Work/life “balance”…?

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“For our readers who have a hard time setting professional boundaries– they’re burnt out, they’re replying to emails constantly, they never say no, they work weekends– what’s your advice?

When I find myself working around the clock, I remember Parkinson’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the amount of time given to it, which means that if you never set your own boundaries, you’ll literally ALWAYS be working.

And that not only wears you down–it wears other people in your life down, too. A recent study found 33% of people answer messages in the middle of the night. And you don’t need me to tell you that checking your emails at 3 AM puts you at risk for burnout and emotional exhaustion.

Instead of endlessly working and being addicted to your phone from sunrise to sunset, try this: Set a time today that you will absolutely stop working.

As someone who used to work all day long, I was amazed what happened when I started setting a quitting time, something I now do every single day.

Instead of becoming less productive, I actually got more done. With my quitting time in mind, I was more focused, concentrated, and made even more progress.

A quitting time is the difference between an unfocused 12 hours of work or a productive, distraction-free 8 hours–in which you get the same amount of work done.

For young working women there are fear-based thoughts that if they don’t do all of the above (are the last one the leave the office, say no to answering emails on the weekend, etc.) there will be someone behind them happy to take their place. What do you say to that?

The key word here is “value.” There’s a major difference between showing up at work (no matter how many hours you are online) and providing real value.

If you make your boss’ life easier and you further your boss’ strategic objectives, you are providing an incredible amount of value–and your boss will not think about firing you, even if you set clear boundaries around your time.

The secret to providing value is to ask yourself one question every day.

It’s to put yourself in your boss’ shoes and ask: What is the most valuable thing that I can do for him/her?

When you choose which projects to work on, you should actively seek to align your workload and your priorities with your boss’ objectives. While it may be more fun for you to work on projects that are not as important, when you become a proactive strategic contributor, you become an invaluable asset to your team.”

I wish more people would be able to understand this, but the unfortunate reality is that the large majority of the people we work with operate at what I like to call “the mediocre sector, or the status quo.” They simply exist in that space, do the bare minimum work to keep their job. They seem to have no desire for growth or challenge. This honestly baffles me. Being a 20 (almost 30!) something in the professional space, I’ve never wanted to stop looking for opportunities to grow my own skill set, add value to the company, or take on new challenges, even if they scare me. And I can’t understand why other people wouldn’t want that too. Yet does this mean I work around the clock, on the weekends, and sacrifice my own happiness and personal time?

No. First of all, that’s not how I’m wired. I graduated college and have built my career on the premise that being successful in your job does not have to equal working a hundred hours. Does that mean I don’t work hard? Absolutely not! As the article references above, the key is VALUE. I’ve seen way too many professionals work around the clock and yet feel like they got absolutely nowhere in a day. How tragic! The first boss I ever had in HR instilled a valuable lesson in me about this: she didn’t care how many hours I worked, as long as the job got done. And I’ve operated on that mentality ever since. Some bosses have not had that mindset, and there is some adjustment needed. But I think no matter who you report to, if you show your value and work ethic, you will undoubtedly prove your worth, regardless of the amount of hours you clock.

Don’t get me wrong — Some days, some weeks, will require more hours of you than normal. And that’s okay. My point here is that it shouldn’t be the norm. Because as soon as it becomes a repeated habit, it will inevitable rule your life and schedule. And maybe that behavior will take you to the top. Maybe it will make you financially successful and give you the title you’ve always wanted. If so, that is great.

Me personally? I want more out of my life than just work. I have professional goals that I absolutely intend to reach, but I also know I need to fiercely protect my time in order to get there. I know that I am no good–as a woman, friend, wife, mother, or professional–if I’m not happy or in a positive space. This means I don’t work tons of hours, because I have realized that after a certain point in the day, I become ineffective, and the work I do after that point is not quality work. This means I prioritize fitness, because I realize how integral regular exercise is to my physical and psychological wellbeing. This means I take vacation days, and actually do my very best to unplug from email, because I know I need the mental break. We all do. We just have to be disciplined enough to do it.

If you’re interested in the full article by Mel Robbins, check it out here:

https://www.createcultivate.com/blog/2018/6/4/the-most-inspirational-thing-youll-read-all-day

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Busyness isn’t remarkable anymore

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These days everyone wants to tell you how busy they are. And for good reason: Americans work on average 44 hours per week and, in some industries, it’s more like 60 hours. Of course, it’s only natural for folks to talk about their full schedules. But constantly harping about your busyness can actually have adverse consequences.

Here are a few reasons why you should stop telling folks that you’re so busy.

First, you may be bragging

When you tell people about the millions of things going on, you might be sending the message “Look at all my obligations and responsibilities. I am productive, industrious, accomplished and successful.” By sharing with others that you’re so busy, you inevitably place the focus on yourself and invite the attention and recognition of others.

Moreover, when folks ask “How are you?” and you respond “I’m busy,” you might be signaling that you don’t want to talk to them. Instead of telling people how hectic and hardworking you are, take the time to ask them questions. You can always make time to get to know people, create friendships and deepen relationships.

Second, busyness isn’t remarkable

Everyone is busy. Your calendar doesn’t make you special. So don’t go around saying “I’m busier than you” or comparing your schedule to others. If you’re trying to stand out in your business career, you’re not going to separate from the pack by telling folks how busy you are. Instead of being a badge of success, busyness may send the signal to your enlightened colleagues and associates that you aren’t working smart.

If you knew how to be more efficient at your job, you could achieve a better work-life balance. As entrepreneur Jason Fried writes in “Rework”: “Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way.”

Google and 3M insist that their employees have “free time” to work on their own projects. It’s in these moments of idleness that your mind might stumble upon a truly new idea.

Third, busyness closes doors

When people think you’re too busy, they won’t present you with opportunities. You want people thinking of you when a truly amazing opportunity emerges. You may have heard the mantra, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

Indeed, let people know that you will make time for important things. When folks ask, “How are you?” you can respond by saying, “Looking for opportunities.” This response will no doubt spark a deeper conversation that could lead to more and better prospects.

Via https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/05/why-you-should-stop-telling-people-youre-so-busy.html

What does leadership mean to you?

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As part of the leadership program I’m in at work, one of our first assignments was defining what leadership means to us. We were tasked with writing down our own individual visions, mission and unique definition of leadership.

At first I was not worried. This should be pretty easy, I thought. I’ve read leadership books. I devoured Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’. My mind was already swirling with words and phrases I’d use before the first class was even over.

But when Sunday night arrived and I plunked down in front of my laptop, suddenly what I thought was a simple task now seemed much more daunting. How in the world would I encapsulate such an enormous concept in 3 brief sentences (more like paragraphs, if I was being realistic)?? I’d come across so many different versions of leadership in my young career, and now I had the responsibility of blazing my own trail as a leader. Yiiikes.

Well, after typing and deleting and re-typing and deleting some more, I realized it didn’t have to be perfect. I knew how I wanted to be as a leader, and as long as my words were true to that, I was satisfied. So here it is…

Vision

– It is my hope that as a leader, I’m able to infuse the intersection of real work and real life, merging good business sense with good people sense. I want to be a leader that is genuine, exercises meaningful action, and maintains continuous curiosity.

Mission

– To lead with bold authenticity, honest humility, and fierce intent, and to equip and empower those around me in the courageous pursuit of both their best work and their best self.

Unique Definition of Leadership

– To me, leadership is about commitment. To yourself and to your team. I read this quote once, that ‘commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.’ Some leaders are SO good at motivating their teams. But the thing about motivation is that it’s fleeting. Because you will not always be motivated every second of every day. But where motivation fails, discipline succeeds. Staying the course, no matter how you feel. Leadership is a habit, a way of life, something that continuously evolves.  Being a leader means doing things afraid sometimes, and that is OKAY. Do them anyway. And don’t forget to care about what others are doing afraid too. Recognize them, encourage them, and champion them. Listen with respect, be aware that there is often more than one right answer, and it may not be yours. Trust your voice, and own your choices. They are distinctively and individually yours.

Contrary to popular belief, working 10 hours a day isn’t something to be proud of…

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But it seems like everyone thinks that these days.

My boss got fired a couple months ago. Walked out on a rainy Wednesday in the middle of July without so much as a chance at goodbye. And since then, my life at work has gotten exponentially busier. The workload seems to compound by the hour. I consider myself someone with a very high sense of urgency. It’s one of my best qualities. But even I can’t seem to stay on top of things anymore. There are days I feel like a zombie, and I absolutely hate that. I can’t stand not being active and present in the moment. That’s what makes me good at my job, and lately I feel like I’ve been chipped away, little by little. Because there is simply not enough of me or my energy to go around. Yes, I could be at the office for 10-12 hours a day. Yes, I could not take my usual 4 PM workout break because I don’t eat lunch. Yes, I could work from dawn till dusk and I’m sure my co-workers would applaud me.

But where would my sanity be? How effective would my judgment be and my ability to perform quality work?

Easy answer. It would be trashed. Being a workaholic is not a badge of honor. It’s actually the opposite. It creates burned out, over stressed and unhealthy people. It’s a counter productive way to success and obstructs the very thing that makes people good at their jobs…balance. Good quality of life equals good quality of work. And while there is never a perfect formula for it, you can get pretty darn close.

There can be exceptions to this, of course. The recent rise of entrepreneurial lifestyles have made round the clock work, workable. Those individuals, while they may not be bound by a time clock or physical location, work crazy hours too. The perception that they work when they feel like and still experience financial freedom and success just isn’t true. A certain level of effort is required no matter what business you’re attached to, be it your own or someone else’s. The factor that separates the entrepreneur from the rest of the working class is that 9 times out of 10, they’re doing it from a position of passion. They are 100% enthused about their work because they have a personal and fiery connection to it. And as a result, it often doesn’t FEEL like work to them. But it still is.

My first real job was with a boss who was an incredible mentor and friend. And aside from her business savvy and ability to work through many different kinds of problems, the outstanding quality I will remember is her emphasis on efficiency. She always told me that as long as the work is getting done, she didn’t care how long I was there. She said there’s no point trying to work a certain number of hours just because that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what our parents and grandparents did. Times change. The landscape of work changes. The tools we work with change. Why don’t we change the mentality along with it?

I, like many millennials, long for that type of work. And I, like my compatriots, are trying to figure out how to make it happen. I went the traditional route. College, internship, degree, job. Yet 5 years or more later, I find myself struggling for meaning in it. And in a social media driven society, it is easier now more than ever to dump the 8-5 grind and venture onto something new. Every week I get hit up by fellow Gen Y friends asking to join their teams. Be an advocate. Brand ambassador. Self- made, self-taught, self-directed. And I have more than once been tempted to follow through on those invitations. They always says, go after what you want! So what if you fail, you’ll never know until you try.

Yes. Yes, I know. As I roll my eyes inside. But is it wrong to want to avoid failure? To not want to experience the train wreck feeling that may inevitably follow after?

But there’s no denying it. There is truth in not knowing until you try. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll swallow a boatload of courage and find out.

What Today’s Top HR Pros Need To Know About Company Culture

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A couple weeks ago I watched a webinar on the topic of company culture (one of my favorite and possibly most frustrating topics). It was hosted by Sean Kelly, CEO of SnackNation, who was not only engaging but made some incredibly valid points.
As I was listening to the presentation, furiously scribbling notes and nodding my head in agreement, I couldn’t help but wonder…okay, this is great and all, and Sean, you’re absolutely RIGHT, but HOW do we do that here? How do we shift (or even begin to nudge) the culture of a corporate company that has struggled with this for decades?

For this webinar, Sean had surveyed several companies, asking pointed questions about culture and various factors surrounding it. Here are the 5 main discoveries that came out of his research:

1. Growth opportunities are directly linked to employee happiness.

Employees surveyed were three times more likely to be happier at work when they had professional growth and development opportunities. This was the #2 reason that people gave for remaining at a certain company (pay and benefits was #1). Sean was very clear about saying this isn’t just about promotions or better titles. This is about specific ways employees can expand their current skill set and make themselves better, more impactful assets to a business. He also mentioned performance reviews. The nature of the traditional review is that it looks backwards. It asks, what have you accomplished this year, and have you met your goals (because we all know that’s tied directly to any increase or bonus you’re going to receive). Instead of the review, we should be putting together growth plans that look toward the future, give employees a clear path of what’s ahead and how to get there. He also mentioned that SnackNation does Individual Development Plans, and I did a silent cheer because my boss just went through one with me. Not every millennial has the leadership, fast forward mindset, but the ones that do – this is key to keeping them working to the best of their potential.
2. Employees don’t get frequent enough feedback.

36% of employees get formal feedback once a year or less. This is hugely problematic, especially in a generation that demands it. Companies that create a culture in which feedback is encouraged are more innovative and learn from mistakes more quickly. When employees can be trusted to give and receive constructive feedback, it allows them to grow and evolve much more easily. We also need to realize that feedback is not solely on the manager’s shoulders; the onus must also be on the receiver. Come into meetings with questions and specific needs that they would like met.
3. Feeling challenged at work is highly correlated to increased engagement at work.

Challenged employees are better employees! Ask your team to come up with creative solutions on their own, even if you know the answer. This gives employees the opportunity to learn and grow on their own = challenged. Allow them the opportunity to set a few of their own goals, specific to their role and based on business need. They will likely be much more motivated to reach the goals they set for themselves as opposed to being told what goals they should achieve. If they’re asking for more leadership responsibilities, give them the opportunity to conduct a training or lead a lunch ‘n’ learn on a topic specific to their area.
4. The biggest perk/benefit people want but aren’t getting is flexible work hours.

This is something that comes up increasingly when we talk about work satisfaction, especially with the millennial movement. While there are certain businesses that cannot function with flex hours (due to operational constraints), the ones that that the option should strongly consider adding it to their list of benefits. Not an expected benefit, like health insurance or paid holidays, but an earned one. Employees that prove they can still get the job done, regardless of the actual hours spent in the office, are the ones that will value this benefit. In turn, the trust they feel by receiving a flexible schedule results in happier employees and better performance.
5. A strong culture is vital for increased retention.

If you haven’t already, survey your employees and have them rate the company culture. Make sure you define what culture is so they know what they’re rating. This can be pretty difficult to express, so another way you can do it is open-ended. Ask them to pick words or phrases they feel describe where they work and how they’re managed. Sean Kelly says that as CEO of SnackNation, he owned the responsibility of creating the culture. In a small business, it can be more impactful, where in large corporations, culture can be ambiguous. Either way, the leadership style of any company trickles down and creates the culture that employees either love or hate. And while we put much of the responsibility on our leaders, we as employees must take accountability too. It’s a collaborative effort that makes it work, and it’s never a perfect science.

Why millennials keep dumping you: an open letter to today’s management 

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You hired us thinking this one might be different; this one might be in it for the long haul. We’re six months in, giving everything we have, then suddenly, we drop a bomb on you. We’re quitting.
We know the stereotypes. Millennials never settle down. We’re drowning in debt for useless degrees. We refuse to put our phone away. We are addicted to lattes even at the expense of our water bill. Our bosses are not wrong about these perceptions. But, pointing to our sometimes irresponsible spending and fear of interpersonal commitment isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need us. We’re the ones who’ve mastered social media, who have the energy of a thousand suns, and who will knock back 5-dollar macchiatos until the job is done perfectly.

I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses ranging from 24 to 64. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit, and I’ve quit a few times myself. Here’s what’s really behind your millennials’ resignation letter:

1. You tolerate low-performance

It’s downright debilitating to a high achiever. I’m working my heart out and every time I look up Donna-Do-Nothing is contemplating how long is too long to take for lunch. I start wondering why leadership tolerates this.
Is that the standard here? No thanks.
Fact: Poor performers have a chilling effect on everyone.

2. ROI is not enough for me.

I spent Sunday thinking about how I can make a difference to our customers. Now it’s Monday morning, what do I hear? Stock price. Billing. ROI. Suddenly, my Monday power playlist seems useless. I’m sitting in a conference room listening to you drag on about cash flow.
I was making more money bartending in college than I am at this entry-level job. You say I’ll get a raise in a year if the company hits a certain number? So what? I need something to care about today. Talk to me about how we make a difference, not your ROI report.

Fact: Organizations with a purpose bigger than money have a growth rate triple that of their competitors.

3. Culture is more than free Panera.

Don’t confuse culture with collateral. Yes, I am a cash-strapped millennial who really appreciates free lunch. But I don’t wake up at 6AM every day to play foosball in the break room. I’m not inspired to be more innovative over a Bacon Turkey Bravo.

I need to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing. I need a manager who is motivated to push boundaries and think differently. Working in a cool office is really awesome. So is free lunch. But a purposeful culture is more important.
Fact: A culture of purpose drives exponential sales growth 

4. It’s ok to get personal
Treat me like a number? I’ll return the favor. This job will quickly become nothing more than my rent payment. I’ll start living for Friday and counting down the minutes until 5. After a few months of that, I’ll probably have a drunken epiphany and realize I want more out of my life than this.

Then I’ll prove your assumptions right. 8 months in, I’ll quit and leave. Or worse, I’ll quit and stay, just like Donna-Do-Nothing.

That’s not good for either of us. Here’s what you need to know:
I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit. I’ll make copies, I’ll fetch coffee, I’ll do the grunt work. But I’m not doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.
I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.

Signed,

A Millennial
The millennials are telling us what we already know in our hearts to be true. People want to make money, they also want to make a difference. Successful leaders put purpose before profit, and they wind up with teams who drive revenue through the roof.

(Originally posted on LinkedIn by Lisa Earle McLeod) 

Trust the journey

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“You’re still new to the game, and like everyone else, you have to recognize that the world doesn’t always do what you need when you need it to. While I am always 100 percent on your side, I can also see things from your bosses’ side of the table. They see you walking into the room with 9 months’ experience—which is everything to you—but from their perspective, it’s just a blip on the screen. You see yourself as a carefully crafted brand, while your boss sees you as a tool to help get her job done. You’ve reached a part of your journey where you have a broad vision for yourself, and your boss is looking at you through only a small window. She’s asking, “What can this person do for me, and how much is it worth to me?” She doesn’t see where you’re going or all the incredible strides you’ve made to get to this moment. Nor should she. You are slotted to fill a role inside your organization, and right now, the truth is that you’re replaceable. The slot exists for a reason. It represents a job that needs to get done. It existed as a role for someone to fill before you, and it will be there after you move on to something bigger and better.”
Chapter 7 truthbomb right there. This is so me right now it’s scary. I feel like in the past couple years, since I’ve gotten past the shiny new phase of the ‘first job out of college’, I’ve been consistently hankering for more. Bigger, better, more satisfying and meaningful work. So it’s created this terrible and undying career restlessness in me that has kind of rocked me. Do I want to be in this field forever? Is this REALLY what I’m meant to do or am I just sticking with it because it’s safe? But what happens if I want to switch gears entirely and I have no experience to back it up?

And even aside from all those freak-outs, it’s a very regular train of thought for me that I’m “behind” somehow. That someone of my age should be doing more, have more experience. Never mind all those people with 20+ years’ experience who have heartily disagreed. I still FEEL LIKE IT. Then I read the above excerpt from Shoket and immediately get brought back to earth.

This. Is. Normal. I’m supposed to be doing this kind of work, right now. Not forever. But right now, it’s ok. It’s building me into who I’m going to be someday, priming me for the role I’ll have. I think sometimes we get so hell-bent on wanting the big beautiful life that we forget we have to do the time to get it. Maybe not as much time as our parents did–I mean, come on, there’s technology now…ain’t nobody got time for that. But in all seriousness, this is a necessary reminder.

Even if the job isn’t amazing, or even remotely great, it’s serving a purpose. It’s not forever. And that perspective can be a huge blessing and propel you into some of the most unpredictable and challenging parts of the journey imaginable. I just gotta wait. And see.

Excerpt From: Shoket, Ann. “The Big Life.” Rodale, 2017. iBooks.