Harmonize Your Work/Life Balance

calm responseA recent survey found that 66% of workers in the US struggle with finding the right work/life balance – and they aren’t all parents. With our 24/7 culture, even employees without children find it challenging to keep work and home priorities in reasonable proportions. The real issue isn’t the continual balancing act between work and home; rather, it is the fact you don’t know what the balance is all about.

When you are clear about what’s important to you, choices are easier to make, and you are more content with your decisions. In contrast, when you aren’t clear and find yourself struggling with decisions about where to spend your time and energy, your feelings of stress and guilt go up and your energy plummets.

To get back more energy and to counter the stress and guilt of where to focus, re-frame the idea finding “work/life balance” by harmonizing your personal identity and purpose with your current employment.

How Compatible is Your Personal Vision /Mission with Work?

Start with creating a big picture vision for how you want your life to be. Your vision includes what you want to experience and/or contribute throughout your lifetime. Your corresponding mission goes into more detail about what you want to do to make your vision come true as you use your talents and gifts.

Once you have a broad personal vision and mission, notice how compatible they are with those of your chosen career and current employer. For example, if your vision is to create a world where you help others express themselves uniquely, using your ability to empathize with others, see how that dovetails with your career. I’ll assume it is possible to fulfill you vision and mission in all careers, while it’s easier to do so in some versus others. The more you can live your own vision and mission through your career, the less you’ll struggle with work/life balance and the more you’ll be in flow.

Also, compare your personal vision and mission with those of your company. They don’t have to match up 100%. However, the less overlap, the more likely you’ll experience the dissonance between them, causing those feelings of overwhelm and lack of balance. If the disconnect is great, you may want to consider finding an employer that is more in line with your personal vision and mission.

How About Your Personal Values?

As with your vision and mission, work and home harmony is easier the more your personal values are in line with your employer’s values. To assess this, determine your top 3 personal values — the conceptual principles that are critically important to you and by which you act and make decisions. Seek commonality or connection between your personal values and those touted and lived by your company. For example, if one of your core values is “honesty” and you work for a company that is deceptive with customer and employees, then you might routinely feel conflicted at work – even if that company purports to value “honesty” or “integrity”. In contrast, if the company goes the extra mile to be honest and keep its promises with customers and employees, you’ll experience more harmony and flow.

Again, you don’t need 100% alignment between your core values and those of your employer. Yet, the more synergy there is between them, the less tension, overwhelm, and guilt you’ll have about spending extra time at work or taking time off for personal priorities.

Harmonizing Goals, Projects, and Tasks

Based on your vision, mission, and values, you probably have set some aspirations for yourself, personally and professionally. Compare these personal and career goals/aspirations with the goals you are currently charged with at work. Is there a way to further your personal goals through your work goals? Often, work goals give you opportunities to receive training and make connections that are beneficial personally.

In turn, focusing on the relevant projects and tasks that further your work goals can also harmonize your schedule between work and home. When you intentionally schedule the work tasks that further company goals, you may realize you’ve been caught up in a lot of “busy” work that has sapped your time and energy, leaving you with the stress and guilt of not attending to things at home.

That’s why it’s important to align your personal and work priorities. Doing so, can clarify the personal and work choices presented to you. When your career and current employment fit within your personal vision, mission, values, goals, and priorities, the balance or harmony between them is greater.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Be Successfully “Bossy”

According to a recent survey by the Adecco Staffing Group, about 30% of employees want the boss’s job.  After all, it looks so easy.  Bosses have more freedom with their schedules.  They are able to take longer lunches, come in late or leave early without having to punch a time clock.  Bosses get to spend most of their time in meetings rather than having to do actual work, and they get paid more and can tell others what to do.  Who wouldn’t want to move up the ladder and be the boss?

Ask those who were are in a supervisory position. 

It turns out most supervisors had no idea how difficult being the boss could be when they were on the other side of the management fence as a worker bee. After becoming the boss, they often find there is almost always someone who is unhappy with them, they generally work long hours, they must have tough conversations with employees even when they don’t want to, and in spite of what they thought before they were promoted, their direct reports don’t necessarily listen to them and sometimes even resent them just because they are in charge.  Some fun.

So, if you were recently promoted to a supervisory position or are still having difficulty accepting your role as boss, here are a few tips for being bossy – in a good way:
1.       Find your center to maintain your integrity. At its core, this includes making sure your personal values are mostly in alignment with those of your organization.  If personal and business values are off kilter, you will know it. In fact any misalignment will be magnified in a supervisory position because now you must directly represent the company’s interest.  If you can’t do that with a clear conscience, you might want to start planning a move.
2.       Communicate clearly by checking your assumptions. One of the most important aspects of communication is what happens before something comes out of your mouth or body – check your assumptions.  Some common assumptions that might catch you off guard are assuming employees have automatic respect for you because you’re up the food chain (they don’t – you have to earn it), assuming you can be the same kind of familiarly friendly with former co-workers you now supervise (you can’t, but they want you to), assuming they can avoid confronting problems because they’ll take care of themselves (some don’t, you need to address them), and assuming that your employees know what you mean all the time with little or no explanation.
To be successfully bossy on the communication front, you must set and reset expectations continually. New bosses especially are wise to meet individually with each direct report to get to know them, especially their career goals and current challenges.  From your end, make your expectations clear for employee behavior and performance, including specific performance standards you’re looking for.  Another thing to divulge are your “hot buttons” – those things that drive you crazy that you expect employees NOT to do.  The previous boss probably had different ones, so unless you say something to the contrary, your employees are going on the status quo.
3.       Remember it’s not personal; it’s the limbic system.  As a boss, your employees’ neurological systems perceive you as threat just by virtue of having an ever-so-slightly-raised status above your direct reports.  This means, even a slightly raised eyebrow from you will set some employees twirling off into a tizzy. Whenever you simply have a conversation about someone’s performance or conduct that needs improving, you’ll be accused of “yelling” at them even if you whispered during the entire conversation.  The same goes for positive interactions you have with employees; telling someone “good job on the Johnson project” can put someone on Cloud 9 for days. Yes, you’re that powerful.
Learn as much about emotions and neuroscience as you can to work effectively with your team.  More important, monitor your own emotional repertoire to avoid exacerbating the emotional response in others.
4.       Go slow. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” “Don’t eat the elephant all at once.” Et cetera.  You may see a thousand issues that need to be addressed, and you might be right.  To be successfully bossy, refrain from jumping in to tackle them quickly on your own (unless something illegal or unsafe is happening).  Instead, start asking questions about why things are done/not done a certain way.  Educate yourself and listen.  Then include your employees in creating or re-designing something different.  It will take longer and may not end up the way you originally envisioned; however, all will have ownership in what is created together.

5.       Be graciously fallible.  As the boss, you may feel pressure to continually prove you earned the spot – to be seen as competent.  Well, there may be an employee or two who could also do the job, but you’re the one who got it.  So, accept that you’re in charge and be successfully bossy by offloading the pressure to be right or smarter than everyone else.  It’s amazing how powerful you will be if you take a lesson from Louise Penny’s fictional character Chief Inspector Gamache, who mentors junior inspectors to set aside their egos by using 4 key phrases:  “I don’t know”  “I was wrong.” “I’m sorry.” “I need help.”




WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the Executive Coach for senior leaders who want to get focused and get results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting at: http://www.firebrandconsulting.blogspot.com.

Is Your Company Culture “Incognito”?

 Incognito:  with your true identity kept secret.
Merriam-Webster.com

lack of trustIn 2013, the Miami Dolphins released Richie Incognito after an investigation concluded that he bullied and made racial slurs against a teammate. Although the sport recognized Incognito as a top player, he had a history of a explosive emotional outbursts and “dirty play” against other players, coaches, and fans.

Lately, example after example of a leader or star performer with a long history of “bad” conduct have come to light, showing time after time, that company boards, leaders, and practices dismissed it, enabled it, and allowed it. It highlights the conundrum that many companies face: How to balance the equation when a leader or star performer gets results but behaves badly and counter to your stated company values.

“Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”

Culture is those shared norms, assumptions, experiences, and beliefs that distinguish your company from others. Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” underscores how influential a company culture is.

The question is, is the company culture you describe in your mission, vision, and values, the same culture that shows up in your workplace every day? In short, is your company or team culture evident  . . . or is it “incognito”?

As a leader, whether formal or informal, you must go first. You reinforce and redefine cultural norms based on how you act, what you pay attention to, what you praise and reinforce in others, and how you react when challenges occur. In spite of what you say about who you are as a company, is there an unwritten assumption that the ability to produce excellent results will “hide a multitude of sins”? At least for your leaders and top performers.

All employees — especially leaders and top performers —  must be held to the same behavioral standards as everyone else; otherwise, employees get a mixed message. This muddies the waters about what is expected for how they should treat co-workers and what kind of treatment they should expect in return. If the stated culture isn’t evident in how people work together, such a mixed message can signal to employees that it’s “everyone for himself”, which leads to a lack of the necessary trust and team camaraderie.

If your leaders and superstars are not displaying the kind of behavior that reinforces your team culture on a consistent basis, what are you prepared to do about it?

Postscript on Incognito

After being released by the Dolphins, the Bills signed Richie Incognito in 2015, where he has been elected to the ProBowl each year since (2015-2018). In 2017, an opposing player accused Incognito of using racial slurs. After an investigation, the NFL is not expected to impose any consequences.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they want to become. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

You Versus Your Management Role

management roleI once worked with an elementary school principal had learned from credible sources that this long-term substitute was a fairly regular user of marijuana.

The principal pondered, “This isn’t a problem, is it?  I mean, I haven’t really seen her smoke pot. She’s a great employee – she’s here on time every day, the students like her, and she’s doing a good job.  I mean, there’s nothing I can do, right?  I would be violating her employment rights if I told her she couldn’t work here any longer, right?”

Heavy sigh.  Obviously, this school principal was trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to address the situation.  (I mean, really . . . how many of us know someone who smokes a little weed from time to time.)  I knew I had to offer this principal a quick lesson on the difference between his personal boundaries and those required of him as school principal.

When you accept a job in any organization, you are not paid simply to show up and be your sweet little ol’ self; rather, you are paid to step into a role that serves the organization.  Moreover, in a management or other leadership position, you are paid to represent the interests of the company.  I like to think of it as literally stepping into a suit of clothing that represents the position.  For example, this individual was required to step into the role of “manager” or “school principal”.  Sounds simple enough.

When stepping into a managerial role, it can be really easy to make the transition from yourself as “individual person” to “manager”. But  your personal values, beliefs and ways of operating must align to a great degree with those required in the work role.  The rub comes when your personal values, beliefs, and ways of operating are either more expansive or restrictive than those required of your company and/or role.

This is where this school principal was having a hard time:  He saw this substitute teacher as a “good employee”, so why would the school district care about whether or not she smoked pot at home.  After all, weren’t dependable employees hard to come by?  Why would he need to do anything as long as the substitute wasn’t bringing pot into the workplace?

In short, he was looking at the situation using his more “open” personal values and beliefs, instead of viewing the situation through the lens required of his position as school principal (which dictated that he enforce the school district’s drug policy along with the public policy consideration of holding those working with students to a higher standard than the average Joe).

How easy is it for you to accept and live by the values and beliefs of your company?  As a manager or leader in your company, are you aware of your responsibility to represent the company’s interests even if you don’t fully agree with them?  When you hire new employees (management or otherwise), how do you determine whether or not there is alignment between their personal values and beliefs and those of the company?  And how does your company convey its expectations to managers about carrying out the role as company representative?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Leader as Thinker

neuron thinkingIt’s the end of the day, and you’re beat.  You’ve been “on the go” since 7 a.m. and you’re ready to call it a day.  Most of your days seem to go this way. Do you make time to think rather than react all day?

When I ask my clients when they do their strategic thinking, I get predictable responses – everything from a look of “you’ve got to be kidding” to a question like, “Really?  It’s OK to spend my time doing that?”  I take the responses as a symptom of American culture that preaches “to be busy” equals “to be productive”.

But the higher up the corporate food chain you go, the less time you should spend on “being busy” and the more time you can and should spend on thinking.  Insufficient time spent thinking about your business can lessen the quality of the decisions you make about it.

In the Western world, the basis of good solid thinking goes back 2500 years to Socrates in Ancient Greece.  His method involved asking deep questions and probing for answers before accepting an idea of as worthy of belief.   Fast forward to our experiences today, where we spend hours on activities that are quick, immediate, and/or passively mindless, like texting, watching TV, spending time online updating our status, or engaging in various other forms of pure entertainment.  No wonder we find it hard to believe that we ought to spend time engaging our minds in a deep, intellectual pursuit.

“Thinking time” doesn’t have to be spent alone in a locked office working on your company or department’s strategic plan (although that could be very productive).  It can be time you spend walking around a competitor’s retail store, observing how they operate.  It can be lunch in a nearby park, observing the comings and goings of local flora, fauna, and people, which may lead to serendipitous connections later on.  You can walk around your own corporate office, retail store, or manufacturing facility to observe what’s going on.

Would you rather think in tandem with others?  Invite someone out to have a beverage and conversation.  You can even spend your commute time thinking.  Whatever will afford you time for meaningful introspection and reflection is the type of thinking activity that will be beneficial.

The point is that your “thinking time” will provide you with information when you need it later on.  From observations, come connections, and the more connections you make, the better prepared your mind is to draw upon seemingly unrelated information and events that might just provide you with that next brilliant insight.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.