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Get Your Crayons Back: How to Win Over Your Inner Critic and Recapture Your Creative Self

My work requires me to be creative and confident. If I don’t figure out how to set strategy for my business and come up with great ideas for what to do next, I won’t be successful. Those of you who are in a senior leadership position or self-employed know what I’m talking about.

So how do you wake up every day and get creative? I find myself in near-continual creative crisis, which might surprise friends and colleagues to hear. I generally look like I have my business act together and take far more creative risks in life than the average person, including venturing into making visual art late in life. But keeping a clear channel open to my creativity is a big hassle in my life. Right now I have a lot of business development work to get done that requires my best creative thinking and most days feel like a slog. Days can go by with nothing important accomplished. My inner critic, desperately trying to keep me from creating and going public with something really foolish, wins. Learn More →

Stakeholder Management: Key to Success for Projects and Decision Making

Over the 15 years I’ve been doing business coaching and meeting facilitation work, stakeholder management is one of the top factors I’ve seen lead to success or failure.

One particular experience stands out in my mind. I was asked to help facilitate a final agreement-building session on changes to a process that would impact multiple departments. A cross-functional team had worked hard for months putting together a redesigned process. They were excited to share the final proposal with key stakeholders and get their commitment to dedicate staff hours to help implement the plan.

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Looking for More Time in the Day? Focus Your 1:1 Meetings

It doesn’t seem to matter whether the economy is booming and work is pouring in, or the economy is down and you’re scrambling to keep clients and get everything done with a lean staff. There is a perpetual Big Squeeze for time. Nearly every business leader I coached last week was facing the same dilemma: where do you find more time when you’ve been over-committed for years and there’s nothing left of your life to squeeze more time from?

One of the executives I spoke with last week described how her organization had advised everyone to block out 30% of their time for the unexpected. Sounded like a wise plan to me. But she reported her “unexpected” workload regularly far exceeded that 30% figure. When I probed on exactly what the unexpected work looked like, it turned out that recent layoffs and reorganizations were causing even more impromptu 1:1 meetings and phone calls than usual. “It’s where I lose the most time every day,” she told me. “People drop by my office unexpectedly, my calendar is crowded with 1:1 meetings. I never know how long these things are going to take. They eat up my whole day.”

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Getting Things Done: 5 Things I Learned From David Allen

Everyone I coach struggles at some point with how to get more done and focus on what’s most important for their life or career. I’ve learned a lot from one of my long-time clients about David Allen’s approach to Getting Things Done. This client has a typically complex life and work role that requires him to track a myriad of small details, manage projects that require short and long-range thinking, while still maintaining a strategic focus. Sound familiar?

One of my client’s main goals is to feel really masterful in his productivity and focus. It’s been impressive to hear how Allen’s approach keeps my client focused, on task and able to track the full complexity of his job.

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Key to Efficient Consensus Decision-Making For Community or Business

I was just watching NBC News and the “Making a Difference” segment caught my attention: a clothing swap being organized in my home state of Michigan. Whenever the car industry tanks, it takes the whole Michigan economy down with it. In April, Michigan had the highest rate of unemployment in the country, 12.9%. What struck me about the clothing swap story was how the idea was spreading–more and more women were choosing to organize their own swaps. I think it’s the upside of a down economy. I don’t wish unemployment on anyone, but watching people come together to share resources in creative ways can only be good for community and the planet.

The news segment left me wondering what the organizing meetings looked like. I have been working and living collaboratively in a variety of ways since I was 19 years old (see About Me on this blog site). If you’ve ever been in a community group or been part of a team at work, you already know that making decisions with other people is not always the easiest thing. In particular, consensus decision making can be the most time-consuming and painful–though the benefit of having a really well thought out decision that everyone buys into is often worth the effort.

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Managing Reality: Little Lies We Hide Behind Every Day

I’ve just been confronted, yet again, with the perils of
“managing reality”—deciding that the full truth of what you’re feeling or
thinking is not acceptable. It’s the role our egos play: managing the
information going out so that we look good, make others feel good, or any other
seemingly good reason that leads us to in effect lie to the world about what’s
really true. I keep learning over and over that it’s a serious wedge in my
relationships. The other person doesn’t really know me. They know Managed Me.

One of my good reasons is that I like my personal
relationships to be harmonious. Not a bad goal. Perhaps not yours. But it’s
been my goal as far back as I can remember: six years old, trying to get my two
best friends Julie W and Julie C to stop fighting, shake hands and let us all
be peaceable friends. As an adult, I catch myself doing a lot of things to keep
the peace that aren’t always such clean simple gestures. I find myself not
saying all of what I’m feeling. Or I clean up the truth and present it in such
a nice package that the essential message gets blurry or worse, completely
confused with another message I wasn’t intending.

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Finding Difficult Answers by Living in the Question

I just had one of those super-charged days where answers to a large, thorny question I’ve been wrestling with suddenly came to me effortlessly, through relaxing, delightful conversations with friends. It was a question I’d sat with in mounting frustration, feeling I should be able to answer, but having my mind crowded with thoughts about what the answer might be, should be, couldn’t be—none leading to a satisfying resolution. The contrast with how effortlessly answers appeared while I relaxed and enjoyed my Saturday couldn’t have been more extreme. I wanted to bottle it. Make it available to myself, to others, anytime.

I rewound back to the point where I gave up actively trying to answer the question and noticed what I’d done instead of tackling the question head on. I realized this series of steps has worked for me before. Sometimes I forget what I already know…

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What are the right details to include in a vision?

In a previous post, Visions that Inspire Right Action, I talked about the purpose of vision and how a great vision informs teamwork. How do you actually write a great vision?

Ask yourself or your team the following questions and put the answers in a bullet list. Edit and organize for readability. There’s your vision. I find the best visions are typically one-half to full-page in length.

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Visions that Inspire Right Action

Creating mission and vision statements are basic building blocks of any good business plan, team launch or annual strategic planning process. So basic that I notice a lot of organizations going through the motions of creating or updating them without thinking about how the vision can be used. The result is often a bland one-liner that says everything and nothing (“to put our widget on every web site”), or a dense paragraph of sentences that knits together everyone’s input, reads like a stream of business clichés, and again says everything and nothing—like “to be #1 in our market space through best practices and leading edge technology…” You know this vision and can fill in the rest of it, right?

A great vision includes details that inform and inspire right action.

A great vision paints a picture in people’s minds of what things will look and feel like when your team accomplishes its mission.

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Is it possible to explore a career change responsibly?! 5 tips on how you can do it!

Supporting your family, paying your mortgage, funding your retirement—we all have serious obligations that can make contemplating career change feel incredibly risky. What if I make less money? What if I try something new and fail? Even if I’m longing for  a change, or feeling downright miserable, should I really risk leaving my secure job to try something new??

So many people give up before they even start. The risk of trying something new wins out over the incredible benefits a career change could give you.

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Success Stories

T Klein, Florida

Success Story: “I met Jane at a training session sponsored by my past employer. I subsequently decided to hire her as my professional coach and I have greatly benefited from our work together. I was going through a transition in my career and looked to Jane for guidance and support.

In our weekly sessions, Jane utilizes our time together very effectively and has always been able to focus on the current issues in my life. Jane gave me the courage to make the decision to leave my employer after 20 plus years. She was able to help me prioritize my next steps in my transition. Jane was helpful in my preparation for my interview with my now, current employer. Jane was instrumental in my negotiation process. She gave me the confidence to communicate my value and worth to the n…