Compelling Questions Can Lead Us into the Future

I admit it. I’ve gone dark on blogging. You’ve not heard from me for a while. And here is why….there is a book in the works. Book #2 and one that I hope helps leaders and professionals within organizations understand the forces that are shaping the workplace and how work is likely to change in the future. In the book, I am tackling these questions:

  • How are organizations and work changing?
  • How does that impact the way we lead?
  • What does it mean for professionals?

Recovery and Reflection

Yesterday I submitted the first three chapters and today I’m basking in the relief that comes with completing a long stretch of focused work. The first chapters are, for me, the most difficult. They provide the shape and tone and pace of the book. Just as I experience in consulting, how it starts is how it goes. And with those first three chapters come many decisions. What am I trying to convey? How do I best do that? How do I create a compelling introduction that pulls readers into the message? What style suits this book best? Who am I writing to? What do they need?

And so just like running endurance races, I see today as a day of recovery. Not for my physical self but for my mental and creative self. A time to put the book aside. A time to let go of the disciplined “time on task” that I find is required to get a big writing project out the door. A time to breathe and reflect.

My reflection keeps circling around the trickiness of finding good answers to the questions you face. For in this book, I’ve deviated from my typical methods to find answers that work for me and my clients. Normally I would read the top thought leaders, comparing and contrasting their thoughts with my experience. After a deep dive into lots of content, I will then synthesize a towering stack of books and articles into something pithier, more practical, and more accessible for my clients and readers.

For this book, I’m using a combination of interviews and web research. It is a book about the future of work, and consequently I don’t have experience to draw from.

The Questions asked…

I deeply realize how the questions I ask and the search words I use dramatically impact the information I draw from. And those questions shape the responses I get and the responses I get shape the conclusions I draw. And if I am successful and create a book that people read and internalize, those readers are impacted by that long chain of events that had there beginning in a few simple questions:

  • What forces are shaping the work we do?
  • What will work be like in the future?
  • What does that mean for leaders?
  • What does this mean for professionals?

I realize too, that the answers I get to the questions I ask are filtered by my core beliefs. For I do believe that, as humans, we will adapt. I believe that, if we are intentional and thoughtful, the future can be better than the present or the past. I believe that if we are unwilling to change and adapt, the consequences on any level, will be dire.

And so, while the writing of this book has taken me deeper into understanding how organizations are evolving, how leadership is shifting and how professionals will be impacted, this outward and forward work has also taken more deeply inward and backward. It has prompted me to examine and test my core beliefs. It has reinforced, even more profoundly, that the questions we ask shape the answers we get. And it has driven home the truism that what you focus on is what manifests itself in your life.

So much, in fact, that I am ending each chapter with questions. Questions readers can ponder. Questions that readers can struggle with. Questions that can help point the way for us. For I believe that questions may be much more important than answers in the future.

Outsmart Overwhelm

May is the 70th anniversary of Mental Health Month and merits time, reflection and action from each of us. In the spirit of the month, I’m re-posting this blog from two years ago on how I “Outsmart Overwhelm”. I hope my tips might help you get through those times in your live that are especially stressful or busy.

This has also been a year for me of supporting others I love with bigger mental health issues. I’ve seen the benefits of robust services and the challenges faced when resources are sub-optimal. If you’d like to join me in advocating for mental health, you’ll find a toolkit here.

 

I fall prey to feeling overwhelmed more than I’d like. The “to do” list is long and grows like a teenager in a growth spurt. At times there are so many tugs on my time that I can find myself paralyzed, seemingly unable to tackle even one of the hundreds of tasks facing me.

Most often these times are of my own making (although not all the time). All of these times of overwhelm induce anxiety, warp my perspective and render me far less effective than I desire.

As I consult and coach and teach, I know I am not alone. Many are overwhelmed by jobs that demand them to be available 24/7. It is not uncommon for one person to be doing the job of 3 others as organizations shrink and downsize. Family demands collude with work demands, causing those caught between them to feel inadequate at either.

One of my strengths on the Gallop Strength finder Profile is “maximizer”. While it is a strength, at times it is also my greatest liability. As such I straddle the fine line between getting a lot of important things done and making myself and others crazy by the sheer volume of things I am taking on.

Tactics to Outsmart Overwhelm

I’ve grown wiser about overcoming overwhelm after a lifetime of practice. As such, here are the tactics that I’ve found work:

Tactic One: Know that this too shall pass.

It always does. It will this time too. Remind yourself of this over and over and over again. Breathe. Put your head down and work. Repeat as needed.

Tactic Two: Create order in one small part of your life.

When all of your life seems spinning out of control, create one oasis of orderliness. Clean your desk. Organize your to-do list. Do the dishes and clean the sink. I’m not sure exactly why this works, but I do know that 20 minutes spent organizing out the piles of work on my desk, even when I know I should by using that time to actually work on the piles, helps.

Tactic Three: Prioritize short and long term.

When in serious overwhelm, know exactly what you need to do to get through the next hour, the next meeting, the next day. And get that done. Repeat over and over until you’re working on the things that need done two days out, and then three and then four. Note that this is a survival strategy and not a sustainable approach. If after a week, you are not lengthening your time horizon, more drastic action needs taken.

Tactic Four: Break long term goals and projects into action steps and schedule them.

At the beginning of any big thing, take time in the very beginning to block your calendar for the time you’ll need to get all the assorted and sundry tasks done. Put time on your calendar for the actual work, the inevitable meetings, the research needed. Add some extra time on your calendar because we all know that things take longer than expected. My rule on this tactic is that I can move the time blocks around on my calendar, from a Monday to a Tuesday (for example), but I can’t schedule over them or delete them.

Tactic Five: Get help.

Ask your boss to off load work that can be done by another. Use a virtual assistant service like Fiverr or Fancy Hands. Hire an intern. Hire someone to do outside of work tasks if this period of overwhelm is cutting into your personal time. No matter HOW you do it, do it!

Tactic Six: Solve the underlying problem.

Only you know that that is. It may mean a serious talk with your boss about workload, or it may be letting go of high maintenance clients or low margin work. It may be hiring an additional person. It may be saying no to requests that fall outside your top priorities.

Tactic Seven: Take care of yourself.

This is another counter-intuitive move. In overwhelm we tend to work longer and harder. Skip sleep, exercise and down time. As a short term strategy (think a day or two), this may be an option. As a long term strategy, it renders you less productive, less focused and even more frazzled. So sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Play. In fact I think I’ll take a nap now!

What tactics did I miss? What do you do to overcome overwhelm?

Failing at Time Management? Try Self-Management!

time-management-clocks

I’ll fallen for all the false promises around time management. Do this and find 30 more minutes in your day. Manage your calendar and marvel at how much you’ll get done and all the free time you’ll amass.

No matter how faithfully I follow the instructions, I’ve never achieved having any span of time, even 5 minutes, where I marveled at how much time I had “created” in my schedule and then wondered how I might use that time I’d freed up.

The reason is quite simple. We neither “create” time nor “manage” time nor “lose” time. Time is time.

So the question of time management is not outside of us (better planning, calendar tricks, a time saving device) but within us. How efficiently we use our time is within our control.

Discover what I’ve learned about time management, wise self-management, how to move away from busy and start embracing bountiful, and more.

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Quotes, Questions and Books that Shaped My Thinking in 2018

I don’t collect “things”, but I do collect quotes that call to me, questions that reframe my thinking and books (lots of books). And, daily I capture glimmers of wisdom culled from all three in my yearly journal.

Today, I’ve gone back through my 2018 journal to glean the wisdom from the quotes I’ve captured, the questions I’ve wrestled with and the books that resonated with me.

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Student or Learner: What About Learning Agility?

Today I share a blog written in response to my blog asking if you were a student or a learner. Dave Hoff, co-author of Learning Agility: The Key to Leadership Potential and COO/EVP of EASI Consult.

Here’s a sneak peek at Dave Hoff’s blog:

My colleague Kris’ last blog posed the question, “Are you a student or a learner?” From my perspective, the answer could lie with your development of learning agility.

One of the specialties of my consulting firm is learning agility.  We define learning agility as finding yourself in a situation that you have never been in before and don’t know what to do but then you figure it out. Regarding learner versus student, I’d say that learning agility is probably more characteristic of a learner than it is of a student.

I want to step back, though, and first describe some aspects of learning agility, partially within the context of Kris’ earlier blog. 

Keep reading to learn more!

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Are You a Student or a Learner?

As I work closely with many others in my consulting practice, I see a distinct difference between how people approach new situations. Some eagerly jump in, even though they aren’t fully prepared. Others may be willing, but they wait for clear direction, for the path to be cleared, for step by step direction before they will venture into this new territory.

As I observe these two approaches, I see a distinct difference between learners and students.

Discover what I see as the key differences between learners and students, and find out which of these two categories the world needs more of.

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What Collaborative Teams Do Differently

I sincerely hope that you’ve had a chance to be a part of at least one highly collaborative team! It is a peak experience that I’ve worked to define in my new blog post. If you have not been a part of a collaborative team, I’ve attempted to capture the essence of this experience so that you are more alert to it.

During this blog, I dive through my past experiences to highlight how collaborative teams function and to define what they do differently.

Is your leadership or your team truly collaborative? See if you can find out by reading this post!

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What Is Collaboration and Why Is It Needed Today?

True confession….when no less than three different clients this year asked for help on collaboration I experienced a sense of validation and vindication. Because on no less than three prior occasions, as I was up for a promotion in my earlier careers, I was denied. The reason for not making the cut? “I was TOO collaborative.”

There was no denying I was collaborative. Still am. Always will be. I do my best work side by side with others, dreaming, creating, and then doing. But TOO collaborative? How could that be?

Join me as I explore the concept of collaboration with knowledge I’ve learned through reading current thought leaders, creating content, facilitating workshops and more. During my exploration of collaboration, I come to a stunning conclusion about how I could be TOO collaborative that I want to share with you! At the end, you’ll also find my chart on “collaboration at a glance”.

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The Innovation Imperative: Four Things to Foster Innovation in Organizations

The forces of change surround us and are unrelenting. Fiber optics allow us to move data at amazing speeds and the cost of storage has plummeted from a cool $300K for 1 gig in 1980, to virtually free today. In addition to the accelerating power of the internet, we see an explosion in the speed of change. It may be driven by technology but it touches all that we do.

We find ourselves in an environment in which disruption is the steady state. Responding to today’s environment requires us to think about business in a different light. Where innovation exists alongside optimization. Where we get comfortable with the joy of creating, the emotion of connecting, and the powerful output of networks and collaborations.

Keep reading to find out four ways to foster innovation within organizations. You won’t want to miss the section where I discuss bringing creativity into the workforce to build connections with current and future customers.

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Five Networks Every Leader Needs

As I speak to leadership groups and mention the value of networking, I invariably get a brave soul or two who raises their hands to make points like, “I hate networking events. They seem like a waste of time. You meet a lot of people, none of whom remember you for more than a millisecond.” Or, “Networking just seems like a way to promote yourself and get others to do things for you.”

And I remember the time I thought the same thoughts and had the same questions. And how, over time, I’ve done a complete shift in how I view networking and my own network.

Keep reading to learn what I now know about networking as a leader. You won’t want to miss the section where I dive into the five categories of people that all leaders need for their networks.

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