Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Situational Awareness – It Could Save Your Life…or Someone Else’s

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We moved from East Tennessee when our children were still small. Taking a job abroad, we were excited at all the possibilities of living in a different culture. Still we wanted to be wise in living as expats – in a country where neither we nor our children understood the subtle signs of threat, unrest or possibly even danger. We wanted our children to be prepared for the unexpected but not afraid. Living quietly and confidently aware of our surroundings can have a strong positive influence on engaging a new culture, and even our home culture.

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Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It is not complicated but does take practice and discipline. Brett and Kate McKay blog extensively  on this and define it as:

“a skill that can and should be developed for reasons outside of personal defense and safety. Situational awareness is really just another word for mindfulness, and developing mine has made me more cognizant of what’s going on around me and more present in my daily activities, which in turn has helped me make better decisions in all aspects of my life.”

It’s not to instill fear (especially in teaching our children) but rather it can actually create calm and confidence. Where we want to be, in assessing our surroundings, is in a “yellow zone”, and we want that for our children as well – alert and calm, as a normal life pattern.Blog - Situational Awareness - Cooper's Color Code - domestic preparednessPhoto Credit: Domestic Preparedness

The links below are extremely helpful in terms of learning situational awareness and applying it to child safety, personal protection, and, in general, responding to a threatening situation.Blog - Situational Awareness - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

In The Tao of Boyd – How to Master the OODA Loop, another blog by the McKay’s, they talk about military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This can be used in dealing with uncertainty in any situation – whether a personal threat or a business transaction. I just wanted to mention it here as a rapid process we go through in situational awareness when we train ourselves to respond proactively, rather than in a panic.

Blog - Situational Awareness - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act - gsbPhoto Credit: Stanford Business

In the first McKay blog on situational awareness, they encourage parents to teach it to children as a game. You don’t even have to raise the issues of safety or security. It just becomes a game of being “in the moment”, observing your surroundings (while taking a trip across town, or eating in a restaurant, or playing in a park). When you alert your kids that the game is on, they know that, as part of that experience, to be especially observant. Then you ask questions later: “Can you describe the people sitting next to us in the restaurant?” or “How would you describe the adults closest to us in the park?” or “What do you remember about the people around us in the subway?” “What did we do to safely cross that huge street?” It doesn’t have to be a scary thing for children to learn to be more observant…instead of being zoned out or into their electronics or playing with your phone.

The same is true, of course, for us adults. The discipline part of situational awareness is practicing it often enough that it becomes a part of your every day life. In the old days, before smart phones, I was a people watcher…just taking in the people around me (in a “fascinated by them”, not “stalking” sort of way as we think today).

Too often, people tend to guard their own privacy, by looking down or not making eye contact some other way. We don’t survey where we are and who surrounds us, like we might should. Not because there is evil everywhere…that would be weird to think like that…but as a discipline…for our sake and for those around us.

There may be a time we can actually avoid or possibly defuse a situation, if we are focused. After the 9/11 bombings, and until situational awareness became “a thing” in my life, I would tend to kind of stay in a bubble around strangers…like on a subway or bus, or walking on a crowded street. One of the practices in situational awareness is to train your peripheral vision. It’s amazing what you can note if you learn to widen your view. [Use the image below to give it a try.]Blog - Situational Awareness bubble - modernsurvivalblogPhoto Credit: Modern Survival Blog

Today, I just wanted to introduce situational awareness. In a world that seems to be more and more violent, with stranger-on-stranger attacks, we may be vulnerable without even knowing it. Rather than being victims, there are steps we can take to become more aware and savvy. This can work toward our own safety and that of our family, but it can also be a means to help others more vulnerable than we are.

[Sidebar: Please don’t hear me say we need to be super-vigilant, like there is a bad guy coming through every door. Situational awareness is a discipline that we can use in many positive ways – both socially and in the workplace. It’s a skill in our toolbox.]

I am reminded of times, both overseas and here in the States, when a local friend or stranger stepped in and moved us to a safer place, or intervened when I didn’t know what to do in a new situation. Soon, I want to write again about this and will post some of our stories. Nothing really dramatic, thankfully, but definitely remarkable for us in negotiating new cities and situations. It would be wonderful if you shared some of your stories where you were situationally aware…or where it might have been helpful. Please comment below.

Check out the links. Very practical. Be safe out there…and help make it safer for those around you.

How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne – Brett & Kate McKay – Excellent overview and practical helps – Must Read

The Tao of Boyd – How to Master the OODA Loop – Brett & Kate McKay – Indepth article on OODA – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

10 Ways to Improve Your Situational Awareness – Sergeant Survival

50 Things You Can Do To Make Your Kids Street Smart – Chonce Maddox

Situational Awareness: Staying Safe When Life Gets Dangerous – The Survival Mom

5 Drills for Situational Awareness – Ken Jorgustin

A Practical Guide to Situational Awareness – Scott Stewart

10 Basic Safety Tips for Women – Mom With a Prep

I Do This Every Single Day But After This Warning I’ll Definitely Be Thinking Twice – Video

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Monday Morning Moment – Contempt is Cancer in the Workplace…and Any Other Place

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In a culture that clamors for political correction, how is it that contempt can be so freely expressed? Even rewarded, at times? This is an enigma for me. Contempt at home or in the workplace divides people, often against one another. Like cancer, it can spread if left unchecked…changing people and impacting product.

Having a certain measure of confidence is positive for all of us on a team. It’s freeing to be in relationships with people who have a strong sense of what they bring to the table as well as what others bring. Confidence and humility actually partner well together. When we have an honest understanding of our strengths, we also extend humility as we defer to the strengths of our colleagues.

The problem comes for all of us when confidence shifts into arrogance. Worse yet, when arrogance darkens into contempt. Arrogance is an attitude of thinking so highly of oneself that we tend to put down the thinking and efforts of others. Contempt is similar except the emotions are stronger and more mean-spirited.

Blog - Contempt 3 - slidesharePhoto Credit: SlideShare

What makes contempt so cancerous in our relationships is that it tends to spread, both internally and externally. When we allow ourselves the luxury of contempt, we grow in our justification of it. It may have started with an unappreciative boss or demanding client, but contempt, unchecked, will inject its poison indiscriminately.  We become comfortable with our disdainful opinions of others…at work, in our families, and pretty much toward anyone who crosses or annoys us.Blog - Contempt 2 - liveforchristresourcesPhoto Credit: LiveforChristResources

Chris Johnson, CEO, Simplifilm Inc. of Portland, Oregon, wrote a piece confronting contempt as a cancer in the workplace. He offers 5 steps to preventing contempt from shattering our work and our work relationships:

1. Don’t Vindicate Yourself. A customer had an experience they didn’t like. You don’t need to prove if you are right or wrong. That’s not relevant. What’s important is making a judgement: is this worth fixing?

2. Look At The Opportunity. Some people are surly, disrespectful, ungrateful and wrong. Some of them have big jobs. Some people like that have power. Learning to work with these people — without getting drawn in — is a skill that you should have.

3. Always Err on the side of empathy. What are the consequences of being nicer to someone than they deserved? What are the consequences of being meaner? Will too nice of a response to a human ever ruin a career?

4. Cultivate Improvement Bias. When something goes wrong at Simplifilm, there are two components: what do we do with our transaction, and what do we do with our system. For the transaction, we try and fix it with empathy. We believe that we caused it. Because if we caused it we can improve our system.

5. Rethink your filter. Most people say “block out everyone, make customers prove themselves to you.” Being available can be hard. Many filters are vanity in disguise. If you knew the people that answered their personal emails…Chris Johnson

Contempt like cancer can be smoldering without our awareness. I am generally a positive and empathetic person, but, if I’m honest with myself, there are those in the workplace who don’t experience much compassion from me. It’s an uncomfortable confession to have to make.

As we practice mindfulness in our relationships at work, we hopefully will remember to respond instead of react. We can rein in contempt by refusing to think ill of others, by staying engaged, and by acknowledging none of us get it right every time (exercising humility).

On the old TV sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frank, Ray’s father would often make observations that sizzled with sarcasm. One comment remains a part of our family’s lexicon: “People are idiots!” It’s so easy for any of us to look at actions or decisions made by others and shake our heads…until we remember that we all have it in us to do the same. Contempt can be diagnosed…and treated…

…with empathy, compassion, and humility. Not necessarily the coolest or trendiest work (or relationship) processes in our culture…but… What a difference they can make in the tone of our meetings, the depth of our relationships, and the measure of our own character.

So let’s get after it!

How Contempt Breeds Business Cancer (& 5 Ways to Kill It) by Chris Johnson

Contempt or Compassion by Brian Fletcher

Detecting Deception by David Berglund – SlideShare [Slide 76ff]

Confidence vs. Arrogance – and Knowing the Difference by Michele Cushatt

10 Ways to Tell if You’re Confident or Arrogant by Carmine Gallo

How Contempt Destroys Relationships by Susan Heitler

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Engaged at Work? It Matters that YOU Show Up

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In the pre-dawn light of this Monday morning, my husband and I sat briefly together. Over our first cup of coffee, we were talking about employee engagement, of all things. I had just read the most excellent blog (by Corinne Rogero) on being engaged, and it inspired a rare early morning conversation. Be encouraged.

This beautiful young woman, Corinne, tantalizes the reader with a blog seemingly about engagement to be married:

“I want to be engaged, but it’s probably not what you think. I’m as single as a slice of American cheese right now, which is perfect for me and I prefer it that way. But when I say I want to be engaged, I don’t mean I’m looking for a fiancé. I mean I want to be engaged in the sense that I’m mindful of the people and surroundings and culture and the spiritual warfare around me. I want to establish meaningful connections with the person on the other side of my coffee mug or in the booth across from me at dinner or in the passenger seat of my car. I want to lean in and connect with the stories being told. I want to actively console the sorrows being shared. I don’t want to go through conversations absentmindedly anymore.” – Corinne Rogero, I Should Be Engaged

This state of mindfulness and staying in the present are crucial to being engaged…no matter the environment or work circumstance.

Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

When we become discouraged or demoralized with work, our tendency is to lose our bearings, almost become disoriented. We move to being defensive (reactionary), rather than offensive (proactive or forward-thinking). We lose focus and the best problem-solvers, highest producers among us can seem to lose their way…shifting focus to lesser goals and more easily achievable ends.

What I loved most about Rogero’s blog on being engaged was the personal intentionality of it. Her chief desires were clear and she was resolved to clear the way for them…in her day-to-day present.

I loved that and am inspired, empowered, and energized by that. I want to communicate and model that in my own workspace.

Tom Muha wrote a great piece entitled Achieving Happiness: Leadership Styles: Multipliers vs. Diminishers. I didn’t see how it related to achieving happiness but it did give an excellent summation of Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best leaders Make Everybody Smarter. Read her book for sure; Muha’s article will whet your appetite to read it.

I refer you to the concept of “multipliers vs. diminishers” because employee engagement is incredibly impacted by what kind of supervisor we have. Some supervisors maximize their team’s work experience (multipliers) while others maximize their own perceived importance to the organization rather than empowering their employees (diminishers).

We may not easily see how we can alter our situation with our boss (other than losing ourselves trying to please him/her, disengaging, or quitting altogether), but I see possibilities. It is possible, we can make a difference with our boss…if we don’t give up. It is also possible to make a difference for peers to help each other stay engaged or to re-engage. I loved Corinne Rogero’s quote below:

You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring into his eyes as if he were your mistress: better to fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him.C. S. Lewis

It is hard sometimes…harder than we could imagine it would be sometimes…but whatever it takes to stay in the battle is better than disengaging ourselves from it.

Disengagement is very isolating. The disengaged just get quieter and focused elsewhere. Or, at its worst, disengagement gathers together a company of the miserable. No judging here…I just grieve the loss of what can be – not just product or service, but the continuing growth, joy, satisfaction of real, valued people at work.

Whatever our work situation or challenge, staying engaged is worth every effort, moment by moment. Hopefully your organization understands and is building in processes for ongoing employee engagement. Speak into that, if given opportunity. Speak into it anyway.

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Photo Credit: ManagementStudyGuide.com

Hear one last word from Corinne Rogero on being engaged in life in the present:

“I want to be locked and loaded with an arsenal of grace and truth and boldness to bring the good news of hope into the lives that intersect mine. I want to be fully aware of God’s presence in every moment and not as much like Jacob who woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it!”Corinne Rogero

No matter our situation at work – a team at odds with itself, a difficult culture, a boss who I don’t understand – no matter our situation, we can determine to be engaged. There is an undeniable emotional component to engagement, but it is larger than emotion. We can do the personal work of being “locked and loaded” – alone or with a few others who share our same vision and stewardship (belief/ethics). Our work lives are too precious to waste in disengagement… It may take some time for our circumstances to change, but our hearts, resolve, and focus can be sharpened in the fire of whatever difficulty faces us at work…if we don’t give up*.

What challenge are you facing at work that steals away your joy, drive, or confidence? What has helped you stay engaged? What are you doing to turn perceived walls, barriers or bottlenecks into doorways? Let us learn from you in comments below, please.

I Should Be Engaged – Corinne Rogero

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everybody Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown

Gallup – Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

Best Practice Advice on Employee Engagement and Organization Development

*Galatians 6:9