Finding Our Way from Distrust to Connection

In the wake of multiple acts of excessive violence against humanity, including the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I know I am navigating the feelings of despair, hopelessness, fear, and emotional numbness.  

All of this is on top of more than two years of the pandemic. How do we find our way out of such darkness?

Over these past two years, I have relied on my training in Conversational Intelligence® to guide me and clients toward conversations that move from distrust to connection. 

I think about the wisdom of Judith E. Glaser, mother of Conversational Intelligence®  who sadly departed the physical world in November 2018. What would she be offering us at this time? 

Her work is based on decades of research on the neuroscience of conversation. 

“To get to our next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. Everything happens through conversations.”

Our brain is wired to determine whether the information we receive makes us feel like we are “In or Out” of a social group. In .07 seconds our amygdala makes this determination and either pumps cortisol to position ourselves for survival OR pumps oxytocin and moves us to a state of safety and connection.

 I came across this article written by Judith in 2017, offering a few steps to move from dis-ease to ease through connection.

      • Invite to connect: If you are sensing a disconnect, move toward the other person. How can you move toward them without stress to activate positive energies?
      • Mind-and Heart-Map: The heart connection is vital for relationships. It is the gateway of your emotions. If you feel excluded, judged or rejected, your neurochemistry changes. You will see reality as unfair, harsh, and critical. Conversely, when you feel included, you see reality with possibility and optimism. You look for good things to happen. When you reach out to connect, you are remapping your mind-heart connection.
      • Conversational Agility: When you sense you are moving toward stress and distrust, you can use the tools of Reframe, Refocus and Redirect to move toward a mindset of connection. Reframing takes a difficult situation and turns it into an opportunity. Moving from what was lost to what did you learn from that loss?  Refocusing allows you to move from a place of being stuck to a larger topic where there may be connections you had not seen before. Redirecting moves you from a place of being stuck to a place of new possibilities.

It only takes .07 seconds to move in either direction. With awareness and practice, you can move toward positivity and optimism. To learn more about the tools of Conversational Agility, check out this blog post or listen to this episode of Minutes with Mary.

What it Takes to be a Solopreneur: Know your Strengths

When I started my company in 2011, it was not because I had a grand vision of starting a company. It was because I wanted to continue doing what I loved doing for the previous four years in a new location.  

I would call myself an “accidental entrepreneur”. I had been working at a national management consulting firm supporting nonprofits and foundations and I decided to move to give a long-distance relationship a chance. A bold move but I knew in my heart, it was the right decision for my overall happiness.  

When the firm said that they weren’t interested in keeping me on, based in a different location, I made what I thought at the time was the most rational decision. Keep doing what I was doing under my own shingle. And Vista Global was launched. 

I was fortunate to have had the experience growing up in a family business, understanding what is required to keep operations running smoothly. I also learned a lot by being a Senior Associate in a small firm, learning what is required to bring in business, write proposals, manage projects and keep clients happy. 

In addition, I possessed the natural talents to get things done! I learned this through taking the CliftonStrengths assessment. The CliftonStrengths assessment has been used by more than 27 million people globally to identify natural talents. It provides a deep understanding of 34 themes of your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving in four domains:

      • Executing: Help you make things happen
      • Influencing: Help you take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard
      • Relationship Building: Help you build strong relationships that hold teams together
      • Strategic Thinking: Help you absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions

I took the CliftonStrengths assessment in 2012 and learned that 5 of my top 10 themes were in the Executing domain. How does that relate to being a solopreneur?

When you start your own business, you do everything – business development, service delivery, project management, bookkeeping, administration, marketing. Unless you have start-up capital, you are bootstrapping until you can generate enough capital to contract for support services.  

Understanding where you have natural talents and where you may need additional support is important to set yourself up for success. 

If you have thought about starting your business and aren’t sure whether it is the right path for you, I would love to connect. After celebrating Vista Global’s 10 year anniversary, I know it was the right path for me. But it isn’t necessarily the right path for everyone. 

To hear more about my journey as a solopreneur, listen to this episode of Minutes With Mary.

The Great Re-evaluation as an Annual Practice

Earlier in my career, prior to starting my own business, I had a fantastic mentor/sponsor, Aaron S. Williams who shared with me his annual year-end practice of reflection to prepare for the next year of career development.  He asked himself five questions to help determine if it was time to make a change: 

    1. Am I learning at my job?
    2. Am I making a difference?
    3. Do I like the people I work with?
    4. Am I having fun?
    5. Does this current job continue to contribute to my long-term goals?

If the answer to any of these questions was “no”, he knew it was time to make a change. In addition, he shared the practice that you should always be looking for your next opportunity. Not to mean that you shouldn’t be content in your current role but to mean that you never know when your talents could be maximized in a new way.

This approach to integrating work into life has stayed with me for more than 20 years. It supported my path to make job changes and career changes. It led me to start my own business and become a certified coach. 

Arianna Huffington wrote a recent post on Life-Work integration, highlighting that what is really at the heart of the “Great Resignation” is a “Great Re-evaluation”. The pandemic has been a jolt to the previously unquestioned construct of work driving our lives in the United States. 

We see the negative consequences of this drive to work excessively in poor health indicators, including burnout and mental health crises. Half of the American Workforce report that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.  April is Stress Awareness Month, dedicated to raising awareness of the impact stress has on our lives and ways to manage it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In Europe, there are significant differences in the relationship between work life and personal life. Europeans do not attach their sense of purpose as strongly to work as do Americans and are said to be happier, healthier and more productive. 

One unexpected result of the pandemic is that it has challenged assumptions about the role work plays in our lives. The pandemic forced us to blur work life and personal life through working from home, which allowed us to see that we could have more flexibility in managing our productivity. It gave us back those hours of commute time to use as we choose. It may have also raised our awareness on how happy we were in our current job because the added stress of the pandemic forced us to pause and re-evaluate all aspects of our lives.

As a coach, I support many leaders who are at a crossroad asking themselves, “What next? I know what I am doing right now isn’t right but I don’t know what to do.” Throughout the pandemic, I have supported leaders in their “Great Re-evaluation” to move toward life-work integration.

If any of these questions are surfacing right now, you are among millions. Let’s connect to chart a path to life-work integration that allows you to say yes to those five questions!

To learn more about the career journey of Aaron S. Williams, check out his recently published book, “A Life UnImagined: The Rewards of Mission-Driven Service in the Peace Corps and Beyond”.

Nurture Gratitude

If you are a regular subscriber to Vista Global communication, you received the recent blog post titled, What Is Your Life Raft In The Sea Of Pandemic Trauma? In that blog post, I shared the “Tiny Survival Guide” from The Trauma Stewardship Institute which provides 15 ways to build resilience.  One of those actions is “Nurture Gratitude”.

As we begin the month of November, people in the United States start to look toward the Thanksgiving holiday and what they are grateful for. This practice of nurturing gratitude can be an ongoing simple practice that strengthens our resilience on a daily basis.  

By asking yourself every day, “What is one thing, right now, that is going well?” AND writing that down or speaking it out loud, starts to shift the mindset that we hold in viewing the world. It builds our capacity to have empathy for others and creativity to identify pathways to a better future.

In the “What I’ve Learned” Thrive Global Podcast: Adam Grant on How to Make the Most of Gratitude. Adam shares a powerful insight about gratitude. He states, “My gratitude practice has not been to experience more gratitude – it’s been to express more gratitude.” 

Find just one reason to be grateful right now. It can be something simple or obvious, but don’t take it for granted. You can say things like, “Thank you for keeping me safe during that accident,” or “Thank you for giving me a roof over my head.” Take a few moments to reflect on the positive portions of your life. Then, write it down or speak your gratitude out loud.

Dr. Carmen Harrra, a world-renowned intuitive psychologist shared in 6 Habits for Better Mental Health, “Your mind is the precursor to your reality. Guard it, honor it, and make it a safe haven – this practice will change not only your mental health, but your future.”

So how about starting today and continuing every today until the end of 2021?

“What is one thing, right now, that is going well?”

 

What is your life raft in the sea of pandemic trauma?

Since March 2020, I have had the incredible opportunity to be a team member of the Ford Global Fellowship program. Yes, that is right..as the pandemic started, the Fellowship launched with 24 Fellows from regions across the globe.

As the Lead for the coaching program, there are 10 coaches from across the world that support these amazing leaders who are challenging and changing inequality.  Navigating the pandemic over the last 18 months has required all of us to find new approaches to preserving our energy and well-being.

Recently, the coaching team met for our first book club discussion of the book, Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Care for Others, written by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burk. As coaches, we can be the one safe space where social change leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable and express their true experiences of feeling depleted physically and emotionally.

As I read this book it became very clear to me that all of humanity is currently living with some level of trauma because of the pandemic. van Dernoot Lipsky defines trauma exposure response as

“the transformation that takes place within us as a result of exposure to the suffering of other living beings or the planet. The transformation can result from deliberate or inadvertent exposure, formal or informal contact, paid or volunteer work.”

So what is trauma stewardship? 

van Dernoot Lipsky describes trauma stewardship as a daily practice through which individuals, organizations, and societies tend to the hardship, pain or trauma experienced by humans, other living beings and our planet. By developing a deeper sense of awareness needed to care for ourselves while caring for others and the world around us, we can greatly enhance our potential to work for change, ethically and with integrity, for generations to come.

During our conversation, we explored how different cultures have different perspectives on what is acceptable in defining and stewarding trauma. Coaches shared approaches to self-compassion to sustain energy and resilience so that they are able to create a space of compassion for leaders. We all agreed that it is essential to engage in daily practices to center ourselves; connecting our heads, hearts and hands, creating an integrated state so that we don’t get stuck in our primitive brains where fear resides. Daily practice of moving energy flow through breathing, exercise, laughing and singing all help move us out of our primitive brain. The Trauma Stewardship Institute offers a wonderful “Tiny Survival Guide” that shares 15 easy ways to not only survive but build resilience during this period in our history. 

Do you have a life raft that allows you to float above water during this time of continued rough seas? If you are feeling shipwrecked or unmoored, let’s connect to discover your path toward trauma stewardship. We are all in this together.

Livestream Interview | The Helping Conversation Podcast

As you may know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  In years past, May passed without me giving much thought to how my mental health was. It is the start of Spring here in the upper Midwest with the flowers and trees growing exponentially every day. It always lifts my spirits as a time of renewal and possibility.   

And over the last two “Mays”, as humans, we have lived through incredible challenges and grief. The murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and many other traumas we have endured. The global pandemic has resulted in required isolation.  All of these factors weigh heavily on the human spirit, even for those who have vibrant and robust mental health.

For 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) amplified the message of “You Are Not Alone.” They focused on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay.

Now more than ever, we need to lift up ways to stay connected with our community. The most powerful way to stay connected is through conversation.

During May, I was honored to be invited as a guest on Keith Greer’s “The Helping Conversation” podcast. Keith is also a certified Conversational Intelligence® coach. The Helping Conversation podcast explores conversations that “focus on supporting a person in the moment, and/or, supporting the overall growth and development of a person, group or organization.”  Having conversations that build trust, increase our sense of belonging and belief that we are not alone.

Click here to watch our interview with “The Helping Conversation” podcast.