Why We Need to Do More and Work ‘Harder’

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect

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Story: There is this strange contradiction going on in many workplaces. People complain about diminishing capacity and feeling lots off stress. Many people feel challenged focusing, and not very productive. They get easily distracted, and do lots of “other stuff,” (most of it on their smartphones) that doesn’t add much value.  And I hear lots of comments like the following from people at all levels, and in different industries: “Frankly, I feel undervalued and unchallenged. I can do way more.” “Everyday I come in and do the same s#!*… I have to talk myself into showing up after years of doing this.” “My last boss gave me lots and tough assignments. It was hard, yet gratifying. My new boss just doesn’t keep me engaged or busy. I’m getting exhausted looking for things to do.” “I’m so busy I’m stressed out. Yet if I honestly evaluate what I’ve really accomplished in a day, it’s not very much.”

You may argue that the people quoted are not very self-accountable. That may be in a few cases. There is also a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s Law. The idea is that our workload tends to expand to fit the time available for its completion. Small tasks that should take two hours to complete will take an entire workday if we have that time available. So, as is often the case, the notion of being stressfully unproductive is usually more complex and as with most things, it is a leadership issue..

Key Point: I think we would have better workplaces and happier, more productive employees if we ALL had more and harder (challenging) work. Ok… Before you get mad and click away, please stick with me a little longer. Chris Bailey is a productivity consultant and the author of the forthcoming book “Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction.” On Aug. 25, in the New York Times, he wrote the following: “When it comes to focusing at work, there is no shortage of scapegoats to blame for our wandering minds. Social media, the ever-churning news cycle, chats with colleagues — these distractions can lead to a working state of mind that is far from focused. But there’s one possible cause of frequent distraction we don’t often consider: Our work isn’t complex enough, and there isn’t enough of it. Complex tasks demand more of our working memory and attention, meaning we have less mental capacity remaining to wander to the nearest stimulating distraction. In his book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,’ the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argues that we’re most likely to enter into that state of total work immersion when the challenge of completing a task is roughly equal to our ability to complete it…  Consciously taking on a greater number of complex projects is a powerful way to enter a mental state I call hyperfocus — an attentional mode in which one task consumes your complete attention. Your mind wanders less often in hyperfocus because you’re more engaged. That means you’re also more productive.”

People that have worked with me know that I give them “20 pounds of work when I know they only have a 10 pound sack.” This is intended to be respectful rather than insensitive. My experience is that people, assuming they know the purpose of the work and feel they are learning, will make great choices. They have little time to wander, get distracted or lost. They also need to have the emotional maturity and my support to know when to rest. My friends at Vega Factor, have done a lot of research and have the data to prove that people who most enjoy their work (play), understand why it matters (purpose), and think it’s important to their future (potential), generated about 30 percent more revenue than the folks quoted above. Makes sense to me.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. If you’re a leader, please design and assign work that is challenging, matters and that there is lots of it. No excuses. Even if there is lots of repetition, figure out ways to make it meaningful and challenging. And if you think it’s just a low paying job and that it doesn’t matter because people are easily replaced, well you STINK!
  2. If you find yourself unchallenged and/or continuously distracted, look in the mirror first. If YOU can’t change the situation, then get the heck out ASAP. You are worth it!

Doing more and challenging work in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: They call them “microwave” minutes for a reason. Time moves so slow when you’re doing nothing but watching seconds go by, especially when you’re legitimately hungry. In this case, I think a lot of us are starving for more action, responsibility, and challenging projects. Anyone can sit and gobble up time, but there’s no fulfillment, and that’s no way to feel professionally nourished.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Vividly Lying in State

Abundance Accountability Personal leadership Respect

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Story: Although our blog audience is literally world wide, most of you would know of senator and American patriot, John McCain, and his passing on Saturday, Aug. 25. McCain and his family were very open regarding his battle with brain cancer, and the public knew it was only a matter of time. While he was an imperfect human, like all of us, it was expected that McCain would be much lauded postmortem. I think it is worth reflecting on what attributes people from all perspectives found most admirable. Two former presidents shared their views:

President Obama: “John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.”

President George W. Bush: “Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order. He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”

Key Point: In leaving ATB, I shared some thoughts with my former executive colleagues around attributes that I believe would serve them well as leaders. They are vital ways of thinking and acting, all beginning with the letter “C.” They include CARE, CONNECT, COURAGE and CONFIDENCE. McCain exemplified all of them. He CARED most of all for what he deeply believed was best for the country first; over simplistic partisan or personal gain. One may not have agreed with his purpose driven perspective, but his convictions using the filter of “country first” was consistently clear. As President Obama notes, the Senator conveyed “a fidelity to something higher.” He was also renowned for his love of the Senate and importance of its bilateral CONNECTION. McCain would intentionally connect with senators from both sides of the floor, and he knew most problems involved creating and connecting solutions that included forward compromise. He practically understood that winning involved progress rather than an always zero sum political game. He was respected by both Republicans and Democrats. Perhaps his most revered attribute was COURAGE. It was shaped most fully during his time as a Vietnam POW for five years. He was fearless in speaking out on corruption related to campaign financing. Most recently, applying his “no” vote regarding the repeal of Obamacare took the heart of a lion. It would have been much easier to have cast his vote with the partyline. And when fellow Arizona congressman, now Senator, Jeff Flake was a rookie, McCain mentored him on the importance of CONFIDENCE. Flake was acting hesitant on a number of policies and the sharks were circling. He fondly recalls the story of McCain thumping him in the chest with a forefinger, encouraging Flake to confidently lead, and not knee-jerk to every bit of opposition.

McCain would be first in line describing his personal shortcomings, and questioning decisions that may not have been the best in retrospect. However, my message here is not about his politics or perfection, but about leadership character. I think people from all sides are mourning the loss of McCain’s vivid “C’s” at a time when we so dearly need them. McCain obviously was on a world stage, yet this message is not about how big each of our personal platform is. However modest, we ALL have a position to express CARE, CONNECT and to act with COURAGE and humble CONFIDENCE. Only a handful of people ever lie in state after death, however we can all choose to define the state by which we will lay.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Live to advance humankind. Start with yourself. Apply the C’s, including compassion (which ideally would have been in my original list).
  2. And from George W. Bush (who was never known as the great orator), take inspiration from some compelling insight: Live vividly with a vibrant voice!

Defining our state in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: Yeah, McCain is a great reminder that political views can differ, but if we share core values like the C’s, that means there is always room for discussion, reflection and healthy debate.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

A Man and an Ice Cream Cone

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Story: Our 11-year-old grandson Logan and I went on a ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston, WA the other day. It’s a fun, short trip across the shipping lanes of Puget Sound, to get a super delicious ice cream cone from MORA. While we were waiting to get on the ferry, an older, somewhat unkempt man was shuffling to-and-fro in front of us. He was obviously very anxious. The man was worried about whether he would miss the boarding, where he should sit, etc. When we landed in Kingston, we noticed him asking others where he might meet his ride. As we sat outside MORA enjoying our ice cream, Logan noticed the man sitting on a bench, anxiously searching for his ride. Logan says to me, “Gramps, I’m going to buy and bring him an ice cream cone.”

Key Point: Compassion essentially is a sense of concern that arises when we are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to see that suffering relieved . How gratifying it was to see that quality so alive in our grandson, Logan. Why it is so important, of course, is that compassion invites to act with understanding, patience and kindness, rather than perhaps fear or repulsion. From the outside, the anxious man was disheveled and superficially unattractive; a person many would want to overlook. Logan not only saw him, he genuinely felt for him.

As a grandfather, I do not want my grandchildren to blindly follow a living narrative which has been dominated by competition and self-interest. Why blithely accept that it’s a “dog eat dog” world, where others are to be viewed primarily as rivals? Of course, I do not want them to be naive and taken advantage of either.

So back to my post retirement “weeding.” I am more convinced than ever that compassion needs to take central residence in our workplace. It’s not just something we should do, BUT rather what we want to do, and naturally feel compelled to act upon. Why? The research essentially reinforces that compassion makes us happier:

  1. Compassion gives us a sense of greater purpose beyond much of today’s trivial distractions.
  2. It makes us more optimistic, more patient with ourselves and others.
  3. It also makes us less lonely and afraid. It is the gateway to more COURAGE too!So what can you and I do?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Most of us need to learn more about compassion. I encourage you to join me in reading the following: A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives by Thupten Jinpa, PhD, and Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff. I know our readers have other recommendations too.
  2. Join me and others in connecting the importance of further developing compassion for self and others to the world of culture/work. Let’s make it more of a central conversation.
  3. We need to connect as people for the advancement of humankind. Will you join me in expressing the more compassionate part of who we naturally are?

More compassion in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I believe my base starts at a pretty compassionate place, but after reading this I admittedly thought, “well of course I (and 99 percent of others) want the suffering of others to be relieved,” and became frustrated at the idea of feeling I needed to know more on the subject. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I can probably do some more exploring on compassion. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

The Call for Courage

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Story: The following is from a Washington Post article on Aug.16, “In a published defense of former CIA chief John Brennan, a retired Navy admiral who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden has asked President Donald Trump to revoke his security clearance, too. Adm. William McRaven made the request in a letter to Trump, published Thursday in The Washington Post, one day after the president canceled Brennan’s security clearance.” Definition of courage according to Merrimack-Webster: Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

I was recently asked by Chris Rainey and the hosts of a great podcast, “HR Leaders,” what question I wanted to leave with their very substantial listening community of 500,000 plus worldwide, and it centered around how to develop more COURAGE in the workplace. I think, more than ever, each of us needs to ask ourselves how activated our “courage button” is. I believe engaging personal COURAGE is fundamental to our individual freedom, respect and moral autonomy that makes living most rewarding. Admiral McRaven, one of the most highly respected “warriors” in the world, has embraced courage as part of his reason for existence as a soldier. Still, it took considerable courage, way beyond the more obvious dangers of a literal battleground, for McRaven to speak out. He knows Trump and others will punch back in some way. It would have been much “easier” for McRaven to be quiet. He spoke up.

Key Point: This blog is about leadership and culture, not politics. I will not weigh in on the issue of security clearances relative to former intelligence officers of the U.S. government. However, I fully intend to identify situations that are signs of serious danger to all of us. And that is when we find ourselves in positions where we think it is better to keep our mouths shut, head down, and stay clear of getting involved in something we know or genuinely believe is wrong. That’s when very bad things happen in personal lives, organizations and eventually the larger community. When we perceive there is too much to lose for confronting an issue, it is likely a signal that we must act, and speak out. Perhaps the reason most of us get to practice having to navigate the playground bully as children, is to prepare us for those more substantial times later in life. Courage doesn’t mean we are always “right,” nor does it give permission to be disrespectful, or make it all about winning. It is the application of the Webster definition above: To venture forward knowing full-well we will have to withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Be aware of signals in your work environment like the following comments /thoughts, “just keep your head down and shut up.” “Don’t raise that issue, it’s a career limiting move.” “We’ve always done it that way, so don’t rock the boat…” “Watch out for taking on ____, he/she will get you fired or make your life hell”. Those are often calls for personal courage. (By the way, courage and reckless/dumb aren’t related. Understand and be prepared to live with the consequences of courageous action). The outcome may have considerable personal pain attached to it.
  2. The very best leaders and team members seek out full debate, transparency and celebrate constructive disagreement. It is the only way to establish trust and ultimately find the best paths to take for the advancement of the greater good. How courageous are you as a leader and teammate?

More Courage in Personal Leadership,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I love this true but challenging message. I could risk sounding a little too dark here, but remember that appeasement just means you’ll be the last to fall. A lack of courage leads to your neighbors turning a blind eye when they take you. (Dramatic? Maybe. But pick up a history book. Courage equals freedom).

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Terrorist Thistles

Abundance Accountability Respect

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Story: I’m still digging up some August weeding analogies. We have a back garden where we have had a daily, ongoing battle with thistles. The little buggers literally pop up overnight. And we choose not to use a weed killer spray, because we find them largely ineffective. Plus, we just don’t like using the chemical junk near food we eat. So, the only way to get rid of them is to pull them out at the root. That is easier said than done. Gardners out there will know how deep the roots of even the tiniest, terrible, torturous thistles are. You have to dig them out one at a time. It’s the only systemic, sustainable way to stay on top of them. It involves focused and frankly tedious effort. (P.S., it’s easier when listening to country music and drinking a beer). So, what do thistles trigger in my self-reflection and post-retirement musings?

Key Point: Every organization has stinky “thistles.” What surprises me is how unwilling or incapable we seem to be at putting the focus on eliminating them. A thistle in an organization is some ongoing, relentless problem that we know upsets customers and distracts employees. In banking. it might be as simple as calling customers back and keeping them updated on the status of some transaction that is worrisome to the customer (e.g., loan approval). This is not a major and complicated issue. Yet, most banking institutions haven’t killed the “follow up” weed. Why? Perhaps avoidance is just very human, because when it comes to those thistles I’d rather plant new stuff elsewhere, just throw mulch over them and hope they go away; anything to avoid getting on my hands and knees and pulling them out one at a time. Of course, I could reinvent the garden and turn it into a swimming pool, but that argument doesn’t get much traction with the CFO in our family. So, what could this wandering metaphor mean to you?

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1.  Identify the thistles in your organization. Is anyone really focused on getting rid of them? Who, and by when?
  2. If you want to make a real difference in your organization, find the “thistles” and really do something to eliminate, or dramatically reduce them. The organization knows what and where they are. You can identify them by the fact that they have been around for a long time, pop up regularly, and annoy the hell out of people. Will you have the focus, courage and tenacity to really do something about them? Why not you?

Taking on thistles in Personal Leadership,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I haven’t seen a poll, but I’d be willing to bet that removing weeds is a gardner’s least favorite of all necessary yard work. At least, it seems, with the “thistles” at work, if we truly rip them out at the root, then the same problem is less likely to grow right back or sprout somewhere new. If only real life weeds were that easy.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis