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Finding the Balance of Competing Devotions

Finding Balance

These days, the ultimate question may not be “What is the meaning of life?”, but simply, “Where do I find the time to achieve balance?”

Between our work and personal lives (family, friends, exercise, sports, hobbies, community commitments), most of us have seriously overbooked ourselves. We strive so hard to “have it all”—fantastic work and other service that we’re passionate about, and passionate home lives that we work hard to nurture.

But with so many competing devotions, so many passions we must feed, we most often find ourselves just plain pooped. The stress can lead to health problems, poor sleep and fatigue, which means we get even less done (or take less pleasure in what we do accomplish). Ultimately, frustration mounts, our relationships suffer, and we wonder what went wrong.

To break out of the out-of-balance cycle and achieve better balance between our competing devotions, consider some of the following...

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Building Trust

Trust: Becoming a Trusted Leader

“We can build our leadership upon fear, obligation, or trust. However, only a foundation of trust results in the collaboration and goodwill necessary to achieve our peak performance.”

These words, from organizational design expert Roger Allen, could hardly be more succinct in expressing the central role that trust plays in building and leading high-performance organizations.

With the integrity of our business leaders under such a microscope these days, it’s valuable to take a moment for a refresher on trust in leadership. For integrity, though critical to trust, isn’t the only element of a trust-based management style. According to Seattle-based management expert Stephen Robbins, trust is based on four other distinct elements in your relationship with the people you lead:

  • At first this may seem strange—after all, can’t incompetent people be trusted? Of course, but not if you want to lead. Leaders are held to a...
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Take the Routine Out of Exercise

Exercise

Gabriel Randa was Mr. Target Heart Rate. Every day after work, he dutifully trucked to his health club to climb the stair exercise machine, jog on the treadmill and pedal up “huge inclines” on the stationary bike.

Trouble was, he was hugely bored and began to dread the gym.

Cindy Samlith wasn’t bored. She was too busy with very important work to take time out to exercise.

But a near-miss with breast cancer woke Cindy up to the need for physical activity and a reprieve from her previously high-stress, sedentary living.

Both found their answer by adding the simple childhood ingredient of play to either enhance or encourage physical activity.

We all know how important exercise is and what a lack of it can do to us.

Or do we?

Researchers recently described sedentary life as the second largest threat to public health, saying that chronic diseases have increased dramatically because of physical inactivity.

There must be a way to encourage the regular...

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Effective Listening for Leaders

With organizations, leaders and individuals so fervently focused on the bottom line, it’s easy to ignore “softer” goals, such as listening well. All that touchy-feeling stuff is a waste of my time, you might say or think.

On the contrary! A focus on listening can lead to more effective teamwork, higher productivity, fewer conflicts and errors, enhanced innovation and problem-solving, improved recruiting and retention, superior customer relations and more. As authors on leadership development have noted through the years, listening is not just a nice thing to do, it’s essential!

“Make the human element as important as the financial or the technical element,” wrote Stephen Covey in his seminal book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. “You save tremendous amounts of time, energy and money when you tap into the human resources of a business at every level. When you listen, you learn.

Leaders should focus on listening.

As...

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The Importance of Idle Time in a Fast-Forward World

Claiming the Empty Spaces
The Importance of Idle Time in a Fast-Forward World

“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

—W. H. Davies

You’re just about to leave for your dentist appointment when you receive a phone call saying the dentist has been called out on emergency and will have to reschedule your appointment.

Congratulations! You are the winner of one unexpected free hour!

What will you do with your winnings?

Answer your email? Return to the project you were working on before you had to leave? Pay bills? Return phone calls?

Ever consider doing nothing?

If you’re like many of us today, the thought of doing absolutely nothing for an entire hour seems as wasteful as throwing a week’s worth of groceries out with the garbage. Indeed, free time with nothing to do can generate near panic among some of us who are overloaded and time-starved.

“We seem to have a complex about busyness in our...

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Full Speed Ahead with Positive Thinking

Full Speed Ahead with “Yes, and” Thinking

Nothing zaps a great idea faster than “Yes, but….” You might as well say “No.”

It’s not just about semantics. In fact, “Yes, but” may be the No. 1 phrase for killing personal hope, putting great ideas on ice and threatening innovation in organizations.

Take Jonah, for example. Jonah is a senior manager in the real estate division of a large financial services company when he learns of an open position in the company’s prestigious new-product research team. He’s been successful in the real estate division, but never really fulfilled. What he really loves is the charge he gets brainstorming new ideas and researching their viability.

Jonah is excited to apply for the position—initially, then during a conversation with a friend, he says, “Yeah, I’d be great for that team, but you have to know someone to get named.” After the call, he finds...

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Self-Quiz: Are You “Too Busy?”

Time is the great equalizer. Everybody gets the same amount: 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour. We can’t save time or accumulate or rearrange it. We can’t turn it off or on. It can’t be replaced.

But these days, it seems as if the lament of not having enough time has become a national anthem. Everywhere people find themselves constantly in a rush, over-booked and over-scheduled with no time off. Life is accompanied by the ongoing stress of not enough time. And sometimes doing too much and being too busy can be a way of numbing feelings or disguising depression or anger.

Though it may not always seem so, how we fill our time and how we spend it is our choice. Answer the following questions to discover if you’re caught up in the “too-busy” cycle.

  1. I constantly find myself doing “urgent” things and trying to catch up.
  2. I allow myself to drift into obligations when I don’t know how much time or energy they’ll require.
  3. I...
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Top 10 Powerful Questions to Ask

The poet e.e. cummings wrote: “Always the beautiful answer, who asks a more beautiful question.” Indeed, solid strategic plans, strong work relationships, high morale and improved performance are all byproducts of good questions. This potent communication tool can help you discover important information about your work, yourself, your associates, your customers—and create insights that otherwise might have remained hidden.

Asking questions without leading, prompting or interrupting shows that you’re really listening. It encourages us to suspend assumptions, which helps prevent miscommunication, unrealistic expectations, stress, damaged relationships and unfulfilled responsibilities. Below are just a few questions that can have powerful effects on your work and life. Just be sure to LISTEN to the answers.

1. What is it that you’d like to see accomplished and how do you see it happening?

2. What are your thoughts? Your concerns?

3. What self-limiting...

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10 Best Email Habits

Utilize these efficient tactics to increase your productivity.

Improving your email habits can drastically increase your productivity. Like any new approach, these take focus and practice. But after awhile, they will become habits that support you.

1. Check email only at scheduled times for a specified amount of time. Twice a day for 30-60 minutes works well for many. Unplug until the next scheduled time.

2. Unsubscribe relentlessly. Make sure you receive only the things you really want to— and do—read.

3. Reduce the amount of routed email (i.e., cc’d from coworkers) to only that which is essential.

4. “Slash and burn” on your first pass through your inbox. Use the second pass for replies and other follow-up actions.

5. Empty your inbox every day and keep it that way. Delete most and file the rest.

6. Include all of your contact information in your signature—phone, fax, website—so that others don’t have to hunt for this information.

7....

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