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Being Kinder Than Necessary April 28, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Coaching, workplace success.
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I was dusting the top of my TV yesterday (something I do fairly regularly, honest). I moved a wooden decoration that I keep on top of the TV which says “Be kinder than necessary.” And since I was thinking about my next blog post, I put two and two together and thought that sentence would make a great theme for a blog post—hence the words that follow.

People are not always thrilled to be at work.

People get cranky at work. It happens to the best of us. We are often working when we’d rather be playing. Or we’re under a lot of stress to do more with less. Or we just don’t like the people we are forced to work with. Or our boss is a real shit….and the list goes on. So since we do get cranky, work relationships can get strained and stay that way.

Working with a good community of people makes for high job satisfaction.

That said, I recently did a little research on what makes for high work satisfaction and guess what. A good community of people to work with ranks right up there—often number 2 or 3 on the list. This leads me to the startling conclusion that to be happier at work it’s best to get along with those with whom we work. (Notice I refrained from putting ‘with’ at the end of that sentence?)

That’s where the advice, “Be kinder than necessary” comes in. Here are some of my suggestions about bringing it to your work life. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t use it in your personal life; it’s just that my suggestions pertain to work. Remember I’m a workplace success coach (shameless self-promotion)

So here goes…

· Refuse to engage in negative third party conversations about anyone. There is nothing that destroys trust faster than when someone finds out you’ve been criticizing them behind their back. And while we’re on that subject, how do you think the people you are talking to feel about that? They are maybe thinking that you’ll be bad-mouthing them behind their backs the next time you get the chance. Make it a policy to keep your opinion to yourself unless you are specifically asked to give feedback or unless withholding your assessment would have disastrous results.

· While we’re on the subject of feedback, when you are asked for feedback, try engaging your brain before you speak. What is the most useful feedback you can give? What has precipitated the request for your feedback? How much negative feedback is helpful?

And don’t just pile on the negative stuff, try being encouraging and supportive about something the person has done—even if you have to dig very, very deep. Give feedback about something that the person can hope to change. If their voice is scratchy and annoying on the phone, perhaps you could mention something else. It’s a little hard to change the voice you were born with. And rather than a punch list of a hundred improvements, stick with the most important. Above all, give feedback the way you’d like someone to give it to you—unless you are very thick-skinned and nothing bothers you. In that case, just dial it back until you see how it’s being received.

· When you have to do something that’s ‘not your job’ do it gracefully and without editorializing. Maybe the person you are standing in for is a real screw-up or just maybe he or she is having a bad day because their elderly parent is dying. Before you rush to judgment about someone who is not measuring up to your standards, take a deep breath and be kinder than necessary about the situation.

· And on to standards. One of the things that causes us to criticize others is that they don’t measure up to our set of standards. How could they? Stop yourself for a moment or two when you’re ready to open your mouth to criticize someone. Is your way really the only ‘right’ way or is it just your way? Who made you master of the universe? Leave room for the styles and problem-solving practices of others and you may find a new and even better way of attacking a problem.

There is a whole load of ways that you can be kinder than necessary to others at work. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what they are in your particular workplace. The important thing is not what you actually do but how you do it. If you hold the intention that you are going to be kinder than necessary at work, you may (read ‘should’) find that your workplace becomes a kinder, gentler place for you too.

And after all, you deserve that.

Who Are You Being? March 6, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Uncategorized.
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2418629901_0eceaf6e82One of my favorite questions of people I coach is “Who are you being?” (And one of my favorite most-hated questions is “Name 10 things you love about yourself.” However, I’ll save that for another day. )

What are you about?

Why do I love the question ‘Who are you being?” Because it really speaks to what you want to create in the world. And if you’re not conscious of what you’re creating, you are very likely to create a lot of muck and greatly annoy those around you. And since the guiding principle of my coaching is to get effective work done by intentionally building relationships with others, it follows that I’d like to know who you are being (or at least who you think you are being).

Who do you know?

When someone has a consciousness about who they’re being, it shows up in everything they do. Think of some of these people who are in your life. One person who comes to mind for me is Lori, the owner of Sangha Space in Media, PA where I take tango class. Lori is all about creating a tango community that is vibrant and welcoming. She speaks about these goals and her actions point to this commitment. Her energy and her desire to make everyone welcome is constant and when she’s not at the studio, the place is just not the same. Lori’s actions and words are a match and ‘who she is being’ is enriching her life and that of others. She is acting into a strong declaration about the purpose of her life.

You can be a whole bunch of you’s

Who are you being? There is no one answer to that question, of course. Sometimes I am being supportive, kind, and  loving. Other times I am being judgmental, impatient, and selfish. And I am ok with either end of the spectrum. However, I do have a declaration about who I want to be and judgmental, impatient, and selfish is not part of that declaration. So the trick is to constantly rely on my Observer—that element of myself that can step outside , take a look at how/what I am doing, and allow me to self-correct when I am not acting in integrity with my declarations about who I want to be.

Try this

This week figure out what you’d like to do more of in order to act in alignment with who you want to be. Kinder? More hard-working? Better organized? A friend to all? A setter of boundaries? You decide. Just decide. And then when someone asks you that annoying question about who you are being, you’ll have an answer.


Calling the Question June 29, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development.
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by nicsuzor cc license My business partner and I have term that we use when things seem to be going haywire. That term is ‘calling the question.”  We don’t claim that the term is unique to us but it has served us well when we have been on our way down a rat hole somewhere, about to do something that is very unproductive.(read stupid and ill-advised)

The Abilene Paradox

One of my favorite stories about calling the question or the lack thereof is the Abilene Paradox. This story is often told in business management circles to illustrate how easy it is to make a poor decision simply because you didn’t want to rock the boat. It points to a breakdown in group dynamics in which everybody chooses to ‘go along’ rather than risk causing conflict. It was first told by Jerry B. Harvey. You can check this link for the Wiki expanded version. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox

The story is about a family that was spending a nice Sunday afternoon together when someone suggests that they drive the 53 miles to Abilene in order to have some lunch. Somehow they all decide to take the drive. Upon arriving home they discover that none of them really wanted to go to Abilene but each felt that his viewpoint was out of step with the rest of the group. So they ended up wasting a perfectly good Sunday afternoon doing something that not one of them enjoyed.

Has this ever happened to you? All of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of some activity or project that you cannot for the life of you fathom the reason for doing it. It’s that “what was I thinking?” moment. We’ve all had them.

For the sake of what?

One of my favorite questions to head off this dilemma is “For the sake of what?” It’s a staple of ontological coaching practice and anyone who’s familiar with the work of Fernando Flores.  For the sake of what am I writing this blog every week? For the sake of what do I always choose the more difficult of two possibilities? For the sake of what am I coaching this person who has absolutely no interest in changing or growing? Those are but a few of my FTSOW’s. And mostly taking the time to call the question will help me figure out whether I’m getting any value or producing any from the activity in which I’m engaging. I’m pretty sure it would work for you too.

Try this out

This week call the question at least once a day. The for the sake of what question is a great equalizer in work meetings that have gone off the rails. And it works wonders in your personal life too. I have been able to ditch any number of projects that seemed like such a good idea at the time but then became a veritable albatross around my neck. Because here’s the deal. We all have a finite number of days allotted to us—and we don’t know how many we have left remaining. Given that, I offer that it makes a whole lot more sense to spend your time creating value for yourself and others, having as much fun and enjoyment as you can squeeze into each day, and basically producing what you want to—not what you don’t want to.

Just sayin’…..



I’m in the Mood For… January 13, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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One of my roles in life is that of coach. I coach executives and leaders in the workplace as well as individuals who want to achieve their goals. I do this because I get great satisfaction out of helping people get out of their own way so they can really ‘show up’ in their lives.

I learned how to coach about 11 years ago when a woman named Gloria Kelly taught me (and my colleagues) the ontological approach to coaching. A quick aside—ontology is the study of being. So one of the big questions in ontological coaching is, ” Who do you say you are?” As a number of my clients have noted, it’s a question much easier asked than answered. But if you can begin to take your first tentative swipes at it, the answers will deepen your understanding of your place in this world.

Ontological coaches are very interested in three ways of being: language, mood (emotions) and body (language and feedback mechanisms).

The distinction of mood is on my mind today. Why? A couple of reasons. First, the holiday season is just over and that’s a time when I get lots of practice in navigating my mood. Not sure why and the why isn’t relevant to me, in fact. Second, I had reason to spend some time today with a roomful of guys who were at effect of negative/unproductive moods. It was trying…. Why? Because when someone is in the throes of a negative mood, it’s hard for them to see possibilities. In fact, they can’t see much of anything except all that is wrong. Sort of like a blues song…. “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all.” And so on and so on.

So what does a negative mood do for you? Not much, near as I can tell.(Unless you write blues ballads) So when I fall into a negative mood, I paddle like hell until I am out of it and back into a place where I feel good in my own skin.

Moods are an integral part of how you interact with yourself and others. And everyone is always in some mood or other. Alan Sieler of Newfield Institute identifies mood as a core business process because it has a huge effect on performance in companies (and in life). This means if you are stuck in a negative space you are less likely to be achieving at your peak—in any arena of your life. And what’s more you’re wasting valuable days of your life. (that’s from me).

What about you? The thing about working with mood is knowing when you’re in one that does not serve you or your ‘being.’ And yes, there are ways to get out of them that don’t involve substance abuse or wanton behavior. Mostly it’s about seeing a reason to move to a more positive mood. And then doing it. There is a little more to it than that but that’s the executive overview.

Mary Englebreit, one of my longtime favorite commercial artists has a print that shows a picture of a woman with her hands on her hips, glaring straight at the observer. The caption reads, “Snap Out Of It.”

Just So,