Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Just Like Riding a Bicycle....

Who hasn't heard that phrase... "just like riding a bicycle"... ? When it's uttered, it's usually a form of encouragement. It usually means that even if time has passed, you can get right back on and pick up where you left off... once you've gained the skills you never lose them... right?

Well, getting back on the bike is not always easy. Once on, yes, though wobbly at first, you do remember where the pedals are, and you miraculously find your balance. That is, once you find yourself actually ON the bike.... and that first step, is usually where we find ourselves stuck.

When I was a teenager, I rode my bicycle everywhere. No joke - I must have logged between 20 and 30 miles a day. I rode to school, to work, to friends houses, to my boyfriends house (which was up a road called Mountain Road... to give you an idea) I rode to Town Landing Market which was a good 10 miles from my house. I rode down to the pier, and back up the hill (which, at this point in my life, I'm not sure I could even WALK up that incline!)

So what changed? Well, I got a car. I went to college, and I got a job. I got busy. And in my busy life... well, I got rather lazy. Nearly 20 years later... I take my car to the market up the road. My bike sits lonely and abandoned, and as the gas prices go up, so does my weight.

This past spring, I did an assessment of my level of satisfaction I have with my life by completing the life wheel.

I discovered I am pretty satisfied in most areas of my life - but health and wellness scored rather low, and fun and enjoyment wasn't as high as I wanted it to be. That surprised me a little, because sometimes I get hard on myself for having TOO much fun (is that possible?) and not being disciplined ENOUGH. So, knowing that of myself, I realized that if I am going to increase my satisfaction of health and wellness, it needs to be FUN. I thought back to when I felt the healthiest in my life... and it was when I was riding my bike. I also remembered it was a happy time in my life, and full of adventure. Beside the "Fun and Enjoyment" section of the life wheel I wrote "Create more Adventures!" and beside the "Health and Wellness" section of the life wheel I wrote "get out and ride!"

The next day I was gung ho. It was a gentle spring day, that morning I resolved to dig through the abyss of my storage area and pull out my bike. Once retrieved from it's days of solitary confinement, I spent the day washing it, oiling up the chain and getting it ready. But, because it is Maine, and the spring days were short, the sun set before I had a chance to try it out... that's ok.. because tomorrow - tomorrow is the day I ride!

The next day it snowed - four inches.

My bike has been sitting in my breezeway since April. For four months I walked past that bike every day. At first it taunted me, then it became invisible. The cobwebs grew back, the dust became thick, and the tires drooped... as did my own spare tire and saggy bottom.

It's just like riding a bike....

Recently, my sister and brother-in-law posted on Facebook their new-found love of biking. They posted pictures of their adventures out on Peaks Island... their healthy, sun kissed faces smiling back at the photos made me yearn to be whizzing down the trials, wind in my hair, sun on my face, and the burn of cardio rushing through my lungs.

I wrote in my journal that I was going to get my bike out the next day and go for a ride.

It rained. Guess I won't be riding today.

A few weeks went by, and the bike started to fade into the background. Weeds grew up around the spokes, and the cobwebs gathered.

Isn't that just the way it is? Life IS just like riding a bicycle. You have to get on the darn thing first! Any goal you want in life, you have to be at least willing to make an effort and start.

I revisited my journal, found my life wheel, and realized I had done nothing to achieve my goal of riding my bike this summer, and now the summer is half over. I resolved I would go the very next day.

I woke up that morning, drank some coffee, and went to get dressed. Shouldn't I have some fancy shorts or something to wear? I should go to the store and get some shorts.

Four hours later, I left Walmart with everything BUT a pair of biking shorts. I decided I wanted to lose some weight before trying to fit into spandex anything. The way I want to lose weight is to ride my bike. Aw heck, when I was a teenager, I just rode around in jeans and a t-shirt - I don't need any fancy biker shorts! ... too tired to ride today... guess I will go another day.

And a few more weeks went by.....

This past Sunday, I woke up especially early for no good reason. Annoyed that I could have slept in, I started watching the news, and the first commercial came on was for back-to-school savings. The summer is almost over, and here I sit....

I marched outside with a mission. I grabbed the bike from it's resting spot and pulled the weeds out from the spokes. The cobwebs tore away like velcro and released the bike from their sticky grasp. Nothing was going to stop me now! I am going for a ride! I even told Lexi (my dog) she could come along. We were going to have an adventure - Bwah ha ha ha!

The tires are flat. I guess we are ......

NO. I am riding today! I am going! I don't care if I need to blow them up like balloons myself! Luckily, (for me and my lungs) I did find a bike pump in the garage, and a few minutes later, my tires were inflated to the proper pressure.

Don't think too hard about it Cilly - just get on the bike and ride. I swung my leg over, placed my feet on the pedals... and off we went, my dog running along beside me.

There we were, whizzing through the trails, breeze in my hair and sun on my face... and I thought to myself.... "what the heck took me so long?"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is Your Team Storming or Performing?

In my life, I belong to many groups - Toastmasters, Masterminds, Networking Groups, and Community Groups. In some of the groups I have a leadership position, for example, I am the President of my Toastmasters group. In other groups, I am a member, or have served on adhoc committees for specialty projects. No matter what role I take on, it seems like the groups I belong to are consistently in different stages of flux and change, which, to my relief is not only normal, but necessary for the growth and survival of a group.

Recently, I was faced with a challenge in one of my groups that was particularly distressing to me. We had a great group of people who worked well together. All the members were very like-minded, we had similar goals and interests. I looked forward to every meeting with anticipation and was eager to jump in and help out at every opportunity.

The dynamics of the group started to change when a few of the founding members left, leaving leadership positions open. The remaining members were left to pick up where the former members left off, and power was shifted from one member to another. Some members felt resentful because they felt they were carrying all the burden, and others felt they were being micromanaged and not trusted to take on more responsibility. Meetings became tedious to go to, and I often thought about tendering my resignation. Emails flew around member to member, in a flurry of "respond to all" and "carbon copy." I dreaded checking my inbox, and felt the energy drain right out of me every time I attempted to follow the string of emotion filled, sometimes endless rants. Finally - one of us screamed "UNCLE!" and demanded the email flurry to end - we had to find a more efficient and effective way to communicate our feelings without feelings getting hurt. Instead, because our time was valuable, and not every member was able to drop everything and attend live meetings, we used a free conference call line, and hashed things out over the phone. A few conference calls later, and we felt renewed and focused.

During the next few weeks, I found myself checking in with my own urge to "take over" or "regain control"... I allowed the process to work and supported the new leaders of the organization to step up and get comfortable with leadership. I'm really glad I practiced restraint, because the new leaders really came through, and grew and flourished.

Since the "shake down" of our group, and the reforming, we have become highly efficient. We have welcomed new members, and have accomplished notable goals and accomplishments. I enjoy attending, and look forward to the next meeting. Heck, I am even thinking of running for an officer position during our next election.

One of the group members approached me after a particularly energizing meeting, and said "and to think of all the time we wasted having all that conflict last summer!"... and I nodded in agreement. But upon further reflection, I was reminded of a college course I took, Organizational Behaviors, and a group forming model proposed by Bruce Tuckerman who maintained that four stages: Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.

Realizing that, I am really GLAD we went through the Storming phase - it was a necessary turn of events to get us to where we wanted to be - the Performing stage.

Think about the groups in which you participate. In what stage of the group forming are you? What needs to be done to move through another stage? If you are in the Performing stage, what needs to be in place to stay there, or, if you should cycle through the stages again, what plans do you have in place to get back to Performing?

If you are in conflict with a group - rejoice! Don't despair! You are exactly where you are supposed to be. What makes the difference is how you communicate as a group to get through to the next stage.

If you have questions about how you can create a high performing team - please leave me a comment or contact me. I'd love to hear from you!