“The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.”
~ Stephen Covey ~
Recently a client, Jillian, confessed to me, “I find myself working 60 or more hours each week. I have no time or energy for anything other than work. I don’t see my family, I don’t have time for friends or hobbies and I feel completely overwhelmed. I want more time and fulfillment in my life. I would rather divide my time between work, nature, people in my life and travel as opposed to oozing out meager samplings of these between work.”
This is a common concern. People are working more hours than ever. They make a good income and are able to afford more material possessions, but at the expense of their happiness and satisfaction. The balance they seek is difficult to achieve.
As Jillian stated, she’s unhappy, exhausted and creatively starved.
What can be done? Here are six tips:
1. Begin by simplifying your life.
Look at all of the things that you tolerate that only serve to limit you and drain your energy. Make a goal to systematically eliminate them all from your life.
2. Make an appointment with yourself.
This week make an appointment by marking your calendar and keeping the appointment with yourself as you would an appointment with your most important client.
3. Examine what you want from your life and what is standing in your way.
Look at what unwanted energy drains you need to remove from your life to make this happen. Do you need to pay off credit cards? Do you need to simplify your living situation? Can you incorporate a more flexible schedule so that you can have more time for fulfillment? Can you take a time management or organizing seminar so that you use your time more effectively? Brainstorm and see what comes to mind. Make a plan with concrete action steps with deadlines and follow through.
4. Get support.
Talk to friends and colleagues to see if they are going through the same situation and help each other brainstorm solutions. Enlist the support of a coach to help you set and achieve practical goals and regain balance.
5. Celebrate even the small triumphs of your life.
We often become so absorbed in accomplishing tasks or to-do lists that we overlook opportunities to experience joy and satisfaction.
6. Notice where you focus your attention.
Carlos Castaneda once said, “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Take this quote to heart. Write is down and tape it to your computer screen or bathroom mirror.
Then, every morning, ask yourself: “What am I going to emphasize today?”
Why be miserable, when you can make yourself strong!
Talkback: Are you sacrificing your home life to get ahead at work? What challenges do you face trying to find the right balance?
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“Asking what I considered an impossible salary when I didn’t want to work for someone has boosted my pay again and again.”
~ Ethel Waters ~
Will has been working the same job for three years without any raise in pay. Due to the downturn in the economy, his company claims that it just can’t afford to pay more to its employees.
I’ve got some good news for Will and for everyone else who has been working longer hours and hasn’t been rewarded with a bonus or an increase in salary.
That might be changing, according to Mercer, a worldwide consulting firm.
In their annual “employee attraction and retention survey,” Mercer found that more companies plan to focus on money – that’s right, cold, hard cash – as a way to retain and engage the right talent.
Because budgets have been tight during the recession, many employers relied on so-called “non-cash incentives.” These were such things as communicating the value of total rewards to employees, work-life programs, formalized career paths and special project opportunities.
But as the economy recovers, 25 percent of respondents say they’ll rely less on these types of rewards.
Instead, they will focus on base salary increases, short- and long-term variable pay and training and career development to retain and motivate their best people.
So as your employer’s purse strings begin to loosen, now is the time to proactively demonstrate your value to your organization. If you are like Will, still waiting for a long-overdue raise, I recommend doing the following.
1. Make yourself indispensible.
Volunteer to high profile projects that have the potential to affect your company’s bottom line.
2. Align your priorities with key company goals.
Focus on things that matter – to your boss, to his or her supervisor, to company executives and to your shareowners.
3. Eliminate or reduce your time spent “non-essential” work.
Write down your top 10 priorities. Develop strategies to free up more time to spend on the top three and less on the bottom two-thirds.
4. Quantify and communicate your accomplishments.
At the end of each week, write down your key accomplishments and try to assign a dollar amount to your specific contributions.
5. Capitalize on training or personal development opportunities.
Continue to develop your skills and capabilities. That way, when your company begins to expand, you’ll be in a more competitive position (and your resume will be stronger, too, if you decide to venture outside your organization).
6. Don’t shy away from self-promotion.
Think of ways to promote your personal “brand” at the office. There’s a difference between grandstanding and presenting the facts in an objective way.
Someone is going to benefit from this shift in employee compensation and it might as well be you!
Even if salary increases aren’t currently being offered by your employer, valued employees can find ways to negotiate for higher pay. Read Joel’s book, Get Paid What You’re Worth, to find out how you can negotiate a salary increase or a higher starting salary in a new position.
Talkback: Last time you asked for a raise, were you successful? How long will you wait before trying again?
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“When psychologists have looked at who have been the most creative people over time in a wide variety of fields, almost all the people they looked at had serious streaks of introversion.”
~ Susan Cain ~
It seems to Gary that offices are constructed and organized to favor the extrovert. As an introvert, he finds open office spaces draining. And meetings with rapid give and take showcase extrovert’s social skills, but frustrate him as he takes time to think.
Gary determined to build on his own strengths in the office. While outgoing people gain energy from being around others, Gary knows he gains energy from solitude and ideas. Gary values the introverts in his office because they can focus easier and produce more.
Here is Gary’s list of six ways introverts can shine in the world of office politics.
1. Connect with Ideas. Instead of joining others as they talk about sports, movies or people, Gary starts a conversation about ideas. He finds common ground with other people when he focuses on thinking topics, not social events.
2. Understand Yourself. Gary recognizes his need for quiet and regeneration. He accept that in the wide range of personalities, he works best without distractions.
A study discussed in the Harvard Business Review showed introverts responded better to problem solving when the background noise level was lower. Extroverts performed better with louder noises.
When both you and your boss understand that you will be more productive when you have quiet and solitude to focus, you will benefit. Recognize that others may find synergy in large group discussion.
3. Be Comfortable Being You. Gary learned his best work practices. Then he determined to speak up. When necessary, he requests that quiet office—or time in an unused conference room. Often he suggest meetings hold a few key players instead of multitudes.
Gary got his boss to try “Brainwriting” instead of brainstorming in sessions. Here each person writes an idea on a piece of paper and passes it to the person next to them. Once a paper has four to five ideas, the group stops to discuss them.
The quiet and time gives thinkers a better chance to respond. “It’s really helped me add value to the group,” Gary says. “And even the vocal members like it. They get to shine when we discuss it.”
Sometimes Gary gets an agenda ahead of time and plans out his thoughts and ideas.
4. Develop Relationships Your Way. Socializing sometimes seems like a waste of time, but Gary recognizes that we all need relationships. He schedules 30-45 minutes each day to visit other people. He just stops by and say hi. “That small talk builds bridges,” he says.
What extroverts call “networking” or “selling yourself,” Gary renames. “Consider it ‘having a conversation’ or getting to know someone and letting them get to know you,” Gary says. “Choose your environment. I like one-on-one or small groups.”
5. Be fully present for 10 minutes. When you are with other people, totally focus on them and what’s important to them for a full 10 minutes. “I find I can focus for that 10 minutes,” Gary says. “Then I feel free to move on.
“When you use your strength of focusing and direct it toward others, you make them feel valuable and important. This builds relationships and trust.”
6. Be Confident in Your Strengths. Gary learned to value the great strengths he brought to the office. Studies show that the introvert rises to the top in team building as others value their focus and productivity. Many of the great creative people have had a more private personality.
Less outgoing people make great leaders. They are more willing to listen to others ideas. I think I use other’s strengths and let them run with an assignment,” Gary says. “Introverts are less likely to feel they must put their stamp on the project.”
Work places perform best with a blend of personalities. Each kind brings their own strengths to the mix. “As you come to trust your strengths and be comfortable seeking ways that allow you to be the most productive, you can thrive,” Gary says. “Then office politics are no longer a struggle for the introvert.”
Trying to figure out how to shine at your office? Contact Joel for a personalized assessment of your strengths and a blueprint on how to move up.
Talkback: Introvert? What is your best coping skill? Extrovert? How do you connect with introverts?
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“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
~ Anne M. Mulcahy ~
Felix is a supervisor of engineers at a nuclear power plant. His goal was to attract and retain his valuable employees. “The money invested in training new engineers is astonishing,” Felix said. “I wanted to keep my people.”
There are three supervisors over three divisions of workers. Felix noticed that one supervisor, Max, had a very large turnover in workers— nearly 100% annually. And the other supervisor, Madison, had almost no turnover.
“I was in the middle,” Felix said. “I had some turnover. More than I wanted, but a lot less than Max.”
Felix saw some of the reasons Max couldn’t keep his people. He was a workaholic and demanded the same of his employees. He was critical and demeaning.
“I wasn’t like that,” Felix said. “I thought I was a fair boss. But still… I had this attrition.”
Felix researched and found a study by John Kammeyer-Mueller of the University of Minnesota called Support, Undermining, and Newcomer Socialization. “It gave me three key pieces to help me support my new hires and make them more likely to stay for the long haul,” Felix said.
1. Management Matters
The study showed that the support of management outweighed support from co-workers. Support from co-workers did make the new hire feel better. But the praise, encouragement, and help from supervisors had greater impact.
That support—in the early days—made workers more likely to stay even months or years down the line. It helped establish their overall view of the company and the job.
“We have a really high learning curve,” Felix said. “Sometimes, I think, we just point them in the right direction and say, ‘Good luck.’ I realized we needed to do much better than this.”
Rather than thinking you could start the engineer on the training path and leave it to others to help out, Felix realized part of the success of his job was to be more involved.
2. Build Connection into the system
“I watched how Madison interacted with her employees. She didn’t taper off the contact after the first few weeks,” Felix said. “She really had a more involved approach. She had an open door policy. She gave specific feedback—both positive and negative—but in an easy-to-take way.”
Felix realized he needed to have greater interaction with the new hires even after the first few weeks. That was not long enough for them to be nearly up to speed. Some of them felt abandoned and then got unhappy or discouraged.
“I realized my feedback and support was vital not just in the beginning, but for months into the employee’s job,” Felix said. “And even after that, I needed to be more involved.” He scheduled time for his own open door policy. He took lunch with the engineers for a more casual time to chat. He tried to be more open with praise.
3. Attracting Valuable Employees
“I was surprised that even just supporting my current workers made a difference in new hires,” Felix said. “I overheard one new engineer talking to a friend just graduating. He was telling him to apply here. It was a great place to work.
“It kind of made my day. I realized I was doing it right. And it was attracting the kind of engineers I wanted.”
Felix realized that a happy work environment was where his engineers felt supported and encouraged. It then resulted in a word-of-mouth call for engineers who would fit well into that situation.
Overall, Felix found that his attrition dropped off and he retained his valuable employees longer. “I think the continued support and interaction of management made the difference,” Felix said. “We can’t just hire people and turn them loose. The more and longer I set up good work support, the happier my engineers became.”
Looking for ways to get your management more encouraging and supportive of your key workers? Contact Joel
Talkback: What are some ways you have found to attract and retain key players?
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“Recognize, manage and master your beliefs. They aren’t genetic. They are choices. Choose ones that serve you.”
~ Christopher Babson ~
Larry felt he was out of ideas. He put in his time at work, but he found so much to frustrate him he got to the point where he almost didn’t care anymore. He knew he needed an attitude adjustment. He wanted a way to get enthusiastic and happy with his job.
But he wasn’t getting any help from work or family, or anyone. Finally Larry decided to take action on his own. He signed up to hear a motivational speaker. Larry wasn’t sure what to expect. What he got was beyond anything he imagined.
The motivational speaker helped both his professional and personal growth. He learned things he could use at work and in all the other areas of his life.
- Real, actionable information. Larry learned things about thought patterns and road blocks he’d been putting in front of himself. This information freed him to explore new ways. It was like a door opened to new opportunities both at work and in his personal life.
- Guidance and direction. Larry recognized he’d been lacking direction. The fixes offered by the motivational speaker were things Larry could apply immediately. He felt like he left with an achievable game plan.
- Communication. Larry learned where he was failing to communicate well. He immediately saw how that was making work more difficult. He also saw how these new skills would help him with his wife and children. He knew as he made these changes he would be more effective. It was exciting to feel himself growing and changing so quickly.
- Enthusiasm. Something about the motivational speaker was contagious. As Larry sat in the room he felt his life expanding. It was such a change to feel good about life! He knew this was what he’d been missing. He felt like he was learning enough that he could maintain these feelings of enthusiasm and excitement.
- Attitude. Larry felt a personal change in attitude. He determined to stop blaming others and focus on the things he could control. The speaker helped him see how an adjustment in his attitude could change the way he viewed both home and work.
- Focus. Instead of taking a scattered approach to what he learned, Larry decided to focus on the things that would make the most difference in his personal growth. He knew if he could change some of his habits and behaviors, it would show improvement in all areas of his life.
Larry left the seminar eager to get started. “I honestly felt like a new person,” Larry said. “I knew I could not keep on this high forever, but for me it was a game changer.”
Larry listed the new skills and ways to communicate. Each week he took one of the skills and worked to master it. “It’s really made a difference in all areas of my life,” Larry said. “I expected the motivational speaker to help with work. And it did. I’m so much happier there. But I was surprised at how much I grew personally. My wife and kids really like the new me.”
If you are looking for personal growth, increased enthusiasm, guidance, direction and actionable skills, go listen Joel, a great motivational speaker. Contact Joel to learn where he is speaking next.
Talkback: Have you had good success listening to a motivational speaker? How has it benefited you?
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