coaching is just for certain leaders in the company.

DCC is completing the second phase of a massive coaching/culture shift venture in a major health care company. The CEO of this company made the radical, but highly rational, decision that if coaching was good for him, it would be good for everybody. He brought DCC in to coach every one of the 88 leaders in the company, all at the same time. In this way, the entire organization was coming alive together, focusing on each other’s strengths and skills, bringing awareness to communication, and all taking responsibility for creating a culture of collaboration and innovation.

The entire enterprise started noticing results, to the extent that the union requested one on one coaching for ALL of its members. We’ll be starting a pilot with 150 this summer.

When coaching resources are allocated just to one or two leaders in an organization, that person is tasked not just with transforming their own capacity to lead, but moving the entire enterprise along with them.  Like turning an ocean liner, it can be done, but it takes time.

Coaching isn’t strategic.

If coaching is set up in a strategic way, is tied from the outset to business values and metrics and is delivered by an executive coach with strategic skills, the question “Is coaching working?” will not be asked.  The desired outcome and investment is clearly outlined by all parties in advance of coaching, and results are measured and reported all along the way.

Rory Cohen, MA, MPH, SCPC is an Executive Coach and VP for Coach Network Development with David Couper Consulting

Photo via Flickr 

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On Bravery

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 22, 2014 1:30 PM

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This is interesting and moving stuff from a friend of mine's son who just took a break from being at Oxford because he was so stressed. 

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My dear friends Caroline and Phil have raised two amazing children.  Henry was accepted to study at Oxford University.  Oxford and Cambridge are the top universities in the UK, maybe even in some ways in the world, and it was a huge achievement.  But he was stressed - and, as he put it, worried - so he has taken some time off to stop and evaluate where he is going.  

I wonder how many of us are also stressed at work and feel anxious all the time but keep on going to pay the mortgage, keep on the career path or just because we are too scared to stop the craziness.  

I really admire Henry's bravery for slowing down and taking time to work out what he wants in life and wonder how many of us could be that brave about our lives.

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Sorry, I Don’t Have Time!

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 15, 2014 2:22 PM

Sorry, I Don’t Have Time!David_Allen_2

Running a company, raising a child by myself, dealing with a house renovation, and trying to have a social life sometimes feels like I don’t have any time. I can easily go into overwhelm.

But that’s an illusion. I have plenty of time; not to do everything, but only to do the important things. I can’t spend time catching up with HGTV, reviewing the work of one of my employees who is totally competent, and writing a blog which shares my heart and tells people about what is important to me. I have to choose.

I saw this last week when I was going through a hundred things I had to do. I realized that the only thing that had to get done that afternoon was to pick up my son from school. Everything else was important, but they could wait until the next day. They were not urgent. It is very rewarding to put it in those simple turns that Stephen Covey uses in his time management matrix

David Allen, another great time management guru, also puts it in simple terms.

"You can do anything—but not everything."

Working out what is important and crucial is a good first step.

For me, it was my son. I hope I always remember to make that choice.

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Leadership qualities

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 08, 2014 2:00 PM
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Millennials can teach us Baby Boomers a thing or two…

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on May 01, 2014 2:00 PM

 Maybe we could learn from this generation who are looking at engaging with life. I especially like this quote.

"I think it has less to do with lack of conscientiousness—it’s more a recognition that no company is going to bury you when you die," said Scott Ruthfield, 39, who runs Rooster Park, a recruitment firm in Seattle. "You’ve seen your parents go through large companies that don’t take care of them, and you realize that you’re responsible for your own well-being."

We have created companies who are not loyal to their workers. They create secret succession plans, make HR planning decisions about people as if they are excess office square footage, and focus on errors and mistakes rather than what is going well in our employees' work. Yet companies expect loyalty from their employees. Employee satisfaction and engagement must be a two way street. When we respect ourselves and our employees, we can start to create a culture where people are the bottom line and loyalty is a direct outcome.

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Fuel Up Before You Fuel Up

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 17, 2014 1:30 PM

2379fuel_gaugeLast week, I was hurrying to go to an exercise class.  My car had been on empty for a day and I decided I needed to fill up before I set off on the five-mile trip.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.   Budget completed – check.  Sitter with my son – check.  Going to do some exercise and feeling good about it – check and double check. 

I went to my usual gas station.  I am a creature of habit.  But tonight someone was in my “space”.  I drove around to the next pump, picked up the handle and filled up my car.  

As I left the garage something was not right with the car.  It had no power and was shuddering.  I was on a busy road in rush hour, and the car kept going slower and slower.  Of course I was on the phone at the same time during this drama.  I hung up and then pulled off into a side street. 

The car is less than two years old.  It was serviced the week before.  It’s a German car, which is reliable.  My powers of detection led me to events immediately before the incident.  What could have happened?  Could I have put regular gas in my diesel car?  Surely not.  Only an idiot would do that.

The next day at the dealers, the idiot was told that it was lucky I hadn’t driven too far.  They had to flush out the car, replace various things – the oil filter seemed to be one of them.  It wasn’t under the warranty because of the “idiot clause.”  Luckily it wasn’t $10,000 as the nice guy who worked with me told me it could have been but was just $2000.  This was the same day I paid property taxes and my accountant told me I owed money to the Federal and California Governments. 

So what can I learn from this?

What I got from this expensive lesson was that if you rush and rush and don’t slow down, things happen.  Life has a way of making you take notice.  I had been busy, hadn’t eaten, hadn’t taken time to relax, focus and center with meditation as I do on a good day.  I hadn’t put much “fuel” in, so it was not surprising that I broke down much as my car did.  I was on autopilot-not in the moment but thinking about all the things I had to do. 

How many of us are so busy that we are always working out what to do next?  Do we miss the present because we are dissecting the past?  Are we going through the motions until we get to the really important moment?  For me, that was certainly true.  That was why I didn’t notice that the “diesel pump handle” was not green like it was normally but the same color as the regular gas.  This could have been a clue!

How many of us have said hello to our colleagues as we walked into our workplace and not noticed that something was wrong?  Sadly, we only find out later that there was something happening with them – a bad decision, leaving their job or even some tragedy.  If we had been in the moment, we might have noticed and stopped and been of service to them.  I am certainly guilty of not listening when my son is trying to tell me something that is important to him.  I know I sometimes categorize what he says at bedtime as various creative ways of not going to sleep, but I know I have been wrong.  He has told me how he misses my partner or was having problems with a nightmare or a bully at school. 

What am I going to miss by not being in the here and now but in the there and gone?  How about you?

And as a postscript to this story when I picked up my car from the garage after it was fixed, the gas was on empty.  They had drained out the regular gas and now I needed to fill it with diesel.  This time I am going to be so in the present that it hurts!

 

 

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Celebrating Freedom on Passover

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 14, 2014 10:51 AM

passover_imageFor many years, I have been fortunate enough to share the first night of Passover with good friends who open their home, cook enough food for a small country, and celebrate freedom. That’s what Passover, when the Jewish people were freed by God from slavery, means to me.  

Over the years my friends have talked about freedom from Nazi Germany, freedom for women, and freedom for LGBT. It is always a celebration that I look forward to and enjoy the opening that freedom brings.  

But many people create their own prisons. They are free, but they are not free. They can't go on their dream trip because they don't have the money. They can't change jobs because they have great benefits and a pension to look forward to. They can't make new friends because everyone is too busy.  

All of these reasons are valid, but none of them are true. Maybe your dream trip is staying in five star hotels all over Europe. Okay, that may not be possible, but how about camping in Europe or even in the US overlooking the ocean? Could that be a dream trip which you could afford?  I understand that security is important to people and having a pension these days is a great and rare benefit, but if you are not happy in your job, is this really living life?  How about taking a baby step?  What about reading what your dream job is really all about or finding someone to have a conversation with about your idea?  What would it take to follow your dream career for one hour a week or a day at the weekends?  Could that lead to something even better than you have now?  

And if you are lonely and you want to make new friends, how can you change your view about that?  Is it really that everyone is too busy, or is it that you are too busy, or too comfortable in your routine, or too afraid to go out and do something different?  Maybe a first step is talking to someone you haven't ever talked to before in your office.  “Hello” would be a good start.  Or volunteering with people; not to make friends, but to be of service.  Or picking up the phone and calling someone you haven't seen for ever and taking a chance.  

When I volunteered at a women's prison recently in the Freedom To Choose Project, what I noticed most was that there were some inmates who, even though they might be there for life, had a mindset that they had freedom. They were learning from what they had done, trying to help others with their lives, and choosing to live rather than to give up.

Are you living in your own self-made prison or choosing a life of freedom?

Happy Passover.

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Gender Bias in the Workplace

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on April 09, 2014 2:00 PM

the stories that you carry around—for example, mine is a 50 year old gay, white, single, father running a business. Like me, every woman has their own story too. But deep down we are all following our life's purpose and when we are doing what we are here for then people recognize our value and we don't need to play games! I found the advice about women not being "sufficiently feminine" curious.

What is a successful woman to do? Wear pink more often? I have been honored to work with some top women in leadership positions and my observation is that if a woman doesn't advocate for herself then her career is going to be limited. Let's celebrate our strengths—not apologize for them.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

Posted by David A. Couper, MA on February 05, 2014 5:44 PM
dc1November 25th, 2012 started out as a happy day in a bright and sunny paradise.  Then, one event took place that turned my entire world upside down and led me to step into the leadership role that I was destined to assume.
Around 11:00 am, as I lay on the warm white sand of a Hawaiian beach, my partner and our seven-year-old son could be seen snorkeling in the surf.
Suddenly, my proud gaze turned instantly to panic when I realized that my soul mate of fourteen years seemed to be in trouble.  Even though I swam out as quickly as I could, he was already unconscious by the time that I reached him.
Four hours later, the love of my life quietly passed away. 
In a nanosecond, I was alone.   How could this happen?  How could I have had breakfast with this wonderful, vibrant man that very same morning and, by dinnertime, need to come to terms with the fact that he was now dead?
How could I continue on?  I felt like my life was over, yet as a father, I was totally conscious that my son needed his dad.  The three of us used to joke that together we made “The Three Amigos”.  Now, there were only two, and it was more than I could possibly understand.
Walking out on the hotel balcony, overlooking the cold ocean that had just swallowed our family whole, I was painfully aware of the reality that I had 100% of the bills to pay and only 50% of the income.  I had to figure out how to bridge the gap and I wondered if I should give up then and there.
But I wasn’t willing to give up, so the only choice I had was to step into my power and manifest a new future.  Embarking on scary, uncharted territory, I found the courage I needed to transform my life, as I knew it. 
I realized that I no longer had time to avoid my life’s purpose.  There were no more excuses, and there was no further room for compromising my or my son’s future.
What I learned during the previous twelve months I’ve come to understand is the underlying secret to truly Authentic Leadership.   In its most powerful and potent form, Authentic Leadership boils down to five very simple principles.  These principles still propel me forward today.
    • Look into you heart and follow your purpose.
    • Ask for help and accept it with gratitude.
    • Cultivate your internal GPS.
    • Attract people who support your vision.
    • And always, always, always … be compassionate with yourself.
 
1. Look into Your Heart and Follow Your Purpose
I saw very clearly that I needed to support my family and that meant more money and less hours.  It would seem that was an impossible goal, but actually when I started to value what I could bring to a client – 20 years of working with Fortune 500 companies on strategic human transformation – it became easy.  Easy – when I stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight as an Authentic Leader.
2. Ask for Help and Accept It with Gratitude
In the past, I was happy to do everything myself.  I worked on projects as a one-man-show and only occasionally brought in others to help out.  Now, I realize that this approach doesn’t serve me anymore – not at work and not in my home life either. 
Our family had not planned to cut its income in half.  So, I was faced with paying for everything myself, from taxes on our home to the taxis at the airport.  As I gave up trying to work it out and trusted in something bigger – things began to flow.  Out of the blue, a dear friend sent me $1000.  Another time, a friend said she had a tax refund she didn’t need, so she sent the money to me instead.  Yet another time, a virtual stranger brought me dinner when I needed the support most.  Incredibly, and thankfully, loss often brings the best out in our communities and ourselves. 
3. Cultivate Your Internal GPS
I didn’t understand why this had happened to me or to my son.  I had intended to grow old with my best friend.  We finished each other sentences.  We envisioned our retirement in Portugal – one of our favorite places in the world.  Yet over time, I began to see that his passing was all part of a plan.  And somewhere, there was an old manuscript or an Excel spreadsheet, which explained why this loss had to happen.
As I began to accept that hard truth, I began to follow the “guided route” as the Navigation System in a car might call it.   I became more sensitive to when I should say “No” to things that were keeping me small and weren’t valuing who I was.  I also saw when I should say “Yes” more often.
4. Attract People Who Support Your Vision
Over this last year, I have begun to find more people who believe in me and in what I am doing.  As I stand up to become more of the leader that I am, people feel drawn to join me in my mission.
Recently, I sat next to someone in a class and found out that we had both worked for the same company at one time.  Interestingly enough, we then came to discover that we’d both been let go in the same dramatic and painful fashion.  Hearing this, we bonded deeply over that tough time that we both faced, and one year later she has become my good friend and trusted business partner. 
Those kinds of coincidences became part of my daily life and are a valuable component of my ongoing business plan!
5. Always, Always, Always, … Be Compassionate with Yourself
I am now running a successful company with all that that entails: dozens of employees and workers comp policies, numerous clients and marketing strategies, and myriad products and services to fulfill.  I am also a busy single dad shuttling my son to soccer practice, volunteering at his school, and drawing up plans for great-big tree houses.  Sometimes, it’s a lot to juggle, but when I take a minute to step back and look at all that I’ve accomplished in a year, I have to pat myself on the back and say: “You’re doing fine.  You’re OK.  Be kind to yourself as you continue walking your path.“
To this day, I still don’t understand death, but what I do understand is that this loss was also a gift that has enabled me to step into my authentic journey as the leader I am on November 25th, 2013.
- David Couper
 
 
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