Monday, November 29, 2010

Communication is Key!

The single biggest problem in communication
Is the illusion that it has taken place.

~ George Bernard Shaw

Effective communication on your team, with co-workers and supervisors, as well as your clients, is imperative for successful working and coaching relationships. The Let’s CHAT! coaching model helps to not only facilitate open communication, but also to build empathy, foster appreciation, and prompt a commitment to action. The components of the model are: Communication, Help, Appreciate, and Take Action. Coaches using this model will engage in conversation beginning with Communication and working through to Take Action.

In this blog we’ll consider the first step of this model: Communication.

The focus of communication is to convey/receive a specific message to/from another individual (e.g., performance evaluation, team update). Communication will occur only when the message has been successfully transmitted by the sender and understood by the receiver. This may require a bit of back and forth between the sender and receiver – remember communication is a two-way street. Effective communication requires active engagement in conversation by both parties. Receivers should always be respectful, refrain from interrupting, and listen intently in order to truly hear the message which is trying to be communicated.

As information can be transmitted verbally (i.e., spoken words) and non-verbally, it’s important to be aware of body language cues (e.g., arms crossed may indicate frustration or not being open to new information). Ask probing questions to get to the underlying issue or to clarify points.

To learn more about Life Strategies’ e-course on the Let’s CHAT! model, see

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stress . . . What does that even mean?

It seems that in every conversation we’ve had lately, the phrase “I’m stressed” comes up. It may not be the primary point of the conversation . . . but it’s generally an underlying message. If you’re feeling stressed, especially as the holiday season approaches, it may be helpful to take a moment to sort out what that really means to you . . . and to assess whether or not the amount of stress you’re experiencing is manageable over the long term.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress, consider looking outside yourself for help. To get you started, here are 10 resources:

1. The Government of Canada provides good background information on stress at:

2. Dr. Gabor Maté’s book, When the Body Says No, is a fascinating read

3. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (6th ed) has been useful to many

4. Our own book, That Elusive Work-Life Balance, is available through our online store (print / pdf)

5. Community recreation centres, gyms, or fitness programs can release stress through activity

6. Seek spiritual solace through a local church, temple, mosque, or synagogue

7. Get checked by your physician – rule out any medical reasons for how you feel

8. Work with a coach to make positive changes in various aspects of your life

9. Complete an assessment. Tools like the Occupational Stress Inventory can help pinpoint what’s working and what’s not.

10.See a counsellor. Most communities have free mental health services and your workplace may have an Employee and Family Assistance Program.

Life Strategies supports individuals in person or over the phone. Contact to discuss appointment options for counselling, coaching, or completing the Occupational Stress Inventory or another assessment tool.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Productivity for Working Moms: Where to Start

Being a mother is unlike any other job out there. It is a continual juggling of running a household and attending to the needs of everyone in our care. Throwing a career into the mix is like throwing accelerant onto a fire, without careful tending something is bound to get out of control. Some moms can do it and make it look easy, yet others are struggling to get out of bed in the morning for fear of what the day will hold. What is Supermom's secret? Productivity. When you google "productivity + working moms" you will get overwhelming lists of productivity tips, but where do you start? How do you go from inefficient to a productive working mom with time to spare? Is it possible to find work-life balance? I am here to tell you, "Yes it is!"

I have been a working mom for over six years. The moment my first child was born I had a full-time job as a "Mother." I have worked outside of the home and from home, all on top of that full-time job of mothering. Being at work or at home comes down to a basic equation of the ratio between inputs to output. A good productivity ratio will contribute to the work-life balance that you crave. To keep this post manageable I will focus on productivity at home vs. productivity at work. I believe if you are productive at home with time and energy to spare, it will spill over to your productivity at work as well.

In the world of running a household, inputs are what you put into your work, namely the time, energy, and resources/money. Output is your results, that is to say, the value or quality of your work. On top of that ratio is the outcome: how you feel when the day is done.

Over the past few months I have been studying about psychological assessments. As I thought about how to increase productivity, I realized that all problem solving begins with identifying potential issues. I have created an informal, non-standardized assessment to help you become aware of your productivity issues.

Step 1: Make a List

Write down all the responsibilities and tasks that take up your time on a lined piece of paper. It may look something like:
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • laundry
  • grocery shopping
  • talking the kids to school
  • volunteering in the community
  • helping the kids with homework
  • watching TV
  • yard work
  • walking the dog
Step 2: Rate your Outputs

Rate yourself on how well you are doing at staying on top of these areas by writing beside each item whether you are: doing very well, getting by, or not keeping up. Don't get hung up on my terms; just rate yourself however you are comfortable.

Step 3: Rate your Inputs

Specify next to each item how much time and money/resources you put into doing each of these tasks. Also indicate how much energy you put into it, either: lots of energy, some energy, or no energy.

Step 4: Rate your Outcomes

Think about how much you enjoy doing these tasks by writing beside each item whether you: love doing, tolerate, or detest with a passion. Also indicate how you feel once the task is done: exhausted, relieved or no sweat.

Step 5: Evaluate your List

You should be starting to see the problem areas that are sucking your time, your energy, your resources, and the joy out of your life. Considering all these things, choose the items on your list that are not that important to continue doing and which ones you can delegate. By delegate I mean enlist the support of your partner or kids, or outsource to someone who can do it for you.

Step 6: Take Action

I can already hear you saying, "I don't have the money for outsourcing." As a working mom you know better than anyone else the value of your time - your employer may put a price tag on it, but think of it in these terms: you can always earn more money, but you can never earn more time! Your time is precious. Many people in your life need and cherish your time.

Look at your list again and choose at least one item to research. How much would it cost to outsource things like: your laundry, weekly house cleaning, mowing the lawn, or walking the dog. There may be a high school student across the street that would love to earn some extra money, or a stay-at-home mom that is considering a laundry business to help out her family financially. If you don't know anyone personally who you could outsource to, ask your friends for recommendations. I have found great recommendations from Facebook, and sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji.

After you decide what must stay and what responsibilities can go, you can start coming up with solutions to deal with what is left; what only you can do. This is where everyone's top productivity tips come in. It may take some trial and error to figure out what will work best for you and your family, but identifying the areas where you are unproductive or inefficient is the place to start. Congratulations, you are now on the road to becoming Supermom!

Miranda is one of the newest members of the Life Strategies team. Aside from juggling her Mom and work responsibilities, she's a blogger that shares her practical experience on her personal blog. Miranda recently won the Shapeover Challenge and became a Reitmans Fashionista. Read more...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Leading Through Transformational Times

Reflecting on my last post, Surviving in Transformational Times, it seems that an essential element for survival is the emergence of a strong leader. What makes someone a strong leader? What do they need to do? How can they support their people?

Not all leaders are created equally – there are different types and styles; each with their own strengths and challenges. According to John Gardner, “the first task of a leader is to keep hope alive,” and that’s exactly what transformational leadership does. Leaders with this style have integrity and a clear vision; they encourage, support, and inspire others (see for full details).

There’s a difference between leaders and managers. Good leaders aren’t always effective managers and vice versa. According to the Mind Tools article, good leaders focus on inspiring others and providing vision (i.e., transformational leadership activities), whereas mangers focus on the details and logistics of implementing that vision (i.e., transactional leadership activities).

For helpful tips on leadership and supporting individuals see 10 Tips for Supporting People.