April 2011 Newsletter

Myth: Stress Can Wait

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Your report is due at the end of the week, your presentation is tomorrow, you have an employee evaluation this afternoon and, by the way, your meeting starts in 5 minutes. What’s on your “to do” list for today?  Is “stress management” one of the items? Experience tells me it’s not. We’re too busy with immediate priorities. Stress can wait until things slow down, right? Wrong!

When have you ever worked in an environment where things have “slowed down?” One project ends and another begins, one crisis gets solved and another arises. Those of us who tend to procrastinate can relate. More work is always there, and the more we put it off, the more we suffer in the end.

 

The same is true with stress. If not dealt with on a daily basis, stress within yourself and your team will build to a crisis point.

I saw this within a company recently that bought out a competitor. It quadrupled its employee base and gained multiple facilities. The decision-makers meticulously planned for the transition in operations, customer relations, payroll and billing. But while computer systems were being built and new phone lines connected, management teams were being broken and long-standing employee relationships were severed. Their employee stress management plan was to dig in and do whatever it would take to get through the transition. Guess what. They’ve never stopped transitioning.   
 
Company growth is good, but we have to build in systems to manage the stress
that comes along with it. In regards to personal health, lack of stress managementlack of stress management leads to cardiovascular disease, lowered immunity and all kinds of other life-threatening conditions. Professionally, it can threaten the life of a company. Studies estimate that US businesses lose more than $300 billion in stress-related lost time, poor performance and employee turnover.stress-related lost time, poor performance and employee turnover.

While we will never create a stress-free workplace, we can begin to take steps to foster a culture of positive stress management in our lives and in our companies. How?

1) Manage by Example
Your career/team/company can only be as healthy as you are. If you’re running on energy drinks, chocolate bars and constant adrenaline, your team will be reluctant to take lunch, go for a walk or remain calm when facing deadlines. You may not have a choice about the stresses you’re given, but you have the power to choose how you’ll manage them.

2) Cultivate a Resilient WorkplaceResilient Workplace
Be flexible, or as I like to say, be flex-able. We’re all able to stretch, but how well we or our employees bounce back depends upon our response to challenges. Whether managing our own career or others, we have to expect and plan for course corrections, look for opportunities in problems, let go of a victim mentality and be willing to learn from our mistakes. It’s not necessarily the amount of stress we experience, but how quickly we can recover from the effects that impacts our health and wellbeing.

3) Don’t Sugar Coat It
If you or your employees are in a terribly stressful situation, acknowledge it. That alone lowers stress levels. Keep lines of communication open and encourage discussion. Collaboration, communication and camaraderie keep employees engaged in working toward solutions rather than focused on creating more problems.

Whether or not you think “stress can wait;” it won’t. And when it comes to putting stress management at the top of your daily “to do” list, you shouldn’t either.

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December 2011 Newsletter

Myth: Success is a Gift that Some Receive and Other Do Not

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A close friend of mine shared with me the other day that her husband had his annual review. He was hoping for a year-end bonus and expected at least a “cost-of-living” pay raise. He got neither. In his disappointment, his response to her was, “Well, some get what they want and others don’t.” The same is pretty much true when it comes to overall success, isn’t it? Think of all the bosses, colleagues, friends and acquaintances in your life. Are there those for whom success seems effortless? They always get the raise, the bonus and the promotion; not to mention the gorgeous house, brilliant kids and great teeth. The evidence is clear – success is a gift that some receive and others do not. Right?  Wrong!

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! (Can you tell that I’m personally invested in this one?) Success is not something you receive, nor is it a minion of fate that favors some over others. That myth is toxic. I know, because it impacted the direction of my personal and professional life for years.


My bio says that I have more than 20 years experience in creating successful outcomes within business operations, strategic sales, organizational development, finance and human resources management. What it does not tell you is that I spent at least 10 of those years chasing success and being miserable because I never found it. Yes, I had what it took to “create successful outcomes” in teams, departments and companies; but, it seemed, I could not create successful outcomes in my own life.

So I began to believe that success was something that was given to others. As I mentioned above, this belief was toxic; it fueled envy and self-pity. But it also was tempting; it absolved me of personal responsibility for the state of my life.

How did I get from that dark place to where I am now – a happy and successful business owner? That story I share in the upcoming, second volume of The Gratitude Book Project: 365 Day of GratitudeThe Gratitude Book Project: 365 Day of Gratitude. But I can tell you that the change in my life began when I stopped focusing on what I wanted and began paying attention to what others needed.

No one is given success, but I know that success can come through giving.

As we near the holidays – the time of bonuses, promotions and big purchases – it is easy to focus on the success others seem to “receive.” But remember, there are those for whom your life appears effortlessly successful as well. Giving them what they need rather than waiting to receive what you want may just be the real gift you have been searching for all along.

 

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February 2011 Newsletter

Myth: Getting Organized Means Staying Organized

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Get organized! How many times have you told yourself that? How many tips, tools and systems have you tried, only to find yourself back on the Internet two weeks later searching for ones that “really” work? Given that more than 21 million results come up when you Google “get organized,” surely there has to be something out there that will do the trick!  

Well, there is. In fact that’s part of the problem. Business leaders, are flooded with all kinds of organizational tips and toolsorganizational tips and tools, many of which are helpful. But we all know that getting organized is only half the battle; the most difficult part is staying organized. And finding effective strategies for that is, well, difficult. Even articles that have “staying organizedstaying organized” in their title tend to provide long lists of ways to get organized, but never really offer advice on how to stay there.

Over the years, as I’ve worked on organizational skills with my clients, I’ve developed a whole briefcase full of successful tips and tools for increasing organizational effectiveness. But after working through the tips and tools, I leave my clients with what I consider to be three essential steps they need to take in order to increase their chances of staying organized:

1) Forget the Quick Tips
Getting organized requires taking specific action steps (like using a calendar or prioritizing “to-do” lists) that can be packaged into quick tips and tools. That’s why those lists are so inviting. They make it sound so easy. And it is, at first. Unfortunately, staying organized isn’t. There are no quick tips for staying organized because staying organized isn’t an action; it’s a process — an ongoing, daily process of organizing and re-organizing. There will always be more paperwork, more phone calls, more emails and more meetings. In that sense, organization is never done.  

2) Feel the Pain
Instead of asking “How can I stay organized,” try asking yourself “What will happen if I don’t stay organized?” What would the answer be? Would you get mad at yourself? Fall behind? Let your team members down? Receive a poor evaluation?  

As Brian TracyBrian Tracy says, the mark of the superior thinker is his or her ability to accurately predict the consequences of doing or not doing. In other words, you need to emotionalize what staying organized means and feel the pain of not achieving it. Failing to walk through this step is the reason why many people stop following through on the actions they need to take every day to remain organized.  They may have emotionalized how great it would be to get organized, but never how awful it would be to not stay organized.  


3) Find the Fortitude
This is the part that no-one likes to hear. As with any new skill, mastering organizational effectiveness requires self-discipline and, unfortunately, there are no quick tips for acquiring that. Without self-discipline, organizational tips, tools and systems are null and void. Self-discipline means following-through on your commitment to stay organized. It means doing what you say you are going to do by putting the skills you’ve learned into practice every day. As we’ve all heard before, it takes 21 days to make a habit, but only 1 day to break it.

So, the next time you decide to get organized, remember that getting there and staying there are not one and the same. However, you may just find that what you need to stay organized may be the very things that will help you get organized in the first place.

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January 2011 Newsletter

Filling in"Performance Gaps"

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As business leaders, we want the New Year to be a successful one. And our success often depends on how effectively we manage our employees. Talking about that inevitably includes a discussion on Performance Management. Celebrated as a breakthrough management system, it promises, if properly implemented, to take businesses to a whole new level of functionality and profitability. For some companies, that’s been the case. But, as Patrick Hauenstein tells us in his article, “The Value Promise of Performance Management,”“The Value Promise of Performance Management,”  many businesses that use Performance Management tools, still struggle with “performance gaps” between “desired results” and “actual results.” In those cases, Performance Management isn’t quite living up to its promises. In his article, Hauenstein offers several compelling reasons as to why this may be the case.

Rather than recap his findings, though, I want to add two of my own reasons why I think some businesses are finding such a disconnect between Performance Management in theory and Performance Management in practice:

1. Performance Management means Project Management
As Hauenstein’s article points out, Performance Management is a process, not an event. Yup, it’s a process alright…a LONG, layered process with steps within steps, each one of which requires a strong commitment from leadership, clearly articulated goals, defined “next steps” and consistent follow-through. Translation? Managing employee performance is a huge project that, in and of itself, has to be managed. Successfully implementing Performance Management tools requires managers to already have effective project management skills in place---and many don’t. If they did, would they be looking to implement a new management system? It’s a bit of a catch 22.

2. Performance Management gets reduced to Performance Evaluation
Evaluating employee performance is an important part of Performance Management. But more often than not, it becomes the only tool out of the Performance Management toolbox that businesses actually use. Conducting performance evaluations is not Performance Management; it’s Management after the Performance---reactive rather than proactive. I’ve written a lot about how often I work with business leaders who are reluctant to planbusiness leaders who are reluctant to plan before launching into projects. Since implementing Performance Management means managing a multi-layered project (as I mentioned above), often the first layers---the ones that require up-front planning--- get dropped. So employee performance is being evaluated, but not actively managed from the start.

So, am I suggesting that businesses not use Performance Management tools? No. In fact Hauenstein’s article points out that those businesses that do successfully implement Performance Management tools reap 2.4 times the returns of typical companies in their industry. What I do suggest (and have used successfully with my clients), however, is adding a management tool called the Individual Development Plan (IDP) to the Performance Management toolbox. IDPs require leadership to be actively engaged in managing employee performance from the start. Employees and managers work together to create a written development plan built upon a full assessment of the employee’s strengths, weaknesses, job satisfaction and individual goals. Once that assessment is reviewed, both manager and employee outline mutual goals tied to the organization’s Vision, Mission and quarterly goals.  

The Individual Development Plan is a proactive management tool that: 1) doesn’t require up-front project management expertise to implement, and 2) requires leadership to plan, making them engage from the start instead of only evaluating at the end. In other words, Individual Development Plans help fill in the “performance gaps” of Performance Management which, ultimately, will help you fill in yours.

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July 2011 Newsletter

Myth: The More I Read, So, the Better I Will Lead

July 2011 enewsletter imageWhat’s on your summer reading list? A mystery? Novel? Biography? Well, if you haven’t picked your books yet and you’re looking to improve your leadership skills while working on your tan, you’re in luck. When you Google “books on how to become a better leader,” there are more than 990,000 suggestions. Clearly we’re a business community that is driven to be better leaders. And, given the number of books out there offering tips, tools and success stories, it’s safe to assume that the more of them we read, the more we’ll learn how to lead. Right? Wrong!

Now, don’t misunderstand me - I’m all for life-long learning and continue to do so myself. But, as my experience with leadership development has taught me, there comes a time in our lives when we have to stop reading in order to start succeeding!

Let me explain. When we’re first starting out in our careers, or transitioning from one field/job to another, books can serve as vital resources. As I wrote in my essay for the The Gratitude Book ProjectThe Gratitude Book Project, when I was at a crossroads in my personal and professional life, I spent a lot of time reading and reflecting – a process that ultimately gave me the courage to start my own company. But was it the books that empowered me to act? Of course not. The books served as a catalyst for self-reflection. And once I became more self-aware, I had the life-changing realization that, while I had owned many, many books, I had never truly owned my life or my career. Do you own yours? Or do you own books that tell you about someone else’s? How can we possibly lead others, when we aren’t yet leading ourselves?

That’s the question Harvard Professor, Bill George, has asked and the answer is, we can’t. Self-awareness is at the foundation of effective leadership.Self-awareness is at the foundation of effective leadership. All too often, though, in the trainings we attend and the books we read, we’re taught the leadership skills of others rather than the process it takes to discover our own. George puts it this way:

The essence of leadership is not trying to emulate someone else, no matter how brilliant they are. Nor is it having the ideal leadership style, achieving competencies or fixing your weaknesses. In fact, you don't need power or titles to lead. You only have to be authentic.

Authenticity does not come from reading someone else’s story; it comes from taking the time to know yours – who you are and why you think, feel and behave the way you do. So this summer, instead of a reading list, start working on your “leading” list, and trust that your story will give you the tools you need to become the leader you want to be. 

Then let's have a conversation about what's stopping you. Call or email Theresa today with your challenges to see how we can make what seems difficult simple. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 219-680-7720

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