Category Archives: Strengths

Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the best version of ourselves

As the NBA prepares to begin training camps for the 2018-2019 season, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, ““It’ll be a great opportunity to start afresh with a brand new team, though we do have a lot of guys back, and see if we can be the best version of ourselves.” Teams often ask me after collaborative team building activities, “are we the best?” And I can also sense that they often wonder, “are we really bad?” In other words, how do we rate? How do we compare? How do we stack up? This is one of the amygdala in the brain’s sorting techniques to try to keep us safe. It’s usually not helpful. Better to be who we are. There’s no one like us. There’s no team like us, for better and for worse. Each individual on the team brings strengths and passions unique to that person. And each time is a unique combination of those strengths and passions, and weaknesses and blind spots, whether people on the team are brand new, or they’re veterans. Three helpful steps for any team to be your best Stop comparing with other teams (including teams you used to be on or previous versions of this team) Ask, “who are we, really? What’s unique about our people and our team collectively?” Now we know our identity, what we have to work with. Lastly, let’s be the best version of ourselves. Now we have something real to aim for. Not the best overall, and not avoiding being the worst overall. Let’s see if we can be the best version of ourselves.

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An independence break sparks passion

For Independence Day I went to Lake Sheomet. It’s what I wanted to do. Why is that important? Like previous years, I took the name of this summer holiday at face value. I put away the commitments, To Do lists, business needs, everything. From start to finish, I kept out anything tugging at me, any ‘shoulds’. July 4 was devoted to doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was a day of listening internally, of asking the question to a more native version of myself, “what do you want to do now?” And, “do you no longer want to do this now or keep going?” And like other past Independence Days, this process was not easy. It’s fascinating to see how much of daily life is boxed in with commitments, external and internal. And also interesting to see that some more civilized part of the self get a little concerned, or momentary panic at not actually knowing what is wanted. We get so used to being told what to do by the brain’s taskmaster that it’s not easy to switch to listening. And like other years, it was richly rewarding. Sitting under the pines and hemlocks, eating breakfast, reading, generating ideas, swimming, paddleboarding, eating lunch, then doing it all again as the sun slowly slid westward. AND I got a major new way to actually succeed at my perpetually undone to-do lists. What a Wednesday! We need moments like this. I do, you do. We especially need them if they seem dangerous or worrisome…or impossible. It doesn’t have to be a day at first. Perhaps it’s an hour. Perhaps five minutes. We were born with certain specific strengths. These talents and passion require attention and space to assert themselves into daily life, just like plants. Checking in with our inner intelligence on the direction of interest realigns us with our unique passions. We’re essentially saying to the best and most talented parts of ourselves, “I hear you, I see you, you’re important. You deserve a place on the decision-making table too.” External situations are no longer pushing us around. When is your next personal Independence Day going to be? Your next Independence Hour? Your next Independence Break? And what passion will it spark? “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

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All other airlines

The rental car shuttle was packed heading back to the Oakland Airport – every seat was filled. There were two stops. Stop #1 was ‘All Airlines Except Southwest’. Stop #2 was ‘Southwest’. The bus driver stopped at the first stop and called out ‘all other airlines’. No one moved. He waited, then drove on to the Southwest stop and we all got out. Is this what air travel has come to? What makes Southwest different? My reason is price, vibe, no major extra fees to get a decent window seat in the front half of the airplane and bags fly free. This is positioning – you see where everyone positions themselves and then you decide not to live there. You find your own place, a different spot away from the crowd. All other airlines and Southwest Living and acting from your passion does this. Your signature strengths are yours alone. There’s no one exactly like you in the world, there’s only you. Simple right? But we also have in our ancestral brains the desire to hide, to not stand out. It’s safer that way. So we hide the light. We try not to be weird. We feel safe, but not happy. And we become replaceable. If you were no longer here, who would miss you? Why? That missing will help you realize what makes you uniquely you. And when you know what makes you “you” you have a choice. Be like everyone else or be you. It’s scary stuff, I’m with you on that. The first stop is ‘all other people’. Don’t get off. Stay on the bus until the next stop…you. Learn more:  Influence: The Power of Persuasion - How can we consistently capture an audience, effectively make a point and carry everyone along toward a goal? How can we influence an outcome, even if we’re not in a position of authority? Customer Quest - What does it take to set a standard of excellence in customer care? What does the customer really want and how can you provide it for them?  

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Quix Tip: Dust For Prints

In old detective movies, the police would dust for fingerprints. Here’s your chance to dust your own: 1. Dust for prints from your memory – Think of some examples of when you have had a positive impact on the lives of those around you. Each of these is a clue to uncovering your strengths. 2. Dust for prints by having a ‘strengths conversation’ with someone who knows you fairly well. Ask them what about you has really helped or inspired them recently. 3. Tell your people something about them that has inspired you. Learn more: StrengthsFinder - Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action.

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Quix Tip: How to Find One of Your Strengths

Track It Name It Use It 1 – Track It Track and record your strengths for a week. When did you “love the game”? When were you happily lost in the flow of a project; whether work-related or not? Get specific. What exactly was going on? Who were you interacting with? 2 – Name It Take one of those magical moments you tracked and say it more generally and in the present tense, so that you can more universally put that strength into action. For example, “The time flew by Tuesday afternoon when I turned off my email for one hour and researched the statistics needed for the Jones report” could become “I’m at my best when I’m working alone and can devote a block of uninterrupted time to a part of a project that interests me.” 3 – Use It What is one small, specific way you can use this strength just a little bit more this coming week? Tell someone about your intention. Write it on a stickie note, put a reminder in your calendar, find a way to remember to give it a try again this week. Then after you’ve used it, notice how you felt. If it felt good, schedule it again. If you dreaded it, or didn’t enjoy it at all, it wasn’t a strength. Now repeat the process. Every time you discover one of your strengths and use it, you’re performing better and making your life and those around you better. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action. Strengths At Work – Gallup research says less than 20 percent of us have the opportunity to do what we do best everyday. Learn how to put your strengths in play for consistent, near-perfect performance. At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.

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Quix Tip: Giving to Yourself

What small graces can you allow yourself today? Each small gift you give yourself has the seed to be a larger gift to those around you. When Walt Whitman spoke of being alone out on the road, he remembered all those he knew and said, “I am filled with them and will fill them in return.” Research shows that only two in ten people spend most of a typical day playing to their strengths. Yet Marcus Buckingham points out that research also shows that those lucky people “are significantly more productive, more customer focused, and more likely to stick around than the rest of us.” When you live a strong life, doing what you uniquely enjoy, you experience contentment. And that contentment is a gift to all those around you. This is one reason why people have pets – a cat purring contentment when curled up on a couch is a soothing gift. And when you live your unique life, following the path that was meant only for you, you inspire those near you to do the same, to examine and explore their gifts. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action. Strengths At Work – Gallup research says less than 20 percent of us have the opportunity to do what we do best everyday. Learn how to put your strengths in play for consistent, near-perfect performance. At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.

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Get small, get calm, get happy with a purpose pause

If a problem, worry, or anxiety looms large, pause for a moment. Find a way to either tangibly savor something larger – take a walk in nature, talk to a loved one for example – or simply take this moment to fill yourself with appreciation for something bigger than yourself, wherever you are. Feel the larger space that is holding the current issue. Get right-sized. Here are twelve ideas for you to get small, calm and happier. Pick one right now and try it. Nature Your breath Co-workers Family – mate and/or children Community – friends, neighbors Spirituality and religion Pets Meditation Big Time – geological time, glaciers, the time it takes for the stars to reflect the sun’s light, the time it takes for a tree to grow Realizing how often you’ve made it through something similar in the past Exercise Make something up What usually helps you most? What will help you right now?

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The Phoebes Flew On Independence Day

On the morning of July 4th, the baby phoebes were in their nest. I went tubing on the Millers River in the afternoon and when we returned, the nest was empty. They left on Independence Day – their first flight. And they never returned, probably never even looked back, not once. They moved forward with clear vision and no misgivings and doubts into the adventure of their fresh, new life. They made the leap, their hero’s journey into the unknown. How did they do it? The Persian poet Rumi said, “Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall, and falling, they are given wings.” Much of my work involves helping people uncover their natural, unique strengths they were born with. These talents can hide in plain sight. One of the telltale signs of a strength is to pay attention to your longings. What do you miss, wish for in your life? Longing can be a map to uncovering and beginning to use a hidden strength. The phoebe nest sits empty now. A month later I still look at it and feel a now-familiar mixture of sadness that they’re gone and happiness for them that they’re free. The depth of a feeling of loss shows us how much we’ve let ourselves love. Here’s to you paying attention to a longing that you hold as you move through your days. And here’s to you taking a leap, and falling into the unknown of a new wild and precious life. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.  

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Prioritize With Persistence: Effort + Time = Success

Prioritizing with persistence involves examining your To-do list through the story of your long-term goals. We all can get lost in the weeds of immediate demands if we don’t consciously re-focus on projects that are vital to us but won’t get done in a day, a week, a month, a year or even a decade. Ask yourself these five questions: What’s one long-term goal or project that’s really important to me that I’d like to persist a little more with? Which item on my To-Do list is a step towards taking action on my important long-term goal? Which item on my To-Do list could be done repeatedly every day for at least thirty days (creating a new synaptic groove in the brain)? Which item on my To-Do list could be best moved along by application of grit, determination, will, perseverance? Which item is important enough for me to invest some long-term effort into? Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.

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Prioritize With Purpose: The Point Where You Meet the World

The world around you needs you.  Let’s start there.  There would be no To-do lists or prioritizing if the world, the people you know, your job, your team, your clients didn’t need you. Imagine a world where no one cared enough to need you, or anything from you.  It may sound wonderful for a short amount of time, but what about long term?  What a sad, lonely life! Look at your To Do list through the lens of being of the most use to the world around you. Look for the point where (as Frederich Boechner said), “Your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Ask yourself: What on my To-Do list is most important to me? What on my To-Do list is most important to the world? Where do those two items meet? What would provide the most benefit to the most people? What would allow me to see and viscerally experience the benefit I provide to the larger world? Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: At Your Best – Explore how to give your best and play to your strengths for sustained individual success.

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