About erikshope

Andrea Chilcote is the author of Erik's Hope: The Leash The Led Me To Freedom. Andrea Chilcote is Erik's person, the woman who experienced and documented Erik's real life love, loss and rebirth. She credits much of her work today to the lessons received from her teacher, Erik. Andrea is an author, executive coach, and leadership development expert. She brings to the reader current practical knowledge of the issues and concerns people are facing at this difficult time. She has a keen skilled and intuitive ability to facilitate transformational change in individuals, and her writing offers this opportunity to the reader. Andrea has authored numerous personal development articles and programs, and designs and delivers leadership curriculum for diverse businesses through her consulting practice, Morningstar Ventures. Andrea lives in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, dogs and horses.

It’s Not About the Pajamas

During a recent webinar, my colleagues and I affirmed the notion that the use of video is a significant plus for the many conference calls newly-virtual teams are involved in. We were asked: “How you do convince a team member to use video when he wants reap the work-from-home benefit of wearing pajamas?” I responded, perhaps too quickly, that the pajamas themselves were the problem and that this individual needs to get himself dressed for work.


As a result, I was counseled by two colleagues who disagreed. One made the case that she, always highly productive and highly engaged, frequently rises to join calls well before dawn due to time zone differences, and continues with back-to-back calls until 2pm at which time she changes from her pajamas to street clothes so that she can take a walk outdoors. She makes the point that it’s not about the pajamas. It’s about how the person in the pajamas feels about themselves in that moment. I agree.


Before the day of the webinar, I had never considered that I have a pajama bias. But I do, and it’s rooted in the fact that I was a very early adopter of work-from-home, before it was commonly acceptable. When I started my business in the early 90’s, I did not tell people I worked from home unless asked directly. I worked hard to maintain a professional presence and overcome the stereotype prevalent at the time that people who worked from home were in their pajamas enjoying popcorn or bon-bons, working in-between trips to the washing machine and the refrigerator. While work-from-home has certainly gained credence in the last three decades, this COVID 19 crisis has forced us to deal with the advantages and disadvantages. And, make no mistake, the successes we are having will cause a quantum leap in its acceptance, creating real-estate savings for employers, time savings for employees, and positive environmental impact for society. Yet not all team leaders and team members are having an easy time of it. What can we learn and apply once we are free to return to the workplace?


Employee Engagement and Trust
We are hearing from leaders who are concerned that team members are not working full, productive days at this time. Most probably are not, and our advice, right now, is to have some empathy. Many are parents suddenly faced with childcare and home schooling. Many have limited technology and space options with two or more adults and children sharing devices and online resources. A recent study by Ginger shows that 62% of workers reported losing at least one hour a day in productivity due to COVID-19 related stress, with 32% losing more than two hours per day. These people are not viewing this time as a mini-vacation, a way of taking from their employers. They are doing the best they can do.


We also are seeing leaders extending the benefit of the doubt, building more trust and creating higher levels of engagement than were present before this crisis. Douglas McGregor’s 1950’s theory of work motivation explains the dichotomy we are seeing. McGregor described “Theory X” managers as believing employees have little ambition, avoid responsibility, and are individual-goal oriented. They advocate heightened supervision, external rewards, and penalties. By contrast, “Theory Y” managers believe that self-actualization is the highest level of reward for employees, and adopt a management style which focuses on the drive for individual self-fulfillment. McGregor’s perspective places the responsibility for performance on managers as well as subordinates.

While the COVID crisis most definitely has created an unusual work circumstance, it is pointing out the stark contrast in leaders’ beliefs and behaviors with regard to human motivation. In some cases, it highlights the slow progress we have made since the time of McGregor’s work.


Boundaries and Self Care
Inviting work colleagues into one’s home, albeit virtually, has implications about the boundaries we set up. Sometimes clients will tell me: “I have a work persona and a personal persona. The two do not mix.” Not always, but usually, this indicates an opportunity. Either there is some hidden gem the individual has not chosen to share at work, or they have a set of “work” behaviors born of outdated expectations or poor leadership role models that have become habits – habits that no longer serve a positive, team-focused outcome. We know that vulnerability is a precursor to team trust, and one way to build this is to get to know another as a person, vs. a role. This time we are in offers an interesting paradox – while we are isolated from one another physically, we have an opportunity to share a glimpse into our personal lives – our families, our fears and our sources of joy.


So back to pajamas, and how the person in pajamas feels about him or herself. Is my colleague who jumps out of bed at 4:25 am to join a 4:30 am call giving too much? Has she let work demands encroach on her personal boundaries? In this time when self-care is common topic of conversation, one could surmise that by not allowing herself time for a simple morning rituals such as dressing, eating, or exercising, she is not practicing self-care. I wonder what she would say.


Indeed, it is not about the pajamas. This awful time we are in affords us opportunity for examination. As leaders, we can examine (and challenge) our beliefs and biases about management practices and leadership approaches. As individuals, we can examine our sources of motivation, the degree to which we are willing to be vulnerable, the value we place on our time, and our view of our very self-worth.

In My Own (Crazy?) Way

By Andrea Chilcote

 


On Monday I joined some friends for coffee, friends who meet regularly at a time I’m usually on a plane or have some scheduled task. Since I’m not a regular member of this group, I was in for surprise.

One member, my friend Sheppard Lake, is a life coach. So at these gatherings, she regularly leads exercises designed to – well, coach us in life.

I considered excusing myself when the paper and pens were passed around. But I was intrigued enough to postpone the work I was supposed to be doing, and I stayed.

Sheppard asked us to write a letter to someone we admired, telling them what it was we loved about them. The first person who popped into my mind was none other than the CEO of an Arizona non-profit, Pam Gaber of Gabriel’s Angels. It was easy to list all of the things I admire about Pam, and I finished my letter quickly. It was fun to hear who others chose, when we read our letters aloud. Some picked famous people and one wrote a touching letter to her husband.

Then, we learned the punch line of the exercise. Sheppard dared to ask us to re-read the letters, this time substituting ourselves for the exalted one. What??

She asked me to go first. “I can’t do this,” I said, “because part of it, one word in the middle paragraph, would be a lie.”

She encouraged me to just begin. Amazingly, the truth was that many of the things I admire about Pam are qualities I at least strive to embody myself. (Okay, they are qualities I possess.) But when I got to that word in the short sentence in the middle of the page, I stopped.

“I’m in awe of your energy, organization and presence.” Which word would that be, you might ask?

“I am not organized,” I declared, oddly on the verge of tears. Immediately my friends began to give me examples of how they admired my ability to plan and organize, how methodical I was, how much I got done, and on and on. I was incredulous.

I listened, and considered the evidence they presented.

“In my own crazy way, perhaps,” I conceded. And as the words came out, I felt better.

In my own way.

Yes, while I have a nearly life-long criticism of my ability to order and structure things, the truth is that I organize things “exactly just right” for me. I have systems, processes and order that, while mysterious to some, work for me. It’s only when I try to do what others do that I stumble.

How about you? What’s “your own way?” that serves you, and – that others even admire?

I have an idea. I think I’ll stop comparing myself to others, at least for the weekend.

Running on Empty

Have you rushed into this new year to find yourself already running on empty? Here’s a gentle nudge to be mindful of your own need for renewal.

By Andrea Chilcote

I had one of those early morning dream states in which I was already up and at my desk. The last two hours were not real sleep, and served as an omen for the day ahead.

When I reached for the half-and-half (yes, it’s as much my habit as the coffee), it was low. So low, I would have to conserve if I were to have second cup. Running on empty.

Things proceeded as planned, though with a definite layer of unexamined stress surrounding my activities. “What is this?”

I put the thought (feeling?) to the side and carried on. A glance at a friend’s Facebook post revealed a challenge. “What is one thing you will do to renew yourself today?” I had no response. Struggled with it for 30 seconds then moved on to my next task. Yes, I know I could have saved time by not being seduced by Facebook. I was not there long.

Task, task, task. One foot in front of the other. Suddenly, the time to leave for a meeting grew near. As I began a print for a document I needed, I considered the paper level. Running on empty. The printer ran out before the last two pages printed. Empty all the way.

I filled it and stowed my document.

A few other minor annoyances arose, and when I reached my car I had no room for error.

Out of gas. Empty. (Oh not really, because I had enough to get to a station. Just running on empty).

I stopped to fill the tank, and made arrangements to call my client from the car if needed.

The afternoon proceeded generally as planned. The stress seemed to dissipate, yet something was still off when I arrived home.

The dogs were waiting for me, and very vocal about my arrival. Oh yes, they love me but they were hungry. And thirsty. Whisper pointed out the fact that the bowl contained only about an inch of water. (Mind you, if there was an inch, they were hydrated). When I went to fill the bowls, even the water tank was low and I had to replace that. Low, not empty.

In loving memory of Whisper. “It was a beautiful life for a most beautiful girl.”

Andrea and Whisper —Cambria, CA 2017

What do you do when your tank is low? Do you let it run dry? Do you replenish it at the last moment like I did today?

Perhaps the most important question – for me and for you – is my friend’s Facebook challenge: “What is one thing you will do to renew yourself today?”

I will answer that tomorrow morning, and I know it will transform my day.


 

The Year of Your Heart’s Desire

 

by Andrea Chilcote

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? If so, stop right now and notice how it feels to you.

Did you sigh wistfully, thinking “the party’s over soon,” or sense a need to buck up and get discipline? Did the feeling energize you—or deflate you? It’s estimated that only 10% of New Year’s resolutions are achieved. And it’s no wonder, given that they are often uninspired.

The Latin root of the word resolution is resolutionem ‒ the process of reducing things into simpler forms, loosening or “unbinding.” In his Word Power blog, Gregory Rineberg points out that in the last 500 or so years, we have used the word resolution to mean just the opposite ‒ holding firm in determination, resolute in pursuing a course of action.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from etymology. Consider as a metaphor the loosening or unbinding of your passions and true desires before taking resolved action. In my last post, I spoke of how intuition can work in tandem with our clever mind to manifest success if we allow our heart to take the lead. “Here is what I want and need,” we say from the higher self, our creative center, and then the mind responds, “Okay, let’s figure out how to get that for you ‒ here’s the right action step to take.”

When we lead with our head vs. our heart, we pursue faux goals. A faux goal is a pursuit disguised as noble, but does not truly reflect our heart’s desire. Many New Year’s resolutions fall into this category. Of course, it sounds honorable to start exercising, get organized or save money… but what’s the real reason for taking these actions? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my goal or resolution reflect a “should”‒ something I think or have been told I should do?
  • Is the goal more important to someone else than it is to me?
  • Does the thought of doing or achieving it give me energy or take the wind out of my sails?
  • Have I pursued this before without lasting success?

Sometimes we formulate resolutions as some sort of punishment for our supposed failures (“I ate too many holiday desserts…” or “I took too much time off…”). A goal born out of regret is handicapped from the start.

Examine Your Goals
What higher purpose is achieved when you get what you say you want? Is that your true heart’s desire?

Recently, I met a man who was preparing for a second heart bypass surgery. He was disciplined enough to exercise regularly and eat a heart-healthy diet, yet 15 years after the first surgery, he had to endure it again. I asked him where he got the courage and resolve. His reply, “I have five grandchildren and I want to be here as they grow up.”

Take Inspired Action
Lead from your heart. Decide first what you desire, what purpose you are pursuing, then, and only then, define the action steps. Test the actions with the question, “What will that get me?” and include positive effects as well as negative ones ‒ before resolving to achieve them. A helpful hint regarding purposeful action: you’ll know it when you feel it, not when you think it.

Our book, “Erik’s Hope,” is the culmination of my 13-year pursuit to share the lessons of a shelter dog named Erik with the rest of the world. The goal of publication has been achieved, and at the same time, the journey is just now beginning. I have never been filled with more resolve to have this story reach others who can consider and apply the lessons in ways that transform their own lives. My resolve is born out of my deep knowledge that this experience with Erik, this message of hope and inspiration, is purpose-based. It’s one of the things I’m here to do in this life, and it gives me joy.

So go ahead, resolve to lose weight, save for retirement or leave work earlier. These are noble pursuits for sure. But first ask yourself the question, “What will that get me?” If the answer fills you with passion, if you feel a sense of purpose or meaning, you’re on the road to success.

This life we are leading here on planet Earth is finite. While it’s fleeting by eternal standards, we all are here now for a reason.

Rushed

by Andrea Chilcote

I’ve been rushing a lot lately, even when there’s been no compelling need to. Given that I’ve spent 10 of the last 14 days on vacation, rushing might just be a bad habit.

When I looked up the synonyms for “rush,” I found many words that describe my demeanor. While I can’t say I’ve used all of these words, they sure describe many of my actions: hurry, dash, run, race, sprint, bolt, dart, fly, speed, zoom, scurry, scuttle, scamper, hasten, tear, belt, pelt, scoot, zip, hotfoot it, hightail it

This “problem” came into my awareness precisely because I was on vacation. From the first day, I questioned why I still felt stress, even though I was supposedly free to relax and enjoy. The very first thing I noticed was my language.

“I’ll hurry and shower (or eat, dress, pack – fill in the blank).”

“Let’s dash over there.”

“Speed up!

And I noticed other’s responses:

“There’s no hurry Andrea. Enjoy your lunch.”

“Take your time.”

“Relax. What’s the rush?”

But… did they mean it? Seriously, it’s easy for others to say “relax,” until my pace encroaches on their expectations. Did it?

Analyzing further, I realized that of late I have two speeds, high and off. Off is usually reserved for sleep. High is for everything else, and not everything requires that amount of energy expenditure. And, it sure depletes the enjoyment of simple pleasures.

Have you also experienced this? If you have a habit of pedal-to-the-metal and jackrabbit starts (and I’m not just talking about driving), what are the costs? Are you, like me, burning precious fuel?

Yesterday I began a deliberate practice of assessing my need for speed. In the last 24 hours, I have had more productive conversations and more presence. I’ve enjoyed small rewards from a slower pace, and I’m sure breathing more freely. (Oh, and I’ve still gotten a ton done).

Andrea and Whisper —Cambria, CA 2017

It’s a bit bittersweet that I didn’t embrace this lesson a week ago, while the ocean breezes blew. But I can wait for another vacation, or I can consciously embrace a variable speed commensurate with what’s required. It sounds inviting – I’ll let you know how it goes.

[Rushed originally written July 17, 2014]

Raveling

Andrea Chilcote

by Andrea Chilcote

It was early evening on a Friday night. I replied to an email from a client, stating that I had been traveling all week and would get her what she was requesting on Monday. Shortly after hitting send, I glanced at the preview pane and noticed a typo. I had told her I had been “raveling” all week.


Raveling. Fraying. Becoming separated from the woven fabric. The truth is, I felt as if I had been slowly raveling all week, but it didn’t feel so bad. The threads of this year  had been making themselves visible as lone fibers.

 

Still, the word bothered me – until I found this anonymous comment on Yahoo! answers.

“When a thread is loose, as in a novel or something complex, it’s isolated and lets you see how it works. In this case it’s good; it clarifies things. But if a loose thread leads to a tangled mess, say, in a shoelace or sweater, it complicates and confuses everything.”

I was (and still am) slowly unwinding, parsing out the priorities for the remainder of the year, looking back only to see where they fit in with the commitments that mattered, and looking ahead to determine which threads to weave and which to snip.

Oddly, that same evening my metaphor played out in an interaction with an airport store clerk. As I was hurriedly paying for my purchase, he asked: “Would you like me to clip that for you?”

“Clip what?” I replied, knowing that there were no tags attached to my water purchase.

“The string on your coat,” he said, pointing to a loose thread hanging from my sleeve.

“Sure,” I said. I handed him my arm and he neatly snipped the rogue strand of fiber.

Loose threads lead to tangled messes only when they ravel unattended. And it’s so easy to allow the many loose ends of the busy holiday season, year-end duties and future plans to become a confused flurry of unfocused activities.

We have a choice. We can examine the tapestries we’ve woven and leave them to rest in their simple perfection, or snip the loose threads. We can decide what colors and fibers we’ll use to weave the art of the new year ahead.

For me, the next two weeks will be a time of reflection, a time to ravel and examine, untangle and clarify. I’m looking forward to the peace of it. —[Originally published 20-DEC-2013]

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Dial Back to Making a Difference

 

by Andrea Chilcote

My colleague, author Randy Hain, suggested I do an exercise. He told me to write my clients’ names on a piece of paper (I added close friends), and circle them. Then, I was to write what each one cares most about next to their circled name. Randy predicted that I would see themes.

Did I ever.

Almost without exception, everyone I listed wants to make a difference in the lives of others. How they do it varies greatly. I work with leaders who, regardless their actual job, come to work each day because they’re making a difference in the lives of those they lead. Many, including those in senior executive positions, care most about the impact they are making on the lives of their children, members of their community or even the end-user of the product or service their organization produces. One, a CEO of a thriving non-profit, says that while she’s passionate about the work of her own organization, she does what she does every day to positively affect the non-profit sector overall, because of the enormous impact it has on the lives of those in her community.

There’s a reason why this commonality exists. Making a difference is a fundamental human drive.

Recently I learned of the death of a family friend. He was the owner of an independent grocery store in the small city  in which I grew up. His obituary said the city would have been a  different place without his compassion and the help he offered to his fellow citizens. He offered credit before it was the norm, and he helped many start small businesses. This man knew his purpose, and it was very different on the surface (selling bread and green beans) than in its depth (improving lives). He made a difference, though I’m not sure he would have known he was doing so at any given time. He just followed his heart.

And that is the point of my post today.

As you go about your full lives, it is easy to lose touch with your sense of purpose. It is easy to forget the impact of a small gesture, brief glance or word of encouragement. But even as you lose touch, the energy of it lives on. Every single positive thought or action affords many reactions. In this very moment, as you read this post, you are making a difference. Your – our – power and influence is humbling.

Let the awareness of your impact fuel your future actions. We all need one another.

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