Make Your Habits Work FOR You

Everyone has habits. Some work for us. Some work against us.

Creating habits that improve our lives, our businesses, our communities, and the world around us is a worthy endeavor. Agree? Want some tips for changing your daily habits?

First and foremost, please recognize that we control our habits . . . not the other way around. 

For example, let’s say (fictitiously, of course) that I’m tired in the morning and have the habit of swinging by my local coffee place to grab an iced caramel macchiato. 

This delicious dose of caffeine and sugar may serve as my “reward” for going into work and, simultaneously, give me a perky disposition. 

By the time I arrive at my workplace, my mood is (at least temporarily) enhanced and I’m ready to start my day. 

This can be a hard habit to break because there may be more than one cue that is triggering this behavior and multiple rewards experienced! 

Is the indulgent coffee stop occurring because:

  • I’m tired and need caffeine and sugar to get me going?
  • I’m not ready to go to work and want to extend my commute time? 
  • I like chatting with people at the coffee shop and consider this a social stop as well as a coffee stop?
  • The special coffee – made just the way I want – makes me feel cared for and I need that some mornings?
  • All of the above? 

Hey, it’s complicated. 

But it is under my control. 

In order to feel more powerful and self-determined in the face of a compelling habit, I need to determine if it is working for me or against me. 

Let’s say, I’m actually ok with the expensive and sugary coffee habit as a treat, but think it has gotten out of control.

Once a week, I can “treat” myself, but going every DAY is insane. Of course, making this rational decision is not the same thing as actually taking action. 

How can I curb this strong habit? 

I need to create a new mindset – one that is consistent with my strengths – which helps me to create new habits that work for me and improve my world. 

  1. Mindset shift: I am not Maximizing my time, my money, or my nutrition with this bad habit. Excellence is my goal. This habit is wasteful. 
  2. Mindset shift: I am not Achieving as much as I could each morning by taking this long detour to stop for coffee. 
  3. Mindset shift: I’m high Competition. In the past, I  convinced myself that the coffee was giving me “an edge.” Moving forward, I must realize that this coffee habit is hurting my overall health and long-term wellness.

I need to create new (healthy and helpful) habits that ignite a new habit loop.

  1. New habit: I want to have habits that benefit others. I can harness my Significance strengths to shift my thinking about how this small change in my life can greatly impact another person’s life. What needy cause could benefit most from my “weekly coffee money?”
  2. New habit: I like to jump in, get things going, and get others on board with my Activator strengths. What if I got a few of my work friends to join me? We would raise a considerable amount of money if we pooled our money and created a “weekly coffee money” fund! Each week the biggest contributor to the fund could choose the non-profit who benefits! (This should also trigger my Competition strengths!)

Of course, the mindset shifts and new habits look different for each person depending on their strengths. What’s important is that these changes are consistent with way each person naturally thinks about things and creates more meaningful habits. 

Make sense?

Do you have a habit you love to hate? A guilty pleasure you’d like to break? Share!

Giving Back Is Fun: Thank You Mickey’s Camp

I attended Mickey’s Camp for Women this year.

Want to know what I learned there?

Here are the BIG ah-ha’s (least to most surprising):

  • This amazing event is everything it’s cracked up to be! This was my first year and I’m honored to say I was BOTH a presenter and a camper. (It’s hard to live up to hype . . . it did . . . but if you’d heard about this great event, I bet you’re not surprised!)
  • Martha Hoover (Patachou, Inc. restaurateur extraordinaire) is a FANTASTIC KEYNOTE SPEAKER. (Ok, this is not a huge surprise, right?)
  • Disc golf is actually more like golf and less like frisbee than I thought. (I’m thinking this is a medium surprise.)
  • The kangaroo boots are a KILLER workout. Seriously. (Surprised? Yes, it’s true! Great for your core, your balance, and quads!)
  • Mickey’s Camps (for men and women) have donated more than $3,000,000.00, to well-deserving local-to-Indy charities since it’s inception 20 years ago. (The gals camp started 14 years ago.) WOW!!! HUGE SURPRISE AND SO IMPRESSIVE!!!!

A BIG thank you to the great sponsors, the fantastic Maurer family (especially Mickey Maurer), and the amazing non-profits who were chosen this year:

  • Bradford Woods
  • Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Lutheran Child & Family Services—Impact Program
  • Women’s Fund of Central Indiana

What an inspirational event.

Half-Way Through 2021 . . . Checking-in on My Goals

Hope you had a fantastic long weekend! Are you rested, ready, and excited to tackle the second half of 2021?

Yes!! It’s half-time!! On July 2, we marked the official ½-way point of 2021. 

TRUTH: I’m a bit underwhelmed with my 2021 efforts in personal development. 

FOLLOW-UP FACT: As a strengths coach this is a BIG issue. 

REMEDY: Gotta dig in, regroup, set some fun goals, and go. 

I found the attached handout “My Goals for 2021” online while I was digging-in and regrouping. 

It’s quite obviously a tool created for children. I adore it: simple enough for a child but sophisticated enough for an adult. 

Who doesn’t need to:

  • Try something NEW?
  • Learn something NEW?
  • Visit a NEW or FAMILIAR destination?
  • Read for fun? 

I’m a firm believer in the idea that growth of any kind makes us better. However, I’m also aware that adults (me included!) can resist learning new things. It’s easier to do the things we are skilled at and knowledgeable about. 

But we shouldn’t ever take ourselves too seriously. Right? I appreciate the juvenile decorations (hats and confetti!!) on this worksheet, since it reminds me that “hey, kids are supposed to do these things, why shouldn’t adults?”

Wish me luck! I’m excited to:

  • TRY: eating at new restaurants and cooking new recipes;
  • LEARN HOW TO: play pickleball;
  • VISIT: some favorite places; and
  • READ: more fiction and nonfiction books. 

Are you game? How can you fill 2021 with new learning, mini-personal challenges, and FUN?

Let me know if this sparks your interest. 


Emotional Intelligence . . . in Animals and in Teams

Is your team as emotionally intelligent as a herd of goats?

Need a moment to consider this intentionally odd and humorous question? Here’s some background info that could help you make a more accurate assessment.

The quickie definition of emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand emotions found in oneself and others. (Daniel Goleman is the FATHER of emotional intelligence, and his book Working with Emotional Intelligence is terrific.)

Interestingly, many non-human animals recognize the feelings of others in their group.

Goats, elephants, chimps, and dogs are mammals that respond to the emotions they sense.

These mammals can HEAR and SMELL the contentment or anxiety of others in their group. For example:

  • when a goat twin was separated and lost, another goat slept with the grieving twin who remained behind;
  • when elephants sense distress, they are able to sooth others using vocal sounds (emitting small chirps);
  • when chimps see snares and poaching traps, they dismantle them to save other animals.

These small but meaningful actions show care and compassion.

How can we apply similar caring actions to our HUMAN TEAMS?

  • Sincerely ask how your work mates are doing when stressful life events are experienced within their immediate family. Tell him or her that you are thinking of them during this time.
  • Remember to look for the many different cues that could be signs of anxiety and/or sadness in your colleagues. Unlike many animals, humans cannot smell fear, sadness, and anxiety. However, we can look for small changes in behavior.
  • Consider how you can save your work friends from disaster. How might you set others up for success or redirect them around some of the mistakes you’ve experienced? Altruistic behaviors go a LONG way to create meaningful workplace bonds.

How frequently does your team engage in the above activities?

Always = GREAT JOB!! Keep up your team’s emotionally intelligent work!

Sometimes =  Ok, but improvement is possible. Dig deep and model more of the RIGHT behaviors. Create an emotionally intelligent trend!

Never = Shoot. Your team needs help getting the ball rolling. You should look to an outside source for perspective and insight.

Increasing your team’s EI can transform your organization – from the inside to the outside.




Get Gritty!

Are you a believer in grit or overnight success? 

I enjoy hearing stories of both, but my head 🧠 and heart 💖lean heavily towards the gritty guy or gal who has persevered and succeeded after years of hard work.

I fundamentally believe that gritty people have the edge when it comes to success. And I’m inspired to do MORE and try HARDER after hearing gritty stories. 

We are bombarded with “quick fixes” – 10-day diets and 24-hour full-home makeovers – but in reality, real success is rarely seen overnight.🌙

Leaders, colleagues and parents need to encourage grittiness by trumpeting the gritty behaviors that lead to success. 

Here are two of my favorite stories.

#1. My husband is a 4-time Ironman race finisher💪! 

The monotonous and exhausting training that led up to my husband completing these races is an example of grit embodied. During the months prior to each race, his weekends were filled with long bike rides that started at dawn, hot runs on the track, and exhausting swims. Without that dedication, he would never have been successful. 

#2. Izak has been a part of my extended family for most of his life. 👶

He is the grittiest 18-year-old that I have ever encountered. His family is originally from Niger and they are Muslim. Although he attends a Jesuit high school, he continues to practice his family’s faith, which includes fasting from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan – the holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer. His dedication to academics, his kind heart, and his ability to be himself at such a young age is awe inspiring. He will attend Indiana University this fall as a 21st Century Scholar. 

Whose grit inspires you? 💭 Give a shout-out to an inspiring gritty role model. 📣

Growing and Failing

I have a huge fear of failure. When failure occurs, my first thoughts are not very productive.

A typical first thought is, “I’m a total disaster! How mortifying!”🤦

I stay in this sad place for hours or days, depending on the size and scope of my failure. 

And then – sometimes with help and sometimes independently – I am able to:

✔️Recognizing my mistakes

✔️Own the role I have played in my failure

✔️ Dig in and course correct to prevent future failures

I believe these traits serve me well and allow me to be a person who has a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset. 

However, I want to be 100% clear. I certainly DO NOT rejoice when failure strikes and gleefully sing about how I’m growing. Best case scenario, I might laugh at my mistake and sarcastically note aloud that “this is clearly an area where more growth is needed.”

Resiliency in the face of failure is challenging. I’ve intentionally built this skill EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR around the sun☀️.

And I do not see that intentional effort stopping anytime soon.♾️

The benefits of having a growth mindset are HUGE and a few should be highlighted. 

☝🏽lower stress

☝🏽better work relationships

☝🏽higher performance levels at work

☝🏽enhanced brain development

I suspect my lifelong fear of failure will never leave me. My only hope is that it never STOPS me from striving and growing. 

Whether you’ve had a rough day or a great day, I hope this perspective brightens it! 



Tap into Your Talented Outliers!

Are you tapping into your outliers at work? If you don’t know what an outlier is . . . you need to read on. I’ll get you up to speed. 

Outliers Defined:

Remember the curve-breakers in middle-school? It was those 4 crazy-smart kids who got 99.5%, 97%, 95% and 92% on the Algebra II exam when the class average was 72.5%.

Your teacher would say,

“Sorry, no curve on this exam because a few people did really well.”

The class would moan. These curve-breakers are also known as outliers.

Had the class been allowed to turn in a team exam (not individual exams), these math-smart outliers would have carried the entire class into A+ range. But alas, that was not our lived reality. The rest of us, who scored in the 70th percentile, took our Cs and glared at the curve-breaking outliers. 

In middle-school it was hard to be an outlier. The majority of the class was mad at these brainiacs. 

How Outliers Make Impact:

But real-world adult life is (very happily) different from middle-school. When we find special abilities of our adult colleagues that are off-the-charts-better than the rest of the group, we highlight these abilities. Or at least, we try to. Right? 

Last week, in two separate group facilitations, our time spent focusing on the outliers of these teams made the biggest impact. The team I worked with in Lafayette, IN had a big “ah-ha” moment when they realized how to tap into Tanya’s unique ability to hear each person’s story and approach each audience differently. The team I worked with in Indianapolis, IN was shocked and grateful to learn that they had a want-to-be editor for all organizational communications. 

Are you tapping into the unique capabilities of your team members?

If not, you are missing an opportunity.

Let me know, and I can shed some light on your team’s unique abilities and how you can magnify their contributions. 

For more about outliers read Malcolm Galdwell’s remarkable book “Outliers: The Story of Success.”

Where is Your Heart at Work?

This Valentine’s week, I’m sharing the love list for the most frequently occurring strengths based on Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment

  • Achievers LOVE making lists
  • Learners LOVE to be on the cutting edge
  • People who lead with Responsibility LOVE gaining the respect of others
  • Relators LOVE deep and authentic relationships
  • Strategic folks LOVE to find the best way to proceed

For the record, I thoroughly love making lists (Achiever is my #3). I even add things to my list at the end of the day to feel extra accomplished. No one will ever see my daily list.

Why do I add the additional accomplishments? Probably because Achievers need a sense of success and purpose every. single. day.

Are there any Achievers out there who feel my pain? 

What’s on your love list?

#strengths #strengthsfinder #learninganddevelopment #strategy #workhappy



Loneliness v. Connection: Grow More Connections

Despite it being the month of hearts, love, red candies, and Valentine’s Day cards, there is more loneliness today than ever before.

Most everyone I know feels a bit more disconnected, distracted, and well . . . lonely.

It’s a sign of our germy and complicated times. But what’s worse is that loneliness was on the rise even before the pandemic (Harvard Magazine January-February 2021).

Being more intentional and creating more connections in 2021 is a must. Why? Because there are big psychological costs to isolation, namely increased anxiety and depression.  Like many psychological matters, there is a stigma around loneliness.  People are embarrassed and ashamed to be lonely. Admitting to being lonely is awkward . . . but ironically such an admission can be remarkably unifying in our current world.

This week I hosted 2 webinars entitled “Using Your Strengths to Grow Connections in 2021.” The response was more than heartening (pun intended). The participants clearly appreciated having a vehicle to discuss this touchy-feely and taboo topic.  Thank you to all who attended. Your candid comments and authentic insights about the challenges of making meaningful connections were invaluable. Similarly, learning how you’ve used your strengths to overcome some of these challenges was inspiring.

If you missed the opportunity to be a part of the webinar and would like to hear a taped version, please let me know. I’d be happy to share it with you.

Of course, if you’d rather inspire your team members to use their strengths more intentionally to combat loneliness and grow connections, I can help you with that as well.

Thanks to attendees and their fantastic organizations: #IUHealth #ElementsFinancial #CapitalGroup #Cabi #bayleon #elevateyourstatus #foundationfe #fairwaylawns #cardon






5 Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

Happy New Year! 2021 has so much promise, it is bursting at the seams. To ensure that the full potential of 2021 is met, everyone needs to chip in and do his or her part. Here are five tips to keep your interpersonal skills (at work and at home) inspiring to your colleagues, family members, and friends. Following these tips will lead to better teamwork, engagement, and positive interactions in any environment.

  1. Don’t Avoid the Truth . . . Do Promote Transparency
  2. Don’t Create a Homogenous Environment . . . Do Value Differences
  3. Don’t Make Vague Generalizations . . . Do Give Specifics
  4. Don’t Be Socially Exclusive . . .  Do Be Socially Inclusive
  5. Don’t Be Self-Serving . . . Do Serve Others

What Do You Gain by Avoiding These Mistakes? 

  1. Honesty and transparency promote trust. Avoiding the truth leads to uncertainty and fear.
  2. Valuing differences and leveraging those differences results in better decision making. Squashing outsider opinions decreases innovation and increases the likelihood of less-than optimal decision making.
  3. When complimenting, generalizations like, “Good work” do not encourage specific behaviors. Similarly, criticizing in a general way does not discourage problematic behaviors. Compliment or criticize the actions that you hope to see repeated or discontinued to help others to improve performance.
  4. Inclusiveness at work and at home means listening to the opinions of others and creating a sense of belonging. Inclusivity breeds comradery and increased morale.
  5. Service to others – whether that is actualized by a sharing generous spirit or sending funds to your favorite non-profit – makes the world a better place.

Be a positive drop in the communal bucket of actions that will make 2021 overflow with growth and goodwill!

Looking for a virtual or in-person workshop that promotes trust, optimizes group decision-making, and improves your team’s performance and morale? Contact me or get a copy of FRESH Leadership: 5 Skills to Transform You and Your Team to learn more.