I am regularly surprised by the lack of conversational courage in professional circles these days. Not every conversation ends up with a great outcome. Sometimes you must deliver disappointing information. You may even have to let someone go or fire them. You might have to tell a vendor you’ve decided to work with someone else. […]
History has proven that societies that bond together during difficult times through shared common goals and a higher worthy purpose always emerge stronger as a result. Let’s make history by not unraveling!
Life can be a roller coaster at times. There will be highs and there will be lows. The important thing is not to overreact or think that everything has to be perfect all the time. Perspective is important. There is no silver bullet. There is nothing you can buy or pill you can take that will make you happy for any extended period.
The right technology can make an enormous difference, but it needs to be put in the proper perspective. I remember when cell phones were a bit of a novelty but then became a regular everyday tool. It was as if the world couldn’t have existed without them (but it did). Many technological tools have arrived […]
I felt like doing something different with this blog. I am a huge fan of the literary works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and was recently revisiting and discussing his essay on friendship as part of a class I am teaching. I’ve always believed that a life is defined by the quality of one’s relationships. We all want the same thing: some level of connectedness with other individuals that that both allows and encourages us to live the best life we can. While at its very beginning and final end, life may be a solo journey, the rest of it is full of human interaction. Our level of happiness during the balance of our existence is most often dictated by how we navigate the dense forest of interpersonal relationships. As usual, Emerson is much more eloquent than I am on this topic and here are a few excerpts from the essay:
I have always liked the idea as viewing your time similar to currency. You get to decide how you spend it and what types if investments you make. Sadly, just like with our money, many of us make bad or misinformed decisions. Time is finite. There will be a time when it grows short and then disappears. Our children will only live with us a relatively brief time before they grow up and move away to begin their own lives. People we care about will run out of time and all that will remain will be the memories we made with them while they were still here. Our career will follow a natural arc and eventually our lives will be less about what we do for a living (despite our past accomplishments) and we will need to redefine ourselves. Knowing this, what can and should we do differently. I believe it all starts with priorities.
I spend a majority of my work life in meetings or one on one conversations. It never ceases to amaze me the different attitudes people have about basic communication and meeting etiquette. We’ve all read countless article about the importance of “being present” and minimizing distractions, but I’m not sure the message is sticking. Moreover, I haven’t seen one article that supports the premise that multi-tasking makes you more effective as a leader. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
Anger is a part of life. Everybody gets angry sometimes. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t access all of your emotions occasionally. However, I highly encourage you to pay attention to your dominant emotions. If you start the day in a bad mood and it only goes downhill from there, then what did you expect to happen. If you are too easily negatively triggered by the actions of others, then why should you surprised when people disappoint, annoy or avoid you. More often than not, we create the conditions under which we operate. Personal energy is infectious. Everyone we interact with is only feeding off the energy we put out. Just experiment with frowning all day and smiling the next. You will see a big difference. How are you showing up every day? What impact are you having on the people around you?
We all know that we meet the same end but we usually don’t know when or why. Most of us avoid spending much time at all thinking about our mortality. It is almost taboo to think about our own expiration date. We stay focused on the moments at hand and feel like our future is open-ended. Why does it take a crisis for us to appreciate the tenuousness of our time here on earth and the true importance of our close relationships? It is a shame we can’t be in this mindspace more often – maybe it would make us all slightly better people. The truth is that we are all living on borrowed time and how we spend that time matters. I heard a speaker comment recently that in every interaction we are either giving life or taking it away. I liked it when he said it then and like it even more now.
I feel fortunate to have made it this far in life. Not everyone gets to have this much time. As we age it becomes more obvious that time is finite. I wish you well on your own journey and that the time you have left is well spent.
In my line of work you know you have tapped into a serious problem when you encounter disproportionate emotion. There have been many times where I have sat across from someone and literally watched them break down. I learned a long time ago to let the other individual have their moment and not try to downplay or negate their emotion. You don’t make someone feel better by making them feel embarrassed or disappointed about how they feel. All of us hit an emotional “brick wall” at times and become frustrated/upset with the rigors of life and work. We all need people we can turn to let us be our authentic selves, even when this isn’t pretty or easy to watch.
There are only a few days a years when we are all encouraged to step back and reflect on our life and its many blessings. I find this time of year to be especially important for this very reason. Of course it’s easy to get caught up in the commercialism and challenging logistics of the holidays, but I encourage you to avoid this temptation.
In my experience there are two types of leaders: those who build alliances across the span of their career and those who leave casualties in their wake. It’s always a pleasure to work with people who operate in the former category. Leaders require followers and the more people who see themselves in your camp the better. At the end of your career, you will hopefully be able to look back and see many lives that you have changed for the better and a large number of mutually beneficial relationships. Approaching life from a win-win perspective just makes plain common sense.
I’ve always felt that vacations should mandatory. Everyone needs some time away from their work to recharge and reflect. There should be moments where it is just about having fun and enjoying life without the constraints of the work week. You never just want to narrowly define yourself by what you do for a living. We are all so much more than that.
In my line of work, I am constantly on the lookout for life lessons and what leads to happiness and success. Fortunately, I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people who provide me with excellent fodder for my learning. While most of my time is spent on the business leadership front, I do get a larger picture view at times. I have never believed in compartmentalizing important life issues and prefer to take a multidimensional approach to my work since there are no one dimensional human beings. Over the years I found that how you answer the following 12 questions will have a big impact on your overall quality of life:
I was in a meeting with a group of leaders the other day and after being prompted by a question most of them said that they had many acquaintances but very few friends. It was clear they weren’t particularly happy by this fact, but felt their busy life didn’t leave them much of a choice. I find it paradoxical that in a day and age where we have so many more ways to stay connected with other people, every study I read says that people feel lonelier and more disconnected than ever before. This is especially troubling for people in leadership positions because they feel naturally isolated to begin with.
Never allow yourself to get bullied in business or life. It was true on the playground when we were kids and it is true as an adult in your business dealings. I make it a rule to never to business with anyone I perceive doesn’t have my best interest at heart. Any dealing that is completely one-sided is not a good business deal but extortion. The good news is that once you survive a bad economy, it becomes pretty evident who the worst transgressors are. I sincerely hope that they end being held to account for their actions.
When was the last time you had fun at work and truly enjoyed yourself? Are you able to laugh at the absurd or ridiculous or do you take it all too seriously? Can you let your guard down? Do you enjoy the company of your colleagues or prefer to keep them at a distance? Are people naturally drawn to you or do you feel isolated? When you show up in the morning do you feel optimistic and relatively happy or tired and downtrodden? Are you able to keep your work in a proper perspective? Can you take most things in stride or are you easily frustrated? Do you make an effort to enjoy what you are doing or just consider it a job? Can you lighten up the mood in a room or are you always ratcheting up the level of intensity?
It’s very easy to get so caught up in our own life and forget about the needs of other people especially those not directly in our social or professional circles. However, it’s been proven time and time again and that real joy comes from helping others not just focusing on ourselves. Leaders are in a unique position to set a good example in this regard. I believe it isn’t just a coincidence that the most philanthropic and community involved companies tend to do better than their less engaged peers on the business front. People want to know that you care about more than just profit especially your employees.
We can’t control what people say or do, but we can control how we respond to it. It’s important to always remember that no one can make you feel anything; you choose to feel that way. It’s amazing how a few unkind words or obvious negative body language can affect us. I’ve seen fairly successful and confident people wilt under the glare of another person’s disapproval. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, so only take constructive feedback to the degree that it helps you improve/grow as a person. If the feedback being given isn’t constructive, then learn to simply block it out or ignore it.
I watched an interesting movie last night called The Way. It was written and directed by Emilio Estevez and stars his father Martin Sheen. In the movie a straight-laced somewhat taciturn father has to cope with the tragic loss of his 40 year old free-spirited son. The event took place while he was beginning a spiritual trek on “The Way of St. James” or “Camino de Santiago” which is an 800 kilometer pilgrimage (hike) through France and Spain to the burial place of Saint James. The father decides to complete the journey his son started and learns alot about himself and life along the way. As with most of his acting roles, it was a powerful and thoughtful performance by Martin Sheen.