Tag Archives: self-improvement

Prepare Yourself for the Challenge of Change

By Glenn GutekGlenn Gutek

Leaders are change agents.  It is impossible to lead people into an unknown future without knowing how to successfully introduce change.  It has been said that the one constant in life is change, but why must it be so often, so soon?

There are some personalities that avoid change the way an unprepared student avoids making eye contact with the teacher.  There are many that value stability over creativity and for them change can be an excruciating experience.  However, there are some that get bored with predictability and the idea of change is a thrill ride that keeps life fresh and invigorating.   No matter your personality preference, adapting to new things, new ideas, new tools, new processes and new possibilities is both necessary and difficult.

The problem with change does not rest in the wiring of our personalities; it rests in our desire for comfort.  Even those that embrace the notion of being a change agent will oftentimes find themselves leading in the direction of their own comfort.  Leaders often express frustration and shock that the people they lead resist anything different.  The real shock is that leaders are often not innovators, but comfort seekers.   The unarticulated question rumbling around the brain of many so called “change agents” is, “how do I lead this group to a place where I am most comfortable with the role I will play for a very long time?”

Retailer K-Mart was comfortably resting on top of the discount retail market when the super systems of Wal-Mart made cheap prices even cheaper. Ma Bell and the baby bell’s were comfortably asleep when the world moved from land lines to cellular technology.  That same alarm awoke Bill Gates when the world moved from software to the Internet. The former did not hear the alarm and have drifted into irrelevance.  The later examples — fortunately — heard the alarm and made significant changes.

We all understand the need to change.  What we may not understand is that many entrepreneurial leaders are reluctant to embrace change.   Entrepreneurial leaders risked plenty to launch their enterprise.  Many thought their leadership, creativity, and vision would promote change for years to come.  Entrepreneurial leaders may have been lulled to sleep thinking they were masters of change when they were just creating their own place of comfort.

What is pushing you toward change?  Where are you finding internal resistance?  What worries you the most, and keeps you up at night?  These are your wake up calls, and you shouldn’t hit the snooze button.   Your slumber will get continuously more uncomfortable.

There is a wealth of research and wisdom on the techniques of navigating change.  What is not easily found is advice on how to self-prepare for the challenge of change.  Below is a simple and memorable way to think about the work you may want to employ to embrace the change that is to come.

Get some distance: How are you at math?  If you are like many, the memory of doing math homework is filled with frustration.  No matter how many times the teacher went over the formula or covered the material it was very difficult to solve the problem and the harder you tried the further away the solution seemed.   Did you ever have the experience of giving up, walking away and in a moment of rest you began to see things with greater clarity?  Sometimes, getting away from the problem is all you need to see things differently.   If you know change is necessary and you are fighting it, try getting away.  A vacation, a mission trip, or sabbatical are all things that can provide some distance and perspective.

Go the distance: Countless business leaders have already started marking the time till they sell or retire.  Change requires perspective, and beginning to limit your vision will only provide a limited perspective.  You will not navigate change until you can see beyond your own tenure in leadership.  Be willing to envision a future that is beyond your leadership expectancy.

Stop your persistence: Everybody knows the classic definition of insanity.  The first time you initiated change it required that keep the course and demonstrated greater persistence than the forces of resistance.  That tendency toward persistence may be the very thing keeping you from seeing and embracing change.  Try quitting something.  Your “stop doing” list is far more important than your “start doing” list.

Try being inconsistent: The sign of brilliance is the ability to hold two conflicting truths in tension.   We need to keep taxes low and increase revenue to eliminate debt.   We are taught that it is a sign of weakness, a lack of conviction to play both sides against each other.  While there is some truth to that, in our modern world of constant change we need to lean toward the left one day, and the right the next.  You will not be able to embrace change until you can honestly contemplate that your historically held position may not be the whole truth.   Try advocating for something that you had previously opposed.

Is it possible that you are the one reluctant to change?  Let your passion for success and desire to lead others into an unknown future outweigh your desire for comfort.

Glenn Gutek is a speaker and CEO of Awake Consulting & Coaching, a firm that helps small businesses and organizations improve their leadership and business development through training, development and coaching. He is also the author of “Wide-Awake Leadership,” which teaches leaders how to overcome mediocrity though effective leadership.

Study Skills Resolve Half of Caseloads, According to School Psychologists

By Susan KrugerSusan Kruger

Our first home as young newlyweds was a small bungalow built in 1942.  We purchased the house in the month of August, many months before we discovered the drafty windows.  As the Michigan winter rushed in, it literally rushed right through our house.  Day after day.  Month after month.  Winter after winter.

It took a few years, but we finally saved enough money to buy new windows… five-thousand dollars!  The windows were installed one summer and we looked forward to finally being warm as winter approached. But, we weren’t. The house was still cold!

We spent a few months in denial.  $5,000.00 was a hard pill to swallow!  The fact that we were still cold was beyond our comprehension.

Eventually, we noticed an ever-so-slight crack of daylight showing under the bottom of the back door.  The weather stripping had dislodged from the floor track.  But, as my husband and father evaluated the situation more closely, they determined that we needed a new door.  They went to the store, purchased a $200 door, and installed it within a few hours.

Suddenly… instantly… we were warm!

Of course, it was great that we could finally thaw out in the living room, but it was really disappointing to realize we spent a few years’ savings on windows when we only needed a $200.00 solution.  We simply never thought to evaluate the door.  The windows looked very old, so our attention was fully fixed on them… for years!

I would be willing to bet you have a similar story where you pursued a complex solution to a problem, only to discover that the best solution was pretty darn simple, less expensive… and right before your eyes.

This, of course, happens in all aspects of our lives and throughout the world.  Education is certainly no exception!  A few weeks ago, Response to Intervention (RTI) expert, Pat Quinn, addressed this phenomenon in his newsletter.

He discussed the most popular question he gets about RTI, which is, “Where do I start?”  His answer may surprise you: Whole-class instruction!  He recommends focusing initial efforts on improving the whole-class instruction (Tier I) before anything is done to develop Tier II or Tier III.

As he says “The most important first step in successfully implementing RTI is ensuring the quality of full-class instruction.” Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions may be what everyone is talking about, but full-class instruction affects more students.

The fastest way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.  The least expensive way to increase learning at your school is to improve full-class instruction.  The change that will affect the most number of students at your school is to improve full-class instruction.

I know that isn’t the most exciting answer, but it is the right answer. And there are a lot of schools spending a lot of energy running around trying to implement a complicated system of Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions when much of that energy would be better spent simply focusing on improving Tier One, full-classroom instruction.

In many schools the need for Tier 2 small group interventions could be drastically reduced if Tier One full-class instruction was at a high level in all classrooms.”

This is completely congruent with my experience in teaching and tutoring hundreds of students; when the instruction is solid from the beginning, the need for intervention-on the whole-becomes far less significant.  Obviously, study skills play a HUGE roll in my experiences; students thrive when they know HOW to learn and study effectively.

Unfortunately, I find that most schools are only interested in study skills for their at-risk, special education, Title 1, or otherwise-labeled “struggling students.”

My question is… do we really need to let ALL of those students get that far?  Is there any chance that teaching study skills in the whole-class setting would improve student performance and reduce the number needing special services?

That is exactly what a team of school psychologists in Prince George County, VA determined!  They analyzed their caseloads across their district and discovered that over 50% of the students referred to them for academic problems were simply struggling from a lack of organization and study skills.

One out of every two “special education referrals” were resolved with study skills instruction Originally, it seemed like these students had a $5,000 problem.  After analyzing the problem more carefully, these educators discovered a $200 solution!

Susan Kruger of SOAR(r) Study Skills is a Certified Teacher with a Master’s Degree and the author of the book SOAR Study Skills.  Her Homework Rx(r) Toolkit at http://studyskills.com includes “25 Ways to Make Homework Easier…Tonight!”, Homework Scorecard, Homework Inventory for Parents and a free subscription to the Homework Rx eNewsletter to help you and your child get started on the path to homework success.

The Curse of the Passionista: How to Make Your Passion Work For, Not Against You

By Amy ShowalterAmy Showalter

One of the most old-fashioned and overrated pieces of advice for any influencer is to “be passionate” about your cause. Some consider it the answer to all influence challenges, as if passion is 90% of successful persuasion.  If that were true, everyone would get what they want by showing some passion. But they do, and they don’t get what they want.

Because “being passionate” is easy on the ears, many people stop there with their influence tactics. But as you strive to get your projects adopted, make the sale, or win votes, you are the underdog and are engaging in upward influence. Persuading up the food chain requires different techniques; it is markedly different from peer-to-peer influence, and passion isn’t the panacea.

Are you a “passionista” and thus limiting your upward influence success? Ask yourself:

  • Do you come across as self-righteous, but think that you are simply acting on your convictions?

  • Is your request focused on how it will help you, or how your influence target can benefit by becoming a hero?

  • Do you get overly emotional when others disagree with you?

  • Will agreeing to your request make you a hero, or your persuasion prospect a hero?

  • Will your influence target make enemies by agreeing with you?

  • Do you engage in challenging influence situations when you are tired or low on energy?

The Curse of the “Passionista” In a research study conducted with powerful people regarding attempts to influence them, they were asked what persuasion tactics didn’t work. They used phrases like: “too emotional,” “can’t see the other side,” “fist bangers on the desk,”  “pushing me to make a decision quickly,” and so on. Think about it – those behaviors demonstrate passion, don’t they?

The problem is, they make your influence target think you are unpredictable. Let’s face it, when someone becomes overly emotional or raises their voice, we don’t know what’s coming next. And psychologically, being able to easily interpret someone and predict that person’s behavior feels good mentally and physically. It requires less work and, fair or unfair, human thinking is hard work that makes us uncomfortable, because then we have to think more about what this person will do next, and none of us like to think that hard. Don’t believe it?

Social psychologists have reviewed the brain waves of people asked to solve hard math problems and comparing those brain waves to when the same people put their hands into a bucket of ice water. The brain waves were the same both times. The researcher’s conclusion? Thinking is  physically painful! When your prospect has to think harder, they like you less, and less liking = less influence.

When Can You Parade Your Passion? When does passion work? According to the people interviewed, it’s when one of two conditions were present:  1) they would be a hero by agreeing to the request; and/or, 2) when they would make new allies, friends or supporters by granting the request.  You need to do your homework to find out what those instances actually mean to your target, as “hero” to one person is “zero” to another.

Can you Manage Your Passion? Passionate outbursts usually stem from a lack of self-control, so make sure your willpower tank is full before running full speed into upward influence encounters. The more reserve you have, the better you can cope with the unexpected; the less you have, watch out.

Here’s the good news: Willpower seems to get stronger with use. For example, increased willpower runs rampant in military training where recruits learn to overcome one challenge after another. Whatever the explanation, consistently doing an activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower. This reflects a greater ability to delay gratification, which is associated with success in life. Build up your willpower muscle and see how increased self-control can assist in your efforts to persuade up the food chain.

Don’t lose the power of your own conviction, just exercise some self-control. Passion is best used judiciously when you can make the person you are trying to persuade feel like they are a good person by helping you.  When you’re on the wrong side—that is, you’re not helping your influence prospects win friends and be perceived as a good person, your passion can easily be interpreted as anger. And while anger can be interpreted as a persuasion tactic, albeit a crude one, after you do your fly-by and their ship is smoking and listing in port, you won’t have future influence opportunities.

Amy Showalter is the author of “The Underdog Edge: How Ordinary People Change the Minds of the Powerful…and Live to Tell About It.” She a speaker and consultant who helps organizations and individuals get powerful people on their side. Her clients include Southwest Airlines, Pfizer, The American Heart Association, NFIB, and International Paper. For more information on Amy, please visit showaltergroup.com or underdogedge.com. Amy can be reach at 513-762-7668 or amy@showaltergroup.com.

Today’s Economy Demands A Critical Skill: Optimism

By Eileen McDargh

Eileen McDargh-optimism

Global warming. Water shortages. Terrorism. Failing health care system. Wars around the globe. Gas prices. Severe economic downturn. Look at the headlines and it’s enough to make you stay in bed.

But wait! There is hope. It’s not the cock-eyed optimism sung about in South Pacific, the hottest show on Broadway. Rather it’s what psychologists in France are calling “intelligent optimism.” Such optimism does not deny the reality of today’s world, but rather seeks to learn how to fashion a life amid such difficulties. Martin Seligman, the psychologist who had made optimism and happiness his life’s work, would agree with the French: optimism can be taught.

Consider these basic steps:

Practice saying this mantra, “This too shall pass.” It always has and it always will Click To Tweet

Focus on what you can control

Don’t get carried away by circumstances you cannot change. You might not change global warming, but you can control your energy consumption. You can’t stop the downsizing in your company, but you can arm yourself with marketable skills. You cannot halt the bleeding on Wall Street but you can rebalance your portfolio. You can take a hard look at expenses and determine what are necessities and what are nice-to-have items that can be dropped. At the same time, do resolve to spend some money or time on something that truly gives you pleasure and lightens your spirit. Two-for-one hamburgers at the local joint with my best friend make my heart glad and brings a smile to two faces.

Reframe the event so that you are not a victim

There is always another way to view a situation. The flight cancellation that caused me to miss (and forfeit) a major engagement was not “planned” to “get” me. It just was. My choice is to figure out what I can do to help the current client and what I will put in place of the cancelled work. When Hurricane Katrina wiped out the home of a nurse, she told me that she focused every day on what she still had and she had her children do the same thing. Every day started with gratitude. She refused to see herself as a victim.

Think “enough”

When we concentrate on what we don’t have, we miss all the many things we do have. The truth of the matter is that if you are reading this article, you do have enough computer power. You do have enough intelligence. You do have enough. It might not be as much as you would like but, for today, it is enough.

Cultivate optimistic responses

Like a farmer tending a field, optimism will never grow unless it is watered, fed, weeded, and nourished. We all have days in which negativity can take over. And, sometimes, that is a wise response because it keeps us grounded in reality. Just make sure it is reality and not the imagination making extraordinary leaps into conjecture. Weed out that conjecture. Ask what you can do to see a result that gives you a sense of power. As Alexander Graham Bells stated, “Sometimes we stare so long at the closed door we fail to see the one that is opening.” The 3M engineer who thought he had failed to make a glue compound that would stick discovered what we all now call Post-In Notes(tm).

Remember the power of generations

Children of depressed parents are more prone to depression. Children of optimists are more prone to be optimists. What do you choose to pass along? Even if your parents were negative, you can break the cycle by stopping, freeze-framing a situation, listening to the negative self-talk, and then literally giving yourself a different message. Yes, this is a practice. A hard practice. But you can make it a habit if you work it over time.


When all else fails, start singing. It is impossible to feel negative when you lift your voice in song. Music allows you to formulate words, to add nuance, and to even get your toe tapping.

Refuse to watch or read anything that puts a dark pall over your day

Instead of tuning into gloom, read a book that transports you to another time and a better mood. Go play with the baby next door. And if you are one of those folks who just can’t stand children, take a walk with your dog, dig in the yard, or get a bucket of balls and practice your golf swing. Better that than walking around with heart and mind weighted down.

Refuse to participate in a chorus of negative conversations

If the only thing you will hear is whining, complaining and moaning. Tell your group that they have three minutes to throw a hissy fit but then it must stop and the next six minutes must be devoted to either finding something positive about the situation or something that they can do.

Lastly, practice saying this mantra, “This too shall pass.” It always has and it always will.

Since 1980, Hall of Fame speaker Eileen McDargh has helped Fortune 100 companies as well as individuals create connections that count and conversations that matter.  Executive Excellence ranks her among the top 100 thought-leaders in leadership development.  Looking for help with work and life challenges?