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We are hardwired to believe that in order to be successful, we must be able to do many things really well and equally well. Well…I have to tell you that this fallacy is one of the major contributors to the amount of stress we feel every day to “do it all” and “be it all”. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we are always craving this ugly word called BALANCE!

As a life-long dancer, balance is critical! In fact, I dare say that it’s absolutely essential for being a superb dancer. But in life, business strategy, and in leadership, I’m not so sure that it is.

Take this quote below as an example. I was reading this article last night about Anthropologie’s tremendous success, and how they attribute it in great part to not being everything to everybody, and not doing the same conventional things that their competitors do. In fact, what they owe much of their success to is what they don’t do.

Read on…

“One of our core philosophies,” explains Anthropologie president Glen Senk, “is that we spend the money that other companies spend on marketing to create a store experience that exceeds people’s expectations. We don’t spend money on messages — we invest in execution.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite tools that I use when working with leaders—The Four Domains of Leadership Strength:

  1. Executing
  2. Influencing
  3. Relationship Building
  4. Strategic Thinking

If you haven’t yet used the tool StrengthsFinder 2.0, which tells you where your top talents lie within these domains, then this may be new to you. But let’s keep it simple, here’s what you need to know: Not everyone is dominant in all four of these domains! Some people’s talents may be equally dispersed among these strengths domains, but more often than not, we tend to be dominant in one or two.

Clearly, Anthropologie’s strength lies in the execution of their store experience. Once their ideal client walks through their doors they are immersed in a world that speaks to their souls. They execute…and they execute well, because that’s their focus.

It’s the same for each of us. When we are keenly aware of what we are naturally great at, and we spend most of our focus there, the likelihood that we will feel stressed or unsuccessful decreases significantly. We are in our zone!

For example, my two strongest domains lie in Strategic Thinking and Relationship Building. This doesn’t mean that I’m not good at executing or influencing, actually, I’m pretty great at both, but I get things done faster, and with greater pleasure and success when my focus is placed on all things strategic and relationships. As a leader I always kept this top of mind, because I knew that I would be much more effective when I was able to delegate to others in my team who were STRONG in execution—“getting things done” and influencing—“pulling people in”. And guess what? I did have people on my team whose strengths were in those domains. It was wonderful to see and feel the excitement and engagement when we could all focus on what we were great at.

“Balance is a great concept, truly. But it’s better for dancers than for leaders!”            ~Monique Catoggio

I’ll leave you with this additional quote to mull over:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
~Greg McKeownEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Namaste, Monique

Natural Strengths and Wellbeing. Is There a Link?

This one’s for the Ladies!

I remember when I was disengaged from work and life. It felt a bit like depression, although I did a pretty good job of keeping it together. Perhaps you’ve been there too? See, as a busy mom and professional, I always felt like I couldn’t relax. I had to keep moving, building, growing, succeeding. Feel me? Even worst, I felt I had to keep it all inside. Heaven forbid if someone could see how I really felt. That I didn’t feel successful. That I didn’t know who the heck I was anymore. That I just didn’t care. I know you feel me, and you want to know why? More and more I get calls from professionals and executives who feel the same! They want to be engaged again, they want to feel successful, and they want to lead purposed-driven careers and lives. I love working with these amazing people, because I’ve been there, and through inside-out work, I found my way.

In my work as a Gallup Strengths Coach I love reading Gallup‘s research on leadership and wellbeing (no surprise there, right?!). I was so thrilled to read the following, and this is why I want to celebrate all of you amazing women professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs.

  • Of the 11 million men and women around the world who have taken StrengthsFinder, men and women share the same four most frequently named top five strengths: Responsibility, Learner, Achiever, and Relator. (We’re not that different. Ok, that’s cool. Keep reading.)

  • Although many men have Empathy as a strength, women tend to have it in their top 5! (Ladies, it keeps getting better!)

  • And, women tend to lead with Responsibility. (Hmm…Empathy, Responsibility…I’m seeing a pattern here!) The article asked this question: Could this be because we were raised differently in our respective gender roles, or because our expectations for work or our definitions of a life well lived differed from the outset? What do you think? What’s true for you?

  • Here’s the kicker, Ladies! When Gallup analyzed its five largest data sets, including World Poll data from 160 countries around the world, employee engagement, and wellbeing data right here in the U.S., they found that men and women alike define wellbeing or “a life well lived” as five elements, consisting of the following:

•  Their purpose for what they do every day

•   Their financial wellbeing

•   Their physical wellbeing

•   Their community wellbeing

•   Their social interactions

When they broke down the data by gender, they found that women are FOUR PERCENTAGE POINTS more likely than men to be thriving in their strengths and wellbeing; that’s significantly higher!

I’m not a scientist or researcher, and I’m not claiming that there is a direct link to higher wellbeing, but it excites me to think that leading with strengths like empathy and responsibility could contribute to our increased wellbeing. It makes me curious. In fact, whether these strengths are in your top 5 or not, we know that THEY ARE critical skills for leaders, regardless. I don’t know about you, but as a woman who’s been hearing for years (especially from other women who are hard on themselves) that we do too much and we can’t handle the pressure or we get too emotional, this is re-affirming. Here’s a bigger question when we look at leadership today, why is leading with empathy and responsibility important? Well, simply put, knowing that you work with leaders who care for your whole-life wellbeing, not just bottom line results, makes a huge difference in employee productivity and engagement. And we know from Gallup that what employees want most from their leaders (in this order) is: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope.

Ladies, it’s time we celebrate our natural tendencies to really care for others, while still being able to achieve great success in our careers and lives.

So, are women doing a better job at embracing their natural strengths? Are we understanding that we can’t do it all – all the time and still be proud of who we are and what we accomplish on a daily basis? According to Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott, authors of Standing in the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women,

“…Now the emphasis has shifted to the changing contours of life—choices and trade-offs, the forces that influence decisions, and the strategies successful women use for constructing meaningful and fulfilling careers. Traditional career paths can seem clear but also unsatisfying or impossible to travel, while new paths that allow for a full and rich life are complex, uncertain, and ambiguous.”

Sarah Kauss, founder of S’well, which makes reusable insulated steal water bottles says:

“You have to be comfortable with not doing everything.”

Anita Krohn Traaseth, a mother of three, blogger, author, and the CEO of Innovation Norway, shares:

“It’s one of my father’s favorite expressions and has saved me from being an unnecessary perfectionist…If you don’t take care of yourself, set your own standards, decide when enough is enough, learn to balance and rest, you’ll have limited success. I learned that life was not about striving for perfection.”

 

So how in the Balance is Bullshit Luly Bh$ll do you balance?

I truly believe in moment-to-moment, intentional “balance”. In knowing myself, my strengths, my vision for my work and life, my priorities, and daily powerful decision making. I always ask myself each morning, “What’s important today, and what needs to come first?” I also have to remind myself that some things JUST ARE NOT IMPORTANT (to me!) AND ARE A WASTE OF TIME! We all have time and energy wasters that are not aligned with our values, strengths and vision! We have to know what those are.

My good friend, Luly B, speaks to this idea of Balance in her book and new audio series, Balance is Bull$hit: 7 Steps to Boycotting Balance and Living Life on Your Terms. Because women need to celebrate themselves and each other, I want to celebrate her success and determination in creating this amazing product, which helps her live her vision each day of helping moms lead successful lives through boycotting balance! You definitely want to check it out and share it with those moms you know need it! Luly’s voice is authentic and empowering.

Keep leading with your heart ladies! Our wellbeing is better because of it (at least I believe so!).

It’s your life. Lead it well….Monique

Deploy Know Your Super Human Power in 3 Simple Steps!

This week has been quite exhilarating for me, not only because I’m in Colorado Springs in 18 degree snowy weather, but because I’ve been surrounded by hundreds of talented and ridiculously energizing human beings at Michael Hyatt’s Platform Conference! But, what’s even more exhilarating for me is knowing that each person I was with had a unique super-human power that they were deploying soon (if not already!) to get busy doing what they were meant to do. Something that would impact someone somewhere in some way.

You see, each one of us (yes, that includes you!) is gifted. We were each born with a unique gift that we are meant to put to good use. My belief is that our lifetime is about just that… understanding our gifts and through hell or high water, shining our light.

This stuff excites me, which is why it is at the foundation of the work that I do. How can we complete the task outside of ourselves when we are not certain of what’s inside? It’s also why I love simple and inexpensive tools like StrengthsFinder, because it provides a quick and easy way to help us connect with our super human powers—the combination of talents that only we have! And when you combine our strengths with our desires, and how we hope to impact others, well, then, we are truly deploying our super human powers!

I love this video that a friend of mine shared on Facebook this past week. Check it out and tell me what emotions you felt when you viewed it. My first emotion was sadness. Sadness for myself and for the millions of others who at times (or at all times!) are not seeing what is real about who they are. And, well, I just love how the kiddos in this video so naturally refer to super human powers!!
Doesn’t this happen to us all? These moments of disconnection with who we really are and with our potential drain us of joy and momentum (as evidenced by the expressions in the faces of the adults in the video). And, when I see and hear those children, I feel the opposite. I feel happy and ready to connect with what’s real within me, that potential that we all have to be, do, impact and succeed.

Did you have those super human power desires and dreams as a child? I did! Heck, I went through moments of screaming to the sky with my fist in the air, “I have the power!” like Hercules did, and I waited for the heavens to shoot down into me those powers. Yes, I truly believed I could download power from the sky! (It felt great, by the way! I highly recommend it!)

And while I’m not suggesting that’s what we do on a daily basis, I am suggesting that like those beautiful little souls in the video, we don’t call out our faults, but we recall our super human powers and put them into play each day. 

 

Not sure how to do it? Use these 3 steps to Know and Deploy your Super Human Powers

(Tip: Do these steps quickly! Otherwise your “external voice” will step in and lead you astray!):

1. Stand in front of a mirror and say to yourself, “Although I am not perfect, I am ridiculously gifted! My gifts are: _____________________________________________________________.”  (Shout out at least three! This is a “gut” exercise. Don’t think, just shout!).
2. Continue saying out loud to yourself in the mirror, “When I use my gifts I feel: ______________________________.”   (Don’t think about it…just shout out those emotions!)
3. And, finally, finish it off by saying to yourself in the mirror, “With my gifts I can help others ___________________________________.”

How did that feel? If you were able to flow with it you should feel exuberant, and I encourage you to deploy those super human powers every day in some way in order to connect with your essence; with who you are.

If you have trouble with this, I encourage you to give StrengthsFinder a try. I haven’t yet come across a person whose reaction wasn’t, “Wow, this is me! It’s certainly a great start to tapping into our super human powers and living our lives more from the place where these children were living— a place of excitement, self-love and opportunity!

I LOVE this humorous cartoon created by/for Gretchin Rubin, author of The Happiness Projectwho struggled to “know” and deploy her gifts. Check it out here for a laugh or two. We’re not alone in this quest, folks!

 

Be yourself. Be super human. Be powerful. 
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.

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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

 

In my life I have definitely benefited from being a phenomenal planner and uber focused. Early in my career I became an expert in planning small and large, complex events and programs because of this skill.

Perhaps this strength became over-used? I soon found myself not wanting to plan anything! In fact, if I never planned another event again that would be just fine (LOL!). What I noticed, however, was my internal resistance to not plan, or just do those things on my check-list or calendar.

215405524_15a94966c9_zAs a coach, I can pick up on “gremlins” pretty quickly. Well, I realized this was one of my gremlins, an inner voice that whispers to me, “Stop fooling around! Plan girl, and check off that list!”

One of my top 5 strengths is Ideation, so it’s natural for me to come up with ideas all the time. So, my rebel gremlin, I call her Reba, wants to protect me. She wants me to do what I’ve done in the past that has helped me succeed. She wants me to take all of these ideas that pop up, ignore them, and keep working my plan.

I get it, if I always deter from my plan I may not accomplish anything. Heck, this is what I work on with many of my clients. However, as someone with high Ideation and Activation, I do know it’s important to act on some of my ideas–planned or not–and just go for it!

So, what do I do? Listen to Reba, or ditch my plans and go for the big ideas?

Reba shows up so often, that I’ve learned to recognize which unplanned ideas are the ones to go for! I feel a specific vibration in my gut, and I even hear my inner voice saying “Yes, this is the one, act now!” If I don’t take action, I know that I will miss out on something quite extraordinary.

Yes, I still plan. Every successful professional who has various roles and responsibilities must plan in order to accomplish some level of daily balance and reach their goals. But, I do listen to my inner voices and learn to discern what’s real and what isn’t; what’s worth the risk and what isn’t.

I have to say, Reba certainly adds some excitement to my life!

Do you have an inner Rebel? How has he/she helped you Rock?
I’d love to hear all about it.

It’s your life. Lead it well!

Monique

Photo by Alex de Carvalho

Born to be Wild

May 7, 2014

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“According to this law [the law of Dharma], you have a unique talent and a unique way of expressing it. There is something that you can do better than anyone else in the whole world — and for every unique talent and unique expression of that talent, there are also unique needs. When these needs are matched with the creative expression of your talent, that is the spark that creates affluence. Expressing your talents to fulfill needs creates unlimited wealth and abundance.” Deepak Chopra

Are you born to be wild, or are you born to be quiet and focused?

Do you ever wonder why you make certain choices?

Why you do what you do?

Why you like certain things?

Why you are better at some things than others?

I remember being terrified about some of my MBA courses. I was excited about being challenged to think, explore and debate, but the thought of analyzing financial statements or evaluating a corporate merger made me shake in my bones! Well, there is a reason why, of course! I was not born to be a CFO or an Accountant, but I certainly was born to communicate, to learn and share what I’ve learned, and help others maximize their talents. Those specific MBA classes were certainly challenging, and I was certainly able to learn and apply some very important financial skills, but having me master those skills would forever be a waste of my time and gifts.

We know these things instinctually, I feel, but in our world of fixing “What’s wrong” we are often pressured to focus on what we are not and what we “should be.” This way of thinking, learning and living has become so engrained in our work and educational cultures, it’s no wonder individuals feel disengaged and “lost.” More and more I meet amazing, very accomplished people who want to deeply connect with who they are and be impactful in leading a life of deeper purpose.

As leaders, are we helping our team members contribute their best and grow in their strengths?

As parents, are we honoring our children’s unique talents and helping them to shine in what comes naturally to them?

These stats below tell us how crucial it is that we move in this direction:

Here’s what Gallup knows about using our talents:

  • People who know and use their talents and have the opportunity to use them at work are six times as likely to be engaged in their job.
  • People who know their talents and have the opportunity to use them at work are more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.
  • People who use their strengths every day have 7.8% greater productivity.

Weakness fixing prevents failure.

Strengths-building leads to success.

Identifying our strengths and the strengths of others doesn’t have to be rocket science. You can do it through self-awareness, through input from others (on what you’re awesome at and examples of when you are at your best!), and you certainly can use one of the best tools out there—Gallup’s StrengthsFinder.

As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach I not only love OWNING my strengths and making sure that I’m utilizing them to their fullest, but I also love helping others do the same. One of the most empowering things to do is share your strengths with others and honor YOU! So, I’m happy to share my top 5 with you:

LEARNER. MAXIMIZER. POSITIVITY.

INDIVIDUALIZATION. IDEATION.

Every time I read my talent themes my inner cheerleader does a back flip because I know that I am investing in them and making them stronger day-by-day.

Care to be inspired? Here’s someone who’s definitely using her strengths and non-apologetic about it. In fact, she’s rockin’ the medals!

Engagement numbers truly scare me. I picture the more than 70% of individuals in our workforce who are disengaged, bored, depressed and just working to collect a pay check and I am saddened. I imagine a world where we are all fully engaged and turned on, making things happen individually and together.

How are you maximizing your talents and gifts?

I’d love for you to share what you feel you were born to do.

Are you doing it?

Have you taken Strengths Finder? If so, please share your Top 5 with me!

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Wishing you a life well led,

Monique