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Structures for Stability, Sustainability and Success

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What is structure? I like to think of structure as an organized way to hold something.  We have structures all around us. Our jobs and our relationships create structures for us.  In fact, anything we are accountable to will create a structure.

Interestingly though, in working with entrepreneurs there is often confusion about the need for structure to allow for flexibility.  What????  This doesn’t seem to make sense!  The battle cry of many who work for themselves is that they do so to have flexibility, so why would they want a structure?

Structures hold space to establish routines, rituals and habits.  The important thing to remember about structure is when you are beginning something, it is best to over-structure until you have integrated new routines or habits.  Once the routines or habits are established, you can ease up on the structure and get the flexibility in life that you are looking for.

So, for example: if you are an entrepreneur, it is a good practice to establish a structure for your day.  Within that structure, establish your personal/professional boundaries, and the routine of your day: emails/phone calls, business development, customer care, etc. Within those routines, what habits will you create that will support your routine?  I have a habit of turning my cell phone on silent – it helps me stay focused on my routine instead of responding to emails/phone calls.

If you are incorporating change in your life, it is a good practice to put a structure around the change you want to see happen.  A year ago, I decided to exercise every day in the morning.  So my structure is:

  • 6-7 Read/Coffee
  • 7-8:30 Workout
  • 8:30-9:30 Shower/Breakfast

Routines I established to support this structure:

  • I wake up before I try to work out! (Read/Coffee time)
  • I put my workout bag in my bathroom the night before
  • I put a water bottle in the fridge the night before.

I have been doing this for over a year now so it has become integrated to the level that even if I cannot follow the morning structure, I am working out every day — somewhere in my day.

When you create a routine, ritual or habit you establish the ability to perform at a level where you don’t have to waste energy having to ‘think’ about it anymore.  The more you are able to put everyday activities into automation through the use of routines, rituals or habits, the more you are leveraging your creative energy for the things that really matter to you.

In the process, you also are much more efficient with your time, therefore ending up with more time to be flexible in!

Powerful Questioning

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When I attended coaching school and was introduced to powerful questioning, I was in the life stage of having 3 teenage sons and my most-used powerful question was “WHAT were you thinking!?!?” It starts with a ‘what’ and it’s short!  I have come to learn that perhaps it would have been better received if I posed the question more like this: “What were your thoughts here?”  Yes, aside from the rules there is an art to asking a powerful question.  Let’s review the rules:

  • Start with a What, How or Where.
  • No longer than 5-7 words; otherwise, you are explaining, adding opinion or stacking questions.
  • Steer clear of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’, which often feel heavy with judgment.
  • Steer clear of ‘why’ questions, which sometime puts people on the defensive.
  • Powerful Questioning addresses the person and not the situation, issue or problem.

What makes powerful questioning an art? One simple word: Heart!  Jack Canfield and Dr. Peter Chee wrote the book Coaching for Breakthrough Success, and in it they break coaching into Heart, Mind and Energy of the Coach.  I enjoy the model and I couldn’t agree more that masterful coaching comes mainly from the heart.  What is the spirit in which you coach?  How do you establish relationship and trust? How do you ask questions that empower? And the list goes on to demonstrate that the art of asking the right question at the right time comes from your heart being in the right place.

In order to truly ask powerful questions beyond the rules of structure, you have to be willing to tap into all your inner resources.  One of the ways to develop this is to practice asking yourself powerful questions in your everyday life situations.  Besides tapping into your coach for powerful questioning, use the practice of powerful questioning everyday as situations, issues or triggers show up.  Create questions that may tap into your heart, head, and gut.  As you practice on yourself, you will get a ‘real’ sense of what the question feels like.  Here are a couple more practices that you can incorporate in your everyday life to help you develop the art of powerful questioning.

  1. When in everyday conversation with people, play the 2 question game: make yourself ask 2 powerful questions prior to giving an advice, comment or opinion.
  1. If you are in a ‘charged’ situation, before you respond give yourself a time out and ask and answer as many powerful questions about the situation that you may ask a client in the same situation.  Record your answers as a way to take the ‘charge’ out of the situation and give you clarity in responding.

Remember the guideline when you are coaching clients: WAIT (Why am I talking) and LET (Listen, empathize and trust) YOUR CLIENTS SPEAK!  The Empathize space is where you step into your heart and the heart of the client. Let your questions be informed from that space.

Now how do you take WAIT and LET within? It is said we have 3 brains: our head, our heart and our gut.  When one of these is taking over, it is a good practice to WAIT and LET the other speak!

If you lead from your heart, WAIT and LET your head have a few words. It needs to sort out the facts. Ask yourself: what is your sense of the situation? Lead with your gut — which is your sense — then cross check with your head. What are the facts and how does your heart feel? This is the art of powerful questioning…inside and out!

Commitment to the Team!

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You have come together as a team and fully identified and clarified your purpose for being together and who is going to do what.  You have Formed.  You have weathered the storms of power struggles, misunderstandings, and differences.  You have Stormed.  Now you are entering a stage where the team acknowledges the differences, recognizes how those differences contribute to the team’s goals, and where leadership is shared.  You are in the Norming Stage of team development.  This is a stage that is marked with a higher level of cohesion and community.  Members voice their ideas and opinions more openly and freely and they also are more willing to give up their ideas and opinions in service of the whole team.

When you were in the Forming stage, a high level of communication is what was most needed.  As you headed into the Storming stage of team development, it was important to connect with your team members on the team mission, vision and values to help you get through the disagreements.  Now, in the norming stage, establishing a sense of commitment to the team will help the individuals, as well as the whole team, to fully dedicate them to the cause.


The success of a team is relative to the commitment the members demonstrate.  A commitment is a promise or pledge that you will take the team seriously.  You show that you are invested in the work of the team by showing up!  This means that your word is backed by action.   What does this look like in practical terms?  It means you put in the time: attending team meetings, completing your work on time, being a part of team functions.  It means that members are demonstrating respect for each others’ time and energy.  It may mean that you have to give up some individual goals in the short term to focus on the greater goal of the team.  Regardless of the circumstances, commitment is demonstrated by having this unwavering obligation to the team.

What I have noticed in successful teams is that they display levels of commitment:

First to each other

  • They synergize and play together.
  • They support and build each other up.
  • They demonstrate respect for each other in and out of the team dynamic

Second to the team

  • They have a pride in their team.
  • They have a team strength and unity, especially to others outside of the team.
  • They have a willingness to ‘stick together’ even if they are not in full agreement.

Third to the organization

  • They honor the company vision and mission and support that within their team dynamic.
  • They demonstrate an allegiance to the company’s goals and see their team as an integral part of achieving those goals.
  • Just as with the team, they have company pride.

What makes Commitment so valuable is the actions you, the individual, take to demonstrate it. Vince Lombardi summed it up best with this quote: “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”