Tag Archives: Sarah Montague

“No one here wears shoes.” Shift perspective and create opportunity.

Photo Credit: JonjkYesterday a yoga instructor shared an old parable about the importance of shifting perspective.  Yoga is all about physical, mental and emotional shifts. You gain strength, flexibility and energy and you can actually change the way you react to challenge and adversity.  I liked this story and thought I’d share it with you.

Two people from a shoe manufacturer travel to an underdeveloped country with the mandate that they need to open up successful shoe factories.  After a few days, one employee writes back to the company and says, “Situation is dire here. No one here wears shoes.”   The other individual writes back to the company, “ Situation is full of opportunity.  No one here wears shoes.”

Isn’t it interesting when two people can have the same experience have a completely different takeaway? Remember this as you think about your current job or job search.  Whether you’re experiencing a business downturn or looking for employment, how can you shift your perspective so that you are more open to identifying the opportunity that may exist?  What helps you shift perspective?

Photo Credit Jonjk


Are you asking a more powerful question?

Photo credit: Alexander Drachmann

Photo credit: Alexander Drachmann

I like questions. I’m insanely curious about many things. I like questions that shift perspective. David Mullen, in his blog Communications Catalyst, writes about how the smartest thing one can do in a client meeting is ask a question with the intent to understand, not merely with the intent to respond. I like this very much. When you listen with intent to respond, it makes it about you. When you listen with intent to understand, it focuses the conversation on finding a smarter solution to the business need or challenge.

I would advocate even thinking about how you frame your questions. Are you asking a more powerful question? Are you asking questions that create a shift and open up new options and breakdown obstacles?

Here are a few of my favorite powerful questions:

What does success look like?

What can I do to make a greater contribution to the success of this project?

What will it looks like when it works?

What can I learn from this situation?

What is a better way of doing this?

What can we do differently next time?

What else do we need to be successful?

And Managers, ask more powerful questions of your employees. They don’t come to you for answers. They come to you for inspiration. Rather than saying “What I think you should do is…..” Try some of these:

So what did you try?

What did you learn from that?

What else is possible?

So pretend you can fix it, what would happen first?

What do you need to change in order to make that happen?

Do you have a favorite powerful question? I’d love to hear it!

What are you doing for fun?

photo credit: jogiboarder

photo credit: jogiboarder

We’re going through a difficult time. All of us. It affects all of us a little differently but more and more I see the stress in friends’ faces and I hear an edge to their voices on the phone. All in all, some of us feel a little less resilient. I look to exercise to offset stress but friends and family members also remind me of the value of humor. It isn’t just a temporary respite from one’s worries; there are more studies now that look at the longer-term physiological and emotional effects of laughter. One University of Maryland Medical Center study suggests that the ability to laugh at stressful situations can help lessen the damaging physical effects of distressing emotions.

There’s no lack of information about the benefits of humor. I did two separate Web searches and found over a million related links popped up in less than 24 seconds:

Results 1 – 10 of about 1,720,000 for humor makes you healthier. (0.23 seconds)
Results 1 – 10 of about 18,200,000 for laughing is good for you. (0.18 seconds)

My sense is that while we all know that humor and laughter is good for us, it may seem a little harder to incorporate it regularly into our lives right now. A number of things may weigh on our minds: the recession, our bank accounts, job and employment stress, the war, family health issues, marital and relationship rancor – well the list seems to go on and on. That is, only if we let it.

I did an informal survey of some friends and colleagues. I asked, “What makes you laugh? ” And “What do you do to get more laughter in your life?”

Here’s what I heard:

  • Spend time with young children, they are natural comedians.
  • Invite your funniest friends over for dinner (The funny ones, not just the snarky ones. It is more fun if they laugh at themselves and not at the expense of others.)
  • Watch or rent a really funny movie or show. Favorites mentioned included Will Farrell, Tracey Ullman , Bill Cosby and George Carlin

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”
George Carlin

  • Find an up and coming funny person. One close friend I know is particularly fond of new show on Comedy Central with Demetri Martin
  • Watch this video on YouTube with the laughing baby (over 78 million views)
  • Find an improvisational comedy performance or class. Improv Asylum in Boston is popular and there are likely to be others near you.
  • Keep amusing pictures or objects in your home and work space.

What would you add to this list? What do you do for fun? How do you surround yourself with people that make you laugh?

Photo credit Jogiboarder


source: Technabob.com

source: Technabob.com

Being able to adjust to life’s twists and turns is about more than just going with the flow. And it is not just about having contingency plans.  I’m all about flow, but sometimes you just need to know when to calibrate.   You need to know when to check in with others to see if you’re meeting each other’s expectations.   
Today I took a very early morning spin class with a new instructor and it took me 15 minutes to realize that her range of easy, harder, getting tough and gut buster was a four-point scale.  The last teacher I had used a full ten-point scale.  So this morning, when the instructor said four, she really meant ten.

The same holds true when you start a new job, start working with a new manager or take on a new client.  Take the time to understand the expectations and needs of your business relationship. Don’t just discuss or set expectations at the beginning of the relationship or at the time of a formal review. Take the time to periodically check in, recalibrate when needed and you’ll see a lot more success and  fewer headaches.

No U-Turns

u-turnU-Turns are like course corrections on the highway of life.
Double-back if you missed a turn; turn around if you aren’t sure of the direction you’re going.
In this economy it is easy to play it safe, easy to take the course others expect of you.
Follow your gut, follow your passions and take the fork in the road.
But No U-Turns.  You’ve been there. Done that.

Anybody really listening to this conversation?

What would happen if we gave human beings our full attention?

Over the past few weeks I’ve attended a few networking meetings, one hosted by the Boston American Marketing Association  and one hosted by Women in Business Connecting. The discussions and presentations were topical for me as a marketer and I bumped into some old colleagues and met some new people. 

The AMA focused on analytics and had some interesting panel speakers that were very forthcoming about the challenges they face as marketers, particularly in this rocky economy.  It is refreshing to get that honesty at a business event. The WIBC featured David Meerman Scott a thought leader who looks at how we leverage the Internet to connect directly with customers. He’s a funny and engaging speaker and I follow his blog.

The reason marketers and business people go to these events is to network and learn more about connecting with customers right?  In Web 2.0 parlance we’re all engaging in “The Larger Conversation.”

So, we want to be part of a conversation.  Conversations are with people, right?

But guess what?

Many of us are not paying attention to the human beings right in front of us.

Around me people at these events played with their cell phones, Crackberries and iPhones. They could have been Tweeting, checking email or compiling a grocery list for all I know.  Actually, I do know what one couple was doing. It seemed like they exchanged cell phone numbers so they could send text messages. Or maybe they already knew each other. They were sitting right next to each other and right next to me.  I guess for a Boomer like me that would be like “passing notes” in high school, right? 

They’re not listening.

How many of us are guilty of “email voice.” You know, when you are on the phone having a conversation with someone and suddenly you decide to check your email?  Guess what you sound like to the person you are talking to: “Uh, yeah, ah, oh, right, yeah, um, ok.”

We’re not listening.

Oh, I’m no saint.  I once sat at the dinner table with my family and then jumped up to check my laptop for an “important work email.”  Then there was the time I updated on FB and Twitter while my son ate his cheerios and told me a story about rockets.

I’m not listening.

What would happen if we gave live human beings our full attention for that moment?

What do we risk missing when we don’t?

Do we really have to be plugged in 24/7 and so highly distracted?

What do you think?

Are you listening?

If you liked this post, feel free to leave a comment on link below.

Three reasons why most New Year’s resolutions are like bad marketing plans.


dr jones

source: dr jones

On January 3, when we returned from visiting family in New Jersey, I headed over to my local gym, as I do nearly 4 -5 days a week.

The lines for the treadmills were practically out the door.  I was in the mood for a run, the elliptical machine just would not do.  So I waited but I was secretly annoyed at the gym newbies taking up time on the equipment.  They’ll be out of here within a month, I thought.

On January 11, just over one week later, the traffic had already diminished.  It got me thinking about how New Year’s resolutions, particularly those focused on fitness and losing weight, are doomed to fail if they are structured like short-term tactical plans. Like poorly constructed marketing initiatives, they lack strategy, planning, support and accountability.

1. Many New Year’s Resolutions are short-term goals and not grounded in an overall strategy or cohesive plan.

Typical Resolution: “I’m going to loose 15 pounds this year“   This is a goal, but fairly tactical.

Better Resolution: “I am healthier and have increased my energy and resilience by committing to regular exercise and a more nutritious diet.”

This sets an intention in the present tense. It also communicates an overall mission with a strategy. What do you want to do and how are you going to get there?  Create a road map by writing down your goals and include a detailed action plan for each day or week so that you can track and celebrate your progress.

2. Many New Year’s Resolutions are made last minute.

This may indicate a lack of commitment and planning.  You’ll have better luck if your resolution is something you’ve identified is a strong need and that you’ve thought about for longer than 15 minutes. You’ve weighed the benefits of committing to the resolution (what benefits it will bring to your life) and you’ve analyzed what you’ll miss if you don’t stick to the resolution

3. Many resolutions aren’t shared with others and lack accountability.

To realize your goals, you need to write them down and you need support. Share your goals with others so they will support you and reinforce your commitment.  It is no surprise Weight Watchers is so successful. You get support from other members and you are accountable to others to demonstrate that you are sticking to plan.

Want to make a real change in your life?  Start now. Don’t wait until New Years, or your dog’s birthday or the next solar eclipse. Incorporate strategy, planning, support and accountability. And don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.

What tips to you have for achieving your goals?  Please click on the comment link and add your thoughts.