Recently, I’ve focused more on art than speaking. However, my experience last week reminded me of how much I love working with groups, too.
I facilitated a half day retreat titled, Cultivating Collegial Connections, for the staff and leadership of the Legislative Assembly Service with the Saskatchewan government.
Like many groups, the distancing they experienced during the pandemic strained that sense of connectedness. Partner a couple of years of remote working with retirements, new hires, and changes in roles means that it can be a real challenge to maintain existing relationships and establish new ones.
When it comes to appreciation, one size does not fit all, and a generic thank you falls short of the mark. This is a point that I often stress when I speak and write about how to boost the impact of appreciation and recognition.
Today, a prime example of this idea arrived in my mailbox.
For several years now, I’ve been a member of CARFAC – the association representing Canadian professional visual artists. Each year I pay my dues and in return I receive my membership card, a receipt and a letter pointing out the benefits of belonging to the association. Pretty standard and a tad ho hum.
This year, I found something extra tucked into the envelope. (more…)
PAUSE – 20.10 – Checking In To Check Things Out
October 7, 2020
Reflection: Well, it’s been a good half year since all hell broke loose and our need to respond to the Covid pandemic significantly changed the way we work and live. Many folks continue to work from home, having settled into routines that may or may not be working well.
Dr. Paul White recently released the results of a survey that highlights the concerns around those working remotely from home.
Two main issues stand out.
Topping the list is a concern about the emotional and mental health of team members. How are people dealing with the roller coaster stress ride that is life in a pandemic? How are uncertainty about the future and the requisite social distancing affecting our state of mind? How do we get a real sense of people’s state when contact is limited to business focused head and shoulder zoom chats?
Secondly, there is the challenge of maintaining any sort of healthy boundaries between a home life and work life. When your front door opens to both your home and your office and you don’t know (as one person put it) ‘whether you are working from home or living from work’, how do you allocate your time and attention? What and who may be getting shortchanged? And how do you cope with feeling caught in the middle?
There were many other concerns identified in the survey, and if you check out the resource link, you can read the full report for yourself.
Action: What to do with information like this? (more…)
PAUSE – 20.09 – How Could You Reach Out In Kindness?
September 2, 2020
Reflection: In response to last month’s Pause ezine, one of my readers reminded me (and rightly so) that all is not easy-peasy wine and roses for everyone in the midst of this pandemic. Those with frontline responsibilities, those trying to juggle working from home along with childcare, and those facing financial hardship are struggling and exhausted. I get it.
I’ve been thinking more about how we can ease the burdens of those around us by reaching out to connect with kindness and support.
Action: Here are a few actions I’ve noted and/or experienced that might spark ideas for you.
Lend a hand with the kids. Harried parents can use help – even at a distance – engaging with the youngsters so mom and dad are free to finish up a work project or start cooking dinner. I’ve been using the Caribu app to connect with my 4 and 7 year old grandsons. It allows us to see each other while reading stories, playing simple games, or co-doodling on a drawing.
Catch up on colleagues’ lives beyond work. There’s a tendency to think of workplace zoom meetings as needing to be ‘all business, all efficiency, all the time’. However, in the ‘old normal’ workplace, there would be time for informal chats about life in general. Try booking a zoom coffee break, lunch or 5:00pm wine date with a colleague with the express intent of getting caught up on each other’s lives outside of work. A bit of genuine empathy can help ease the burden.
Meet briefly outdoors in person. Face time and zoom conversations are good. But sometimes you just need to see a real (as my friend says non-digitized) face. Connecting in person at a safe distance for a conversation, a coffee, or a walk can lift the spirits of all involved. (more…)
PAUSE – 20.06 – It’s Less Than Ideal But It’s Something
June 3, 2020
Reflection: ‘ABC’ – All Be Closed. For many of us, that’s been the global theme song for spring 2020.
‘C’ (for Covid 19) also brought us Confined. Cancelled. Called off. Crossed out. Cut.
Everyday experiences that we’ve long taken for granted – meeting friends for coffee, enjoying a meal at a restaurant, sinking into our seats at a movie theatre – all gone! Conferences, concerts, graduations, weddings, festivals, sports, vacations – evaporated into thin air.
And as we learned from our early alphabet studies, ‘C’ is followed by ‘D’. Disappointment. Disillusion. Dejection. Despondence. Distress.
Coronavirus has turned our world upside down. And, all but the courageous providers of essential services, have sheltered in place as we do our best to stay well and minimize the risks.
In the midst of the quarantine, it seems that another ‘C’ – Creativity – is lifting us from the dust of shattered dreams. (more…)
PAUSE – 19.12 – Why Not End Your Year In Gratitude?
December 4, 2019
Reflection: As I wrote today’s Pause message, it was Thanksgiving Day in the USA. I took a look at my calendar and saw the tail end of 2019 barreling down the road in my direction.
Add those both together, and they put me in a reflective frame of mind with thoughts of gratitude bubbling to the surface. Putting pen to paper, this list of things for which I felt grateful flowed to the page:
Reasonably good health – with just enough aches and irritations to remind me to feel compassion for those who suffer chronic pain
Our travel adventures and the resources to fund them
My clients and the opportunities they present for meaningful work, along with my colleagues who share this journey of teaching and learning
A husband who loves to cook and who exercises his culinary talents in the kitchen every single day.
My daughters and nieces and their partners who have populated our extended family with a lively crop of little ones who bring joy and energy to every gathering
My sisters and my Mom who have been my touchstones through the years
Caring friends who share laughter and shoulders to lean on when times get rough
My Artists’ Workshop group and the talented colleagues who encourage and challenge my growth as a painter
This beautiful and (relatively) peaceful country I am lucky enough to share with my fellow Canadians
I was – and am – grateful for it all.
Action: Is pausing to take stock of all there is to appreciate a part of your end of year activities? (more…)
PAUSE – 19.11 – Bringing Who You Are To What You Do
November 6, 2019
Reflection: About a year ago, I joined a local artists group. We meet weekly to make art. We challenge and support each other. And, we show together annually.
Over the years, I’ve been a part of many groups at work and in the community. Rarely have I seen a group as cooperative and supportive as this one.
When a task arises, there’s no sitting on hands, avoiding eye contact, hoping someone else will take it on. There is an eagerness to volunteer – to step forward to make things happen.
Yes, there is a high degree of commitment to each other and the purpose of the group. But, underpinning all there’s a desire and willingness to bring who we are and contribute what we can in the service of the whole.
We vary in our interests and skills. Within the group we have: social media whizzes, creative photographers, skilled organizers, those with financial savvy, talented foodies, fine writers, imaginative thinkers, thoughtful listeners, and jokesters who brighten the mood and lighten the load.
Everybody is not expected to do everything. People step forward in areas in which they are skilled and have an interest; they pass on others. And, somehow it all works out.
Action: How well are the teams and groups in your world functioning? (more…)
PAUSE – 19.10 – Nix The Negatory Oratory
October 2, 2019
Reflection: How is your day going?
“Not bad. Well, it’s not raining. I’m not dead yet. Could be worse.“
Thanks for your help.
“No problem. It was nothing. No big deal. Not worth mentioning.”
Does language make a difference? You bet it does. It can lift people up or put them down – our selves included.
What features most in your way of showing up and conversing with the world?
Gloom and despair – or joy and fresh air?
Action: There are a great many things beyond our control that colour our everyday experience. But what is always within our control are things like these: (more…)
PAUSE – 19.04 – Turn Down The Screen – Turn Up Your Life
April 3, 2019
Reflection: Not long ago I found myself in my doctor’s reception area, waiting for my appointment. Also waiting were three young moms each with infants in car carriers parked at their feet.
All the little ones were awake and alert. All the moms were elsewhere – eyes glued to the screens of their smart phones making no effort to connect with their babies.
Now maybe they were dealing with important issues at a distance. Or maybe they were exhausted and just enjoying the quiet. (I do remember that parenting a little one can really take it out of you!)
PAUSE – 18.09 – Did You Know You’re Retroactively Useful?
September 5, 2018
Reflection: I seem to be encountering a lot of people from my past these days. In the course of our conversations, more than a few of them are sharing how something I said or did influenced them years ago and continues to be meaningful in their lives today.
Sometimes it was the way I handled a challenging situation. Other times it was a piece of advice or a way of looking at or thinking about things that was important at that moment. Often those insightful tidbits have become reference points or touchstones for them as they go about their lives today.
It moves me to hear that my contributions, both intended and unintentional, added meaning to their lives. That prompts me to be even more active in extending my appreciation to others whose examples have been important to me. And…it causes me to feel more satisfied about the contributions I’ve already made in my life and work.
Action: The desire to be purposeful and of service to others does not diminish with age. In fact as people grow older, they often start to think more directly about leaving a lasting and positive legacy.