Embrace Who We Are

4 Tips for embracing who we are

Embrace Who We Are

“We are who we are” — Skip Gilbert

Do you ever feel the pressure to be like someone else? At times do you feel like everyone else seems to know more, be brighter, have more experience, or be more capable? Do you feel unsure of your suggestions because other people have differing perspectives? I know these thoughts have crossed my mind at times.

We need to embrace who we are and not try to be someone else. We are a collection of unique experiences, talents and skills. No one else has the same experiences combined with the same things we have learned. No one else has our exact education, social, or work experiences. Nobody has seen all the things we have seen, thought the things we have thought, learned the things we have learned, lived where we have lived, all combined into a single person. It is no wonder we feel like sometimes we don’t fit in. How could we? We are very unique individuals and anyone that tries to push us into a common mold is simply misguided. We are highly valuable and unique resources with a perspective that nobody else has.

Think about yesterday. There was not anyone with us every minute of the day. During that day we experienced new things as well as other things that either reinforced our opinions and perspectives or changed them. From just that one day alone we have a different perspective from anyone else on how the day went.

The path of our life is unique and distinct. We are the only one to have walked down this path. We have a unique set of experiences, molded and shaped by a unique set of circumstances and events. It is a journey that we are on alone, though there may be others with us at various points in time. We have a unique perspective and it is just as valid as anyone else’s. We have not come to our opinions lightly, but by what we have experienced and learned along the way.

Keep in mind that we are all unique people. Everyone around us is on their own journey as well. As a result they have formed their own perspective, based on their unique journey. From their perspective, their opinions and conclusions are just as valid as ours. Here lies the challenge and the opportunity. Each person has a unique set of opinions and conclusions based on their experience that may or may not align with ours or other’s perspective. But to that individual, they are solid conclusions.

As a smart leader, we recognize that everyone is vested in their opinion. We need to be sure to value that diversity and treat those opinions with care. If we need to help change someone’s mind, we should not imply that they are wrong, that would only setup a boundary. To influence a change in opinion we need to offer new information or perspective that will align with the experiences of the other person. We need to approach it carefully, thoughtfully, with respect and allow the other person to assimilate the change into their perspective.

There isn’t anyone else like us and there never will be. We are one of a kind, the only one; the original us. We should take pride in our journey and recognize that our perspectives come from our years of experience and knowledge. We were there for every learning and accomplishment. We know what we know and we should be confident in our ability to contribute.

Each one of us can be a better me. As I point out in the book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here!, we are a work in process. When we choose to pursue Excellence, we put ourselves on a path of continuous improvement. We need to create goals, leverage learning opportunities and gain knowledge from those around us. Each one of us can always be a better me.

Here are 4 tips for embracing who we are:

Focus on Solutions

4 Tips to focus on solutions

Focus on Solutions

Nothing can be done about the past, but the future is ours to mold. — Skip Gilbert

Are your days perfectly in control or are you like the rest of us, surrounded by chaos? For most of us we continually battle against changes in priorities, miscommunications, actions that are not what we expected, and things that require our energy and attention to address. Chaos arrives in our inbox with ongoing frequency, our phone rings with problems or new demands and nothing seems to be going forward as planned. The mounting pressures can become overwhelming and no matter how hard we work, there is not enough time to fix everything. If this describes some of your days, welcome to the crowd.

As our inbox fills with issues we have to make a choice, we can either see these as problems or opportunities for solutions. That choice can have a huge impact on what we do, how we feel and how effective we are. Our choice will set our state of mind and that will dictate our emotional reaction to the situation. If we choose to see the issue as a problem, then we are going to be expending emotional energy reacting to the issue. Emotions such as anger, fear and doubt will take us down a path of worst case scenarios and negative outcomes, all of which require energy. Energy that does nothing to eliminate the issue, only serves to increase our anxiety around the situation.

A better response is to focus on the solution. What is done is done. Nothing can be done about what has happened in the past. Even if the news is something unexpected or unfavorable the fact that you are now dealing with it is as a result of something having happened in the past. Nothing can be done about the past, all we have is now and what we are going to do next. We are better served by focusing on the solution and putting the emotion behind us. It’s part of Emotional Intelligence.

Focusing on the solution allows us to expend our energy on overcoming the issue and getting to a better place. A place that does not include this issue. It puts us in control of our circumstances and makes better use of our energy to resolve the issue. It allows us to logically draw upon our experience and skills with a clarity unencumbered by emotion. We can layout the facts, look at alternative courses of action and find a solution, one that takes us away from this current issue or problem.

Why dwell on the past, what might have happened or what caused us to get to that point? We can address those issues once we get the problem resolved. For now we focus on the solution. We find a way forward and replace our negative emotions with hope and encouragement. We plan a way to make things better and move ahead bringing feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

It is up to us to set the tone for our own thoughts. We can be the victim and see everything as a problem or we can focus on the solution and resolve the issue. We can wallow in fear and worry or move into accomplishment and satisfaction. It all depends on our choice. I choose to focus on the solution, how about you?

Here are 4 tips to focus on the solution:

Positive Reinforcement

4 Tips for providing positive reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

“If you want to see more of what you are looking for in individual performance, let people know you appreciate their efforts.” – Skip Gilbert

Which would you rather receive, a sharp criticism every time you do something wrong or positive words of encouragement every time you do something right? Most of us would prefer the words of encouragement and I think most of those around us would answer the same way. We feel more respected and open to change when we receive encouragement.

Positive reinforcement is more powerful than negative criticism. We all prefer to hear kind words of encouragement and recognition when we do something good. It makes us feel good about ourselves and makes us want to do it again to receive another reward. It seems to be part of our DNA that we learn new behaviors more quickly when receiving positive reinforcement.

In 1938 Dr. B.F. Skinner published the findings of his research in his book Science and Human Behavior. In his studies he concluded that both positive and negative consequences of an action changed behavior. However, positive reinforcement encouraged more willing and rapid learning than negative reinforcement. He concluded that negative reinforcement is temporary and has a series of unwanted side effects and often unwanted consequences. On the other hand, positive reinforcement encouraged repeating the behavior more frequently.

These findings were true in their day and continue to be true today. We are more likely to repeat a behavior when receiving positive reinforcement than being admonished for not displaying the preferred behavior. When we receive positive reinforcement for something we have done correctly, we can easily connect the action with the reward. Conversely, if we are punished for not displaying the preferred behavior, then we are still not sure what the correct behavior is.

Using positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in our leadership toolbox. When we want to adjust behaviors we are more likely to be effective when we reinforce the preferred behavior rather than admonish for the lack of the preferred behavior. By publicly providing positive reinforcement to an individual for demonstrating the proper behavior, way of thinking, or action, we not only build their self-esteem, we encourage others to model that same behavior. It builds a self-reinforcing positive chain of events that leverages the single event across the entire organization.

As a leader it can be hard to find the patience to wait for the right behavior to happen to reinforce. We know what we want and want to make things change as quickly as we can. Sometimes it just feels more expedient to point out a mistake and say “don’t do that again”. The problem is that pointing out mistakes creates an environment of negative reinforcement and will slow down the change that we want to take place. We have to be patient and then reinforce the instance of somebody doing something right, and then make a big deal about it. Pick the right moment and then go overboard with praise. It works. We will see and feel the difference as people respond to the positive environment and learn from their observations.

In the end, nobody gets too much positive reinforcement. We all thrive on being recognized and encouraged by those around us, especially by our leaders. Given all of the chaos and challenges we face, it is not likely that we will simply become desensitized to being told we did something right or did a good job. There is just too much that needs to be fixed and too many people that do not have the patience to truly leverage their leadership. Positive reinforcement will not drive negative behavior. It naturally works for us, not against us.

Smart leaders allow people to feel good about their work which is a big part of the self-image of the individual. Most people want to please their manager and are looking for positive recognition. If we want to see more of what we are looking for in individual performance, let people know we appreciate their efforts. It does not mean that we cannot or should not provide adjusting guidance or lower our standards of acceptability. By providing positive feedback we open the door to greater acceptance of doing something even better next time.

Given a few cycles of positive reinforcement, most people will soon figure out what we are asking for. As a smart leader we will be building the effectiveness of our team as we reinforce the behaviors that we are looking for while providing a positive and encouraging environment. These are all necessary conditions for building a high performance team, achieving our goals, and driving organizational success. Then again, that is why we are smart leaders! 😉

Here are 4 tips for providing positive reinforcement: