Monday, March 23, 2009

Work Less Hours and Increase Your Earnings

I do believe in the counter-intuitive nature of life. It plays out all the time in business as well. Less is definately more. Pull is stronger than push. Listen to influence more. And the list goes on. My book, The Connected and Committed Leader. Lessons from Home. Results at Work. highlights 7 leadership insights that are based on this counter-intuitive understanding.

We are at a time now where people are being asked to achieve more with less, oftentimes picking up the jobs of 2 or 3 people that have been let go. This is a time when we need to work less to generate more.

I have tapped into Dr. Gaby Cora who works with people and companies that want to be healthy while they become wealthy. I think her perspective is spot-on. Here is what she has to say:

In an ideal world, we would dedicate eight hours of our day to work, another eight to enjoy recreational activities and the last eight hours to sleep. The true question is, how many of you live in the ideal world?

Instead, in the real world, most people work twelve to sixteen hours every day, with little recreational time and with less sleep. Forget about taking any vacation during the financial crisis. People worry about keeping their job, lay-offs, foreclosures and downsizing.

While people are doing the work of two or three employees these days, being on the go 24/7 is counterproductive to high performance and increased productivity at work. Even athletes know that their performance will start to decrease if they train too hard or for too long.

This is no different at work. Have you ever experienced feeling stuck on a particular computer program or document and you try and you try again completely frustrated. You then realize you’ve been trying to resolve the problem for two hours. You decide to take a break, refresh your mind, you do something else and, when you return to the computer, you resolve the two-hour problem with two clicks in a couple of minutes. Your mind had gotten stuck and, although the answer was right in front of you, you couldn’t see it because you were focusing on the problem, not the solution.

In some instances, people work so much that the pressure starts taking a toll on their health. Many don’t seek for help until they are experiencing medical problems.
Although stress can be motivating and inspiring, too much stress may trigger anxiety, depression, headaches, increased blood pressure or gastrointestinal problems.

Why does this happen? When we over exhaust our bodies or our minds, instead of producing more and increase our earnings, we run out of ideas, unable to think of positive ways to resolve our challenges. We get stuck on the problems and have trouble looking at all options for a positive resolution. Instead, when we keep busy but we are able to refresh our minds we are then better able to make sound decisions that will have a positive impact on our ability to build our wealth.

The following are some tips to assist you as you strive to increase your earnings while working fewer hours:

1) Think of effective hours of work rather than number of hours of work: You may believe that you are the only one who can do everything that you do, but keep track of your activities. You will be surprised when you realize how you distribute – or waste - your time. Common traps include the constant use of email, BlackBerries, PDAs of phones rather than allocating time to respond to emails, for example.

2) Set up clear priorities: Make sure that you achieve what is high on your list and that you discard the actions that have been on your list but that haven’t been done in months or years. It’s time to let go. If you claim that everything is an emergency you will fall in the trap of responding to fires all the time rather than creating ways to increase your earnings.

3) Have a Plan: Most people don’t have a plan and many who do leave it in the drawer without checking their progress. By having a plan, you can constantly follow your progress and decide whether you are achieving your desired goals and earnings. Without a plan, you will end up busy and exhausted and will continue to have more of busyness and exhaustion. If you have never created a plan, this is a great time to start.

4) Cut down your working hours from 16 to 12 or from 12 to 10: What would you do if you were forced to work less hours and be more efficient with your time? Unfortunately, many feel pressured to do this after they have become too sick to work many hours or when life circumstances have impacted upon their ability to work. By creating a sense of urgency and efficiency, you can force yourself to become more focused, more effective, and more productive.

5) Find effective ways to relax: Eat, exercise, sleep and relax. If you are an executive or entrepreneur and you are leading under pressure, you will need to find and integrate times to eat, exercise, sleep and relax in your busy schedule. Avoid too much caffeine during the day and the negative cycle of daily caffeine and alcohol or hypnotics at night. It is not a matter of whether someone who is overworked will exhaust his or her energy; it’s a matter of time: When will they burn out? Learn relaxation techniques including guided imagery or meditation. Listen to music or find a hobby. In addition to these strategies, exercising is a must for busy corporate warriors and business owners. Repetitive exercises tend to be the best to help de-stress. Others prefer Yoga and Tai Chi. Nothing beats sleeping well at night.

What do you think about these 5 points?

I particularly like point number 4. I think we often factor in too much murphy time for projects and it is always amazing how much we can get done when we compress those timelines. I am going to try to compress more often to get more done. What are you going to do differently?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

It seems that during these tough times, we hear more about people losing jobs than leaving them, but the question of when to leave a job is still relevant.

I recently gave a leadership workshop in Houston. One of the people attending my workshop was taking it because she needed to improve her situation at work. She came in with the flu and I am certain that her physical sickness was related to the fact that she was emotionally drained because of her work situation.

I advocate that people work hard at improving their situation(s) by taking full accountability of what they may be contributing towards the problem. A connected and committed leader does take a good look in the mirror to own up to their shortcomings, However, having said that, there comes a time when you have done all you can and you can not continue to push water up hill.

If you are at that point, Deborah Grayson Riegel offers 8 clues to determine if it is time for you to push the punch button and 6 steps to follow in order to ensure a smooth landing elsewhere.

Here is what she has to say:

There’s a difference between temporary and permanent job dissatisfaction. When and if you realize that your situation is unsalvageable, it’s likely time to think about leaving. When do you know when it’s time to remove yourself from your current situation? There are eight circumstances that warrant a good, hard look at whether you would be better off exploring new opportunities.

1. When you were never a good fit for the job, and never will be. If you are a person who loves variety and lots of action, and your job requires phone time at an isolated desk, it’s going to be difficult to change the structure of your job to create satisfaction. Your job should suit your natural preferences in more ways than it doesn’t. Otherwise, it could be time to move on.

2. When your boss has written you off. If your boss is not willing to communicate with you in a meaningful way, won’t consider your ideas of restructure, and doesn’t really seem to care whether you succeed or fail, it’s definitely time to look elsewhere.

3. When you’ve written your boss off. If you and your boss just don’t gel—if you have vast differences when it comes to values, ethics, incentives, or to work processes in general—you might not be able to find happiness at work as long as you’re working together. Time to go.

4. If you don’t have the desire to learn or improve your skills. If progressing at your job requires additional education or skills, and you find that you really have no interest in pursuing those things, you may not have a fundamental interest in your work. Since having an interest in your work contributes to job satisfaction, it’s probably time to seek other opportunities
5. If you can’t find anything about your job that you like doing. You’re not going to love everything about your job. However, if there’s nothing you like about your job—if you spend all day crunching numbers and you really hate math—the chances of you ever finding job satisfaction are slim. If you think hard but can’t find one thing about your job that you actually enjoy doing, it’s time to change things up. Don’t be afraid to consider a completely different career path.

6. If your job is negatively affecting your health or personal relationships. If the amount of stress and unhappiness at work is so significant that it’s affecting your health or relationships, it’s time to start looking elsewhere. You deserve to be happy and healthy.

7. If there’s no incentive to perform. A job can’t benefit just your employer. It has to benefit you as well. The benefit doesn’t have to be financial. It just has to resonate with you in a way that’s meaningful and motivates you to perform. Incentives can be internal or external—but if there’s no motivation whatsoever for you to get out of bed and perform your job every day, it’s time to find another job.

8. If the atmosphere is toxic. If the level of infighting, gossiping, back-stabbing, and negativity is so multi-layered that you don’t know where it begins or how you would even begin to fix it—time to search for better environs.

Six Steps to a Smooth Transition

When all is said and done, changing jobs is a reality of professional life.

If you’ve decided that your present job is unsalvageable and it’s time to move on, it’s important to develop a strategy to ensure that your new situation is better than your old. By following six simple steps, you can boost the odds of landing a position that meets your needs.

1. Size up your situation. Define the primary issues that are causing your current dissatisfaction. Be very specific so you can avoid situations with similar problems.

2. Proceed with caution. Finally making the decision to move on can be intoxicating, but put the kibosh on your desire to tell your co-workers that you’re “outta here.” Be careful of projecting subtle signals as well. Showing up on casual Friday wearing your best interview suit or taking lots of vacation days—without going on vacation—are clues that your co-workers might pick up on. Looking for a new situation while you have the security of your current job will allow you to take your time and find what you’re really looking for.

3. Do some research. Take a look at what’s happening in your industry. What opportunities are out there? What obstacles might you face? Will your current skills and education allow you to get where you want to go in the next year. In five years? In ten? If adding to your qualifications will open more doors for you, take steps now to learn a new skill or gain additional education.

4. Get help. Sometimes you can’t see the trees through the forest. If you’re still having trouble figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, try joining forces with a coach, networking group, mentor, or others who can support and direct you.

5. Be persistent. During this tough economy, persistence is more important than ever. Once you identify some organizations you’d like to work for, make yourself known there. Forget relying solely on help wanted ads or job opening notices. Instead, schedule a meeting with the hiring manager and tell them what you can do for them. If they don’t have a position open now, perhaps they’ll create one. At the very least, they’ll remember you when a good fit does arise.

6. Make a smooth transition. When you do find a new position, make sure to attend to important details. Be sure that you are covered by your current health insurance before your new policy takes over, and decide how you are going to handle any 401 (k), 403 (b), or other employer-sponsored retirement plans you might have.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Tough Times, Is Your Definition of Success Too Narrow?

You have seen it far too many times. Successful, top-of-the-heap leaders gone awry.

Madoff. Blagojevich. Lay. Just to name a few.

On top of these disappointments, you overlay the uncertainty of our economic outlook... and you try to make sense of this mess. But the pieces don't fit. There is a missing piece to the puzzle.

I spoke recently to a group of 120 professional women. I had addressed this group previously on the topic of leadership so this time I spoke to them about "Finding Your Passion." After all, with February being International Leadership Month as well as the month of love, it was no surprise to me that my speech on "Finding Your Passion" was just another way to address the importance of leadership.

Yes...passion and leadership are both matters of the heart.

As I traveled back home after my speech I reflected on how my messages of passion-driven work were so relevant and needed in our current economic times and to these fallen "leaders."

You see when times get tough; it seems that passion, heart and leadership are the first to be compromised. And yet, when times are tough you should be shoring them up instead.
When you find your passion and live it; you are living a life that is fully integrated. A life that doesn't have a work side and a life side, or one with secrets you can't share with either side. No, it just has one big piece. ONE whole life. It is only when you are fully integrated that you can lead this life, and others, effectively. But this integrated ONE life requires a new definition of success.

A much broader definition of success where passion, purpose and heart can't be compromised.

How do you think these leaders that went awry defined their success? Probably in a very narrow way. I venture to guess that it was: Money. Money is not the bad guy here, but the lack of passion, purpose and heart coupled with a singular focus on money at all costs, including their own integrity, is what went wrong here.

Harvard Business School Professor Michael Beer was recently interviewed about his upcoming new book High Commitment, High Performance: How to Build a Resilient Organization for Sustained Advantage.

In his new work he studied successful CEOs to answer several questions about achieving long term, sustainable business performance, particularly when faced with our current economic climate. His studies found that more effective leaders were those who defined success in a much broader sense. They encompassed metrics such as customer and employee value, as well as community and society impact into their overall view of success. They defined it to be much more than just profit and stock price, but at the same time these CEOs still had a strong focus and discipline around these latter metrics.

As you would suspect, when faced with difficult times these CEOs made far different decisions than those whose metrics were only about profit and stock price. They were less likely to move directly to layoffs, recognizing that people were a key asset. It is not that they never used lay offs to affect change, but they found creative ways to reduce labor costs through shortened work weeks, lower pay, and fewer benefits.

The CEOs in Beer's study represent the kinds of leaders who have a more holistic view on business success that embodies passion, heart and purpose. They didn't compromise these things even when times were tough.

Just as exceptional leaders take a broad view during difficult times, you need to raise your own bar and define success more broadly during these same times.

Define your success more broadly to encompass your passion, purpose, and heart. So as you go through your day trying to weather these tough times, are you living only for the paycheck? Have you parked your passion elsewhere? Is your definition of success too narrow? Broaden your definition. Start pursuing your passion, purpose and heart, even if they seem to be frivolous or non-revenue generating.

By defining your success more broadly, you will start to experience greater and greater levels of success. The kind of success that is capable of weathering difficult times.

And that is one of the missing puzzle pieces! Don't you agree? Interested in business or life coaching?