NOTE: The May blog posts will not be updated this month, but check back soon for new updates.

  • Multi-tasking in the Fast Lane!

    Isn’t this decade one of the most exciting to be alive? Not only in the domestic USA, but in Germany, Italy, even South Africa, many of us have complex professional lives, bursting family schedules, cellular technologies to stay connected, even commitments with spiritual organizations. We could define ourselves as a generation really in the ‘Fast Lane’. The majority of us chain errands together and conduct our obligations at faster and faster rates, as Trekkies would say, at ‘warp speed’. In all this, have you noticed what the volume of multi-tasking and continuous cell phone use is doing to our individual levels of patience, tolerance, even our social graces?

    Next time you’re in your community, try observing other people as they fulfill their tasks and errands. Do you see demonstrations of impatience over instances such as, people in cross walks not hurrying enough, people at the post office taking more time mailing overseas packages; and, folks with disabilities trying to use the payment machines in the grocery stores? You may see exhibitions of personal space crowding, verbal ticking noises; and unfortunately, actual personal confrontations. What are we, as social beings, risking or losing in our efforts to do the most in the least amount of time?

    Multi-tasking is not all wrong but, let’s examine what is truly achievable and the negative consequences. Researchers at the University of Michigan have concluded that individuals that multi-task between 5 or more tasks, which most embrace as the key to success, is instead a formula for shoddy work, mismanaged time, rote solutions, stress, loss of social graces and forgetfulness. The resulting penalties can be car crashes, kitchen fires, forgotten children, near misses in the skies; and, a perceived lack of caring in personal relationships and family caring. Also, prolonged periods of extreme multi-tasking can lead to shorter attention spans, poorer judgment and impaired memory. For the elderly (50 +), these symptoms begin to create a belief that they are developing the early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Or, as parents and spouses teeter on the edge of overload, they snap with impatient responses such as, “I can’t-deal-with-this-right-now!” Reactions such as these damage the foundations of trust that bond people together.

    Next time you catch yourself multi-tasking between too many responsibilities, ask yourself:

    • What relationships are you at the risk of losing trust or a total loss because every meeting or conversation is conducted in haste? And possibly not at your best?
    • How can you harness impatience when all the steps are not defined from professional projects or community meetings in a matter of minutes? What actions can you take to facilitate closure instead of fuming, such as, offer to set the next meeting, ask your participants to each take a task from your efforts & complete by a specific date, etc.?
    • How can you practice ‘stillness’ each day to keep yourself aware of others and a part of centering for yourself? Or has ‘stillness’ given rise to the feeling of vulnerability, so you don’t visit it often?
    • What personal or family quality time events will you sacrifice just so that you can appear at more than one “ego” event in the same day?
    • Have you made a promise to yourself and broken it, such as, the allowance of time for yourself? Consequently, you feel angry and impatient with yourself. If so, can you re-negotiate that promise to yourself? Are you willing to?
    • How can you revise your daily calendar so that you can prioritize which tasks can fall into another day, allowing some breathing space in your daily schedule?
    • What obligations can you delegate to others, even to your children, so that you have relief from the sole ownership of every task in the day, in the week, in the house?
    • If you are experiencing bouts of forgetfulness or excess impatience, how can you pause to examine the pace of your own ‘fast-lane’ activities? Who is going to (who do you think will) take responsibility for your well-being besides you?
    • If you are in the Sandwich Generation with both children at home and aging parents, is it time to consider outside assistance such as, visiting physical therapists or faith (soul) based companions?
    • What changes can you make to your personal calendar enabling you to practice periods of silent walking or some other means of connecting with whatever you believe your source to be?
    Continue reading →
  • The Rise of Workforce Differences

    In the past, it was standard for workers to remain with the same employer for 10, 20, or 30 years. This is no longer the norm. Today’s workers have no problems changing jobs if a better opportunity comes along. There are many causes behind the increase in workforce mobility, but one leading cause is today’s workers desire to build a career, not just a job. Employees are looking for ways to build skills and move up the career ladder, and they’re willing to switch employers if necessary.

    According to the Allegis Group survey, 80 percent of employers have experienced challenges with recruiting critical talent due to the changes in the global labor market. Those same respondents cited a number of factors that contributed such as, the economic environment (55 percent), followed by demographic shifts (32 percent), generational differences and pressures for social responsibility (31 percent), labor regulations (24 percent); and, any political volatility in that nation (10 percent).

    Companies that embark on recruiting a diverse labor force open their businesses to a larger sea of candidates. While diverse workforces aren’t limited to employees from different countries who speak more than one language or have many ethnic backgrounds, employees with these characteristics are beneficial to companies looking to expand or improve existing operations in national markets. Use any of these techniques to lead multinational teams, improving the success of that group’s workplace performance:

    • Remember that disparity in working techniques and personal style can be misunderstood by an employee’s physical absence. Realize that the traditional 8am-5pm work attendance is outdated. Unless you are required by a government agency or a security contract to be physically present in the office, smart phones, Internet tablets, and laptops enable many workers, not just GenY, to be productive at any hour and any place. Establish working options that are aimed at productivity and without sacrifices to home or personal life.
    • Team leaders must clearly voice the vision for the entire company. Vision statements are where you want to go. The problem that leaders encounter when doing this is to articulate what that vision is and what will be the benefits when ‘we’ get there. Statements such as, ‘when we get there, not if’ underwrites the determination and perseverance required towards the collective vision.
    • Study how you engage others that defines the culture of the group. Positive psychology has demonstrated that declarative statements towards a shared future will keep the passion and focus for the all the members of a workgroup or even, entire departments. Identify and remove barriers that re-enforce workplace stereotypes and prejudices among employees.
    • Infuse conversational practices to include all ethnic groups as ‘insiders’ to organizational decision-making and future policy. Implement nondiscrimination rules on how to resolve conflict without dismissing others’ opinions as non-significant or stupid. Global leaders need to listen without judgment or discrimination, without multi-tasking, or be on auto-pilot. Listening with ‘filters’ in place can have you miss the opportunity to hear inventive solutions to problems. If you cannot listen without distraction, re-schedule the current conversation for another time when you can be truly present.
    • Commitments are a crucial element of our lives in building and maintaining meaningful success in relationships and in business. Commitments are how we coordinate actions with others for valuable outcomes. Regardless of the current circumstances, humans have the capacity to change, effect change, and rise above unforeseen hazards to the original plan.

    As you may be starting to lead a global team, think about:

    • What have been failures or mistakes that have provided you the greatest learning for the next goals of a specific work team?
    • Does the company practice employee assimilation of other cultures? If not, what are you willing to change so that all genders and ethnicities are valued for their uniqueness?
    • Are you, and other leaders, familiar with any of the other employee’s traditions, speech phrases, or holidays that are not acceptable to use in business meetings or negotiations?
    Continue reading →
  • Traits of Highly Sensitive Persons in Leadership

    In our work last year with a security company, the Director of Engineering told us, “I eagerly looked forward to having the extra workforce from an acquisition to bring our next software release out in less than two more months. This was our opportunity to impact the way corporations use the Internet. With the combination of our new resources, both in engineering tools and emerging technology specialists, we will be able to secure sensitive communications more completely for the future. But, now I’m gloomier over my former expectations.”

    This phenomenon includes what psychologists’ term as, Highly Sensitive Persons, or HSPs, a term coined by psychologist Elaine Aron. According to Aron’s theory, HSPs are a subset of the population who demonstrate personality traits known as sensory-processing sensitivity, or HSP. Those with high levels of HSP display increased emotional sensitivity, stronger reactivity to both external and internal stimuli—pain, hunger, light, and noise—and a complex inner life.

    “It seems to me that the engineering people we have brought on appear highly engaged, possibly even anxious. Alone, I don’t have the skill to create a new equitable culture, much less, encourage them to achieve exceptional results.”

    This is not an uncommon challenge from an acquisition or merger. Factors that influence the mood, the culture, and the long-term success of HSP personnel can be:

    • Incoming employee loyalties may still exist with the departed senior staff, many hired by specific executives. What appears to be overachieving may be uncertainty over the process of transferring comprehensive knowledge from one group to another; and the rapidness of how to integrate into another culture.
    • In the new workplace, the terms of accountability can dramatically impact the productivity of the workforce in every department. Eagerness to be accountable is a core value for each person; and should be a fundamental pillar of a company’s culture. New personnel may not know who they can trust and who they can confide in when they are feeling their accountability challenged.
    Continue reading →
  • How to End Regret

    At the close of last year many of us began to list the projects that we didn’t accomplish with regret or disappointment. This year we are suggesting you do something different before summer begins. Allow yourself to be fully present and close out this year satisfied with your successes. This process may take a couple of hours or may be a thinking stream over your morning coffee. Give yourself permission and take the time that feels right for you.

    Start by making a list of all the efforts or relationships you began, whether 90% completed or fully completed. You can put them into categories such as, increasing your phone call frequency with relatives, personal lifestyle changes, enriching your career with new skills, make good on that movie night with the kids, joining fresh professional affiliations, or even increasing your routine to walk the dog more. For each of your projects, evaluate the following elements:

    • What was your mood when you began the project, excited, eager, and apprehensive?
    • Was there a tangible financial gain by pursuing your efforts such as, less ATM fees for your bank account or reduced expenditures for gasoline by consolidating car trips?
    • As you made progress then, did you feel bold, confident, self-assured, or gutsy?
    • Did each step, even if you stumbled or made a mistake, re-enforce your belief of how small successes can give you cause to celebrate?
    • What emotions kept you going, determination, conviction, courageousness, brazenness, perhaps defiance?
    • Last, did your endeavors change your outlook from struggling to be successful to “I can be successful at anything”?

    With the results from the questions above, you will be channeling your energies into positive processes instead of dwelling on what could have gone wrong. Positive beliefs affect both your conscious and unconscious thought activity and feelings of self respect. Additionally, when others are involved in your efforts you can celebrate your satisfaction together, often cementing relationships for years. Don’t forget to celebrate! Select some reward mechanism for yourself to celebrate when you have achieved even the smallest step. Plan celebrations and appreciation awards to spotlight others who have supported you in your efforts. Our life’s journey is about what matters to us and who we care about along the way.

    Continue reading →
  • What Are You Proud of Today?

    How many times have you asked a colleague or spouse how their day was at work or at a specific event and received the response, “Oh, it was just another day”? Have you heard yourself give this response? Every day you live you have the chance to be recognized as a ‘master’ of your own professional excellence, delivering those key gifts that are the showcase of nursing, teaching, administration, customer service, even volunteerism. The trouble is there are no maps for the journey, not even from Map Quest!

    Why don’t we hear, “I really am proud of the healthcare initiative, sales plan, student curriculum, or volunteer event I did today!”? Where is the boldness or initiative it takes to deliver products or services that individually we can be proud of doing every day? What has drained our enthusiasm to step out of the ordinary and take pride in our abilities to deliver something meaningful, a true contribution to your community, your chosen industry, or a public volunteer effort?

    Let’s examine some of the elements that inhibit or immobilize us into delivering the mediocre and keep us from walking with pride about our achievements. The first is possibly an excess of self-criticism. These are the perfectionists we all encounter, constantly judging every deliverable as never having enough features or that they personally don’t value their efforts as worthy enough to gain limitless recognition. Consequently, these folks berate themselves during the creation process and can never meet a company or project deadline. Their genius is never delivered to the public, there is no appreciation, and the cycle starts over again.

    The second element can be the fear of public failure or humiliation. Often, we are paralyzed by experiences that were part of our learning process. As children we fell many times riding that new bike. As college students, we turned in papers or projects that only earned a C or D level, sometimes not even a passing grade. As adults, we may have given these events more significance than they are worthy of today. We fall back into those events with the same emotional trauma that were originally experienced and project them onto the efforts of today. Subsequently, we cannot free ourselves to continue the learning process from tasks or projects that could risk our family image or public status. This is different from arrogance or an excess of self-esteem.

    A third element could be the lack of courage. Specific family dynamics, individual cultures, even gender can inhibit the demonstration of courage. Think of public figures such as, Mandela, Martin Luther King, and John Kennedy, in the demonstrations of courage it took for them to lead nations. What propelled them to lead through times of conflict, social differences, opposing worldviews, and political unrest? Courage. Each of these individuals made the leap forward to greatness; but, not without great cost. Mandela spent years in prison while King and Kennedy scarified their very lives. We’re not advocating the loss of life, but the investigation of what is truly worth your efforts in what is essential for you to champion across cultures, faiths, and nations.

    Another element can be the acceptance of the same old narrative, in other words resignation. As a family, community, or cultural group we accept an old story of why we won’t be successful. The resulting resignation places us in a mood and environment that stops us from even the first effort, decreases optimism, suppresses creativity, and makes it acceptable to ‘settle’ for what is, not what

    could be. Ultimately, resignation increases our social suffering, and we end up complaining about the very state we ‘settled’ for in the first place!

    When you think you’re just doing another day, ask yourself:

    • What could you be proud of today? Where have you been that you felt you contributed something significant to, meetings, mediations, seminars, public fundraisings?
    • What emotions did you display or not display that would make you proud of your achievements at that moment?
    • What would you change about your performance if you were ‘invited’ to do your best, along with salary? Would you be proud to be a volunteer?
    • When was the last time you were invited to do your best, work or otherwise? Does the word invitation carry any inspiration for you to produce something you would be proud of?
    • How did you help in your society today, participation in worthwhile causes like action meetings, fundraising walks, runs etc?
    • What matters to you in receiving adequate credit for your efforts, public recognition, awards, salary increases, etc.? Does this credit impact the type of work you would accept?
    • What’s the most foolish thing you’ve done while on the job and was there learning from the experience? Did you share this with anyone else, even in private?
    • What permissions or approval from others do you need to leave the life of routine and create something extraordinary?
    • When was the last time you stood up for your own values and core gifts? How did this make you feel, relieved, anxious, a renewed sense of self?
    • What’s something that you did at work or in the community that maybe no one else knows about but you are very proud of? And does it matter that the larger public acknowledges it, but they don’t know it came from your efforts?

    You, your efforts, and the pride of those around you could invite you to make every day a “proud of something” day. Accept the invitation.

    Continue reading →