christine e. middleton

By day... dot connector. consumer strategist. practitioner. coach. helping executives find new ways to expand + grow their bottom lines.

In between hours... student of life. passion for inspired living + wellness. truth seeker. advocate of level playing fields. fan of creativity, art + design.

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“To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

Anatole France, Nobel Prize winner in literature 

"Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom." 

Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. Supreme Court justice, who gives insight into politics, Bush Administration, important issues of our day from a judge’s perspective in The New Yorker.

 

Another aspect of this quote that is an important reminder:

As a manager, leader, CEO, PROACTIVELY seek insights from the front lines. Listen for yourself.

Be curious. Have regular dialogues to learn new ideas that save resources or innovate processes; alternatively, understand the complaints to avoid attrition or identify issues and address BEFORE they become crisis. 

DO NOT just accept reports (filtered interpretations) from those around you as truth. (Just look at GM’s most recent crisis as an example of why this is important.) 

6 WAYS YOUR BRAIN TRIES TO KILL YOUR IDEAS …AND HOW TO FIGHT THEM

These common excuses for stalled creativity hit close to home, but at their core they’re pretty weak. 

(The tips to overcome them worth trying.)

 Any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail. ”

Joseph Conrada Polish-born English novelist, who left his native Poland at a young age to avoid conscription into the Russian Army, and went on to become a Master Mariner for the British Navy… that is, before events led him to writing.

This quote is packed with wisdom.

When sailing, you obviously need sails. When you open up them up, you can catch the wind …and begin to fly! Exhilarating!

In a storm, however, these same sails can become a captain’s worst nightmare if not shortened before the winds hit.

The time in-between - most of the trip and how the ship is managed - is the difference between wise and foolish; safe and disaster; life and death.

In life, work and on the water, storms pop up all the time. But the question is are we in tune with them brewing, or are we taken off guard each time?

If as a leader your approach is smoke and mirrors, focused only on the stuff you want to hear, risk-adverse, or, ironically, even overly process oriented, no doubt you’ll find yourself in having to shorten the sails during the chaotic winds (damaging Tweets, repetitive news coverage, Google searches)…

You’ll soon learn in sudden-death mode you should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.

Being a good captain (aka leader) means being focused and attuned beyond having knowledge. It also requires intuition and always remaining humble.

(Advice: NEVER get on the seas with an arrogant, know-it-all captain. Experienced, yes. Capable, yes. Good teacher, yes. To the point and decisive (almost no fun at times), yes, yes, yes.) 

In fact, every good captain I have ever met is constantly (docked or not) preparing their boat, caring for their equipment, and calculating next moves. They do it themselves crew or not.

And, if you pay attention to captains, you’ll see they are ALWAYS observing. They never stop watching the water, horizon, skies, or direction of the wind. There is also a constant ear attuned to weather reports and frequent study of sonar screens.

Good captains (leaders) serve as a tool who can interpret the signs and provide strategic direction to their crew based on their goals - primarily arriving safely at their destination. Experience plays a huge role, as does their constant respect of nature. 

Whether in sailing, business, or life, it’s important to keep your eyes wide open, keep an open mind, and pay attention. Winds shift sometime abruptly but mostly the signs are there in advance. 

Listen. Prepare in advance for every potential crisis. Know your ship inside and out. Tighten and loosen based on the landscape (economics, competitive forces, etc.) And constantly listen to your crew’s feedback to see “full circle.”

See things for yourself …not just read it in a report or an update in a meeting. Trust but verify because rumors are a form of sabotage. Information filtering is constant around leaders because ill intention or not,  people want favor.

(By the way, embrace those who are willing to speak up and say the hard things to you.)

Be curious, not controlling… and ultimately make your assets and the winds work together in your favor. 

The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.

Benjamin Hoff, author

Selecting your thoughts is a HUGE insight to personal power… and changing your trajectory and what you attract/detract (without realizing it).

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist

"Without difficulties… life would be like a stream without rocks and curves – about as interesting as concrete.

Without problems, there can be no personal growth, no group achievement, no progress of humanity.

But what matters about problems is what one does with them.” 

Benjamin Hoff, Tao of Pooh

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.”

David Brinkleytelevision journalist

“The honey doesn’t taste so good once it is being eaten;

the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached;

the reward is no so rewarding once it has been given.

If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much.

But if we add up the spaces *between* the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit.

And if we add up the rewards *and* the spaces, then we’ll have everything - every minute of the time that we spent.” 

- Quote from the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

“The play-it-safe pessimists of the world never accomplish much of anything, because they don’t look clearly and objectively at situations, they don’t recognize or believe in their own abilities to overcome even the smallest amount of risk.” 

- A quote from Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh

A man who blazed his own, unique pathway and showed that being “YOU” does matter and can impact many…

Thanks to the man who infused rainbows, eggs, “shazbot” into my childhood memories, and laughter ever since.

If you suffer from depression, mood swings, hear voices, are unsure of what’s going on in your thoughts, ask someone you can trust and who will listen.

Don’t delay happiness fearing what people will think. Who cares?

It’s not about who you are - it’s about your brain, which is a complex computer, needing a tune up. Just like any technical device or other organ in our body, our brain is miraculous, fragile and complex. As a result, most of us have, know someone with or will experience some form of mental health need in our life time.

Asking for help is not a bad thing, especially when it comes to your happiness factor. It’s actually the biggest act of strength. 

Anyone who makes judgment or laughs at you knows not what they are saying - forgive them - and do what you need to do to be healthy because we all matter. 

Just like Robin Williams, you will be sorely missed by someone you might not even know appreciates having you around.

“All the new people you meet, it’s pretty amazing. The vampire needs new blood. And there is still a lot to learn and there is always great stuff out there. Even mistakes can be wonderful.”

- In honor of Robin Williams, commenting on his acting career 

Execs ranked fear as the #1 motivation tool used by their CEOs, while only 10%of CEOs claimed to use it.  

A survey by Domo of 468 CEOs, 351 executives, 775 general employees in companies 50+ in size and across various industries found this to be the case. 

Why is this important?

The effectiveness and long term viability of a company (and its CEO keeping their job), depends heavily on effective communication - equal parts internal and external. 

This survey looks at internal communications, motivation, compensation, priority-setting — providing insights that what a CEO thinks isn’t always in line with what those following him/her need:

"CEOs rank ‘transparency and information sharing’ low on their list of priorities, but general employees think it’s a top priority for their CEOs.”

Communications and information sharing impacts morale, loyalty, motivation. If you, as an employee, believe your leader is not paying attention, doesn’t know you or care to know you, or is working with gatekeepers in an iron castle, you will be less inclined to give it your best. 

As a CEO - of you’re busy and juggling things people have no clue about. Of course you work long hours and not always in the office. Yes, you’ve got staff to cover so what’s the big deal?

Perception.

It’s reality and if you’re not visible, employees don’t cut you slack for all you are doing. You run the risk of being seen as making bank of employee’s backs.

Don’t think so? Look at this: 

"Employees and executives are keeping tabs on their CEOs…

CEOs report average 64-hour workweek with 38 hours in the office each week. Executives and general employees guessed it was (a ratio closer to 59/37) hours. “

So what?

"CEOs, executives and general employees all agree that the chief executive’s #1 priority is to motivate and inspire the company.”

"CEOs also think they place a higher priority on seeking input and ideas than the company perceives." 

Obviously, there is a disconnect. 

Other disconnects exists that go to show how important it is for:

  • Frequent (monthly) updates and information sharing, not just statements from the CEO office, but actually conversations.
  • "End to end," two-way lines of communication within an organization established and relied upon continuously. E-newsletters aren’t enough and are passive.
  • Manage your gatekeepers (executives) around you so information isn’t blocked, spun or delayed in reaching your desk — and be open to listening to everything. (For a more junior person to go around their boss or get permission to speak up, there may be something more there worth exploring.)
  • Get in the trenches with your employees. Know what they are doing and seek ideas. Schedule it. Make it a priority. Too big an organization - I say delegate more to attempt AND work with your HR team to build in an assessment as part of bi-annual report cards. 
  • Reward good ideas with incentives or praise - or both - to reinforce positive behaviors you want to see more of. 

"All misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune."


- Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been studying failure the last few years.  Why?

I (sadly) grew up watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; later A&E Biography and MTV’s Cribs.

All of them focus on the highs, creating happy, if not hopeful, endings despite setbacks. Of course, the materials goods were the centerpiece, along with fame and fortune.

Back in my 20s, these images of caviar dreams and champagne wishes framed my outlook. So off I went to work hard thinking that and my capabilities would pay off.

Sure, I have much to be thankful for and I’ve achieved a lot thus far… (I’ll spare you my acceptance speech)…

All I knew is, unlike the biographies, my story unfolding seemed like a bumpier ride. 

Of course, each time I fell down I got back up, but over time I started to wonder: 

What am I doing wrong?

So I started to investigate deeper into lives of people I admire individuals who made a difference, have legacies that endure for many generations, and had accumulated wealth to be able to afford time to focus on things that matter.

What I discovered was I had one key element upside down:  Failures are the most important ingredient of success. 

Here I had been watching biographies skirt over the hard times  when in fact those hard times were the most important moments to explore.

During the good times isn’t when we learn. We’re too busy celebrating, basking, on auto-pilot.

It’s the hard times when we get real — when we are forced to stop and learn. 

As I looked, the most successful people take a hard look within, re-chart their courses, not to mention know success is not a one person venture.

This is a dirty little secret of successful men and women throughout history:

By dropping all pretenses, our ego, narcissism, fears, grasping, craving and need for approval, to be seen, to prove our worth do we find the place where our stars align.

If we’re diligent about being bigger than ourselves — meaning we let go of our “woobies” and surrender all — we can soar to new heights.

In fact, failure can be the impetus that leads to a masterpiece IF, IF, IF we use it to our advantage. 

Just last night Pharrell Williams on 60 Minutes said so in his interview with Anthony Mason about his disappointments going solo initially:

"It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. And I blamed everybody around me but myself. And I really had to take a long study on what I was doing and talking about on that record.”

"And the stars don’t always align for everyone," said Pharrell.

…As an artist at some point you’ve probably tried to figure out what you do well.” (Mason)

I think that’s when you fail,” Pharrell said. “When you start trying to figure out, like, what you’re the best at, that’s when you become delusional, ‘cause you start to believe that.”

"Are you afraid if you give yourself too much credit, it would all go away?"

"For sure," (Pharrell) said. "You see people spin out of control like that all the time. I mean, those are the most tragic stories, the most gifted people who start to believe it’s really all them. It’s not all you. It can’t be all you.”

Start welcoming trials as lessons to become the best version of you.  No doubt, trials are never easy, but if we look at them differently, we can take the sting away and make sure we don’t spend our lives spinning wheels and wasting precious time. We might even become Happy. ;)

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