Monica J. Griffith

Guiding Light Coaching

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I have a love-hate relationship with Spring. I love the fresh air and the newly budding trees. I love the flowers as their fragrance wafts along the breeze. I love getting my spring clothes out of storage. I love pulling out my spring and summer yard decorations.

What I don’t like about Spring is the cleaning and purging that seems to come with a real clean-up! Oh, I love it when it is done and actually beginning it is not so bad; however, about half-way through, I’m done!

I’ve begun to take on the task of Spring cleaning. And I always begin with clearing away the clutter. It is magazines that I’ve received and will find time to read one-of-these days. It is mounds of business cards from various networking events of people I can’t recall where I met or with whom I have in fact reconnected. It may be small piles of clothes that either need mending or tossed. And sticky-notes of reminders that I’ve long forgotten! Do you have that same problem or is it just me?

It is my semi-annual ‘cleaning of the sludge’! That stuff that gets in my way of doing what I really love to do. I don’t know why I continue to create little piles of stuff. Why not just handle it and be done? Is it so difficult to make a decision and do what needs to be done right then and there? Is this familiar to you?

Clutter is no more than postponed decisions. That saying is so true for me. Granted, there are times when I cannot address the concern at that exact moment; nevertheless, there must be a way to handle the magazines or clothes or business cards in a more timely way! What is it about putting things off that is so enticing that I continue to do it? What is it that I fear about making the decision and taking action in the moment?

Where else, besides my house, might I find clutter – or decisions and actions postponed? Could this same clutter be getting in the way of other clean-up and actions that need to be addressed for my business – for my life?

The interesting thing about clutter or sludge is that when things become stock-piled, the energy it takes to clear things up sometimes seems overwhelming. Going through the accumulated business cards when I get home from a networking event takes about 5 minutes. Going through them after 3 months of collection could take an hour or more. And that task can be very frustrating! Scheduling time to make follow-up calls (and making them) is just a few minutes in my routine; putting them off for ‘another time’ sometimes doubles the time and energy to do the work. Writing one section of a business plan every day or so is a small step to a big accomplishment – and much less energy that trying to do it all in one day.

Here is what I am seeing: taking a small sweet step is much more inviting than trying to clean it all up at once. It’s much like house cleaning – doing one room a day is a lot less work that spending all weekend cleaning the entire house! In bite-size pieces I get the same result, with a lot less effort, energy and frustration!

So, let’s make a pact! Let’s make it small and sweet! I promise to keep one room clear of clutter for the next 21 days. Just one room! And, at the end of 21 days, I’ll celebrate that success and I will continue the ‘no clutter’ action with that room and move to another. And so on…

I’m excited about this – are you? Are you with me on this? Let me hear from you in 21 days and then we’ll celebrate our success together!

Once upon a time, I was one of the best Processors in the department. My quality was outstanding and my production numbers were consistently high. I had great customer service skills and I had near perfect attendance. I volunteered to take on extra work and willingly worked overtime whenever it was needed. I was a team-player and a darn good employee!

Then one day, my Boss called me in. I was not concerned, as I had done nothing wrong; I was more curious than anything else. When he told me he wanted me to be the new Supervisor, I was floored! Me? A boss? Nope, I don’t think so! My friend and co-worker, Patti, had been there longer and she should be the next one in line for a promotion. I don’t know the first thing about being a boss. I’m a good worker and that’s probably what I should keep doing. Give the job to Patti, she is the next in line.

His reply: You are the one I want; you have what I am looking for; you will be a great Leader one day; there is something more that you have to give and I want you to begin here.

That was pretty much it! He had spoken and as a young 20-something, I didn’t question it again. It’s important to note here that this was many years ago and while times have changed, and 20-something’s might now question or challenge the boss, that is not something we did ‘back in the day’!

Now, to tell Patti and Holly and Sue and my other dear friends who were soon to be reporting to me! I believe this is where I really began to understand the essentials of leadership: humility, clarity and courage.

Humility, in my experience, is the ‘secret sauce’ of leadership. Leaders do not and cannot know everything. And to understand that is one of the keys to leading. Humility enables the leader to listen, seek to understand, to reflect and be unpretentious. One of my favorite mantras in my early (and later) days of leadership is this: “There go my people, I must hurry to catch up with them for I am their leader.” — Mahatma Gandhi It is not only okay to not have all the answers, I believe it is essential! One cannot learn and grow if she thinks she already knows it all. This leads me to the next point: clarity.

Have you ever driven in the fog? That is what comes to mind for me when things are not clear. If leaders are not clear in their message and if the words are not consistent with the actions, followers are left to wander aimlessly in the fog! Mind-reading is not a skill most people have, and people want to know what is going on – or they will likely make-up and surmise and then we can really get into trouble! “Clarity affords focus.” — Thomas Leonard Leadership is about being very clear about the vision and mission. Becoming clear (and consistent) in words and actions gives foundation to the followers; it builds trust; it gives direction and clears away the uncertainly. And many times, it is not easy to be clear. Sometimes, this means the leader must deliver a tough message, or make an unpopular decision.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill I delight in the words of Churchill! Read them again…Do you see the wisdom in this quote? Sometimes, we do not see the courage in leaders who sit down and listen, yet, this circles directly back to my previous points of humility and clarity. As a leader, I often found it challenging to sit and listen, particularly when I was certain I had the right answer or action. Often, my opinion changed; often it did not. Nevertheless, once a leader truly listens with the intention to understand, she can then (courageously) stand and speak clearly upon the topic or decision.

Talking to Patti, Holly, Sue and the others was not always ‘easy’. There were times I had to deliver news that was less than welcome. They were an incredible group of co-workers and fully supported my Boss’s decision to promote me. I was so fortunate to have my first leadership experience with them as they laid the ground work for what was to come for me – 30 more years leading teams.

Whether you are a leader with the title or not, you are the leader of your destiny; of your life; of your success and happiness. Do it with humility – accepting that you are still learning; with clarity -seeing and staying in focus; with courage – to stand as well as to sit.

Embed these ‘essentials’ in who you are and how you are being. I promise, you will experience fulfillment you could not have imagined.

Once again, we have ‘Sprung Forward’ and lost another hour. Yes, it is now Daylight Saving Time and for many of us this is seen as just another disruption to our day (or week!).

I like when the clocks change. It’s another hint of more light in my day and for some reason, I think that gives me more time to do what needs to be done. I know, it’s a mind-fake, and still, it does give me a renewed burst of energy.

Many do not see it this way. I’m not sure if it is the chore of changing the clocks or maybe they don’t like the fact it is light outside later in the evening or darker in the morning making it harder to get going. One thing is for certain – if you live in an area that is ruled by Daylight Saving Time, your schedule needs to adjust!

Time-management. I have always been curious about the thought of actually managing time. It cannot be done, at least as far as I can comprehend. Each day has 24 hours (plus or minus one during the change to and from DST). Each hour has 60 minutes and each minute gives us 60 seconds. How can one possibly assume to ‘time-manage’? It is what it is and to the best of my knowledge, there is no way to manage how time is!

However, I do see there is a way to manage how I utilize the time I’ve been given. I get the same amount as everyone else on Earth. And, my time ticks at the same rate as yours. Am I right on this? So, why don’t we call it ‘Time-Utilization’? This is a much more powerful term for me and it really gets to the point of what is actually going on here.

My clients often bring to coaching the problem of time-management. What they soon discover is a lack of focus and or direction. The limit of 24 hours in the day is not the concern; rather it is the efficient and effective utilization of these hours that is the conundrum!

People often spend their energy on things that can be completed quickly, easily or in auto-pilot. They set aside (or completely ignore) the activities that might be seen as hard, long, cumbersome, distasteful or challenging. Another obstacle is they may often try to accomplish more than is realistic – bite of more than they can chew, so-to-speak! Then, discouragement sets in and they become distracted by one of the easy or seemingly more enjoyable tasks. Or worse yet, they may just give up. Suddenly, they realize ‘time has gotten away’ from them and they now label themselves poor at managing time!

Nope! It is really just a few things:
• Being very clear, purposeful and intentional about what is important;
• Seeing meaning and relevance in the action to be taken or task to be done;
• Doing what I said I would do, when I said I would do it;
• Celebrating all accomplishments – no matter how small.

Creating the life you’ll love to live in each of the 24 hours you are given calls for you to be the pilot of the flying-time-machine.

You are in control (not time) – what are you going to do; where are you going to fly; how far and high are you willing to take this journey?

Sometimes, what is happening in the world affects us in ways we cannot imagine. Today, I am sad. I am owning my feelings today and will be working through the sadness as best I can. I will not allow it to overtake me or to linger too long; nevertheless, it is there and I acknowledge it.

While the ‘reason’ for the sadness is not something for which I am personally attached, and there may be little I can actually do to prevent the catalyst from recurring, I am still sad.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. A day that should have been filled with celebration, love, wonder, peace and prayer.

How will February 14, 2018, be remembered? Yesterday was the shooting at a High School in Parkland, Florida. Yesterday, thousands of parent’s and children’s lives changed forever. Yesterday, millions of people around the world gasped for breath and watched or listened in shock as children and their teachers were innocently murdered. Yesterday was not the first, nor will it be the last time this vileness happens. Yesterday will not soon end for many.

I don’t really know if holding these families in my thoughts and prayers helps them; I do know it helps me. And while I am not personally impacted with a child attending that school and do not have a friend or family member who suffered a loss there, my thought is: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” And, I am certain that sentiment is uttered by many. It could have been any of us…

How do we (those perhaps not directly impacted) move forward through this feeling of sadness, particularly as we are inundated with pictures and stories on the news and social media?

For me – it is first to acknowledge the sadness, the loss, the misery of those directly enduring this event. It is to allow my tears to fall and know that my question of ‘Why?’ can never be satisfactorily answered. It is to shift from ‘why’ to ‘what’, as in What can I do? It is a call to action.

For some, that call to action may have a direct impact on the victims and their families such as financial assistance, medical or mental health support, cards or words of encouragement, etc. For others, the call to action may be a stronger voice and involvement in the political arena or within their own community. Some may answer the call to action on a more personal front – with prayer, writing, music, connection with friends or family. What do you do to answer the call? What is your next small, sweet step to shift the sadness in a positive and productive manner? What do you do to create a space of well-being?

Yes, I acknowledge the sadness that I am feeling. And as time ticks forward, I am intent on: becoming clear on the contributions I am making; shifting my focus to what has meaning for me in this world; answering my call to action; easing the struggle of sadness and unrest; demonstrating gratitude for all I have and all that is to come.

The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.- Neale Donald Walsch

Do you ever have the feeling that someone is ‘walking all over’ you? Do you find yourself frustrated or even a bit cynical with others and hear yourself saying ‘they made me/want me to/expect me to…’?

I hear that quite often as new clients work with me in coaching. What they soon discover is they have been remiss to set boundaries. Once we uncover what might be getting in the way and exactly what a boundary might look like, the activity revolves around becoming clear about their ‘line in the sand’.

Let’s talk a moment about what is a boundary. According to Merriam-Webster, a boundary is: something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent; a real or imaginary point beyond which a person or thing cannot go.

When we look at boundaries as a fix to ensure or support self-care rather than selfish-behavior, we can be guilt-free when we say ‘no’; we can ask for what we want and need ; we can say ‘yes’ because it is what we want to say rather than feeling it is the obligatory response. Boundaries support our desire to ‘be’ who we are, really, and not who other’s expect/want/need us to be for them.

Several comments I often hear regarding this awareness is this: I can’t be that mean and say no all the time; doing that would be like slamming the door on this relationship; if I don’t give in to him/her, they won’t like me anymore. And so it goes – the excuses, justification and rationalization as to why setting boundaries won’t work! And here is a question that might be something to ponder upon: What might your life look like if you took responsibility for your own happiness and success? What would that be like for you?

Boundaries do not have to be impermeable walls! They can be, and possibly should be in some instances; however, they can also be like the orange construction fences that have some flow through and some give. They can be like picket fences that are sturdy and strong with areas of drifting through. Is it possible to have ‘both/and’? Of course, in many instances, it is! The focus here is that one does intentionally create that line in the sand and determine if the situation at hand is a brick wall or construction fence!

“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” ― Anna Taylor

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