The economy of our time

How profound would your life be if you truncated fluff from your daily schedule and replaced it with actions that matter?

Let’s say this is a prototypical weekday schedule for many American millenials:

6am-7am – Workout

7am-8am – Get ready for work

8am-5pm – Work

5pm-6pm – Eat

6pm-7pm – Browse internet, facebook, chat with friends

7pm-9pm – Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, etc…

9pm-10pm – Get ready for bed, various tasks

10pm – Go to sleep.

This is pretty close to typical for many people in my age group. It’s not a bad day – and let me make it clear that I am not against this – but what’s the point?

“Wake, eat, work, eat, work, eat, rest, sleep, repeat.” Is that what we hope others remember of us long after we’re gone?  Where is the impact on the world?

What if life could have more purpose by rearranging some things and prioritizing a more profound focus on others?

6am-7am – Workout

7am-8am – Get ready for work

8am-5pm – Work

5pm-6pm – Eat

6pm-7pm – Volunteer somewhere

7pm-8pm – Journal/meditate/pray/blog about your volunteer experience

8pm-9pm – Decompression time. Netflix, book, whatever.

9pm – 9:30pm – Intentional time to connect with a loved one

9:30pm -10pm – Get ready for bed

10pm – Sleep

In an ideal world, consider this schedule. A person gives 1-2 hours a day towards bettering others. There is still self-care, still introvert time, and still time to let the brain rest…

Imagine a world where we each invested 1 hour a day in improving each other.

Each person would give 7 hours a week, 365 hours a year to others.

A town of 50,000 people would give 350,000 hours a week to each other!

How would this effect society? Politics? Socio-economic divide? Poverty? Depression? Mental and physical health?

Is this commitment possible? What do you think? Or am I just one more idealist millennial blogger, dreaming big and believing too much in the goodness of others?

 

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The identity of a leader

Who are you? I mean – really.

Have you ever found yourself claiming an identity that – upon further reflection – only applied to your past self and no longer reflected your present-day identity?

yesterday

I can remember being 10. When I turned 11, I continued to say I was 10, simply out of habit.

This also applied to my work. 3-4 years ago, I loved going on long distance hikes of 15-20 miles at a time. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that distance in a day but I still feel tempted out of habit to respond “long distance hiking” when others at work ask me what my favorite outdoor activities are. Nowadays, the truthful answer is probably “dog park” or “casual bike ride.”

Our yesterday is often not our today.

today

It is a challenge to live in reality and the present-day consistently. Our pride in yesterday’s accomplishments can cloud our present-day understanding of our self, our performance, and our impact.

Your past has helped define who are you but that is only a part of your self. For instance – if you saw yourself as a developer in your management role because you promoted 5 people 3 years ago… but you haven’t promoted anyone since… are you still a “developer?” Or have you shifted into a different season of management, life, style?

Your daily actions in the present inform who you are, just as your present-day identity informs your actions.

tomorrow

Who do you want to be? What impact do you want to have on the people, the world around you in the future? What do you want your legacy to be when you’re long gone?

These are questions that sobering but imperative to answer. Here’s the cool thing: You can have a lot of say around what your future looks like. You can lead, influence, and impact the world and the people you come in contact with.

Leadership and identity start with a choice. Who will you choose to be? Will you choose to have an impact? What will your tomorrow be and will you matter?

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Leadership is like playing baseball

Tim Anderson

(Image courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times)

Those of you that know me well know that I am a big White Sox fan. In fact, so big a White Sox fan that I follow their minor league teams and prospects. Yeah, I’m a nerd.

The #1 White Sox prospect, Tim Anderson, is a prospect who can hit well but has been criticized around his raw defensive abilities – specifically positioning. Defensive positioning in baseball refers to how a player faces the batter before the ball is hit, the stance in which he sets himself up to field the ball, etc…

So as I was reading an article on Tim Anderson this morning, I got to thinking (because everything in life can be a metaphor for everything in life)…as leaders, do we position ourselves to be successful? I’m not talking about peacocking or crying for attention – that is the last thing I’m interested in – but how do we set ourselves up to become better in everything we do? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Which way do you face? The ball is coming right at you. Do you turn and run? Do you turn to the right and try to field it at a 90 degree angle? Or do you face the incoming ball? My inclination is to be bold, to face it head on with bravery and tact. This bodes well for big challenges in leadership when it can be scary but we know that our teams are relying on us to field the ball and make a play. Leaders face the action.
  2. What are your joints doing? Bear with me. When a ball is hit hard and bouncing toward you, it can sometimes take unpredictable bounces. If you are stiff-legged and standing fully upright, you run the risk of not being able to react on the spot. Instead, leaders have flexed knees, leaning in slightly towards the batter – ready to react on the fly and to manage the change on the fly as needed. Leaders posture themselves that allows them to be nimble.
  3. What are your eyes doing? Are you looking at the clouds above you? Maybe watching the weird dude in the stands whose hot dog just got ketchup all over his shirt? Or are you focused on the batter – no – focused on the ball and anticipating the angle at which it will hit the bat so you can proactively begin to move towards its destination? Leaders stay focused, enjoying the game, but never losing sight of where they are at and how they can succeed in every situation of the game.
  4. The ball just went past you as you missed making a routine play. What do you do? Baseball players have coaches and instructors who are constantly providing advice, critique, and input in an effort to make players better. Just like baseball players, leaders have input and thoughts spinning at them constantly. So – do you confidently yet open-mindedly receive this input and try to make yourself better? Or do you close off? Leaders can receive other ideas, positioning themselves for lifelong learning.

How are you positioning yourself to succeed today, tomorrow, and 20 years from now?

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Fuel the Fire

Being a manager, in it’s essence, involves a tesselation between deconstructing what is ineffective and reconstructing/rebuilding what can be most effective. Many managers are known for doing the former well, whereas others are known for doing the latter. The key is being balanced and doing both effectively.

Recently, a person close to me and I were talking about how to build others up and elevate others. There are many answers and approaches to this. I appreciated hers.

“I find what my people are most passionate about…and I provide fuel for their fire… and then I teach them how to fuel their own fire.”

Simple but extremely insightful…and something we all can contribute to in some fashion. So, here’s my challenge to you (and myself for that matter): Find 3 people today that you know relatively well. Identify their biggest passion around contributing to your organization or business. And fuel it. Find ways for them to use that skill more. Give them recognition for being awesome. Fuel the fire.

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Above the treeline

IMG_2009

I was talking to a person close to me the other day. She has an opportunity to build her resume and plug her talents into an organization that she loves. To get it started, all she has to do is call them. I asked her “Have you called them?” and she responded “I just didn’t have time today.”

I recently had another person close to me mention their interest in getting a promotion… but to do that, they needed to create a strategy for what they’d do in the prospective position. When I followed up with that person, they let me know that they’ve been so busy with their day-to-day job that they haven’t been able to make the necessary hour of time for this task.

How many times do we have greatness within our grasp but we are too caught up in maintaining the status quo to reach out and grab that opportunity?

It’s like hiking on a mountain. There is a nearby trail that is heavily wooded and absolutely beautiful. It’s hard to dislike the trail in any way. However, as tempting as it is to be satisfied with the wooded view of the trees and surrounding forest, a much more marvelous view exists just a mile above the start to the trail. Think: a view above the tree canopy featuring snow-capped volcanoes, alpine lakes, and an endless sky. The push to the top is well worth it.

So ponder this: How would your life, your career, your well-being change if you made 30 minutes a week to look beyond the daily life? To think beyond what is immediately around you? And how would those 30 minute sessions impact your life a year from now?

There might be something really cool above the treeline.

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Not enough brainpower for everything

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Recently CNN posted an interesting article that looked at why certain successful entrepreneurs (eg Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs) choose to only have one outfit. In their article, East and Tinker more or less cite efficiency of brain power as the reason. The more brain power we use on decisions that are irrelevant or less significant, the less brain power we have for more significant and impactful decisions. Information overload can harm productivity. It’s a good article and covers more than a couple topics.

My brain is a muscle and I want to make sure I am using it but not over-using it. This article inspired me to spend time examining my priorities: what are they and what should they not be? I’ve personally made an increase/reduce table and it goes a bit like this:

Increase (decisions for higher impact):

-Spending more time managing relationships proactively

-Intentionally focusing more on the immediate environment/present

-Spending more energy on assessing my own physical and emotional well-being

Reduce (decisions that are lower impact):

-Trivial decisions energy (where to eat, what to eat, exercise questions, being rushed/hurrying to appointments, etc…) through better planning ahead of time

-The noise around me (radio, podcasts…) to lessen some of the overstimulus in life

-Making things more complex than necessary

Brainpower and decisions are currency; We only have so much and we should be smart about how we invest. What do you need to increase or reduce in order to manage your brainpower better?

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9 ways to keep great employees from quitting

Travis Bradberry just wrote a nice article on inc42.com that deserves a share. It’s regarding employee turnover and how a manager can best manage their relationships with their team. Even though I’d prefer a positive point of view (eg 9 great practices), Bradberry effectively shows 9 negative behaviors managers can exact to push people away. So here goes…

It’s pretty incredible how often you hear managers complaining about their best employees leaving, and they really do have something to complain about—few things are as costly and disruptive as good people walking out the door.

Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun, while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.

The sad thing is that this can easily be avoided. All that’s required is a new perspective and some extra effort on the manager’s part.

First, we need to understand the nine worst things that managers do that send good people packing.

They Overwork People

Nothing burns good employees out quite like overworking them. It’s so tempting to work your best people hard that managers frequently fall into this trap. Overworking good employees is perplexing; it makes them feel as if they’re being punished for great performance. Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.

If you must increase how much work your talented employees are doing, you’d better increase their status as well. Talented employees will take on a bigger workload, but they won’t stay if their job suffocates them in the process. Raises, promotions, and title-changes are all acceptable ways to increase workload. If you simply increase workload because people are talented, without changing a thing, they will seek another job that gives them what they deserve.

They Don’t Recognize Contributions And Reward Good Work

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.

They Don’t Care About Their Employees

More than half of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate an employee’s success, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge people, even when it hurts. Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates. It’s impossible to work for someone eight-plus hours a day when they aren’t personally involved and don’t care about anything other than your production yield.

They Don’t Honor Their Commitments

Making promises to people places you on the fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door. When you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honorable (two very important qualities in a boss). But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as slimy, uncaring, and disrespectful. After all, if the boss doesn’t honor his or her commitments, why should everyone else?

They Hire And Promote The Wrong People

Good, hard-working employees want to work with like-minded professionals. When managers don’t do the hard work of hiring good people, it’s a major demotivator for those stuck working alongside them. Promoting the wrong people is even worse. When you work your tail off only to get passed over for a promotion that’s given to someone who glad-handed their way to the top­­­­­­­, it’s a massive insult. No wonder it makes good people leave.

They Don’t Let People Pursue Their Passions

Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction. But many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies show that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.

They Fail To Develop People’s Skills

When managers are asked about their inattention to employees, they try to excuse themselves, using words such as “trust,” “autonomy,” and “empowerment.” This is complete nonsense. Good managers manage, no matter how talented the employee. They pay attention and are constantly listening and giving feedback.

Management may have a beginning, but it certainly has no end. When you have a talented employee, it’s up to you to keep finding areas in which they can improve to expand their skill set. The most talented employees want feedback—more so than the less talented ones—and it’s your job to keep it coming. If you don’t, your best people will grow bored and complacent.

They Fail To Engage Their Creativity

The most talented employees seek to improve everything they touch. If you take away their ability to change and improve things because you’re only comfortable with the status quo, this makes them hate their jobs. Caging up this innate desire to create not only limits them, it limits you.

They Fail To Challenge People Intellectually

Great bosses challenge their employees to accomplish things that seem inconceivable at first. Instead of setting mundane, incremental goals, they set lofty goals that push people out of their comfort zones. Then, good managers do everything in their power to help them succeed. When talented and intelligent people find themselves doing things that are too easy or boring, they seek other jobs that will challenge their intellects.

Bringing It All Together

If you want your best people to stay, you need to think carefully about how you treat them. While good employees are as tough as nails, their talent gives them an abundance of options. You need to make them want to work for you.

About the Author: Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, TIME, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

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