Create A Portable “Zen” Space

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe word “Zen” conjures up images of quiet solitude, peacefulness and mindfulness. When we think of a Zen garden, for instance, we imagine a beautiful garden that evokes that solitude and peacefulness, a place where the mind, body and spirit can rest and replenish. The garden becomes an anchor, a place for focused concentration.

When I traveled to Japan for business more than two decades ago, my business associates and I visited some of the most beautiful Zen gardens and temples in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Whenever my head gets too full, I simply mentally return to one of those gardens for inspiration and clarity.

The beauty of a portable Zen space is that you always have it and can retrieve it as you take one deep breath. If you feel like you are rushing through the day, or your adrenaline is pumping because you are nervous or agitated, do this simple exercise:

With both hands held in front of you, at eye level, palms facing toward you, fingertips touching your thumb, eyes closed, slowly take in a deep belly breath. As you begin to exhale, make an extended sound, “Oh-m-m-m-m,” using up all of your breath while moving your hands down toward your lap to create an invisible curtain in front of you. By the time your hands reach your lap, you will be out of air and sound. It will clear your mind and help you to focus. Inhale and repeat if you need to. If you prefer, you can eliminate the audible “Ohm” sound and simply think the sound as you exhale.

One final question for you: What are the specific benefits that mental clarity could bring to you? List at least a dozen benefits to you.


Turn an Awkward Moment Into a Gracious Introduction

2peopletalkingHave you ever been in an awkward situation? Of course you have. You’re only human.

A few months ago, my husband and I were invited to attend a party of a professional colleague. We don’t know this person well, yet we continue to see each other at professional functions throughout the year. We decided to go.

And then it happened: The awkward moment.

Mark and I had gone through the buffet line and had just sat down at a table outside. The energetic hostess came over to us, dropped off two guests with the announcement, “Here’s someone you know!” The woman and I looked at each other. She looked somewhat familiar to me yet I couldn’t place where we had met. She could tell from my facial expression that I was struggling to place her face (I don’t mask confusion very well). She first said her name. Nothing registered. Then she mentioned the statewide professional organization where we first met a number of years ago. (She hadn’t attended any meetings in recent years).

I had seen her a handful of times over the past decade, and we had very little interaction with each other. That was then…this was now. No wonder my mind went blank. You see, the host assumed that I would remember her. Had the host thought a little more carefully about the introduction, she would have jogged my memory. The introduction could have sounded something like this:

“Christine, you may remember (key words) Jane Doe (include the first and last name) from the ABC organization (mention the name of the professional organization).” In this way, the host has given me a frame of reference, a context in which I can recall that person. Simply saying “Here’s someone you know!” doesn’t provide enough reference to jog the memory.

The next time you introduce people, take a moment to think before speaking. Include some frame of reference. You could save a colleague or friend the embarrassment – and frustration – of experiencing an awkward moment.

Lessons to Learn From Hungary

The actions taken by Hungary in recent weeks to shut out or move refugees through its country clearly demonstrates how Hungary positioned itself within Europe and in the world. I imagine a conversation with Hungary may sound something like this:

Hungary: “What are you doing here? Go away. Leave me alone. Can’t you see I’m busy building this wall to keep you out?”

Angela Merkel Austerity Europe GermanyGermany, however, got it right. Chancellor Angela Merkel set a positive example, one for the world to see and other European countries to follow. That conversation would be a very different one, full of hope and possibility. Germany: “I can only imagine what you are going through. You have travelled so far. You must be tired. Come. Eat. Rest. We are here to help you.” A news reporter asked a woman in Germany why she came to help the refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq who were migrating across Europe, searching for a safe and secure new life. Her response was, “I did it because I am a human being. The refugees are human beings. They deserve to be treated as human beings.” To enlighten your thinking about war and refugees, read World at War, a global trends report on refugees published by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).

Building a wall is a short-term – not a long-term – solution. A long-term solution comes through compassion and understanding.

How often have you ignored the needs of another person, put your needs ahead of someone else because you felt you were more entitled, or passed judgment on someone just because of who she was or where she came from? A few examples: You deliberately don’t promote a person because you don’t want to go through the laborious task of finding a replacement. You assume the quiet person sitting across the table from you in the meeting has nothing to offer, so you dominate the conversation and don’t invite that person to share anything. You choose not to listen to another person’s story because you don’t want to get involved. Every day, you choose how to behave in the world.

I attended a program recently. A woman with light olive brown skin shared that people often mistake her for being Hispanic and they begin speaking Spanish because they make an assumption about who they think she is. As it turns out, she is of African descent. She has to explain to people several times a week who she really is. She would feel more positive if people simply asked, “Where are you from originally?”

Too often, we jump to conclusions and make assumptions about people based on our perceptions rather than reality. There is much to learn from the debacle in Hungary. It reminds us to: Stop. Reflect on the situation. Imagine what these people’s lives are really like. Talk to them. Show compassion. You will learn something. We are all human beings. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, no matter what the color of their skin, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs or values. Accept that person into the fold. Give that person a voice, a chance. Place value on that person. Isn’t that every person’s basic human right?

The Pro’s Code: Dress the Part

Part 14 – the last in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 14: Well packaged. Dresses the part, like a professional.

DocMartinBoots1990sWithin just a few seconds of meeting someone for the first time, people “preview” other people before they know anything about them. This first impression can last from a few seconds to about fifteen seconds. When people size up others, at a quick glance they notice physical attributes or external features, like: Gender, race, age, ethnicity, weight, outer wear, physical characteristics, skin quality, posture, stance, and movement.

From these physical attributes, they begin to observe: Physical health, grooming habits, level of education, manners/etiquette, marital status, socio-economic status, language (verbal and nonverbal), wealth, and original geographic location.

At a deeper level, people assess: Personality, level of professionalism, credibility, trustworthiness, approachability, attractiveness, honesty, attitude, friendliness, promptness, confidence, courtesy, and demeanor.

When you make a first impression, you want it to be the best it can be. Make that first impression a positive and lasting one. Here are a few tips:

Know Your Body Type. That deserves repeating. Know your body type. A specific body type looks best in clothing that accentuates that body type. The three basic body types are:

  • Ectomorph (Think Cher). Long and lean, delicate body build, thin, small shoulders, usually with a narrow waist and hips with a linear physique. Wardrobe tip: Big chunky anything, especially jewelry, looks out of place on the Ectomorph’s delicate build.
  • Endomorph (Think cartoon character Dilbert). Soft body, big bones, large trunk and thighs, with more body fat around the midsection. Wardrobe tip: Tight pants…tight anything…isn’t flattering to the Endomorph’s physique. Keep clothing loose and flowing.
  • Mesomorph (Think Arnold Schwarzenegger). Athletic build, broad shoulders, large bones, narrow waist, large muscles. Wardrobe tip: Ditch the boxy Chesterfield coat. You’ll look like a refrigerator walking down the street. Add fullness below the waist to balance your broad shoulders.

Dress With Credibility in Mind. Clothing can accentuate or divert attention from your credibility. A tailored business suit for women or men presents a professional image, especially for the board room. Creative types have credibility when highlighting their creative flair.

Hire an Image Consultant. If you don’t have an eye for what goes with what, then hire someone to help. Many image consultants are members of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI). Visit their website at Scroll through “Find an Image Consultant” to locate an image consultant in your geographic area.

Dress Up to Get Up in an Organization. In 1978, John T. Molloy wrote a best-selling book, Dress for Success. Molloy’s mantra, “Always dress for the job you want; not for the job you have remains powerful today. I tell people in my professional presence workshops that it’s important to observe the people ahead of and above you, to see how they dress, and use that as a guideline. What is acceptable or unacceptable?

Maintain a Clean Wardrobe. The secret to looking professional is making sure that your clothing is clean, ironed and mended. Put the Oxford shirt with frayed collars and cuffs in the rag bag. Have the gravy-laden tie dry cleaned. Hem that skirt before it completely unravels.

Practice Good Grooming Basics. I once interviewed a woman for a position. Her perfume arrived in the conference room before she did! Know the basics about personal care and hygiene. If you work with someone whose grooming habits are standing in the way of advancement in the organization, schedule that critical conversation. You can have a positive influence on that person’s professional life forever.

How you dress and groom yourself positions you in the minds of other people. When you handle yourself with grace and elegance, dress in appropriate stylish attire and become skilled in basic etiquette, people will regard you as a true professional. Isn’t that how you want others to think of you?

The Pro’s Code: Develop Your Skills

Part 13 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 13: Highly developed skills. Has attained a certain level of expertise in a given area, and openly shares information with others.

SkillsYou have acquired certain skills and abilities throughout your life that makes you knowledgeable in certain topics or areas of interest. It’s often called your body of knowledge. But how do you become competent in those areas?

Competence comes from a deep knowledge and assimilation of a subject, enhanced by ongoing study or research. You know the topic cold, without having to reference any notes. For instance, you can be knowledgeable about the perennials in your garden. To become a competent gardener, you must know when to feed your plants, when to prune or divide them, and whether to plant them in sun or in shade. Your higher level of competency about gardening would translate into a consistently healthy garden. It takes a lot to become recognized as being competent in your field; you must add your own field experience to your education and training.

No matter what profession you choose, each offers a professional organization to join. Don’t discount what you can learn from your peers. When professional organizations host annual conferences, some of the learning takes place in the general sessions and breakout sessions. Between sessions, valuable learning happens through hallway conversations, when members can open up and exchange information and share valuable insights. Look at the associations that you belong to and ask how they are helping you to learn more, network with your peers and advance your career. You may be missing important opportunities that could heighten your level of professionalism. Joining a professional organization puts you in contact with other leaders and keeps you informed of the latest trends and innovations in your field.

The competent professional is the person who makes it to the short list every time, who people think of first, whether being considered for a higher level position at work or leading a volunteer organization, because they have developed their level of proficiency.

How would people describe your level of competence? Would they identify you as skilled, being knowledgeable, or being competent?