We are approaching my favorite day of the year! A three day weekend after a day with my family. My favorite way to spend the day is outdoors! But one thing is for sure: I toast the start of the holiday season with an eggnog latte.
Every year, that latte reminds me that I want to make my own eggnog, but all my research shows that the longer it ages, the better it tastes (though my husband would argue it never tastes good). Well, this is the year for me to make eggnog!
In my search for the perfect recipe I learned that eggnog was invented as a way to use up an abundance of eggs from early fall, when hens are laying aplenty due to the abundance of sunlight. With sufficient sunlight, hens will lay an egg approximately every 25 hours. Sufficient sunlight is about 15-16 hours/day. Without less light, egg production slows down significantly.
The egg production from my 10 hens is currently around 1 egg per day. In fact, none of my new peeps have laid an egg (at least I don’t think they have), even though they are 21 weeks old.
So, understanding the importance of sunlight for egg production, I have two choices: accept my measly harvest of eggs or put a light in their coop to make up for the sunlight deficiency.
The logical choice is to light up the coop. But there are potential negative impacts to their health. As we know, winter is the season to rest and rejuvenate, and if I keep my chickens working through winter, it could reduce their life expectancy.
So what is more important? Eggs or hen longevity?
How many of us are faced with similar choices – rest or keep working? Do we keep pushing through the exhaustion in order to produce more, or do we allow ourselves time to rest?
What about your employees? Are you allowing them time to rest and rejuvenate? Does your vacation policy support allowing employees to unplug from their work and really rest, or do you encourage them to check in during their time off?
In some of the companies I work with, people carry like a badge of honor that they work seven days a week or they work until 11pm every night. I know plenty of people who love their jobs, but if it consumes your or your employees’ lives, is it possible that that love has morphed into something unhealthy? Some people use work as a filler because they have no idea what to do when they aren’t working.
What if your work, or your employees’ work, were more than a filler? What if it work could be something you loved but also allowed you to follow other passions?
In his book The EOS Life, Gino Wickman defines the EOS life to mean:
- Doing work you love
- With people you love
- Making a huge difference
- Being compensated appropriately
- With time for other passions
My goal when working with my clients is to help them live their EOS life and to make that possible for everyone who is a part of their company.
If you are ready to experience what that would mean to you, your employees and your business, email me and we can start your journey together!
For me, my EOS life will likely include some aged eggnog and hens who can relax over the winter, poised to hit record-setting egg production in 2022!
I was talking with a business owner last week, and she mentioned she had an Instagram blog titled “My chickens are in love with my husband.” Then she told me how, that very morning, one of her hens had flown up on the windowsill and started pecking at the window. She told the hen her husband wasn’t home, so she flew down and laid an egg right next to one of his shoes.
I guess I’m not the only one who writes about chickens?
But then I started to think about my chickens. They are definitely not looking for me. In fact, whenever they see me approach the coop, they scatter with haste.
Why the difference in how these two sets of chickens respond to human interaction? Well, I’m not an animal behavioral scientist, but I think it has to do with the type of interaction they received in their early peep-formative weeks.
This woman shared that she brought her peeps home when they were a few days old, and everyone was holding them, so they got used to human interaction and felt safe.
My chickens were not held at a young age. They were raised by their momma hen, and that hen was very scared of me, my husband and especially my inquisitive hunting dogs.
I’d like to think there is some common ground between chickens who love their owners and those that are deathly scared of their owners. And this common ground is established according to the amount of interaction the chickens experience early on.
The same might be true when it comes to interacting with members of our own flocks. If we have too much interaction, we risk smothering each other, but if we don’t have enough, we lose connection.
Maintaining the appropriate level of interaction takes intentionality. When implementing EOS, we teach the importance of keeping the team connected by establishing a good meeting pulse. This meeting pulse instills accountability, enhances communication, improves team health, and accelerates results.
In the era of Covid, it has been challenging to find the right pulse to stay connected, which can have negative effects on key relationships. I also believe it gives us an excuse to neglect our more challenging relationships, both personally and professionally.
As you look at the relationships in your life, how do you see them functioning? Do you sense a lack of connection and alignment? If you want to gain traction toward your vision, you need everyone connected and moving in the same direction.
If you want a proven process that can help accelerate your business in the right direction, I’d love to introduce you to EOS. Together, we can get the entire team aligned and working toward a healthy future.
It has been a while since I last wrote about my chicken adventures. In late June, our flock grew to 20. Our three broody hens hatched 14 peeps. At some point, I’ll share that whole rather stressful adventure, but for now, I’ll skip over becoming a chicken grandma and instead turn my attention (and your attention) back to my mean rooster, Oden. If you recall, a few months ago I wrote an article titled “Right Seat, Wrong Chicken.” Oden’s behavior continued to escalate after recovering from the Great Chicken Massacre. It got to the point that I was working my chicken duties around his schedule, i.e., only entering the run when he was in the coop, which resulted in late nights and early mornings.
A few weeks ago, my chicken coach came to visit. She marched right into the run and headed toward Oden. He sensed her lack of fear and retreated. Then she caught him and put him upside-down. And once a chicken is upside-down, the balance of power shifts—at least for the person who put him upside down. I held Oden for a while, and we eventually let him resume his daily activities. But I soon learned that until I caught him, he would still be aggressive with me. So, the following week—I did it! I caught Oden myself and held him upside down. Now I am at the top of the pecking order, and Oden has become a “Right Chicken, Right Seat” member of my flock.
I can think of two ways to pivot this story toward business: overcoming our fears or becoming a better leader. Given the current shortage of employees, I’m going to pivot toward leadership.
Most employers are struggling to find people to fill their open positions, especially people who show up on time and want to do the work. This shortage results in either settling for less-than-ideal candidates or slowing growth until more employees can be hired.
It might help to think about the reasons for the employee shortage. After surviving the pandemic, many people have changed their priorities, and this shift has impacted the way they view their work. They may be less willing to take a job just to earn a paycheck. Based on my research, there isn’t a shortage of employees, but rather a shortage of enticing opportunities. I’d like to offer up three questions that may help you reframe your approach to attracting and retaining your ideal employee.
- Is there consistency between what you say you want and what you accept? As we say in EOS, you get what you tolerate. In a time when finding qualified employees is very difficult, it may be tempting to tolerate employee behavior that is contrary to your core values. But that behavior is eroding your culture and lowering the standard for everyone. Addressing that employee with clear examples of the type of behavior that you won’t tolerate is the best way to tackle the problem. If he or she can’t adjust their behavior, you will need to make the hard decision to let them go. It has been my experience that such decisions are rewarded as other employees step up to fill the void.
- Are you clear about your vision and your core values? Are you using those to inform your hiring decisions? A person with passion for your vision who demonstrates your core values on a daily basis will outperform any other employee. If you share your vision and core values during the recruiting and hiring process, the odds of attracting an ideal candidate will increase. Yes, it will narrow down the number of candidates, but the quality of the candidates will be much higher.
- Are you managing your employees in such a way that they can’t imagine not working for you? This can be an uncomfortable question to answer. But if you can answer it in the affirmative, you will have an advantage over other companies competing for the same pool of candidates. What would it take to have employees who are fiercely loyal to you and your company? (Hint, it isn’t a higher salary.)
If after answering those questions you find that there are opportunities for improvement, I’d like to introduce you to EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System), an operating system that helps owners and their leadership teams get what they want from their businesses. When implementing EOS, I teach how to utilize a simple set of tools that help you clarify your vision, gain traction on that vision by instilling discipline and accountability throughout the organization, and then transform your leadership team into a healthy, cohesive, fun-loving group of people who actually like working together. This system will help you run a better business and, quite frankly, run a better life.
To get started on regaining control of your business, attracting the right people and accelerating your growth, all you need to do is email me. I can tell you that this system worked for me personally: ever since I addressed my Right Seat, Wrong Chicken issue, I have been able to live a better chicken mama life.
If you recall, the outcome of the big chicken massacre was a traumatized rooster (Oden) and an unscathed hen (we named her Sally the Survivor). The end result of one hen and a feisty rooster is an oversexed hen. I needed to solve my immediate problem: finding more hens. Since I have Icelandic chickens, breeding with other types of chickens isn’t an option. So, I did what everyone does when faced with a problem these days and turned to social media. In my Icelandic Chicken Mama Facebook group, I asked if anyone had any hens I could buy in my local area. Fortunately, there was one woman who agreed to sell me some of her hens though the price was a bit steep. We did the exchange in the parking lot of Buy Buy Baby in Clackamas, Oregon.
I drove them home and planned on waiting until after dark to introduce the hens to their new home and family, but then changed my mind and decided to give them a few hours to acclimate prior to heading to bed for the evening. Well, that was quite an experience. Oden, the rooster, was overwhelmed with all his new options, and Sally was less than pleased to have to share Oden’s attention. I have a video of this introduction if you are looking for a little chicken entertainment.
Now, I wasn’t excited about paying what I paid for my hens, but the reality was that I needed to solve my short-term issue in order to make sure Sally survived. I considered my options – purchasing chicks, purchasing eggs or paying an arm and a leg for hens. I picked the best of the less than ideal options and moved toward implementation.
I’m sure there are many of us who haven’t liked our options over the past 16 months. Wearing a mask, social distancing, not seeing friends, not traveling, cooking all meals at home, etc. But one thing I’ve learned as an adult is we often have to make hard decisions based on the current situation we are facing.
When I’m implementing EOS with a client, I work to help them get better in three areas: Vision, Traction and Healthy. Vision means that everyone is clear on where the organization is going and how it will get there. Traction means no matter where you look in the organization, you see people executing on that vision with discipline and accountability. Healthy means transforming the leadership team into a cohesive, fun-loving group of people who genuinely like working together.
Guess which one is the hardest to do? Yep – transforming the leadership team into a cohesive group of people who are willing to be open and honest with one another. Conflict is difficult for most people, and as a result, they avoid it. The sad reality is that avoiding it doesn’t make it go away. In fact, in many ways, it festers and ends up causing more issues than you can imagine. Engaging in a lively debate is critical to working through the issues facing an organization. If your leadership team can’t engage in those conversations, the decisions that are being made may be taking you farther from what you are trying to achieve, not closer.
If you sense that your team is not making the hard decisions because they are avoiding conflict, you could be heading for trouble. If you are ready to take the bold steps to work through those issues but you aren’t sure where to start, I can help you. Making the difficult decisions now will help position the organization for growth in the future. Are you ready for a new future? Email me now and we can start working on achieving it today.
Many of you have asked who killed my chickens. If you haven’t been following my ongoing chicken mama saga, you can find my last article here. But, just to quickly summarize, something killed six of my eight chickens, leaving a traumatized rooster without tail feathers and an unscathed hen.
My husband and I have spent days pondering the demise of our chickens. To answer the question succinctly, we aren’t exactly sure. But there are two clues that shed some light on the answer.
First, one of the chickens was found in our backyard. Our chicken coop is in the front field and requires either walking down the driveway or strolling through the woods to get to the coop. Even back in our short-lived, free-range chicken days, no chicken ever wandered up towards the house. They ran (or flew) for cover in the trees and away from our dogs. So, something brought this chicken to our backyard.
The second clue takes a little to set up, so bear with me. As you may recall, we have a chicken coop enclosed within a 10×10 run with a gate. At the request of our chickens, we expanded this run to include a 20×30 play area that has poultry fencing on the sides and is covered with bird netting. This play area isn’t designed to keep them safe at night, but during the day it does keep them contained, and the netting keeps winged predators out while preventing the chickens from “flying the coop.” Our chicken coop has an automatic door opener, which protects them at night, and when we closed the run gate in the evening, the chickens were also predator-safe. After the chicken massacre, we added chicken coop fencing around the play area and staked it down. And we committed to closing the run gate every night to protect them even more.
In honor of my husband’s birthday, I dressed the dogs in their birthday bandanas from Bailey’s Bandanas. The morning after his birthday, JacX (the puppy) returned to the house after “doing her business” without her bandana. That morning, as I walked up to let the chickens out, I was lamenting that I would have to order another bandana as the dogs look so cute with them on. When I arrived at the chicken coop, I found the bandana. Smack in the middle of the play structure. You know: the one surrounded by chicken coop fencing.
Yep, our “bird dog” used her nose and paws to pry up the stakes, lift the fencing and enter the play structure. Fortunately, the chickens were locked up in the run and she couldn’t get to them.
As I reflect on why JacX would do that, I think she might have started taking “liberties” with her title of bird dog. Instead of thinking of herself as a dog that retrieves the birds her dad shoots, she started to think of herself as a dog who retrieves all birds, regardless of whether her dad shot them.
And while I’m not happy with her at all, I think that in some ways we can all relate to her. How many of us have taken ‘liberties” with our titles or our responsibilities over the past year? Think about it – how many of us have transitioned to less formal business attire while working at home (or at least from the waist down)? Or how many of us have found out that without all the idle chit-chat, we can actually get all our work done 15-20% faster, thus allowing us to shrink our work week? Or perhaps we have “shirked” those responsibilities that we really don’t like doing or never found any value in completing?
As we move into a post-pandemic life, most businesses will start having employees return to work in the office full-time. This will definitely be a period of adjustment. I’d like to propose the following three suggestions on how to preserve the benefits of the past year while ensuring that the company is poised to grow and thrive in this new economy.
- Communicate. Don’t assume your employees know what you have been thinking and planning for the past year. As we teach in EOS, in order for an employee to hear you for the first time, they need to hear it seven times. So, get clear on your vision and your path to achieving that vision and then start communicating. If you feel like you are overcommunicating, or you’re getting tired of repeating yourself, pat yourself on the back and keep on communicating.
- Be clear on everyone’s responsibilities. A year is a long time to firmly establish habits, good or bad. So, as you move towards “re-entry” make sure that everyone is clear on what is expected of them. One EOS tool that I like to use is the 5-5-5. This tool can be used to reinforce core values, describe the employee role in the organization and define their quarterly “rocks” (business priorities).
- Be human. One of the benefits of the past year is the melding together of our personal and professional lives. We have learned how to work from home and balance remote learning for our kids, how to manage barking dogs during Zoom meetings and how to support each other during periods of tremendous stress. My hope is that we maintain that same level of care and concern in our post-pandemic lives.
If you find that you or your workforce isn’t ready to navigate the new realities, please reach out to me. I can provide you some tools and techniques that will make this adjustment much easier for all parties involved. And, perhaps, we can learn how to leverage some of those “liberties” into a more fulfilling life.
As my husband and I started talking about getting chickens, we created our vision: free range chickens that laid lots of eggs.
As you know, the first round of chickens were free range but they stopped laying eggs in our coop. Our second round has been confined to our run and the quantity of eggs has slowly been increasing. But, the free range part isn’t going so well. We have two issues, first our dog JacX who believes her job is to catch the chickens and bring them to my husband (Mike is working on addressing this issue with the dog trainer).
But, our other issue is Oden, the rooster. The reason we have a rooster is twofold: first, roosters will protect the hens, and second, having a rooster allows me to continue the bloodline without purchasing additional chicks.
Oden is very good at protecting his hens. But about a month ago, my husband went to put them in for the night, and Oden wasn’t quite ready to turn in. My husband gave him a gentle nudge toward the coop, which Oden didn’t appreciate. His response was to flog my husband. While my husband didn’t dwell on the incident, Oden apparently isn’t over it yet. He now likes to strut up to me or my husband to challenge us. Fortunately, Oden has learned the word “No.” But it has definitely reduced the fun in caring for the chickens. In fact, I can’t be in the coop when he is walking around, as he will come up and try to challenge me (he hasn’t tried to flog me yet).
Based on our Chicken Values, I’ve been wondering if we have a Right Seat, Wrong Chicken problem.
The phrase “Right Person, Right Seat” comes from Jim Collins’ 2001 bestseller Good to Great. The “Right Person” is someone who shares your organization’s core values. The “Right Seat” means that person is using the skills and talents they were born with. When implementing EOS, I teach my clients that in order to achieve their vision, they need 100% of the individuals in their organization to be “Right People, Right Seat.” If you don’t have that, the organization’s performance will suffer. Allow me to explain.
Let’s say your situation is Right Person, Wrong Seat. You have someone who shares your company’s core values. They fit your culture like a glove, but they aren’t doing a job that is in line with their skills and abilities. Typically, management makes excuses for the person by saying things like, ”He has been here since the beginning,” or “I really want her to finish her career with us.” So, you either tolerate underperformance or begin to create workarounds to ensure the organization still meets its goals while keeping that person in his/her seat. That results in inefficiency, chaos and reduced performance.
The other challenge you may face is Wrong Person, Right Seat. This is someone who is really good at the job but doesn’t demonstrate the organization’s core values. I’ve witnessed this with a really strong salesperson who will win at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the company’s core values. It might also happen when you have a very knowledgeable technical person in a key role, or possessing a unique understanding of the product or service being provided. Organizations often feel they can’t possibly let that person go, because they will lose their competitive edge, and if that employee were then hired by a competitor, the company’s secrets could be shared. But I have seen first-hand that letting a Wrong Person go actually liberates other individuals in the organization to step up and fill the void. And oftentimes, after the person is gone, the leadership team will start to hear stories about how this person was eroding the culture and the company’s reputation.
If you sense that someone in your organization is either the wrong person in the right seat, or the right person in the wrong seat, I challenge you to do something about it. Achieving your vision requires that you address those issues within the organization. If you aren’t sure what to do or how to approach this issue, I can help you get clarity on how best to address it for the greater good of your organization.
Oh, and did I mention that one of my 18 week old chickens is a rooster…
So, all is quiet in the chicken coop. Oden, the rooster, has assumed control of the chickens. The baby chicks are about 16 weeks old and gaining confidence (and hopefully will be laying eggs soon), and the other hens are laying eggs and running away from Oden. We seem to have settled into a good routine – meal worms and scraps in the morning, lots of free time in the run and laying an occasional egg. Oh, so this is the life of a chicken mama.
Or so I thought. Then I opened the lid over the nesting boxes and discovered all the straw had been removed from the boxes and spread all over the coop. Do you have any idea how long it takes a chicken to pull straw out of a nesting box? Did they take one piece at a time or fill their beaks with straw? Was it one chicken or multiple chickens partaking in this prank? These are questions that I could not answer. So I filled up the nesting boxes with more straw and closed the lid. The next day – the same thing happened again. While I don’t know the reason for their behavior, I do know that hens are typically most comfortable laying eggs in a nesting box that is full of straw.
If I hadn’t opened the nesting box, I wouldn’t have known there was a problem with their bedding. And guess what: the same can be said about people. We may think everything is OK when looking at the surface, but what happens when you look deeper?
So many people are struggling to navigate the challenges of COVID. Everything has changed, from social interactions to tensions at home to remote learning to financial stresses. And if we just look at someone on the surface, it might seem that all is OK. But, I assure you, that isn’t always the case.
I’m going to assume that you truly care about the people around you, whether they are family, friends, employees, customers or suppliers. And you want to help them successfully navigate through these difficult times. That means you’ll need to create the space and opportunity to find out how people are really doing. I believe this can only be done by allowing yourself to be open and honest with the people you encounter.
While we know that a hen needs a soft place to lay her egg, a human also needs a soft place to unburden their stress. And during this pandemic, sometimes we are the hen and sometimes we are the straw. If you need some help navigating the challenges of life, regaining traction as the economy restarts or refocusing your leadership team on your new vision, reach out to me. I can provide a perspective and the tools to get you out of the coop and back into the run!
A Business Owner’s Perspective
Running a business in 2020 presented challenges that many business owners and executives had never experienced. The pandemic impacted different industries differently. Some, like outdoor recreation, had record years that may never be repeated, while others, including commercial aerospace, have been devastated. As 2021 began, I interviewed the leaders of numerous businesses, some of which benefited from the pandemic and some of which were negatively impacted, about what steps they took in 2020 and what they plan for 2021 in order to survive this pandemic. Three common themes emerged from these interviews: diversification, internal efficiencies and leveraging the customer base.
Nearly every business leader I spoke to recognized that serving a wider range of industries or a wider customer base is key to surviving any economic downturn. Companies in oil and gas, automotive or aerospace have experienced significant economic downturns throughout this century. The difference is that this pandemic affected nearly every industry. The challenge this time was to either pivot to an area that wasn’t impacted, or expand their offerings within their primary industry in order to keep their employees working. Here are some approaches that have worked for successful companies:
- Expand reach among existing customers. One concept that proved true during the pandemic is that customers aren’t thinking about suppliers. They are focused on their business and the best way to survive or thrive during the pandemic. However, the pandemic also created an opportunity to connect at a deeper level with customers, suppliers and others. Taking the time to reach out to those people in our professional network allowed businesses to develop a deeper relationship with those individuals.
- Calls like this also provide an opportunity to educate your customers on other products and services that you or your company might offer. Alex Goldfayn, author of Selling Boldly, urges his clients to pick up the phone and call their customers. Customers aren’t thinking about what products and services you provide. By calling and talking with them, you can offer to help them during this time. If that approach feels uncomfortable, think about the last time someone called you and offered to help. And how did you feel? Was that relationship weakened or strengthened? I personally know that this approach increased business for one of my clients by 15% in less than six months.
- Expand offerings within the same industry. Regardless of what industry your business currently serves, there are always opportunities to provide additional products or services. During the shutdown, many of my clients spent their precious R&D efforts developing new products. In some cases, it was an idea that had been percolating in someone’s head, or an adjustment to meet a perceived need due to the new economic reality. The challenge with this approach is that once these new offerings are developed, you must take action to educate your customers about them. By reaching out to them as discussed above, you are proactively educating your customers on new ways you can help them.
- Pivot to another industry. The pandemic required businesses in some industries to completely pivot to another industry. Nate Lindquist, owner of Pinnacle Metal Works, said he realized that as the aerospace industry was grounded (pun intended), he needed to do something to keep his employees employed. He made the decision to pivot to the home gym industry, which was booming during the lockdown. While he plans to maintain his foothold in aerospace, establishing a business in a new industry has allowed him to gain new experience and knowledge, including how to grow his online presence and how to adjust his manufacturing plant to meet the differing needs of his new customer base.
Over the past four years, the US economy has remained strong, which has resulted in growth across nearly every industry. As the saying goes, profit covers sin. So as the economy ground to a halt, most companies began to look at ways to cut costs. Beyond reducing headcount or across-the-board pay cuts, other strategies included cross-training employees, streamlining flow through the plant and bringing outsourced services in-house. Outsourcing included pre-fabrication in the shop versus in the field, while outside processing could include machining or nondestructive testing. In some companies, that meant acquisition of companies providing complementary or down-stream services.
As companies began to rearrange their processes to allow for social distancing, equipment and processes could be redesigned to redeploy employees while reducing waste. For some manufacturing processes, that included having one employee operate multiple pieces of equipment or perform multiple operations in series. A number of companies also reduced WIP (work in process) and moved toward “Just In Time” manufacturing.
Understanding that most businesses will go through these cycles, many companies took this time to strengthen their processes. Russ Gallagher, president of Bescast, an aerospace company, tasked his managers to begin strengthening processes and ensuring that when demand picked back up, they were able to handle increased throughput, smaller batches and more complex parts. These downturns are an opportunity to try new technology, develop creative approaches to resolve nagging issues and explore new products in order to reduce costs or find a competitive edge.
Construction companies found that utilizing their resources and equipment in the shop reduced waste and costs in the field. To do that, they needed additional engineering to ensure the design accurately fit the footprint and met the needs of the customer. Most firms found they could redeploy existing resources in order to achieve this initiative. This meant faster completion of projects, resulting in higher profits and greater capacity.
Focus on the Customer
The pandemic allowed the opportunity to deepen relationships with customers and suppliers. During periods of stress, it is often difficult to look beyond our immediate situation and focus on others, but this outward focus allowed many companies to grow and thrive during the pandemic. Eric Doering, founder of Vulcan DC, had to find other ways to generate sales when home shows, the company’s primary method for reaching new customers, were cancelled. He began calling former customers and asking for referrals, which turned out to be a great way to find new projects while strengthening relationship with his customer base.
Hank Jamerson, VP of Sales and Marketing at Kyanite Mining Company, tasked his team with reaching out to all his customers and checking in on how they were doing. He realized that during the past several years, he hadn’t been proactively calling his customers, but instead was only responding to incoming inquiries. As he and his team started calling his customers, he realized how much he’d missed talking with them and how much they had missed hearing from him.
Even more importantly, he realized that taking the time to truly connect with others was one of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult time.
As we move into 2021 and start the long journey towards a life that mirrors pre-pandemic times, I challenge you to take time to reflect on how you can enhance your relationships with those around you. While business may be the reason these relationships began, I do believe this pandemic provides an opportunity for us to deepen those relationships and carry them forward into a prosperous future.
If you would need some assistance on the best approach to enhance your customer relations, send me an email. I’d be happy to share best practices and get you on your way.
P.S. I promise my chicken articles will be back next week. I just needed a little time to grieve the loss of Caramel Corn.
Over the past week, most of the country experienced cold, winter weather. In the Pacific Northwest, we had a storm that impacted the entire region. At our home, it snowed for nearly two days straight, with a snow total of more than 12 inches. The dogs really enjoyed the snow, but most of the wildlife struggled to find food. We had hummingbird wars, and lots of wildlife visiting our bird feeders, including numerous varieties of bird, a pregnant deer with two youngsters and a few raccoons. I can say that the chickens unequivocally did not enjoy the weather. Even though these chickens are Icelandic, I’d venture to say that it has been a few generations since their ancestors visited their motherland. One of the chickens started down the ramp, slid a little and backed right back up into the coop. None of the chickens left the coop from Friday morning through Tuesday morning.
As you can imagine, we were also concerned about Caramel Corn, our long-lost chicken who left us for our neighbor’s horse pasture. Caramel Corn spends her days with the horses and goats, and in the evening she usually sleeps in the trees and brush along the driveway. During the snowstorm, the horses were in the barn, the goats were in their pen, and there were no chicken tracks on our driveway or the pasture. On Monday, we went down the driveway to find that Caramel Corn had been killed by a predator (thankfully that predator was not named JacX).
Caramel Corn had managed to survive on her own since July. But, unfortunately, the snow kept her from being able to fly or run to safety. The storm changed her environment and removed her natural defenses. I think there are a lot of people who have also been struggling through their own storm, otherwise known as the pandemic. They were strong and resilient, but the pandemic changed everything.
As we start to see a faint light signaling the end of the pandemic, we can’t lose sight of the fact that people are struggling, and businesses are fighting to survive. The key to emerging from this pandemic as healthy individuals is for all of us to be willing to support each other, even as tensions are high. As I share with my clients, I believe all issues, outside of politics, can be resolved with direct, honest communication.
Engaging in these difficult conversations can be uncomfortable and, at times, scary. But the benefits of engaging far outweigh the risks. Ignoring the tension will only lead to additional stress, anger and reduced performance.
Every situation is different, but here are some tips that can help you be your best during these difficult conversations:
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I’m sure this tip isn’t something you haven’t heard before, but this pandemic has made me realize that we are all dealing with different stresses in different areas of our lives. Viewing the situation from a different perspective provides insight into the motivation behind someone’s behavior, which hopefully results in compassion.
- Listen to understand. It is so hard when tensions are rising to really listen to what the other person is saying. So, take a deep breath, close your mouth and listen.
- Ask questions. As I coach my clients, during difficult conversations, or when a conversation takes a turn that you aren’t expecting, the best way to recover is to ask questions. This gives the emotional side of your brain a chance to calm down and the intellectual side of the brain time to respond appropriately.
- Don’t ignore it. Most of us would like to avoid these conversations altogether. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the best time to eat a frog is in the morning because it isn’t going to taste any better if you wait. Eat the Frog. Have the conversation.
If you still aren’t sure how to address an issue, please reach out to me, and together we can help you emerge from those necessary but difficult conversations with a deeper relationship and increased confidence for the future.
I think that is what Caramel Corn would have wanted.