Developing Empathy: Your competitive advantage

Many leaders today indicate that one of their top developmental priorities is to improve communication and engagement. At the heart of successful communication and engagement is empathy, your competitive advantage. Often touted as an “innate ability” to see things through the eyes of another, successful executive coaches would argue otherwise claiming proven success in working with clients to develop this leadership competency. It is however, fully acknowledged that for some individuals, particularly those with autism and individuals with conditions such as that of a psychopath, empathy is hard-wired in the brain and cannot be developed.

Having empathy in written communication provides meaningful insights to ensure the “message sent” is perceived as was intended. In face to face communications, demonstrating empathy is most apparent in how we listen first and then respond. Identifying what is most important to the other person. Empathy often confused with sympathy, is not about feeling sorry for or agreeing with someone. Empathy enables a person to deliver a message whether in written form or face to face knowing that you will get maximum effect because it was written or formulated with the other person’s perspective in mind.

Like any other learned skill, developing empathy requires awareness, attention, and focused commitment that leads to sustainable change. The beauty of this approach to improved communication is that it is relevant for all levels within an organization. From classrooms to boardrooms to relationships in our personal lives, empathy is a valuable tool to have in your toolbox. With a significant increase in today’s global interactions through virtual teams and various platforms such as social media, developing this competitive advantage is key for those who want to succeed in building meaningful relationships.

While the degree to which empathy can be developed may vary from person to person, working with an executive coach and using assessment tools to measure and then develop empathy is a great solution for achieving long term results. There are however, a few simple strategies that you can apply today to test your awareness, place your attention, and demonstrate your focused commitment toward an enhanced level of empathy.

  1. Awareness – Consult someone you trust implicitly to tell you the truth. Explain to them that you are trying to assess your empathetic approach and invite them to play along. Engage in a conversation about something meaningful for 5 minutes. Then write down the 5 key points that you “heard” as being most important to the other person. Read it back to them and ask them to score you using a scale of 1-10. With 1 being lowest in terms of your perception of their view and 10 being highest.
  2. Attention – Find a quiet place that you are able to do some reflective thinking. Now take a close look at the scaling responses received from the previous exercise. Determine what you have learned from them, both individually and collectively. Ask yourself questions such as: Where might you place your attention so that it has a greater impact on your intention? What might you have done differently or thought of differently to have a more empathetic approach? What skills and abilities do you currently have that might help you with being more empathetic? What did you notice about their facial expressions? Did their voice change frequencies or pitch at all when using certain words? What might you have noticed about their body language when speaking? What might you pay closer attention to the next time you are conversing with someone in person? For written communication, ask yourself:  What word or words jump out at you as being repetitive? Why might this message have been framed this way? If I were the writer rather than the receiver, what would I be trying to achieve with this message?
  3. Commitment – Like all change, we need to commit to taking the first step. Make a date with yourself to try out what you’ve learned from this exercise. Take it seriously. Put it in your calendar. Find someone else whom you trust and try this same exercise out on them. Compare your results and continuously look for ways to improve. Question your assumptions and seek feedback from others. If the commitment is there, results will follow.

I’m sure we have all been in situations whereby someone could have benefitted from having used a more empathetic approach. Perhaps, that person was me or you. Empathy is often associated with having good listening skills because we are hearing not only the words that are spoken, but the ones in between too. The ones which are most important to the other person. Put your feet in someone else’s shoes and walk around a bit. Notice a new perspective?

Best wishes for a more empathetic approach!  Glo

(C) 2012 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

Resourcefulness: A learned skill

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Lately I have been pondering what it means to be resourceful. I mean truly resourceful. What I’ve discovered is how much we tend to overlook this very valuable skill. As an entrepreneur, I’m continuously asking myself questions like “how else might I be able to accomplish this?” The mere fact that it is a skill is great news. It’s not something we are born with but it is something we can develop if we practice.  To be resourceful means that we are able to think of alternate ways to look at a situation, make connections, and come up with solutions. Often times, multiple solutions! 

Coaching is extremely effective in facilitating this process because it provides us with an opportunity to think outside the box and to look at situations from multiple angles. It is through this process that we become more open and being open creates choice. We go from feeling stuck to having hope. No more of this “I can’t” mindset. Having hope gives us a sense of “I-can-ness” which is very powerful stuff. I mean, take a look at the cat above. Pretty clever I’d say!

In my blog post to kick off the new year, I referred to adopting a mindset of both/and rather than either/or. This simple shift can make a major difference in how we live our lives and recognize what is available to us. This is key. It is far too easy to forget what and who might be available to us as we focus on new ideas, solutions and connections. Sometimes the best solutions are when we combine old with new to create something even better! This is at the heart of collaboration and comes with being resourceful. This skill is available to each and every one of us if only we allow it. 

Resourcefully yours, Glo

(c) 2012- True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

Coaching and Creative Juices

This blog post was first published in March 2010 when I was still in training with Erickson College International  to become a coach.  I was just starting my practice.  Looking back at old blog posts on the weekend, I thought this may be a good one to revisit.  I hope you enjoy it!

I’ve been learning so many interesting things about our 3 part brain system through my learning as a coach. You may read this opening statement and say who cares about our brain system?  As long as I have one I’m good to go. Or you may give in to your curious side and keep reading to see where this is going… 

The reptilian-reticular brain is very useful for immediate action and senses things like danger and lets us know when to fight or flight.  The emotional brain is named the limbic system.  It is a group brain or team based mammalian brain and it is the one we share with our pets.  It likes sameness and avoids change and is focused on present tense.  It helps us to move into action through emotions (love, command, protect, teach etc).  The cerebral cortex system, also called the neo-cortex is the third brain in development and occupies the majority of the brain cavity. It is the part of the brain that has future visioning capacity.  It does our imagining for us and it is extremely flexible.  It allows us to create movies in our minds through visualization. 

I used to believe that only certain people had the ability to be creative and I most definitely never considered myself to be one of those people.  I would focus on what I’m not instead of what I am.  Afterall, I’m not an artist, an actor, an architect, a musician or any of the stereotype creative professions.  I am me.  A lover of life, people and all things business related.  Ah ha!  Business related.  I think and see possibilities or opportunities where some people only see roadblocks but why is that?

Over the past few months through the process of becoming a coach, I’ve had the great fortune of working with some great coaches to increase my quantity and quality of creative thought.  This is very exciting stuff especially for someone who didn’t realize it was even possible!  What I’ve learned is that what I used to believe about creative thought process has gone out the window.  In order to have creative thought and be able to vision, we need to engage the neo-cortex.  All this time I have spent focusing on what I’m not instead of what I can be.  What a breakthrough!  

The coaching that I am training in is is solution focused and forward thinking.  By engaging the neo-cortex more often through specific tools and exercises, we can use the whole brain system to create change.  Once we have those visions we have more options or choices which can generate excitement.  We may even experience those infamous “ah ha” moments. We no longer feel stuck.  We have hope and hope helps to promote optimism.  Suddenly, we see a path. We can get to our desired state through development, commitment and use of an action plan.

The brain plays such an important part in getting our creative juices flowing and sometimes we just need a little support to get there.  What are some of the things that you do to get your creative juices flowing?  What works best for you?

Cheers,

Glo

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(c) 2010 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

The Courage to Act

In many aspects of our lives both personal and professional, we are faced with situations requiring courage.  Courage to act when needed.  Courage to move on when needed. Courage to step out of our comfort zone and take risks.  Courage to reach out to others.  Courage to say no when we mean no and yes when we mean yes.  Courage to dive in even when the water looks icy cold! 

Having courage isn’t only about taking action.  Depending on the circumstances, sometimes it requires courage to sit back, listen and reflect.  Acting with courage can appear lonely.  Sometimes it is lonely.  Sometimes others will join you.  Having courage does not necessarily make us heroes.  It can however, provide us with a deep and fulfilling sense of satisfaction.  Anyone can do the easy thing but it takes tremendous courage to do the right thing.  If the right thing includes instigating change, we can start by putting our big toe out there.  Everything we have ever learned, we started with taking a first step.  By moving forward, we are moving toward what we believe in.  We are acting with personal integrity.

If you want things to change, you must believe in yourself and your vision.  Ask questions that help to bring clarity.  Be open to learning and discovering.  Request the support of those who are close to you and who believe in you.  Consider working with a Professional Coach.  Discover your inner wisdom and new found strength.  I think you’ll find the water is pretty warm!

“Believe in yourself and all that you are.  Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle” ~ Christian D. Larson

Wishing you continued success in all that you do!

Glo

(c) 2011 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

Inspiring leaders to do good

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Capitalism in North America is at a turning point and the rate of change that is happening in the world today is a clear reflection of our need to evolve with it.  Stores that offer used goods are opening in droves.  GM closed down Hummer.  Children today look for the recycling boxes before the trash.  Global decisions based on environmental impact and sustainability are increasing exponentially.  We, as human beings, are going back to our values systems.  We are inherently interconnected yet we have often been living our lives disconnected.  The need to “look” and “lead” from within, to question and to define our purpose is at the forefront of becoming who we are.  Life is becoming yet again more meaningful.  We are the architects of our lives.

We are looking for options, multiple choices and win win situations.  But we panic.  We rush around from problem to problem trying to clean up the mess while creating more.  We’ve lost sight of what is important and we all want it back.  It is through deep reflection that we create the needed space for inspiration and it is through inspiration that the choices begin to unfold just like dominos.  The universe is abundant with choice.  We, as humans of the universe, are abundant with choice.  When we view the world and each other in this new and powerful light, we are filled with solutions.  We are replacing problem solving with solutions.  We are replacing fear with hope.  We are replacing chaos with calm.  We are replacing stuck with potentiality.

Leaders have not only the ability, but the innate desire to create sustainable change and find what matters to deepen our existence.  Forging through new pathways in a world whose heart has been closed.  To touch the lives of many with love and compassion while bringing meaning, is to perform open heart surgery in homes, organizations and classrooms in both developed and underdeveloped countries across the Globe.  It is through the simplest forms of opening our hearts and giving that we generate a buzz.  Supporting people to discover their truth and to define their legacy is simply giving them the brush.  Possibilities emerge bringing forth a kaleidoscope of color enabling simple portraits to become grand masterpieces.

What might be some of the ways that Leaders today can use these choices to generate inspiration in all of humanity so that inspiration to “do good” becomes contagious?

Cheers, Glo

(C) 2011 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

Putting Your Best Foot Forward?

How often do you find yourself doing things without putting your best effort into it?  You’re tired, you’re busy, you and or someone you are close to may have health issues, you’re disinterested, you’ve got fear of failure, fear of success or you may even need to learn something new!  Obstacles in life, no real shortage of them it seems… 

It’s only once we begin to understand why we’re feeling a certain way, that we can actually deal with it.  Clearly, some things are within our span of control and some are not.  Feeling tired all the time?  What might you do to drive your energy levels up?  Got too much on your plate?  How much of it, if any, is self inflicted?  Health related issues?  Although not always enough, are you getting proper medical attention?  If someone you are close to has health issues, what do you need to do to ensure that you are in good health in order to support them in the best possible way?  Bored or disengaged?  What might you do to spice things up a little?  Got the failure or success jitters?  What new skills might you learn that will help to alleviate some of those nasty gremlins?        

You’re not alone!  At one time or another, it’s likely that we have all experienced variations of these and other obstacles.  It’s what you do about it that matters.  If you want to enjoy what you do and how you live your life, take a look at the things that prevent you from moving forward.  If they are within your control, start with small steps, but do start.  Create some goals for yourself.  Enlist the support of those close to you or perhaps even a Coach.  You can’t put your best foot forward if you’re not even sure which one that is.  Remember, you can’t control how others react or behave but you are in full control of both your attitude and yours actions.  According to Google, a wise but unknown soul coined the phrase “If you believe it, you will achieve it!”   

The best thing is that energy and positive emotions are contagious.  Not only will your move forward inspire you to go further but you may just inspire others along the way!

Which one will it be?  Right foot or left?

Cheers, Glo

(C) 2010 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

Bullseye!

There are different aspects of our lives that bring true meaning.  They provide us with happiness, a sense of fulfillment and an ability to experience pure joy.  Depending on what is going on both professionally and personally, where we sit in terms of these aspects can vary greatly.  Let’s say for example that you were to think of your life successes as accomplishments and achievements.  In order to obtain those, you may need to make changes in your life which causes a need and desire to create and innovate.   Then there are those relationships in our lives which bring us joy.  The smallest little jesture or connection from someone that causes you to stop and think about what is truly important.  As we reflect on who we are and who we want to be known for, we search for deeper meaning and our lifes purpose.  Some people look and find it, others don’t. 

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Sometimes we’ve got a bullseye in a few key areas of our life and yet we’ve missed the dart board altogether in others.  A piece of the puzzle isn’t fitting, we aren’t as fulfilled as we want to be.  Often we can put our finger right on it and say with conviction “I want to be more creative.  I want to learn to think outside the box.  To challenge the status quo and come up with meaningful solutions to some of the issues I’m faced with on a daily basis.” OR “I want to focus more on the relationships in my life and how valuable they are to me.” OR “I want to not only set goals but I want to find the way that works for me so that I am achieving and celebrating them.” OR “I want my life to have true meaning so that I can look back with pride at who I have become and how I have contributed to the lives of others.  I want to look ahead with passion knowing that I am fulfilled and excited by the possibilities of a new day.”

Sometimes it’s a bit more of a challenge to put our finger on what, if anything, is missing.  Our vision isn’t clear.  Something is amiss…we struggle, we feel stuck, we take a new course, join a new gym, paint the living room a new color and still we drag ourselves out of bed dreading the day.    

Whichever aspect of your life is the dart that missed the board, you’ve got everything  needed to figure it out and change what is within your control.  We tend to underestimate how powerful change can be and instead we focus on the obstacles.  At times we may need support to help us think in a new and empowering way.  Through the power of solution focused Coaching you will experience these insights firsthand.  You will be amazed at how all of your darts not only make it on the board, but they get a bullseye! 

“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle” – Christian D. Larson

Celebrating you and all that you are and all that you can be!

Cheers,  Glo

Note: Several of the ideas from this post are adapted from an article written by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen “How Will You Measure Your Life?”  To purchase a copy of this very inspiring article please visit http://hbr.org/

(C) 2011 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

How Clear Is Your Vision for 2011?

Well here we are…it’s the last day of the year and also the day when many people set and declare goals for the New Year!  Whether they are big or small, short or long term, personal, professional and or spiritual, what will you be doing to ensure that you are committed to achieving yours? It’s been my experience that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.  We are unique and we all have different values systems and perspectives.  Learn what works for you and be like Nike and Just Do It!

One thing which I have done and I find works well for me especially if I’m setting significant goals is that I break them down into small steps which are more manageagable.  Another thing I find helps is to celebrate at every milestone or step by setting up a reward system.  Presently I’m at year 2 of a 3 year plan making this goal of a career change a fairly substancial one however when I chunk it down, it’s really just a series of smaller actions which are of benefit to my life in general and also to the big picture.  To help stay on track I created a map broken down by year and then month.  Pretty simple to follow and as you can see green is complete and red is yet to come…the rewards are also built right in!

The important thing to remember is not what it looks, feels or sounds like to me.  The important thing is what it means to you!  The goals that are truly yours should come from within, they should be on your agenda and not what someone else expects of you.  Be a part of creating your future and you will own it!  I encourage you to celebrate at every step you reach, big or small celebrate them all.  Hey, that rhymes!

And lastly stay the course…make sure your vision is crystal clear.  If times get tough or if circumstances beyond your control become obstacles, do whatever works for you to keep your vision in your mind, in your heart or wherever it means the most to you.  I’m a visual person so I have this picture of Arizona with me heart, mind and soul.  I love the big blue sky in Arizona and the magnificent red rock against it.  This particular photo with the reflection in the water is a reminder of my vision.  A change in careers for me has been truly life altering and yet, there is nothing special about what I’ve done.  I’ve created a long term goal and broken it down into small and manageable steps.  This is something we all have the ability to do.  Coaching is one of those professions where people ask all the time, what does a Coach do?  Coaching is about you, not me.  If you’re looking for advice, ask a family member or a friend.  They love giving advice!  If you’re looking for someone to challenge you to come up with your own reality and your own agenda from deep within, ask a Coach!

Wishing you a wonderful New Year filled with love and light and all things bright!

Cheers,  Glo

(c) 2010 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

You Wanna Do WHAT??

Have there been times in your life where you thought it’s time for a change and all you hear is “You wanna do WHAT??”  A career change, a new business idea you want to implement or a life change that may seem so radical to your friends and family that you have a hard time “selling” your idea or your vision of what could be.  Have you been deterred from doing something that truly excites you and ignites your passion?  Is it those nasty gremlins that keep creeping up?  Does it seem impossible or perhaps not worth the effort involved?  Have your excuses ever become a way of living?  Are you truly living at this point or are you settling?

Many of you have other people to consider when contemplating major change.  You want to ensure that you take their perspective into consideration especially if they will be affected by “your” change.  At the same time you don’t want to lose momentum for reaching your desired outcome. Unless you are a lotto winner, it’s likely that you have some financial responsibilities to consider when making important career or life changes.  Maybe you need to take out a loan to go back to school or to buy a cottage or move to the promise land.  You may also have specific fears or gremlins and they may have nothing to do with money.  There is no shortage of questions and various scenarios running through your mind.  Sounds like quite the balancing act and one that many people are faced with whenever major change is involved.  

The next time you are facing one of these hurdles, try working with a Coach.  Through use of different tools and techniques, an effective Coach will help you to first identify and then conquer those fears.  Your Coach will ensure that your core values are properly aligned to your goals through value identification.   Using a series of thought provoking questions, they will challenge you and help you to determine through clarification where the right balance is for you so that you can find peace in your decisions and in your actions.  Unlike your friends and family who want to offer you advice, your Coach (when in Coach position) is going to work with you to ensure that the answers and the path forward comes from within. 

As Tommy Lasorda said “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a persons determination”

How determined are you to be excited and passionate about your life, what you’re doing and the choices you are making?  Want to take those great ideas and turn them into reality?  What steps are you prepared to take to create change in your life or business?

Cheers,

Glo

(c) 2010 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

Milestone Birthdays, A Reason To Celebrate!

Mom and Glo

I know a few people who are celebrating milestone birthdays this year: my amazing Mom who is such a sweetie (80), my beautiful nieces Katie (30) and Jenna (18), my good friends Rachel O’Neil (30) and Stephen Prout (40) and my new twitter friend Lisa Larter (40).  Aside from Mom, I have surpassed the others in age so finally I get to speak from experience!   WOW, how old does that make me??  LOVE it! 

Whether you are turning 18, 20, 30, 40, 50 (that’s my next big one) or 80 life can be so awesome.  I say “can be” because life is what you make it according to my Mom.  Not sure about you but I’m willing to listen to someone who is older and wiser…plus I think she has a valid point.  It’s up to us to have reason to celebrate.  If we focus on the good things that we have done, can do and will do we will have plenty of reasons right there.  No sense in beating ourselves up for missed opportunities or for screwing up.  They are there to learn from but they don’t need to be part of our path forward either.  Life is a series of learning experiences.  Time is well spent being grateful for what we have, who we are and then working towards our goal of any changes we’d like to make. 

Milestone birthdays are a cause for celebration, of a life well lived and loved.  Embrace the years as they go by and live each one to your fullest.  We are all here for a purpose.  If you need help finding yours, I’m here for you as a Coach.  As the saying goes “happiness is a journey, not a destination”

Happy Birthday Year to Mom, Katie, Jenna, Rachel, Stephen, Lisa and to anyone I may have missed that is celebrating a new decade this year.  May you have a spectacular year filled with BLISS  xox

Cheers,

Glo

(c) 2010 – True Bliss Coach Gloria Higdon

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