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From Handbag to Clutch

posted Apr 20, 2017, 5:32 AM by Heather Harrison

Last week, I met a new client.  As we were getting to know each other, I asked her what she would most like to get out of our time together.  She paused, peering down, she lifted her extra-large handbag off the floor.  Looking directly at me she said in a firm voice, I want to reduce this handbag to a clutch.  Can you do that?

As we begin the process of laying out and noticing the items in her big handbag, I suspect we will find things that no longer make sense to carry around.  Nestled in the corners of the bag we may find things that if used differently may serve her very well in her life.  Still yet we may find some heavy items lodged in the bottom that are weighing her down, maybe even keeping her stuck as she continues to lug them about.  As she works through her handbag, I am confident she will light on the essential items she wants to take with her in her clutch.

What do you want to take out of your handbag?


In Plain Sight

posted Mar 16, 2017, 8:00 PM by Heather Harrison

Last month I had dinner with my parents and their 80-year-old college friends Stephanie and Stan.  I listened intently as their conversation wove seamlessly between college life in the 50’s, grandkids of today, careers which had successfully ended and what it felt like to grow older.  I asked them if they had a chance to do life over again, what would they do differently.  The following story ensued: 

Stephanie, shared how she and Stan had recently sold their family house of 55 years to a great young couple and moved to a smaller place.  She reminisced about how, for 30 years she had tried to cajole Stan into ripping up their carpet and replacing it with hard wood floors.  She could picture how beautiful the floors would be and how relieved she would be to throw away the worn-out carpet.  Stan, a conservative Midwestern, deemed it completely unnecessary and   unsatisfactory to have cold wood floors vs. the warm carpeted floors, especially during the cold Iowa winter months.  Stephanie admitted she never really gave up trying to convince Stan how great it would be to have the hard wood floors. 

A few months after the young couple moved into their home, Stephanie and Stan were invited over for dinner.  When Stephanie walked in the house the first thing she noticed was the beautiful hard wood floors.  “Oh, she said, I wanted to put these floors in here for the last 30 years.”  The young woman replied.  These are the original floors.  All we did was rip up the carpet!

As I listened to this story I was struck by how often the things we want the most are literally right in front of us, or in this case right below us.  What do you find yourself consistently desiring?  Time, space, love, friendship, adventure, advancement.  Before you waste 30 years pining for it, stop and take an honest inventory of where you are right now.  How might you be able to find what you genuinely desire, right where you are?

Resume or Epitaph

posted Feb 19, 2017, 7:00 AM by Heather Harrison   [ updated Feb 19, 2017, 7:10 AM ]


A few months ago, I was walking with my family through the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. We decided to wander into Lake View Cemetery to see if we could locate Bruce Lee’s gravesite.  Having no idea where it was, I found myself getting lost in the inscriptions on the various headstones.  We wandered through gravestones from the 1800’s, when what is now known as Underground Seattle, was the center of the city.  There were grave sites of recently lost family members as well.  Newborn babies to centenarians.  As I read the epitaph descriptions I noticed time and time again, words of love, presence, caring, kindness, faithfulness, and generosity were used in loving remembrance of lost family members.

In my roles as a leadership consultant and counselor I’m frequently in conversation with people about their careers, what success looks like and how to best craft their resumes.  We work together diligently to create a picture of success.  Descriptions include controlled, coordinated, executed, driven, effective leader, planned, produced, assertive communicator, strategic etc.

As I headed out of the cemetery, it made me stop and wonder to what extent I am living my life working towards accomplishments I can list on my resume or messages I would like to see engraved on my headstone. How often am I working day in and day out on creating words that look great on my resume instead of building a life worth writing about and remembering on my tombstone?

Questions

How do you want people to describe you at the end of your life?

What words would you use to describe yourself today?

How do others describe you?

Leaving it All on the Table

posted Jan 26, 2017, 6:55 PM by Heather Harrison

I often think about what it would look like if I were to really give my all to whatever it is I’m participating in.  Weather I’m at the gym, at work or even making a meal, I often notice myself holding a piece or many pieces of me back.  And then I wonder what it is that is holding me back. 

It makes me think back to the many years of school I participated in.  When studying for a test, I often did not put in my full effort.  It was my way of keeping myself safe.  Or so I believed.  If I studied a mediocre amount and got a mediocre grade, I could blame it on my approach to studying vs. believing it was my intellect.  If I studied my heart out and got a less than desirable grade, then I choose to believe that was all I had, and I somehow was not enough.  This same thinking came with me when I was swimming or running a race.  I could see the agony, sweat and even sickness on the faces of others, I however looked like I had just completed practice vs. a timed event.  Again, if I did not lay it all out, and did poorly, I blamed it on my approach vs. myself.  What holds me back from putting it all on the table is the fear of not being enough. 

This way of “keeping me safe” from myself, does in fact not keep me safe.  It distances me from the gifts, strength, and drive God has given me.  We have all been created with a wide assortment of gifts and infinite potential.  Let’s make 2017 the year, we stop holding back and starting moving towards giving whatever we are participating in, all we have.  When I come up short, I want to choose to learn from it vs. wallow in self-doubt and self-blame.

 Questions

·         Where do you see yourself holding back?

·         What would it look like to “leave it all on the table”?

What holds you back from doing this?

Look Up

posted Jan 10, 2017, 12:21 PM by Heather Harrison   [ updated Jan 10, 2017, 2:16 PM ]

 Thoughts

I was walking down the sidewalk in Cannon Beach last month noticing a family of five walking in front of me.  A mom, dad, two preteen daughters and their younger brother.  All of the kids were walking and looking down intently at their phones simultaneously.  As I watched them, I felt saddened that they were more interested in their screens than the amazingly beautiful beach in front of them.  As we neared the street corner, the dad said in a loud voice, “be sure to look up.”   Those words caught my attention.  Of course, for safety reasons it is quite important to look up as one crosses the street and is it not equally important to be looking up and taking note of the scenery in front of you at all times.  As we start the new year I want to pose a few questions.

 

Questions

Are you looking up? 

What do you see in front of you?

Are you too focused on the “small screen/story” in front of you, that you can not see what is around you?  If so, what do you need to do to allow yourself to look up?


VUCA. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity.

posted Jan 10, 2017, 12:20 PM by Heather Harrison   [ updated Jan 10, 2017, 2:17 PM ]

Thoughts

Created in the 1990’s, this military-derived acronym has been adopted by business leaders to describe the increasingly unstable and rapidly changing business world that has become our “new normal.” The question before us is how can we as leaders be successful in this environment.

During Winter Break I had the opportunity to go skiing with my family on Mt. Bachelor.  The first day on the mountain there was a blizzard.  Very low visibility.  Extremely high winds were reported at the summit, and 12 inches of brand new powder snow was beneath our skis.  Our three adult kids were thrilled by it all.  I however, was not.  As I slid down the ramp off the chair into a completely white scene, I took a few turns and was blown down to the ground by a large gust of wind.  I had little idea of where I was and where I was going.  For me it was the epitome of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous situation. 

I reflected at the end of the day from the comfort of the ski lodge about what I had needed most to be successful.  First of all, I wanted a clear vision of where I needed to go.  I did not need to see all the way down the mountain, and I did need to see clearly the next step in front of me.  Secondly I needed clear communication with my family, my team.  I needed to know where they were, and we all needed to know what each other needed to succeed. Next I needed to be able to make continuous shifts in the process and structure to move through the day.  How long were we going to ski, which chair lifts were we going to use, when would we meet for lunch etc.?  I needed to be flexible, adaptive and quick in my decision making.  And lastly I needed encouragement.  I simply needed someone to tell me it would be ok and I had the skills to do it.  

When I reflected on what I needed to move through the VUCA situation on the mountain, it strikes me as similar to what leaders need to be providing for their teams in the work environment.  Vision – even if its short term clarity because we do not have the capacity to know the long view.  Adaptive, quick, communication and decision making.  Flexible strategies, and continuous encouragement of our people.

The new VUCA business environment is stretching even the most capable leaders who find their skills growing obsolete as quickly as their organizations change in this volatile, unpredictable time. As I navigated the mountain from a place of “visual blindness” and ever changing conditions, so do we as leaders need to navigate our organizations with increased agility and adaptability.  When we are adaptive, we can learn better and faster thereby setting ourselves and organizations up for success in the new VUCA world.

 

Questions

What impact is the VUCA world having you on?  On your organization?

How are you currently managing the VUCA environment?

To what extent are you interested in learning how to be more adaptive and flexible?

What would you need to give up and or change to increase your leadership agility?

A Piece of the Puzzle

posted Dec 16, 2016, 7:32 AM by Heather Harrison

What do you notice when you look at a fully constructed puzzle with one missing piece?  You see the missing piece, before you see anything else.  Right?  That one missing piece makes the difference between a complete puzzle and a puzzle left unfinished.  Have you ever taken a close look at puzzle pieces?  Each one is quite different from the others.  Some have lots of nubs sticking out it all directions, others have several indentations in them – holes if you will, while still others have sleek straight edges.  As for color, some puzzle pieces have lots of bright colors painted on them, while others are monotone.  Regardless of their shape, size or color, it remains true each piece plays a uniquely important role in the development of the full picture of the puzzle.  And when one is missing, it is the only thing we really take note of. 

And so it is with each of us.  All of us have a unique role to play in this puzzle called life or work or family or community.  And when we do not show up, it is noticed.  It matters.  A lot.  Often we feel like it doesn’t.  Like we don’t matter all that much.  Other times we are unclear as to where we fit in the puzzle.  And there are still other times we are convinced that if we had nubs instead of indentations it would be better.  Perhaps even easier.   And yet, each of us are uniquely made.  Each of us has an important role to play in this world.  And all of us are missed when we do not show up.

Questions to Consider

What is holding you back from being your piece of the puzzle?

How might your family, work group, community function differently if you were playing your part?

What one step can you take today (new belief, new behavior) to bring your piece to the puzzle?

An Assignment

Take a small puzzle piece and carry it with you this week.  Remind yourself you are uniquely created to be you and you have a role to play in the puzzle of life.  Remember no two pieces are created alike, so show up!


Open Nest

posted Dec 3, 2016, 4:09 PM by Heather Harrison

Two years ago our first born son left for college.  It felt like my heart had been ripped out of my body.  I cried the entire 7hour drive home.  How in the world was I supposed to pass his bedroom, where he had been every night, since he had moved into this house at age two, and breath?  Last year, our second born son made the exact same journey.  Two years, two boys at college.  Our family of five, who had eaten dinner together every night for the last 19 years, seemed so small as the three of us sat there wondering when the heck I was going to figure out how to cook for three vs a small army. We’ve had a 1year reprieve of the send off process.  Next Fall our daughter will follow her brothers off to college.  As our friends and family look at us and recognize in a 4year time span we will have gone from a family of five to the two of us, they generally ask, “how will you handle the empty nest?”  I don’t know if it is my own emptiness, the sight of empty bedrooms and empty chairs at the table or what, but the term “Empty Nest” does not work for me.  So I have decided to rename this season an “Open Nest”.  For me, an Open Nest brings about an array of positive questions.

Who do we want to invite into our Open Nest?  

What do we want to fill our Open Nest with?

How much space is in our Open Nest?

What was in our old nest that we do not want to bring to our new Open Nest?

What I have learned over the last two years, is that as painful as the separation and launching process is, (and I fully realize it is not for everyone) when you face the pain, emptiness, and sadness head on, it will dissipate. Weather you are close to, or have gone through watching your kids move on, I encourage you to christen your Open Nest by engaging with the above questions.


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Digging Deep for Self-Discipline

posted Nov 12, 2016, 3:36 PM by Heather Harrison   [ updated Nov 13, 2016, 6:43 AM ]


Self-discipline can be defined as the quality that allows us to do what needs to be done when we do not feel like doing it.  In many situations we know what to do and are simply too tired, afraid or apathetic to do it.  That is when we need to stop, notice our fatigue, notice the fear and do it in spite of the messages our apathy, fear and fatigue are telling us. 

For three years, I have been telling myself I want to start swimming laps so I can participate in a triathlon.  Swimming is something I grew up doing and actually enjoy, once I am in the water.  The preparation, or more accurately the thought of preparing has literally kept me out of the pool.  I decided to 1) ask for help, 2) get all of the “tools” I needed in one place and 3) establish a process for making it all work. 

I asked one of my kids to remind me of my goal and check in to see if I had done it, on a regular basis.  In other words, I gave her permission to bug me and nudge me.  Secondly I got a functional suit, cap, and goggles and put them all in one place.  Lastly, I scoped out the open swim times in my area and selected the ones which easily fit into my weekly schedule.  No more excuses.  I have a VISION – participate in a half Iron Man, a WAY – my equipment, pool times and a “coach”, and the WILL – I will notice my fatigue, my fear and my apathy and choose to do it anyway, even when I do not feel like it.

Questions for Consideration

1.  Where would you like to see more self-discipline in your life?

2.  What is holding you back from being disciplined?  List the thoughts and feelings.

3.     3.  Who can you ask to give you consistent, gentle nudges?

4.     4.  What “tools” do you need to get the job done?

5.      5. How can you create a standard process for accomplishing what you want?

 

Happy New Year

posted Feb 9, 2015, 7:52 PM by Heather Harrison   [ updated Feb 9, 2015, 7:55 PM ]

Last year at this time I began my blog site.  I stated I would be writing a blog every two weeks.  I wrote a total of four last year.  Twenty short of my goal!  Knowing I had set a goal and having not come anywhere close to reaching it, made me want to 1) deny it was a goal, and 2) never attempt reaching it.  Simply put I wanted to forget about it and not touch it again.  I had a myriad of excuses as to why, over the year, I could not write – too busy, not enough to say, someone else had probably already said it better, technical difficulty uploading it to my site etc. 

Here I sit.  It is a new year.  Instead of doing what I “wanted” to do, I’m encouraging myself to 1) face the reality of the situation, 2) sit in it and experience the disappointment of not reaching a goal 3) see my excuses for what they are – “faces of resistance” and 4) make a conscious choice to do something different. Here’s to setting new goals or picking up old ones.  Here’s to talking one step at a time towards the story we want to live today.


An Assignment

Journal your responses to the following questions.  Share the questions and your responses with one other person

 

Questions

Take yourself to December 31, 2015.  Looking back what 1 or 2 things would you like to have accomplished?

What changes did you make in 2014 that you want to keep alive?

Where are you stuck right now?  What is one thing, you don’t want to do, that might help you get unstuck.  Do it.

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