It’s the Little Things

It’s the Little Things

Perhaps you’ve seen the gratitude post challenge that has been circulating on Facebook.  The one where folks are challenged/encouraged to embark on series of days where each day they post something they are grateful for; it was popular in November around Thanksgiving.  The list I’m generating, while entirely personal, stems from that gratefulness idea with a bit of a twist which perhaps others will find useful or encouraging (or maybe only slightly interesting).  The twist stems from our previous year’s polar vortex.  Maybe it’s just me, but I have felt a particular sense of dread for this winter especially after experiencing the last nasty one.  Then I read a short article (also circulated on FB—no, I’m not a total junkie!) about Hygge—Danish culture’s way of staying satisfied and happy during their even shorter winter days.  (See article here.)  And even though I daydreamed about moving to AZ on those 10 degree days in November, somehow staying in MN went up a notch after I read this brief article.  So if you catch my drift, I’m trying to awaken my inner Hygge, maintain an attitude of gratitude by identifying some of the small pleasures that keep me going.  I’d love to hear some of yours—please (I’m practically pleading for you to add to this list) so together we can cast off the dread and make it through (and perhaps enjoy?) this year’s MN winter.

Some of the places and people and products bolstering my spirits:


  • Playing indoor tennis at Bloomington South’s LifeTime Fitness
  • Urban Halos—they help when I’m playing tennis or having a rushed day
  • Smartwool socks
  • B-vitamins in the morning
  • Lighting a smelly pine scented candle when the sun begins to fade
  • Yogi Brand Egyptian licorice tea around 4pm when I crave something sweet
  • Traditional Medicinals Organic Roasted Dandelion Root Tea in the morning
  • I love my seat warmer in the van!
  • Good lipstick
  • Any of my friend Anna’s recipes, but Especially her Autumn Minestrone with Squash and Tomatoes and Kale-Parlsey Pesto from Nourish Fall, and her Wild Rice, Kale and Sweet Potato Casserole from Nourish Winter
  • Snuggling my hubby and kiddos while watching the Hobbit movies (movie suggestions anyone?)
  • Popcorn made with coconut oil
  • A healthy pour of a nice red wine (popcorn and wine go very well together…)
  • Veriditas Botanical’s Ravensara Essential oil for when I’m feeling stuffy
  • Lunch with some good friends including Rachel Greenhouse at Wise Acre Eatery
  • A long soak in the tub with some lavender salts by candlelight
  • Catching up with an old friend by phone.  A landline even.

It really is the little things.  And when we enjoy them together, even separately, they are still better.  What little things are you enjoying these days?

StrengthsFinder Stocking Stuffers

StrengthsFinder Stocking Stuffers

Individualization is in my Top 5 which means I love to tailor conversations and gifts for my clients, family and friends. I was thinking that maybe you’d also like a little inspiration to give a special gift of appreciation for someone who has a Strengths theme that shines!  Oh yeah, and if they don’t know their Strengths, send them my way. I’ve got gift certificates for StrengthsFinder packages that would make fantastic stocking stuffers for everyone on your list. 😉

– Jen

2013 Stocking Stuffer List for Strengths

Activator: A coupon for a day full of adventure that he/she doesn’t have to plan or drive to

Achiever: A dinner invitation to celebrate one of their accomplishments

Adaptability—coupon for 8 hours of no commitments to fill how you’d like

Analytical: A map, or graph or spreadsheet of data on a topic they are interested in (financials on a stock etc.)

Arranger:  a puzzle.

Belief: A conversation-starting question on what he/she think is important about family.
Communication: A gift card for them to indulge in their favorite form of communication (music, art, books, etc.)

Command: Written permission to be the boss for 4 hours on one day

Competition: An invitation to a rousing game of Checkers

Connectedness: A Far Side calendar or some other wacky/witty humor

Consistency: a coupon for breakfast in bed (they can order choose the menu, day and time they want it) or a precision timepiece

Context—a good biography

Deliberative: a widget to fidget with while contemplating decisions
Developer: a list of 15 things you really appreciate about him or her–including what you’ve learned from him/her

Discipline: A gift card to “Storables”

Empathy: A soft & cozy pair of socks with coupon for a foot massage

Focus: a coupon for 2 hours of uninterrupted time for whatever project or leisure activity they want to engage in
Futuristic: An invitation to talk out loud about how they imagine being in 15 years (job, leisure, travel etc.). No strings attached.

Harmony: a coupon for some time together which includes activities and conversations around subjects you both enjoy
Includer: A coupon with permission to invite ANY 15 people of their choosing to meet in public or have over for dessert
Ideation: A brainstorming session on a wacky idea. Just for fun.

Individualization: handmade art or jewelry with lots of detail

Input: An online or snail mail subscription to the New Yorker or Popular Science or Word of the Day club/desk calendar
Intellection: invitation to a lecture

Learner: New language learning software, invitation to a lecture, or tuition for a class


Positivity: Some happy music…maybe some Sweet Colleens?

Relator: arrange a date for coffee with one of his/her old friends (make a coupon for the stocking)
Responsibility: A pair of earplugs (to muffle whatever verbal requests are lingering in the air)
Restorative: an easy problem to fix (broken flashlight?),

Self Assurance: Develop a list of the small acts of persistence that have lead to his/her success in something (job/relationship etc.)

Significance: A note about how that person has changed/influenced your life for the good

Strategic: A clue to where the next clue might be hid to find the clue about the stocking stuffer–maybe Sudoku or some word puzzles

Woo: A party invitation to somewhere they know nobody prior to the event


StrengthsFinder Stocking

Group Coaching for Businesses

Group Coaching for Businesses

people clapping

StrengthsWay Group Coaching for Organizations

Turn your attention to what your employees do well and unleash their peak performance through strengths coaching. Jen Miller coaches teams of people within small to mid-sized companies who would like to deploy their strengths, maximize their effectiveness and boost team morale.  Group Coaching for Organizations is especially beneficial for managers of groups and functional teams, for renewing team dynamics after a company re-organization, optimizing executive staff communication, on-boarding, and overall team training and development.

“If we think of coaching as putting people in the right roles, setting clear expectations, and praising accomplishments, then the more coaching managers do, the better it is for their organizations.”  (GMJ, 10/2004)

As part of the coaching process, you and your team members take the Gallup Organization’s Clifton StrengthsFinder® online assessment.  Next, Jen facilitates individual coaching sessions to help each team member recognize how their strengths are manifested in day-to-day life and especially how they can be leveraged more effectively on the job.  Then, either through on-site group sessions or in group-wide conference calls Jen leads your team through engaging exercises which dynamically foster communication, understanding, and mutual appreciation.  The coaching process is tailored to your company’s goals and objectives, while providing the long term benefit of equipping the team leader to be a more effective and inspiring strengths-oriented leader.

Why StrengthsWay?

Combining coaching methodologies (see Return On Investment) with Gallup’s widely regarded assessment tool and Jen’s relational expertise, Group Coaching for Businesses provides the first step toward a strengths-based management approach in your organization, and is an effective way to boost your team’s communication, productivity, and enthusiasm.

Jen’s experience as a trainer in a leadership organization, her work with a variety of community leaders and her crisp yet engaging style enable her to bring fresh, contagious energy and a discerning perspective to your organization.  Her candid communication and relational style make your coaching experience with Strengths Way both empowering and fun.

Click here to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with Jen


Your team’s leader/manager will gain:

  • A  spreadsheet detailing the team’s combined strengths
  • Access to a unique Strengths website
  • Insight on how to make more appropriate delegations
  • A new “strengths-oriented” vocabulary
  • Tools  to manage individual strengths
  • Insight on what motivates their team members to perform optimally

As a result your team will gain:

  • A  spreadsheet detailing the team’s combined strengths
  • Access to a unique Strengths website
  • A  new “strengths-oriented” vocabulary
  • Improved communication
  • A  working knowledge of their individual and collective strengths
  • Better teamwork
  • Improved effectiveness



Offense is risky.

In relationships, it’s much easier to play defense and erect walls if it appears like the conversation might travel too close to home, or crosses into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory. Naturally we play defense well. We sidestep answering certain questions, we dance around topics. We maneuver based on where the other person leads. Yet at some level we all desire to connect with people in a genuine way.

If we merely relied on our natural defensive abilities, we would not get too far down the path of intimacy in our relationships. It would take special people to repetitively, offensively, strategically ask the right kinds of questions persistently and consistently in a manner pleasing to the whim of my mood on a given day. The odds would not be in favor of collecting many close friendships.

I lost my tennis match today. The funny thing is I’m not very good at defense on the court. My style of play is much more suited toward the take-charge-and-attack-the-net strategy but today I found myself trying to anticipate the move of the other person and adjust. Early on in the match I played aggressively and sailed some balls long and some wide. So instead of being mentally tough and continue in my efforts to groove on my offensive game, I became discouraged with my performance and turned down the dial. I tried to play conservatively by taking fewer risks. I lulled myself into thinking that playing it safe was a winning strategy.

Playing offense takes energy and creativity. It takes resiliency and a high degree of self assurance knowing that if I misfire (either the tennis ball or a question in a conversation) I’m still an okay person. It means that I have to be gracious with myself by not expecting perfect performance especially when I’m off on a given day. Offense requires my putting my best stuff out there regardless of the outcome; the way the person on the other side responds is outside of my control. Offense has to do with being willing to throw off perceived hindrances, generating some internal energy, and going for it. For me. I think offense is tough, risky and worthwhile. And I think it is a winning strategy both on the tennis court and in life.

Generating Power

Generating Power

racquetballTennis is one of my loves. And improving my game is a constant focus which brings me a great sense of joy and stress-relief.  After I won my tennis match today, my opponent and I debriefed with the tennis pro who offered his insights. He said I played a smart match. Inwardly I knew what he was talking about—I figured out early on in the match that my opponent would send a ball blazing fast to my side of the court if I gave her a ball with any pace on it. So I quit hitting the ball hard, especially to her forehand. Then the pro asked us what we thought about the match and my opponent blurted out with a hint of frustration, “Well, she can’t generate any power on her shots!” I offered some of my thoughts without giving away my strategy and after the conversation thanked them both for their time and for the match and got in my car to drive home.

“Hmmm…” I thought, “Nobody has ever said that I can’t hit the ball hard before. Oh well, she’s just mad she lost.” And then I tried to blow it off. But weeks later, I found myself referencing her comment out loud and replaying it in my mind and somehow trying to prove her wrong. I can hit the ball hard. Yes, I can hit the ball hard, but so what? I knew something was going on at a deeper level.

As a personal coach, mother, wife, daughter, and friend I spend a lot of time helping others generate power to move in a certain direction in their lives, sort of like a power detector, reflector and deflector. I ask lots of questions and draw people out. I help people figure out what they are good at, or what they like to do and assist them in coming up with a plan to move toward that context or to focus their energies better. In fact, I love to do it so much that my own desires sometimes get lost. Maybe it’s easier for me to help others figure themselves out than it is to look in the mirror.

I’ve begun to think that perhaps my opponent was right on some level. Her comment got me thinking that it might be time to learn how to generate more power on my shots so I can break through to another level in my tennis game. Then I can come up with a win I feel better about—a win on my terms because my offense required her to adjust her game instead of the other way around.  I have a feeling I need to focus on my core strength. Lord have mercy. And I best be working on my abs.

Self Recovery

Self Recovery


I believe everyone is born with a set of personality characteristics hardwired into their beings.  And, depending on what those characteristics are and how you look at them, you might even call them strengths.  If a particular strength really shines—if you’re a child who naturally leads or delegates often, you might be considered bossy.  Your parents then spend your formative years trying to get you to not be so bossy and then as you become older you might start trying to not be so bossy and do everything yourself to prove that indeed you are not bossy and before you know it you feel sort of miserable and you don’t quite know why.  But at least you’re well rounded, right? 

In my case, I am hard-wired to be a just-go-for- it-type gal (in addition to bossy??) and over the years I’ve really tried to move toward a more measured or cautious approach.  And for many major life decisions this has served me well.  But I am wondering, have I taken on too much of that cautiousness to the degree that I am forsaking myself?  Why don’t I enter a crowd and naturally navigate the situation without hesitating anymore?  Why do I try to hide my salivation when the opportunity to lead something brand new comes around?

I think there is a point where personal growth needs to be directed toward becoming more of who God created me to be, rather than becoming more of who I naturally am not.  As parents we could help our children discover the appropriate and inappropriate times to let their “strengths” shine instead of trying to subtly bury those qualities over time.  And then as adults we might not have to wrestle so much with ourselves and questions like, “What am I good at, anyways?” and “Why do I feel so unfulfilled?”  Sometimes it’s a matter of self recovery. 

For me, I know I need to recover, uncover and in some cases dig out some of my natural self which I have viewed as a hindrance and see it as a blessing.  Ultimately, I am much better off in life and work when I accept myself entirely, both my strengths and my weaknesses (which are often the same thing).  When I build on my strengths and use them appropriately it reveals to me my own limitations which in turn point me toward depending on other people and depending on their strengths.  Using my own strengths to their fullest extent uncovers my naturally-wired, God-given need for community, not individualism. (After all, being bossy takes someone to boss, right?) Leveraging my own strengths enhances my desire for relationship, and increases my appreciation of the strengths others bring to the table. 

So to the degree that we’ve spent any energy on making ourselves well-rounded to the point of losing sight of some of our natural brilliance, we would benefit greatly by opening ourselves up to some self re- or un-covery.  In that way, we will find ourselves and even find ourselves living vigorously and within healthier, more vibrant relationships.