Leadership, The Leader

Say “Thank You” In A Note

It was many years ago now, but I still remember receiving a hand-written card from a divisional President when I was promoted to General Manager.  I wasn’t even within his reporting structure!  It meant a lot to me that he would take the time to send me such congratulations.  I’ve never forgotten that.

As a Leader saying thank you is important, but sometimes it isn’t enough.  Although it’s important and easy to say thank you, the words fade quickly and soon become forgotten.  Sending an email to say thanks is good, but then again your team likely receives many emails a day, so once again, it’s important but not good enough for some things.  Sending a hand written note, letter, or card to express your congratulations, gratitude, thanks, well wishes, or encouragement is the way to go.

So what does a hand written card offer that words or an email does not?

  • A hand written card takes a little effort and is deliberate.
  • You can express your message clearly and articulately.
  • Sending the card to the person’s home is a great way for your team member to be appreciated or recognized in front of their family.
  • A card including the family, or to the family, is also a great way to appreciate their perseverance and support through some challenging times that the team member has been through or accomplished.

Although sending a card or note is at the leader’s discretion, here are some examples where a note is appropriate:

  • Promotion
  • Achievement of a milestone or objective
  • Going above and beyond expectations
  • Manages or leads through a crisis
  • Demonstrating or exemplifying a core company value
  • Being customer obsessed
  • Persevering through some challenging times
  • Going through a personal hardship
  • Mentoring or coaching others

So what’s your excuse preventing you from sending a card?  Oh, you don’t have any cards?  Well, I happen to know of an on-line retailer that sells them!

 

 

 

Leadership, The Leader

10 Steps to Improve the Work-Life Teeter-Totter (Balance)

In the last post we discussed whether work-life balance is a myth and explained it is more like a teeter-totter. In this post we’ll review 10 steps you can take to help yourself achieve a better work-life balance.

1. Look after you first – Sleep, exercise, diet, relaxation

The absolute most important thing you have to do is look after yourself first. If you are not healthy, fit, or well-rested, there is no way you will be effective at work or in life. It’s not dissimilar to the emergency message on a plane advising to put your air mask on first. This is to keep you safe but also so you can help others that may not be able to help themselves. It’s the same in work-life. If you are not at your best, you will not be most effective to support your family, friends, or team at work. This really should go without saying, but look around. Many people do not treat this as the #1 work-life priority at all!

2. Clearly define your life’s passions

We’ve all heard the saying that when lying on your death bed, no one says “I wish I worked more”. No matter who you are, you will retire some day, then what? You no longer have that big title or position. So, figure out what your passions are both within your work and your personal life. Define them clearly as to what they are and who you are relative to them. Then set goals and objectives to pursue those passions and go get them. When done right, these are what define you, what motivates you, satisfies you, and lasts your lifetime far beyond your career. They will become who you are.

3. Set long term personal goals and the aligning annual objectives

This is such a powerful tool but it surprises me how few people actually do it. Life just happens and steals our time if we don’t deliberately spend some of our time on the things most important to us. My family and I have set long term family and personal goals for years. It’s amazing how many of our goals we have achieved either as a family or individuals. We have a well defined process of setting our long term goals, then each year develop specific actions or objectives for that year that move towards the accomplishment of the longer term goal. Many people have goals and ideas, but they stop there. They don’t figure out how to actually achieve them. I’m not sure if they think they will just happen? In setting these goals, you are more likely to do and achieve the things that are most important to you rather than let life take you where-ever it takes you!

4.Start your day early (~1 hour before you have to get up)

This can be tough, particularly if you treat Step 1 as the top priority, but I swear by this one! Many people start their day stressed right out as they have hit snooze three times, figured out every minute they can cut from their morning routine to save time, skip a proper breakfast in favour of a coffee and donut at the drive through, and perform a trial lap worthy of the Indy 500 as they race to work in fear of being late. Day after day, after day. Getting up one hour before you have to get up can be so invigorating and stress reducing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in this time. To get up without having to rush, exercising, getting your personal and work life organized, listening to the news or weather, checking your social media, or simply enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee, is wonderful… try it!

5. Have a plan, adjust the plan

Have a plan for both your personal life and work. This is different than Step 3 goals and objectives and is more about a plan of how you will go about doing things. Be deliberate and don’t leave things to chance. Plan ahead by scheduling events and blocking the time in your calendar for professional and personal priorities. Be prepared to adjust your plan as things will change. The point here is to adjust, not cancel or abandon.

6. Get the top priorities (Big rocks) done first

Another common sense practice that isn’t so common; get your top priorities done first. This applies to work and personal life. The rest will get done. They won’t happen by accident, you have to make time for them and put the effort in to get them done. Determine what your top priorities are and re-evaluate them at least weekly. The priorities won’t necessarily change, however, your focus on them may need to change and adjust over time. For more on this check the post Effective Leadership Skills – Personal Planning.

7. Don’t let other people’s procrastination become your priority

From early in my career I remember a sign in one of the buyers cubicles that said “Procrastination on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency purchase order on my part!” I’ve never forgotten this and now have a much better appreciation of it. Don’t let yourself be distracted or have your time taken away by others that are not organized or procrastinate until the last minute. That is their problem. Stay focused on your top priorities. Now this not to say you abandon and ignore your team, but it also doesn’t mean you have to drop what you are doing or be interrupted on a whim. Establish “office hours” and rules of engagement that satisfy your priorities while being there to help/support others and your team, but on your terms.

8. Watch out for avoidance activities or excessive relaxation

Work hard, play hard is a great saying that I do believe in. In addition to this, we all need to relax and do other things now and again. What we have to be aware of though and watch out for is avoidance activities that we convince ourselves are important and necessary but in reality are just a distraction and deterrent from the really important activities we need and want to get done. They may serve a purpose and need to get done, but we have to watch that we don’t overdo it to avoid or procrastinate from getting to the more important. Similarly, we all need to relax, rest, and rejuvenate, but there is excessive relaxation that can steal hours away well beyond the good they initially provided.

9. Minimize the line between work and the rest of your life

This is somewhat dependent upon the amount of autonomy you have in your job, but the idea is we are all one individual so why is there sometimes such a definitive line between work and life? This includes being of the same character at work as you are at home, allowing personal things to sometimes overflow into your work space, and vice versa. Too much segregation between the two just creates stress. It’s not different than a relationship with your partner; it’s all about compromise and give and take.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Easier said than done I realize but just think for a minute of all the things you have worried about over the years. Now think of how many times what you worried about actually happened. Not very many! I’m not suggesting you become carefree and not give a @$!& about anything, but rather seriously consider, what is the worst that can happen? What is the likelihood of this happening? Can I control it? If your answer to any of these questions in inconsequential, then stop worrying about it and don’t sweat it. Generally your imagination is far worse than the reality, so don’t waste your time worrying about it. Most “small” things can be undone, repaired, or don’t really matter in the long run.

What steps do you take to help with a better work-life balance? Please share your suggestions by leaving a comment.
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Leadership, The Leader

Is Work-Life Balance A Myth?

Leader

Continuing the discussion on the Leader dimensions of the Leadership model, a Leader must have a healthy mix of work and life to be successful, not to mention healthy, fulfilled, and effective.

I’m often asked how does one get better work-life balance? My answer is that there is no such thing! I think that what stresses people out is a relentless pursuit of some utopian state of perfect balance that just doesn’t exist. Seem depressing? Well, I don’t think it has to be.

There are two analogies I frequently use to describe work-life balance. The first is a teeter-totter (see-saw) which provides great symbolism when talking about work-life balance. On one end of the teeter-totter is work and on the other, life. Just like the playground equipment because one person weighs more than the other, it is extremely rare that things are in perfect balance at any given time and you find yourself gravitating towards either work or life. If you try really hard by shifting one person’s weight up or down on the plank of the teeter-totter, you can find equilibrium for only a very brief moment, then slowly, it starts to sway to one side or the other, just as in work-life. The stress comes from trying to maintain perfect equilibrium of the work-life teeter-totter. What I think is most important, is to realize which side you need to be higher on at any given time and not fight it. Sometimes, you need to put more time and energy into life, while other times, it is work. However, you can’t be 100% in one! You always have some portion in both. This is where priorities come in. When work requires more from you due to a tight deadline, important project, or career opportunity, you have to determine which are your life priorities and be sure to set aside time for those and let the others go for a period of time. Similarly, there will be times when life needs more of your time and attention such as a sick child, aging parent, or the needs of your partner. During these times, you also need to determine your top priorities at work and let go or delegate the others. You can’t do it all. The stress comes from trying to do it all; doing everything at work, while doing everything you desire in life. It just doesn’t work that way. However, realizing which side needs to be higher while prioritizing those that are most critical and important to you on the other side, will leave you in control of the teeter-totter and free your mind to focus and enjoy the ride of work-life.

seasons of life

The second analogy is the four seasons of a year. Within the four seasons, things change gradually over-time as we move from one season to the next as we do in work-life. Typically this change is gradual but not unnoticeable. You need to be prepared for changes in the weather when you are between seasons. In the spring, it might be a beautiful warm day, however, the nights are still cool. As in work-life, you need to be prepared for the changes of the seasons and the unpredictability of them. The trick is to recognize the change in the seasons and adjust your focus & priorities to what’s most important in that season. At times that will be work, while others it is life. Even though we all have favourite seasons, no one can beat Mother Nature, and the seasons will come and go. We don’t fight it, we go with them and adjust our routines, focus, and priorities to fit the new season and await for passing season to come again.

So, is work-life balance a myth? Yes, if you are looking for that perfect equilibrium balance between work and life. However, I do believe you can find a healthy and happy mix of the two, if you set reasonable priorities well within both. Leave a comment with your thoughts on work-life balance.

In the next post we’ll discuss what you can do for a better work-life balance.

Leadership, The Leader

Can Police Use Handicapped Parking Spots?

LeaderIn this post we’ll pick up again on the Leadership model where the main components are the Leader, Vision, and People by  examining another component of the Leader; that being Lead by Example.

So no, there is not a new law that permits the Police to use handicapped parking spot when going for coffee, but it sure gives a good example of how all leaders need to lead by example, at all times!  Someone saw this poor example of leading by example and not only took a picture of it, but published it on social media for all to see.   We’ve all heard the phrase “lead by example“, however, time and time again we see and hear, both very publicly as well as from the leaders we interact with daily, how they fail to actually demonstrate it.

TweetPolice handi-capped v3

As a leader you need to assume your team is always watching you and that you are under the microscope at all times.  Nothing goes unnoticed, particularly hypocritical double standards of one version for them and a totally different one of lower expectation for you!  How can you expect to enforce and uphold the rules and standards of your business and team if you don’t demonstrate them yourself?

Below are ten ways I believe that a leader can lead by example.  Although I follow and believe strongly in all 10 of these, I do find a few where I struggle for consistency, so I continue to work to develop my skills and behaviours in those areas to be a better leader.

Top 10 ways to lead by example:

  1. Always follow organizational rules, policy, protocols; you are not above them​
  2. Consistently demonstrate the behaviours of the culture you want in your organization​
  3. No double standards​
  4. No favourites, but that doesn’t mean treat everyone equally​
  5. Always be approachable, friendly, listen​
  6. Assume positive intent​
  7. Seek to understand first​
  8. Treat people the way you want to be treated​
  9. Never take people for granted​
  10. Say “Thanks, good job!” and mean it.​

Leading by example can be tough sometimes; as after all we are all human.  However, rest assured, the one time you let your guard down, it will be noticed.  Continue to strive to lead by example and improve your leadership with the ten methods above.  Be a positive model of leading by example to your team!

How do you lead by example?  Leave a comment.

If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it at What is Leadership?

Leadership, The Leader

Is taking vacation too stressful?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found going on vacation or taking a few days off can be a stressful experience! Trying to get everything in order before you go and then coming back to a full inbox, a day of meetings, and many demands can challenge the benefits of vacation.  Have you ever found yourself responding to the common question “Hey, how was your vacation?” on your first day back after vacation with “Vacation, what vacation?”  I have.  Sad, but true!  I am certainly not the role model when it comes to vacation for sure.  I typically stay connected taking calls and responding to emails.  This is certainly an area I’m trying to improve upon myself as I do believe everyone needs to get away and recharge.  Even a quick email or short phone call snaps you away from your vacation and family and in the long run reduces your effectiveness in your job and other parts of your life.  So, this is a case of do what I say, not as I do.  I am trying to improve in this area.  Regardless, here are some things you can do to help make your escape to vacation and your return to the real world a little easier.

Before you go:

  • TIP: When you book your vacation, block off in your calendar the last day before you go and the first day you return, then be very selective as to what meetings you book on those days, if any.  Give yourself the opportunity to clear your inbox, ensure delegation is set-up, take care of any priorities that need to be looked after when you are gone, and give yourself sometime to deal with the inevitable last minute before vacation “crisis” that surely will pop up.
  • Appoint a delegate to look after things for you. Advise your team who this is and how to contact them.  Turn on your out of office notification and put this contact information in the notification so that when others beyond your team try to contact you, they will realize you are out of the office and will know who to contact should they need to do so, rather than wait for your return.
  • Depending on your level of responsibility, provide someone you trust with your contact information should there be a urgent matter or emergency in which you need to be reached. This maybe your cell phone number or contact information as to where you will be staying.  This may or may not be your assigned delegate.  Let your team know you are not checking or responding to emails or texts while you are gone.  Be sure to leave clear instructions as to what constitutes an urgent matter or emergency.
  • TIP: I picked this one up recently from my current boss and found it to be a great add to vacation planning. Leave instructions with your team to summarize key issues or problems you need to be aware of or where they need your help immediately upon your return.  If you have an assistant they can consolidate all these items in one email and send to you upon your return.  If you don’t have an assistant, then you can assign this to your delegate.  The intent here is that this short list will allow you to quickly focus on the most important items immediately upon your return rather than trying to sort through all your emails or reacting as things come to your attention somewhat randomly throughout the day.

Upon Return:

  • Review the consolidated list from your team of the urgent matters they need your immediate assistance with. Use this list to set your priorities for your first day back.  Schedule urgent meetings or phone calls as necessary to address these issues.
  • Check-in with your delegate to see how things went and if there is anything you need to know about or follow-up on.
  • TIP: Create a “Vacation holding” file within your email and move all the emails received while you were gone, other than the last 1-2 days, to this file.  Then sort through and process the remaining emails from the past 1-2 days.  If something comes up that you need to search through the emails in the vacation holding file, you have them available.  After a week or so, if you haven’t found you need any emails from this folder you can go ahead and delete them.
  • Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t before, during, and after your vacation so you can tweak your vacation routine accordingly.
  • TIP: Book your next vacation!

 

Most of these are pretty common and nothing special, but hopefully you picked up a couple of new tips.

Please leave a comment and let us know any tips you may have to help others reduce their vacation stress!