It's Just a Drop in the Bucket!

    How full is your bucket? What bucket, you may ask. I'm talking about your imaginary bucket of being appreciated and valued.

    I was driving my 4-year old granddaughter to school last week and I was encouraging her to have a great day and "fill up her bucket" this week. Even in K-3 they get the concept that we human beings need to be affirmed and appreciated.

    I'm not talking about being "needy" of constant attention. What I know is the positive endorphins flow and we tend to respond with engagement when we are recognized for what we do well rather than focusing on the negative.

    The Gallup Organization understood this when they developed the Clifton SrengthsFinder assessment. The notion is for people to discover their top natural abilities or themes of talents and then intentionally take actions to become the expert in those areas because no one is capable of being an expert at everything. Right?

    Have you had teachers, parents, coaches,  - perhaps bosses focus only on what you need to do better in areas you know you are not talented? What would happen if they set an expectation we would understand and create an atmosphere where we all operated in our natural abilities and then appreciated each other for that passionate work? It is powerful.

    If we each discover (  our potential Strengths  and purpose to appreciate the different Strengths of others, our families, communities and teams, we are likely to report three times more excellent quality of life, become six times more engaged, be 7.8% more productive and teams are 8.9% more profitable! (Gallup research)

    It's such a simple step to begin intentional and positive engagement discovering, developing and using our Strengths.

    Be strong. Discover your Strengths!

    Contact Cathy Alford to learn more about Strengths Development for your team.


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    First Impressions

    You’ve probably heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and while this is almost always true, do we really give enough thought about what exactly goes into making that first impression? While it may not seem fair, our professional image is a combination of first impressions, how other people see us, and how we handle ourselves in all situations.


    Studies show that first impressions are made in less than 15 seconds, and what’s more, appearance counts for about 55% of that impression, vocal tone makes up 38% and your vocabulary fills the remaining 7%. What stands out in these statistics is that 93% of the impression we make on others is non-verbal! We often place so much emphasis or worry so much about what we say, when in reality, what matters much more is everything but words. But what things, you may ask?


    Non-verbal communication includes things like body language, i.e. crossing our arms over our chest, open or closed hands, leaning in, smiling, tilting your head, and nodding. Also on the list are making eye contact, how fast and how loud you speak, how close you stand to another person (anyone else have an issue with this one?), and how emphatically you gesture.


    Amy Cuddy, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, has been studying first impressions for more than a decade. According to Cuddy’s research, 80 to 90 percent of a first impression is based on these two traits – trust and competence. Subconsciously, you and the people you meet are asking yourselves, “Can I trust that this person has good intentions toward me?” and “Is this person capable?”


    Her research shows that while we often put much of our effort into displaying our competence, it’s actually trust that is the more important trait to establish. She offers the following tips to help you develop trust and optimize your first impression the next time you meet someone new:


    1. Let the person you’re meeting speak first.

    Let them take the lead in the conversation, and you can always ask good questions to help this along. Taking the floor right away shows dominance, and that won’t help you build trust. Trust and warmth are created when people feel understood, and they need to be doing a lot of sharing for that to happen.


    1. Use positive body language.

    Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice and making certain they’re positive will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the speaker are all forms of positive body language, which can make all the difference.


    1. Put away your phone.

    It’s impossible to build trust and monitor your phone at the same time. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.


    1. Make time for small talk.

    It might sound trivial, but research shows that starting meetings with just five minutes of small talk gets better results. Many trust builders, such as small talk, can seem a waste of time to people who don’t understand their purpose.


    1. Practice active listening.

    Active listening means concentrating on what the other person is saying, rather than planning what you’re going to say next. Asking insightful questions is a great way to illustrate that you’re really paying attention. If you’re not checking for understanding or asking a probing question, you shouldn’t be talking. Not only does thinking about what you’re going to say next take your attention away from the speaker, hijacking the conversation shows that you think you have something more important to say. This means that you shouldn’t jump in with solutions to the speaker’s problems. It’s human nature to want to help people, but what a lot of us don’t realize is that when we jump in with advice or a solution, we’re shutting the other person down and destroying trust.


    1. Do your homework.

    People love it when you know things about them that they didn’t have to share. Not creepy stuff, but simple facts that you took the time to learn from their LinkedIn page or company website. While this may not work for chance encounters, it’s crucial when a first meeting is planned ahead of time, such as a job interview or a consultation with a potential client. Find out as much as you can about all the people you’re meeting, their company, their company’s primary challenges, and so on. This demonstrates competence and trustworthiness by highlighting your initiative and responsibility.


    Remember, we're built to size each other up quickly. Even if we're presented with lots of evidence to the contrary, we're attached to our initial impressions of people—which is why you should be aware of the impression you make on others and how it has a lasting effect on your professional image.



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    Change Happens and Cheese Tastes Good - Part 1

    I love cheese! I love it enough that when someone moves it – I’m going to look for it!

    For those who have read the small but power-packed little book, “Who Moved My Cheese,” you know we all need to throw a cheese party and invite Haw over as guest of honor.

    Let’s face it. He did a pretty brave thing stepping out of the only safety zone he’d ever known, leaving a friend who refused to accept change and then scribbling life lessons along the wall for others to follow as he kept moving forward in a maze to find new cheese, i.e. success. That brave little mouse was a lot smarter than me at many points in my life when change didn’t quite fit my agenda.

    As I look back, I can see some of my most challenging times mirrored Hem’s behavior – refusing to budge from my comfort zone and using my voice to whine, vocalizing the fear that lived inside. I thought if things could stay exactly the same, then the unknown would never happen and my insecurities wouldn’t be exposed. Or, would they?

    Psssst. Alert!

    Change is going to happen whether we accept it or not.

    By recognizing change and becoming a participant in it, we allow ourselves the opportunity to grow personally, challenge an old mindset, expand our knowledge and understanding, and positively influence those around us.

    Now, doesn’t that sound more exciting than eating stale cheese?

    Spencer Johnson allows Haw to share these tidbits of wisdom with us about change.
    Change Happens
    They Keep Moving The Cheese
    Anticipate Change
    Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
    Monitor Change
    Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
    Adapt To Change Quickly
    The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
    Move With The Cheese
    Enjoy Change!
    Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
    Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again & Again
    They Keep Moving The Cheese.

    I’m no scholar, but I’m betting during these scary times of economic challenges and downsizing, some of you might find yourselves in a cell with no cheese. It’s never too late to step out and find new cheese. Really! It’s out there and someone will get it! Come on. You can do it! Start moving forward in the maze and let that someone be YOU!

    Look for Part II of this article soon where we’ll explore the different stages of change.

    Johnson, Spencer. Who moved my cheese. 1998. Putnam adult.

    Cathy Alford, MA, PCC,

    June 2016

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