Awkward! What not to do when starting a blog (and a few things that worked too)

I’ve been a veteran blogger for four months now, so thought I’d share what I’ve learned about blogging. It won’t be rock science, but might be helpful all the same…

1. Watch some YouTube videos on how to blog

I’m a Gex X…why do I keep forgetting that? I can’t figure out technology sans help. It would have saved a lot of frustration and hours (not to mention a few grey hairs) if I had started by researching how to use this foreign technology. If only I had watched an hour of YouTube videos first (after all, I ended up having to anyway!)

2. Not gotten so caught up in the “shiny” things about blogs

Sure, deciding whether to buy a theme or not to buy a theme is super important in the grand scheme of things, not to mention which colour palette to choose, but probably less so than the content. I think I changed the “look” of my blog about a dozen times in the first two weeks. I am pretty sure no one was more drawn to my blog because of my final selection (in fact, I can tell you from the stats they were definitely not drawn to a blog with only one post and a rapidly changing “look”). And don’t look at my blog with that “I-don’t-know-what-all-the-fuss-was-about-it-looks-pretty-plain-to-me” expression!

3. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No seriously, don’t take yourself too seriously…

Like the colour, I wanted to pick the “perfect” title and caption. Picking your URL and title is important, granted, because it’s hard to change the URL and switching your title can be confusing to followers. However, if I had to do it all over again, I would have thought of something creative, fun and inviting for my title and caption. My blog’s title is kinda serious. It’s also exactly what I want to talk about. So, I guess finding the balance requires time to sit back and think about how to best capture that balance. Unless you’re an uber serious person with an intense topic, how can your blog’s title be both accurate and fun?  Kinda like these:

Image4. Use titles that catch search engine’s attention

When people are doing a Google search, you likely want them to stumble upon your site. If you’re trying to be overly witty or unique, there’s a good chance the only people who will catch onto your blog are those who follow you already (your blog or other social media you use to promote it). Although I don’t really like the “4 Things that didn’t work…” sorta person, I thought I better figure out how to make it work if I was going to invest the time into blogging! No point in having a blog that no ones reads (otherwise I’d just talk to myself and save myself the carpal tunnel!)

 

And more importantly, the things I’d do again…

1. Write a bunch of content when I had time

Life gets busy and some weeks I barely have time or energy to write. Other times I get really excited about a topic, the writing comes easily and I seem to have more time (such as if the kids and hubby go up north). Keeping draft content ready to publish means you can always have something on the ready to just click “post” and it seems like you’re writing all the time!

2. Invite guest bloggers to share their wisdom

I think other people are way more interesting to learn from, and the wisdom of many is superior to the wisdom of one. I started asking other strengths-based leaders to answer questions that I’d find interesting and guess what? Others found their responses interesting too! Who knew that interesting people would have cool things to say?!

3. Leverage social media to promote every blog post

I get more traffic on days I promote my blog through LinkedIn Groups, Twitter and Facebook than on days I don’t. Don’t believe me? You can see the stats of what people are reading, on what days, and how they accessed your content. Plus, it makes all those people in high school that made fun of you think you’re super smart posting brilliant things all the time! Seriously though, make sense a social media tool would be best supported by another social media tool, so connect them for heaven’s sake!

 

Best advice (not that you asked) is have fun with it! It’s an extension of you – your interests, life experience and strengths, so be true to yourself and let it reflect the real you! The more you can do these things, the longer you’ll stay with your blog!

 

 

 

 

5 Great Strengths Tools and Exercises: Exploring your own and others’ strengths with intention

From self-reflection to teambuilding, here is a good list of strengths-based exercises and tools that will help you and your colleagues explore your own and each others’ strengths more deeply so you can get onto the business of honouring and leveraging them everyday! To learn more, just click on the link for a full explanation of the tool and how to use it. Enjoy!

  1. A Plate of Strengths
  2. Scaling in Action
  3. Resource Gossiping
  4. VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire
  5. Strengths Map

Don’t forget to comment what strength exercise you liked the best and any tips for us!

Exercise: Strengths Map

Do you know what your colleagues’ top strengths are? Do they know yours? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’, they try some ideas below!

Steps:

  1. Each person completes the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire
  2. Everyone shares their top 3 or so strengths. Perhaps even create a “Strengths Map”. Reflect on similarities and differences (see sample strengths map below):
Gloria Jenny Steve Ben
Bravery X X
Honesty X
Fairness X X
Perseverance X X
Humility X X
Spirituality X X X

3. Each person describes what honouring those top strengths looks like for them.

  • What do you need from your colleagues?Image
  • How will your colleagues know when they are honouring it?

Make it visual and fun – don’t just stay in your seats!

4. Describe what not honouring each top strength looks like for you.

  • What doesn’t work? How would someone take each strength for granted?
  • What behaviour would be the opposite of honouring each top strength for you?

5. Combine what people say they need (and what doesn’t work) into group rules based on common themes.

6. Post top strengths and ground rules somewhere you can easily see and access the lists. Reflect on periodically, particularly when going through a tough time as a team.

Related posts:

How Resourceful is Your Gossip?

ImageWe often thing of gossip as a bad thing, and with good reason. Often it’s mean-spirited and hurtful; a passive-aggressive way to bully someone. But does it always have to be?

Not necessarily.

Gossip, without the negativity, is simply speaking about the other person when they are not there. So, theoretically, could it be positive? You bet!

Have you ever told someone how much you admired a friend or colleague when the person of your praise was not present? Have you ever said “oh, I know someone who is good at that, you should call X!” Have you relayed a story about a colleague who impressed you with your spousewhen you got home? I know I have.

My colleagues and I call scenarios like these “resource gossiping”. Not only do it do it, we in fact encourage people to do it and teach them how!

So go ahead. With your best of intentions at heart, talk freely about the great things you see, hear, and think about the greatness all around you, even with the subject is not there to hear it! I bet you will notice the greatness all around you all the more (you have to be on the look out to live the intention to share it!) You may also hear through the grapevine that someone has been talking about your strengths too!

Related post:

Exercise: Scaling in Action

Lots of people use this exercise, Scaling in Action, as an icebreaker or activity during workshops. It’s also great in meetings. I even learned it as an adult education tool (you may know it as “Voting With Your Feet”).Image

The purpose is to have people evaluate where “scale” themselves for each question or statement you make, standing in relation to where they fall on the scale you outline. Just point out the parameters (e.g., “the left side of the room represents a rating of “1” and the right side of the room a “10”, stand in relation to that 1 to 10 rating on how you respond to the statement X”). You can use this exercise for virtually any topic – including of course strengths! Here’s an example:

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely low and 10 being extremely high, to what extent do you feel:

  Current Rating Desired Rating
You know your top strengths
You believe your colleagues know your top strengths
You and your peers are able to contribute their top strengths in the organization
When your organization is in a crisis, leaders are able to leverage their top strengths

You can also have people record their responses on a piece of paper (like how this is outlined above), either reassuring people they can keep their ratings to themselves or asking them to share it as a group. As I say, what’s so cool about this exercise is how flexible it is!

  • How have you used scaling? What worked? What would you do differently?
  • How might you use it in a way you have never tried before?

Related post:

Exercise: A Plate of Strengths

This exercise has been adapted from one in fellow coach Michael Bungay Stainer’s book Do More Great Work. This exercise offers a quick and insightful way you can process the greatness that is you by breaking it into what you show to the world and what you keep more to yourself. Combined with a strengths tool like the VIA Signiture Strenghts Questionnaire, it’s a powerful self-reflection exercise. Great thing is, you can do it on your own or with your team. If you like the Johari Window concept, you’ll like this.

Materials:Image

  • Thin markers
  • Paper plate (not shiny or else the marker will rub off)
  • Optional: results from the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire or other strengths tool

Steps:

  1. List on the outside of the plate all the strengths that you show to the world.
  2. Flip the plate over. On the inside, write all the strengths you know you possess but perhaps others may not know about you.
  3. Refer to your VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire or other strengths tool. Record any you have missed either on the inside or outside of your plate.
  4. Reflect:
    1. How visible are your strengths to others? Do you let your best self be known to the world or do you keep most of that do yourself?
    2. How much are you able to leverage your strengths in your current environment/situation?
    3. To what extent do you live into your strengths (or do you downplay them)?
  5. Identify one thing you would like to do as a result of these reflections. Remember, just one next step at a time – that way you’ll know what you can attribute your success to!
  6. Select a place you can keep your plate as a reminder of your strengths. Set an intention to keep recording them as you live into them.

 Let me know how it goes!

Related posts:

Interview #6 with a strengths-based leader: Author, speaker, trainer and executive coach Gloria Miele

 Trainer, Coach, Speaker and Author Gloria Miele

Trainer, Coach, Speaker and Author Gloria Miele

1. As a professional coach, how do you help clients better understand and leverage their strengths? 

First, I let people know my perspective and my bias. I help people focus on their strengths, which I define as the intersection between what you do best and what you love to do most.  That’s the sweet spot where you can really thrive and excel.

I’m always taken aback when people say things like, “Do you have a test for weaknesses,” or a recent favorite, “I can’t wait to sit down with you and have you shred me apart.” Huh? How’s that going to help?

Dwelling on what’s not working is something people tend to do anyway, part of those negative messages that mess with our confidence. I want to lend a fresh perspective of strengths to help energize, excite and engage my clients. I love seeing the light go on when someone really starts thinking about what they love and how they can do more of it.

As a psychologist, I also value what you can learn about a person from a standard assessment. I typically recommend the Strengthsfinder 2.0 from the Gallup organization and the Values In Action test from for people to get an objective sense of their strengths and values. On my website, I offer a free workbook designed to help you create a goal-setting strategy completely informed by your strengths and successes. It’s a different, more positive way to work on your goals.

2. Your LinkedIn profile references your interest in appreciative inquiry. How can appreciative inquiry fit with strengths in leadership?

AI is an exciting process that focuses on what empowers and energizes an organization. It is a powerful organizational change and development system with a strengths-based approach.

AI has 4 steps: Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. The Discovery phase entails exploring “the best of what is,” a time when you or your organization was at its best. Understanding how your strengths and values fit into those successes is essential to the process. From there, the following steps are Dream by imagining what could be; Design by determining what should be; and Destiny, creating what shall be.

By examining the successes and strengths of an organization, a leader can move forward new initiatives that have already proven to work. A strengths-based leader keeps this type of inquiry going, checking in or debriefing in a more positive direction. Another benefit of AI is that it encourages input from all stakeholders. Whether you work in a cubicle or the C suite, all voices are valued. In this way, more viewpoints are represented and can make a difference.

You can learn more about AI here.

3. As an educator and trainer, how do you teach people about strengths in leadership? How do you make this meaningful to them?

One thing I learned from being a clinician is to start where the person is and that self-awareness is key to behavior change. So, letting people explore and understand their own strengths is the place to start. Ask yourself, “What am I best at?” “What do I love to do?”

Then you look outside yourself to see the perspectives of others. What are the strengths of the others on your team and the goals to be met? Maximizing each person’s strengths can create a skilled, energetic and engaged team.  For a few years I taught a business planning class for entrepreneurs through an excellent non-profit, Women’s Economic Ventures in Southern California.  These primarily (but not exclusively) women sign up for a 14-week class to turn their skill, talent, and strengths into a business: massage therapists, business consultants, retail, specialty food makers, and more.  They want to make a living doing what they love to do and being their own boss.

But business success requires managing a lot more than your passion: marketing, financials, technology, systems that may not be your areas of strength. In fact, you may know nothing about balance sheets or marketing strategy.  A great leader knows their own strengths but also what’s needed in the big picture. It’s so important to get the help you need when you’re a business owner by tapping into the strengths of others, looking beyond your own skills to see what type of support you need to round out your best qualities and create a more balanced, productive team.

4. When you think of one of the most significant moments in your career (a highlight or low point), what role did strengths play in it?

I pursued coach training because I was looking for something new, a different way to help people.  I was a research scientist working virtually on a number of national research projects, my days spent on conference calls and in front of my computer working on research papers. While I’m a good researcher and understand well issues related to research design and methodology, I became a psychologist because I wanted to help people. Yes research helps, but it’s less direct than therapy or coaching. I’m a people person and a great trainer, at my best when helping others learn and integrate new material, whether that’s a research protocol or a workshop on becoming a stronger leader.

During a walk on the beach with my coach training classmates, I realized I needed to do more of what I loved and was best at. I realized I had spent the first 20 years of my career almost entirely focused on what was wrong with people – their symptoms, disorders and pathologies – and wanted to spend more time focusing on what was going well with people – their strengths, talents and aspirations. I started focusing more on strengths and made a concerted effort to secure more projects that entailed training and coaching and fewer that entailed writing research papers. It was a huge turning point.

5. What are your Top 5 strengths and how do you put them into play as a leader?

My strengths are Empathy – Strategic – Developer – Communication – Woo.

As you can see, my strengths tend to be interpersonal, and are mostly in the leadership domains of relationship building and influence. As a leader, I quickly build strong relationships with people through perspective-taking and active listening (Empathy) in the service of helping them achieve more, learn more and develop their potential (Developer).  I’m also good at delivering a message (Communication) and can be persuasive with a group (Woo). I also tend to see connections between ideas, people, and events and how to navigate the best route for future possibilities (Strategic).  I’ve come to appreciate and understand these qualities in a variety of contexts and have applied them to be a stronger leader.

On the VIA, my top character strength is humor and playfulness, which I see as the glue that holds everything together. I naturally tend to value and create a fun, joyful environment that makes people comfortable and relaxed. It’s a great combo with my other strengths, especially Communication and Woo.

6. If you had to recommend one or two essential books for strengths-based leaders, what would they be and why?

There are so many great books out there that speak to leaders’ strengths, but I’d first recommend Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. It’s a great place to start, since it also includes a code to take the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment. You also receive an in depth report on how to put your strengths into practice as a leader, how to focus on others’ strengths and how to create teams that represent the four domains of leadership strengths: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building and Strategic Thinking.

And I’d also recommend readings in positive psychology, a field brought to life by Martin Seligman, Founder and Director of Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania. The VIA is available there, as well as dozens of other interesting assessments on happiness, quality of life, character strengths and more.  Positive Leadership by Kim Cameron is an excellent book that looks at the science and practice of creating positive organizations through strengths and other research-based concepts related to positivity.

Finally, I’m working on a book called Stronger Leader, an approach that weaves a strengths-based perspective through other essential leadership practices, skills and qualities, like effective change management, emotional intelligence, communication, self-care and more. It will be a how-to guide to develop conscious, strengths-based leaders who want to create a positive organizational culture, stronger teams and workplaces. It’s a synthesis of the work I’ve been doing with my own clients that’s proven again and again to help them achieve their leadership goals and build stronger organizations. I hope it becomes another essential text to the field.

Thanks Gloria for sharing your wisdom!

Related posts:

More about Gloria Miele, Ph.D.

Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, trainer and executive coach who uses a strengths-based approach to help individuals, groups and organizations achieve their goals and realize their greatest success. She also offers training and coaching programs to develop tech-savvy leaders in health care. Visit www.OptimalDevelopmentCoaching.com to receive a free strengths-based goal setting workbook and information about her upcoming book, Stronger Leader. Connect on Facebook and Twitter for even more motivating and inspiring resources to become a stronger, more confident leader.

Guest Blogger Sandeep Aujla: The Strength of Gratitude Part 2

How can leaders increase feelings of gratitude in themselves and others?

In my previous blog post, I put forward a case for leaders to cultivate gratitude in themselves and others.  Now, I’d like to share one approach to doing so using the ever so popular competency perspective that we love in human resources.

ImageCompetency perspective constitutes one of the most popular approaches to recruitment, selection, and training in today’s workplace.  Competency is the conglomerate term that refers to knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).

Dictionary.com defines gratitude as “a quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.”  However, I want you to reconsider gratitude as a competency that includes knowledge of what you can/should be grateful for, a skill of knowing when and how to thank the other, and the ability to demonstrate genuine gratefulness in words and actions.

I feel that reconsidering gratitude through a competency framework can de-mystify ways to develop it and effectively exercise it for not only one’s benefit but for the greater good.  Of course we can debate that KSAs can be treated interchangeably and if you’re inclined to do so, feel free to rework the framework to fit your needs.  The ultimate goal of this exercise is to establish a concrete approach to develop and harness the strength of gratitude in oneself and others.

What to be grateful for? (Knowledge)

To answer this question, I defer to Ralph Waldo Emerson who encouraged us to

“cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to [us], and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to [our] advancement, [we] should include all things in [our] gratitude.”

But instead of Emerson’s inclusive suggestion to include “all things [that] have contributed to your advancement,” I suggest you pick (at least) one thing per day.  This sparing identification of sources to be grateful for should help relieve the pressure for those that are new to adopting the habit to be grateful.  For others who practice gratitude more frequently, distinguish between things that bring fleeting joy versus those that leave a lasting or even lingering feeling of positivity and contentment; I recommend celebrating the latter feeling and its source.

When to thank? (Skill)

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives”  - John F. Kennedy

You can increase your probability to adopt a new habit, such as giving thanks, by setting specific time to give thanks.  You can choose to either do it in the first hour of work or before going to bed, or at any other time that is meaningful to you.  Ideally, you should thank others as soon as you observe them doing something kind for others or for you.  However, it’s never too late to thank someone for an act of kindness or any of their actions that positively impacted you, even if it were months or years later.

How to genuinely thank the other? (Ability)

This question feels most important because without genuineness your actions despite positive intentions may not appear authentic, disallowing expression of gratitude to positively impact the recipient and you, the giver.  Pondering on the word “genuine” brings children to mind; we don’t expect deceit or ulterior motives when children say thank you.  So, thank others with similar genuineness as children, displaying heart-felt gratitude.  Don’t feel the pressure to glorify their actions; you can thank others for something small as long as it was meaningful to you.  Furthermore, you can thank others in writing, in person, or just in your thoughts; the former two options are most appropriate and rewarding for others and you.  In case you ever suffer self-doubt, remind yourself of Winnie-the-Pooh:

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”  –  A. A. Milne

In conclusion, if you commit to finding things to be grateful for, make the time to show gratitude to the source of that feeling, and express that gratitude sincerely, I believe that you will cultivate the habit of gratitude and reap the benefits of developing this competency.  Furthermore, demonstrating this competency at work should help you engage others by increasing their feelings of being valued.  Also, we can expect that your role modeling as a leader should encourage others to also practice gratitude, thus creating a positive workplace culture of gratefulness; now who wouldn’t want to work in such an environment?

If you have other suggestions for cultivating gratitude please share in the comment section below. Thank you for reading this article and for considering to develop and to leverage gratitude as one of your strengths.

Thank-you Sandeep for sharing your wisdom…you are who I am grateful for today…

Related posts:

Guest Blogger Sandeep Aujla: The Strength of Gratitude

Welcome guest blogger Sandeep Aujla! It was of no surprise that Sandeep selected the strength of gratitude as the focus of her guest blog post – anyone who has ever met Sandeep knows that she truly lives it every day in her spirituality, her relationships and her perspective on work and life. Thanks Sandeep for sharing your wisdom!

Leading with Gratitude

Consider these three scenarios:

  • You receive a thank you note from a client that you worked with several months ago. 
  • It’s been two days since you’ve worked day-and-night to resume operations at work after your workspace got accidentally flooded with water; the CEO of your organization comes by with coffee and snacks for your team and you. 
  • You created an internship opportunity for a recent graduate who has no prior work experience in your field.

ImageIf you were a part of the aforementioned situations, you’d either be the recipient of someone’s gratitude or made someone feel grateful for your actions.  Regardless of who the source of gratefulness is, both individuals would feel a sense of positivity and well-being along with feelings that their work is meaningful and that they make a difference.  These latter feelings are the essence of employee engagement and I believe that feelings of gratitude can positively contribute to increasing everyone’s engagement at work (of course an idea that should be empirically tested…a not-so-subtle hint to the researchers reading this).  Yet, we don’t consciously and proactively encourage feeling and expressing gratitude at work, except perhaps in the more popular sarcastic terms (for example, “they should consider themselves lucky to have a job in this market!”  Sounds familiar, anyone?)

But strength-based leaders recognize the benefits that can be realized by exercising and developing the muscle of gratitude.  Furthermore, they encourage and inspire their direct reports to incorporate gratitude in their work lives. Leaders can accomplish this with simple “kudos” programs (if these programs are genuine and have procedures that fairly recognize all employees for their respective strengths and contributions) or through consistent modeling and reinforcement of these behaviours.  After all, how many more employee surveys would we need to remind us of the never-quenching thirst for simple thank-you’s.  Yes, people are paid to do their jobs well.  But human nature desires validation; it seeks acknowledgement of the value added by one’s work, no matter how far one’s work is from organizational strategy…especially, if it is particularly far from the organization’s strategy.

There is scientific evidence that suggests that practicing gratitude increases one’s feelings of happiness, life satisfaction, and perceived communal strength of a relationship.  Moreover, the benefits of practicing gratitude are not just limited to personal relationships; expressing gratitude has been linked to positive mood that can in turn lend to effectiveness at work, increased comfort in voicing relationship concerns, and can be expected to increase employee engagement.  Why would a leader not want his or her direct reports to benefit from such positive outcomes?

Considering the significant positive effects associated with gratitude, I encourage you as a leader to cultivate in yourself and others a sense of gratefulness.

Lucky for us, there is always something to be grateful for!

Visit later this week for Sandeep’s next post “How can leaders increase feelings of gratitude in themselves and others?”