Paralyzed with Fear (Again!)

I was recently invited to join a group of experienced cyclists on a hilly, 20-mile evening ride (I know some of you are saying, “Really Vicki? Another cycling story” – so please work with me here). At first I was going to say “no thanks.” I was nervous and I didn’t want to be the one holding everyone back. But after reading Shonda Rhimes book, Year of Yes, I’ve been working on saying “yes” to things that make me uncomfortable.

So off I went to meet everyone and they couldn’t have been nicer to me. Lots of “don’t worry” comments eased my anxiety a little bit. We started riding and all was going well until we came to the first giant hill. I’ve been working on clipping in to my pedals and have been trying it on one side to ease the transition. As I trudged up the hill, very slowly, I clicked on my gears to lower them and my chain fell off. “OH NO!” And to add to my anxiety, a car was coming up the hill behind me at a very slow pace. I forgot that I wasn’t clipped in on my right foot. I felt trapped. My heart was racing. I had visions of myself falling into the traffic. I was PARALYZED WITH FEAR!

This got me thinking about all the fear we experience (create?) at work. What fears do you have that get in the way of you being satisfied, energized & productive? Here are two fears that I hear about.

7-19-16 blogUncomfortable Conversations
When I talk to staff and leaders about what needs to be done to improve engagement, a big buzz word is “accountability.” When staff who are actively disengaged bring their negative behavior to work, most people want someone else to handle it. But the fear comes when it’s time to have those uncomfortable conversations. Now it’s time for you to feel the fear and move through it. No more procrastinating. Get a book, attend a class – improve your communication skills and just do it!

Making or Admitting to a Mistake
Making a mistake at work is scary. They are paying you to do a good job – not to mess up. But hey – we are human and we do make mistakes. Add to the fact that if you aren’t making some mistakes, you are probably stagnant and maybe in need of a little innovation to mix things up. No, I’m not suggesting making mistakes on purpose or on the really big things (like safety or quality). But try something new. Give yourself a chance to fail – who knows what you might discover!

Now back to our regularly scheduled bike story…I panicked and just before I fell, I unclipped my left foot and righted myself. Crisis averted. Whew! I put the chain back on and had to walk my bike up the hill. I was too shaky to ride. I acted really cool about it but it took me a good 10 minutes to calm down. Hey – guess what. I finished that ride with everyone else. I rode the bike up all the other hills and we all pulled into the parking lot together.

What if I would have let the first bout of fear paralyze me to the point of turning back? Or, what if I had said “no” to begin with? I would have missed a lot of beautiful scenery, the summer sounds & smells, the company of new (very patient) friends and some great exercise.

Now…dive in! Do something you are afraid of. It’s the lesson that keeps on giving.

Happy Skydiving (haha)!

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Bratwurst, Bad Weather, & Bruises

Remember those papers you wrote as kid entitled “What I learned on my summer vacation?” I just got back from a cycling vacation and I’d like to share what I learned and how it might help you at work.

1. Bratwurst
I’m a pretty healthy eater and wouldn’t typically eat anything close to a bratwurst – especially when it’s prepared by a street vendor and I don’t know the contents or origins of the sausage. But, I learned that sometimes the “locals” really do know what’s best and that bratwurst is really good!
Lesson Learned… Maybe the folks in other departments that are serving you their “bratwurst” really do know something you don’t know. Maybe the local knowledge gives them different insights and perspectives that you don’t have. What if you trusted their judgement and tried something new?

2. Bad WeatherGermany Rainbow
I cycled 168 miles in 6 days throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. What a glorious way to see the countryside and observe local customs. One challenge was that It rained 5 of the 6 days. UGH! My husband and I could have ridden in the van and hung out in museums but that wasn’t the trip we had in mind so we got up every day and put on our right rain gear and started peddling. Of course it became a joke with our fellow cyclists. We are all better riders now and we still had lots of laughs.

So it was fitting that right after our good bye dinner in Konstanz, Germany we stepped outside to survey the skies. Lo and behold, we saw the most beautiful double rainbow over the city. What a fabulous reward for all the rain!

Lesson Learned… Work can be challenging. Unexpected obstacles arise and you just have to keep “peddling” to move forward. It’s not what you planned, it’s not what you would have chosen – it’s what’s in front of you right now. The bad weather brings the team closer and helps you learn – if you let it. Now you can go look for that rainbow.

vicki cycling in rain in Austria3. Bruises
I fell twice while riding my bike. I was jarred and scared and felt sorry for myself. Both times, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. The guides even warned us about each of the hazards that I encountered. When they talked about safety, I thought “I’m a good rider – I know what I’m doing…this doesn’t apply to me.” Boy was I wrong and I have the soreness and bruises to prove it.

Lesson Learned… It’s a good idea to pay attention – even when you think you know what’s being discussed. Let’s admit it. We’re all guilty of zoning out during meetings. It’s easy to get distracted and think about what’s “really important” back at your desk or in your work area. It makes sense to heed the advice of those who might just know a bit more than you do. You can learn a lot and avoid the bruises.

I hope you are taking some time off this summer to relax and enjoy time away from work. In the meantime, take a look at things with fresh eyes and think about how you can create your own Professional Paradise today.

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I wish I would have spent more time at the office!

You’ve probably heard the old saying by Rabbi Harold Kushner…Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” My father recently passed away so I’ve been thinking a lot about his legacy and how he lived his life. One thing that has bubbled up is that although no one might say they wish they had spent more time at the office, they might say, “I wish I would have spent my time at work differently.”

Vicki and DadMy dad, Bob, was a man of words and worked in sales, sales management and leadership in the food industry for the better part of his career. He was full of ideas for how to improve work and sometimes got in trouble because he spoke up when others might not have.

He took pride in his contributions and worked as a volunteer for SCORE (helping small business owners grow their business) in his retirement. From my perspective as his daughter, I think he would have called himself a Chief Paradise Officer.

I hope that today, you will think about what you would say about your job on your deathbed.

We spend more time working than we do anything else (expect for sleeping). Shouldn’t we feel good about what we are doing and how we are doing it? What’s the point if you go to work and complain every day? What’s the point if you toss and turn on Sunday night because work is on your mind?

What can you do today to make things better so that on your deathbed, you can truly say, “I created my own Professional Paradise during?” I don’t mean starting your own business – I mean looking at what makes you satisfied, energized & productive and connecting with that to become a Chief Paradise Officer – no matter what is happening around you.

And, if you’re thinking, “Sure Vicki, that’s easy for you to say – you are your own boss,” think again. You all are my bosses. I’m here to work in service to you. So every day when I come to work I am the role model for Chief Paradise Officers around the globe. It’s not always easy, but I work at it and hopefully I’m hitting the mark.

I can honestly say that on my deathbed (and I hope that doesn’t happen for a long, long time), I might just say, “I loved the time I spent in my office”…will you?

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Silly Signs and You

Silly SignsI was sitting in a small regional airport waiting for my delayed flight to board. That was when I saw these signs on the door. This made me laugh and wonder…

Did they put both signs up at the same time because research shows that two signs that say the same thing are better than one?


Was there an emergency and someone didn’t get the meaning of the first sign?


Who thought that they needed a second sign?
Was there a committee meeting held to discuss the addition?


Did one of the airport leaders make the decision unilaterally and everyone thought it was ridiculous? (Like I did.)

And then I thought, how does this impact the employee’s engagement and view of their leader and workplace? Do they even see the signs anymore? Was the second sign just a total waste of time, energy & money? Is this really a safety enhancer? Are the employees rolling their eyes as this represents the overall vibe of this workplace? (I know some of you are thinking I had too much time on my hands, and you would be correct – haha.)

So, here’s a question to ponder this month…What “signs” are you putting up at work that might leave your teammates or direct reports or customers wondering? Are your signs helpful or do they lead to disengagement or confusion or even ridicule?

Perhaps the “sign” is not your actual work but the way in which you do it. Perhaps as a leader you’re putting up someone else’s signs even when you think they aren’t helpful instead of pushing back.

I challenge you today to take a fresh look at the signs you are putting up in the world and make them the kind that contribute to your own engagement and the engagement of others.

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Do something you’re afraid of today….

bikeshoesI did it. I finally got bike shoes that clip into the peddles. If you’re not a cyclist, no worries, just imagine your shoes being attached to the peddles and you have to unclip them when you stop or else you fall off your bike and go BOOM! And here’s what everyone who has clips tells you…”You WILL fall!”

Why, you might ask, am I subjecting myself to something scary that also has the potential of causing injury (I’m wondering that myself as I type this – haha). Because I CAN! And because all my cycling buddies tell me that I’ll see a vast difference in the energy I put out to climb hills or do long distance rides. The effort will decrease and the reward will increase. (Now that I’m typing that, I’m thinking “Why didn’t I do this in 2008 when I participated in my first triathlon?)

So here’s my question for you…

What’s something you’re afraid of doing at work that would have a great payoff if you did it?

Here are some challenges for you to ponder and take the plunge:

  • Offer to lead part of a staff meeting – make it fun and interesting.
  • Volunteer to be part of an organization-wide committee or project team that’s outside your comfort zone.
  • Call someone in another department that you kind of know and wish you knew better and invite him or her to meet you for coffee.
  • Schedule a meeting to talk with your boss about your hopes and aspirations – share your plan for making changes you’d like to see at work.
  • Have that tough conversation with someone who reports to you about the thing that everyone knows and secretly talks about behind your back.

That’s plenty for today. Picture yourself being “successful” (For me that will mean becoming comfortable with clipping in and unclipping so that I remain safely upright on my bike). What does success look like in your situation? How does that connect to what makes you satisfied, energized & productive (AKA engaged) at work?

Boredom at work is a real buzz kill and doing something you’re afraid of (that has a calculated risk) is one way to cause a spark that leads to you creating your own Professional Paradise.

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What I learned at a Carrabba’s in Texas

Earlier this month I presented the opening keynote for the Texas Organization of Nurse Executives (TONE) Annual Conference. The group of 200+ nursing leaders were great (welcome to all of you who are reading this). As an added bonus, my book editor and good friend, Juli Baldwin lives in Dallas so she came to see me speak and help me sell books after the talk.

After I was finished, Juli and I headed to the Carrabba’s Italian Restaurant in Dallas for lunch because Juli’s Carrabba Family Picson, Ryan, is a manager there (Ryan is 23 – he’s on the left in the picture). I’d met Juli’s two other son’s, but hadn’t met Ryan so this was a perfect spot to go. Ryan and his team were delightful hosts.

Near the end of the meal, the proprietor of the store, Cameron Morrow (he’s in his late 20’s) came in with his 10-month old daughter to run the weekly manager meeting. He and Juli had never met.

What I saw then was nothing short of amazing when it comes to engagement.

With Ryan standing next to him, Cameron looked Juli in the eye and talked for several minutes about how wonderful Ryan is doing as a manager. He spoke with authority, conviction and most importantly a caring heart. No, I haven’t gone all soft on you – I could just tell that Cameron is very dedicated to recognizing those around him. It was lovely as Cameron took his time with the conversation.

I had just met Cameron that day but I’m guessing that something that makes him satisfied, energized & productive (AKA engaged) is mentoring others and seeing folks grow and develop. He was certainly successful that day. Ryan stood next to Cameron and watched with a big smile on his face. Juli started to cry (she’s a self proclaimed crier – haha). I had goose bumps all over. I can only imagine that Ryan’s level of engagement (which is already high) has increased based on those few minutes of thoughtful conversation.

Today, think of the power of your words. Think about who you could positively influence by sharing your appreciation and honest comments about his or her work. Maybe it’s the person working along side you or someone who reports to you, maybe it’s someone from another department who you depend on to get your work done…the list of possibilities is endless. The gift you give that person is priceless.

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