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Thanksgiving Reflections from Tim

tjr-corner-headshotWe’re in the midst of the season when we reflect on what we are thankful for, look back on the year as it comes to an end, and set our sights on all that lies ahead. All three of these are top of mind for me. My father passed away at the beginning of October. He led a long life (93 years!) that was filled with passion and commitment to those things most important to him: his family, faith, and friends. I am thankful for all he taught me and the example he set for how to be a leader in all aspects of your life.

Looking back on the year past I see the continuing growth of a coaching practice that helps people and companies across the country, at all levels of leadership, and with a diverse set of needs. Whether I’ve worked with leaders at universities, entrepreneurs, small business owners, non-profits, or executives at major corporations, I see growth in their ability to achieve goals in their personal and professional lives. I am grateful for the opportunity to join in so many journeys, and together with the client, to have been able to make an impact.

My clients will probably say the word they hear the most from me is opportunity. I look ahead to the new year with excitement about the opportunities that lie ahead. The growth of Ressmeyer Partners and Happy Hour Coach® brings the addition of more resources (administrative and coaching) to help carry out our mission to help individuals and leadership teams be happier, fulfilled, and even more successful. In addition to one-on-one coaching, there are already projects on the calendar to deliver trainings, conference presentations, and team development. Knowing there are people willing to put in the effort to overcome the obstacles that hold them back – real and imagined – gets me excited to carry out my mission every single day.

Great things lie ahead! Contact me if you would like to have a chat and see how together we can make 2018 one of your best years yet.

Handling Tough Questions During the Holidays

“So…what are you doing with your life?”Handling tough questions during the holidays
“How’s work?”
“Are you still single?“

Are you dreading an inevitable question this holiday season? For many of us, this week kicked off a season filled with socials and family gatherings. These events can be great, often letting us catch up with those we don’t get to see as much as we’d like; they can also be a bit stressful. Perhaps you’re anticipating uncomfortable questions from curious relatives, or worried about how to talk about your difficulties at work. Maybe you’re meeting with old friends and you want to put on a good face.

At times, we all feel pressure to give the impression that we have it all or that we have it all together – but this is limiting. What does “having it all” even mean? No one has a perfect life, and if you spend your time worrying about measuring up to someone else’s standards or trying to attain the unattainable, you’ll miss the great opportunities in front of you.

So, how do you respond to questions you aren’t particularly excited to answer? How do you show up with confidence and authenticity? Here are three tips to help make the most of your interactions this holiday season.

1. Come from a place of positivity. If you’ve had a great year, this should be an easy one – but it’s easier said than done during a difficult period. Perhaps you’re having problems with your team, you are unhappy in your job, or you and your partner are in a rough patch – but try not to dwell in the negativity. Sure, vent and get it out of your system, but then look for the silver lining. Ask yourself: How can I grow from this? How can I turn this terrible job/dispute/relationship into a new opportunity? Then, when you’re asked those uncomfortable questions, you’re able to talk about how you plan to make your life’s challenges work for you. Remember: difficult situations can provide some of the best learning opportunities – and they’re often the events that propel us into action.

2. Channel your inner confidence. It’s easy to succumb to feelings of self-doubt when we aren’t happy with where we are in our lives. We might feel pressure to measure up to other people’s standards, but often, we’re the ones putting those burdens and requirements on ourselves. Remember that a lot of our self-doubt is self-inflicted – so don’t be so hard on yourself. Make a list of what you’re good at and write down the “wins” you had this year. Celebrate in those, and when you’re starting to feel doubt or negativity creeping in, go back to those highlights and remember that you can – and will – continue to have successes. Practice focusing on what’s right and not what’s wrong, and it will start to come naturally.

3. Go in with a plan. If you’re worried about questions you’ll get (“So, you STILL haven’t found a job?”), think through how you can answer in a way that is honest but doesn’t give in to negativity. If you don’t want to talk about something, prepare a sentence or two that helps you respond and change the conversation. But don’t forget to think about your longer-term plan – what steps are you going to take to change your situation so that a year from now, you’ll look forward to sharing details about your great new job or how you’ve turned things around at work? What will you do to create positive change in your life? This will help you answer tough questions, but it will also get you in the right mindset to start taking action to change the things that are holding you back.

The holidays provide invaluable opportunities to reconnect with people, and you have the power to shape these interactions. You can help create positive encounters, even if things aren’t “perfect,” by staying confident and authentic. Showing up in these situations with a positive attitude and a plan will go a long way in helping you enjoy this holiday season, as well as going into 2018 with purpose.

Business Partnerships Are Hard: I Do Not Want to Mess It Up

business partners

Being in business with a partner is that double-edged sword of an amazing opportunity balanced against the potential for disaster. It is an alliance whose genesis is often based on friendship and excitement and advances into getting in bed together in a high-stakes relationship.

A lack of intentionality to foster the alliance can lead to financial failure and broken relationships.

(The parallels with a personal or romantic relationship are obvious and well documented. Leadership coaching of this sort can be referred to as “couples counseling.” True, but get the tongue out-of-the-cheek and see how important this is.)

If you are going into business together, it is a startup. Whether you’re 25 or 50 something new is being created. Even if you’re taking over an established business, your relationship is a new one that needs special attention as it goes through the phases of creating something new. The stats are well documented for the percentage of new businesses that fail. What isn’t all that clear is how much of that is due to healthy relationships between the leaders, and how many personal relationships dissolve when things go south.

Kudos to mature businesses that are run by partners and have survived the test of time. We can learn from those and also look for ways to improve and embrace the ever-changing lifecycles they encounter.

These three strategies will help a business partnership thrive by hitting head on some of the biggest opportunities for success.

Every day is Different – Be Ready for Change
You have to be brutally aware that you, your partner, and the business are different every single day. Yes, you have your vision, mission, goals, business plan, etc. that you use as your north star that helps you navigate into the future, but things will change.

Your partner starts dating someone new. A sure-thing investor is continuing to delay a decision. Your parents are having health problems. You’ve moved to a new office. You feel like you’re carrying more of the load. That competitor seems to be doing really well. There are now more employees and your 1:1 partner relationship isn’t like it once was.

These are examples of things you really don’t have control over. Whether personal or professional, the things that happen to you impact all dimensions of your life. When uncertainty or unanticipated change happens, our instinct is to try to protect ourselves. We do this by avoiding, exhibiting self-doubt, or blaming others to help us feel more secure.

When you look at things through the lens of “protecting self” you are not in the best place to make important decisions. It leads to judgment of yourself or others that may or may not be fair or true. It isn’t constructive in trying to resolve and adapt to the inevitability of change in your business partnership.

You can control how you react to the things that are going on around you. Knowing change is inevitable helps you:
•    Manage your own interpretation of the events and not blame your partner. Things that occur don’t have to have to be judged as good or bad. They happened, and now it’s time to take action moving forward in ways that serve the business.
•    Point out to each other where you see change happening so you can address it together. You and your partner have blind spots and see things differently. You have the advantage of the partnership where you can – and have the responsibility – to help each other see things clearly.
•    Be confident that no matter what happens not only can the challenge be managed, but it can be leveraged for even better outcomes. These are all learning opportunities.

Trust Yourself, Your Partner, The Relationship
You are together for a reason. You know that you have vision, skills, and experience that have brought you to this point. You know your partner brings a set of strengths as well. They are not the same set of attributes for both of you. Some are more developed in one of you than the other. THANK GOD! If you were identically gifted, you would be redundant, and the partnership wouldn’t make sense.

Believing that each of you has something to offer allows trust to be manifest in the partnership.

Attention to detail. Client relationship management. Financial acumen. Honesty. Conflict resolution. Vision. Communication. Strategy implementation. Business development. Talent management. Creating teams. Sales. Integrity.

These are all talents and values necessary in a successful organization. Each of you will fall somewhere along that continuum of “not good” to “crushing it” for each of these. Trusting that your partner brings something to the table and is in alignment with the overarching goals and values is crucial.  Furthermore, trusting each other to step up and grow in areas where you’re not as strong sustains the long-term success.

Trusting yourself and trusting your partner leads to being able to trust the relationship. If you can be confident that you’re giving your best and your partner is as well, then you are able to focus on the relationship.

By not blaming yourself or your partner, you are able to see there is something bigger that transcends both of you. You believe your relationship (or business) is more important than each of you individually. That trust allows you to get over yourself and be able to see ways to achieve your goals alongside your partner.

Ask the Hard Questions
Hard questions have to be asked to keep things moving forward. Those questions have to be asked of you, about the other person, and about the business.

This is really hard to do because sometimes you don’t know what the answer will be. Alternatively, once the question is asked the proverbial cat-is-out-of-the-bag. Failing to ask those questions, however, does not change the answer. Nor does the problem (real or imagined) go away.

The hard questions have to be asked.

Is this business what we were hoping it would be? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Do I still want to be doing this? What is the value my partner brings to the company? What do I need to do to contribute more effectively? How do we want to solve problems moving forward? What can each of us do to help the other succeed?

These are incredibly hard questions to ask oneself, or to discuss with your partner. It takes trust, honesty, and confidence to have fruitful conversations around critical questions.

One of the biggest obstacles to being able to ask the hard questions is a real or perceived imbalance of power within the partnership. Inevitably, a partner assumes control overall, or one or the other might dominate in certain dimensions of the relationship. Playing to your strengths is essential, and that makes a partnership work. However, you are both there for a reason, and each of you should want and be able to ask the hard questions.

To help level the playing field, and to be sure to include the positive as well as the negative, here are Five Questions you can both use to help set the foundation for effective communication and to start asking he hard questions.

1. What contribution to the business have I made in the past few months that I am most proud of?
2. What contribution has my partner made most recently that I think is really great?
3. What can my partner do to help me be better at what I do?
4. What can my partner do to help the company be even better?
5. What do I want to do differently to help make even more of a difference in the company in the upcoming months?

Answer these questions for yourself and have your partner do likewise. Then discuss them together. You may want this to be facilitated until you get used to doing it!

Being in a partnership is hard work and also so rewarding. Through the acknowledgment that change is inevitable; by trusting yourself, your partner and the relationship; and by asking the hard questions you can help increase the likelihood of success.

Failure Is An Option: And There are Ways to Avoid It

failure-photocopy

“40%-50% of executives fail, quit, or are pushed out during the first 18 months in a new position.”

My friend and best-selling Amazon author, Lee Eisenstaedt, opens his book Being a Leader With Courage with this eye-popping statistic, and throughout the book provides great insight into why this happens and gives direction for how to avoid it.

When he shared the stat again at a workshop he recently led, it struck me with greater impact. Several of my clients are in new roles, and are consciously and aggressively working to not have this be their fate. They are not leaving it up to chance, and they want to guarantee success in their roles.

So many leaders, however, don’t seek outside support at this critical juncture in their careers.

What is it about leaders who seek executive coaching?

I’ve identified three characteristics that set apart individuals wanting to be successful.

1. Have the Confidence You Can Be Even Better

If you’ve moved up the ladder you already have success. Even though you have ongoing fears of failure, the imposter syndrome, and other stories your Gremlin tells you, you have had success. You, as a successful leader, are also self-aware and confident enough to know you can do more. But it is scary.

I’m frequently asked what I consider the most important characteristic of leadership, and unhesitatingly I say confidence. It’s not the arrogant confidence of “I deserve this” but the ability to look at what has brought you to this point and feeling good about it. What are my strengths? What do I bring to the table? What is the value I have created? Now that things have changed, how can I deliver value in the context of my new role?

When you look at yourself with humble confidence, you also realize you can be even more effective.  You know there are blind spots. You have seen characteristics of others you would like to emulate. You realize there’s a reason you haven’t developed all the skills you’d like, and now is the time to start.

This is confident, objective self-awareness that doesn’t make you feel weak, but presents the opportunity to be even better. Be honest and confident.
2. See Life as Being More Than Just Your Job

Your life is already complicated.  As you move into a new role things will be different. Admit it. Embrace it. Work on it. You cannot just gloss over it as an entitlement or a linear progression.

You’re moving into a big new job and you have a big title with lots of responsibilities. And, you are a parent, someone’s child, a friend, partner, sibling, an aunt or uncle. With these personal roles, come the realities of life: aging parents, difficult children, financial challenges, breakups, illness, transitions, and more.

Along with the rush of moving into a big new job, you are also shaking up virtually every other aspect of your life. All of those relationships and challenges you are dealing with already are going to be exacerbated by a different work rhythm, new stressors, and different demands on your time and energy.

You cannot be as effective as you like if you ignore or minimize these external factors and fail to understand how they affect your ability to be successful at work. Failing to fully be aware of this leads to disruption across all dimensions of your life and an increased likelihood of failure.

Successful leaders hit this head on knowing all aspects of their life are being impacted and need to be addressed.
3. Know You Can’t Do It Alone

It would be great if just becoming aware of how change will impact you would be enough to help you succeed. “I can suck it up.” “It will all fall into place over time.” “I can ignore what’s happening at home because they knew this was what we agreed to.” Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that it won’t work out if it’s just ignored and there isn’t a strategy to be successful.

It’s also nearly impossible to do it alone.

Family members and close friends with whom you can be very honest about what’s going on is a necessary part of your support system. Unfortunately, they are all connected to the outcome in some way. The decisions you do or don’t make will impact them in some way. The advice and support they offer is not entirely objective. After all, they want you to be successful, but also don’t want to hurt your feelings, are carrying memories of a past struggle, or are afraid of what might lie ahead.

Who can you be 100% honest with about your fears or struggles with staying on track? To whom can you admit to you need help with a certain skill set? (You’re the boss, shouldn’t you know that?) Where can you learn the techniques to adjust your leadership style in order to have the impact you know you want to have? Where can you openly grapple with the impact a difficult personal situation is having on your job performance?

These questions are not rhetorical. They are real-life challenges clients bring to a coaching engagement where fears are admitted, problems are solved, and strategies to move forward are developed and executed.

Having things not work out in the first 18 months is no fun for anyone. Having confidence in your ability to grow, acknowledging the way all aspects of your life interact, and knowing an independent third party can help move things in a positive direction more quickly than you can on your own will go a long way to helping you achieve happiness, success, and fulfillment.

The Secret to Capitalizing on September – The Bonus Month.

The Secret to Capitalizing on September – The Bonus Month.                 Intense colors of autumn

Summer’s over. The routine is back in full swing, but Q4 hasn’t begun yet.

September is your bonus month!

Feeling that drop in temperature and changes in the daylight patterns and shadows takes me right back to the end of summer as a kid. Leaving the mountains of Pennsylvania and heading back to Long Island for the new school year had the painful stab of the end of summer fun, as well as a flutter of anxious excitement of something new.

Here’s the secret to capitalizing on this gift of September. Simply ask yourself this question: “How do I want to feel on December 31st?” Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t about rushing through the next 4 months, it’s about slowing down and using them – especially the September Bonus Month – to reach your goals of 2016.

Here are three ideas for how to use your September Bonus month:

  1. Give
  2. Grow
  3. Enjoy

GIVE: We are all so blessed. Too often the tendency is to wait until Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Tax Time to make charitable commitments. Do it now! Give extra during your bonus month, or plan now how much you will give between now and the end of the year and start contributing. The value is as much for the giver as the recipient, and by starting now you will be less likely to cut back because of the end-of-year expenses – or the number looks too big in a single lump.

And, you don’t want to be “that guy” who only gives at holiday time.

GROW: Whether personally or professionally, use September to focus on you, your relationships, and your business. Don’t let the sadness of summer being over or the fears of the Q4 crunch whittle away these amazing four weeks! Kick off a healthy living effort now. Look at those hard realities about your career and job satisfaction. Mend relationships before the holidays so you can enjoy those times more fully. Look at your business and ask yourself how you want to feel about it on December 31st, and decide what steps you can take now.

On New Years’ Eve do you want to be anticipating the New Year with enthusiasm and excitement or fear and frustration?

ENJOY: We spend too much time looking at “what’s wrong rather than what’s right”, and therefore stress out and chew up our days and weeks without even being aware of it. Use this month to shift your energy and get ready for the inevitable craziness that lies ahead. More people say Fall is their favorite season than any other, so enjoy! Embrace the smells and tastes of Fall (not everything has to be pumpkin spice!). Take the time for family and for yourself. Reflect, play, read, take a class, and enthusiastically jump all over those focused personal or business goals.

You can enjoy this month by pushing hard on those areas of your life you know will make you feel great on December 31st!

We all want these good things to happen, but it’s really hard to do it alone. Engage in activities that you might not usually choose in order to mix it up and grow. Find those around you who can help you create a plan for your Bonus September, hold you accountable to make it happen – and celebrate it with you!

Leave your comments below on how you will take advantage of your Bonus Month!