See Stress as an Opportunity for Growth

Photo by Christian Kortum (CC2.0 License)

As part of my transition to Philadelphia, my husband and I just bought a house. I love the house because it is in the trees and every time that I drive into the neighborhood, it feels peaceful and like I am coming home.

Last week, I moved from my rental in the city out to the house in the suburbs. It is something that I have been looking forward to for months.

The transition has been more stressful than I anticipated.

After spending a year and a half sleeping through the constant noise of the city, I couldn’t get to sleep the first night. It was so quiet. The unfamiliar sounds in the new house sounded so loud against the absolute stillness. I finally feel asleep around 3am and woke up exhausted. In my anxiety to catch the train, I smashed my hand in my back door as I was rushing out of the house and was bleeding as I figured out how to pay for parking at the train station. When I got to campus, I realized that I left my cell phone at the house.

After work, I stopped at the hardware store on the way home. I successfully navigated to the store without my phone directing my every turn. Getting home though was not as easy and I ended up driving in circles as I tried to figure out the winding roads and rely on landmarks. When I finally got home, I spent several minutes searching for my house keys because I was tired and flustered.

That was the short description of the first day in my new home. I’m still adapting as every small task requires focus to complete. I have to establish a whole new set of patterns and habits. In addition, there are constant irritants of things not working as I expect them.

Through the stress, I have been asking myself what lesson I am going to learn from what is happening. That focus on growth has shifted my thought process. I have been observing how I am reacting and the stories I am telling myself. I have been able to stop myself from going to blame and anger and frustration.

I was able to fully put this principle into practice on my latest incident in the new house. I was quite pleased with myself for figuring out why the garage door openers had no power until I realized that I had locked myself out of the house. After assessing my predicament, I determined that I would be able to get into one of the doors by removing the hinges from inside the garage, but I didn’t have any tools. So in my stocking feet, I walked next door to introduce myself to my new neighbors and asked for help. Fortunately, my new neighbor had the tools I needed and was also kind enough to come over to help me break back into my house. I was able to laugh about it even as it was happening, realizing that it was a memorable way to introduce myself into the neighborhood.

Through all of this, I have had an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I am still able to learn and change. Growth requires putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. Recognizing the stress that comes with change as a growth opportunity has been helpful for me. My challenge to you this week is to ask yourself what you are going to learn the next time you feel stress.

Examining Self-Doubt

We had our first Wiser Way book club and we talked about “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It is a powerful, enjoyable, and thought-provoking book. As part of the discussion, we talked about the habit loops in our lives.

One of the participants talked about how he had a habit of self-doubt. I asked him to explain what he meant by that. He said that when he completes a piece of technical work that he confidently feels is done well, he has found that if he can have a bit of self-doubt, he is curious enough to recheck his work and has been able to find and correct errors.

This comment has stuck with me because I have defined self-doubt as bad and something to be avoided.

My definition of self-doubt is rooted in shame. It is when my inner voice starts saying, “Who do you think you are? You are not going to be able to do that. You are going to look like a fool!” For many years, it was my mental habit when I have felt challenged or exposed.

The difference in these two definitions of self-doubt is that one is grounded in humility and the other in humiliation. Humiliation leads to lashing out, blaming others or yourself, and limits your effectiveness.

One of the points in the book is that you cannot eliminate a habit, but you can replace it with another one. So, I have been working for several years to replace my habit of negative self-talk with openness and curiosity. This is similar to how my colleague described his habit of humble self-doubt. It means being open to learning and examining your assumptions.

When I am at my best, I have replaced that old script with a new one. It says something like, “I am not sure how this is going to turn out, but it will be fun to experiment. This is an opportunity to make a positive difference for others. What am I going to learn from this?”

The problem is that my old negative self-doubt habit crops up from time to time. I have found it in spades this summer around writing this blog. It has taken some time for me to recognize and replace the old mental habit. To do that, the most important driver for me is my belief that I have an obligation to help others be courageous leaders, which means I need to lead by example and be honest about how things are going. When I allow myself to be authentic and vulnerable, it not only is more effective, it is a lot more fun.

So, my challenge to you this week is to examine your mental habits related to self-doubt. Are they supporting you becoming the person you want to be?

Slow Down When the Ride Gets Rough

Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras  https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/ Creative Commons 2.0 License

 

My recent car problems have highlighted how the energy you bring to an interaction affects the outcome. I am not a complete Pollyanna as my story will show. Things do not always go as planned, but our reaction to unexpected bumps makes all of the difference in how our story unfolds.

I had an appointment one rainy morning, so I rushed to my car and was shocked when it didn’t start. After rescheduling my appointment, I settled in to wait for the AAA service to come and jump start my car. After my initial frustration, I felt grateful that it happened on a day where I had the time to take care of it. The service guys were terrific and helpful. It turned out to be the starter and not the battery, but the technician pumped up one of my tires that was low and called for a tow truck. The tow truck driver was able to get the car started by hitting the starter (who knew that would work?) and I drove down to the dealership thinking the car would be under warranty.

It wasn’t.

The 3-year warranty had ended a couple of weeks earlier. The service center agent was apologetic as he called to give me the news and the price of repair. He told me that he had talked with his manager and they had requested an exception from Honda corporate and was told that it wouldn’t be covered. I wasn’t angry or even annoyed. This is a change for me. In the past, I would have been outraged and been aggressive in pushing to get the repair covered. Instead I felt like it would work out. I told him to go ahead with the repair because I needed the car.

When he called to tell me it was ready, I asked him nicely to document the steps that he and his manager had taken so that I could write to corporate Honda and let them know that I was dissatisfied. I have loved my Honda Accord and we are a Honda family. The last five cars we have purchased as a family have been Hondas. I felt that it would be a compelling story for my appeal.

The manager called a couple of hours later to tell me that the repair had been covered. I was elated and felt great about how I had interacted with all of the people who were involved. I saw how the positive energy I felt had translated into a positive outcome. If the story ended there, it would be great, but more bumps were ahead.

After driving the car home, the electronic locks on the door were not working and neither was the fob. Since leaving my car unlocked didn’t seem like a good idea in the city, I manually locked the door and shut it. Just to make sure I could get into the car again, I tried to unlock it with the physical key and couldn’t get into the car. This is the point in the story where my old behaviors kicked in.

I was furious!

I kicked into panic and action mode. I angrily called the dealership, told them it was their fault, and asked what they could do for me. They suggested calling a locksmith. I googled to see if others had experienced this. I called my husband to complain. I started to try to figure out when I was going to have the time to fix this problem, which made me even more panicked and angry.

Then I stopped myself and took a deep breath to stop the freight train of thoughts. After composing myself, I walked back out to the car to experiment. I was curious about why my physical key wouldn’t open the door when it would open the trunk. When I was calm, instead of panicked, I was able to notice that the key unlocked the door in the opposite direction than I was expecting. Instead of turning the key away from the edge of the door to unlock it, you turned the key toward the edge of the door. This is completely opposite of how most keys work.

My anger and frustration had blown a relatively small problem into an enormous problem. I lost my capacity to be curious and open to assessing the problem. And I was spreading my negativity and anger to others, which made them less likely to be able or willing to help.

I called back the dealership, apologized for panicking, and made an appointment that was convenient for me to get the problem fixed. The dealership fixed the blown fuse that was causing the problem and I drove the car for a week without any issues.

The next week, my sister came into town to help me look at houses and I took the day off. We went out to start our day and my car wouldn’t start again. I was frustrated, but not angry. I knew that we had resources to do what we wanted to do that day. We Ubered to our house-hunting appointment and had the real estate agent drive us around. We had a great time and a fabulous lunch before heading home.

After we got back, I started the process of getting my car towed back to the dealership. Ironically, I had to reschedule the appointment I missed on the first day of my car woes for late that afternoon. I wasn’t too worried because I had a couple of hours before I needed to leave. However, when the tow truck wasn’t there in the promised time slot, I was getting worried about making my appointment.

At this point, my sister asked me why I wasn’t angry, saying that she would be furious in my shoes. I was able to tell her I knew personally that getting angry made things worse and left me less able to think. My recent experience confirmed that things worked out when I was able to put positive energy out during stressful situations.

I called AAA to request that my sister, who is not on my membership, wait for the tow truck, while I went to my appointment. When I told the agent my sister’s name, she exclaimed in delight that she had a sister with the same first and last name! After that, it was easy to get the exception made and my sister had a enjoyable interaction with the tow truck driver when he got there.

My car was fixed again by the Honda dealership. It turned out to be a faulty wire in the new starter. My car has been working well for a couple of weeks. I find myself feeling grateful every time it starts.

So now, when I find by blood boiling, I remind myself of how sure I was that I was locked out of my car and take the time to calm myself to get to a place where I can be curious and open to exploring other solutions with the belief that things will work out.

My experience is that things do work out in seemingly miraculous ways. My challenge is for you to replace your anger with the positive belief that things will work out this week and see what happens.

 

Why forgiveness is important at work

CC2.0 – Photo by BK – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/22339160723

I have been studying about forgiveness lately and thinking about the role that it has in the workplace. Many of the books that I have been reading are about forgiving major acts of violence or hatred. My experience is that work is filled with a series of minor irritations that hurt our feelings and violate our sense of justice. When we dwell on these irritations, we get stuck in a negative space, which is why forgiveness is important.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” – Martin Luther King

Early in my career, I was a systems engineer providing technical consulting to prospective customers who were considering purchasing my company’s software. During one memorable interaction, an engineer at a customer site was condescending and quite rude to me. As I left that appointment, I was upset and angry. I did not want to take that feeling home with me although as replayed the interaction, my feelings of outrage increased rather than diminished. It was a profound spiritual experience for me when I felt those feelings of anger and frustration melt away and be replaced by peace as I a made the conscious effort to let it go and forgive.

I see lots of opportunities for forgiveness at work:

  • Stop repeating the negative stories about a person, group, or system.
  • Stop complaining about not getting credit for work you did.
  • Stop obsessing about whether you said the right thing in your last meeting or how you could have done something better.

Let it go.

Energy is our most precious resource. An attitude of forgiveness at work allows us to stop sapping our energy with negative feelings and frees us from the past so we can focus on the present.

I loved this definition of forgiveness that Oprah Winfrey recounted hearing from a guest on her show.

Forgiveness is “giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. Letting go of a past that we thought we wanted.”

Forgiving doesn’t mean that others treating us poorly is right or that we don’t speak our truth about what happened with that person. It does mean that we stop focusing on what “should have been different” that holds us as a prisoner. Forgiveness is not for the person who wronged us, it is for ourselves and our own well-being. To extend forgiveness is to find freedom.

My challenge for you this week is to look at where you are holding on to a desire for the past to be different and practice forgiving and see how liberating it is. I would love to hear your stories about how you have been able to forgive.

 

 

Taking Flight – A Fun and Memorable Way to Learn DISC

Picture used with permission – Taking Flight Learning

There has been so much energy and fun around the “Wiser Way” training this week. We took the DISC Styles assessment that was administered and presented by Take Flight Learning. The DISC is similar to the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator in that it helps a person understand themselves and others better.

The twist and the thing that made the training so much fun and memorable is that instead of being assigned a personality style letter that we would forget, we were each told if we were mostly like an Eagle, Parrot, Dove, or Owl.

Like birds were seated together at the same table for the class. As we came into the room, we were asked to find our assessment and the instructor, who did not know anyone in the training, would direct individuals to different tables to start looking for their name. She could usually tell what kind of bird someone was by how they came into the room!

The first exercise was hilarious as the different tables were asked to discuss how they would go about buying a TV. The reports from each table were like caricatures and everyone was laughing at the extreme differences in approaches. And, of course, we were all analyzing our spouses, kids, and co-workers to try to guess what kind of bird they might be.

The training was practical, interesting, and fun. It demonstrated clearly why we need diversity of styles on a team to be successful and how important it is to understand the style of others if we want to clearly communicate and effectively work with them. The energy and excitement carried out across campus as everyone was talking about what kind of birds they were. Several participants told me how much they loved the session.

For me, I was quite surprised that I was a Parrot, with Dove tendencies. The only other time, I have formally taken DISC training was early in my career and I tested as an Eagle then. When I did my MBA, we did a couple of exercises that were like DISC and were asked to self-select which groups we belonged in. I distinctly remember not being comfortable in any of the groups. Because I could most relate to the Eagle or dominant group, I would eventually place myself in that group. But I never put myself with the gregarious Parrots. After all, I am an introvert.

The instructor indicated that most people don’t change drastically over time. So I talked with her after the class about my results. Most of my assessment rang true, but I was struck by some specific phrases. I know that earlier in my career, empathy and patience would not have shown up in a description of my style, but they did in this assessment. As I described my intense quest to find a better way to live and lead over the past ten years, she told me that there were many similarities between the parrot and the eagle and that it would be possible to change but would take a lot of effort. I can attest that it has taken a lot of effort as I have shifted to be others focused and that the journey has been amazing.

The challenge that I will give you all this week is the same one we gave to the Wiser Way participants. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who is a different kind of bird or has a different kind of style than you.

 

Facing Ego

CC2.0 – Photo by BK - https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/16663163640
CC2.0 – Photo by BK – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/16663163640

Over the break, I was able to spend a lot of time reading and relaxing. One of the books that I spent time with was David Richo’s “Five Things We Cannot Change and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.” The book is about accepting the the unavoidable “givens” of human existence: (1) everything changes and ends, (2) things do not always go according to plan, (3) life is not always fair, (4) pain is a part of life, and (5) people are not loving and loyal all the time. It is a terrific book and one of the concepts really resonated with me.

Richo uses the acronym FACE to help you identify whether your ego is showing up and making you miserable. It is not that ego is bad, it is part of being human. However, Richo argues that much of our suffering is self-inflicted when our ego tries to fight against the givens of life. When our thought patterns are centered in Fear, Attachment, Control, or Entitlement, we are feeding our ego and increasing our own pain. You can ask yourself the following questions to examine what your thought patterns are.

FEAR – Are you afraid of losing something? Are you afraid of not being enough? ATTACHMENT – Will you only be happy with a specific outcome or way of doing something? Are you attached to your position or title or status? CONTROL – Are you trying to force order or compliance? ENTITLEMENT – Do you feel like you deserve something that you don’t have?

I was feeling sad over the holidays and was actively fighting against the feeling. The interesting thing is that this book showed me was how I was using all of the ego thought patterns to try to suppress my sad feelings. As predicted by the book, by doing this, I made myself more miserable.

As I examined my internal stories, this is what I discovered. When I felt sad, I was afraid that I was slipping back into my old habits and fearful that I was going to lose my ability to live in joy and freedom. I was attached to my  self-image as a really positive person and told myself I shouldn’t be sad. I tried to control the situation. I tried to purge my sadness through meditation and positive written intentions and exercise, hoping that I could find something to make my feelings go away. I felt resentful that I was feeling fearful and sad and told myself that I had worked so hard that I deserved to be happy.

As I realized what I was doing, I just let myself be sad for a while and work through my grief, which is what I needed.

As I am writing this blog, I am smiling because I realize how far I have to go and how far I have come at the same time. I can see the growth in my ability to notice when my ego is showing up and how I am not condemning myself when it happens. That feels good to me and makes me happy.

My husband gave me the best advice as I was struggling and taking the time and effort to be introspective that I will pass along to you. Be gentle with yourself.

 

Stopping the Negative Downward Spiral

CC BY 2.0 - Spiral Stairway by aotaro on Flickr
CC BY 2.0 – Spiral Stairway by aotaro on Flickr

As we are opening up different ways of communicating and working together across campus, it is exposing gaps in expectations, lots of fears, and many stories. Sometimes very talented and committed people escalate their frustration, pick lines in battles between groups, and reinforce negative perceptions about individuals, creating a negative downward spiral. For many reasons, this is a common and understandable pattern that I’ve observed on several occasions.

I am sure everyone one of us can relate to being indignant over the actions of others. I certainly can. I have felt disrespected. I have felt that there is no way to satisfy someone’s expectation. I have felt criticized and unappreciated. I have felt fearful that I am not going to be able to get my work done successfully. These situations make us feel uncomfortable and they are not easy to work through.

The good news is that we are talking about our concerns and frustrations openly and with each other. That is a first step. Now we have the opportunity to work together to change these negative patterns..

We each have the ability to stop the spiral.

As we start talking directly to each other about our concerns in an open way, we are not going to do it perfectly or, even very well. When you receive negative feedback, you may want to withdraw and communicate less. This is the time to communicate more, not less. Try to have empathy and patience with yourself and each other. We are all practicing a new way of communicating and working together. The information that we get, even if it is not delivered perfectly is so valuable. Feedback can help us know where we have not been clear enough and what isn’t working.

We also need to try and assume good intentions from others. This is foundational because it helps regulate our response and keeps us open to listening. I have found it important to also check my own intentions to see what I really want. When my intentions are based in fear and are not positive and supportive, it is difficult to imagine that others are acting more altruistically than I am.

Most importantly, we need to acknowledge our part in creating the negative downward spiral and environment. I had a situation at work where I was constantly frustrated with a smart and negative colleague who was very critical of me and my team. I avoided him and minimized his feedback. This had been going on for years.  At the urging of my coach, I deliberately practiced withholding personal judgment, spent time talking with him personally, and looked for opportunities to acknowledge his contributions publicly. He became a friend and advocate. That was such a powerful lesson for me because I couldn’t see my own part in creating the negative pattern. I thought it was all his fault.

As I have shared these principles with several individuals, I have been appreciative about how open they were to change and willing to partner to create a more positive, effective, and collaborative team environment across all of the groups at Temple.

My invitation to you this week is to commit to doing your personal part to stop any negative downward spirals in your world.

Overcoming Procrastination and Anxiety

Photo by Unsplash - http://preview.tinyurl.com/hzcg5ov
Photo by Unsplash – http://preview.tinyurl.com/hzcg5ov

On Monday mornings, I write down things I need to do that week to advance my strategic initiatives and relationships. This usually helps me focus on important tasks and stay on track.  However, that was not the case the last couple of weeks. I committed to writing a short article for the Faculty Herald, feeling it was very strategic to communicate with the faculty. Despite putting the article on my list of things to do, I didn’t write it.

When I agreed to write the article, we did not agree to a specific due date. Yet when the faculty editor contacted me about the article, I was embarrassed because I had not started it. To hold myself accountable, I gave him a date when he could expect the article. However, I then found myself procrastinating with every possible task instead of writing the article and also feeling quite anxious.

Coming to Temple has energized me, and I have been working with a sense of freedom and joy. So feeling anxious was both a surprise and unpleasant. In fact, writing about how I felt brings back the feeling, which is a deep sickening gut clenching that my family calls the “melting liver” syndrome.

Knowing that I didn’t want to remain anxious, I spent time reflecting to determine where the anxiety was coming from. I identified several sources, including concerns about my children, missing my family, and obligations in caring for my ailing mother-in-law. However, my ego was also showing up in full force as I experienced the fear of looking bad and feeling inadequate, which made me avoid writing the article.

To shift away from anxiety and procrastination, I reached out to my husband and we talked at length about what was driving the anxiety which helped a lot. It was a very safe and supportive conversation and we were able to come up with a plan to care for my mother-in-law.

Then, I dived into writing in a quiet and focused setting and didn’t let myself stop until I had a first draft. I slept on it and then did a second draft before I asked for review help. Fortunately, I have a talented communications person who is a terrific editor and she pitched in to give support and suggestions.

I also made sure that I continued daily meditation and exercise. I reached out to my family and reconnected and I went forward knowing that I would feel better as I propelled into action and met my commitment.

The article was completed and submitted to the editor by the due date. My anxiety has lifted, which is wonderful: freedom and joy have returned.

Anxiety cannot be avoided and often concerns from one part of your life spill into other parts of your life. If you are feeling anxious or procrastinating, take time to examine what is fueling the feeling, ask for help, and make an action plan.

Practicing Giving and Receiving Feedback

Give Without Expecting
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/14020634976

I had so much fun at the all-staff meeting we held this week at Temple University and felt very supported by the team as we practiced giving and receiving feedback to create a more open and collaborative culture. We invited all of our IT colleagues from across campus to join us for the meeting and many of them came, which was terrific.

I was able to incorporate some of the feedback from our previous meeting. Specifically, I heard that some team members were uncomfortable at our last meeting because I asked everyone to share personal stories with someone they didn’t know. Also, I received a suggestion to use technology to solicit more honest feedback and make people feel safer. To address this concern, I used PollEverywhere to create anonymous polls scattered throughout the presentation.

fear-to-freedomAfter giving an update on the action items from our previous meetings, I introduced the Fear to Freedom model to the group. This is a simple and powerful tool that has helped me recognize when I am in fear and focused on myself and to manage myself to a more open and free state of mind.

The heart of the training was around how we can think about feedback as a gift that we graciously give and receive from a place of freedom and openness. These are the principles that we asked everyone to follow.

When giving feedback:

  • State facts – be specific
  • Leave out generalizations (all, every, always) and judgement (good, bad)
  • Go direct – preferably in person
  • Check your intentions
  • Ask if the person is open to feedback
  • Use “MRI” – Most Respectful Interpretation – of others’ actions.
  • State the problem from your own observations

When receiving feedback:

  • Listen attentively
  • Say thank you
  • If you are not in a place to be open to feedback, let the other person know
  • Assume the best intentions
  • Ask clarifying questions
  • Avoid being defensive (going to fear)
  • Take the feedback away, determine what you want to do with it

Then we broke into groups of three and alternated roles of giver, receiver, and observer playing several scenarios designed to show how fear can interfere with either giving or receiving feedback.

After the first scenario, I asked the group whether it went as they expected and many of the groups indicated that they were surprised that the gift of positive feedback was not well received. Each person only saw the following information for the role they were playing.

  • Kelly (Giver): Pat is a peer and one of the best people on your team. It has been a crazy couple of weeks on the project and the entire team has been working really hard to make a deadline. Pat really helped you out personally by the way s/he maintained a sense of humor and optimism. You want to let Pat know what a difference s/he made to you personally and the team.
  • Pat (Receiver): You have often felt that Kelly is quite competitive as a team member and a brown-noser and looking to advance at the expense of the rest of the team. You are not sure if you trust Kelly.
  • Observer: Watch to see if the giver asks permission and is specific in the feedback. Watch to see if the receiver sincerely thanks the giver and if there is any underlying tension in the exchange.

One giver described in bafflement, how the receiving partner responded to his sincere thanks with abrupt, monosyllabic thanks that made him want to stop giving praise. The receiver reported that he felt he was being open, but that was not how the giver or the observer felt about his responses.

This simple role play demonstrated how much our internal stories influence our actions and put us into a closed, judgmental, and fearful position. When we take this defensive and fearful stance, we can discount all feedback, even when it is positive, from individuals based on our previous interactions or even things we have just heard about them.

When we can master our stories and stay out of fear, we can break the negative cycle and be in a powerful position to influence and change outcomes. The most common question that I got after the meeting was what if all of our attempts to extend in openness and kindness are rebuffed. My answer was that we can never change anyone but ourselves. If we can stay in a place of freedom where we continue to be positive and open in giving and receiving feedback, we will be happier and more successful and productive independent of whether anyone else changes.

The quote on the picture that I found for this blog answers this question much better than I did. When we are looking for something in return to our gift of feedback, it is our ego showing up. We are focused on ourselves and want validation, not what is best for the person who we are giving feedback. We are operating in fear, not in freedom.

The slides from the meeting with all of the scenarios are available online. My challenge to you this week is to practice giving and receiving feedback using the principles above. I would love to hear from you to see how your practice is going.

The Gift of Being Fully Present

Photo by Celestine Chau - https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/9964866733/sizes/c/
Photo by Celestine Chau – https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/9964866733/sizes/c/

I just started my second month in my role as CIO. My focus has been on trying to get to know the people at Temple and on starting to build relationships. As I have been meeting with individual colleagues, I am really trying to be fully present and focused on the person I am talking with at that moment. I am not always successful, because it is easy to get distracted. I catch my mind wandering which can include looking around to see what else is going on in the room, thinking about my response rather than listening, checking incoming texts and calls, or running through the long list of things I need to get done.

I have to remind myself often that being fully present for the person in front of me is an unusual and impactful gift that will be remembered because it is so rarely given. I know because I remember when I have been given that gift.

Years ago, when I was in my weekend MBA program, I was given the assignment to interview a senior leader in my organization to find out about their leadership journey. I chose someone whom I had never met. He had transitioned to academia after a long and successful career in private industry and was well liked by those who worked closely with him. I don’t remember any of his specific stories, although they did involve worldwide impact with his medical research. What I do remember is how I felt after talking with him.

For a full sixty minutes, he was completely focused on me. He answered my questions and he asked me about myself, my background, my role in the organization and what I wanted to accomplish.  He gave insights from his own experience that might be of value to me in accomplishing my goals. He challenged and encouraged me. I felt valued and came away from that interview with a desire to be more like him as a leader. Even now, as I am writing this, I am filled with deep gratitude and emotion.

I am sure that leader does not know the impact he had on me. It was lasting, in part, because it was reinforced every time I encountered him, which I did with regularity. When I ran into him in the cafeteria or at a meeting, he displayed the same genuine interest and focus on me that I glimpsed the first time we met.

So, as I have been meeting all of the amazing people at Temple and in Philadelphia, I try to emulate that leader and be fully present and focused on the person who I am talking with. They can feel whether you are fully present and focused on them and it matters deeply. When I have received this gift of focused attention, I feel valued, energized, and motivated. When I am able to give the gift of being fully present, I get positive energy, great information, and good will; all which are invaluable to me as a leader.

My challenge to you this week is to be intentional about being fully present when you are interacting with your colleagues, customers, and family.  Notice what happens when you are more present.