Plan Your Life

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
– Business philosopher Jim Rohn

“Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans,”according to John Lennon’s lyrics for “Beautiful Boy.”If you’re not the one to map out your life, someone else will.
Of course, you can listen to Woody Allen, who famously said: “Half of life is just showing up.”Per this philosophy, you get ahead simply by being present – a concept that certainly relieves a lot of pressure. It allows you to live in the moment, responding to what is rather than trying to shape your life. It also requires a hefty dose of passivity and abandonment of future possibilities. (Let it be, to quote Mr. Lennon again.)
But most of us want to influence the path our life takes to ensure we have enough freedom to express our strengths and talents. We want to control our own destiny when planning for our careers, partnerships and families.
Experts generally agree that you cannot achieve your goals without a plan or road map. Given the unpredictability of love, work and the lottery, exactly how much of your life can you plan?
What does a life plan look like?
A Google search yields millions of results. Myriad life-planning experts and coaches are advertising their services. But let’s simplify things and use a classic planning model you’ll likely recognize. It’s frequently used in business organizations and can easily be adapted for personal use.
One caveat before we start: Just because the plan is simply stated doesn’t imply it’s easy to implement. You must invest several hours of thought, and it may prove beneficial to discuss your ideas with a trusted mentor, coach, friends and family.

  1. Identify your purpose (mission statement). Describes your life’s focus. If you’re young and just entering adulthood, this step may be challenging. Imagine you’re approaching the end of your life, and figure out what you’d tell people about a life well lived. Your statement should reference your values and explore how you intend to spend your time at work, at home and in leisure pursuits. Outline the needs you intend to meet (community involvement is sometimes mentioned). Recognize that your mission statement will change over the years.
  2. Establish a vision statement. Describes your life at various points in the future.
  3. State the goals you must reach to achieve your vision. Goals are general statements that (a) define what you need to accomplish and (b) cover major issues. Your vision and goals may be mid-range (for example, 3-5 years into the future). Break them down into short-term steps, as well.
  4. Identify strategies you must implement to reach each goal. Your specific approaches will change as you engage in more robust strategic thinking – particularly as you closely examine external and internal environments.
  5. Identify strategic action plans or goal objectives. State the specific activities or objectives you must undertake to effectively implement each strategy or achieve each goal. Use clear language so you can assess whether objectives have been met.
  6. Compile the mission, vision, strategies and action plans into a Life Plan document.
  7. Monitor implementation of the plan; update it, as needed. Regularly reflect on the extent to which goals are being met and whether action plans are being implemented. Use a spreadsheet or graph to monitor your progress, adjust your plan and remain challenged.

If you haven’t already mapped out your life plan, take the first step now. Start with the foundation: your values, purpose and life’s focus. List all of the realistic ways to achieve your ideal life. Break down these steps into short-term goals, and make an action plan.
Write down your goals and action steps, and convert them into graph form so you can track your progress. Share your Life Plan with the important people in your life. Anticipate obstacles, and make adjustments. Never give up, even if you run into formidable obstacles.
Of course, changing circumstances and desires mean any life plan will need to be amended over time. The goals you have in your 20s are considerably different from those in your 40s – and vastly different from those later in life.
Don’t let life just happen to you. Shape it into your ideal version – and have a nice life!

Improve Your Email and Phone Message

“Just as previous generations struggled to integrate first the telegraph and then the telephone into their lives, we’re struggling to integrate email into ours. We’re using it and overusing it and misusing it.”
David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home (Knopf, 2007)
Clear communication with people you know is challenging enough, but influencing those you’ve never met is even more difficult.
While face-to-face communication usually trumps other forms, email and phone messages have become de rigueur in our fast-paced world. But busy executives won’t respond if you fail to grab their attention, write persuasively and succinctly deliver your message.
Words, Sounds and Visuals
Your vocal quality (tone, volume, speed) and visuals (facial expressions, body language) tell people more about you than your actual words.
In 1967, UCLA Psychology Professor Albert Mehrabian, PhD, observed that we determine a message’s meaning from:
1. Visuals (55% of communication): Unfortunately, when you’re talking on the phone or sending an email, recipients lose access to visual cues that accompany what you’re saying. They can’t see how you look, and you can’t see how they’re responding.
2. Sounds (38%): Your voice conveys your emotional state, energy level and attitude. Any attempt at subtlety is risky in email or phone messages, as recipients cannot hear if you’re smiling, sarcastic or serious. Your words must explicitly state how you feel.
3. Words (7%): An email message is composed of words (although emoticons can convey certain feelings). This explains why so many emails are misinterpreted. Write clear emails, and review them before sending.
Understanding this communication breakdown will help you remember people’s sensory priorities. Words certainly matter, but not as much as you may have thought.

Phone Advantages

Telephone communication has certain benefits. Think of your conversations as small moments in time that can be used to shape perceptions.
How you greet people, respond to them, what you say and how you sound provide weighted impressions. Each exchange builds – or detracts from – the relationship. You’re actively shaping others’ opinions of you.
While you cannot use your face to convey intensity, interest or passion, you can verbalize your reactions (“Really!”or “Oh, I see…”). You can repeat words and phrases to let people know you’re hearing them. You can also take notes without appearing rude.

“At the Sound of the Tone …

Most people don’t think twice about how they leave voicemail. Instead of robotically repeating your name and number, provide a compelling reason for the person to call you back. Sales professionals are intimately familiar with this approach, but it works even when you’re not selling anything. Your job is to communicate why your call is important to the other person. (Be sure to include time parameters.)
Always be sincere and honest. Allay any fears, if necessary. Smile while talking to convey a positive attitude.
If people don’t return your calls, try leaving another message to reinforce why a response is needed. Tell them you’ll follow up with an email that contains additional information.
Remember that people are busy and focused on their own agendas. Be mindful of what’s important to them, state your intentions up front, and spell out why you’d like to get their attention.

Email Messages

The average corporate email user sends and receives about 105 messages per day, according to a May 2011 study by The Radicati Group, Inc., a technology market research firm. About 19% of received messages are flagged as spam.
This sheer quantity has eclipsed email’s chief advantages: speed and ease.
When you’re faced with answering 50-80 emails each day, you’re likely to cut to the chase, abbreviate and overlook social pleasantries.
With email, the normal visual, nonverbal and auditory signals are completely absent. Hastily written words can be misread or send the wrong message. Leave out an important word, and your meaning is garbled. Well-intended humor and sarcasm can easily misfire and spark a mini-war of words. Avoid this by adding emoticons to convey a smile or wink.
Email offers clarity and control. Your words can’t be edited by a receptionist or secretary. You can convey precise rules, principles and priorities.
Shipley and Schwalbe, authors of Send, apply the Golden Rule to email communication:

  • Think before you send.
  • Send email you would like to receive.

You can also strengthen your email messages with:

  1. Preplanning. Before typing a syllable, think about what you need to say, your intentions and expectations of the recipient
  2. Etiquette. Address the recipient by name, as you would in a letter. Open the body of the email by appealing to the recipient’s needs, and clearly state your intention.
  3. Brevity. Keep recipients’ needs in mind. Respect their busy schedules. An email isn’t the right vehicle for telling people about yourself, sharing a joke or being irreverent. It’s OK to adopt a friendly tone, but don’t waste people’s time. State your message, and request an appropriate response.
  4. Directions for action. Do you want a response? An opinion? The answer to a question? What do you want the recipient to do? Be concise and specific: “I will follow up with you by phone tomorrow so we can set up a meeting”or “Let me know when we can meet.”

Mastering Leadership Psychology

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
Fred Rogers, The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember (Hyperion, 2003)

Whether you’re starting out, changing jobs mid-career or completing your last decade of work, leadership success depends on how well you manage yourself and interact with others.
Mastering leadership psychology is crucial for professional development. What got you here won’t get you there. Success depends on knowing, appreciating and accepting who you are.
You can turn deficits into strengths when you understand them. You can play to these strengths and avoid their inherent traps with sufficient self-knowledge and support from the right people.
Effective leaders also use psychology to understand and motivate others. As you ascend to positions of greater power and responsibility, you’ll increasingly rely on social and emotional intelligence.
A rapidly changing business environment will pose numerous challenges:

  • An increased workload as markets become more complex
  • Situations that require political savvy and exemplary interpersonal skills
  • Time and energy management
  • Unprecedented pressure and stressors
  • An increasingly diverse global workforce
  • Rapidly evolving products and services
  • Unpredictable market changes
  • Technological advances

Whether you work in manufacturing, retail or services, your understanding of human psychology will drive optimal business outcomes.
This article examines three essential psychology skills that every leader must master.

Psychology Skill #1:

Know Yourself Well

“Knowing yourself, and knowing the forces that affect the people who work for you, holds the key to being a successful leader.”
Kenneth M. Settel, MD, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, CEO Psychology: Who Rises, Who Falls and Why (RosettaBooks, 2012)

The very character traits that peg you as a high-potential leader may also prevent you from making it to the finish line. Every strength has a downside when carried to the extreme. Self-awareness can prevent self-sabotage.
You probably have a sense of your personal talents and liabilities. Learning how to leverage them at work – amplifying your strengths, while minimizing your weaknesses – sets the stage for good interpersonal relationships. You’ll become less vulnerable and sensitive to criticism. You’ll also learn more about your leadership constitution:

  • Do you have the drive, personality and desire necessary to shouldering executive responsibilities?
  • Can you cope with the associated stressors and the job’s highs and lows?

Even the strongest, most talented leaders have flaws. Each of us is driven by conscious and unconscious forces that must be channeled into positive outcomes, so it’s important to seek personal development opportunities at every stage of your career. You won’t gain self-knowledge in a vacuum, so consider working with a mentor or experienced leadership coach.

Psychology Skill #2:

Lead through Engagement

“When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”
Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu (604-531 B.C.), Tao Te Ching

Engaged employees are 22% more productive, according to a new Gallup meta-analysis of 1.4 million employees. They also enjoy double the rate of success, lower absenteeism and turnover, and fewer safety incidents and quality defects.
In an engaged workforce, people want to come to work. They understand their jobs and appreciate how their specific responsibilities contribute to the organization’s overall success.
An effective leader builds integrated teams: knowledge “communities” whose members work together creatively to achieve the desired results. If you expect your people to back initiatives with focus and enthusiasm, develop five essential skills that Dr. Settel describes in his book:

  1. Maintain your focus. Don’t lose sight of your personal and organizational goals as you face the everyday onslaught of complex information and technology (yet another reason to retain an executive coach). Ask yourself: a. What are my guideposts? My first priorities? b. Am I sticking to my path, or am I getting distracted?
  2. Maintain your values and integrity: Regularly assess whether you’ve strayed from your personal and organizational values. Ask yourself:a. Am I keeping to principles and standards in spite of pressures and frustrations? b. Do I resist the lure of competition and greed?
  3. Effectively prioritize and allocate resources: Keep resources aligned with long-term goals and strategies. Strong voices, from inside and outside the organization, will place conflicting demands on you. Maintain a clear sense of what truly matters in the long run.
  4. Understand your people’s expectations: Subordinates have expectations from important parental figures, including their bosses. They count on your love, support and approval. Understanding these desires makes you a better leader, especially when expectations become irrational.
  5. Serve as a role model: Everything you say and do is magnified and interpreted, often in unintended ways. Your communication and behavior carry weight, influencing others. Employees want to know that you love your work and appreciate their contributions. They closely watch how you handle challenges and achievements, and they will mirror your behavior.

Ask yourself:

  • How am I engaging my staff?
  • Do the people who work for me appear happy, or do they frequently complain?
  • Do they always ask for more time, resources or money, or can they move forward with what’s provided?
  • Who is generating new ideas? Do I encourage employee participation in planning and strategizing?
  • Can people carry out tasks without direct supervision?
  • Am I sympathetic to, and supportive of, others? needs and concerns?
  • How resilient am I when faced with setbacks and obstacles? Do I allow my people to help me find creative solutions?
  • Am I generous with positive feedback? Do I frequently recognize progress?

Psychology Skill #3:

Manage Emotions

“In successful and emotionally balanced companies, the people working in them discuss things, no matter how bad things have gotten. They don’t run and hide, they don’t name call, and they don’t put their foot down. They’re willing and able to talk without rancor and in a straightforward manner about what is bothering them. I call this process ‘carefrontation.'”
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, “Carefrontation,” Office Solutions, Fall 2009

Each of us is an emotional being. For decades, business experts discouraged emotional expressions at work. These days, we know it’s impossible – and actually detrimental – to ignore or suppress them.
Awareness of emotions actually lends wisdom to our decisions and interactions. Emotional intelligence is now viewed as a hallmark of high-potential leaders.
We want to be liked, appreciated, rewarded and respected. We need friendships at work – some level of closeness and affection. We thrive when we have a work environment that allows us to safely express our opinions and feelings, including our aggressions.
If you expect your people to put aside their emotions and “just do the work,” you’re failing as a manager. Emotions are a fundamental part of what makes us humans, so you must be prepared to deal with, understand and accept them.
Regardless of your industry, you’ll encounter three common emotional needs at work:

  1. Attachment and connection: Some people’s social needs are minimal, while others are more pronounced. Some prefer to work alone, viewing social interactions as obstacles to productivity. At the other end of the continuum are people who never want to be alone. Be sensitive to people’s basic needs so you can place them in the right jobs and supervise them effectively.
  2. Dependency, independency and interdependency: People depend on others for approval, validation and love. Even when these needs are satisfied outside the workplace, people seek to satisfy them at work. A good leader is sensitive to how much direction and interaction each employee needs to thrive at work.
  3. Aggression, anger and conflict: Aggression is a primal human behavior. When properly harnessed, it can energize a team and be productively channeled into creative projects. That said, aggression can also be disruptive. Many people are embarrassed by, or uncomfortable with, anger – especially their own. It’s up to you to recognize the early signs of aggression and talk openly about people’s feelings. Channel it away from destruction and toward innovation.

“Being ‘carefrontational’ requires a willingness to take a risk and to be understanding of the person you’re talking to,” Dr. Goldsmith writes. “If you’re not willing to share something that is bothering you with your teammates, then your working relationship will be diminished.”

Debunking Old-School Beliefs

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

Commonly held management assumptions are often wrong – particularly when they fail to address human nature.
Dr. Settel highlights the following counterintuitive truths that invalidate previously held business notions:

  1. Organizational conflict can be positive.
  2. Rewards and punishments may not effectively inspire employees to work harder or better.
  3. Stressed-out employees shouldn’t be given less work. Give them more gratifying work.
  4. Performance reviews can be destructive unless delivered in a development-focused, constructive way.
  5. Your unconscious mind drives you more powerfully than your conscious one does.
  6. Successful leadership is not about personality, but how you apply it.You needn’t hold a PhD in organizational behavior to understand people’s emotions. You do, however, require a rudimentary understanding of their psychological needs.

Mentoring Myths

In the last decade, the concept of mentoring has changed, but the need for career counseling has not. In fact, mentoring is more important than ever because most careers take numerous twists and turns in a rapidly evolving world.
In “Demystifying Mentoring,” a February 2011 Harvard Business Review blog post, Contributing Editor Amy Gallo identifies four common mentoring myths:
Myth #1: Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship. Because the business world moves fast and people frequently change jobs, a long-term advisory relationship may be unrealistic. Mentoring can be a 1-hour session; it needn’t be an official 6-month assignment.
Instead of focusing on the long term, think of mentoring as a tool you can access when you need it. Of course, advice and guidance may be more relevant if they come from someone who knows you and understands your goals. But you still need to build relationships so you have connections in place when you require advice. In some instances, you may wish to consult people who don’t know you as well, but can offer a fresh perspective.
Myth #2: You have to find one perfect mentor. It’s actually quite rare these days for people to get through their careers with only one mentor. In fact, many people have several esteemed advisors. Seeking a variety of perspectives on a crucial issue may be warranted.
Myth #3: Mentoring is just for junior-level employees. Many people assume they need a mentor only when starting their careers. In reality, professionals at every developmental stage can benefit from a mentoring relationship. You may be surprised to find that reverse mentoring often occurs (a senior manager, for example, learns technology skills from a junior employee).
Don’t wait for problems to occur to find a mentor. Whether you are making a career change, taking on a new role or contemplating leaving a job, solicit advice from someone who has experienced a similar transition.
Myth #4: Experienced professionals mentor out of the goodness of their hearts. It can be an honor to be asked to mentor someone, but the relationship is about more than respect for a trailblazer. Mentoring should be useful to both parties. Think about what you can offer a potential mentor:

  • Can you provide a unique perspective on his role in the organization?
  • Do you bring valuable outside information that can help your mentor in her job?

While not a direct barter, you may be able to offer your prospective mentor a promise of future assistance.
In the work I do with clients, many of them hold one or two of these misconceptions about mentoring. Don’t let erroneous assumptions hold you back. Don’t stop yourself from asking to be mentored by someone you assume won’t be interested. Ask and explore the possibilities. The person you ask may have valuable ideas for you.

The Powerful Unconscious

The Powerful Unconscious

As modern brain scientists study human behavior, they find that we operate more unconsciously than previously assumed.
It’s not that we’re automatons without free will or that we lack rationality and refined decision-making skills. Our brains (specifically, the frontal cortex) simply drive us to act in ways that frequently bypass civilized thought processes – and much more often than we’d like to admit.
How else do you explain the increase in overweight, diseased, stressed-out and addicted people each decade, despite our vast knowledge of health, nutrition and fitness?
World Health Organization statistics reveal there are now more overweight than undernourished people worldwide. Only one in 20 U.S. adults engages in all top-six health behaviors according to David Berrigan in a 2003 article in Preventive Medicine, “Patterns of health behavior in US adults”:
Regular exercise
Healthful fat intake
Consumption of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily
Limited drinking (alcohol) and drug use
Maintaining a healthy weight
Apparently, the more our standard of living improves the less life satisfaction we report. Countries track their Gross National Product (GNP) and education levels to measure citizens’ quality of life. In addition, Great Britain recently decided to track its population’s health and wellness. The latter are now considered as essential to life satisfaction as money or education.
Wellness Defined
In past decades, psychologists used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to gauge satisfaction. Maslow measured five key life spheres:
Physical (food, water, shelter, sleep)
Safety and security (property, employment, resources)
Social (love, sex, relationships)
Esteem (confidence, achievement, respect)
Self-actualization (morality, creativity, problem-solving)
More recently, psychologist Martin Seligman’s research on optimism and happiness proposes five elements of well-being:
Positive emotion: what we feel (pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort)
Engagement: thoughts and energy flow; immersion in a desired activity
Relationships: essential social connections
Meaning and purpose: our interpretations of what really matters
Accomplishment: our desire for achievement and task completion
As a broad term, wellness describes overall health and well-being in terms of optimal functioning of the body, mind and spirit. Our daily choices – what we do, how we eat, the battles we fight, who we love – help determine our wellness level.
For our ancestors, running from a tiger meant staying alive. Early humans were forced to be strong and agile and didn’t have easily available foods. Modern life offers far too many opportunities to make poor choices.
The Paradox of Choice
Each of us has a personal responsibility to make prudent health choices. But even in today’s information-driven society, we choose to ignore much of the available health data. We find innumerable excuses to justify our negative health habits.
Doctors’ schedules are so packed that they often neglect to provide behavioral wellness plans. They may implore patients to adopt healthful diet and exercise habits, but they’re continually frustrated by rampant noncompliance. This leaves patients with no follow-up or clear action steps for achieving optimal well-being.
It’s estimated that more than half the population is operating on autopilot at work. In fact, many of us work and live in a state of perpetual non-engagement, just trying to get through the day without any conflict.
Is it any wonder so many of us turn to unhealthful habits like excessive smoking, drinking and sex to relieve our stress and boredom?
Wellness Coaching 101
Many of us wait to see a doctor until our symptoms become unbearable. Similarly, we’ll avoid booking an appointment with a therapist, marinating in denial and insisting, “I’m fine … really.” Only a heartfelt desire drives us to seek deep and lasting change.
Wellness coaches are credentialed professionals with expertise in a variety of health domains: exercise, smoking cessation, nutrition, weight loss, stress management and life satisfaction. They work with clients to effect change through personally tailored behavioral plans. Without the support and structure a coach imposes, it may be impossible for you to achieve the changes you seek to make.
While personal trainers offer side-by-side instruction, wellness coaches provide tools that allow you to discover and implement your own solutions. You learn how to meet your specific needs with available resources.
Effective coaches know how to ask the right questions, leading their clients on a path of self-discovery. They employ “appreciative inquiry,” focusing on what their clients do right instead of delving into and analyzing the negative. Storytelling is another coaching tool that helps clients connect challenges and experiences to their own life stories.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 annual survey of employer health benefits, 63 percent of U.S. companies offer at least one wellness program, be it a weight-loss program, discounted gym membership, on-site exercise facility, smoking-cessation program, nutrition/fitness class, web-based resources for healthy living, wellness newsletter or personal health coaching. Twenty-one percent of small companies (3-199 employees) and 56 percent of large companies (200+ employees) actually provide lifestyle or behavioral coaching.
If your company has not yet implemented a wellness program, talk with your employer about adding one. Consider working with a wellness coach to achieve more healthy habits and life satisfaction.

The Powerful Undercurrent

A growing body of research reveals that our behavior and decisions are influenced by an array of strong psychological undercurrents, all of which are more powerful and pervasive than we realize.
Like streams, they converge to become even more powerful.
By charting these undercurrents and their unanticipated effects, we can identify our faulty thinking that lead us to make irrational decisions.
Despite a great need for them, judgment and decision-making skills are only beginning to appear in better business schools’ curricula. But studies show we still don’t know enough about how good decisions occur.
Rational versus Emotional?
Psychologist and political scientist Herbert Simon in 1957 laid the groundwork on the limits of rationality when he attacked classical economics and game theory. Simon’s work made it clear that we must take the real world’s messiness and irrationality into account when making decisions.
“Research indicates that people are myopic in their decisions, may lack skill in predicting their future tastes, and can be led to erroneous choices by fallible memory and incorrect evaluations of past experiences,” wrote psychologist and Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman.
Neuroscientific research also proves that the brain is influenced by subconscious emotional reactions from its more primitive centers. We’re not in control of our reasoning capabilities as much as we’d like to think.
Scientists have identified several flaws in how we think when making decisions. Because they’re hardwired into our thinking process, we often fail to recognize them. This means they can undermine everything from new product development to acquisitions and divestiture strategy to succession planning.
These hidden currents and forces include:
1. Loss aversion, our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid possible losses
2. Commitment, our tendency to stick with the status quo
3. Value attribution, our inclination to imbue a person or thing with certain qualities based on initial perceived value
4. Diagnosis bias, our blindness to all evidence that contradicts our initial assessment of a person or situation
5. Certainty bias, where overconfidence leads us to discount inconvenient truths
Each of us is susceptible to irrational behavior’s irresistible pull. Only when we gain insight into our irrationality can we see the extent to which it affects our work and personal lives. Fascinating patterns emerge, and we can master our behaviors and decisions when we connect the dots.

Welcome to Kashbox Coaching

If you’re less successful and profitable than you could and should be, the answer is YES! In today’s highly competitive business environment, excellence is not just an option – it’s mission critical. Good is no longer good enough. You know it, and we know it. That’s where Kashbox Coaching, led by Joan Walsh and David Herdlinger, comes in. We’re ready to help you and your organization become more focused, motivated, innovative, and successful than you ever dreamed possible! How Are We Different from Our Competition? We’re Glad You Asked!

  • We offer an arsenal of capabilities, a diversity of coaching talent, and a team approach to coaching that you won’t find anywhere else.
  • We are a world leader in the development and application of the dynamic new organizational development methodology known as corporate coaching.
  • We design the most effective corporate coaching program to meet your specific needs. You won’t get any “one size fits all” or “cookie cutter” solutions from us!
  • We recognize that your business is a networked system, not a collection of disjointed functions. Our holistic approach will strengthen teamwork, communication, and productivity throughout your organization.
  • We will fill your whole Kashbox.