Leadership Blog

Making Work Better.

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy
Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

 

The single biggest theme I get asked about, [at any organized panel, one-on-one coaching conversation, formal Q&A or random mentoring interaction] is work life balance. This isn’t really surprising, we are working more hours and feeling more squeezed in our lives, so searching for life hacks, or empathy makes sense.

While I don’t really like the work life balance framing, I do have a make work betterstrategy that helps keep me in balance. At some point, I’ll organize my journey here into a TED-worthy story, but, for today, I will focus on sharing the strategy I use to manage my energy. This is key to my belief that I am not balancing work and life, instead, I’m balancing energy to help me thrive.

My strategy is really simple — I use the scientific method — try something, analyze, adjust, repeat. The trick is that every one of the conditions in my experiment is evolving, so the value is less in the solution and more in the a practice. A bit like life.

What does that look like?

Important to note, that theses lists will be different for each of us, there is no one size fits all here. The more you learn about yourself, the better results you will get. Here is my framework:

First, I inventory things that add energyThese include things like sleep, massage, yoga, meditation, learning something new, applying a new learning to a current problem, deep connection with people, helping others thrive and reading for pleasure.

Then I look at things that give energy when I complete them (but maybe not while I’m doing them). These include things like checking items off a to-do list, de-cluttering (email inbox, desk, calendar, etc.), exercise, finishing a big project.

Then I look at things that drain me of energy. These include negative people, uncertainty, minor physical discomfort (vitamin deficiencies, migraines, vertigo, etc. ), low blood sugar, extroversion overload, small talk, telephones, teenager drama, avoidable chaos, etc.

Lastly I look at my personal daily energy cycle. What times of day am I at my best and when am I more sluggish. Is that hard wired or environmental?

Now that I have my variables, I start to think about my rhythm within a day and a week. I look to tune the order of the kinds of tasks I need to get done, against the types of energy I have at a given time of day. I look to optimize both daily and weekly since I often can’t win this game every day, but over a week I have reasonable odds.

An example of what this looks like for me

  • Prioritize getting to sleep early as often as I can, to make sure I have enough fuel to get shit done the next day. I reinforce this habit with the reward of reading for pleasure at the end of the night.
  • Get up early to enjoy quiet, chaos free house and do low-effort tasks that build energy on completion (e.g., clear out my inbox, declutter my desk and drink all the coffee).
  • After I’m organized [and awake], do the bigger items — either exercise to build for a longer day, or some important work meetings and tasks [ideally both].
  • Be thoughtful about my propensity for low blood sugar. Have a reliable strategy for breakfast, lunch and mid-day snack and, if available, schedule a walking meeting in the afternoon to re-charge and connect with someone I care about.
  • Think about who and how many meetings I have back to back. Build in recovery time if I have too much required extraversion or negativity. I am at my best if I have a “work quietly” break after 3 meetings. If I can’t, I need a recovery plan. This might involve staying late to get some work done when the office quiets down.

I use my calendar to manage execution, being mindful of what personal commitments are hardest for me to keep, and making sure I build that into my weekly default template (e.g., I struggle to keep exercise commitments, so I add a few kickers — first, I put an extra prep 1/2 hour before, to remind myself to wrap stuff up and get my clothes changed. Then, I schedule a class that has a hard start time, so my responsibility gene kicks in and gets me there).

As I mentioned above, these are not universal, they are my truths [today]. Having teenage girls has increased my needs for quiet recovery options (reading, yoga, massage, etc), pre-kids that was not as important. Life and professional transitions increase my need for exercise and mindfulness to keep me open, positive and creative. Things like seasons (number of hours of daylight) and crunch times (e.g., school holidays, theater tech week, kids finals, end of quarter, and key work deadlines) add additional variables to work into my plan.

Most importantly, I check in frequently to this framework, especially when I notice my energy and positivity waning, this helps me maximize for flow and avoid burnout. I feel more in control, and more at peace with my choices, since, embedded in this framework is making purposeful choices about what not to do at all.

What about you? What are your life hacks for making work better?

 

Cross Post: LinkedIn

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Word for 2017 – Generous

albertcamus1

I was inspired by Melinda Gates New Year tradition of picking a word and building a deliberate practice around it, to focus the year.

Unlike Melinda, I’m far from ready to focus on “gentle” but I am all in with generous in 2017.

Generous

Per Merriam-Webster*

a : characterized by a noble or kindly spirit

b : liberal in giving

c : marked by abundance

You will remember, in 2010 I had decided to focus on giving back which is one type of generosity. That single goal was transformational to my personal and professional growth. Seven years later, I’m still reaping benefits from that single intention.

In 2017, I hope to continue to be generous with my time and talents, while adding more generosity of thought. I must admit, that it’s often hard for me to have true empathy and to subscribe the best possible intention to the actions of others.

I feel that it would be a noble goal to practice this more. I intend to focus on making 2017 a year of unparalleled generosity. I look forward to seeing where this journey will take me.

Like Melinda, I’ll be happy to lend you my word, if you find yourself in need. How about you, what word are you bringing into focus for 2017?

*beautiful metaphor that I had to look up how to spell that (…twice)

 

Cross Post: LinkedIn

Insanely great

quote-if-i-had-asked-people-what-they-wanted-they-would-have-said-faster-horses-henry-ford-34-79-88

I’ve been listening to the audiobook The Innovators by Walter Isaacson and pondering Digital Disruption.

While great companies require customer centricity — great innovations often get hamstrung when the only input is customer feedback. What you need for innovation to thrive in the disruptive digital age, is a combination of deep customer empathy and a healthy paranoia that you are probably wrong.

Checking your biases, purposefully breaking your filter bubbles and diversifying your team can help you more easily find the path to insanely great disruptive innovations. The important thing to recognize is that your expertise can work against you.

We live in an age where the ability to recognize and process patterns has never been better. We have more analysis tools and more data points than ever before. We also have faster innovation cycles, that shorten the window of opportunity for great ideas to impact the market at large.

When you know that timing is the most critical component for startup [disruptive] success, you begin to realize that the best thing you can do to prepare yourself, is to create the conditions that help you succeed before you need them.

Building good habits into your ideation framework, can help you avoid missing an opportunity.

So the next time you are tempted to just end a customer feedback session with the what (or how) and not the why — check yourself. The next time you look around the room and notice that everyone thinks, acts and looks the same — check yourself. The next time you find yourself overly confident of your analysis — check yourself.

Insanely great is rarely incremental, and disruption is inevitable. Making it work for you is the hard bit.

Cross Post: LinkedIn

 

Standing up #WomenEqualityDay

Maya Angelou

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

Maya Angelou

In the past, I’ve brought forward the importance of being a visible role model.  How each of us standing up and being seen, can help make it easier for others around us to do the same.

I’d like to add a few more thoughts on how we can all #StandUp.

I believe it’s important to celebrate progress of others.  Every time we see progress for women, wherever that progress might come —  corporate, nonprofit or individual, society benefits.

I also, believe we should all lend our voice of dissent to important social, human and legal events that happen around us.  From the scourge of rape culture, to the embarrassment of sexism in Olympic coverage, not being a silent bystander, is a critical part of standing up.   We are the authors of our lives and a positive example for others.

Lately I’ve been thinking more deeply about the most difficult barrier that remains for women — power.  In the boardrooms, executive suites, and in our representative democracy, women are a stubbornly stuck minority.

I want to give a shout out to Cindy Gallop for connecting an important point to this topic for me.  The reason #EqualPay is important, is not just about you getting what is fair. In a work context, equal pay makes sure you are compared properly against the rightful peer group.

If you allow yourself to be paid less than your male counterparts, you not only hold back your own earning potential, you diminish your overall perceived value [against the scorecard measured in US dollars].  When you overlay this against the behavioral economic principle of relativity you begin to see how this can become a recursive problem.

All respect to Archie’s “Rib Theory,” I think a compelling case can be made that we all need to do our part.  I’m not suggesting that we need to all be motivated exclusively by money or power but, we must not allow ourselves to give permission to others to diminish the value of our work.  We must do our part to find and fix this for others when we are in a situation where we can.

Happy #WomensEqualityDay with sincere gratitude for all that you do, to stand up for all women.

Fortune favors the prepared

imagesxI’ve been thinking a lot lately about careers and luck.

I do believe there is a healthy element of luck in most career success stories.  I also believe, that many people misinterpret luck as their own capabilities (perception and data are often misaligned).

If we agree that luck is important, then we should learn to invite luck into our lives.

I believe you can absolutely attract or repulse good luck with your focus and your actions.  I’m not saying it’s magical, I’m just saying it’s logical.  The more you engage and work toward an outcome, the more likely that outcome will happen.

Or in internet meme form

opportunity-is-missed-by-most-people-because-it-is-dressed-in-overalls-and-looks-like-work-thomas-edison

So what are some practical tips i have seen that work to bring professional luck your way?

  • Share your goals – the more you talk about your goals with others, the better your odds of finding someone who can help you achieve them. Warning: if you only share to feel good about yourself, you miss the point (and the results) of this one.
  • Keep your head up –pay attention to what is going on around you.   You are likely to see opportunities that bring luck your way, if you you are actively looking.
  • Embrace failureMindset matters here — knowing that “yet” is the vocabulary of progress.  We all have a CV of failures critical to our visible career success.
  • Invest in your network – Having a strong network is the most common source of career luck.  You build a strong network by giving (not taking), so invest in your luck karma, by being generous and helpful to your network.
  • Practice saying yes – Give yourself permission to get outside of your comfort zone, saying yes to things that stretch you toward your goal.

Preparing for success invites success.  Not overnight of course, but taking steps in the right direction, consistently, purposefully, intentionally moving yourself toward your goal.

More on the topic here.

Authors note: After a blogging break of more than a year, I began a blog today I titled “Creating luck” only to find I had an unsaved draft of the above titled blog from 4 years ago.  Note sure if this is an observation on the importance of this topic to me, or how long it takes to complete a thought.

 

Gratitude and Abundance

What we believe to be true can shape our actions and our actions then shape our opportunities.

Too often I see people fighting for a single opportunity or a single prize, assuming that they must beat another out to get that one slot.  I would like to lobby for a different success view.  I would like to remind myself and my friends that the most rewarding success is shared.

When we can support other’s achievements, when we can make ourselves part of another’s success it creates more opportunity.  Personal and professional opportunity are abundantly available we need not treat them with a mindset of scarcity.

It took me a long time to get to this point of view, but I strongly believe that if you push someone else down to seize an opportunity for yourself, there will only be one, but if you find a way to share opportunities, more come your way.

In this week of stress for me personally, I want to remind myself to count my many blessings, and to remember what is important to me — that the work that I do and the effort that I expend helps to enrich and uplift those around me.  I want to be the kind of person that brings benefit to others, and who remembers that I am blessed with abundance both personally and professionally.  I also want to express deep gratitude for everyone who has shared their success with me.  I want to remind myself that to win at the expense of others is a hollow victory, and to share success with others is a blessing.

Audience Centricity

FeelQuote

I’ve said this a few times covering different pieces and thoughts, but I feel like it’s worth repeating.

To define your role as the executive in charge of a topic, talk in the language of the audience and not in the language of your team.

Putting yourself in the shoes of the audience and using their vocabulary takes more work — but it yields far superior results.  Not only in increasing the likelihood that real communication happened (vs. multiple people saying things) but also in making you be perceived as more knowledgeable and more helpful.

It takes practice and it takes time, but this is a habit you will want to build sooner than later.   Understanding that people are doing this for themselves gives you clarity on why it has such a big impact.  Driving up your own social sensitivity increases not only the impact you have personally, it can set the stage for a more effective team as well.