blamevaraia via flickr

blamevaraia via flickr

One of the things I love the most about coaching is that each conversation is something entirely new.  In the process of relating to my clients, and helping them relate to themselves in a different way, I have palpable learning moments again and again.

What’s common among my experiences is sitting across the table from individuals who have a strong desire to be themselves, have a great impact on their world and perform at a level of which their truest self can be proud.

I’ve also started to see trends among the new things my clients have invited into their lives to support positive change.  In other words, things that make life easier while on their way to big things.

Here’s a sampling of “What’s New” according to my observations:

The telephone is the new technology
Break through the clutter by calling. That’s right! The phone! Virtual teams are in, but it doesn’t mean that relating in real time is out. Connection to your team is fundamental as a leader, and hearing someone’s voice can be as personal as shaking their hand. Not to mention how much ground you can cover in a short conversation.

Brunch is the new dinner
Socializing on the weekend is important to keep ties with those in your personal life. Weekend dinners often take a toll on the credit card, the liver and your precious sleeping hours. Seems like brunch is gaining ground because it’s smart, and fun, and, well, there are waffles.

Coaching is the new training
My clients are spending PD dollars on coaching. And they’re doing it for their teams. As you can imagine, I’ve had the business case for coaching memorized for years, but I think it’s happening more and more now because as people experience coaching, they let others know just how impactful it can be. They learn about themselves during the journey in a way they can’t in a classroom, and it’s something they have for life.

Renting is the new buying
This may be a “Toronto” thing, but the housing market is still ridiculous, and even accomplished professionals with salaries that are nothing to sniff at are choosing to rent housing. For now, anyway. “Who made this rule that everyone needs to own property?” is the new top-of-mind question. (And suddenly they have permission to stop burning hours on MLS).

Sitting is the new smoking
There’s an acceptable new trend around escaping to stretch one’s legs, have a catch-up meeting while walking, ordering standing desks (check out this standing-only office! ) and having innovative contests at work that involve pedometers. It’s not just the latest HR thing. Leaders are choosing to set great examples. 

Entrepreneurship is the new corner office
Want to eventually do your own thing? You’re definitely not alone. There’s an excitement around creativity and possibility in discussing entrepreneurship that is often even more powerful than talking about C-suite ambitions.

Meditation is the new exercise
I’ll tell you a secret: a bunch of those folks on the subway with their earbuds in are listening to guided meditations, calming nature sounds, or nothing at all. They’re paying attention to what’s going on for them in the moment, and it will help reduce their stress level, manage their emotions, increase their focus and their creativity. Looking for a very down-to-earth way to get started? Try the “Headspace” app:

“Orange is the New Black”.
This and other addictive TV series are taking over! But the trend’s a positive one: people can control when this downtime is, and be super satisfied when they sit down instead of channel surfing. Allowing for total downtime and admitting it is gaining acceptance. “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”, as they say.

Go ahead – try something new today!


Lauren Hammond via Flickr

Lauren Hammond via Flickr

Reposted from the Globe and Mail’s “Nine To Five” advice column

Reader Question:
I am now 36. A few years back, I had an argument with a sales manager and, because of that, my career has stalled in my current organization. I am also unable to get a job in another organization as, although I have experience of more than 12 years, I am still an individual contributor and have no team-handling experience. Most of the jobs for individuals with my level of of experience are for positions of team leader, assistant manager or manager.

If I opt for a lower-level job in another organization, the salary that my current organization offers is quite high compared with the market. Should I lie about my current salary?

I am caught up in this Catch-22 situation and I am not sure how to get out of it.

My Answer:
There are lots of reasons that careers plateau. Commonly, the pyramid structure of organizations simply does not allow everyone to move up into leadership roles. The higher you go, the fewer the opportunities.

In pursuing a leadership position in another organization, highlight all the ways you’ve demonstrated leadership traits in your current role – strategic thinking, decision-making, influencing others and performing under pressure, for example. Explain to prospective employers why it’s the perfect time to step into managing people.

Another option is to make a lateral move that would position you as a future leader. Get a sense of roles with promotion opportunities. If asked directly about money, don’t lie, and express the value you see in the role beyond salary, such as an opportunity to build complementary skills.

That said, if you’d prefer to progress where you are, you must promote your potential. Take note of the traits demonstrated by those who have received promotions and identify the qualities of the leaders with whom you’ve most enjoyed working. Synthesize these with your own strengths to create your professional brand. Embody it as you network internally, and do so as diligently as you would if you were seeking a new job somewhere else.

Build and nurture relationships at your company, including the sales manager with whom you had the conflict. You may be surprised to learn you can rebuild rapport and reset your fate.

photo- Sorba Media via Flickr

photo- Sorba Media via Flickr

Reposted from the Globe and Mail’s “Nine To Five” advice column

Reader Question:
I was fired from a job over four years ago. I was mortified. I have a propensity to assume responsibility when things go wrong, so I declined my union’s offer to challenge the termination. However, I have struggled with it, emotionally and job-wise, ever since.

A career counsellor advised me to be honest about being terminated, saying a company that hires me can legally fire me if I am not upfront and they find out later that I “lied” on my application. It’s taken four years to even form the words “I was fired.” But I followed her advice.

I have obtained work since my termination, and in all three jobs the gap in my employment history was a non-issue.

However, I am currently looking for work, and I am having no success. I continue to come back to the anomaly on my résumé. A psychologist recently advised me to remove that job because it only brought attention to the gap. It was a low-level position, and not in my profession.

In half of my recent interviews, the gap has come up. In this competitive employment market I feel that this blight on my résumé is overshadowing all my good experiences, and my positive references and letters of recommendation.

How do I get employers to stop focusing on what I’ve done wrong and start focusing on what I’ve done right? Is it a “lie” to remove that job from my résumé?

My Answer:
If you walk into an interview focused on the gap, people will sense it. A voice in your head screaming, “You’re doomed. You’ll never get a good job again,” limits your ability to present your best side.

Your biggest challenge is to change your inner narrative. Identify the thoughts and beliefs about yourself and the termination that you would like to let go of, and write them down. When you’re ready, read them out loud and physically let go of what’s holding you back by tearing up the paper. This can be incredibly powerful.

In parallel, you get to create a story for yourself and the world that is both truthful and positive.

You have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate humility and resilience to prospective employers. What did you learn about being dismissed from your job that will serve you well in future roles? How have you been resourceful during this time in order to pay the bills?

You offer solid professional experience, and others can vouch for you. Unfortunately, it’s clouded by negative emotions that you must face head on.

Here’s a fresh perspective: Interviewers often ask you to “describe a time you failed.” It’s designed to identify self-awareness, ability to learn from mistakes and uncover how you handle tough circumstances. Practice a succinct answer that conveys these strengths and feels authentic. Consider a question about your employment gap as your time to shine.

iStock Photo

iStock Photo

Reposted from the Globe and Mail’s “Nine To Five” advice column

Reader Question:
Our previous senior manager, who was fantastic, left, and a new one was hired. The new senior manager has bonded with a member of our team and spends a lot of time with him. My immediate supervisor, who reports to the new senior manager, is fair and his attention is evenly distributed. Yet he is unaware of what is happening and we are not sure whether we should let him know. We feel it is unfair that the new senior manager pays zero attention to us and lavishes our colleague with all his time.

To make matters worse, our colleague “brags” about how close he is to this new boss. This individual gossips and is now starting to show attitude toward our manager. I guess he feels protected and invincible.

What this new boss is doing this makes no sense. Do I inform my manager? Or should we approach human resources?

My Answer:
I support your inclination to do something, but going to your manager is not your best strategy. Tattling can too easily backfire.

What would you do with lots of attention from this senior manger? Use the answer to design your own relationship with him. Maybe your colleague is just the first to take action, and the new boss is not “doing” anything but responding kindly. Or maybe the new manager found your colleague easy to talk to at the get-go and now he’s sticking with what’s comfortable.

The whole scenario could simply have fallen into place accidentally. Your opportunity is to be deliberate in changing it.

Approach this new boss with a positive observation of the close relationship he has with your colleague and express your hope to also connect more often. . You might say: “Perhaps we can have lunch occasionally, too, as I’d like to share some ideas with you and I’d appreciate your perspective.”

Prepare something interesting to share, and a couple of intelligent questions. End with “hope we can do this again soon,” and then make it happen.

The key to this approach is to be transparent with your colleagues and manager about what you’re doing. Work to build an equally strong relationship with your manager and encourage your colleagues to ask for the one-on-one time they desire. You might also take some time to tell your bragging colleague that his insubordinate gossip isn’t appropriate. In this way, you can turn “unfair” into “fair” without handing the task off to anyone else.

Photo by "motoyen" (Flickr)

Photo by “motoyen” (Flickr)

We don’t get enough sleep. That’s me a lot of the time, and likely you.

If you don’t agree with me now, I’ll ask you again when your alarm goes off tomorrow morning. 😉

A 2013 Gallop study shows that only 59% of Americans are getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep compared to 84% in 1942. My personal theory is that all our “awesome” technology has given us the warped impression that we can, with just a dozen or so more clicks, get another small handful of things done in a few short minutes. We know it’s a lie, because we’ll get pulled into something we didn’t mean to get into; a temptation that gets harder to resist when we’re more tired. On top of that, science says the blue light of the screen suppresses melatonin, the hormone released to trigger sleep. And so the cycle is perpetuated.

For me, even if my to-dos are tied up with a bow, there’s always something more appealing than sleep unless I’m cross-eyed with fatigue.

It’s nice to carve out a little extra time in the morning, too – we might get up just a bit earlier to get a jump on the day. Fast Company did a little experiment and asked people to get up two hours earlier each day and see what happened. There were reports of people feeling like they were given a gift of extra “me time” in the morning.

Why not just sleep less then if all the waking-hours activity is so compelling?

Julia Kirby’s HBR blog post “Change the World and Get to Bed by 10:00”, speaks to the fact that even a moderate amount of sleep depravation affects performance the same as drinking alcohol. She says, “If you’re coming to work consistently sleep-deprived you’re basically functioning drunk.”

There’s no question, it doesn’t serve us to electively walk through our lives cognitively impaired!

Why else put the hours into sleep?

  • If you’re stressed: It helps to decrease stress and anxiety
  • If you’re sad: It’s been shown to decrease risk of depression.
  • If you’re stuck: It can help you gain clarity around a tough decision (there’s something to the expression “let me sleep on it.”)
  • If you’re overloaded: It helps you process and retain new memories and skills.
  • If you want a long, healthy life: It can help you avoid serious diseases like diabetes and cancer and actually contribute to an increased lifespan.

It’s so often a blind spot. One of the questions I ask new clients is about their current level of stress and what they do to decrease it. The highly stressed high-achievers who have taken charge of the matter make sure to exercise and eat well, and protect some family time. I don’t hear that much from high-powered people about tucking in early.

My challenge to you: JUST PICK ONE of the following good-sleep habits to take a step to healthier sleep and all its benefits…

  1. Go to bed at night when you’re tired. The first step is paying attention to what your body’s asking you for.
  2. Take a nap on the weekend when you’re tired. You might find it’s the ultimate weekend treat!
  3. Go screen-free 2 hours before your normal bedtime. It’s what they recommend you do so that the blue light doesn’t mess with the release of melatonin. (I’m going to assign this one the highest level of difficulty).
  4. Get a good dose of bright light (preferably sunlight) during the day. This helps you be more “up” during the day and will contribute to better sleep at night.
  5. Wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekend. You can’t make up sleep, so don’t even try. Hopefully, this will motivate you to try #1 on the list.
  6. Try one of the newest techno-gadgets in the sleep industry (start here: There’s nothing like the novelty of a new app to kick-start a new habit.






Cinders McLeod for the Globe and Mail

Cinders McLeod for the Globe and Mail

Reposted from the Globe and Mail’s “Nine To Five” advice column

Reader Question:

My new manager is giving me a hard time about how many days I’ve missed over the past year. It was a horrible year for me, health-wise. I’ve had pneumonia, laryngitis, pink eye, and a severe allergy attack that required me to take Prednisone. I remember every one of those sick days: I missed my birthday, a concert by my favourite singer and I nearly missed Christmas. In addition, after being away for 10 days near the end of last year, I used up a week’s holiday time to help my boss. My boss knows I do great work, as I’ve won three awards in a row.

Recently, when I was ill at work, coughing like crazy and looking green, my boss took me aside to show me how many days I was absent last year. (I got doctors’ notes for all those illnesses.) He wrote it on paper, signed it and hand delivered it to me at my desk, as I coughed away.

My previous department had no issue with my illnesses because they were legitimate. Doesn’t my new boss know that I already feel awful when I’m sick? Does he think this attendance reminder will make my bronchial flu symptoms go away? Bully them out of me? How do I deal with this kind of manager? He’s a robot and I hope I gave him my cold.

My Answer:

You were right to make your health your priority. What you need to deal with now, though, is your disappointment. You missed happy occasions, were unappreciated for giving up holiday time and you’re not getting any sympathy to soften the blow.

If your “robot” boss is an unquestionably cold, cruel human being, prepare your exit plan. But it’s more likely he was tactless as a result of being affected by the difficulties your absences caused – and whether or not it’s fair or conscious, he holds you responsible.

Some people abuse sick days, but you know you are not one of them, so there’s nothing to gain by apologizing for your time off, defending yourself or criticizing your boss. However, you could let him know that you’re aware your illness has affected both of you, and your intention is to have a healthy and productive year ahead. This might sound obvious, but reminding him that you’re on the same side can influence how he treats you.

Also, make a request: That he trust your dedication to continuing your track record of excellence. Move forward with optimism and bring him along.