Create a Workforce of Self Leaders

Leaders and managers ask me all the time how they can help their people become self leaders. It’s no secret that employees who are proactive self starters are huge contributors to organizational success. But sometimes people just don’t have the skills or confidence to get what they need to become high achievers.

That’s why I’m proud to announce the release of our newly revised Self Leadership program that I co-developed with motivation and engagement experts Susan Fowler and Laurence Hawkins. The success of your company depends on every person being empowered and committed to achieving results. Yet sometimes when it comes to training, individual contributors are overlooked. But if you don’t help them reach their full potential, your company won’t reach its potential, either.

This engaging new program is based on years of research. It teaches individuals the mindset and the skills they need to proactively take the reins, achieve their goals, accelerate their own development, and ultimately help the organization flourish. The truth is that people want to be engaged, to make meaningful contributions, and to be appreciated. And it is your job as a leader to help them be the best performers they can be.

I encourage you to take a look at the Self Leadership program and invest in the talent you already have in your company. I guarantee you’ll build an empowered workforce of people who are productive, innovative, and passionate about their work—and that passion will grow into individual, team, and organizational success.

It’s Time to Commit to Your Commitment—Once and For All

bigstock-Pin-On-Calendar-Pointing-New-Y-55756751Why don’t New Year’s resolutions work? When I ask people how many have made a New Year’s resolution they haven’t kept, everyone raises their hand.

The reason for this is, after you announce your New Year’s resolution, everyone who is important in your life laughs, says, “We’ll believe it when we see it,” and goes to a delegating leadership style where they leave you alone to accomplish your goal.

But if you could handle a delegating leadership style, it wouldn’t be a New Year’s resolution—you would just do it. Therefore, it’s the wrong leadership style. Continue reading

Defining Your Work/Life Balance, Part 2

In last week’s blog, I started telling you about an effective model you can use to achieve balance so you can enjoy your life more and resist stress.  The acronym for the PACT model stands for Perspective, Autonomy, Connectedness, and Tone. Adopting this model and putting it into practice on a daily basis is a fabulous way to keep your stress level in check and keep your work and life in balance—the ultimate goal being a happier and more peaceful day-to-day existence. Who wouldn’t want that?

We started last week with P: Perspective.  Keeping good and bad experiences in perspective can contribute greatly to a feeling of well-being and help your stress level remain low.

A: Autonomy

The next element that contributes to peak periods of happiness and high stress resistance is autonomy.  Autonomy is a feeling of having control over your own life. People with a high sense of autonomy usually have a clear sense of their own identity, feel the freedom to make choices in their lives, have career or job options and sufficient skills, and see their daily activities as moving them toward their long- and short-range goals.  If we ask individuals a single question—Are you in control of your life?—and they answer “no,” we know that those individuals are at a much higher risk for illness.

The lack of power and control felt by those who are underprivileged, really struggling to make ends meet, in a situation where there is racial or sexual discrimination occurring, or simply stretched to their limits in terms of workload, is the very opposite of autonomy and control.  People who feel powerless are under the most stress and are often the most angry.  These people often have the most severe health problems of any group in our society.

On the other hand, people who are good time managers, who feel that they are managing their daily lives well and have the skills to do it, are the ones who are likely to feel the most control and the most autonomy.  In their stories of peak periods of happiness, these people often referred to two or three weeks or a month when they were in a special place and they could decide what it was that they were going to do each day.  Others referred to a job they had or a project they were working on where they could choose the direction in which they were going and felt in control of the situation.

Clearly, most people can’t go through life on a vacation or in complete control of everything—but certainly a young mother with two toddlers running around and no money for a babysitter has a different degree of autonomy than a young mother whose youngest child has just entered the first grade. The latter may have six open hours for deciding how to spend her time. Is she going to play tennis or sleep until 10:00 a.m., take a class to further a career goal, or start a part-time job? What is her choice for today?

One of the most powerful ways to build control and choice in your life is through the development of key skills—skills like knowing how to manage others effectively, being a good parent, managing your time well, or helping people feel like they are doing their jobs well.  Again, people often have different degrees of autonomy at home and at work.  Some people do very well at the office—they set goals, hold committee meetings, participate in performance reviews, and they progress well.  At home, however, they never have time to exercise, break appointments with themselves and other family members for scheduled “quality time,” or they might have half-finished projects around the house they have been putting off for years.

C: Connectedness

The third ingredient in stress resistance and high life satisfaction is connectedness.  Connectedness relates to the quality of relationships in peoples’ lives.  People who report high connectedness often feel they have positive relationships with friends, family, self, coworkers and supervisors.  Connectedness also relates to a feeling of contentment and resonance with one’s physical environment.  You can have a highly connected experience watching a beautiful sunset or walking into a home that you’ve decorated because it feels good to you. In fact, there are good reasons for people, when they first move into a home or a new community, to spend time decorating that new environment so that they feel more connected to it. You can have a highly connected experience having a cup of coffee with a friend or sitting in bed at night cuddled up to a loved one.

My definition of low connectedness is when you do not feel you are an integral part of your environment.  For example, if you move to a new community and go away for the weekend, then return and find that nobody knows that you were gone and came back, it can be an indicator that you are not very connected to your neighborhood.  In fact, after a move most people feel totally disconnected and many people report a great deal of illness during the year following a major relocation.

In their stories of peak periods of happiness, people often referred back to a time when they were first married and didn’t have much money and so did more things at home, such as played a lot of bridge because that was all they could afford to do. Often, however, their friendships were solid and meaningful.  Men often referred back to fraternity days in college or to a high school group of friends when connections were strong and non-competitive.

All types of relationships you have affect your connectedness, but the most important relationships are those with your spouse and your boss. In fact, the number one predictor of health at the worksite is your relationship with your boss.  A bad relationship with a supervisor can make people sick.  A good relationship can enhance a feeling of overall well-being and productivity.  On the home front, are you spending quality time with your spouse?  Do you make special efforts to plan “memory-building” times together?  In general, have you spent the time that you need to nourish the most important relationships in your life?

T: Tone

The fourth element in the PACT model is tone. This important concept includes how you feel about yourself physically. This includes the way you look, your health and energy level, your sense of fitness, even the way you are dressed and the colors you are wearing.  People with high tone generally have high energy levels, maintain a proper weight, have sound nutrition and feel really good about their physical appearance.  In their stories of peak periods of happiness men very often thought back to high school or college when they were in the best shape they had ever been in—easily able to bench press 300 pounds or run several miles.  Women often talked about the time when they were 10 pounds lighter and could fit into all the clothes in their closet.  Generally both men and women talked about a time when they were active, looked good, had an abundance of energy, and paid attention to their physical health.

Over the years I’ve found that when everything else seems to be floundering and I feel my balance is slipping away, often the quickest and easiest ingredient to impact is tone.  Tone is often easiest because it lends itself better to measurement and you can see concrete results more quickly.

Balancing the Elements

What has been helpful to me about this model is that the elements of perspective, autonomy, connectedness, and tone can be a dynamic balance for one another.  As an example, what do we do in our society when someone becomes ill or injured and is hospitalized?  By definition, their physical health (tone) is low now. So what do we do? Customarily we send this person a card.  What might the card say?  We care about you (connectedness).  This won’t last forever (perspective).  Soon you’ll be up and about (tone) doing what you want to do (autonomy). We may even send flowers to help him or her connect better to a sterile hospital room.

Why I like the PACT is it helps.  It’s like a good diet.  It will work even better for you as you personalize it and make it yours.  I have used this model for many years now to keep my own life in balance and monitor the times when balance isn’t present.  If I notice I’m not looking forward to a given day or time, or I feel my energy is lagging, I try to step back and ask myself:  What’s feeling out of balance?  Am I so over-committed or over-stressed that I’m doing what everyone else wants me to do today without any time for myself?  Or am I upset about a relationship with someone close to me?  Or does my house feel untidy with lots of undone tasks and thus doesn’t provide a nourishing harbor from the stormy world?  Or have I lost track of what all my efforts are for?  Or am I confused about why I’m working 12 hours today and worked 12 hours yesterday and don’t have time to see the people I love?

The PACT model has helped me, and it can help you, identify what’s wrong when you’re feeling out of balance and pay more attention to life when you are feeling great. When your life is in balance, stress naturally loses its grip and you are able to enjoy life on a higher level.

Defining Your Work/Life Balance, Part 1

Even though most of us know about the need to have balance in our lives, the journey from knowing it to actually doing it isn’t easy. Looking at our lives with the help of a model we can use and reuse can be a great way to keep stress at bay and help us achieve the work/life balance we need.

The model I’m referring to was drawn from a study about peak periods of happiness in people’s lives, as well as various studies of the effect of stress upon health.  Researchers were looking for common elements that explained the phenomena of stress survival or optimal well being. They hoped that such identification could lead to prevention of strain caused by excess stress and a model for improving well being.

Peak Periods of Happiness

            In this study, people were asked to describe a three-week or longer “peak period of happiness” in their lives—a time when they felt that life was truly worth living.  Ask yourself:  When was the happiest period of time in my life?  When did I feel that life was the most fun, the most meaningful, the most alive?  Where was I?  What was I doing?  Who was I with?  A researcher named Herbert Shepard asked people these questions.  As he collected several hundred interviews, he began to notice that there were common elements in the lives of people as they remembered and described these wonderful periods of time.

The Impact of Stress

The other studies are about the impact of stress in a person’s life.  After studying people who had experienced a number of stressful events over the course of a 12-month period of time, researchers found that 80 percent of such highly stressed individuals developed a physical illness within the next 12 months.  The conclusion was that illnesses such as diabetes, ulcers, cancer, and heart disease quite often follow a very stressful period of time in a person’s life.

The other side of this research is interesting as well. Researchers asked:  Why did the other 20 percent of those highly stressed individuals not get sick?  What is happening in their lives that is enabling them to remain stress-resistant, or “psychologically hardy”?  Interviews with these stress-resistant people revealed that they had some important common ingredients in their lives.  Such “stress survivors” survived 12 months of frequent and/or intense stress-inducing life events without becoming seriously ill during, or one year following, the onslaught of high stress.

As luck would have it, not only were the researchers able to identify the elements related to both peak periods of happiness and stress survival, but the two sets of elements were also found to be fundamentally similar to one another.  When I studied this research , the similarity of the results of the two investigations confirmed the my feeling that a simple model for life balance and satisfaction would enable many of us to better manage the day-to-day options and demands of a busy life.

The PACT Model

For convenience, I’ll be referring to four elements—Perspective, Autonomy, Connectedness, and Tone—as the PACT model of life balance and satisfaction.  The remainder of this article will explain these four key concepts and suggest how to achieve a balance among these elements.

P:  Perspective

The first element that can create both happiness and stress resistance in your life is perspective.  Perspective can be defined as the “big picture” of life.  People with good perspective know their purpose and direction in life and value their past experiences while still having a keen sense of the present moment.  Perspective is that broad picture of where you’ve been and where you’re going that sets the context for this moment and for today.

An example of perspective for me has always been Viktor Frankl.  Frankl was a World War II concentration camp survivor who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning.  When Frankl was first imprisoned, his captors burned the only copy of a prized manuscript he had written, right in front of him.  As a result, his main purpose in life became to live through that horrible experience and rewrite his manuscript.  It turned into an obsession.  While in this camp, he observed that, in this most degrading of all human situations, some people managed to keep going and survive, but others seemed to lose their will to continue—one day they would refuse to get out of bed in the morning and two weeks later they would be dead.  Frankl’s observation was that the people who were able to keep going month after month and year after year were the ones who had a purpose in their lives they could hang on to—a great love they wanted to return to, work they felt compelled to finish, a strong spiritual direction, or even a strong desire to get through each day and help others through the dreadful experience.

For each of us, perspective can translate into goals we want to achieve, values we want our lives to reflect, or a sense of living each day as if it might be our last. It’s helpful to think about perspective at home and perspective at work. Some of us have a very good idea of our work goals—our professional direction in life—but our personal life needs some thinking about.  For others it’s just the opposite—we do well at home, but our career goals are uncertain.  For many people, the challenge is keeping a balance between work and home that is comfortable and at the same time allows them to obtain goals in both worlds.

Any time there’s a big change in our lives, our perspective is liable to drop.  Certainly a person going through a divorce, a person who has just been fired, or someone who has to make a major change in his or her life for any reason may be going through a period of low perspective. Most people, however, ultimately find that this period of low perspective becomes an opportunity for growth in their lives, even if it doesn’t feel comfortable or familiar.

Next week:  Part 2 – Autonomy, Connectedness, and Tone

What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

It’s getting to be about that time when people talk about New Year’s resolutions. What do you want to do differently in 2011? What would you like to be different in your life a year from now?

Just a couple of suggestions on New Year’s Resolutions: Don’t make too many of them. I’ve known some people who say, “This year I’m going to lose weight, exercise more, stop drinking, cut down on the amount of meat I eat,” and so forth, and they don’t even want to get up in the morning—it’s too overwhelming! So pick one, maybe two things that you’re going to focus on.

Several years ago, Bob Lorber and I wrote a book called Putting the One Minute Manager to Work. We talked about having a PRICE project. I like using that model for my New Year’s resolutions.

P is for pinpoint. What is the thing you’d like to do? Is it lose weight, is it exercise more? Identify what you want to work on and be specific.

R is for record. What is your present level of performance in that area? Get on the scale if you want to lose weight, or write down your present level of exercise so you have baseline data. Then with that, you can compare it with where you want to go, which involves the next step:

I is for involve. Gather all the key people in your life who can really help you and see if you can set a realistic goal. That’s the difference between what you’ve recorded, where you are now, and where you’d like to go. See what kind of help you can get from this group because it’s hard to stick to resolutions and you’re probably going to need a little help. What are they going to do to cheer you on? What are they going to do to hold you accountable? Plan it out and get agreement on your goal or goals.

C stands for coach. That means getting underway with your resolution—getting the coaching you need and the cheerleading, the supporting, the redirection. Let other people help to keep you in line. As I say, if you could do it by yourself, you would.

E stands for evaluate. That’s the end of the time period when you have achieved your goal, or moved toward your goal, and you look back and evaluate how you did. What could you have done differently? What went well? Any forward progression toward your resolution is worth celebrating. Track your progress and plan your future strategies. What will you pinpoint next?

So think about what’s going to be different next year. What are you going to be smiling about next December? Take care and have a terrific 2011!