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Unclaimed Baggage Won’t Let You Be Great!

Every human has work to do – to be better, smarter, kinder, more compassionate, patient, more genuine, etc. From the time you are conscious of being until the day you die, that work is ongoing.

I’ve been mentoring and training women in a professional capacity for over a decade. It doesn’t matter if I’m counseling a new graduate who is unsure of the next steps to take or a career executive who is trying to find purpose in her work. The challenge is always the same. There seem to be designated areas of focus women want to tend to and spend time on, while other areas are virtually ignored.

It’s not always intentional…just the cost of living in a busy world with so much to accomplish in a day. We all have blind spots. However, at some point in life, we turn our heads and become painfully aware of what has been hiding just beyond our peripheral. Now, what comes next determines our stretch and growth. We either resume our activities and keep moving forward as if we didn’t just see it, or we stop the car, pull out the ugly eyesore and get to the task of unpacking!

Why put extra emphasis on having the latest clothing, shoes, jewelry and flawless makeup when your personal relationships are hanging by a thread? Why ignore the jungle in the backyard, while planting neat rows of flowers in the front yard? Why pretend?

The corner office is a beautiful place to be, until you’ve spend so much time there that you haven’t seen your children awake in three days. Dedicating your life to serving others is noble until the devotion to the outside world causes friction within your marriage. Counseling others while failing to establish balance in your own life, is a breeding ground for burn out. Being the life of the party while returning to a home filled with dysfunction night after night, slowly starves the soul.

Claim

If we are honest with ourselves, we all have it…that lone piece of baggage (maybe several pieces), that we would rather not carry in public. If it were our choice when time comes to claim it, we would just watch it revolve around the carousel, pretending it doesn’t belong to us. But this piece of ourselves is just as essential as the rest. Ignoring it doesn’t mean it goes away. It’ll just show up later…delivered to our doorstep!

As you work on all of the wonderful parts of you that shimmer, don’t forget to take a look at the parts that seem dull and difficult. Be kind to yourself by acknowledging that there is still work to be done. Don’t be a fool and try to climb up on a crumbling foundation in your stiletto heels. It doesn’t end well!

 

“That’s Not a Real Job!

Untitled design (7)Have you ever heard these words?

When you are ready to make your next move, people will come out of the woodwork with their opinions and suggestions on how you should best live YOUR life. I had family, friends and co-workers telling me that I couldn’t own my own business. Some cautioned me about leaving a “well-paying” job in favor of balance at home and the opportunity to raise my own children. Others wanted me to settle for nine-to-five security and put my purpose on hold…because of course, purpose can wait.

NOPE!

There is nothing wrong with working a traditional job, but it’s also not for everyone. We all must search for that thing that brings us joy when we get busy in it. It’s the work that causes your soul to leap with excitement, keeps you up at night in anticipation and drives you to tomorrow. It may be what you desire to do as your profession and it may be something you desire to do in addition to your full-time job. Part of effective leadership is getting to know yourself well enough to be rightly positioned for your purpose.

You may have notebooks full of ideas and plans for better that you feel will never come true. But they will, if you are willing to put one foot in front of the other. Whether you desire to be financially independent, your own boss, dedicate your time serving your children and family, walk fully into ministry or help those who don’t have a voice – that passion was given to you because you are more than capable. As you do the unpopular thing, you’ll have an audience, but you may not find the support you desire. Don’t worry. Don’t give up. Don’t deny your future.

This is a season of change. People are changing the world one idea, one open door, one cracked window at a time. Will you be one of them?

Overcome the Pull of New Year Remorse

Untitled designLet’s face it…2017 was tough! There aren’t many people who didn’t let out a sigh of relief and a “glad I survived that one!” sentiment as the clock struck twelve.

Now that January is halfway over, you may be feeling that slow slump of disappointment coupled with a bad case of the “I wish I would’ve, I should’ve or could’ve” blues. We tend to look back at the previous year and lament the things left undone and the many detours that led us farther away from our goals. Maybe you thought it would all be coming along by now or you’d already be arriving at that magical destination you dreamed, prayed and planned for. Maybe you just didn’t expect the avalanche of the unexpected to hold you at bay for so long.

Right about now, according to statistics, New Year’s resolutions have been altered from what they once were or have failed all together – to get more organized, to eat healthier, to join a gym, to find more work/life balance, start writing again, start painting again, go to yoga, etc. Depending on where you live, you may also be suffering from the winter blues that blows in with the cold temperatures, yucky weather and lack of sunlight.

So, what to do about it? Can anything really be done about it?!

Well, here are a few things to get you unstuck:

  • Write down all the things that you regret from 2017
  • Take that list and crumple it into a nice round ball
  • Now, throw it in the trash or set it on fire if you feel the need!

What gets us unstuck is the determination to move forward, learn from what didn’t go well and keep it moving. Drive is a powerful thing. Now make a new list of no more than seven things you would like to accomplish in 2018 and identify one duty for each item that you can start doing. Why seven? Biblically, seven is the number of completeness and perfection for both physical and spiritual things. So, I figured it’s a good number to start with. Last, take out your calendar and add at least one thing to it between now and the end of June for each item. For example, if you want to change careers this year, add time to your calendar this month to edit and update your resume. If you want to exercise more, don’t buy a gym membership just yet. Instead, block off times over the next few weeks where you can take a morning walk.

Our power isn’t just in what we survive. It’s also in how we thrive. End the pity party now and get back to living!

We were excited to see you arrive, but now we’re even more thrilled to watch you fade into the past. Goodbye, 2017!

 

What’s on Your Calendar May Be Hindering Your Focus

What’s on my calendar for next Tuesday at 1p.m.? In the next 14 days, have you left any gaps for the unplanned? If you know the answer to the first, but not the second, you may have a problem.

Living every minute of every hour and every hour of every day guided by the blocks on the calendar and the clock on the wall can be stifling. However, it can also be strangely comforting – everything in its place and a place for everything. Going from one appointment to the next and back again, taking this one to ballet, this one to robotics and this one to soccer practice, meetings, followed by debriefs about the previous meetings and planning meetings for the next one. You may squeeze in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Hulu or Netflix in between and then crash before dragging yourself up to start all over again.

 

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Where’s the focus? Where is the slow down? When does the actual living take place? What’s the purpose of it all?

The truth is that life doesn’t happen between keyboards and HD displays. Life happens through, around and over what we tend to focus on. If we aren’t careful, we’ll look up and realize we’ve missed it.

Planning is necessary and technology can be helpful, but meaningful connections, relationship building, dream chasing and vision cannot be placed on a timer. They suffocate in those spaces where they are forced to comply with the limitations that keep them from being organic and authentic.

Allow a free space – schedule it if you have to! Take that time to unwind and unfocus and it will actually help you find a great deal of focus! Block it off and protect it as if your life depends on it.

Then… go and dance, cook with someone you love, listen to music that makes your whole body move, sing, walk in the park, color with your kid or lay in the grass. Take an unplanned day trip to nowhere in particular, paint, write poetry, play the guitar or call your grandmother and listen to her tell you that story you’ve heard about twenty times. You don’t need to hear it again, but she needs to tell it and one day you’ll long for the sound of her voice.

Let life happen and don’t choke the beauty out of it by giving it a time allowance or by rushing off to the next thing. Don’t allow BUSY to become the nemesis of your FOCUS.

 

 

 

Am I a Woman? Yes. Am I Black? Yes! Am I Angry? No, Not Usually.

20170903_161803If it’s ever been said directly, whispered or inferred that you are a B**TCH in the workplace, please don’t waste energy being offended and don’t lose sleep over it. You’ve likely ruffled a few chicken feathers by standing your ground and upholding high standards. They WILL survive!

Let’s get down to the REAL meaning of the label, “Angry/Mad Black Woman”:

Are you being called a “mad black woman” because you’re angry, bitter, treat people unfairly, have unrealistic expectations and an axe to grind with anyone who crosses your path? Are you on a daily rampage to make others feel inferior in some way? Do you want them to fear you? NOPE!

Have you reached the end of your capacity to tolerate utter foolishness? Yes.

Are you at a place in life where you have a vision and expectations for excellence? Yes.

Do you get mad? Occasionally, but not any more than anyone else under pressure.

Are you tired of hearing excuses? Absolutely!

Annoyed by adults who behave like children? Amen!

See, you have stuff to do and likely you’ve studied, prepared, critiqued and worked harder than many of your counterparts to get where you are. You don’t have time for games. You aren’t opposed to making a few friends, but the goal isn’t to be well-liked and invited to the weekend barbeque either. You are about your business and often your skin color means that your drive and focus will be interpreted as anger. It unfortunately comes with the territory.

According to the Franklin Covey Habits of Highly Effective People, we are to seek first to understand and then be understood. So understand their judgement is rooted in ignorance of your history, your struggle and your vision. Understand that they are bringing biases to their experience of you that you can in no realistic way influence. Understand that the labels you are given fly away into the wind, unless you grab hold of them and claim them.

You will be understood by those with similar experiences as long as you consistently lead with respect and fairness. Others, will be determined to find fault in you just because they are intimidated by what you represent and the ease at which you command authority. You will be understood by those who genuinely care to get to know you and that is what matters.

You may not have the luxury of being “nice” in most cases and that is nothing worthy of an apology. Nice means letting your guard down, potentially becoming complacent and lowering the bar. Nice may mean going along with what you feel in your heart isn’t right. Nice plays nice with nice and fails to make progress. Nice never birthed change. Grit, pain, focus and sacrifice, motivation, planning, and skillful execution are what will bring you into a place of purpose.

People will label incorrectly that which they cannot comprehend and that is not your issue to tackle.

Three Reasons Why You’re Not Done Growing

Growth- -You have to teach a child that dreams don't come true.20170723_183016

It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65, who says you’re done with life? If someone has already opened their big mouth to form the words and allowed them to pass their lips, they lied to you!

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations – THEY ARE SCARED!!

You are about to do something that would keep them up at night and give them the sweats. You have a dream and vision outside of their small corner of the world and they feel as if you are leaving them for the wilderness and will soon be eaten by wolves. They are so consumed by their perception of the worst-case-scenario for you that they can’t even pretend to be happy for you. They don’t know how.

But that isn’t your problem. The first rule of airline safety is that you need to apply your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Live and breathe your purpose because it’s in you and needs to be fulfilled. You can bring all of the naysayers and “see it to believe it” types up to speed later, if you choose.

You’re not done growing:

  • You’ve Got Fertile Soil: Because you have a dream that’s bigger than where you are now. For some of you it may literally be a dream that reoccurs when you sleep and reminds you that there is more for you to do.
  • Just Add Water: You have muscles that need to be worked! There are gifts and talents inside of you that you haven’t begun to fully explore. You know they’re there, but you need to spend time on them and nurture them to bring them to the forefront. Drink plenty (get some good books to read, take a class, attend a conference, local fellowship or workshop).
  • Open The Window and Let the Sunlight In: Surround yourself with healthy relationships that will stretch you. Connect with people who model your vision of balance and success. Glean from them and give them the space to tell you the truth in love, which will allow you to flourish.

 

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How to Deal With Chronic Complainers (3 min read)

In your work environment, there is likely one person you hate to see coming. Why? … Because they love to complain about any and everything! They don’t like their boss or supervisor, they have issues with the new policies, procedures or organizational chart. They think Mary Sue in accounting is mean to them for no reason and so and so forth.

These complaining types make it hard to focus on the work and they can suck the joy out of the atmosphere. I’ve never been one of them, but I’ve had to work alongside and supervise several. I refused to spend my days listening to negative comment after negative comment. I found the exercise to be a waste of their time and mine. So I crafted a few responses I kept on hand, ready to use.

When someone would come to me repeatedly to vent, I would let them talk at first and then I would ask one of three questions:

  • “How can we fix it?” – (5 words)
  • “What do you recommend?” – (4 words)
  • “Got an idea?” – (3 words)

… And it worked.

Some would simply get tired of me asking the same questions, so they would stop including me in the conversations. These people were generally miserable and liked to have company. As long as someone was listening and agreeing with their grievance, they experienced a feeling of validation and continued to complain.

Others would continue to come with their complaints, but they would also be ready to discuss possible solutions. These people are what I called “the turnarounds.” Instead of wallowing in what was wrong, they began to focus on ways to make improvements. Those are the ones who would go on to become supervisors, managers or leaders in some capacity.

Asking these questions helps thin the heard. However, I also had one quick response for the ones who continued to complain no matter what questions I asked and didn’t seem to get it. This question was designed to shut them down indefinitely:

  • “So what?” – (2 words)

… Conversations would generally go something like this:

“I don’t think Mary Sue in accounting likes me. I haven’t done anything to her, but she never says Hi to me.”

My response, “So what?”

“Well….I, I just…”

“We’re not here to make friends. We have work to do.”

-Shut down complete-

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See how that works? I would make it clear that what they were complaining about wasn’t dire by making a statement and then turning their attention back to the work at hand. It may sound harsh, but understand that at this point I had already coached the individual on their negative attitude and lack of accountability, encouraged them several times to come with solutions and in some cases I even assisted them in outlining recommendations for change.

Working with difficult people doesn’t have to be stressful! If you are consistent and firm in your expectations and hold them accountable, people will either adjust and play along or they will get out of the way!