Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Do you have the NEW work-life balance?

La Fanfare d'Occasion à Blandy-les-Tours

JobPro’s management team slunk into the room for Thursday’s meeting. Two weeks of 60+ hour work weeks had stolen their engagement.  Most crash-landed in their chairs, some with a sigh. Dave just stood, staring across the room, instead of starting the meeting.  No wonder productivity had dipped.

“You gonna start this so we can get out of here or what?” Marlene snarled

“I’m gettin’ there.  Needed a bit to collect my thoughts,” Dave replied.

“Looked more like staring into space,” Marlene replied.

“Give him a break.  It’s not like anyone’s thinking clearly with all the overtime and staff cuts,” defended Phyllis.

“Yeah, and why’d they have to get rid of Jackie?” Barry chimed in.

All their conflict washed over Dave.  He felt stress clawing at his insides. His frustration blended with theirs.  Everyone had been picking up the slack of his or her lost teammates.  What could he say?  Their life outside of work was gone.  His own work-home boundary lines had been blurred.  Venting his frustration would only add to the rising tide of disunity…

“Life Harmony” a new paradigm

The longing for life harmony makes dissonance increasingly unpleasant. Dissonance brought on by inconsistency between what you believe and how you behave sometimes.

Harmony, on the other hand, is a pleasing arrangement of parts. In your story, harmony is the interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative. Life harmony represents the new work-life balance.

First, there is the harmony of being human – the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual “parts” which create your story.  Physical chaos occurs when the need for rest, nutrition, and activity are ignored. Mental chaos can be brought on by what Douglas Rushkoff calls, digiphrenia“a digitally disordered condition of mental activity.” Distracted by the constant connection of technology, mindless entertainment, advertising, and social media adding to the turmoil.  Emotional chaos happens when fears are unaddressed, gratitude is unexpressed, and forgiveness is withheld. Spiritual chaos comes if we choose a worldview of self-sovereignty and providence.

Life harmony is the new work-life balance. The image supports giving voice to all your roles in life as a man or woman, a son or daughter, a sibling, perhaps a spouse or parent, an employee or employer and so forth.

Life harmony is less about share of voice and more about voice recognition. Imagine a vocal ensemble with beautiful harmony.

Harmony is achieved when each voice sings its part.

Said another way, life harmony blends the role of individual, family, community, and work into a single narrative. Think about it. Your Story began when you showed up as a person, the newest member of a family; you found your place in a community where you learned how to make your contribution through meaningful work.

Everyday is an opportunity to cultivate life harmony. Today, you will add to your story. Are you writing the story you will want to tell?

Control the pace to create space

The pace of life provides little margin. What happens when the pace of life out of control? It becomes easy to live “out of control.” To create life harmony in the midst of chaos demands discipline.

Creating space is the disciplined use of time, place and resources to reflect on what’s really going on. Chaos happens; harmony is intentional. When your actions are aligned with your beliefs and values the new work-life balance is near.

Dave took a deep breath. “Grab a piece of paper and finish this sentence: I’m grateful for…. List your top five or so. Got it?

Surprisingly, Barry was first to start writing. Marlene just stared at the blank page before starting.

“What was that like for you?” Dave asked.

“I feel more positive … more grateful,” Phyllis said.

“Yeah, it helped me to realize how much I’ve got to be thankful for,” Barry chimed in.

Dave took another deep breath and pressed ahead, “Now, you won’t be asked to share this, but who is the team member you have the most conflict with?”

He waited and watched the look on their faces. “Okay, finish this sentence: One of the things I appreciate about (person’s name) is….”

As they looked up from writing, Dave asked, “What do you notice about yourself, what changed?”

“I started to see them as a person,” Marlene confessed.

“It caused me to look for the positive instead of the negative,” Barry said.

“Sometimes, we get so caught up in our work, our agenda, and the pace around here that all we do is deal with problems. Then, we allow the “problem” to build a wall between us and we lose sight of the people.” Dave continued, “Gratitude and appreciation grease our relationship gears, helping to reduce the friction and reduce the unnecessary stress.”

The energy of JobPro’s management meeting changed. It became a time and place for the team to step out of the chaos and re-connect as people. With time set aside to think, new ideas were discussed and the energy of the team increased. It wasn’t a quick fix, but a beginning.

So, with pen and paper in hand, what are you grateful for?

Who are you in conflict with? Now, what do you appreciate about him or her?

What do you think about the NEW work-life balance idea of “life harmony?”  When do you create space to think and listen to your Story?

Here’s to your freedom,


PS: If you want to be a self-managed leader or want to develop your team, Next Generation Leaders coaching is available for individuals or business teams. Get more details at the team-based coaching page.

Want to listen to a great example of harmony? Watch this 2-minute video of the vocal group Committed.


Photo credit: Matthieu Luna via Compfight

How to contribute to your disengagement

Flood Road Closed

Christina’s work eats an unhealthy portion of her life.  The past 20 years she intensely pursued her career. More recently she carried a heavy load with a start-up of epic proportion.

The cost? It’s taken a toll on her relationships and leadership … yes, conflict and unnecessary stress. The demand and pace squeeze out self-limiting behaviors that have minimized trust, disengaged the team, and created frustration.

Business eats people

The nature of business is to consume – not right or wrong – just the nature of business, which includes eating people. Business consumes, produces, exports, depletes the inventory … and then, asks for more. One leadership function is to determine how much of an employee’s life is consumed to do business. That leader is you.

As a self-managed leader, you stand at the mouth of the “beast” (no judgment, just descriptive) and must determine how much of your time, your energy, your creativity, and your life you will feed it. Whether you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, frontline worker, new manager, middle manager, vice president, or CEO … How much will you feed the beast?

Smartphone snacking

The beast likes to snack and technology makes it easy. Yes, this is about drawing boundaries … a line between work and personal time, family, recreation and rest? To stay engaged requires life harmony (the new work-life balance.) Setting work boundaries is critical to engagement, as reported in a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled “Using a Smartphone after 9 pm Leaves Workers Disengaged.”

Smartphones fit work activity into life outside the workplace. Easy access to email, the web, video conference calls, webinars, text messaging – even old-fashioned voice calls – all allow work to be done anywhere, anytime. How much work has invaded your non-work hours?

To stay engaged and productive research indicates we need space …

This greater connectivity comes at a cost: using a smartphone to cram more work into a given evening results in less work done the next day. The reason for this … is that smartphones are bad for sleep, and sleep is very important to effectiveness.

…that a well-rested employee is a better employee is well established by research. To note just a few recent studies, insufficient sleep has been linked to more unethical behavior at work, cyberloafing, and work injuries, and less organizational citizenship behavior.

Predictable time off

Considering the research and the undesirable outcomes of insufficient sleep, how you are you doing? How well to you create space for life outside of work? When do you create space for reflective thinking? How committed are you to taking time off? Where are your boundaries? Simply put, what’s your bedtime?

It was a new experience for Christian, she “took advantage” of days off at Christmas. Returning to work she noticed a difference in her perspective, the reward of “time off.” To pursue greater life harmony, she committed to the following:

  1. Daily appointment – for 30 minutes the door is shut, devices muted, a little music is added, and she creates space to think
  2. Business hours – she is leaving the office at a reasonable time to go home
  3. Disconnecting  – she does not log on and work from home during the evening, unless it’s an emergency
  4. Time off – she plans to enjoy days off in 2014

For you to think about:

  • If you establish predictable time off, what would that look like in your story?
  • How is your sleep affected by your work habits? Load? What can you do about it?
  • What boundaries do you need to set up?

Here’s to your breakthrough in 2014,


Smile. Think. Be present …

 Next Generation Leaders 2014 – Tulsa

Most businesses expect employees to turn into leaders with a title.  They load them up with responsibilities and a diverse team of people to manage.  Conflicts arise.  Pressure builds.  People leave. Managers crumble. Those who navigate their way to success seem to have leadership planted in them at birth.

But the study of truly effective leaders reveals that leaders learn to lead.  Their success depends on whether or not they become self-managed.

Next Generation Leaders turns employees into self-managed teams and leaders,

Get more details on Team-Based Coaching.

Photo credit: Ian Britton via Compfight
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Why self-managed matters


For over 20 years, Toni’s career has moved forward. Respected for her technical expertise, she is an “outstanding contributor.”  But the feedback on her people skills is another story. Relationships are strained. While “brilliant” she is seen as unapproachable. Her personal influence is restricted by impatience and no tolerance for incompetence.

How much stress do you think Toni experiences and adds to the workplace?

Workplace stress

The Wall Street Journal reports “Stress is the number one workforce risk issue, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity” when it comes to health and productivity. However, employers and employees disagree on the causes of stress. Towers Watson’s recent Staying@Work Survey reveals the differing views.

The employer view of the top 5 causes of employee stress:

  1. Lack of work/life balance (excessive workloads or long hours)
  2. Inadequate staffing (lack of support, uneven workload or performance in group)
  3. Technologies that expand availability during non-working hours
  4. Unclear or conflicting job expectations
  5. Fears about job loss; too much change

The employee view of their stress:

  1. Inadequate staffing (lack of support, uneven workload or performance in group)
  2. Low pay or low increases in pay
  3. Unclear or conflicting job expectations
  4. Organizational culture, including lack of teamwork, and tendency to avoid accountability and assign blame to others
  5. Lack of work/life balance (excessive workloads or long hours)

If your goal is to reduce stress, the employee’s message is: “Pay me adequately. Support me on the job. Guide me on my job priorities.”

What if…?

What does it take to thrive in today’s stressful, lean and mean workplace? At least part of the answer is self-managed teams and leaders. Check out a few of their characteristics to see if you agree:

  1. Gets the business of people (understands who they are and the behavior styles of others)
  2. Communicates and engages others effectively
  3. Sets clear expectations
  4. ‪Establishes and builds trust
  5. Accepts personal responsibility
  6. Accountable to self and team
  7. Creates less stress and unnecessary conflict
  8. Engaged and highly productive

Imagine your workplace experience as you and your team show up like that. The reward? Engagement, productivity, performance, less stress and unnecessary conflict.

How committed are you to leadership development?

Toni is fortunate her company supports personal and professional growth. Executive coaching created space to activate her ability and willingness to learn and change unproductive behavior. She gained insight into the “why” of her behavior and picked up a few new tools. Her performance improved bringing less stress and unnecessary conflict.

The organization did not change. She changed. Now she is more engaged, productive, and is expanding her personal influence. Work is less stressful for her and her colleagues.

So how stressful is your workplace? How much do you add to the stress? What can you do to reduce the stress?

Now, about your performance improvement plan for 2014 …

Here’s to your Next Level,


Improve engagement, performance, and productivity by developing self-managed teams and leaders in 2014. Check out the support offered with team-based coaching or executive coaching.

Photo credit: Fabio Gismondi via Compfight

Why just show up?

The kindness of strangers

Going the extra mile counts.

What happens when someone gives more effort than is expected? And when your waiter does more than required?

People who go the extra mile are in the minority in today’s workplace. Gallup’s recent worldwide survey reports that only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs.

Where are you?

Here are Gallup’s definitions. What do you see?

  1. Engaged. You work with passion and feel a profound connection to your company. You push innovation and move your organization forward.
  2. Not Engaged. You’re checked out – sleepwalking through your workday – putting your time in but not energy or passion.
  3. Actively Disengaged. You aren’t just unhappy at work you are busy acting out your unhappiness. You undermine what others are accomplishing.

Harvard Business Review reports engagement levels for the United States. Only 30% are Engaged or “emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day.” Those Not Engaged account for 52% of the workforce and 14% are Actively Disengaged. Where are you?

Why does your engagement matter?

Yes, employee engagement leads to business growth and higher profits. But what if you don’t own the business? Why does it matter?

Who do you want to work with? Engaged employees collaborate and contribute to the good things happening at the office. They are involved, enthusiastic, and committed, accountable and responsible. They not only understand their assignment but also look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes. Productivity is high.

Gallup’s study also reports characteristics associated with engaged employees:

  1. They are more optimistic about the economy.
  2. They describe their life as thriving.
  3. They have more positive daily interaction.

Sound good?

The path to engagement

Here are four mile markers adapted from Gallup’s research. Where are you on the journey?

  1. Just Starting: So, what’s in it for me? Feeling secure.
  2. Moving Forward: How do I make my contribution? Feeling valued.
  3. Gaining Speed: How am I connected, is it a good fit? Feeling accepted.
  4. Got Momentum: Where is the opportunity for my development? Are my ideas being considered? Feeling confident.

Going the extra mile is a good thing. Life is better for everyone when you do more than just show up.

Here’s to your Next Level,


Improve engagement, performance, and productivity by developing self-managed teams and leaders. Check out the support offered with Next Generation Leaders team-based coaching.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons LicenseEd Yourdon via Compfight

Where did the unhappy people go? – Part 2

How many times have you said, “I can’t wait until…” or “I’ll be happy when I …?”

309/365 happy happy joy joy

Something has zapped the happiness of our workforce. According to the 2011 version of The Conference Board Job Satisfaction Survey only 47.2 percent of the respondents reported “satisfaction.” The first year for the survey (1987) a 61.1 percent satisfaction rate was recorded … yes, 61 percent!

The chicken or the egg?

So, which comes first happiness or success? Is it that …

  • People who work hard will be successful and successful people are happy people? Or,
  • People who are happy become more successful?

What do you think?

The advantage of happiness

Shawn Achor, in The Happiness Advantage, reveals the following:

Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers.

It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at the best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive. (p. 15)

Fifty-six percent? Sounds good to me. So what makes the difference?

The curiosity of youth

Optimistic people experience life as an adventure. They face the day with joy, gratitude, appreciation, and … curiosity.

Curiosity is inquisitive thinking. What if…? How could we make it better? What could we do differently? Notice the thinking encouraged by these open-ended questions. They brim with untapped possibilities and potential. Life is to be explored.

After reading, “What if “they” fire the unhappy people?” Jeffrey commented from his Story:

I was blessed to spend a week at camp with 7-9 year old boys and just returned late last night. I saw wonder and curiosity in most boys and I saw unfathomable happiness in these boys. I also saw a dark cloud around some boys who rejected new adventures and were in the rut of being “fed” their entertainment at home.

What characterizes your life?

Are you feeding yourself “wonder and curiosity” or “easy entertainment?” The unhappy campers were in their comfort zone.

Which path are you taking?

What could happen in your Story if you are more optimistic … more curious?

Here’s to your Next Level,


PS: Enjoy this brief video (2:09) featuring Shan Achor answering the question: “What is the Happiness Advantage?”  If you prefer more content (12:29), here is Shawn Achor’s at TEDxBloomington.

Photo Credit: Katie Harris via Compfight

Where did the unhappy people go?

Mr. Fox, unhappy?

“I finally figured out how to improve employee morale,” David McInnis said to Roy Williams.

Productivity skyrockets and everyone loves coming to work. It’s program that never fails. Works every time.”

I stood there looking at David.

He stood there looking at me.

Finally, I raised my shoulders and turned my palms upward.

Looking steadily into my eyes, David said, “Fire all the unhappy people.”

Liberty to explore

Unhappy people seem to experience life as unfortunate, hopeless, ill fated, doomed, unsatisfactory or sad. What do you think … want to bet your success on the productivity of unhappy people?

In “What Happy People Do Differently” Todd Kasdan and Robert Biswas-Diener write:

Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people are, simply put, curious.

Curiosity, it seems, is largely about exploration — often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser.  (Psychology Today July/August 2012 p. 53)

Freedom requires truth. How willing are you to explore your Story for truth (the facts and reality of your life)? How curious are you?

Go for it!

More than negative vs. positive, happy people seem to experience life as an adventure. They face the day with joy, gratitude and appreciation … curiosity. Life is big and designed to be explored … including their leadership development.

People who know their purpose and live with passion while serving others are happier. Overcoming fear, they challenge comfort zones and go for it. Who do you want on your team?

Welcome to “Spacious Place”

What would happen to “employee morale” if you and your team work as free people … living with purpose and passion while seeing and serving others?   

  • Purpose – Why you work beyond making a living. What’s the difference you want to make in the world? Why are you here?
  • Passion – What do you love to do?
  • Seeing others – How well do you see the people around you?
  • Serving others – How do you help others achieve success?

Imagine how engagement and productivity would soar if you and your team enjoyed the freedom and happiness that comes with “living life with purpose and passion while seeing and serving others.”

Sure, you can have “one of those days” but on the whole, how do others experience you at work?

If the unhappy people were fired, what would happen in your Story?

Photo credit: Aaron Hockley via Compfight

The Control of Letting Go

Her control-oriented manager was frustrated letting Sara know all that she was doing wrong. The emotion was equal to the frustration, “It’s a good thing I didn’t come to your office yesterday or I would have walked you out the door right then.”


Martin Gommel via Compfight

Sara’s manager represents another hostage of “out-of-control” behavior. However, as Sara reflected on the Story the application became clear because Sara likes “control”, too.

The drive to (try to) control others pushed her thinking, self-limiting behavior, and performance. Recognizing her desire to control, she began the journey to letting go.

The affect on relationships and productivity from people trying to be “in control” is harmful. My last two posts: “What if you don’t let go? and “What if you care too much?generated a lot of conversations. This derogatory term for wannabe dictators struck close to home.

Why control trying to control others?

Keith Ayers, in Engagement is Not Enough, writes about how managers can unintentionally increase the disengagement of their employees. His short list includes:

  1. An obsession with financial results
  2. An obsession with control
  3. An obsession with avoiding responsibility
  4. An obsession with logic

He correctly observes the lack of research to support a control-based approach to leadership and management.

How does a control-oriented leader show up? Ayers points, summarized here, are insightful. Such leaders…

  • Assume that people cannot be trusted and send that message to their team
  • Micromanage employees, believing that tasks will not be completed to their standards unless they are checking in on their teams
  • Assume employees do not really want to work, and therefore they need to continue to drive them to achieve results
  • Believe that, as the manager, they have all the knowledge and experience, and therefore they need to make all the decisions about how to improve performance

Note how leaders who seek excessive control display out-of-control behavior, all the while living with the illusion of being in control. What does that look like?

Consider the emotional statement Sara’s boss made to her about firing her on the spot. Yes, it was out of control. (To this manager’s credit, she did apologize later.) Apology accepted. Nevertheless, how do you think this exchange affected Sara’s engagement as an employee? How would it affect yours?

How committed will Sara (an emerging leader) be in an environment where the potential of “one wrong move and you’re out of here” is at least implied? Furthermore, how does such behavior create an obstacle to Sara’s ability and willingness to support her manager’s success?

Influence vs. Control

Leaders who release control demonstrate self-control and expand their influence. Influence allows support to flow to you … it is about collaborating instead of commanding.

  • Influence is the freedom to have a positive effect on others
  • Influence allows you to capture the devotion and allegiance of others
  • Influence allows you to achieve your goals
  • Influence is the freedom from trying to prove you are in charge, allowing everyone to contribute and enjoy success

Great performance comes from an environment where great people have an opportunity to contribute their unique perspective, talent, and voice to the process, project, or job. You cannot control the process but you can direct it as you communicate vision, set expectations, and define outcomes.

To release control – “Let it go!” - is an act of liberation from a self-imposed burden. The power to accomplish more is immediate as you tap into the creativity of others and allow collaboration. Trust, improved morale, open communication, employee engagement, and improved performance are your reward.

How does it happen?

It requires a change in leadership behavior.

The irony is that leaders who release control demonstrate self-control and expand their influence.

Sara (who wants to be in control) is learning how to take a deep breath, evaluate what she is thinking, and release control. Let it go! Her performance is improving, and she has the freedom to use her strengths as she gets out of her own way.

Everyone is capable of this.

However, when unaware, Sara is reactionary and unintentional in her behavior. Her need to control pushes an out-of-control use of her strengths, resulting in unproductive behavior and people conflict.

As Thomas á Kempis wrote,

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

The objective of leadership is not control but influence.

Where do you see this paradox in your Story? Where are you caring too much? What if you don’t “Let it go?”

Here’s to your next level…