April 5, 2013
Traveler, There Is No Path by Joanne Ladley
Those of you who know me know that one of my favorite quotes is from Machado: Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
I’m not sure why this quote is so intriguing to me. Maybe it’s because left to my own devices, I am a planner. Whether it’s my calendar, my business’s strategic plan, my financial retirement plan or my plan to be sure I exercise, everything has a time and a place. Sometimes I think it’s the only way I fit everything in. How else would I get it all done?
Planning is a very productive exercise. We’ve all heard that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And there’s some truth to that. But planning can sometimes give us the illusion of control. And the accomplishments that come from careful planning can give us a false sense of security.
Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out and I’m struttin’ my stuff pretty proudly because I’m right on target with my plan, something happens to remind me that I’m really not all that special and I don’t know quite as much as I thought I did. Something completely unexpected wreaks havoc with my plan – the stock market crashes, I sprain my ankle, the car breaks down to mention a few minor examples. Once again, I learn that important lesson of humility and perspective. I am reminded I am not in control after all.
So I pick myself back up, dust myself off and start putting one foot in front of the other again – start walking a path. Sometimes I even close my eyes and put out my hand and allow myself to be led by a God who deserves my trust. Those times of humility and blind trust, where I have no plan but to listen closely and keep putting one foot in front of the other have led me to new and exciting places.
New paths often start out slowly, there’s caution in newness. And with caution comes time to be careful, to think things through deliberately and to consider consequences. Making new paths doesn’t happen when I’m on auto-pilot thoughtlessly rushing from one thing to the next. I can be more aware when unproductive habits start creeping back in to my new routine.
Soon, I’m on a more familiar path, out of the fog and ready to start walking a little faster. The joy of a new path takes over and the excitement of exploration kicks in. Before I know it, I need a plan to keep it all in check.
Just be careful, I tell myself, the best laid plans…
December 5, 2012
Be Still... by Joanne Ladley
Be still and know that I am God has always been one of my favorite Bible verses. And in this ridiculously hectic season of shopping, decorating, family gatherings, music concerts and busy times at my retail place of business, it has become my mantra.
Normally I thrive on chaos. I love being busy. The challenge of efficiency, the tetrix-like puzzle of schedules, fitting everything in with the right people at the right time and the seemingly endless hours of “getting ready”. It’s all so exciting. However, you also may remember an earlier blog post of mine where I waxed eloquent about the tangible silence of a Montana sky. So I only thrive on chaos when it’s balanced with serenity.
I’ve developed a short list of suggestions for keeping that balance and am happy to share it during these holiday hours.
Breathe – It sounds so elementary but stopping to take deep, even breaths in and out is extremely calming. Start inhaling all the way down at your toes and slowly follow the breath up into your belly, your chest, your throat and your head. Then just as slowly exhale and follow it back through that same path all the way down to your toes. Just three or four breaths will work wonders to calmly center your mind and your body and voila! You’re back in balance – at least for a little while.
Meditate – Whether you start or end your day with it, or somewhere in the middle take time to quietly drop out of the chaos, it is an extremely calming exercise that will have lasting effects. It’s difficult to empty your mind and just be, but with practice the stillness comes quickly.
Be Grateful – An attitude of gratitude keeps up your spirits and your energy. Keep a gratitude journal or just promise to write down each day at least two things you’re grateful for that day.
Take a minute before automatically saying yes. – When you do, make sure you genuinely enjoy what you just agreed to do. I had a terrible time saying no. So I learned to say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me. I need to think about the opportunity for a little bit. I promise to call you back tomorrow and let you know if I can help out.” I was amazed how often after the initial compliment of being asked got a little time around it, I could clearly think about whether or not I really wanted to participate. And the next day it was much easier to say no if that was appropriate.
In this month, remember the reason for the season. – Staying true to the story of the humble manger, the birth of a Child, the wonder of His life brings me back to earth every time.
Enjoy this season of Christmas. When all the extras take too much time and too much space, don’t forget why we’re celebrating. And remember: Be still and know that I am God.
August 6, 2012
Replenish, Refresh and Celebrate by Joanne Ladley
I've spent the last week in one of my favorite places – Big Timber, Montana. Montana, and Big Timber specifically, is where I go to replenish my energy storage tanks. It's so important to replenish and to refresh. And by that I mean take a deep breath, slow down and actually see what's all around me, soak in the wonder of a different topography, and celebrate by showing all the gratitude I feel for the opportunity that is presenting itself.
Big Timber reminds me to keep balance in my life. Last month Roger North wrote about the potential pitfalls of being busy. I admit to thriving on a busy schedule. I deliberately work on keeping in check all the dangers Roger mentioned in his post. And I freely admit to getting tripped up by them periodically. I'll apologize to the people who have been affected by my inadvertent tripping. But usually before I begin to catch myself tripping more often than I want, I plan to visit Big Timber where busyness is out of my realm of possibilities.
In Montana I can hear the silence. I can see the Milky Way - literally see it. I can feel the warmth of the ranch families who are glad to see a neighbor back in town and ask about life back East even as they wonder why anyone would put up with that lifestyle. I drink in the opportunity to replenish my energy, both physical and spiritual, and express my gratitude for all the world to hear.
Research shows the American worker spends more hours and weeks at work than in any other culture in the world. Even when you love your work as much as I do, time away from work is important for so many reasons. Whether it's uninterrupted time with family, a refreshing quiet time alone, time to catch up on actually reading a book just because you'd like to, or time to enjoy a change of scenery because you need a new outlook, the energetic, refreshed result of a few days away is always welcomed. And they say with enough practice, you can get to where that same result can happen in much shorter timeframes if you can only spare an afternoon at a time.
So go ahead; give yourself the gift of time. Schedule it on your calendar – that's the only way it will happen for most of us. And come back refreshed, replenished and celebrating a new, energetic attitude of gratitude that will propel you through that first day catching up when you're back in the thick of things at work.
March 20, 2012
Vision & Accountability by Joanne Ladley
We all know about the power of a vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there? Articulating your direction, knowing who you are – it’s all fundamental to sustaining a successful business.
Let me add one more piece to the formula. Accountability to that vision.
Some of you know my son worked at Pike Place Fish Market for four years. On the surface and based on the video “FISH!” that made Pike Place world famous, one might think those fishmongers are all about having fun at work, throwing fish and creating a show for market visitors to enjoy. Those are by-products of the fishmongers’ real goal. What really drives Pike Place Fish is their vision – “World Peace, One Person at a Time.” The way that vision shows up is by making a difference for people, by being present in the moment and by being there for the people they meet at the market.
At Pike Place, they’re very clear about their direction – world peace. They’re very clear about who they are – peacemakers. And they’re very clear about how to fulfill that vision – make a difference for people, be present with them and make it your commitment that he or she leaves Pike Place Fish with a smile on her face.
Maybe most importantly, each fishmonger also asks a fellow fishmonger when he slips up on those fundamentals – “Hey, did you make a difference for that person right there?” Even better, when a customer walks away obviously thrilled with the tip she got on how to cook a King salmon, what to do with smoked cod, or completely relieved that his fish will be delivered to his hotel room door tonight so he doesn't have to lug it around all day, the monger gets a pat on the back and a “Now, that’s how you make a difference!” or “Way to go!” or just a wink of acknowledgement that he followed through on their purpose for being. And then at their mandatory bi-weekly dinner meetings, they review and renew those coachings and acknowledgements.
Vision is a powerful tool. It is a responsibility of the leadership team, Board or owners to create a compelling vision that will inspire everyone in the company to behave in a particular way. When the front line is holding each other accountable to behaving in that way, either by coaching when it doesn’t happen or recognizing people when it does, now that’s a successful, sustainable business.
December 5, 2011
Are You Sure You Know the Whole Story? by Joanne Ladley
As a consultant with the North Group I get to facilitate a number of peer groups. Establishing ground rules is always part of the first meeting’s agenda and “no judgments” is always one of our ground rules. Judgment makes it so easy to jump to conclusions or to form an opinion even if you don’t know the whole story. When you’re creating a safe environment you’re fostering a healthy community – be it a peer group or an entire city – and quick judgments do not further your cause.
I enjoy a very special opportunity as an Affiliated Consultant with North Group. It means I get to take on projects as my time and North Group’s demand allow. Consider this story from a tradition called “Giving Back” which the team members of Kitchen Kettle Village – where I spend the other part of my working life – have established at Christmastime.
The Giving Back program spreads across two school districts. Families receive Christmas dinner and other gifts for their children that they would otherwise not have. We hold bake sales, pancake breakfasts and gather donations from vendors and guests so we can collect and distribute items to those in need.
The spouse (let’s call him John) of one team member, who is particularly moved by the project, reluctantly offered one year to help distribute the gifts when the families came to pick them up at Kitchen Kettle the Friday before Christmas. That night a particular gentleman drove into the parking lot in a beautiful, expensive car and much to John’s surprise got in the line to pick up his free dinner and gifts.
“He drives a nicer car than I do,” John said rather angrily. “What’s he doing here?” As the driver of the car went through the food line it became obvious that John was going to be the one to help this gentleman carry the food and Christmas gifts to the man’s car. Imagine his surprise when the gift recipient asked if John knew how to open the trunk. The man said, “I don’t have a car and my neighbor let me borrow his to come get my food. I’ve never had so nice a car and don’t know where the buttons are to open the trunk.”
Remember, no judgment is a ground rule. You might not know the whole story.
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August 20, 2011
Relationship Checkpoints by Joanne Ladley
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships. What role do I play in creating the quality of the relationships I enjoy and treasure? And, is that role any different in the relationships that aren’t quite so easily enjoyed? Why are some relationships so frustrating and others so carefree?
The only constant ingredient in a relationship is me. If I’m not part of the equation, I can’t claim the relationship. So I must be the reason some interactions are easier than others, right? As much as I’d like to blame the other person when a conversation goes awry, it probably has more to do with me than with anyone else. Given that, I’ve developed a few checkpoints to ensure I’ve given 100% to the advancement of a healthy interaction.
Stop what you’re doing and honor the other person in this relationship by being with just them. We all pride ourselves on multi-tasking. We think we can’t survive unless we’re able to juggle five different balls which represent very important aspects of our life – our children, our spouses, our jobs, our bosses, our friendships. But think about it, you are only able to do one thing at a time at any one moment. The trick is to learn to be totally with the person or task you’re doing in any particular instant. No interruptions, no distractions, just one thing at a time. With practice, you may learn to move quickly from one person or task to the next. But at any given moment you are only focused on one thing.
Listen, I mean really listen, to what the other person is saying to you. Blank your mind, don’t have your answer ready before he even finishes speaking, don’t interrupt, and look him in the eye while he’s talking. Have you ever sat in silence? If you’re like me, a voice starts talking in your head during silence. It starts to remind you of all the things you have to do and wonders why you’re wasting time listening to nothing. When I’m listening to someone else talk, that voice still comes through sometimes. I’m not sure who that voice is but I do know I have the power to choose to quiet it. I just need to practice listening to only one person at a time.
Follow through on any commitments you’ve made. At the end of a conversation, make sure you know what you promised to do as a follow up. And then do it. And, do it in the timeframe you agreed. Don’t make promises lightly and be very clear what it was you promised to do.
Relationships are not to be taken lightly. If for some reason you betray a relationship, all you can do is hope and trust that the other person will allow you to make it right. If they don’t want to do that, you have very few alternatives. Checking your own role against a few basic habits like the ones listed above honors the esteem you give to another person who is important to you. And when someone else feels as if they’re important, it’s a pretty good foundation for a healthy, reciprocal and exciting relationship.
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