Mindful Leadership

Open Heart Leadership Mindset

Heart

We all have that person in our life that we can not tolerate. Isn’t that a great opening for a Valentine’s Day post? I think it is. 
A few years ago, I decided to walk my walk of coaching. To walk my walk of coaching meant that I would hold the principles of coaching not only when I sit with my clients face to face or meet with them through the phone but also to hold those principles when I am not with my clients when I am not coaching. You see, the core of coaching is to partner with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. If you strip the fancy words ICF used for coaching, the nutshell of coaching is the relationships I establish with my clients from the first conversation. Establishing the coaching relationship is what allows me to have a different conversation with my clients.
What I mean by that is that when we start working together, I get curious about my client’s needs and wants in this relationship. They know better than anyone else (including me) what they need. Of course, I make sure that they don't speak the mantra of shoulds and needs that others put in their head. I make sure that they express what is the heart of their want, not the others' want. But to make sure we both can hear the real want we need to have trust. Yes, trust that thing, that "space" as coaches like to say, that makes you want to share your want with me, even if it is uncomfortable. 
What makes people trust you? There are many possible answers to this question because there are many people with different wants and needs. But when you let go of judgment by listening with much curiosity to what they say and shift your focus from what you need or really want to say right now to allow them to talk they trust you because your focus is on them. Also, it is also important that we will ask the person what they need that when we share our feedback or share what we hear, sense or curious about that they will be open to receive our feedback. Think about it, in each relationship the responsibility to give and receive is on both sides. No matter if you are a leader, a business owner or a parent, you are not the only one responsible for the conversation. Think about it,  I can be the best coach with the best tools, and you can be the best leader with the best communication skills, but if the other person in the conversation is not willing to receive your insight or feedback, they just won’t! It is not because we did a crappy job, we followed all the rules, step by step, but we didn’t do something important. We didn’t ask what they need and wanted to be open to receive our feedback. We assume that by asking what we need to do differently, the relationship will get better.


Yesterday one of my clients used the metaphor of relationships as a cards game and here is the deal, I see you, I listen to you, I focus on you, but at the end of the day there are rules to the game. I need to get the rules from you, or we will play on the board game without a win for you for too long, that can be exhausting for both of us. What do I mean by that? First I share with you how I work with you, but then I also ask for your wants and needs beyond your goals, I need to understand what kind of conversation, a way of communication you would like to have that will serve you. Some clients need more of quiet time to process, and for me to stay quiet and wait, some clients want me to challenge them a lot, while others don't like if I push too hard, some need to report about their progress in between sessions while others need to process on their own. I dance with each one of them differently while also get the permission from them to be me. There is no one size fits all, there is no recipient there might be a need to switch the dairy with nut milk for one person, and the wheat with almond flour with another. So how do I walk my talk outside the coaching session? I see people as people. This is the heart of a strong leadership. I think in the last few years it became more and more of a narrative in leadership, parenting and owning a business - see people as people, see the human in the other no matter how different they think and behave. 
But what does it mean to see people as people? I love to use the explanation that Arbinger Institute use in their books. The core of seeing people as people is to stop seeing them as objects. There are three ways to see people as objects:
1.    Seeing people as an obstacle -   when you look at people as something that gets in your way of achieving your goal you see them as objects. If a person slows you down and becomes a barrier in your way, you become impatient, when you become impatient you communicate that with your body and with your words. It can happen with the cashier in the supermarket or one of your team members who doesn’t deliver what you need. You stop seeing them as people, achieving the goal becomes more important than the people themselves.
2.    Seeing people as a vehicle - you can also stop seeing people as people when they become a tool for you to achieve something, a vehicle. You all experienced when someone used you as a vehicle. It will start when they come to your desk, or stop you on your way and probably flatter you on what you wear and then ask you if you can give them something they need that you have. Did you ever experience being a vehicle for someone else? I sure did….
3.    Not seeing people – this is when the other person is invisible, we don’t notice their existence. Have you ever experience sitting in a meeting with another person and they talk about their business/themselves/their mission for 60 minutes and never find the time afterward even to ask you one question about yourself? Would you do any business with that person? 
How do you see people as people? It starts with noticing that we all at times see others as objects. Me too. Now, when we are ready to admit that we have our moments when we don't see others as people, we can start noticing ourselves and learn to switch. How can we switch? We move our attention from focusing on our needs and wants to the needs and wants of the other person. A little example from our current flu season. Like many of you, our family hit with the flu as well. Since Thanksgiving every week I had one or two family members sick in our house. A few days ago while my two older kids stayed home with a cold and a fever I drove my youngest to school. My husband was on a business trip, and I was tired. My little one got into the car and said: “mom I have a headache and I feel like I am going to throw up” It was the sixth time that he used that excuse in the last month. Twice he did have something but this time like the two other times the week before he did not have a fever or anything else. I was tired. I was ready to just go to my meeting with a client and get some peace and quiet from all the germs in my house, so I did what sometimes parents do when they get tired. I yelled. Remember this is a messy blog. I yelled that enough is enough and he is going to school. There was more yelling from my hand, but the underneath the yelling was my try to say to the world to let me be. My youngest gave me the unhappy nine years old guilt look, and we both stayed quiet until we were one minute away from his school. That's when I noticed myself. I shifted from seeing my son as a barrier, being in my way of achieving peace to a child that might try to communicate with me a need or want. “Hey little guy," I asked him "is everything is okay at school? Do you have trouble with your friends, teachers?”, 
“yes mom,” he said, “I have some trouble with the assistant teacher.” 
You see, stop seeing people as people, is something we do more than we think, not only with our team members, or with our clients, but also with our family, or when we go to the supermarket or at networking events. Don’t be upset with yourself, just notice. The more you notice yourself, the more you will open your heart. 

People can sense when you see them as objects, think about it, see me as a person someone compliments me, see me as an object someone compliments me, do the compliments feel the same? 

Happy Valentine's.


 

PEACE

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Yesterday was Christmas and we woke up to a quiet winter cool morning. We celebrate Hanukkah, the holiday of light and hope, but one of the muscles I have developed with the years is the muscle of my curiosity, being open to learning about other cultures, about other religions and also about different perspectives of different people who think and do things differently than me. One of the things I have learned about Christmas is the importance of the word peace and its link to Christmas. So when I saw a quote yesterday about peace it inspired me to write about my journey with peace.

Shalom (Hello),

As an Israeli who grew up and spent her first 30 years of life in the middle east, I didn’t realize that what many of us are craving, peace, was part of our daily conversation. We use the word peace so many times a day but with a little twist. You see the word: “Shalom” is what we say when we greet each other with hello/hi, sometimes it might mean: welcome, but the real essence of the word Shalom that we use so many times each day in Hebrew, and in Arabic too is the same word we use to talk about PEACE. One words two main usages and it makes sense since the original greeting was a bit longer: “May there will be peace upon you.” Which again is the same in Arabic and Hebrew. It strikes me now, how I was caught up in my daily habit of greeting others with the word: “Shalom” that I haven’t really paid attention to the deeper meaning of this word. Since this blog is all about getting messy it was interesting to notice myself in the creation of this blog post and the thoughts that were running in my head while writing these lines, it started with a very judgmental perspective about my lack of connection with my behaviors, and then I was able to find compassion for myself then and understand that I needed to disconnect and detach myself so I would be able to believe and hope that in an environment of constant external conflict, still what many including me want and crave for is peace.

 

Calm

After the move to the US, the external conflict transferred into an internal one. For the first time in years there was so much noise in my head that I wasn’t able to hear anything. It is like you walk around with an untuned radio station, no matter how much I was trying to listen to the stations clearly it felt like constant noise. My husband was talking and I couldn’t listen him, my kids were speaking to me while we were walking or playing together and I couldn’t really listen to them, my friends were talking but I couldn’t listen them. All I heard were constant noises in my head saying: When are you going to figure out your plan? What are you going to do with yourself? Why are you so stuck? Why did you lose your confidence? Why did I do to feel this way?

I had so many internal conversations with myself, but were they really conversations? When I look back I can see that they were more of question after question after facts (or maybe opinions) about who I am, or maybe who am I not being and it was painful, and exhausting and burning and confusing that when others tried to talk with me, I lost the skill of listening. They were just background noises. I was craving quiet; I was craving internal peace.

 

Heart

Few years passed by, first I had to learn how to listen to others and it started with a different listening to the noises in my head. I learned to choose how I listen to those voices and then I was able to listen to others. It started by learning to be quiet internally and move my attention from listening to myself to listening to the heart of others, to be curious about them, to listen without the need to tell them what is their need, I waited for them to share their needs. And with the learning of how to listen to others I was also able to contain a new perspective about external conflicts that were part of my life: conflict in our core family, conflict in my workplace and a conflict that was in the middle east. One day while having a conversation with my kids, something in the conversation opened my heart to listen to something that I haven’t noticed before. I realized how easy it is to hate, it takes a millisecond to hate, but it can take lifetime to learn how to love again the one you hate. In that moment I promised myself that I will bring peace one heart at a time and it started with taking the time to learn how I can bring peace first  to my heart. I signed up for a special training that teaches the heart of conflict and I learned how to show up differently in relationships with others and myself. I learned that we all tend to focus on fixing others, especially in relationships, and what we are trying to fix is what we push the others to do even more, I had to learn that if I want others to change I need to change, and only when I change others will choose their path toward me. If I change for them to change, I don’t really impact a change, but rather a manipulation for the sake of me. I had to feel pain from others so I can teach myself to stand still and be okay with what they did, and then I had to learn that what they did was not always with the focus on "doing it to me" -  I had to learn that when I think that others did something to me it might have only been my personal interpretation but not their intention, I had to learn to hold them with love while they were hurting me, and I had to learn that many times what others do to me, is not really them trying to hurt me, but rather they being messy with themselves and the impact is on me. I had to learn that in the midst of my anger, my pain and my hurt to hold myself and my emotions with compassion and that’s when I learned that peace is not about quiet my thoughts or others’ noises, peace is about holding everything you have, notice it and open your heart to be okay with it. Most important I have learned that like everything else, there will be times when I will be better with staying at peace, and times that I won’t and that’s okay too, what I can offer myself is to always try again to practice being at peace.

In few days the new year will knock on the door and I will welcome her (I just feels like it is her) with a smile and say: “Shalom 2018,” and to you I wish PEACE in your heart even when the noise is surrounding you.

What do you wish for yourself in 2018?                                                 

 “Peace - It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” - unknown

Giver vs. Receiver (not a taker)

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to all the Givers out there. A true story…

Funny enough when I started writing this blog post I realized that today is Giving Tuesday. So it is a good place to start and share my thoughts about Givers.

Here is an interesting learning, until not so long ago I was a pure Giver. You might have read the book The Givers, by David Callahan. I didn’t know I was a giver, until a few years ago when I read this book and realized that this is me – I am a Giver. As much as I have enjoyed being a Giver at times, I also suffered from being the victim (yes, yes… it is my pattern, and I have learned how to shorten this way of being) of the takers. I haven't noticed this trend until I was part of a special program where I realized that some people picked up the phone or met with me only when they needed some information to understand the material in the program. But after they took the piece of information they needed they disappeared and when I needed something from them? They were no way to be found. That is when I have learned that takers will take knowledge, but will never share it with others.

Givers, on the other hand, will give knowledge, time and resources to anyone in need. They don’t see knowledge as power; they don't even understand this conversation around power, mostly they will come from a place of abundance. By the way, if you are not sure if you are a giver, here is a clue for you, you will always leave a meeting with another person too late because you want to make sure they got everything needed from you.

But the thing with givers is that we Give, and we enjoy giving, but because we put people before tasks, and many times we will also over commit to too many things, one day we wake up with the victim feeling and say: “Hey! What is happening here? I give and give and give, and no one is supporting me! no one is referring business to me, no one shows a place of an open heart to me, and the people I have trusted and helped grow to his or her leadership had turned away." How come that a Giver who comes from a place of kind heart suddenly feels as if no one cares?

I believe some of you were thinking to themselves: "Hey Givers! make up your mind! Do you help others just because you want to do something out of the goodness of your heart, or do you all just a bunch of manipulators who give so you can get something in return?”

No, True Givers don’t want anything in return, they are so inclined to give that they get to the point (and it happens again and again) where they just feel as they have no resources left. A deep sense of sadness and exhaustion arises, and then stress and fear crawl to the inner giver who steps into an overwhelming state. So what they do? They shut down, close the door and roar at anyone else who is trying to steal their time. Without saying a word, they look at you as they say: “Stay away! This is MY time; it is MY MY MY time to take care of myself because no one else does! I have some work to do, do you see the “No Disturb” sign? until I am done, I am not here!”

So after years of being a pure Giver, I felt as something is missing for me to enjoy giving, and then I asked myself: “What if I will become a receiver? What if I will allow my self to choose when I want to be a pure Giver but will also open my energy to receive?” And that’s when an interesting journey started for me because after years of giving without anyone leaning my way, suddenly people just showed up and asked: “Can I help?” sometimes they didn’t even ask, they just Gave without asking if I wanted to receive. Actually, they didn’t need to ask – because I communicated it without words, I communicated it through a new energy and new way of being that now I am willing to receive, they were able to sense.

When I was looking internally, I was able to notice that for years I was stuck in a positive way of being that blocked any opportunity I had to receive. I must confess that I know what was the reason I blocked my way of being as a receiver, but I will not go there. Still, if you are a giver who wonders why? Why no one leans my way? Ask yourself if there is something within that blocks you from wanting to receive, maybe you have learned long ago that when you receive you need to pay back for receiving? Maybe you have learned that when you receive you lose your power, or it might even bring a sense of shame? Perhaps you have learned that receiving could diminish the giving? and maybe you are confusing receiving with taking? When you go deep, ask yourself what is it that you block from receiving that doesn’t allow others to help/support/promote/mentor/advocate behalf of you/for you? 

So how would it be to Give and also be a receiver?

 

Easy Doesn’t Mean Yes

Focus. If you live in our ADD generation, many of us are struggling with how to keep ourselves focused. I see two levels of how I can keep myself focused. The first level is how to commit to myself to do what I promised to do, and the second one that I am going to focus in this post is how do I focus on my primary purpose and its goals without being all over the place.

I think that being a leader and having my own business open the door for me to be mindful of what and how I do things and what are my thoughts and emotions about every step I take (or don’t take). You need to deal with so many fears, demons, and challenges and for each one of us they are different, and since not doing results in no money, or no clients/people who support your vision – it is very easy to see when you are not showing up fully even though you want to. 

So here is a fascinating lesson I have learned in the past two years around keeping myself focused or being all over the place and not following my desired path.

What I have learned in the past two years relates to a gift, yes, a gift that I have. For me to take on a big project, a complicated project, something that I have never done before is really fun. In my former life, I was a project manager and change management consultant. I didn’t need to have complicated workflows and documents to run projects, I have had a simple workflow, and most of the other components were in my head, and I remembered EVERYTHING – yes it is crazy, but this is my gift. It is easy for me to orchestrate and run the project and then to bring on board the people that will join me to do their part. I am totally at flow when I execute a complicated project. So this is one of my biggest gifts. I can tackle complicate projects easily. And here is the BUT.... What I have learned is that my gift is also what stands between my desire to stay focused on what is important to me and my fear to be all over the place. 

What I have noticed is that whenever someone reaches out to me and asked if I can help and take on a complicated project, my answer was YES!
 
But then one day I set with my whole life projects, I made a long list and realized that I said YES to too many projects that are easy for me. When I looked even deeper, the sad news was that none of the projects on the list served what was important to me (no matter if it is in life or business). 
My YES was to “EASY”, easy to pet my ego.  What I mean is that if I will be very honest with you, saying yes makes me feel good that I can do it easily and I can save others' world at that moment. Of course, it serves them and it also serves my ego, but does it serve my goals?
And that’s when I STOPPED.
Don’t get me wrong; there are still moments when it feels like I can be the only one that can save the day and my first tendency is to say: “Yes, I can do it”, but I have learned slowly to control the four words and STOP. Then I ask myself: “What is the purpose of saying YES?” If it is only because it is easy for me, that’s not a yes. If it is to pet my ego, it is defiantly not serving me nor others. So now my focus is to say YES only to projects that serve my purpose. So next time ask yourself: Am I doing it because it is EASY for me, or am I choosing to say YES because it serves the goals that are the purpose of what is important for me. And YES it is okay to say NO.
 

The NO Line

As a child, many moons ago, before the reality TV hit the road and their producers didn’t even dream about keeping with the Kardashians, on days when there were no friends to play with or older siblings around to share my imaginative ideas, I used to go to our family living room and pretend that I am on TV and everyone can see what I do right here right now.

In the past few years I was more mindful about doing being, I know, it sounds weird when you read it: “doing being?” – but stay with me.

I am not sure how exactly it started, maybe when my clients started to tell me that I am very intuitive and instead of pushing my intuition away, as I used to, I started listening to it, the more I paid attention to it, the more connected I felt. The intuition opened the door to zoom in and understand my FEARS, I was so astounded and at the same time paralyzed with my relationship around fear. How the fear shows up in my thoughts and how theses thoughts lead me to courageous decisions and many times, not too proud to say, to stop me from moving forward.
Bringing it back to my childhood reality TV story, in a way it was like I have decided to put a camera behind my back that will watch me all the time and I can watch the inner happenings at Noa’s Show (I think it can be a cool name for a reality TV show).
That’s what lead me into experimenting with meditation that taught me about how to stay with curiosity even when I can’t shut down the inner chatter. It’s okay. It is not about being upset with myself that I can’t, it is about noticing and bringing myself back with no judgment.

To make a long story short, I took myself on a path where I have learned how to of observe my senses, my emotions and my thoughts with no judgment at the Noa’s Show.

A few months ago I decided to experiment with running. It started as a suggestion for my 12 years old to do something together, so we started the couch to 5K program. She hated it. I, on the other hand, loved it. The more I kept going with the program the more my body yelled back at me: “Hey! Let me run more and more.” So I decided that my body probably knows better than me and I just need to listen to it. I ran more and more and It got to the point where body yelled even louder: “more!” so I decided to go for a bigger loop. Everything went well, I was running up the hill, and then my body was starting to lose it. It wasn’t happy anymore, I was really struggling, I just wanted to get to that church sign and stop, but that church seemed so far away from me and I moved into walking few feet before I got to the sign. Then on my next run everything went really well until I got into that same hill, closer to the church’s sign, “I think I can get to the church line! I can do it,” I told myself internally, all I needed to do was to pass the church sign, but my body, again, gave up few feet before the sign. I felt very frustrated and could notice how the reality TV camera is trying to understand what is going on there.

The next time, I felt like no matter what, I am not going to give up! I started the run, the hill, my body started to be upset with me, but then as much as it was hard I heard the inner cheerleader telling the quitter that he knows that I have that tendency to quit but not this time, and to make it even more interesting I heard him saying: “Listen, this time not only that you are not going to aim for the church as your line to stop, we are going to do something crazy! you will keep going as much as you like, no lines!”
The quitter was ready to quit, but the funny thing was that the moment there was no line to cross, the quitter lost interest and the cheerleader got in charge. Not only that I passed that church sign I was able to keep running another mile as if I just started.
That experience was so strong that the next time I ran, every time I felt like I am about to quit I heard the inner cheerleader yelling at me: “no Lines! Just run, stop when you are ready.”

When I took the running experience into my day to day experiences, I realized that there are some areas in my life that I am stuck for the same reason. My quitter loves lines, or should I be really messy here and say that he loves not crossing the lines – he will quit even before I get to the line. Understanding my pattern, I let go of some lines I drew in my life and as funny as it sounds that freedom left the quitter with not much work to do. So if you are in need of part-time quitter you are welcome to hire him he is available to start immediately.

I Am Not a Breather

When I started training to become a coach, one of the things we needed to do was to practice coaching skills. So how did we do it? We coached each other constantly! We practiced coaching in school and outside of school; we practiced as much as we could.

One of the things that I couldn’t stand when my coach-student-friends started their coaching session with me was when they would say: “Ok! Let’s take a BIIIIIG breath!”

Since many of the coaching sessions outside of school were through the phone, I used to roll my eyes and let my coach friends take their big breath and just wait for it to be over!

Few years after, I was already a certified coach and a few of us coaches re-grouped to practice our coaching skills and give feedback to each other for the sake of our own growth as coaches. It was great! But then they started with the breathing and I told them in my very Israeli-direct way that “I am not a breather!” Everyone laughed and we had a great conversation about breathing with clients. Yes, I know “breather” is not a real word, but it just meant for me that I don’t enjoy taking a deep breath during coaching sessions when my coach decides for me it is time!. I felt that I am just not a breather. If you want me to take a big breath, please ask me if I feel like it! Don’t make me do it!

But you know, life gets in your face and one morning when I opened the refrigerator (you know, that thing that you do when you work from home) I realized that I was not breathing. That’s right!  I was pressing my lips together really hard and was holding my breath as if I was about to dive into a pool.

I must say that I became very curious about what I had just realized in my own kitchen, but rather than judging my behavior of not breathing, I became curious and started observing myself. The more I observed myself the more I was amused with what I was doing.  Weirdly enough I had realized that “being” in an entrepreneurial “I am procrastinating” state made my thoughts kept me from breathing!

I closed the refrigerator and took a big breath. It was a choice, a choice to shift from where I was to a new state.

 

You know, that moment when I decided to close the refrigerator door (don’t worry – I probably did grab something out of it before I closed the door) was a big moment for me. It was the first time I had realized that breathing is choosing.

What?

You see, few days after, I found myself lecturing my 3 kids, again, during dinner time. So in the middle of the same blah, blah, blah, that I used to say every night (and my kids wouldn’t pay attention to) I paused and took a big breath. That moment of choosing to pause and take a big breath made me stop lecturing them and sit still and quiet.

Everyone was waiting on me to keep going, but I just stopped, I knew that there was no added value to what I was going to say, it was more of a need for me than an added value for everyone else. I just did it because this is what I do every night and then regret. So taking that big breath was for me a moment of choice.

Since then, breathing for me is a choice. When I am “not breathing” I know my body is sending me signals that I am not choosing my next step. It is a signal that I need to shift. It is a moment to ask myself: what do you need to shift right now in this moment?  I can still choose to stay where I am – stuck! But it will be from a resonate place of choice, not from being a victim of my own thoughts.
I work with many clients who talk so fast that they can’t even catch their breath. Their work-life is so full that they can’t even pause the long list in their head and take a moment to breathe.

So no, I don’t make them breathe. I still think that your coach should ask for your permission to take a big breath together, but what I do is ask my clients is to notice how fast they are speaking, how short their breath is,  and get curious about what’s going on.

 

Ask yourself, what makes you talk so fast that you can’t even catch your breath? What makes you hold on your breath so that it feels like you are about to dive into a pool? What makes you stop and take that big breath that everyone in the range of 5 miles away from you can hear? What are the signals that your body is sending you?