Have you been accused of micro-managing, or constantly hovering over your staff, driving them to distraction so they can’t get the work done?
Have you ever been burned by stepping back and letting your employees handle a project, only to find out at the 11th hour they were way off track and/or didn’t really understand the objective?
In the past 10 years of doing hundreds of leadership assessments as well as coaching leaders, that’s a pattern I call “too much or too little of a good thing.” Providing guidance, support and follow up are important behaviors needed to successfully manage or lead a team. Too much or too little can undermine both results and morale. Just right, the Goldilocks approach, allows the leader to lead while staff has room to grow and develop.
If you’ve been burned by delegating and overseeing too much or too little, you’ll be happy to know there are some simple steps you can take to apply the Goldilocks approach.
A couple of months ago, Dave Williams interviewed me for his Google Hangout for Cancer Coaches (check him out at http://findyournewnormal.com/). It’s been a while since I last posted, and the prep I did for the interview seemed appropriate to share with you, as follows.
1. Could you describe WHY you decided to work with cancer patients?
Two things happened:
- My own brain cancer experience, during which I was very much alone (despite a loving husband , family and friends), and the support group didn’t work for me. After treatments ended, there really was no support other than information on a counter about Gilda’s Club.
- My brother’s death from pancreatic cancer, when he only had a few weeks following diagnosis, and really LIVED those weeks, welcoming his closest friends and family to hang out with him – providing us all with the opportunity to spend quality time and support each other
When I thought about these experiences, I decided I wanted to ensure others didn’t have to “go it alone” when they wanted someone to talk to who understood and was really there for them as individuals.
2) You come to a patient with an executive coaching background. Could you outline the assistance you provide and how it differs from the work you normally do with executives?
Often executives just want outcomes/results, and some won’t do the inner work that can have such a powerful impact on the outer work.
Those who have survived a life threatening illness tend to have a lot of raw emotions available that can provide a deeper coaching experience to make changes from the inside out, and really transform their lives. So I present this coaching as “life” coaching, which can then evolve into executive and/or career coaching to explore how to make the transition into work that is meaningful and where we can make a true contribution.
Everything is related and connected!
3) Finding “purpose” is a concept that most people often struggle with. Is the process different for survivors?
Because of the rawness of the experience and emotions, sometimes survivors are more inspired or driven to do something meaningful with their lives, with more urgency than the general population experiences. Going back to routine work may not seem enough now for a survivor, and the quest for meaningful work and contributions to others becomes front and foremost as a need, yearning, or desire. Often passionate interests that may have been buried for years under “practical” career and life decisions now become most inspiring and important.
We realize life is precious and short, and there are no guarantees of how long we have, so let’s make the most of it. No more dragging our heels! As survivors, we have much more of a sense of urgency to get on with our lives and make the most of them.
4. How does this translate to work, re-entering the workplace, and family support?
Family: Keep in mind they are co-survivors. Even though they haven’t experienced the physical illness, they’ve been there with you on your journey. When treatments have ended, often family and friends are just grateful “it’s over” and want to go back to a sense of normalcy. But what does that look like? They may also benefit from coaching support or local support groups for caregivers. They may not realize that for you, it’s not over. It’s just the beginning of a “new normal” that can be confusing yet rewarding if we take charge of the things we have control over.
Re-entering the workplace: There is a non-profit here in the US called Cancer and Careers (cancerandcareers.org), that has a treasure trove of resources available. I went to the Midwest conference last spring and even with my human resources background, learned so much! As a former HR management professional, I was particularly interested in the tips for interviews and re-entering the workplace, how to handle comments and questions. One technique called the “swivel” really captured my interest because it can be useful in so many situations:
- Q: “How are you feeling?” A: “Excited to be back! …” (swivel to work related topics)
- When someone shares information about a friend’s or relative’s illness: Acknowledge the shared information and then SWIVEL to “AND while I have you here, do you have a few minutes to …” or “What did you think of …”
- Questions regarding gaps in employment history:
- “I was dealing with a family issue that’s resolved now”…SWIVEL to what you want to discuss
- “I realized what I was doing didn’t fulfill me, so I took a step back to think about what would…”
5) How does purpose & passion relate to your concept of developing an inner GPS?
If we are aligned with our heart’s purpose and passion (and values!), we feel better physically, with more joy and inspiration and engagement in life. When we move away from our purpose and passion, our emotions tend to go toward sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, and our physical wellbeing also drops.
With that inner GPS of purpose and passion, we can continually ask ourselves “How does this line up with who I really am and who I want to be in the world?” And that choice point is critical. When we feel we have CHOICE, we tend to feel better physically, emotionally and spiritually.
If not now, WHEN will you take inspired action and align your work and your life with what’s really important to you?
Your Flourishing Life Coaching is about helping clients fully LIVE their lives with purpose, passion and presence. Why is this the focus? Because dealing with our own mortality can be a wake-up call that, while we may not wish for it, can be an incredible gift if explored with purpose.
Why do we care about purpose? Why do we care about core values? Because these things give meaning to our lives, inspire us, help us reach beyond ourselves and enrich both our own lives and others in the process. When I reflect back on my career, the times when I felt most despondent were also those times when I “felt like a drone” going through the motions rather than operating with meaning and purpose. When I think about the times in my life when I felt most ALIVE, they were also filled with passion and purpose. Even when filled with incredible sadness during my brother Geoff’s last days, I felt fully ALIVE and full of purpose.
So what do we do with this bit of philosophy? We dig a little deeper than usual and figure out what gives us the most meaning in our lives. Not what we “should” do, be or have. Rather we focus on what we most “desire” to be, feel, do and have in our lives. What inspires us? This is highly personal, shaped by our upbringing, our life experiences, our individual mindset and level of consciousness.
There are some great resources available for those seeking to define their life purpose. AARP offers a program called Life Reimagined (see https://lifereimagined.aarp.org/lifemap-ha or http://institute.lifereimagined.org for details). As I shared some of the ideas with a colleague, she mentioned how much college graduates might value this work too, as they try to figure out what careers to pursue. My bout with brain cancer reawakened my quest for clarity of life purpose, and I am grateful for it. It feels good to have clarity, grounding, and centeredness. As the civil rights song reminds us:
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
I happened to turn on PBS the other day and watched Richard Leider speak about life’s purpose, how to identify it and why it’s so important for seniors. As a Baby Boomer myself, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. What better way to experience wonderful retirement years than to focus on our passions, values and possibilities? For some, this means “giving back” in some way through volunteer work or other activities that contribute to the greater good or favorite cause. For others, it means renewed interests in nurturing the relationships in their lives. It could include all of that and more. Think of retirement as having the opportunity to focus on your dreams, expanding the meaning in your life through whatever vehicle(s) make(s) sense to you.
Having purpose brings us back to what’s important in life, and keeps us going when things aren’t working as well as we’d like.
What gives meaning to your life?
Why is that important to you?
How can you leverage this during your early career years? During your retirement years? During ANY period of your life?
I just watched this powerful and inspiring Ted Talk, and wanted to share it with you. It is 20 minutes of information and sensitivity about end of life, from the perspective of what we can do right here, right now. Dr. B.J. Miller is a palliative care physician working at a hospice facility in San Francisco.
My favorite quote from the talk is “Life and health and health care can become about making life more wonderful, rather than just less horrible.”
This week the idea of being lonely during the cancer journey was raised once in conversation and once in an article I read. This to me is a sign I should be talking about it.
How can we be lonely when we’re surrounded by family and friends?
Let’s just hit it head-on: The subject of cancer is scary, and many people are uncomfortable talking about it. For the cancer survivor, the topic is always at the ready with emotions, thoughts, questions, etc. With whom can we just BE ourselves, without worrying about burdening family and friends?
Top this off with finishing treatments: One day we’re in the throes of treatment surrounded by our healthcare providers who we see routinely, and the next day we’re congratulated on being finished and ready to go back to our lives. Alone. The celebration is well deserved AND feels good!!! Our family and friends are sighing in relief and expecting go back to some form of “normalcy.”
Then later the elation wears off and in comes the dawning of recognition… What now? What normalcy? Everything has changed! Who do we talk to about our feelings? How do we create a new “normal” from this new perspective?
- Feeling of loss or abandonment?
- Like falling off a cliff?
It is important for you to know that these are all perfectly normal responses under the circumstances. Take a deep breath and relax. BREATHE.:)
Then start thinking about who you know who IS comfortable talking about feelings, cancer, wellness and all the other topics you have floating around in your head. If you can’t think of anyone who is capable of this role, consider reaching out to a trained coach or a therapist. Coaches are trained to help their clients explore unknown territory, emotions and blocks, and create the lives they want. Helping others in these ways provides us coaches with an indescribable level of fulfillment and joy.
NOTE: There is a small directory of cancer coaches and other resources available at findyournewnormal.com
In your search, be true to yourself by seeking out someone you are comfortable with and who will hold your agenda while challenging you and providing a safe, non-judgmental space for you to BE who you are. Of course, I would be honored to be included in your search.
You are unique. You have unique gifts to contribute to the world if you so choose. You are loved for being you.
BE love. CHOOSE inner peace and joy.
Well-known research by Dr. Barbara Andersen at Ohio State University and others reveal that recurrence and fatality can be reduced by up to 50% (!) by offering psychological, social or emotional support during cancer treatments. Similar research that includes mind-body interventions has been conducted regarding recurrence. It all points to the value of this type of support for significantly better outcomes. If these interventions contribute to significantly better long term outcomes for cancer patients, what about continuing such practices AFTER treatments have ended?
What kinds of support are we talking about? Here are some of the types and sources of support:
Support groups (online, in person, telephone), provide emotional and social support. A few include:
- What Next Cancer Support Group, is an online forum where cancer patients and survivors, caregivers, family & friends are invited to share their stories, ask questions, and find others with the same type of cancer
- Cancer Support Community — online, also has a registry where you can include your information for survivor data collection and analysis shared with healthcare providers in the US and Canada.
- I had Cancer online group to connect and share information
- Women Survivors Alliance — holds an annual convention in Nashville, TN, selects up to a dozen women to share their stories on stage in My Second Act (Link is my video from the January production in Chicago), and publishes an e-zine called “Nou” (which also publishes some of my articles)
Classes and workshops on topics of interest through sponsoring organizations as well as through healthcare providers and independent consultants; topics include nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, meditation, the science behind various treatments, creating your new normal, etc.
- Organizations include Gilda’s Club, Wellness House in Hinsdale IL, and The Cancer Wellness Center in Northbrook IL
- Cancer patients, survivors, family/friends and caregivers are all welcomed to participate in a wide range of programs and services.
- Note: My workshops are offered periodically at Wellness House and Gilda’s Club of Chicago, as well as the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Watch for announcements on my Facebook Page and Twitter
One-on-one therapy sessions with a licensed social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist to get at deep seated emotional issues that may be triggered by the stress of cancer and treatments.
One-one-one or group coaching sessions with a trained and certified life coach such as yours truly, to explore and create the client’s “new normal” with a guide who understands the complexity of responses to the threat of cancer and treatments. The coach not only supports and encourages the client, but also serves as an accountability partner to ensure follow-through on goals and actions.
There are thousands of groups and organizations across the country and around the world that are devoted to supporting survivors. I invite you to explore what kind of support would suit you best and go for it. Feel free to write a comment about avenues you’ve already explored and would like to share with others.
I often talk about having had 2 wake-up calls that led me to focus my coaching, speaking and workshop practices on cancer survivorship. The first one happened sometime between my brain surgery and year of chemo, and led me to invest in coach training so I could feel qualified to do what I love full time. (If not now, WHEN?) The second one happened when my younger brother, Geoff, succumbed to pancreatic cancer less than a month after his diagnosis.
What was it I learned from Geoff that helped me overcome my resistance and become passionate about this work? Two things he taught me in that short time frame continue to resonate:
- Invite your friends and family in to help, participate, and support you
- LIVE life to the fullest, no matter how much time you may have
Let me explain.
- Invite your friends and family in to help, participate, support you and be supported
If you’re like me, you toughed it out on your own without “bothering” anyone. But I learned another way can be so much better for all.
When Geoff learned that he only had weeks to live, initially he was shocked and had a brief “pity party.” Always a practical guy, he quickly jumped into action mode. He announced his prognosis at the family reunion the weekend after this dire news. He also invited everyone who could, to join him and my youngest brother, Bryan, for a big bonfire at his house two weeks later. Thanks to that invitation, I was able to spend 5 days with Geoff along with immediate and extended family and friends just before he succumbed. The big bonfire was the last gathering of this group before Geoff died just days later.
What was so special about this time?
First, all of those who were most dear to Geoff were there, joking and laughing, talking, and supporting each other through the tears. Given our family history of stoicism, it was an incredible gift for me to have loved ones there for support, allowing me to grieve naturally without worrying what people might think.
Second, Geoff was able to assign each of us a role to help him both at the time and later. It felt so good to know we were helping him and each other. We had purpose, and Geoff found the best role/task for each of us based on personality and talents.
NOTE: Not everyone is talented in that way. If you’re not, just let your friends and family know what they can do to help. Giving them direction/guidance is priceless for everyone.
Those tasks kept us going. Even the hospice nurse commented how nice and unusual it was to hear laughter in the home. Yet it was the most natural thing in the world for Geoff the mischievous one, and cousins who were known for their humor. And we all know how therapeutic laughter can be!
This first lesson supports the second one.
- LIVE life to the fullest, no matter how much time you may have
Even though he had to haul a portable oxygen tank around with him, Geoff spent as much time as he could outdoors and in his workshop. He spent time with one of his best friends, discussing what could be done to repair a couple of motorcycles (his passion) and miscellaneous lawnmowers and other equipment. And of course, the bonfire was the biggest and best of all! He had established a tradition to have a bonfire every summer, except during droughts (this was rural Minnesota), so the bonfire was a favorite activity that drew everyone together. Everyone got into the act in some way or another, whether feeding the fire, helping Geoff maneuver down the lit path to the fire, telling stories and jokes, or just BEING together.
That time together, through the laughter and the tears, and participating in the ways I knew how, remains a precious memory that also served to inspire me to my life’s purpose. I believe I survived my brain cancer for a reason: to be both an example and a coach for others to live their lives to the fullest, one day and one moment at a time. Living fearlessly, with purpose, passion and presence.
BE love. CHOOSE inner peace and joy.