Second 10 Rules for a Successful 2017

January 9, 2017

Man changing his mood

As I said last week, I predict that 2017 is going to be an amazing year for all of us.  I received such great response from the first 10 rules, I wanted to share the second 10 most common coaching notes that I give to folks in the AEC industry.  If you follow these rules, I can guarantee that your 2017 will be even more successful.

1.  Make your questions to statements ratio 3:1.  This will help you make the conversation about the other person.

2.  Practice “loving kindness” meditation every day.  This is a Buddhist thing.  For every person you encounter, in your mind, wish them happiness and send them loving kindness, especially those people who are making your life difficult.  You will be amazed at the result.

3.    Truly listen and understand instead of formulating the next thing you are going to say. This takes some practice, but is well worth it. Your relationships will flourish.

4.  Try this compassion exercise.  Think of someone you are having difficulty with, then make these statements with them in mind:  Just like me, this person has known loss.  Just like me, this person wants to be and do his/her best.  Just like me, this person wants to be connected with other human beings.  Just like me, this person has struggles.  Just like me, this person has weaknesses that may hold them back.  Just like me, this person wants the best outcome.  Just like me, this person is a flawed human being.  After this exercise, re-evaluate how you see this person.

5.  Never use logic to try and convince someone to think differently about their emotional response.  This never works.  Never.  Engineers are notorious for this.  You send an owner a change order request and he/she is furious.  So you naturally pull out plans and specs and the contract in order to show them the logic behind your change order request.  And they get more angry!  What’s that about?  You can’t logic your way out of an emotional response.  You have to address the emotion!

6.  Keep an eye on how you breathe.  Your mind goes as your breath goes.  Many of us restrict our breath through stress and tight clothing and use the top 25% to 33% of our lungs.  This reduces oxygenation of the blood and creates “chattering monkey brain” where you can’t turn your mind off.  Throughout your day, remind yourself to take deep, slow breaths and reset.  You will be amazed how your concentration and focus increases and you will feel much better with more energy at the end of the day.

7.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Whatever it is you want from someone, you must ask if you are to receive it.  Whether it’s a raise, a position, a favor, etc, if you don’t ask, you will never receive it.  Tim Ferris has a great way to practice this.  Next time you get coffee, try to negotiate 10% off the price.

8.  Have a plan A, B, and C.  Plan A may be go to the gym daily.  Plan B may be to go to the gym three times per week.  Plan C may be to walk 10 to 20 minutes each day.  If you are all or nothing, then your progress will be sporadic.  If you did walk that 10 minutes each day, it would be much better than going to the gym for a week straight and doing nothing for the next two months.

9.  Put your phone down.  Our phones are actually addicting.  I mean physically addicting.  Dopamine is released during our phone sessions and oxytocin (the connection hormone) is released during our social media binges.  If you make it a habit to put your phone down and truly connect with others, you will be amazed at how great your life will become.  And don’t ever look at your phone while driving!

10.  Read a book a week.  Or if that’s too much, read a book every two weeks or a book a month.  Read fiction, non-fiction, novels, poetry, whatever you can get your hands on.  Your horizons will be expanded and your knowledge will be increased.  And new ideas and creative approaches come from all of those disparate ideas combining in your mind to form new ideas.  The more stuff floating around in there, the more chance you have of combining them into a new way of thinking or being.

If you want a deeper dive on many of these subjects, check out our Total Leadership Library!  All of our courses on emotional intelligence and critical people skills are now online.  Click here for more information.


Top 10 Rules for a Successful 2017

January 2, 2017

Man changing his mood

I predict that 2017 is going to be an amazing year for all of us.  I wanted to share some of the most common coaching notes that I give to folks in the AEC industry.  If you follow these rules, I can guarantee that your 2017 will be even more successful.

1.  Avoid the use of I, me and my in your conversations.  Minimize your self references.  This forces you to make it all about the other person. Also, make your questions to statements ratio 3:1.  Ask a lot of questions and listen!

2.  Avoid starting questions with the word “why”.  It sounds like an interrogation, and the other person will likely be put on the defensive.  Find a way to ask the same question with the other reporter questions:  what, where, when, how.  And “What the hell were you thinking?” doesn’t count.

3.    Beware of REF (Resting Engineer Face).  The most popular coaching note that I give is to simply smile.  I know it’s tough.  But it puts people at ease and opens them up.  It also reduces your stress.

4.  It’s not about the information.  It’s about making a connection with others.  Instead of a transaction, try to create a positive emotional experience.  Whether it is your spouse, your kids, or the person at the grocery store, this makes your encounters with others much more meaningful. Also note that you cannot logic your way out of an emotional response. Don’t even try.

5.  Try this empathy exercise:  Get rid of the kids for a while, sit your spouse down and ask them to tell you about their day.  You can’t offer any suggestions, comments, or criticisms.  You can’t tell them what they should have done.  All you have to do is listen and try to determine what emotions they were feeling throughout their day.  And that is the only comment you can offer:  “That must have made you feel . . . ”

6.  An old man told me before my wedding a sage piece of advice:  “You can be right or you can be happy.  And the choice is yours.”  Think about this one.  Many folks in the industry have a need to be right and they sacrifice relationships as a result.  Can you let some things go?

7.  Whenever anyone gives you advice or a comment or criticism, just say thanks.  Nothing else.  Just thanks.  Then, think about the advice.  And remember, if you meet ten asses throughout your day, then you are likely the one who is the ass.

8.  Build in personal reflection time EVERY DAY!  This can be prayer time, meditation time, quiet time, vision time or whatever you want to call it.  It doesn’t have to be long, but it should to be consistent.

9.  Lighten up.  Don’t take things so seriously.  This too shall pass.  In the movie Stripes, there is a soldier who tells everyone he will kill them for any minor infraction.  The Sergeant tells him,  “Lighten up, Francis!”

10.  Spend more time with your spouse, kids, and pets.  Check in with them often.  Don’t sacrifice you or your family for work.  Remember, when most people are on your death bed, they rarely if ever say, “Gosh, I wish I could have worked a little more!”

If you want a deeper dive, check out our Total Leadership Library!  All of our courses on emotional intelligence and critical people skills are now online.  Click here for more information.


Things My Dog Taught Me: There Are Things Worse Than Dying

June 5, 2014

Friends & Family Photo24

I have been struggling lately with Mom’s decline.  She is 82 and has dementia.  She doesn’t remember well.  She still remembers me and my brothers (that’s me in her lap).  My younger brother, Ben, was not born when this picture was taken.  When we arrive, her face lights up.  As much as I struggle with her decline and eventual death, I know that there are things worse than dying.  My dog, Ginger, knew that.  With her fearless nature, she marched into her death with a quiet strength that I can only hope to exhibit when my time comes.

A few years ago, I witnessed Dad’s decline and death.  He had COPD and was on oxygen at the end.  As his body shut down, I watched his frustration and anger as his body did not respond the way he wanted.  At the very end, after a hard-fought battle, he was ready to go, just like Ginger.  He did not fear death.  I think he was more fearful of life as it was with these tough limitations.  And he left us within a few hours once he decided that it was his time to for him to leave.

There are things worse than death.  Not living your life to the fullest, unnecessary suffering, regrets, dwelling on the past and what might have been, and unfulfilled wishes all come to mind.  Mom is fairly happy and healthy, and her life, although downsized and smaller, is a good one.  And there are joyful moments when she sings gospel songs at the church service at her memory care unit.  In those moments, she is just as she was 20 years ago, singing those songs without a song book (all of the verses) and singing harmony.

Those small, joyful moments let me and my brothers know that it is not her time to go.  There is still joy in her life.  And when it is her time, she will know and we will know.  And we will make it as beautiful as death can be.  We will help her transition to the next part of her life just like we did with Ginger.  It doesn’t have to be feared and it doesn’t have to be a horrible thing.  Mom will leave this earth surrounded by her boys and her family and there will be love and joy.

So try not to worry about so much death.  There are worse things than dying.  Don’t live your life with regret.  Don’t put up with things that you can change.  Make the effort now to change them. And when it is your time, I wish you peace and joy as you walk through that final door.


A Poem for our Dads

August 3, 2012

We buried our fathers (2012)

We buried our fathers,

Finally realizing what they taught us

through patient living

and stepping up to their responsibilities.

Mr. Smith, Mr. Heavern, my dad,

all heroes by not trying to be heroes;

working every single day,

providing all of the basic necessities

of food, clothing, shelter, and love.

They never really asked for much,

rarely complained

about life’s unfairness

or what they left behind;

young man dreams of

world travel, riches, fame,

world changing inventions,

that unwritten novel,

intentions of greatness,

lost in a life of unseen dreams.

They were made great by their plodding life

that left a legacy of

decent human beings

who now raise their children

and live their lives

in the same common,

yet, uncommon manner.