Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Gifts Conversation

"I'm glad I caught you. I wanted to tell you a story about your kids," began the principal of my third-grade twins' Solomon Schechter school. And despite her casual tone, I suddenly stood erect, sucked in my stomach (as if that would help), and readied myself to hear an account that would require "a little chat" at home.

"So, Jacob and Sophie were playing basketball at recess together," she began.

(Recess? Ok, not usually a problem. Together? Hmmm…isn't that why we chose a school with three third grade classes? For less "togetherness"? Togetherness for our kids is not next to Godliness - in fact, it's in a coffee klatch with Madness, Boisterous and Riotous).

To read the rest of this article from the Jewish Week, click here!

Deborah Grayson Riegel, MSW, ACC

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Come on In, The Water's Fine!

This morning, I told Jacob and Sophie that we'd be going swimming after baseball camp. By "we" I meant my husband and the two of them. "Why aren't you coming?" Jacob asked, annoyed. "Oh, I'll be there....I'm just not going in," I told him. This was not - or shall I say, should not, have been news to him. I show up at all kinds of bodies of water -- even in my bathing suit, which is one of my least favorite parts of the whole ordeal. But getting into a chilly lake, ocean or pool just is not my cup of (iced) tea.

"Mom," Sophie said calmly. "How about if we give you as much time as you need to get used to the water? We promise not to rush you." "Yeah!" Jacob said, in a rare moment of twinship.

I have to say that I'm considering it. If Jacob and Sophie keep their end of the bargain - which, as they know, includes no splashing, rushing or taunting -- perhaps I can take my time to make something I dread more enjoyable for me, which will make a great experience for my kids.

Where do you need to take it slow so that you can acclimate? What's your "cold water"? And who can help you make it a warmer experience?

To your Success without the Tsuris,

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Decisions, Decisions!

I was on the phone with a coaching client today (we'll call her Dee) who was struggling with an embarrassment of riches: she has so many opportunities available to her - both personally and professionally - that she feels overwhelmed by the decisions she needs to make. Love her or envy her (no, "hate her" is not an option -- I am VERY protective of my clients!), but chances are you know her - or you've been her. How do we decide what to take on and what to pass on?

I asked Dee to think about a decision she had made recently that felt like a "no-brainer". Her example was taking her daughter on a college interview with the Dean of the school. Despite the fact that she had made the decision without an awareness of a decision-making process, I asked her to think about the factors that made this decision an easy yes. Here's what she came up with:

  • Unique opportunity
  • Important/Makes an impact
  • Fun
  • Timely
  • Aligns with her values
  • Manageable cost(s)
  • Potentially large payoff(s)
Look at that! Even without knowing that she had a set of decision-making criteria, she was using it. Then, we took this list and tested it against several other decisions she had made -- and some that were pending. The criteria worked, and we realized that we had one to add to it:

  • Gut
That's right. Dee often relied on an inner sense that yelled "yay" or "nay" to her when she had a choice to make. And interestingly, as soon as we named "gut" as a key decision-making factor for her, she reported that her stomach had been hurting her enough as of late that she had called the doctor. And while I am certainly an advocate for modern medicine, I do believe that our bodies give us powerfully useful information about what's going on in our heads.

How about you? Think about a decision you have made recently that felt easy-breezy to you and see if you can back it up into a set of criteria you can use for future decisions that don't feel as cut and dried.

And post your criteria here -- I'd love to see how your head works!

To your Success without the Tsuris,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reading this Blog (and Oprah, Business Week, and People Magazine) Can Dramatically Change Your Relationships!

I've got a file 3 inches thick called "IDEAS" that sits on my desk as a receptacle for every article I rip out of newspapers and magazines. Whether it's Psychology Today, Entrepreneur, or yes, even Oprah Magazine, if I read it, and think someone else could relate to it, I rip it out.

  • Read it
  • Relate it 
  • Rip it

Many of these articles are food for thought for my newsletters, articles and blogs. Some of them are for home use, and I'm very, very careful with the articles I read, relate and rip for my husband Michael.  Trust me: he has no patience for the thinly-veiled ruse called, "I saw this article and thought you'd be interested in it" when in fact, I really mean "Here's an article I read that highlights something about your personality, behavior or habits I'd really like you to change, and I am hoping the article can do the dirty work rather than me speaking with you about it directly or realizing that this just isn't going to change. That doesn't fly around here. Other articles are for you (yes, YOU) and if you haven't gotten one from me yet, I look forward to sending one your way soon!

Here are some of the articles I have hanging around:
  • Time-Saving Tools and Technologies for Professional Speakers
  • It's Showdown Time: How to Take the Fight Out of Confrontations
  • Leadership in Turbulent Times
  • Transforming Professional Relationships
  • 10 Blogs to Write Today (I'm actually using this one RIGHT NOW)
I consider my bank of articles (and yes, sometimes they are online and I email a link to them) one of my best relationship-building tools. I love reading something and thinking, "Aha! Amy would love this one!" and then sending it along. It's a win-win - you get something of value and I get the opportunity to give you something useful that demonstrates that I genuinely know what's important to you and that I care. And when someone sends ME an article? Well, I am tickled pink. Even if it's not quite on target, the very act of you thinking of ME makes me happy.

I do notice that the articles my mom sends me tend to focus on a particular theme: They are typically about people who do what I do - coaches, speakers and trainers -- and are much more famous than I am. Because I know her and love her (and I know that she loves me), I recognize that her goal is not to make me feel like an underachiever. In fact, her consistent message through her articles is: "You should be every bit as famous as these people are - if not more!"  Mom, if it's bashert it's bashert. I know that you're relying on me to get you into the Oscars one day. Right now, I'm happy to have a job that I love. And thanks for always wanting the best for me!

So, as a personal and professional relationship-building tool, keep reading. And relating. And ripping. (Sending is, of course, the final step). Want me to send you an article? Email me your address and I'll pop one in the mail that you'll LOVE! Besides, I'm always looking for a reason to quit work early and cuddle up with the new Real Simple!

To your Succcess without the Tsuris,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Blessing of Your Blind Spot

Why always focusing on the big picture is short-sighted.

During a recent surgery (thank you, I'm fine), as I sat in the pre-op waiting room in a backside-baring gown, I realized that the fellow in the next cubicle kept looking at me. I admit that, on a typical day, my ego might have gotten a boost. But on this day, with no make-up, no sleep and no food, I was frustrated rather than flattered. I couldn't reach my curtain to close it. I couldn't find a nurse within earshot. There was only one thing I could do - I took off my glasses. As soon as I couldn't see my nosy neighbor, I didn't care who or what he was looking at.

Less sight, less tsuris.

U.S. Olympic bobsled pilot Steven Holcomb had been piloting his four-man sled virtually blind due to an eye disease when he decided to have surgery to restore his vision. While the operation was successful, Holcomb found that his newly sharpened vision interfered with the instinctive driving style he had developed to compensate for his lost eyesight. So he scratched and dirtied his visor, deliberately obscuring his vision so that he could go back to driving by feel.

His result? The Gold medal touch.

The best yoga class I ever took was when one contact lens fell out on the way to the gym. Instead of my regular Zen-free practice of comparing everyone else's upright Roman columns to my Leaning Tower of Pisa, I focused exclusively on enjoying my own experience.  


We all know that having a clear, concise and crisp vision is critical in our personal lives and for our organizations. In fact, I facilitate countless meetings that help teams and organizations clarify and articulate a shared vision. I begin my work with coaching clients by asking "what do you want?" to help them discover and crystallize their personal vision.

But in order to focus on what we want, and what we need to do to get it done, we sometimes need to deliberately blur our vision from peripheral distractions. By actively choosing to ignore (for a moment or for a while) what the other guy is doing, who's judging us, or how something looks rather than how it feels, we can better focus our time, energy, attention and actions.

Click here to download 10 Questions to Help You Focus on What's Most Important.

To your Success without the Tsuris,


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Taste of My Own Medicine

This past Monday, I had surgery. I knew it was coming - in fact, I put it off for three months so I could be with my kids during vacation, dance at my friend's wedding, and make good on my business travel commitments. Very strategic of me, I must say. When the doctor told me to expect 1-2 weeks of recovery if there were no complications, I thought she meant for other people. I recalculated her time estimate for "Deb-Time" (which means compulsively early and lightening fast) and began scheduling phone meetings for less than 48 hours post-surgery, i.e. TODAY.

How's that working out for me? Well, score 1 for the doctor, 0 for the coach.

Last night, amidst the joy of receiving fruit baskets, Godiva chocolates and a bag of prunes from a great friend who, shall we say, knew too well what was to come, I started cancelling my appointments. My throat was still scratchy from the breathing tube, my stomach muscles hurt too much to talk, and since many of my clients are deliciously funny, I knew that a single bout of agonizing laughter could send me back to the hospital. The immediate problem is that I didn't give myself the time I needed to recover - despite being told by a professional who knew her stuff. The bigger problem is that I missed a fundamental strategic step in coaching that I use with my clients - and ignored with myself: Anticipating Roadblocks.

It's all well and good to know what you want, and to develop a plan for getting there. I wanted to get back to work and figured that by booking my clients, I would have to will myself to recover faster than I might otherwise. But I forgot to ask myself the question that I would have asked any client: "what could get in the way?" For me, it was that I wouldn't feel better in time for my appointments, and the consequence is that I have to do what I wish I didn't have to: cancel my meetings. It would have been better to have given myself the whole week (yes, Dr. Kastner, I know -- or TWO whole weeks) to renew, recharge and recover, and start fresh rather than making up for missed meetings.

So enough about me (but fruit baskets, chocolate and prunes are still welcome!): Think about a plan or process you're getting ready to embark on. What roadblocks could get in your way? And how can you reengineer your plan to get around them, through them, over them, avoid them, or even use them to your advantage?

Keep me posted - I'm not going anywhere for a while!

To your Success without the Tsuris,

Friday, February 19, 2010

One Step Forward, One Step Back

When I told my kids last night that bedtime would be at 7:45 p.m. instead of 8, I received two very different reactions. Sophie, exhausted from a weekend of sleepover dates, barely nodded as she trudged up to her bunk bed. Jacob, similarly wiped out, had enough energy left to do battle. When he started to huff, stomp and get teary, I reminded him that all of these behaviors were a signs of a tired kid. With an audible "harumph!" (which I never believed was a real expression until I heard him say it), he plopped himself on his bed with his arms crossed. Michael and I went downstairs, expecting....something.

We were surprised when Jacob came downstairs twenty minutes later and handed me a note. In the note, he wrote, "I don't want to be treated like a baby. I want to pick out my own clothes. I want a new bedtime. And I want a cell phone." At the bottom of the note, he drew a skull and cross-bones to let us knew that he meant business, and that we were putting our very lives at risk by not taking him seriously.

Here's what worked in Jacob's approach:
  • Taking time to cool off
  • Putting his thoughts into writing rather than crying, yelling or stomping
  • Making "I" statements (e.g. "I want..." rather than "You need to...")
Here's what didn't:
  • Laundry-bagging (listing multiple concerns at once, rather than the most timely and relevant one)
  • Red herrings (that cell phone is NOT GONNA HAPPEN and he knew that!)
  • Threats (his pirate scare tactics won't work on land or at sea)
So the next time you're steaming mad, what will you do to make sure your message is relevant AND respectful?

To your Success without the Tsuris,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dancing in the Moment

Today in Spinnning Class, I was flagging. I hurt in some unmentionable parts, I had run out of water ten sips ago, and I was fantasizing about work. Yes, work. With five minutes left, I was basically "phoning it in" with my legs and my mind. It was at that moment that our Spinning Instructor, Susan, saw that I was in need, got down off her own bike and danced a jitterbug right in front of me. She shamelessly shook her hips until she shook me right out of my complacency - and I began to recommit to the end of the ride.

Just what I needed when I needed it -  a hearty dose of energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement.

While my dancing is worse than my spinning, I realized in that moment that what Sue did for me, I do for my coaching clients. Whether they need a jitterbug to get them excited and moving, a two-step to get them on a strategic plan, or a square dance to help them bring in necessary partners, I dance in the moment with each and every client.

What kind of dance do you need to get moving?

To your Success without the Tsuris,

Monday, February 1, 2010

Get out the Guilt!

There was the guilt for leaving on a business trip to a warm climate while my family freezes back in New York. Then there was the guilt for missing Sophie's swim meet and Jacob's basketball game, and for leaving my husband Michael to spend the weekend driving from end to end of Nassau County between the two. But stepping on and breaking Michael's toe 24 hours before bailing on everyone? Now THAT'S GUILT!!! (Sorry honey!).

As my guilty stew continued to boil, I began to think of all the OTHER things that I feel guilty about. I simply do not have enough time, energy or finger-power to type them all here - BUT one thing that did pop up for me was that I felt guilty for letting my blog lie fallow - for more than a year.

Now THIS I can do something about! So here I am - hineni.

Let's get some coaching around guilt, shall we? (And trust me, I need it, too).

What does feeling guilty get you?
What does feeling guilty cost you?
Whose voice - other than your own - do you hear in the guilt? What strikes you about that?
When the guilty voice pops up, what could you say directly to it?
When will you tell it to pipe down?
What's ONE thing you can get off your guilt list TODAY - by deciding to take care of it, skip it, or something else?

So here's mine: I feel good that I'm blogging today. I may not blog again until 2011. And I'm cool with that.

Let me know about yours!

To Your Success without the Tsuris,