Work-related stressors and the maladies they cause, like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, are more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or influenza, according to an article in The Atlantic.
Additionally, workplace stress can interfere with productivity, impair relationships, and even cause safety issues. We’ve all seen over-busy people walking along – even crossing streets – with their eyes focused on their cellphone and not what’s in front of them.
So how do you recognize when you’re under too much stress – when you are “overextended”? It starts by being self-aware. When you start to feel overwhelmed, pay attention to how you respond to your work and the people around you. When we’re overextended, our positive qualities may actually become “too much of a good thing” causing negative impact. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Peabody becomes Attila the Hun it’s time to get a handle on stress.
Oh, right, you say. There’s work to be done and we’re down two people…I don’t want to lose my job…I just need to get through this month and then I’ll (fill in the blank): get back to my family, get back to my workouts, get back to my life.
OK, people. Listen up. Part, not all, but PART of the reason we’re in this environment is that we allowed it to happen. Just like Lucy and Ethel in that famous bit in the chocolate factory, the more we demonstrated a willingness to work more, work faster, sacrifice life balance for the sake of a pay raise or out of fear for our job, the faster the conveyor belt went. The 40-hour work week turned into 50, then 60. Vacations? Who has time? Off hours? What are those? Welcome to our 24 x 7 world of work.
So what to do? I say, let’s take back our lives. Let’s stop the insanity and lean out for a change. Here’s how.
1. Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates, suggest alternative resources.
3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if needed. Take a break.
4. Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
5. Laugh. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.
"If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it."
-George Burns (who lived to be 100)
Till next time,
Probably most of us have wondered, at some point in our lives, “who am I?” Or, as Stephen Colbert put it in his recent, comical, quest for self-discovery, “who am me?” However you ask the question, finding the answer by increasing your self-awareness can have tremendous benefits - in your working relationships, personal relationships, career and, well, your life overall.
The trouble is, most of the tools that purport to help us with self-discovery are actually aimed at fitting us into one of their predefined boxes, types, or labels. An example of this is the tool that Colbert talked about on his show – Myers-Briggs (MBTI). As described in the segment, MBTI divides society into 16 personality types. Types are made up of different combinations of 4 out of 8 different preferences: Introversion OR Extraversion (I or E); Intuition OR Sensing (N or S); Thinking OR Feeling (T or F); and Perceiving OR Judging (P or J). In Colbert’s case, his type is: INFP.
There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Can we really fit them all into only 16 personality types?
I’ve been working with people, personalities, and behavioral assessments for more than 20 years. I’ve learned through my work that it’s both limited and limiting to put people in neat little boxes. Think about it. People are a whole lot more complex (and interesting!) than that. At Lumina Learning, we recognize that personalities are not EITHER/OR, they’re AND. You can be an Introvert AND an Extrovert. You can be tactical AND still see the big picture. You can focus on tasks AND care about the people. And you can be driven at times by discipline AND at times by inspiration. It all depends on the situation. You may pull on certain qualities in your job that lie dormant when you’re at home. Or you may have an underlying quality (a “hidden gem”) that isn’t being used right now and is just waiting to be discovered and leveraged. Based on the latest research in psychometrics – the Big 5 – and the best of Carl Jung, the Lumina Spark assessment provides a more comprehensive, more personalized, and more usable portrait of you in all your uniqueness. You are so much more than what can be contained in a label.
That’s what Bruce Kasanoff, Ghostwriter and LinkedIn Influencer found when he took the Lumina Spark assessment. Read his experience here.
Then, if you want to know more about Lumina Spark and how it can help you understand yourself, others, and your full potential, contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.
I’m always amazed – and encouraged – by the countless examples of human kindness and generosity that emerge in the aftermath of disasters such as the recent earthquake in Nepal, and the devastating tornadoes in the Mid-West. I sometimes wonder, however, why those acts of kindness don’t play out on a smaller scale in the workplace and elsewhere as we each struggle to navigate the often challenging aspects of day to day working and living.
Where’s that kindness in the manager who won’t adjust your schedule so you can attend your child’s play? Or the coworker who won’t pitch in when you and the rest of the team are overloaded? Where’s that kindness in the driver who narrowly cuts in front of you just to gain one car length at the stoplight? Why does it take a disaster to bring out the spirit of “I care”?
Let’s face it. We live in a stressful time. Most of us are being asked to do more with fewer resources and less time, and yet expected to deliver higher quality results. It’s no wonder people are cranky. And yet – cranky is as cranky does. And it just keeps replicating. It’s time to stop the madness. Here’s my 3-step formula for creating a culture of kindness. Let’s start it as a ripple, let it grow to a wave, and perhaps it will become a tsunami of “I care.”
Step 1. Look in the mirror. Are you being kind – to others? To yourself? Do you allow yourself to get overextended when stressed, or frustrated, or pressed for time? By overextended, I mean when those good qualities you have go overboard. When attention to detail becomes analysis-paralysis. When your creativity spawns multiple, random ideas, but no action. When a focus on action becomes a grasp for control – or aggression. Do you recognize when this happens, and how do you rein in those qualities?
Step 2. Nurture your support system. One way to rein in those qualities is, of course, to be aware. Another way is to create and nurture a support system, of people, places and activities that bring you back to center. Who are the people – friends, family, colleagues – in your support system? And how are you supporting them? In addition to helping you through those overextended days, a good support system, according to the Mayo Clinic, is beneficial to your overall health.
Step 3. Lead by example. Start the ripple of kindness by setting examples of kindness every day. Hold the door open for someone. Offer help to a coworker who’s struggling with a project or a complex issue. Hold back that nasty retort when someone says something rude to you. Set the example and others may follow.
And most of all, as Ellen says every day at the end of her show: “Be kind to one another.”
Till next time,
One of the activities I often incorporate into the Leadership Workshops I facilitate is having each participant develop their own “Leadership Mantra.” The original meaning of the word “mantra” was a sacred (Hinduism and Buddhism) utterance, sound, or word that was repeated over and over to aid in concentration during meditation. More recently, though, it has come to mean a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently; a truism, or saying. Although the definition has strayed somewhat from its original meaning, a mantra can still be very effective in helping you achieve clarity and maintain focus. And clarity and focus are essential to your success as a leader.
Your Leadership Mantra is what you are willing to “own” as a leader. It is created by you and for you. It is an oath that you will live by as a leader. Your Leadership Mantra will help you gauge your actions with your colleagues, your direct reports and your superiors. It also gives you clarity around how you operate in the world. You will make decisions based on your Leadership Mantra. It will serve as a guide throughout the day as you ask yourself, “Does this action align with who I am and who I want to become as a leader?”
The leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – looks at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them.
A leader strong in the Leading with Vision domain tends to focus on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team. A leader strong in Leading with Drive provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence. The strength of a Leading to Deliver leader lies in planning, follow-through and accountability. And a leader strong in Leading through People focuses on coaching and developing the team, and creating win-win partnerships. Where do you see yourself?
Here’s an assignment. Take some time to think about where your strengths are as a leader, and what kind of leader you want to be. Then develop your Leadership Mantra. Your mantra should be simple, memorable, and applicable. It should be no more than three short phrases. Once you’ve developed your mantra, write it down, memorize it, and live by it.
And on those days when everything seems to be falling apart or going haywire – use your Leadership Mantra to bring you back to clarity and focus. And if you do that while meditating, so much the better!
Till next time,
As I often say, the best teams are composed of people with a variety of skills, experience, points of view and personalities. Yes, there may be clashes at times, and…when managed effectively, those differences can spark innovation and even lead to closer relationships.
The key to finding harmony in those “different notes” on the team is recognizing…well, more importantly, accepting… that others may have a different approach to solving problems, to communicating, to making decisions, to working. Leaders need to lay the groundwork for productive dissonance. Team members need to develop awareness around their own style and then learn to recognize and adapt to others. Here are some tips for recognizing and adapting in some typical team interactions.
Team meetings. Extraverts speak to think, and are quite comfortable launching and bouncing around numerous ideas and comments in quick succession. Some of these never land at all and extraverts are OK with that. Introverts, on the other hand, think to speak. They prefer to listen and reflect on one idea at a time. How to adapt: Extraverts, slow down. Breathe. Put the ideas on a whiteboard so team members can begin to reflect on them. Introverts, take some time before the meeting to think through your ideas on the topic so you can be prepared to add them to the list. Propose a structure for prioritizing and narrowing the field of ideas so each can be reviewed and discussed by the whole team.
Team building. Extraverts are energized by other people, and often look at team building as an opportunity to socialize with the entire team. And anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity of the event. The more the merrier. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer smaller groups and as a result tend to build deeper relationships. For them, team building happens one one-on-one get-together at a time. How to adapt: Extraverts, recognize that all-team socials are not the only way to bring the team closer together. Consider small group lunches and other, lower-key team building alternatives. Introverts, attend at least one team social, even if you don’t stay for long.
Team work. Extraverts favor working collaboratively, surrounded by lots of buzz and activity. Open work environments with lots of interactions during the day are just fine, in fact energizing for them. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer quiet workspaces with plenty of opportunities to work solo and spend time in reflection and deep concentration. How to adapt: Extraverts, resist the temptation to interrupt your introvert teammate to chit chat or seek feedback on an idea. Instead, schedule lunch or a specific time to get together. And make the suggestion via email. Introverts, recognize that some ideas are just too great to contain! If you absolutely DO NOT want to be disturbed or need time to recharge, consider working in a conference room for a few hours.
Making the effort to recognize and appreciate other team members’ work styles, preferences and hot buttons, and helping them understand yours is perhaps the best team building strategy of all!
Till next time,