Blog Archives

Wisdom for Busy People

  1. 'Wisdom for the Way' by Charles R. Swindoll (ISBN 1404113258) When improving a skill, your performance will deteriorate before it gets better. That’s because doing it the old way is easy, while you’ll make mistakes trying to do it better. Be persistent and endure while you learn from your experiences.
  2. After formal education, you begin a career by learning the business. If you’re really earnest about being successful, work on who you are. Never stop improving your people skills and personal strengths.
  3. For the day when you find yourself in charge of other people, here’s one of the secrets: If at all possible, don’t accept losers on your team. Try to surround yourself with talented people. Arrange for the weak links to get involved in other opportunities.
  4. You have limited time for personal development, and working on many things at once can be confusing. The key is to make your mind up which personal strength or people skill you need to work on most and then focus on it consistently until it becomes a habit.
  5. Practice self-encouragement. When bad things happen, take a day or so to let your disappointment fade into the background. Then deliberately weigh up the positives in your situation—strengths, advantages, solutions, and opportunities.
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Posted in Health and Fitness Philosophy and Wisdom

Speed with Balance: Towards a Balanced Leadership Framework

Speed with Balance: Towards a Balanced Leadership Framework

Speed is an Incredible Drug

Managers are under snowballing pressure to deliver ever faster and more expectable returns and to restrain riskier investments intended for meeting future needs and finding creative solutions to the problems confronting people around the world.

Just ask a Formula One driver, a day-trader, or the CEO of any startup trying to get to market first with the next great idea or technology. We are convinced faster is better; indeed, complacency could mean death in today’s markets. But what fuel is driving you? Is it high-octane intelligence or the fumes of fear-fear you’ll lose the race, be left behind, be dumped in the trash heap of what could have been?

The next challenge of leadership is not just to increase speed but to maximize the intelligence of people. Research has advanced our knowledge of human intelligence, opening up incredible new possibilities for creating more productive, resilient workplaces. Emotion plays a critical role in decision-making, innovative thinking, and effectiveness. Intelligence is distributed throughout the body-not just localized in the brain. The heart is an intelligent system profoundly affecting brain processing.

How can leaders balance these complex and often competing demands? The core question for modern leaders is to become more entirely human—to energetically develop a wider range of competences and to more deeply understand themselves.

Four leadership dynamics are crucial to creating a culture that honors the contributions of each person, while maintaining a clear vision and focus.

Leadership Dynamic #1: Manage Yourself

'The Well-Balanced Leader' by Ron Roberts (ISBN 0071772448) More than ever we have to see outside ourselves. The new economy is all about connecting, partnering, collaborating, and leveraging what we have through the strengths and talents of others. Many executives realize that the adaptability, creativity, and innovative intelligence within people is their only competitive advantage.

Three things are clear in this time of unprecedented change:

  1. Stress will increase because of pressure to grow, to learn, to adapt, to flex, to find and maintain balance among conflicting priorities.
  2. Understanding mental, emotional, and physical processes is essential to enhancing performance. Emotional mismanagement strains the heart. We can’t divorce personal or professional success from the everyday emotional pressures we face. Emotional turmoil causes poor health, weak morale, high turnover, and lost productivity.
  3. Identifying and plugging the leaks in your own system saves energy. A leak is caused by anything unresolved: a tough decision still unmade, a relationship that worries you, guilt over mishandling a project or relationship, or the gnawing anxiety that you are not doing work that fulfills your talent and potential.

We see a negative impact on clear thinking and decision-making when our emotions run amuck. Positive emotions—such as appreciation, care, and compassion—create an internal environment that neutralizes negative reactions and increases resilience.

Leadership Dynamic #2: Build Coherent Relationships

In a connected world, communication becomes more demanding. The speed of response is often critical. However, when you are rushing or frantic, incoherent thinking results. A balanced response, while appearing to take more time, actually saves time because of the added clarity. Coherent communication reduces internal noise while encouraging meaningful conversations among coworkers, customers, and constituents. You do this in four ways:

  1. achieve understanding first—don’t jump to conclusions or assume you know;
  2. listen nonjudgmentally—put your judgments aside to hear the views or concerns of staff;
  3. Listen for the essence—don’t react just to the words or tone or get lost sword-fighting over details. Listen for deeper meanings and patterns. Assume others have essential knowledge you need to succeed.
  4. Be authentic—Leaders soar in credibility and praise when delivering tough messages forthrightly. Leaders who cover up or sugar-coat are greeted with skepticism, cynicism, and apathy. Paralysis follows leaders afraid to take a stand with compassion.

As Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, said: “Engage your heart, your gut, and your mind in every decision you make. Engage your whole self, and the journey will reveal itself with time.”

Leadership Dynamic #3: Create a Positive Climate

'Balanced Leadership' by Sheryl Boris-schacter (ISBN 0807746983) Leaders understand the necessity of a positive workplace climate for innovation and creativity. Anyone who has been through a merger knows first-hand just how dramatic a climate change can be and how devastating to productivity are people who are unhappy about their role, or the organization’s direction (or lack of direction). Dissension and antagonism act like a virus that infects an organization, weakening vitality and resilience as it spreads.

A healthy climate combats the virus through an inoculation of essential human values and behaviors, such as supporting initiatives, valuing individual contribution, encouraging self-expression, and providing recognition, role clarity, and challenge. Adaptability, shared core values, care, and appreciation are not only qualities of great places to work, they also nurture an innovative spirit that serves all interests and stakeholders.

Leadership Dynamic #4: Renew Yourself and Your Organization

Balance is essential in people and organizations. As speed increases, imbalance becomes more apparent and catastrophic. A living system, like a mechanical one, needs to be renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated, and balanced.

  1. Introduce methods to help you examine your individual interests, desires, and goals
  2. Understand your workplace’s priorities and culture, and offer tips for identifying where there’s either a match or a gap
  3. Prepare to move forward through the creation of a personalized strategic professional plan that addresses professional development, gaining additional experience, and other options for growth
  4. Share your skills and experience through mentorship

Every Person and Organization Needs Renewal

To meet the challenges of the new economy, speed is essential. Balance will guarantee we don’t spin out of control in the process.

The success of a leader has more to do with intrinsic motivation, skills, capabilities, and character than with whether his or her pay is tied to shareholder returns.

The ambition is not to find a perfect balance, but to build a harmonizing set of strengths, so that we can move elegantly along a spectrum of leadership qualities. Incorporating our own complexity makes us more wholly human and gives us added resources to manage ourselves and others in an gradually complex world.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Stress: A Catalyst for Change

Stress: A Catalyst for Change “People don’t like change.” I perhaps hear this statement at least once a week. Regrettably, it perpetuates the thinking that people will try to avoid change. The reality is quite the opposite.

Change is an essential part of our living experience. We change to live. But we don’t live to be changed. When you understand this difference, you can use the stress of change as a potential energy source.

Hans Seyle originally defined stress in the 1930s. He identified it as a biological and psychological response or condition brought on by events outside of the person, such as a marriage, a divorce, getting a new job or losing a job.

Stress is often characterized in terms of “good” (eustress) and “bad” (dis-stress). This view of stress limits its potential as a catalyst for enabling change in your organization. To unlock your organization’s change energy you need to shift your thinking away from stress as an end state toward stress as an energy source. As energy, stress is needed to ignite and propel your change forward.

Viewed from yet another angle, it can be a spur for personal growth and enlightenment. Stress can be used as a justification to play the victim card, and it can also be the force that thrusts you forward into a better existence. Stress can be used as the motivation you choose to become numb through drugs, medication or alcohol, and it can also be the reason you are led to education, exercise and nutrition.

Successful Change Needs Stress

'Thinking for a Change' by John C. Maxwell (ISBN 0446692883) In his book Thinking for a Change, John Maxwell notes that all change feels awkward and uncomfortable, and if it doesn’t it probably isn’t really a change. Organizational change can only happen when people feel a strong disconnect between where the organization wants to be and where it is now.

It is the tension between the current state and the desired state that creates the stress necessary for change. At this critical point where new meets old you have the chance to excite people with the prospect of the new opportunities or paralyze them with the fear of uncertainty. It all depends on the beliefs your organization holds about change and the actions you take based on those beliefs.

Being under stress truly is an absolute growth-opportunity—none better. Rather than numb it or suppress it with drugs and alcohol, or run from it in denial or as a victim, why not use it as a catalyst for learning and change. During my life, my moments of intelligibility as well as my biggest achievements, individually and in business, demonstrated themselves just after the most stressful and painful times in my life. No matter how bad it can get, something good can always come from it. You just have to be open enough to see it through all the pain, misunderstanding or upset.

Enabling organizational change requires you to create enough stress to allow people to act on the need to let go of their current state without generating so much stress that they are immobilized with dis-stress.

'The Tao of Personal Leadership' by Diane Dreher (ISBN 0887308376) Diane Dreher compared conflict to electricity in her book The Tao of Leadership. The same comparison could be made about change; like electricity, change can either light up your world or destroy it. It all depends on the appropriate and careful use of stress.

Here are a few tips to help you balance the stress to dis-stress continuum:

  1. Enable the time and opportunity for people to recognize the need for change.
  2. Encourage and guide people’s need to make the change meaningful for them.
  3. Enable active participation in the “creation of their destiny”.
  4. Talk about the change and its transition (especially) when you think you have nothing to talk about.
  5. Recognize and acknowledge the discomfort of the change process—support people’s journeys.

Using Stress as a Catalyst for Change

Profound organizational change unavoidably produces stress. Those who lead change often try to suppress stress in an effort to sustain positive energy and forward movement.

Nevertheless, attempting to squash stress is a mistake. Successful leaders actively use stress to help transform organizations. To turn stress into a catalyst for change, implement these four practices:

  1. Build a shared mission to hold the core group together;
  2. Leverage the power of dissident voices;
  3. Give the work back: let others resolve conflicts;
  4. Raise the heat to uncover conflicts that need to be addressed.

Recognizing that employee engagement can help build a deeper sense of purpose, your team can develop a one-of-a-kind strategy that encourages employees to spend four hours a month, during the business day, volunteering on creating change.

Stress may not be pleasurable, but it can be beneficial.

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Posted in Health and Fitness

About Job Stress and Burnout

Job stress and burnout are career crisis of professionals

Job burnout was first identified in the 1970s as a career crisis of professionals working with people in some capacity. Subsequent research has established that burnout was neither a passing phase of baby boomers’ entry into the workforce nor a minor problem easily resolved. Instead, burnout has persisted.

Job stress and burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that can occur among individuals who do “people work” of some kind. A debilitating psychological condition resulting from work-related frustrations, which results in lower employee productivity and morale. Whiton Stewart Paine writes the following poem about job stress and burnout.

I’ve got the burnout blues
Everything is tense,
Feel too many stressors
Beating on my sense.
 
Watch my mind, it’s racing
Back and forth it goes,
Damn it’s hard to tapdance
Minus half your toes.
 
This endless flow of clients
Drowns me in their needs,
Hope, compassion, love are gone
As ire wounds my deeds.
 
Nights are just not restful
Days are nightmare bent,
Everything is dragging here
As energy is pent.
 
Success has been relentless
Pushing me past kin,
All those expectations
Have just done me in.
 
Policies, procedures
Weight my desk and life,
As bosses sit there screeching
Through me Ilke a knife.
 
The people I do work with
Friends once in the past,
Now ambush me in corners
How long can this last?
 
Heart it keeps on pounding
Empty gut’s aflame,
Cigarettes, coffee, booze and pills
Must keep me in the game.
 
Once I knew my passage
Running with the light,
Today I creep in darkness
Pausing, trapped in fright.
 
Most of life’s a shambles
Work is but a joke,
Constantly I’m pushing
Time goes up in smoke.
 
At home, a spouse is waiting
Amazing they’re still here,
One more crisis with this job
And they’ll be gone, I fear.
 
Influenza stalks me
Despair I seek and find,
Sick days spare my body
Mental health days heal my mind.
 
Everything’s a jumble
Values are askew,
No one’s got my answer
This empty soul is new.
 
Got the burnout blues
So I just sit and stare,
Feel too many stressors
And no one seems to care.

Taken together, it was shown that when employees manage to create boundaries between the work and non-work domains, it helps them detach from work and avoid the diminishment of energy and thus restrict the negative impact of the job. Additionally, it was shown that confrontation with high job and home demands might lead to burnout because it increases the experience of work-family and family-work conflict, respectively.

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Posted in Health and Fitness

How to Manage a Virtual Team and a Distributed Workforce

Manage a Virtual Team and a Distributed Workforce

Workplaces increase collaboration among virtual teams. Remote workplaces allow companies to bring in the right expertise, regardless of their location.

As a manager of a remote team, you need to measure people based on their accomplishments and deliverables. Support their activities by ensuring that they have what they need to succeed.

Here are four guidelines:

  1. Establish a purpose. Ensure that each virtual team member has a defined purpose and objectives against which they will be measured. When remote workers have goals and incentives for reaching those goals, they are more motivated and productive. Create a training schedule for your e-learning program, so that people are learning new skills.
  2. Measure the output, not the process. Virtual teams are more structured than teams located in the same office. Since face-to-face meetings are not practical, you must adopt other ways to communicate and seek approvals. Managers of virtual teams should create a culture of trust, be available through instant messaging for quick questions, hold conference calls to identify when a project is off track, and make use of instant messaging, e-meetings, and team workspaces. Focus on output, not hours.
  3. Balance between virtual and face-to-face meetings. While e-meetings are great for keeping up with progress, they are not so great for team building. Face-to-face meetings, for example, are important for brainstorming sessions, building trust and getting to know each other. Schedule face-to-face gatherings quarterly to foster team building, rapport, and communication among team members.
  4. Use presence awareness to show your virtual office door is open. Presence awareness technology embedded in an e-workplace will let your reports know when you are available to discuss progress, answer a quick question, or to chat about their concerns. It can also alert your staff if you are online via a mobile phone, so they know to keep messages short or call on the phone.

Virtual teaming and telecommuting are necessary responses to our global economy. With an distributed workplace, people can interact with more colleagues, break down barriers, respond more rapidly to customers, make decisions faster, and be more productive.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

Consider Nurturing Yourself

Consider Nurturing Yourself

Here’s a typical day for Eve: After five hours sleep, she rises, gets her two busy preteens off to school, feeds the new puppy, and drives two hours to her job as an attorney. Once she arrives at home, she helps her kids with homework, then catches up on her own legal work till after midnight. FYI, she’s a single mom, too.

“I’m so stressed, I feel I’m about to have a heart attack,” Eve told me recently. “Actually, that might not be so bad. At least I’d finally get some rest.”

Eve was kidding, of course. But her words struck a chord, perhaps because the story is so familiar. Women tend to focus on others first. But for many of us, the nurturing switch is stuck in the ‘on’ position until a jolt (like getting sick) forces us to attend to our own needs.

We talked about how she might devote some attention to herself-not just to her kids and to her work. “Can you think of ways you could nurture yourself?” I asked.

'Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation' by Parker J. Palmer (ISBN 0787947350) “Get more sleep, hire a babysitter for a few hours so I could put my feet up, have a girls’ night out with friends,” she said. But would she do it? “I’d feel guilty about neglecting my kids,” Eve admitted.

What we women must learn is to give ourselves TLC, too, while we nurture others. This means accepting, as Parker J. Palmer puts it in his book “Let Your Life Speak”: “Self-care is never a selfish act …. Any time we can listen to our true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

Eve is learning. She still spends evenings with her children, but she has a babysitter for Saturday mornings. And Palmer’s quote reminds her that when she nourishes herself, she generates energy to care for those she cherishes.

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Posted in Health and Fitness

How to Relax After Work

How to Relax After Work

'Five Good Minutes in the Evening' by Jeffrey Brantley, Wendy Millstine (ISBN 1572244550) When you drag yourself home after a crazy-hectic day, steer clear of all e-mails and voice mails, at least initially, suggests Jeffrey Brantley, MD, and Wendy Millstine in their book “Five Good Minutes in the Evening” Their subtitle: ‘100 Mindful Practices to Help You Unwind from the Day and Make the Most of Your Night.’

“E-mails and voice messages perpetuate the constant busyness, hurry, and worry of modern life,” says Brantley, director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, part of the Duke University Health System’s Integrative Medicine Program. “It’s important to step back from those things from time to time and give yourself some space.”

To do just that, set aside a certain period (between 30 minutes and an hour) to let go of the need to respond to other people-electronically, that is. Sit in a comfortable place for a short while and remind yourself that your serenity and peace of mind, for those precious moments, are yours to savor.

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Posted in Health and Fitness

Two-Minute Stress Buster: Relief with a Bend of the Waist

Two-Minute Stress Buster Say you have only two minutes to de-stress between appointments at work or when a project just isn’t going well. Here’s a quick and easy stress buster: do a waist bend.

Simply bend forward until you feel tension in your hamstrings. Visualize your muscle fibers elongating and relaxing (that will also keep your mind off your worries).

As you continue stretching, you’ll feel your lower back and neck begin to relax. Don’t go overboard.

  • Just take care not to lock your knees.
  • Make sure that you undo your first button if your pants seem tight around your waist.
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Posted in Health and Fitness

Three Proven Ways Working Women can Improve their Multitasking Skills and Fell Less Stressful

Working Women can Improve their Multitasking Skills

A recent survey of dual-income families by Prof. Barbara Schneider of Michigan State University and published in the American Sociological Review estimated that working mothers tend to spend 48.3 hours per week handling multiple tasks at once while working men spend just 38.9 hours per week multi-tasking. Working women spend nine more hours multitasking weekly than do working men.

A majority of the women surveyed expressed negative emotions about multitasking at home, at work, and in social settings. Prof. Schneider remarks, “When you look at men and women in similar kinds of work situations they look very similar. But when they come home it is very clear that women are shouldering much more of the responsibilities of housework and childcare.”

Women Describe Themselves as Increasingly Unhappy

The top five reasons so many women are dissatisfied and unfulfilled at work are,

  1. Women report that they find it difficult to balance work and family
  2. Women report that they find it difficult to overcome persistent financial distress
  3. Women report that they find it difficult to use skills and talents that aren’t ‘instinctive’ to them
  4. Women report that they feel overworked, undervalued, and disrespected
  5. Women report that they feel they work out of some obligation and therefore experience little joy or positive meaning in their work

Women—especially working women—tend to be more proficient at assuming different roles for different people and multitasking than men, but suffer more stress at levels that far exceed the stress levels of men.

Working Women Achieve a Sense of Work-Life Balance

How Women can Achieve a Sense of Work-Life Balance

Here are three proven techniques to improve your multitasking skills and achieve a sense of work-life balance.

  1. Conquer Insecurity and Build Self-confidence: Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington calls the voice inside your head that says you can’t do something as the ‘obnoxious roommate.’ Arianna’s suggestion: “Often it’s the fear of failing that stops women from pursuing their dreams—Perseverance is the difference between success and failure. Failure is not the opposite of success but a stepping stone”. Don’t back off from your personal or professional aspirations ideas because of insecurities. Often the best way to conquer self-doubt and get started is to be realistic about what you can achieve and translate your aspirations into achievable goals.
  2. Prioritize and Set Boundaries: Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen once observed, “If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” Working mothers aren’t the best when it comes to protecting themselves and setting boundaries on their time. There is always more work to do and they are unwilling to not do it. This type of instinct and devotion can quickly lead to burnout. So, set boundaries: stop being so engrossed in your work that you overlook other responsibilities. Set time aside for family and friends. Taking care of yourself, nurturing your needs, being with friends and family, and doing things that renew and refresh you can make you more productive in the end. Build downtime into your schedule.
  3. Focus, Eliminate Distractions, and Stop Multitasking: Multitasking and switching tasks can be very stressful. Try single tasking. Create short deadlines and curtail your commitments. Short deadlines can keep things moving. Moreover, a tight deadline will actually reduce your stress. Giving yourself less time to do things could make you more productive and relaxed. Let go of activities that sap your time or energy.

Manage each of your roles based on your particular levels of motivation, energy, resources, and expectations. Also, bear in mind that a little relaxation goes a long way.

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Posted in Education and Career Health and Fitness

Avoiding Executive Burnout and Meltdown

Avoiding Executive Burnout and Meltdown

Today’s corporation is no longer a stable or secure place. It is an uncertain, turbulent environment where executives often find their compassion and humanity in conflict with the pressures of competition and ambition. Corporations are involved in a continual change process that creates heightened anxiety.

The focus is on velocity to generate revenue, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and enhance employee and customer satisfaction.

Most executives prefer to be seen as agents of change, but many are branded as corporate assassins with ice water in their veins and a pocket calculator for a heart. In addition, managers feel pressured, as sales and production quotas climb, but budgets, salaries, travel allowances, expense accounts, and opportunities for promotion dwindle.

Executives are at the end of an electronic leash, compelled to carry a beeper and cellular phone, check their voice mail, and e-mail messages often to remain in constant touch.

Corporations do not understand the human aspects of restructuring as they do finance and technology. The result is known as survival sickness or burnout, generally caused by prolonged or cumulative long-term stress. Recognition of it is not easy, since the condition is slow to develop. By the time it is noticed, permanent damage to an executive’s health and happiness may have been sustained.

Four Phases of Stress

Research identified four phases of stress reactions that lead to burnout.

  1. Warning signs. The warning signs are emotional in nature, and are feelings of vague anxiety, fatigue, depression, boredom with one’s job, and apathy.
  2. Mild symptoms. If an executive ignores these warning signals, they will intensify. Some physical signs are added to the emotional ones: reduced emotional control, increasing anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches, diffuse back, and muscle aches, loss of energy, hyperactivity, excessive fatigue, moderate social withdrawal, and nausea.
  3. Entrenched symptoms. An executive who allows a prolonged stress reaction will suffer some painful conditions. Career, family life, and personal happiness are all on the line, and immediate help is essential. Signs include: skin rashes, physical weakness, strong feelings of depression, increased alcohol intake, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, loss of appetite, loss of sexual appetite, ulcers, social withdrawal, excessive irritability, emotional outbursts, development of irrational fears, and inflexibility in thought.
  4. Debilitating symptoms. If an executive survives this destructive phase, he or she is rarely able to continue working in the same field. Careers end prematurely as do lives. Sufferers are usually sick, both emotionally and physically. Symptoms include asthma, coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, severe depression, lowered self-esteem, inability to function, severe withdrawal, uncontrolled crying spells, suicidal thoughts, muscle tremors, severe fatigue, overreaction, agitation, constant tension, frequent accidents, carelessness, feelings of hostility, and thought disorders.

Such burnout is preventable if corporations encourage executives to take care of themselves, and if individuals heed the danger signs and keep their lives in balance.

You can avoid meltdown by recognizing the stress reactions that lead to burnout. Prevention is better than cure.

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Posted in Health and Fitness