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Get into the Spirit of Spirit! As we approach the holiday season, I invite you to join me in slowing down, in appreciating what’s in front of us in each moment, to paying close attention to those significant relationships in our lives, and to connecting with our spirit—what never goes away!

I love this time because I feel more connected to myself, to others, and to the world. If you think about what spirit is, it’s what we came into this world with—naked! And it’s what we’ll leave with as well. No matter how successful (or not!) we are on this earth, our spirit won’t judge us. And best, it won’t leave us! It’s ever present. And it contains that SPARK of something special that we can never truly put our finger on, but we know we have it, and we know we’re lucky for having it!

This time of year is a great time to soften our intensity. To be reflective. To be grateful. To be giving. To be LOVE. And it’s a great time to connect with our SPARK to light things up for our new year.

As part of my Journey to Wellbeing program, which is wrapping up it’s 3rd month, we are now working on TWO things:

  1. Becoming clear of any deeply held thoughts and beliefs that don’t serve us. We are allowing them to rise to the surface. We are acknowledging them. Thanking them for their service, and we’re bidding them adieu!
  2. Choosing ONE overarching Intention for our New Year. It’s not a goal to achieve. It’s not an item on a checklist. It is a new Thought. A new Belief. A powerful, authentic, and empowering Feeling that will GUIDE our decisions and the small, yet effective steps that will take us to our destination.

I invite you to join us and do the same! What’s that one thought you need to get rid of and kick to the curb? What’s that inspiring intention that will be the tipping point for all that you do in 2015? Please share them with me in our comments section below, or on Facebook.

My husband may kill me for this, but I want to share a story that I feel will help all of us get into the SPIRIT of our SPIRIT! Here it goes…

When my husband was a boy he had a lot of energy (that’s the nicest way to describe it! LOL!). In fact, there were very few things his parents could do to calm him and get him to sit still and/or rest. In fact, he usually just collapsed at the end of the day, falling asleep in unusual places, like chairs, or under tables, etc. BUT, the one thing that did calm him—in fact it mesmerized him, was sitting in front of the Christmas tree and staring at the lights! Who knows what thoughts he was thinking. Who knows why it calmed him. But, I’d love think that in those mindful moments, he was at peace; at one with his SPIRIT.

So why not try it out for yourself? Whether it’s a Christmas tree, or a menorah, or a child playing in the snow. Indulge in the simple things of the season and just BE with WHO YOU ARE. With what is unchanging.

With SPARK,

Monique

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3 Ways to Fly High With Your Leadership

I just love to watch birds fly,  especially when they are in a beautiful formation, all in unison, flowing. I’m also fascinated by solo birds—like hawks— so focused, gliding magnificently, swooping downward to check out potential prey and then accelerating upward. Both scenarios are purposeful and very strategic, just like leadership. Flocks stick together and follow their leader for many reasons—to avoid predators, to fly more swiftly and preserve their energy, and ultimately, to make it to their final destination— together. Do they lose their way sometimes? Sure, but those who stray from formation quickly find their way back and are guided by their fellow flock members and their leader. Solo birds also have a very distinct purpose—to find and capture their prey! Not the kind of goal I’d likely set, but quite important for hawks and the like. They are intently focused on ONE thing, and one thing only. Get food! Survive!

I remember driving home one day and seeing this beautiful white hawk with a V tail. I now know that it was a Swallow-tailed Kite. I had never seen one before. It seemed like it was flying closer and closer to my home, where we have several oak trees where many birds play and live. The closer I got to my home I realized the hawk was stalking one of my trees, and more specifically, a new family that had nested there. I had been observing this new family for days now, especially the mother who never left the nest! She was so watchful of her new baby! I began to panic. What can I do? I asked myself. Well, I truly could do nothing. I arrived home, parked, and ran out of my car toward the tree, but I was too late. The hawk had eyed the new baby and within seconds snatched it and accomplished her goal. After my sorrow died down, I questioned, “Could the hawk have successfully completed it’s mission without it’s intense focus?” Probably not.

I think of leadership in a similar way. Over the years I have come to realize that becoming a strong, effective leader means having the ability to do both— (1) be a crucial member of a team where perhaps you are not leading, but following, and (2) stepping forward in leadership and showing others the way. In the world of “personal leadership” this can look like identifying those goals that you need to accomplish solo, with incredible focused energy, like the hawk, while at other times, being that flock leader where you set the vision and guide others along, allowing mistakes to be made.

One of my favorite books is Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, because it turns on its back the ordinary story of a seagull whose mission in life is to stick with its group and find food. Not Jonathan! He spent most of his time flying alone and pushing himself to limits no other seagull had ever pushed. He just knew his potential, and he was so anxious to reach it. He pushed himself so hard to keep surpassing his last achievement, regardless of fear or failure or injury. I think most leaders can relate to this inner voice— the calling to reach our potential and break the mold of success. It’s such a motivating story. However, the story also is sad, for we know that in his quest to do the extraordinary he also became an outcast for not being part of his flock and participating in the group way of life. Could he have found success if he had done both and balanced his personal and servant leadership?

So, as leaders, how do we both embrace our inner calling for flying solo while also stepping into the magnificence of leading through others?

Here are three tips to get the best out of both our personal leadership and servant leadership:

1. Always work on your personal leadership.

Not everyone agrees with me, but I do believe that we are all leaders. Are some of us born with innate qualities that allow us to lead more effectively? Absolutely. Do some of us need to be more intentional about leading and practice our leadership? Big Fat Yes. But, nevertheless, we were all born to lead in some capacity. Every single day we are afforded the opportunity to lead. To lead our children, to affect our community through our efforts, to set examples for others and share with them what we have learned—good and bad, and to not be victims to life, but make those crucial decisions for ourselves that will push us forward. Just like hawks, we also need to define those independent goals that only through OUR focus and persistence we will achieve. There is nothing more empowering than making a choice for ourselves and taking personal responsibility for achieving it.

2. Always take a back seat.

A beautiful part of leadership is giving the opportunity for others to lead. Sometimes we will and must step forward to guide our flock to our destination, but other times we will ask another bird to take the lead. Not only does it help us to grow leaders and build solid teams to support our vision and work, but it also helps us to be effective by understanding that we can’t and shouldn’t try to know it all and do it all! We all have unique strengths and gifts that should be utilized. The magic in teamwork is allowing each individual to use his/her talents and hone them for the good of all.

3. Always lead the way!

As effective leaders we must know when it is absolutely imperative that we stand in our leadership, in our strengths, in our conviction, and create that vision that will push others forward. Take the time to understand and know what those non-negotiable occasions/situations/moments are for you as a leader. Not everything can be delegated.

So, you may be saying to yourself, “I have to ALWAYS do these three things?” And my answer is yes! Leadership is a dance. Sometimes we dance solo, sometimes we lead the dance, and sometimes we let others lead! We sashe through these three scenarios constantly!

Every day think of how you can do activate all three in your leadership, and you’ll surely be flying high!

It’s your life. Lead it well.

Monique

Thanksgiving questions to ask this year at the table! An exercise in Gratitude

“Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes.

This is not coincidence.” -Erma Bombeck

I just love Thanksgiving! I love cooking, I love spending time with my family, and yes, I even love football! But, as the quote above eludes to, do you sometimes think to yourself, “This just went by way too fast!” Or, “Am I really living in gratitude today and taking full advantage of this time with those I love?” Well, I do. In fact, I just don’t see my family members enough. Enough to understand how their lives are going. What they are joyful about. What they are grateful for. Why they may be hurting. Isn’t amazing how we can go days, weeks and months without seeing them, and when we do, not take full advantage of KNOWING THEM, APPRECIATING THEM, VALIDATING THEM,  and LOVING THEM (in person!).

As a coach, one of the things I find so fascinating is how easy it is to feel appreciated and loved by just listening (really listening!) and asking questions. How do you feel when someone is holding on to your every word, letting you share what’s on your mind without interrupting, or simply asking you something about you and your life? It’s juicy! Yes! It may even be juicier than turkey on Thanksgiving Day!

So, why don’t you join me for a Thanksgiving Day Exercise in Gratitude, Appreciation and Love, by making time for REAL CONVERSATIONS, and REAL CONNECTION with those you love?

Thanksgiving Gratitude ExerciseI’ve created a special Thanksgiving Exercise download for you to print. Simply cut out the questions I’ve included, add your own (if you like), fold them, and place them in a bowl. Then, after your delish meal, take turns picking a question and asking it of someone. The person who answers the question gets to ask next. (You can also Pin this to save it for later, just hover over the image to the left and click the Pin It! button)

I can’t wait to see how this goes at our celebration, and I’m very excited to try it out. I will definitely report back what I observe as outcomes and lasting memories for our family. I hope you’ll do the same.

And, in celebration of this magnificent holiday, when we take extra time to truly savor all the good in our lives, I invite you to meditate upon it. Here’s my Thanksgiving Post from last year. I plan to meditate upon it at sunrise to start my magnificent day!

I thank you for subscribing, for reading, for including me in your life as a source of inspiration and motivation for a Life Well LED.

I cherish this and all opportunities to positively impact you and your place in our amazing world.

Namaste,
Monique

I’m in awe of you! Yes, you!Once for each thing. Just once; no more.

And we too, just once. And never again.

But to have been this once, completely,

even if only once: to have been

at one with this earth,

seems beyond undoing.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Since having attending Oprah’s the Life You Want weekend, I’ve become very clear on the one thing that I am uber focused on for a period of time until I begin to sense a positive change within me. And should that happen (which I’m fully intending for!), at that moment I hope that I won’t need to make a conscious decision to keep it going, but I will become aware that it already has become a new habit. That I have, indeed, already changed. That I am that.

Now, as I would have questioned in the past, some of you may be questioning in this moment, “Just one thing, Monique?”  Yes, that’s right. So many of us have this tendency to try to make MANY changes at once, only to exhaust ourselves, or notice that what we had decided needed changing really is not something we’re eager to change, if at all. I have lived in that pattern of “The more I do the more I am.” You feel me? Yet, if I could FOCUS; truly FOCUS ON JUST ONE THING, well I get excited about how life changing that could be.

What would focusing on JUST ONE THING do for you? How impactful could that be for your life? Do you have moments of feeling scattered and disconnected, or feeling your purpose fleeting? I’d love to hear about those moments for you.

I know you’re curious about my ONE THING! Okay, I’ll tell you. My ONE THING is to be my purpose in EACH MOMENT. This requires not planning so much. Not setting extraordinary goals to “be something”. Not checking off lists just to feel accomplished. I know you’re freaking out reading this! I kinda am too! It’s a big change, you see, and big changes sometimes require a proper freak out! BREATHE DEEPLY. Instead, in each moment I will ask myself, “What is my purpose in this very moment? What do I want to achieve right now? What do I want to be right now? How do I want to feel?” and I will listen for my answer. I will be guided by my answer and take the appropriate next step, whether that is to write my blog, call my mom, go for a walk, draft a proposal, organize my office, make a follow up call, play with my daughter, create a new program, etc. I will choose to be that which I am in that moment and make the very most of it! I may just even sit still and breathe.

I know you’re still freaking out! Just chill out! I promise you that I will feel on purpose. I promise you that I won’t need to read a definition daily of who I think I am or who I think I want to be.

I’LL JUST BE.

So what does my ONE THING have to do with awe and with my being in awe of you? Well, for me, part of truly finding my purpose in each moment is also seeing the awe in every single person I encounter, even if no words are exchanged. Mark Nepo calls this Beholding Others. He writes,

“The truth is that each living spirit we encounter is a depth to gently swim in, a miracle that can quench our thirst.”

Can you imagine how our work and relationships would serve us if we went into every conversation wondering what this person could teach us–being in awe of them even without knowing one thing about them? Or, for those we do know, suspending all judgment and allowing them to re-introduce themselves and demonstrate who they are in that moment. Could we see something about them we never before saw?

How would you feel knowing someone was beholding you? How different would that be from wondering if you were good enough, or successful enough?

BIG SHIFT.

Behold others and you too will feel beholded.

I am grateful for this moment, for each word that is created in my mind and which I type in this moment.

And in this final blog moment, I honor and behold YOU, for the unique and magnificent individual that you are. That is, in fact, what Namaste means.

Namaste,

Monique

 

4 Ways to Achieve FLOW Through Results-Oriented Operating

 

In the world of conscious living and leading it is understood that when we are not able to “flow”– to focus and be “on”– we are not fully connected with, or aligned with the universe (or “source”). Have you felt those moments, when you’re  not fully present, or have a difficult time motivating yourself to get something started or finished? It happens to all of us, and one way to look at your development as a leader is to be very conscious of those moments where there is a disconnect, and through awareness and action, make the necessary shifts in order to get back to flow (and achieving!). As leaders we cannot make things happen and connect with and lead others without the ability to do this. I like to call it–Lighting it Up!

Just last week I attended our Center for Leadership’s Lecture Series, where distinguished global executive Jorge P. Montoya, who among other notable positions and appointments was the President for Proctor & Gamble Latin America, spoke on “Really, The Only Thing That Counts Is Delivering Results.” As a leadership trainer and coach, the title intrigued me quite a bit, and I attended, mostly, to ensure that Mr. Montoya would at some point discuss the human side of leadership and its importance to the bottom line. I’m happy to say that he did do that! In fact, he encouraged those present to learn, learn and continue learning; keep a positive attitude; cultivate and practice humbleness and servant leadership, and infuse love and passion in your job.

However, I respect where he started the conversation, and it reminds me of the idea of flow and being “on”. If you have your own business, or work for a business, there is no escaping the bottom line. Businesses must be profitable, and it does take an enormous amount of time, energy and focus to both reach and surpass profitability, and do it in a way that will support and grow those who work for you, or those with whom you work. Ideally, when business is good, so too is the livelihood of those connected to or surrounded by those businesses. We want business to thrive, right? So, igniting your flow from a very results-focused, bottom line-oriented perspective could certainly do the trick for both you and your business/company you work for.

Although Mr. Montoya’s presentation was mostly directed to the future leaders who were present, I believe his message is crucial for those of us who are in leadership positions, and who want to have more moments where we are Lighting it Up! In fact, what I share with you below has broader meaning. You can apply it to how you lead your finances, for example.

Here’s his prescription:

Principle:

Delivering Consistent Results is the Only Thing That Counts! Generally, you can do this via:

  • Flawless execution of a good strategy

  • Using your leadership to deliver results (through others!)

  • Build the mindset very early on to develop operating discipline

  • Design clear, stretch goals for yourself

Executing the Principle via the 4 F’s:

  1. Focus – Know where to play. Choose 2-3 core competencies. Less is better!
  2. Forcing Choices – Know how to win. Choose 2-3 choices or “weapons” to beat the competition. Choose what not to do. Don’t fix every problem; feed the strong and starve the weak.
  3. Frugality – Be brutal on costs, permanently! Develop a permanent scarcity mentality. Free spending sickness is contagious and can get out of control.
  4. Foresee a Crisis – Anticipate volatility/crisis and competitive moves. Change is constant and inevitable; the adaptive will survive and the proactive will win.

In applying it to my own life and leadership, I can see how those moments when I am not Lighting it Up are in fact times when I’m working on too many things at once. That “focus”, or “forced choice” was not present. In fact, this concept aligns directly with strengths-based leadership–feed what you’re strong at, and starve (or delegate!) what you’re weak at!

In true “Learner” fashion (my #1 strength), I’m always happy to learn and share these learnings with you!

Where in your life or in your leadership can you apply Mr. Montoya’s 4 F’s strategy?

How can you apply this strategy to get back into a flow and Light Things Up?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and examples. Write me a line below.

It’s your life. Lead it well.

Monique

5 Ways to be your own COO!

September 23, 2014

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When speaking about my coaching, I often get asked, “What’s personal leadership?” Leadership, at the end of the day, is the ability to inspire others with a clear and powerful vision, mobilize them around that vision, and empower them to productively work alone and together with others to achieve a united mission. Now, take that definition and apply it to one’s own life. A “personal leader”, then, can be seen as someone who has a clear vision for his/her life, mobilizes him/herself daily around that vision, and empowers him/herself to productively walk toward achieving that mission. Personal leadership also entails understanding when we are “off mission” so we can make those necessary changes that will put us back on track.

Heck, you can think about personal leadership like being your own Chief Operating Officer! Why would you let someone else operate your life, right? Yes, we all have to follow orders when we work for others, and oftentimes in teams we have to forgo our own agenda. However, despite scenarios like these, life just flows better and energizes us when we are able to tap into our personal leadership and lead our lives from that “core”, proactively, moment to moment.

A key component of our core is our natural talents–innate ways in which we think, feel and act. Each of us is uniquely inclined to think, feel and act in certain ways. In our own leadership, we often feel in-authentic when don’t operate from our core, but instead do what we think others want from us, or we want to be like “those leaders.” Certainly, there are traits of other leaders that we strive to attain for ourselves. Yet, research clearly shows that being more of who we are naturally, makes us more engaged in our lives and “inner”gized, so we can go out there and do our thing.

Now, let’s simplify this! After all, a COO’s job is no easy task, and leadership is kind of a big thing. One easy and empowering way to begin connecting with and applying our personal leadership is to be clear about our natural talents, which become strengths via our focus, intention and application. Many of us innately understand what our talents are. An easy way to “get it in writing” though is to use the simple and time-tested tool: Strengths Finder. In organizations, especially, where you may want to encourage personal leadership among all your employees, this tool gives you a common language to work with.

Screenshot 2014-09-22 20.41.05

When you look at this chart, you can recognize the language that we operate within our careers. These leadership dimensions are critical in any business and for any COO. However, are we naturally strong in all of them? Should we spend our time making ourselves strong in all of them? Or, should we invest in understanding where we operate at our best, using our natural talents, and invest in operating chiefly there? As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach I’m partial to the ladder, but primarily because I truly believe in the science behind it, I live it, and I have seen the difference when individuals lead their lives from their strengths.

So here are 5 ways that you begin to be your own COO (and love it!)…

  1. Identify your Top 5 talent themes via Strengths Finder
  2. Place them on the chart above
  3. Visually understand how you operate at your best within these dimensions. Some times we are balanced and sometimes we are not. No two leaders’ strengths are identical!
  4. Take the time to see how your talents currently play out in your life and where they are lacking.
  5. Intentionally decide how you will play to your strengths daily and do it!

Leading strong in our lives is truly the first step in then being able to lead others in a unique, authentic way. Embrace your unique talents and become your own COO!

If you’d like to take the Strengths path along with others to Name, Claim and Aim your strengths, I’d love for you to join me for my upcoming one-day workshop on October 23rd. Learn more here.

Have a magnificent day!

It’s your life. Lead it well.

Monique

 

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“When you sit, sit.

When you stand, stand.

Whatever you do, don’t wobble.”

-Dan Millman

You can’t study leadership without paying attention to what’s happening in the NFL these days. Although there is no direct correlation, what’s happening (or not happening!) in the NFL reminds me of the day, a few years ago, when I was Principal for the Day at a local elementary school.

I really had no idea what to expect, and quite honestly, I didn’t think I’d be doing much that day. Boy was I wrong! My experience reminded me of the days when I managed large multi-day conferences. You could barely sleep, because either something you planned or didn’t plan for had to be prepared or dealt with in almost every moment. It was both exhilarating and exhausting.

As Principal, the day began with what seemed to be very regular, daily occurrences…a meeting with Vice Principal to discuss what the day had in store, a budget meeting (which, in and of itself was quite complex and shocking), a few committee meetings for up-coming events, a school walk through, and a few class visits. But then the “unexpected” occurred. Call after call to handle emergencies, issues in classrooms, a security matter, and an almost violent, angry parent. I can’t tell you how impressed I was with the intelligence, diligence, compassion, patience, and integrity of this principal. I thought to myself, “She is indeed a CEO in the world of education.” She was present in every matter that she could, especially those that required her presence, direction and communication.

When I think about the challenges the NFL is enduring and its Commissioner as its leader, I ponder how different the conversation would be if he actually “stood up.” In my experience with the school principal, and with so many other courageous leaders I’ve encountered and studied, one trait that I admire so much and which I feel is at the foundation of leadership is their ability to STAND UP in the face of any issue—good or bad. To address the almost violent screaming parent, even if what you have to say to that parent will not appease him or her. In this case, the NFL has many “screaming parents” waiting for the truth; waiting for a voice. In fact, the world is waiting for it.

In leadership you have to OWN IT, not run from it. Nothing in this world of ours—in our experiences as humans— is perfect. Everything is an opportunity to learn and grow. Perhaps these violence issues are coming into play for the NFL to have them pay real close attention to their values, to do what’s right, and to make those changes that are necessary. If we really want to lead we must STAND UP. I think about this all the time for myself, in wanting to be the very best leader that I can, and I am always finding ways to stand taller and to improve.

In looking at yourself as a leader, are you hiding at all? Are you running away from challenges or very serious issues? Where can you stand up or stand taller?

Some things can and should be delegated, but others should not. True leadership is one of them!

What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

It’s Your Life. Lead it Well.

Monique