Mindfulness

Mindfulness

Mindfulness seems to be a current buzzword, and as I experienced in a conversation the other day, comes with it’s own stock “groomed” definition. With its obvious current popularity and acceptance and integration into the business world I am curious if this is an indicator of a more widely spread acceptance or embracement of Buddhism, or a real need for a way to reduce our stress levels.

Mindfulness doesn’t seem to be something that we can simply activate. It is being in a state of active, open attention in the present moment, and requires practice, but most importantly requires us to be non-judgmental. Mindfulness requires us to develop the ability to be observers of our lives, our responses, sensations and reactions. These observations are neither right nor wrong but only an awakening to our experience.  It requires that we release the attachment to the narrative that we might be holding on to as our identity, whether it is the past or what we project to be the future. Living in the present moment can be a multi faceted aliveness with a solid sense of connectedness. As if arriving home after a long journey, we become acutely aware of what we have been missing and can experience a settling into ourselves.

Our stress levels can be significantly decreased with a practice of meditation that supports the ability to stay present to our experience. Although in some ways, this may sound blissful; don’t be fooled.  The distractions that we live with daily, like the phone, TV, food, and activities, are strategies cloaked in the idea that they are necessary to keep us at the top of our game. But, when we peel these away we are left with ourselves, and that, could be scary.

I have been practicing mediation for over 15 years and I still find my mind taking me away from tasks and experiences and it is difficult not to judge myself as a result.  Therein lies the key to mindfulness, I am distracted, to then stay with the distraction and what is behind it, brings me into the moment and present to my experience.

What has taken you away from your current experience? Can you stay with the possible discomfort of taking a deep breath and relaxing in this moment? These are two questions you can ask yourself throughout the day, and take that deep breath, on your journey to mindfulness.

Gallery Motivation

 

Recently this idea of motivation reared its ugly head.  It was when someone close to me was completely de-motivated, that made me think about why external and sometimes
internal forces can change the balance of motivation from self propelled, to a halting stop.

Many times we work on the carrot and the stick premise.  If I do “this” then my reward will be “that”, and the “that” may be either positive or negative. This type of motivation works, for the short term, but over time we lose interest and, low and behold, we find ourselves where we started, and maybe even less likely to work toward the goal. This is the basic premise for most jobs, you are hired to work, agree upon a wage, and then off you go to preform your duties.

But what keeps us interested in the work we do, the goals we have set, or the plans that we make? From where does the motivation come and then what sustains our enthusiasm? A recent study showed that if heart doctors tell their seriously at-risk heart patients that they will literally die if they do not make changes to their personal lives-diet, exercise, smoking- still only 1in 7 were able to make those changes. We could assume that the other 6 also wanted to continue to live. One would think that the threat of death would be motivation enough, but change is difficult.
So what would it take, what would motivate the change? Read more in Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laslow Lahey

Many studies have been done that indicate that this emotional kidnaping, as a way to motivate others, is not successful. Whether they are those close to us, or our work mates.  An article in the Harvard Business Review, explores the idea of compassion vs. toughness as a better management technique.

We know all of the studies and statistics on how to better our relationships especially in the work arena; so then why do we revert to threats as a way to motivate others into conforming or producing a better work product?

My thought is that we feel threatened and a fear creeps in that takes over our instincts and better judgment. Facing and exploring our own fears may be a helpful way to feel better about ourselves and better able to interact with and motivate others.

This is the one key to successful relationships in hospitality, with employees and guests alike; to be less reactive and more in touch with our empathy and compassion, which allows us to keep the conversation alive.

Creativity and Your Business

How relevant is creativity in today’s business world? Does being creative mean we should all pick up a paintbrush and give it the ol’ Picasso try? For Picasso this meant an exceptional achievement of universal and immense fortune for his revolutionary artistic accomplishments, he became one of the best-known figures in 20th-century art.

So how can being creative in business bring that kind of success to our companies? No matter what kind of business, challenges arise which demand solutions. How we approach these situations can determine the direction or success of our business.

Coming up with new and creative ideas is not uncommon for successful companies; in the Silicon Valley there are companies that have found incredible success, as did Picasso in the art world. One component to their successes was to find new and creative ways to solve problems facing how they did business and what the consumer was demanding. Prime examples are Apple, Google and Facebook, globally recognized for their innovation.

So how can we tap into and harvest our creative ideas and solutions that may have been stored in our inner rooms and left virtually unattended?  How do we develop a capacity to let go of what constrains us and allow our natural creative abilities to immerge?

When there is a lot at stake and pressure to come up with some perfect solution that could propel a company or team forward we sometimes feel frozen and unable to perform on the spot.  That is why it is important, as a great athlete would attest, to practice before the event.

If asked, many people would say they didn’t have a creative bone in their body. So then how can we open up to and begin to discern our creative abilities and strategically apply them to our business?

Let the silence breathe-take some time every day and allow yourself some quiet time to allow for new thoughts to arise.

Acknowledge your creativity– whether you start with a doodle or a dance; recognize these as creative expressions of yourself.

Practice-take up a new creative endeavor and give yourself permission to practice an hour a week.

Beginning in this way, when you want to tap into the creative you, you will have been exercising that muscle and be ready to engage more fully in finding a new creative solution to an opportunity as it presents itself.

Grace

Grace is such a big word, not because of the number of letters but because of its’ many meanings.“Who is going to say grace?” heard at the table before
a meal.“If not for the grace of G-d” heard just after a near miss. “We will give you this grace period to complete your
work” when you just can’t get it done. “She moved with grace”, “She graced us with her presence” And of course there is a goddess, Graces.

What I admire are people who are able to graciously accept what is presented to them. They seem to effortlessly have, on the tip of their tongues, the words that traverse them through, as if gliding without a ripple on a clear still lake.  We watch and listen and marvel at their ability to accept and in return allow others to rest at ease.

I admire this quality because it is always what I hope for in myself. Very often, however, my graciousness makes way for one emotion or another, which clouds my thoughts and projects responses that are not always as I would hope they would be.  This is very often the case with my children. They challenge me to be the best I can, by presenting opportunities for me to look deep inside for the stillness that is necessary to respond gracefully.

Each day when I go to work I am reminded to accept what is presented to me with as much grace as I can muster.  Mostly it is easy. My co-workers love to be at work, and show me daily how much they appreciate my part in their happiness. There isn’t a day that goes by that guests don’t come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed their stay, and how important we are in creating their home away from home; like no other.

However, it is the times when people are unhappy, whether guest or employee, that I measure myself.  It is how I traverse through, and respond that shows me what I am made of. It is also what has helped me grow as a person and hospitality professional.

Gallery Communication 

 

I much prefer to do things via the telephone.  This preference seems to date me, but many times it is the fastest way to get things done.That of course depends on the cooperation of the person at the other end of the line; they too have to be willing to have a conversation versus an email or text.

When I was a kid we had a party line.  This meant that we shared a telephone line with someone else that lived in our town, in our exchange.  Our exchange was HEmlock, and when you told someone your telephone number you said,  “HEmlock 5-6789”, they knew what to dial.

Getting someone on the line back then was not a problem; you could easily have any number of people (your party line) listening to your conversation. Of course that was not desirable and required patience if they were using the phone and you wanted to make your own call.

We have come a long way with communication choices since then but we still need patience when we can’t immediately get the answer to our questions. We are demanding answers immediately, and in response we start thinking about how we will answer before a person is even finished asking the question. It is like being on a game show, ready with our hand posed over the buzzer.

This way of communication tends to leave us feeling empty, and frustrated.  Give yourself the permission to listen to the other person. It is surprising what happens when someone feels heard and understood.  The ability to respond to someone’s inquiry whether it is a complaint, request, or compliment can set the tone for the rest of your experience together. It can foster the building or breaking down of the connection.

I am drawn to those that hear what I am saying, can empathize and respond in kind.  I want to provide that experience for my staff and my customers, because connection and loyalty is part of the brand experience I am trying to create.

Courage

It is courage that I call on
each morning as I face the day. Courage is what the Lion in the Wizard of Oz
was looking for and what he got was a heart.

It is to my heart I defer
each morning as I face the day.  Heart is
my connection to myself and to others that allows me to proceed with empathy.

It is with empathy that I
turn to face the day. Empathy holds out it’s arms and spreads the warmth
required to support me when I am fearful.

And when I forget, it is fear
that greets me when I face the day. Then I search for empathy and connection to
my heart to fill me with courage to face the day.

The way to become a writer is to write

The way to become a writer is to write. Of course that is the sticky wicket. Even though we want to do certain things it is difficult to change our way of being to support what we want.  To become a runner one must run, to become a lover one must love, to become what and who we want to be we must pay attention to the things that will support that way of being.

This is of course is true in business also.  What does your company represent, what is the culture of the business? Who are your clients, what do they need and want?  How do you deliver, and discover those needs? Have the needs of your clients changed or been met? Have your needs changed or
been met?

In a recent interview I was asked, where do you start? And although I did not answer the question in this exact way, my answer is that I start from the inside. The basic needs must be met inside the company and then the business can start to project itself outwardly and listen to what the
client needs.

We have heard this time and again, perhaps the language has changed, build a  good foundation.

In the hotel business, we sell beds and all that accessorize those beds, but what we are really selling is relationship and engagement with others.  This is a large part of the business and very often we are so busy with numbers and reports we forget this fundamental concept, hospitality is defined as the relationship between guest and host, it involves showing respect, providing for their needs and treating them as equals.

So what can we do to support the becoming good hosts?

1.Find out what your clients need? Engage them through conversation, surveys, and read what they are posting about your property.

2. Respond to them? It may not always be easy but take their suggestions and determine if they are valuable, doable, and will positively affect your other guests. Chances are if one person has a specific complaint, others feel the same way they just haven’t bothered to tell you.

3.Provide the best product you can, keep it clean.  There is nothing worse then have to face a client that is standing there with someone else’s underwear that they have found in their room.

4.Ask yourselves “why am I doing this?” once you have the answer and can express it you will attract long term, like minded people who will sustain your business.

If you are looking for ways to support and strengthen your business consider contacting me to explore possibilities.

Quote The World’s Most Endangered Food

We tend to think that a tomato is a tomato, a carrot a carrot, but over the years, farmers have introduced new genetic iterations of both crop and livestock. The wheat used to make bread today, for example, is different than the wheat used 20 years ago in that same recipe. Moreover, just like dogs, there can be many different of breeds – or in the case of crops, varieties – within a single species.

But mass-production in farming has caused a homogenisation of certain foods. “People started using just a couple of breeds for whatever they’re doing – meat, milk, eggs or fibre – in order to get the same sized animals to fit on an assembly line for processing and transportation and – more importantly – to make them grow as quickly as possible,” explains Ryan Walker, marketing and communications manager at the US-based Livestock Conservancy. “Agriculture today is all a numbers game.”

… from my perspective on Right?!

How do we improve the service we provide our customers? We ask them.  We send out electronic surveys, we have in-person conversations and we read the reviews that are posted on the various online sites. Then we respond.

In addition to our vision of who we are, we fine-tune that vision with the feedback from our customers. There is nothing matter-of-fact about this; it is not always easy to listen, and hear what someone is saying about the service you provide, without taking it personally.  And it is not possible to provide a heartfelt service without being a contributor.   

Several years ago I was in conversation with a friend and I noticed that frequently she would end her sentences with “right?!” This could have been easily replaced with the Canadian “eh”, or the often used “you know”, but at the time, her use of right really stuck with me. 

I wondered if she actually needed to have confirmation that we agreed with what she was saying and if this was an insight into her psyche. As soon as I noticed this speech pattern in her I also noticed it in myself, and found that I, at some level, wanted confirmation from those with whom I spoke.

Our society is geared for the need to be right and therefore there is a possibility to be wrong.  We test our kids from the time they start school. In fact I remember sitting through a parent-teacher conference when my son was in Pre-K; the teacher explained how wrong it was that my son was not coloring between the lines. “Why was that important?” we asked. “That was the “right” way”, she responded. We want to be right in an argument, vote for the right candidate, and choose the right school, job, partner, or meal.

What would it mean if we were “wrong”? Or, worried less about being “right”? My theory is; we could have a varied experience of others, an open dialogue, and a rich experience of what surrounds us. We could be open to the multi levels of expression of any given situation. Our capacity to stay in the moment would be strengthened, giving us a fuller, more satisfied experience.

But the pull to be right is strong; we equate not knowing with fear. This could be a bit messy, and uncomfortable, but it could also be a place of discovery, freedom and creativity.

When I look at my online reviews or the electronic surveys, I find myself holding my breath as I read and hope for totally positive feedback. Of course this is not realistic. When the reviewer has a complaint or a suggestion I need to step away from my ego and step into the experience of the reviewer.  I take a couple of breaths; plant my feet on the ground and remind myself that these comments can help us hone our skills, that they don’t represent us in our entirety, and are not a representation of right or wrong. It is a part of our evolving service and hotel, we will never “arrive” or be everything to everyone. What we can be is open, responsive, available, and willing not to be “right!?”

Fine-tuning

When I was a kid, fine tuning meant using the dial on a transistor radio to tune in an AM radio station, or using a dial on a TV set to get the horizontal hold to stop flipping around and around so you could see the program on the television. Both of these things were frustrating and getting them to work just right could include a tap on the top or side of the television and a shake of the radio, combined with futile attempts at adjusting the antenna. On a recent tour of the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA, the docent pointed out the markings on a radio placed to find the stations, which were hard to tune in.

In my teens I wanted a piano, but ended up with a guitar. The piano was my plan, but then I had to figure out a way to make the strings of the guitar work together so that they produced the sounds and rhythms I wanted. I was not a virtuoso and what came next were lessons, practice, development of my style; and most of all a consistent desire to improve my developing skill. 

These days, fine-tuning includes the details of a well thought out plan.  The plan could include financials, marketing and sales strategies, and perhaps a vision. Sometimes it feels like all the work is in making the plan, often times because getting down to it is very hard.  Writing the document, setting the rules, making the schedule, whatever the task at hand, beginning can be daunting.  The truth of the matter is, this is just the start.

The plan is like the starter’s pistol signaling the start of the event. The excitement comes after the plan is put into practice. It is as important to have a plan, as it is to make adjustments to the plan after it is put into practice.  This is the need of fluidity; no matter how well thought out and exacting a plan may be there are variables that occur that need to be addressed.  Responding in real time can be the tipping point between a plan’s success or it’s disaster.

Here at the Maple Tree Inn I started with a plan, and as I began to implement that plan I was able to see how it was affecting the entire operation, including the physical property, employees and guests.  Through communication with our guests I began the fine-tuning process. One way I hear from our guests is though a survey sent after check out, this survey, Market Metrix asks pointed questions and gives space for comments.

Responding to our guests is very important, and similar to looking into a magnifying mirror. It is not always comfortable to see all the flaws, but it is the first step to making adjustments.  These adjustments can make a difference to our guests and to our business in a very positive way.  It is one way to dial into the channel that we want to listen to, and I am grateful for everyone who takes the time to share his or her experience to help us fine-tune.