Posts Tagged ‘Disengagement’

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

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

Why employees plan to leave

he loves her!


How many high performers intend to stay with your company? Where will they be one year from now?

The collision between “the need to reinvest in development and a disgruntled workforce ready to jump ship,” is pending according to Chief Learning Officer.

Employee engagement can be obstructed by the expectation to do more with less, down sizing and reorganization challenges, benefit cutbacks and a general uncertainty. The CLO survey reports that engagement of “the highest-potential employees dropped by 18%” and 1 in 4 indicated “turnover intention.”

Beyond the basics of retention

Most companies understand that to merely keep employees they must provide 1) a fair pay structure and competitive benefit package, 2) tools and resources, and 3) work that provides variety, challenge, and autonomy. But there is more.

A recent Corporate Executive Board survey reports that whether a high potential employee stays or not is “heavily dependent on whether employees feel valued and believe that there is a long-term commitment to their development.”

In fact, 26% of employees plan to leave due to the lack of career development opportunity. (Workplace Insights Survey) Offering development, learning, and advancement opportunities must be a basic strategy for engaging and retaining top performers.

Someone cares, right?

Winning the loyalty of the best requires one more thing: a good boss. Effective leaders — at all levels — are vital. The Center for Creative Leadership, World Leadership Survey notes:

We are not just talking about the strategic visioning done at the top level of an organization—we are talking about how good leaders are at all levels. We all know from personal experience how critical a good boss is, and plenty of evidence shows that people leave jobs because of their bosses more than because of the organization itself.

A manager’s technical savvy does not win the hearts of top talent. High performers want leadership. Having a boss with people skills is a big deal. Today’s manager must have core skills like the ability to build trust, to connect and communicate, to set expectations and delegate.

Employees who believe their manager cares about them are more likely to be around in a year (94% strongly agree). Of those who strongly disagreed that their manager cares, only 43% intended to stay. The business of business is people.

How do you rate yourself and/or your company on these retention strategies?

  1. My direct reports feel valued.
  2. Our employees believe we are committed to their development.
  3. My direct reports know I care about them.

Who do you want to keep on your team?

Now, what’s your plan?

Here’s to your Next Level,


PS: You can lower turnover and improve engagement, performance, and productivity… by developing self-managed teams and leaders. If your business or job is near Tulsa, check out the menu of Next Generation Leaders team-based coaching. Cook up some career development with 4-5 other professionals in a 4-week leadership transformation. Who could you send from your company?

Image credit: Wes Browning via Compfight

What’s the Business of Business?

Photo by Arenamontanus

This executive coaching client is a rising star in his company. 

Working in a Fortune 100 company with 300,000 employees, Jonathan (not his real name) has consistently received high performance marks and has for 12 years.  He is acknowledged for adding value to the company and consistently promoted from entry level to a senior manager role. 

With each promotion he received the standard 5% pay increase.

Recently, his boss was hired away.  Jonathan is on the short list for another promotion. Let’s celebrate, right? 

Not so quick, sorry.

Jonathan has been a loyal, contributor for 12 years and received six, 5% promotion-based pay increases.  He recently learned his boss who left for another operation had been recruited at same pay grade but with a $40,000 per year salary difference.  How would that impact your employee loyalty and engagement?

Based on his 12 year story and factual data points, he made a compelling appeal to his boss; she totally agreed with his assessment.  He is not  appropriately compensated.  

“Unfortunately,” she said, “you were hired in at entry level and have worked your way up through the company.  (Just like we set it up…) Now, for you to be paid fair market value for your position you will most likely need to look outside the company.”

Can you imagine?

For 12 years you gave of your heart and soul to “the company”…sacrificing to meet expectations…developing yourself professionally…recognized as a high performer…fast track promotions…and now, you discovern your comp plan places you in the bottom of the market?

Now, only Jonathan’s character keeps him contributing.  Now, as reality sets in he starts searching for appreciation and respect. 

What will this decision cost the company?

A mere $250,000 to $300,000 in “hidden” turnover expense!

How can this happen?

Business eats people.

By business I mean a company or organization that buys and sells goods, make products, or provides services; “business eats people” to accomplish this activity whether for profit or not-for-profit.  This is not about it being “right or wrong”. It just is. Business consumes taking the time and energy, creativity and ideas, talent and skills, relationship connections to create.

Labor Day, Let’s All Celebrate!

Here in the USA we just “celebrated” Labor Day.  Other than marking the end of summer, what do you know about this Federal holiday?  Yes, we all know it is observed on the first Monday every September, but what about the origin?  According to the U. S. Department of Labor

Labor Day…is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. (Emphasis added)

Note that this is NOT a politically-oriented post, it is people-oriented. We continue with Wikipedia adding to the story

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. Military and U. S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.

The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the workers and their families.

This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday proceeding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. (Emphasis added)

The original focus of the “labor movement” was about the peoplethe story continues:

The term labor movement is a broad term for the development of a collective organization of working people, to campaign in their own interest for better treatment from their employers and governments, in particular through the implementation of specific laws governing labor relations.

Although the birth of Labor Day has an unfortunate history, this Nationwide Holiday is designed to celebrate the American Worker. Consider the intended focus…

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.  

That “the nation pays tribute to The Creator of so much opportunity, freedom and leadership” is reserved for another National Holiday: Thanksgiving Day.  

But you ask, what about  this “Business Eats People”?    

There is some good news here. 

Hope comes in a couple of ways to my way of thinking as I look at this story:

  1. People: The business of business is people.  More than a slogan, without you, the “American worker”…without Jonathan a great customer experience is not possible. Nothing ships. Nothing is invented. The level of performance for any business or organization misses the mark of full potential without people who make want to make a difference in the world. 
  2. Leadership: The role of a leader is to influence how business is done while in pursuit of profit.  Please notice “profit” it is not a four-letter word; without earnings there is no expansion or growth.  In a competitive and ever changing environment no growth leads to death; right?
  3. Responsibility: Your role is to pay attention living around the “beast”. No responsible parent will knowingly place their child in danger? Considering a fun trip to the zoo?  Signs are posted, glass walls, fences, and ravines are present to keep everyone safe.   

Here are a few thoughts and questions to start help you reflect on your work-life balance and personal responsibility in your relationship with business and organizations?  Notice the sign at the front door…

Warning: This Business eats People, you are Responsible to:

  • Clarify Values: what matters to you?  What do you value? How well are your daily decisions guided by your values? Where do you have conflict between your values?
  • Establish Priorities: what is really important? 
  • Set Boundaries: do you know your limits? There comes a point when something crosses a line and becomes something else; when being “available” becomes (fill in the blank…) “being driven…a control freak…a perfectionist.”

What else would you include on the sign?

Based on this reality that “Business Eats People” what additional responsibilities do you think of?

How are you managing the demands of business (work) on your life?

Please comment below; I’d love to hear from you.  Who might you share today’s post with?


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Pace – The Accelerator of Success

Photo by Xlibber

What is the pace of your life these days?  

That is the question I posed last week during a group coaching session. We were about to discuss “The Path to Future Success” — what is the pace of your life? 

Here are the some of the responses those leaders gave:

  • Speed of light
  • Rough
  • Busy
  • Laid back due to uncertainty/change
  • Adapting to circumstances
  • Crazy
  • Extremely fast, no down time
  • Comfortable
  • Usually fast, slowing it forcibly
  • Fast and Furious

Where do you identify?

What happens when you are overly occupied with activity? What’s the impact of being so committed to something that you are unable to undertake another activity of a greater value?

When does your schedule seem ridiculous…to the point that it’s not practical or showing good sense, “it’s crazy”?  What is that costing you?

What is the affect when you are doing nearly everything in “fast” mode?

What’s your world like?

Did you see the Peter Bregman’s recent Harvard Business Review blog, “Why I Returned My iPad”?  I appreciate his candor; what do you think?

A little more than a week after buying the iPad, I returned it to Apple. The problem wasn’t the iPad exactly, though it has some flaws. The problem was me.

I like technology, but I’m not an early adopter. I waited for the second-generation iPod, the second-generation iPhone, and the second-generation MacBook Air.

But the iPad was different. So sleek. So cool. So transformational. And, I figured, since it’s so similar to the iPhone, most of the kinks would already be worked out.

So at 4 PM on the day the 3G iPad was released, for the first time in my life, I waited in line for two hours to make a purchase.

I set up my iPad in the store because I wanted to make sure I could start using it the very moment I bought it. And use it I did. I carried it with me everywhere; it’s so small and thin and light, why not bring it along?

I did my email on it, of course. But I also wrote articles using Pages. I watched episodes of Weeds on Netflix. I checked the news, the weather, and the traffic. And, of course, I proudly showed it to, well, anyone who indicated the least bit of interest.

It didn’t take long for me to encounter the dark side of this revolutionary device: it’s too good.

It’s too easy. Too accessible. Both too fast and too long-lasting. Certainly there are some kinks, but nothing monumental. For the most part, it does everything I could want. Which, as it turns out, is a problem.

Sure I might want to watch an episode of Weeds before going to sleep. But should I? It really is hard to stop after just one episode. And two hours later, I’m entertained and tired, but am I really better off? Or would it have been better to get seven hours of sleep instead of five?

The brilliance of the iPad is that it’s the anytime-anywhere computer. On the subway. In the hall, waiting for the elevator. In a car on the way to the airport. Any free moment becomes a potential iPad moment.  (emphasis added)

The iPhone can do roughly the same thing, but not exactly. Who wants to watch a movie in bed on an iPhone?

So why is this a problem? It sounds like I was super-productive. Every extra minute, I was either producing or consuming.

Every extra minute, I was either producing or consuming. Sound familiar?

How is this pace affecting your life?

That’s the question I ask my coaching group next; here are their responses?

  • Impacts my outlook on life
  • My health
  • Lacking a sense of direction
  • Miss-focused, not concentrating on what is important
  • Feeling short-changed
  • Feeling out of control
  • Exhausted
  • Questioning: Where am I?  Who am I?
  • Loss of contentment
  • Drinking more Red Bull
  • Loss of quality
  • Out of balance
  • Hurting my performance
  • Impacting my life
  • Hard on relationships

Now, how is the pace of life impacting you?

Life is accelerated, everything seems to happen faster, develop faster, change faster.

The point of the coaching session was to establish how to accelerate personal growth.

Here’s the principle to consider…

The way to accelerate personal growth is to slow life down.

How will you slow down your life today? 

What’s one thing that is so doable it’s laughable? What can you do that will help slow life down?

Tell us what you think.

Please leave your comment about this post on the comment section below.

Do you like this post?

Forward to your friends or tweet it…and thanks for reading The People Project blog.


Business Assets…Really?

What is your most important asset?

“People are our most important asset.”  That is the slogan, right?

If they are, then why the rush to reduce headcount when the economy hits a tough spot?

Consider the plight of the airline industry following 911.  In the Newsweek  article, “Lay Off the Layoffs” Jeffrey Pfeffer writes about business overreliance on downsizing and the effect it is having.  Consider these excerpts:

On Sept. 12, 2001, there were no commercial flights in the United States. It was uncertain when airlines would be permitted to start flying again—or how many customers would be on them. Airlines faced not only the tragedy of 9/11 but the fact that economy was entering a recession. So almost immediately, all the U.S. airlines, save one, did what so many U.S. corporations are particularly skilled at doing: they began announcing tens of thousands of layoffs. Today the one airline that didn’t cut staff, Southwest, still has never had an involuntary layoff in its almost 40-year history. It’s now the largest domestic U.S. airline and has a market capitalization bigger than all its domestic competitors combined. As its former head of human resources once told me: “If people are your most important assets, why would you get rid of them?” 

Managers also underestimate the extent to which layoffs reduce morale and increase fear in the workplace. The AMA survey found that 88 percent of the companies that had downsized said that morale had declined. That carries costs, now and in the future. When the current recession ends, the first thing lots of employees are going to do is to look for another job. In the face of management actions that signal that companies don’t value employees, virtually every human-resource consulting firm reports high levels of employee disengagement and distrust of management. The Gallup organization finds that active disengagement — which Gallup defines as working to sabotage the performance of your employer—ranges from 16 percent to 19 percent. Employees who are unhappy and stressed out are more likely to steal from their employers—an especially large problem for retailers, where employee theft typically exceeds shoplifting losses…

Companies that behave humanely—by providing generous severance packages and allowing displaced employees to say goodbye to colleagues rather than marching them out the door—are likely to see a smaller hit to morale…

The facts seem clear. Layoffs are mostly bad for companies, harmful for the economy, and devastating for employees. This is not news, or should not be. There is substantial research literature in fields from epidemiology to organizational behavior documenting these effects. The damage from overzealous downsizing will linger even as the economy recovers…  (Emphasis added)

Personal Reflection

If people are your “most important assets”, how do they know that to be true?


What do you think?

Please encourage the discussion by posting your thoughts.

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Employee-a.k.a. People Engagement, Part 4

How will you move your engagement to the next level?

Whether you lead the company, own your business, manage a department, or “work for…” — employee engagement matters. 

Reality check: employers & employees, leaders & teams, managers & staff – you are in this together, or not. 

In light of the fact that the “or not” path is very expensive, it pays to give attention.  Yes, there is a reduction of pain and an increase in profit with every percentage point increase of…engaged people. 

Quick Review:

What do we know about people engagement at work?

  • Chronic employee disengagement is very costly to business and people
  • Relationship concepts:
    • Connecting
    • Respecting
    • Valuing
    • Having Voice
  • Step One of engagement is in your court: how engaged are you?
  • The 3 levels of employee engagement:
    • Engaged” – a contributor
    • Not engaged” –  a wait-and-see attitude
    • The “actively disengaged” – consistently against virtually everything
  • Disengagement is an emotionally painful way to work and live for everyone
  • Gallup suggests 55% of all U.S. workers are not engaged while another 16% are actively disengaged
  • There is some good news…the opportunity for growth
  • Commitment and passion are basic to long term employee engagement 

Note: For more information, visit my previous posts starting with Employee a.k.a. People Engagement

What are the keys to engagement?

In the book Closing the Engagement Gap, Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman share Towers Perrin’s groundbreaking research and knowledge around employee engagement.  They draw on stories from CEOs, managers and employees at eight extraordinary organizations in technology, health care, retail, manufacturing, consumer goods and entertainment.

Here are the five keys that they suggest will unlock employees’ potential:

  1. Know Them. Be as familiar with employees as you are with customers. Use that knowledge to shape workplace programs that win people’s hearts and minds.
  2. Grow Them. Challenge and develop the workforce. People want to learn and excel in their jobs, and they commit to companies that help them.
  3. Inspire Them. Establish an emotional connection. When people’s work has meaning, they are more inclined to do whatever it takes to ensure success.
  4. Involve Them. Communicate clearly with employees, gather their input, and let them act. Knowledgeable, valued workers add more value.
  5. Reward Them. Deliver a “deal” that is fair and meaningful. When people believe they are treated right and appreciated, they give more of their time and creative energy.

These five keys are from an employer’s perspective.  If you are an employee, how could you re-frame these five keys? 

For Personal Reflection:

How would you rate your experience with the five keys?

How do you think you could “manage up” to close the gap?

What do you think?

Please encourage the discussion by posting your thoughts.

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