Speaker, Trainer, Troubadour, Author

Kim Ratz

Helping people create more harmony
in their own life, and in
their relationships with others ...

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Live&WorkWise

April 2013, from Kim Ratz, Speaker-Trainer-Troubadour

A free, fast & fun read to inspire hope, improve skills to cope, and induce a chuckle along the way ...
(Previous issues: Click Here)


A Thought to Help You LiveWise: There's Always SOME-thing!

Everyone I talk to, it seems, has SOME-thing they're struggling with ... Some people seem to struggle with a lot of "stuff," and it shows, and some of them are only too happy to share their stress ... Other people are like a duck - on the surface they seem so calm, content, and confident ... Yet just beneath the surface, if you could see it-- they're paddling like heck! But EVERY-one has SOME-thing that is a challenge at the moment - an issue with a family member, or on the job, or with a friend, or their health, or a natural disaster, or a major moment of doubt, or an appliance breaks down, or some jerk who cut them off on the drive to work, etc. ad infinitum ... We worry, we have doubts, we "fight or flight," and we sometimes drop all the other balls we're juggling and focus on that one stressor ... Then finally we feel such relief when the source of the stress is either resolved, or at least in the rear-view mirror and getting smaller ... Finally, we are where we want to be - living the dream, stress-free, and then WHAM! - here comes ANOTHER stress-inducing situation ... What the hey?! Why me?! Why now?! #$*! ...

Are we living in more stressful times? Even though it seems there are more things that cause stress, the bottom line is: Our brains have been hard-wired to deal with stress for ages, otherwise we could not survive. Humans have always experienced stress in many forms and fashions -- from both internal and external sources, real and imagined, and ranging from relatively minor, to major, to life threatening ... Yet many people forget there are Two kinds of stress -- "Perfect Stress" and "Distress" ... One helps ... The other -- not so much ...

Think of a guitar string, which starts as a piece of metal and is strethed and shaped into a wire ... It does not become "musical" until stress is applied by tightening the string ... The tighter the tension and stress, the higher the pitch of the vibration ... Each string has it's range where the "perfect" amount of stress helps the string perform and produces a sound that is pleasant to our ear ... Each string also has a threshhold, as too much tension and stress will break the string...

Scientists have identified many physiological changes in the body that happen when "Perfect Stress" occurs, because our body's hard-wired response to stress can help us rise up to a wide range of challenges, like when you study diligently for an exam and do well, or you train seriously for a physical task and succed, or you use your best conflict resolution skills to work out a problem or difference with someone important to you ... I count on perfect stress every time I speak or sing in front of a group - it's what helps me rise to the occasion and do my best!

"Distress," on the other hand, is a serious condition that can handicap you when you need to be at your best! You might just shut down, or try to avoid it and hope it just goes away on it's own, or do or say things that are not necessarily in your best interests, because a whole different combination of physiological changes are happening in the body that can distract you from focusing on your best attitudes and aptitudes and actions ...

So the trick is to learn the difference, and use perfect stress to lift you up to meet the challenge, and respond appropriately when distress occurs ... For example, let's say something happens and your stress reaction is triggered:

FIRST, will you be disciplined enough to take a quick time-out to try to figure out what's really going on and what's the best thing you can do, or will you more likely tend to yield to an emotional impulse in the moment, without thinking it through at least somewhat - before you respond?

Second, recognize your predominant tendency as far as the basic "Fight or Flight" response to stress or danger... It does depend on the situation, yet all of us have a tendency to resort to one of these styles more than the other ... If the tendency for you is the "Fighter - this doesn't necessarily mean you have an actual fight (although it could!); rather, it means you tend to take the problem, or person, head-on ... Is this the right way to respond every time? It depends, yet probably not, because while this is almost always the only way to "win" and overcome the challenge, you also risk saying or doing something, or say/do it in such a way, that does NOT help your situation, and could lead to a bad outcome for you, and later you'll get a grip and regret your choices and want a do-over ... If the tendency for you is the "Flighter," this doesn't necessarily mean you run away or are a scaredy-cat (although it could!); rather, it means you tend to back away from the problem at first, rather than take it on ... Is this the right way to respond every time? It depends, yet probably not, because while this may look like a weakness to some, in some situations this might be exactly the best thing to do, yet you also risk some situtations when you avoid the cause of stress and therefore relinquish your ability to control the outcome, and that might not be in your best interest ...

It's also important to remember that stress doesn't always occur in response to an external situation - sometimes it's a response to an internal situation, like your own "self-talk," an incorrect perception of something, or even an imagined or exaggerated fear of something that MIGHT happen ... Perception is reality, so if you perceive something to be real, accurate or not, it is real to you, and you respond accordingly ... So having some basic self-awareness of "what's REALLY going on" helps you assess the situation and make a better decision on the level or risk or urgency, and what your best response should be ...

Compounding this, I also believe that as a society we're getting "soft," largely due to all the "quick fixes" and remedies we're bombarded with through a ubiquitous media, and the technology that is increasingly available to us ... We feel like we should be able to hit the "EASY BUTTON" (as seen on tv!) and problem solved ... Except it rarely works like that! So as it is with so many SOME-things in life, we need to remember that we can still exercise some choices when we feel stressed, we are not powerless. With some reframing, we can even transform our stress responses into actions that in fact bring us to a "better place" - and "better" could and necessarily would be defined in many various ways ...

Bottom-line: Nobody guarenteed that life would be easy or stress-free. Stuff happens. There is always SOME-thing! So be realistic, and use these reminders to manage your own morale through the next, and every SOME-thing and some-ONE you deal with on your life journey ...


A Thought to Help You WorkWise: There's Always SOME-thing!
(or some-ONE ...)

I recently conducted a workshop for the Municipal Clerks & Finance Officers Assoc. of MN, on the topic of helping supervisors handle the stress of dealing with a difficult employee... Afterwards, an attendee approached me to talk about her situation which involved an employee who recently transferred to her department from anohter. She initially described the problem by saying: "He just refuses to accept my supervision." She'd been there almost 30 years and has dealt with all kinds of people, but in her words: "This guy just takes the cake!" She even said her husband was stressed out now after listening to this for so long, and some days she was even ready to quit or retire early if she couldn't figure out what to do with this guy! We talked a little more, and then I shared several techniques to try the next time she speaks with him, so she doesn't get so stressed, and she can better figure out "what's REALLY going on" ...

Figuring there might be going on than his just refusing to accept her supervision, I asked her for more specific, observable behaviors that she felt suggested he was refusing to accept her supervision ... The more she described their specific interactions, which were few because he was so recently transferred, I reminded her of several things she could do to help her reframe the situation, reduce her stress, and "redeem" the relationship ...

  • As a way to reframe the situation, I suggested she first ask herself: "What's REALLY going on?" Is she correct in her perception that he is not accepting her supervision, or is there is a more nuanced or otherwise harder to identify explanation for his behavior? How does he feel about this job change - was it a lateral move, or a promotion or demotion? Did he transfer because of a stressful or disciplinary reason? What kind of image or reputation does your dept. have to other employees? And if you're brave enough, ask yourself: what kind of image or reputation do I have to others as a supervisor? What we first perceive on the surface is usally a very small part of what's really going on, so look for more clues and indicators that are not as apparent ... Be willing to adjust your perception accordingly ...

  • The first thing that caught my attention was when she said he's the only male working in a department with 7 females, and the first male in years ... Her specific observations were: "He wouldn't make eye contact, and his answers were always short - under 5 words, and sometimes just one word." So I reminded her that in general, on average, most men don't "talk" the same way that in general, on average, most women do ... Eye contact and the average number of words spoken/day are predictable gender differences among most males and females ... There are likely many other gender communication differences, among the many other style differences inherant within any group - even when they are the same race, gender and age as each other! The trick is to learn the predominant styles of each employee and understand the difference that is often happening when, for example, a "Driver" communicates with an "Analytical," or an "Expressive," or an "Amiable," or a male interacts with a female, or a 60 something interacts with a 20 something, or any of the variations implicit within every team of two or more individuals ...

  • I reminded her of Will Rogers' quote: "I don't like that person very much - I ought to get to know them better." Sometimes relationships don't get off to a smooth start because of a negative first impression. So I encouraged her to get to know him better and see if the additional information allowed her to reframe her negative first impression in a more informed manner, and make it easier for her to continue to relate to him, and perhaps also for him to relate to her ... You'll always find good qualities in every person - people are like onions, and we have many layers to peel through to get to the core of who each person is ... Some people require you to try to peel away more layers than others ... Some people can really make you cry ... Just remember that there are some layers that are private, and good supervisors respect that, which also helps build the needed trust ...

  • The "Leadership Effectiveness and Adaptability Description" (LEAD), by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, is a useful tool to help supervisors use the appropriate style for each employee, on a given task, at a given moment in time ... In other words, beware the stress caused by the supervisor who feels the need to hover over a new employee, if in fact the new employee could probably teach a graduate level course of effective supervision and leadership ... Or the stress caused by the supervisor who assumes the new employee knows everything they need to know and treats them "hands off," if in fact the new employee needs a lot of direction and supervision in order to be successful ... Do you know enough about the employee to be able to effectively determine how much direction and supervision each employee requires, and can you successfully shift your supervision style as needed as an employee demonstrates their competence and therefore require less direction/supervision from you? A good supervisor also realizes that sometimes you need to use one style with an employee on one task or assignment, yet another style on a different task or assignment with the same employee ... Sometimes if helps for the supervisor to frame the discussion in this light so the employee doesn't feel threatened, and realizes this discussion will also help them better understand their supervisor, and help make the on-going communication more effective too ...

  • And it can only help to consider asking the other person for their perspective. So the supervisor wants to start by carefully "positioning the discussion" -- to convey that you want to get the working relationship off to a good start, and that you want to help them succeed, and then ask: "How are things going so far?" Then the supervisor needs to listen, and based on what the employee says, then decide if there are indications there is a problem or issue, or not ... Because if the person says there is a problem, and especially if they say or do something to confirm that the issue involves you, the supervisor, then you have a whole next set of questions you'd need to ask to get clarification ... And if the indications are that things are okay, then you can concentrate on looking forward, and the next questions are about what they feel they need from you to succeed, and for any other sharing that will help the two of you build the relationship needed to get the jobs done ...

(side-note: In her case, because she anticipated that he really did seem to have SOME kind of resistance towards her, I shared some other examples of ways to reassure him that he doesn't have anything to worry about in this conversation, like:)

  • Remind him that both of you had to learn some things about each other so you can better understand each others' skills and styles, and that you know he has some real assets he's bringing to the office, and so it's about figuring out the best way to work with and support him so he succeeds in his work ...

  • Let him know you don't want to do or say something that might make him defensive or resistant, using the other specific skills covered in the "Giving & Receiving Feedback" portion of the workshop ("People Don't Leave Jobs - They Leave Bosses") ...

  • Another important type of comment to position the discussion, if you think they wonder why you're asking these questions based on how the listener is responding: I'm not trying to be nosey - I'm just trying to figure out what you and I need to do to have an effective relationship ... You are unique, so I don't want to make assumptions or treat you like one of the other people who work here, who also happen to be all female ... Do you have what you need? How can we best support you so you can succeed in your new job? Do you have questions or concerns you need me to know about? And reinforce that you want every employee to feel both able and responsible to talk with you when they have important questions and concerns.

And in most cases, these concerns can be addressed, and the stress removed, and everyone moves on, so the supervisor can deal with other stressors ...

Then, in the rare yet possible worst case scenario, you know as a supervisor that you need to document a performance issue with an employee before you can take disciplinary action, and that should include a specific discussion with the employee about your expectations, and the behaviors you want them to stop or change, and the specific behaviors you want them to do better or more of, because sometimes what's really going on is the employee has a "blind spot" - they do not see what you and others see re: their behavior ... It's the "toilet paper on the back of your shoe," and as embarassing it is to find out -- you want to know about it so you can do something about it! So the supervisor needs to use their good feedback skills to let them know, because sometimes this is the uncomfortable discussion needed, and it's also the turning point towards solution or resolution ...

And finally - the toughest situation I ever had as a supervisor with an employee, was with someone I had many meetings with, and reviewed expectations, and gave him feedback about his behaviors and performance including specific suggestions and requirements needed to improve ... Yet even after all the corrective feedback, he continued to come up short on several key expectations, and was growing defensive and a little defiant ... So the best line I ever learned to use with an employee in this kind of situation, because it was consistent with both my supervision style and personal values, as well as the school district's personnel policies and procedures, was:

"I'll give you one more chance to demonstrate through your choices and actions that you can and will do what is needed to meet these expectations, or you will show me that you can't or won't. And based on the choices you make, I will make mine." I didn't know how to be more fair and firm than that ... (The good news - he did well during those next three months, and this trend continued for a while longer ... However, he did have a lapse of judgement and did do one of the things we discussed he was NOT to do, and because everything was so clear in terms of expectations and consequences he immediately resigned.)

Moral of the story: Most people want to do the right thing, and will do so when they know they know it is expected of them. So when you encounter the few who don't, don't avoid the conversation; review the skills you'll need to use when you present the feedback, starting with how you begin and "position" the conversation ... Be fair and firm, and very specific when you give them their chance to demonstrate that they can and will do the specific thing(s) that is needed, or that they can't or won't ... Sometimes it's a "blind spot" ... Sometimes the employee likes playing a game - to see if they can manipulate the boss, or at least push their button ... And when it's one of those few who either can't do what's needed, or won't, why prolong the painful and inevitable? Have the courageous conversation, give them a chance to redeem themselves and do things right, and then deal with the outcome ... When you've been clear, and they know you are sincere and serious, you call a lot of bluffs and level a lot of playing fields with the fence-sitters, and encourage those who are not really in the game to either get in, or move on ...


kimratz adds music to all his programs to inspire people and help improve skills

Quotes related to Resiliency for the days ahead ...

The human capacity for burden is like bamboo - far more flexible than you'd ever believe at first glance. - Jodi Picoult

Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good. - Elizabeth Edwards

One's doing well if age improves even slightly one's capacity to hold on to that vital truism: "This too shall pass." - Alain de Botton

I got half-a-dozen paintings from that shattered plate. - Georgia O'Keefe

When you fall down, you need to: "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again." From a 1936 song, music by Jerome Kern, and lyrics by Dorothy Fields.

Sometimes Grace comes in the form of a punch in the face. - Mary Elder

You can get sympathy or you can get better but you can't get both. You can be in your comfort zone or you can have growth, but you can't have both. You can be interested or you can be sold-out-committed, but you can't entertain both. You can have excuses or have results, but you can't do both. Choose the path that develops your visceral fortitude. Nothing can sabotage winning, except for fear of losing. Success usually lies just beyond failure. - Mario Cortes

No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That's the only way to keep the roads clear. - Greg Kincaid

My life was my life; I would have to stare it down, somehow, and make it work for me. - Paula McLain

There's no such thing as ruining your life. Life's a pretty resilient thing, it turns out. - Sophie Kinsella, The Undomestic Goddess

A good half of the art of living is resilience. - Alain de Botton

The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived. - Robert Jordan

If we don't allow ourselves to experience joy and love, we will definitely miss out on filling our reservoir with what we need when -- hard things happen. - Brene' Brown

She's been conned, ruined, left for dead, and she's not going to forgive any of it. She will soldier on, if only out of spite. - Lauren DeStefano

It's not so much what happened - it's more what you do. Don't dwell on what's out of your control - focus on what you can do.

Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience. Resilience means facing life's difficulties with courage and patience -- refusing to give up. It is the quality of character that allows a person or group of people rebound from misfortune, hardships and traumas. Much of our resilience comes from community - from the relationships that allow us to lean on each other for support when we need it. - unknown

Do the things that nterest you and do them with all your heart. Don't be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren't paying any attention to you. It's your attention to yourself that is so stultifying. But you have to disregard yourself as completely as possible. If you fail the first time then you'll just have to try harder the second time. After all, there's no real reason why you should fail. Just stop thinking about yourself. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Dryness promotes the formation of flower buds ... Flowering is, after all, not an aesthetic contribution, but a survival mechanism. - Ann Haymond Zwinger

If you learn something from a defeat it isn't a loss. - Autumn Worcester

You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then -- to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. - T.H. White


I help people create more harmony in their own life, and in their relationships with others. It's about Choices and Congruence - by aligning your Attitudes, Aptitudes and Actions - so that at day's end you feel content, not regret. I do this through keynotes that inspire hope, workshops that help people improve skills to cope with change, challenge and conflict, and original music, stories and humor to induce some fun along the way!

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