Grow Where You’re Planted

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

I often find myself caught in the paradox of patience versus action. On one hand, patience is often the key to breakthrough insights and aids coaching clients in their life/career transformations. When working with others it is easy to see how slowing down helps them to explore the nuances of their interpersonal relationships and life aspirations. Change takes time. On the other hand, I can be really impatient with myself. When I set a goal, I am itching to act. I want to do more in less time.

My recent book, 35 Truths, took much longer than I thought. 35 perspectives – what’s the big deal? I live and breathe this stuff; I can whip the book out over a long weekend! 18 months later, it was done and I couldn’t be more proud.

Recently, I was juggling several demanding projects and I found myself growing frustrated with the time/action paradox of my own making. During a trip to visit our West Coast family, I walked along a path in the bamboo forest in Huntington Botanical Gardens. The bamboo grove towers 70 feet into the sky, blocking out the afternoon sun.


While I was there, I learned that some bamboo varietals often take 5 years or more after planting before above-ground growth appears. Before the plant can shoot skyward it must develop a significant root structure to support its pending massive growth spurt of more than 7 feet per year. That day I slowed down – and in the quiet, still space of the bamboo forest, I remembered that many things in life take time to develop and we can’t always rush that growth.

This type of slow but steady growth may resonate with you; nurturing and achieving mastery is more than merely putting in the time. Rather, you get to create your own significant root structure – by exploring, experimenting, examining, and evaluating.

How to start? Take a deep breath and lighten up. Learn to acknowledge and appreciate the patience of waiting for growth over time. When it does come, you’ll appreciate it much more. Indeed, your performance or career breakthroughs may not occur in years one, two, or three. Your massive epiphanies and peak performance may be in your fifth year. Slow down to soak up profound learnings, whenever they may be, so you may grow ever stronger and contribute more significantly to those around you. Best wishes for your root structure!

The “What If?” Game

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

iStock_000020802379_MediumHave you ever found yourself lamenting missed opportunities? When most people experience a crisis in their personal or professional lives they often further beat themselves up by using language that highlights disappointing, unrealized goals: What if…I had a better relationship with my boss?  I would have gotten the promotion.  Or, What if…I had gotten my MBA/PHD? I would have had an envious career.

I’ve found that when we get entangled in our disempowering beliefs the What If? Game creeps in to every aspect of our lives—feeding our insecurities and fears.  The irony is that the time when people need to be the most confident is often the time when they feel the least courageous.

We have constructed a simple formula that enables people to take their power back:

  • Listen to the language you are using.
  • Determine if it’s empowering and motivating or not.
  • Concentrate on the things you can influence.
  • Visualize a successful outcome.
  • If you are engaged in disempowering thinking/language, immediately shift your focus to positive opportunities, thus putting yourself back in charge, not your “runaway mind.”

What if…I had a better relationship with my boss?

Becomes – What does my boss need and want from me? What would the impact be if I identified areas (and strategies) where I can contribute more?  How can I operate differently to generate even greater support and endorsement?  What if…I asked others for feedback as to how I could more effectively partner with them?

What if…I had gotten my MBA/PHD?

Becomes – What if I fully accessed my current talents, skills, abilities, and experiences?  What’s holding me back?  Where can I go from here?

When you focus on what you are grateful for and what you have, versus wishing your life were different, you open the doors to becoming more of the person you dreamed you could be.

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” Henry David Thoreau.

What is the one thing you could do this next week that would unlock more of your potential?

Courage Comes in All Sizes

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

My six-year-old granddaughter is one of the most courageous people I know. She signed up for her elementary school’s talent show – something I’m not sure I would have done in first grade!  When she told us her talent was as a magician, she swept her arm and bowed.
Rabbit in Top Hat
At home, my granddaughter’s technique was solid. Her three-year-old brother thought she was funny, and her parents and friends thought her sleight of hand was, as she said, grrrreat!

With her cape, collapsible cane, and top hat she was confident walking into the show’s tryouts. She was ready. That is, until she looked out into the auditorium. I can only imagine how foreboding the packed house appeared. Suddenly our little girl didn’t feel quite so sure of herself. She did what every frightened child does – she hid her face into her Daddy’s legs.

She went home defeated.

The performance was three weeks away and she had one more chance before the big night to try again. When asked if she wanted to quit, she said, “NO WAY!” She listened to advice on how to overcome stage fright and put it behind her. She practiced her routine every night. She chose to learn from her fear instead of ignoring it by becoming even more enthusiastic.  When the night of the performance came, she performed flawlessly. Buoyed by her successful performance, she was so pumped she toyed with the audience: “Don’t try this at home; I can do this trick because I’m a trained professional!” As she walked off the stage to thunderous applause, hand-in-hand with her assistant (dad), both were beaming. She was victorious.

When I asked her how she did so well after she got scared, she grinned and replied with the wisdom of a six-year-old, “I just wanted to have fun – not fail. It’s what I wanted. I made the fear disappear and I just did it!”

If a six-year-old girl could courageously shift her focus from overwhelming fear to envisioning rousing success – what could you do?  What could you accomplish if you – just did it?! What steps can you take right now to turn a defeat into a victory?

Take Full Advantage!

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

There are two kinds of mindsets that directly influence how successful you are: Empowering and Disempowering.  People with empowering mindsets speak and act in ways that are congruent to achieving the life to which they are committed.  Those with disempowering frames of reference often wryly comment that if they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all.

Empowering Mindset People – look at situations not as they are but what they could become. When “bad” things happen to them, these empowering people shift into a solution-driven mode, whose first step is curiosity. Fascinated by the situation and committed to mastering the nuances of their roles and relationships they search for not only hoMature Manw they, themselves, created their less-than-ideal situation, but also what they can learn from every circumstance – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We encourage our clients to develop a personal mantra or phrase which represents their most powerful core value. This mantra should be preceded by recognizing reality – “Wow, this is tough and I’m hurting.” Such recognition minimizes the tendency to suppress any negative emotions that might inappropriately explode to the surface.

The mantra should be inspiring, motivating, and empowering – mobilizing them towards action:  “I have two options – give up or get going – and I choose get going!” Lastly, their “power mantra” should contain a question that focuses on taking positive action:  “What conditions do I want to exist and how do I need to think, feel, and behave to achieve them?”  People with an empowered mindset tend to be more confident, resourceful, and resilient. Thus, more successful day-to-day.

Disempowering Mindset People – are often frustrated, emotional, and feel powerless. They may wish for greater success and happiness, but either they are unwilling (largely attitudinal) or unable (often lack of competency) to effectively change. Many disempowered people are bright, well-intended, and capable but find that their lives, careers, and relationships are less than satisfying.  Invariably, these individuals don’t take full advantage of a situation’s potential to strengthen their coping mechanisms or adaptive behaviors. When presented with proven strategies and resources, often they engage in defeatist, “Yes, But” behavior.  This passive and dismissive behavior is not results-driven. Thus, they choose, albeit at the unconscious level, a perpetuating cycle in which they might tell themselves, “You are stuck, miserable, and unworthy.”  Tragically, if these people do not courageously recognize and address their dysfunctional mindset and all of its insidious nuances, they may never be able to pull out of their victim role – and they will constantly be upset. Accordingly, they may never create the life they want or need.

My Wish for You – Take full advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you to deepen your knowledge about yourself and others.    Do your best, and forget the rest. Use your renewed knowledge and create the life you dream of:

  • What do I really want my life and career to look like?
  • What things accelerate / inhibit what I want to achieve?
  • If I’m stuck, how do I benefit from being disempowered?
  • If I knew that I could not fail, what would I attempt?
  • Create a personal mantra that is inspiring, motivating, and empowering.

Socrates, once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Deepen your evaluation of your life’s purpose . . . and enjoy the ride!

Highest Leadership Imperative – Part 2

Receiving Transformational Feedback

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

While this blog is about receiving input from others, I would dare say that giving and getting feedback are each stressful in their own right because of the unknown emotional reactions of either party.

When it comes to getting feProfessional Woman Speaking with Colleagueedback ourselves, it is easy to become defensive as our insecurities often trigger immediate flight or fight syndromes.  Unfortunately, when we try to operate from that threatened, reactive stance our communication is blocked and misunderstandings can blow discussions way out of proportion.

If you find yourself growing upset during a feedback session, the best thing you can do is take a breath, acknowledge your sensitivity around the issue, and then ask for clarification. “I am surprised by your feedback; please tell me how you see and experience my behavior.  An example would be helpful.” This does one of two things: One, it diffuses awkwardness and shows the person giving the feedback that you are receptive to receiving advice. Two, questions allow you a moment to regain your composure so that a meaningful conversation can ensue.

6 Key Guidelines for Receiving Feedback that we’ve coached our clients to employ:

  1. Change your mindset – about feedback.  For instance, if you view feedback as a threat you’ll likely cringe at the prospect of someone telling you that you should change your behavior.  On the other hand, if you embrace well-meaning comments as essential to enhancing your effectiveness, then you will expectantly seek it out and learn from every success or hiccup.
  2. Assume complete accountability – Don’t blame others or make excuses for the situation. Be quick to respond with, “You’re probably right, I haven’t (seen it, heard it, experienced this) or been aware of it before.”
  3. Listen deeply – of what is being said (and not said) about your behavior, attitude, or performance.  In reality, others will see and experience your impact on them differently than you do. Within those blind spots are the opportunities to raise your self-awareness, interpersonal skills, and rapport.
  4. Be highly appreciative – of the courage that it took for the person to be open and honest about thoughts and feelings that might adversely affect your relationship or your effectiveness. Assume that the feedback is originating from the desire to enhance your well-being, not tear you down or shame you.
  5. Be insatiably curious – Ask thoughtful, penetrating questions.  BTW – the best questions are usually short and simple.  Tell me more, please.  What else?  When does this occur?  What triggers my becoming defensive?  How might I respond better?  Please give me a high sign when I start to derail.   Periodically ask me, “What’s the impact you’re having right now?”
  6. Experiment, Observe, Adapt – After receiving feedback, identify what’s working well/could be improved.  Your goal is to experiment with different perspectives and behaviors. Reflect on the feedback and adapt your behavior with the goal to achieve a positive result. Note how you and others feel and react.

“Champions know that success is inevitable; that there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.  They know that the best way to forecast the future is to create it.”
Michael J. Gelb

Missed the first part of this series?  Check it out:  Highest Leadership Imperative – Part 1.