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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.

A Sure Fire Way to Improve Difficult Work Relationships–Part 2 October 29, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development, Uncategorized.
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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.

–Amara

We Teach What We Need To Learn April 18, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Uncategorized.
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books6 by Brenda Starr

When something keeps coming up in my world I have learned to pay attention to it. The latest ‘earworm’ that has been haunting  me is the phrase, “We teach what we need to learn.” Since it’s been coming up for me, I guess it’s a good topic for today’s blog. But what does it mean?

What are you a stickler about?

My interpretation is that the things that we are sticklers about are things that we ourselves need to learn. It is also possible that we are sticklers about things that we have already learned and seen great value from the learning.

Here’s an example of my own. When I work with executive coaching clients, I often get on their cases about paying attention to time. This pertains to things like starting meetings on time, meeting your deadlines, or accurately assessing the time it will take to deliver on a promise. But as my clients would tell you, it most particularly pertains to getting to appointments on time.

I had to learn this

Why is this something I focus on? Because I had to learn it myself. I have a tendency to be a procrastinator, waiting until the last minute to meet my promises. I used to think it was just fine to be five minutes late to a meeting—everyone else was, after all. And then I met the coach from hell, I’ll call her Gloria K. (’cause that’s her name). Gloria was teaching me and my colleagues a body of work based on the work of Fernando Flores. The object of the work was to build productive relationships with other people in order to be able to produce excellent work together. (This is the work I still teach others today.)

Gloria had a no budge approach to the start time of our sessions. Woe to you if you came into learning session even 30 seconds late. Her point, which I later came to appreciate was that in being late to a meeting you are failing to meet a promise that you have made to others. In addition, you are wasting valuable minutes of time for everyone involved. Multiply this by 10 meetings a week (a modest number in many organizations) and you can see how much time is wasted by a seemingly unimportant action. Quite simply you are robbing others of valuable minutes of their lives by being late.

I am now Timezilla

Gloria was a tough coach but she gave me many gifts, not the least of which is the ability to coach others. So now, I am Timezilla with my clients. It’s not about the time so much as it is about being judicious about managing your promises to others. So what I teach I needed to learn (and still do upon occasion).

What do you teach others?

So what things do you teach others? Are you a nut about getting a project finished once you’ve started it? Are you always counseling others to be patient? Are you critical of people who disregard the feelings of others? Do people who are negative drive you up a wall?

These are all examples of ‘things you are teaching.’ Take a look at the lessons you ‘teach’ others. And then take a look at yourself. Is the lesson something you have already mastered and strongly value? Or is the lesson something you have yet to learn?

Isn’t self-exploration grand?

–Amara

Why We Do Things That Don’t Make Us Happy—Part 3 April 11, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in ontological coaching, Uncategorized.
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Avoir que de la gueule by Tywak OK. It’s Sunday morning, time to write one more installment about why we do things that don’t make us happy. I think this is the final part of this homily but it’s not written yet so anything can happen.

As you probably remember I embarked on this topic at the request of a friend. Thought it would be a simple and short post of some of that wisdom(it’s my blog and I can call it that) that rattles around in my head. However, I kept having more thoughts about the topic. So here’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Dharma? What’s that?

Human beings are most happy when they are fulfilling their purpose—sometimes known as living their passion. The Hindus have a word that describes this: dharma. Dharma is defined as the natural universal laws whose observance enables humans to be contented and happy. Anything that helps humans reach God is considered to be dharmic. There’s a lot more to it and if you’d like to dip into it, start by going to Wiki entry at http://hinduism.about.com/od/basics/a/dharma.htm.

However, for my purposes here, I’ll just keep it simple. Your dharma is what you have a passion for and when you are doing this thing, you are content and happy and being of service to the world.

My dharma is….

As always, I have an example. As I have mentioned I am an executive and personal coach. Coaching is definitely my dharma. I am passionate about helping other people to lead more fulfilling lives. I am committed to doing this, one conversation at a time. How do I know that coaching is my dharma? Cause it’s fun—about 98% of the time. I can listen to minute details of my clients’ lives endlessly, without getting bored. I, who am not the most patient person on the planet, can be patient with the foibles that cause others to create what they don’t want in their lives. That is,as long as they are committed to changing it. If they just want to whine, they need to find a different coach—hence the name Edgyangel. Edginess is good in the right balance.

So I am fortunate to have found my dharma and even more fortunate to get paid for doing it.

What’s your dharma?

What is your dharma? What things in your life are you passionate about? Here are some examples taken from my friends, family, and clients.

  • raising children
  • employing and teaching others about the curative powers of essential oils
  • styling hair
  • doing accounting work (my accountant actually gets a real charge out of her spread sheets—and I thank God for her every year at this time.)
  • snowboarding
  • sewing clothing
  • writing blog posts 🙂

An interesting list, is it not? It illustrates that your dharma can be found anywhere and doesn’t have to be of the magnitude of say, Mother Theresa or Barack Obama. The important (and sometimes tricky) thing is to figure out what it is. But once you do, and you start consciously living into that dharma, you can’t help but find happiness.

What lights you up?

So, if you are feeling less than satisfied with the current state of your life, start figuring out what your passion is. There are tons of books written on the topic. But start looking at the things in your life that light you up. That’s a great place to start. And don’t give up till you find it—unless of course you want to keep doing those things that don’t make you happy.

I’ll end with a quote from the amazing poet, Hafiz.

“Ever since happiness heard your name it’s been running through the streets trying to find you.”

Just so…

Amara

Who would you be without your story? February 21, 2010

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I am a great admirer(and follower, I like to think) of The Work of Byron Katie.

Katie, as she is called, teaches how to come to peace with life by understanding that everything is happening just as it should. Once you understand that, it’s much easier to be peaceful about everything that goes on around you. The access to this understanding is through the use of questions that help to give you a different perspective of your life. It’s thought-provoking, challenging work but so worth the effort.

A thought-provoking question

One of my favorite of Katie’s thought-provoking questions is “Who would you be without your story?” And many of my coaching clients have had the pleasure of being asked that question. It’s a great question, isn’t it? I mean, we all have our stories. Some of them serve us and some of them— not so much.

Some examples

How about some examples from my coaching clients? (the names have been changed to protect the guilty and besides they’re not here to defend themselves)

Laura is by all accounts a beautiful woman. In my work with her, I have experienced her as insightful, interesting and funny. I have never met her in person but I happen to coach others who have. So I know that there is some disagreement on her story about her physical appearance.  Laura’s story is that she is unattractive, undesirable, and doomed to be single the rest of her life because she is a bit overweight. This is a great example of a story that is NOT serving its owner.

Jake is highly motivated and intelligent, with a great sense of humor. Jake’s story is that his own happiness is irrelevant and therefore not to be considered in his decision-making process. As a result, he seldom engages in activities that are for his own enjoyment, works a million hours a week, and would rather swallow razor blades than reveal anything about his innermost feelings. Who could Jake be without this little story?

OK…Here’s one of mine

Oh, then there are my own stories— most of which I will not reveal in this blog–ever. Transparency can be carried too far, after all. However, I will tell you one of them— mainly because I have been coached by one of my clients about this quite recently. Now I could get really squirrelly about getting coaching from a client. (But the truth is two of my clients have addressed this so I better listen.) However, I choose to tell a more positive story about it. I see it as a sign that I have done a wonderful job in coaching my client. He is able to have remarkable insights that would never have come up in the absence of my skillful coaching. It’s my story and I am sticking to it. (It also helps that he and I have built a relationship of implicit trust, plus I really like him.)

Now back to the one that doesn’t serve me. I had made a remark that a particular well-known coach makes a fabulous amount of money for his services. The underlying assessment is that I can’t do as well as Coach X. It was pointed out to me that I was speaking from a view of limitation rather than of abundance. (Thank you, M.)

So I got to thinking. Who could I be without that story? I could be someone who takes risks, who promotes my services as being valuable. I could be a person who steps out there without worrying much about failing. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad. Hmmm…

As a result of this inquiry, I am in the process of really deciding who I am and what I bring and coming up with new ways to promote myself and my work. (And about damn time, I think.) Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know.

Now it’s your turn
So— what are your little stories? Why not pick out one that is currently dragging you down? Once you identify it, wrestle it to the ground. Or have a tea party with it or whatever you’d like…but examine it and see if maybe, just maybe you could come up with another one that’s more fun. Remember, this is your story and you get to tell it. Now get busy. I have things to do…

—Amara

I Like to Make Quilts January 31, 2010

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations, Uncategorized.
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I like to make quilts. That’s probably not an outrageous statement. I mean what could be more boring than making quilts? If you had told me even two years ago that I would be passionately interested in quilt making I would have told you that you were nuts. My reasons were valid (at the time). Quilts were for old ladies… You know the ones with the red hats and the loud makeup. And the only way you’d catch me in a red hat would be to put it on when I’m in my coffin. And to whomever entertains the thought of doing that—I will track you down and become your worst nightmare.

I also reasoned that one could only use so many quilts. Some people hang them on the wall to use as decorating accents. However my taste runs a bit more Zen-like. I don’t like lots of fru fru things hanging here and there. I want to be relaxed in my home, not overwhelmed by stuff on the walls. And if you can’t hang them, there is always the very non-traditional practice of putting them on the bed. Of course, my house has only two beds in it so that’s another problem… Plus, they take so long to make, I said. And I would run out of patience and leave the project unfinished.

In spite of the above objections and many more, I have indeed become a maker of quilts. And my reasons have a lot to do with my life in general. (Of course I have to make this into an object lesson—why else write the post?)

I often say that how you do anything is how you do everything. And I have found this to be true as I have observed myself and others.

So one of the things I really like in life is variety. (Could be why I’ve had a gazillion “boyfriends” but have only gotten married once.) OK, I digress… Quilting provides the most incredible variety of potential patterns, fabrics, colors, textures, and techniques. The sky’s the limit. (There are some other limits but no need to worry about them at the moment.) What’s more fun than to have a blank palette upon which to create a masterpiece? It’s all about possibility. Possibilities are intoxicating, enchanting, and so much more interesting than what is.

Quilting is also a process and I have found that I like process. My friend Mary, a very talented sew-er is a nut for getting things done. Once she starts a sewing project she cannot rest until she has put in the last stitch and gotten it out of her sewing room. No surprise that Mary has a ‘J’ preference in the Myers-Briggs world. So while Mary has made a small quilt or two, she has very little interest in making a quilt that could take a month or two (or more) of her time.

I, on the other hand, love the process of making a quilt. Each block is a meditation. I try to make my seams a perfect ¼ inch; I concentrate on lining up seams accurately and pressing them to the correct side. While I do all of this I can listen to wonderful music, a book on tape, or indulge my passion for NCIS re-runs. It’s a PROCESS; it’s therapeutic.

How does this relate to life? Well, in MY life it relates very directly. Possibilities and process…that’s what my work is all about. As an executive and life coach, that’s what I bring to the people I work with. I see not only who they are but who they can be. In fact, I often see their possibilities more clearly than I see their current limitations. I’ve also noticed that I much prefer the process than the actual outcome. I believe in enjoying my life as a journey rather than a project that has to be completed. (God, I’m not ready for that yet.)

Take a look at your life. What is it you love to do and how does it point to what you should and/or could be doing? Are you enjoying the journey or are you simply putting in your time? Even though I’m a great believer in reincarnation, I still think that it’s unacceptable to waste the precious hours and days of your life in being unfulfilled and unhappy. If after taking a closer look you don’t like what you see then this, my friends, is a teachable moment. What can you do to make your life the one you dreamed of having?

—-Amara

I’m in the Mood For… January 13, 2010

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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,

Amara

Dancing is Life August 30, 2009

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Amara Ann Bertorelli and David Hansel at Philly Comp by Larry Thomas

Competing at Philly DanceSport with Dave Hansel

I have been a ballroom dancer for fifteen years. I dance socially and have competed as well. As you can imagine, I love to dance. As one of my friends said when she was first learning to dance, “This is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” Uh-huh…

For years I have been trying to articulate what it is about dancing that makes it ‘soul work’ for me. Is it the music? Is it the social aspect? Is it the striving for excellence? Is it the partnership with another person? Yes, yes, yes, and yes…and more.

As in dancing, so in life, I think. In life we are all about relationships, whether we acknowledge it or not. Relationships are the fuel of a fulfilled life. Sometimes that relationship may be with another person, with God and/or the spiritual, or with one’s self. And dancing can fulfill all of those needs, believe it or not. For today though, I’d like to focus on the partnership aspect of dancing, since I do a lot of work in the area of relationships, both personally and professionally (as an executive coach).

In dancing with a partner, a relationship must be built—even if it’s only for the duration of the fox trot that you are dancing. A relationship happens when two people are coordinating action together—such as dancing the steps of the fox trot. Dancing is like any other work/action that people accomplish together. At its most effective, one person is the customer (the leader), the other is the performer (the follower). There has to be an agreement about who the customer is and who the customer is not. If I as the follower suddenly decide to start leading I will get my feet stepped on and my partner  will become cranky. This does not produce an elegant result. I have seen many disagreements arise about dancing (usually between partners who are either married or in a long term relationship). But as my dance instructor, Dave Hansel likes to say, “One person has to be in charge of the dance and that person would be me.” And, dancing is the only time that I will be a follower without a conversation to establish  “for the sake of what” am I allowing you to make all the decisions. (Just sayin’)

So when the agreements are in place and each person plays his or her role according to the agreement–ah, beauty and the sublime.

Now what I just wrote is a rather left-brained description of good dancing and being a right-brained thinker, I need to add a bit of the spiritual to the picture.

So what is it about dancing that makes my soul sing? First, it’s being in connection and alignment with another person, whether I particularly like him or not. When my movements flow gracefully and easily with my partner, we fly across the floor (if dancing a smooth dance) or create a sexy interlude (if dancing a latin dance) and that is really fun. It’s all part of the great show– and far be it for me to turn down an opportunity to star in a show.

And then there’s chemistry–another aspect of an uplifting dance experience. As in life, there are always those partners with whom I have chemistry  from the moment we step on the floor, whether we know each other or not. And then there are those who are flat and with whom I feel uninspired. Then the challenge is to be the most interesting dance partner that I can be. If I’m getting nothing from my partner, I dig into my own love of dancing to find that joy that bubbles up every time I’m out on the dance floor. So even if I can’t love dancing with my partner, I can love the dance itself (or is that dancing with myself–just kidding).

Maybe this is a lesson to be applied to life in general. Sometimes  life provides me with situations that are flat, with people who are uninspiring or even worse.  I have a choice: I can be flat and cranky myself or I can find the love of the journey and the process of it all, take the ‘growth opportunity’ and say thank you.

Enough philosophical musing for this Sunday morning…go dance in whatever way you like…

—-Amara