Tag: choice

7 Tips for a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Posted on September 4th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. 3 comments

Achieving successful work-life balance can very often seem like mission impossible. Busy work schedules often dictate lives of most people so much so that your personal time gets affected and can become limited.  For many of us we don’t even realise that we are not finding the time for ourselves and this can have an impact on us, mentally and within your overall health.

You are probably thinking that it is easier said than done, which is correct. We all have different lives, schedules and responsibilities – from the young professional working extra hours to secure the promotion, to becoming a senior manager who has mouths to feed and KPI’s to secure. Nevertheless we can all try and dedicate some valuable ‘me’ time for ourselves in order to see some great improvements when it comes to our work-life balance.

Incorporating any one of these seven tips listed below will bring you a step closer to achieving a healthy work life balance you so desire:

 

Introduce Skype meetings

Important business meetings can require a lot of travel, which could equate to multiple days away from home and the office. Today’s technology has made it possible for you to reach clients that are states and even countries away, all from the comfort of your home or office. Skype and conference calls are both ideal ways to communicating with clients, whilst saving you and your business time and hassle of travelling.

If a business trip is a must then using Skype would allow you keeping in touch with your colleagues back in the office and maintaining office relationships.  Even more you will also find Skype reducing your business’s travel costs, meaning the money could then be invested elsewhere.

 

Treat yourself regularly

Treating yourself regularly is really important for your sanity and health. Choosing to do something you enjoy will make you feel more grounded and relaxed. Allow yourself a 30 minute window each day where you do something for yourself. Things you truly enjoy, such as read a book, have a bath or cook a nice meal.

If you are a busy city worker, go into the local salon and treat yourself to an express facial. Alternatively you could always have a girl’s night in a nice restaurant or have a date night with your partner. These easy things will definitely make you feel happier and more relaxed.

 

Work from home

If you have a lunchtime client meeting you must attend, consider traveling to the venue from your home, as commuting directly will be help you cut down on travel costs. Another benefit of the many innovative technologies we have today is the ability to share documents and other information online. This allows you the great opportunity of working from home, yet still be connected to your office. Therefore, by utilizing this tool, you can cut down on the days you have to go into the office. This will also help you out on days when you are not able to make it into the office due to weather or child care, and will become a perfect solution to being able to access all your documents.

 

Set realistic expectations

It is a good idea to set your expectations for your life reasonably. For example, it is a realistic goal to aim to climb the ladder at work, become a good cook and keep your home running efficiently. However, it is not realistic to be working 70 + hours a week, whilst becoming a gourmet chef and keeping your home spotless – it just won’t happen. Therefore, to avoid becoming discouraged, it is smart to set manageable goals and not expecting yourself accomplishing superhuman tasks.

Remember you are just a human and it is not a crime to ask for help!

 

Be willing to alter your definition of success

Different stages of life call for different definitions of success. For example, if you have young children, you can feel successful if you get your kids off to day-care, get yourself to work on time and get at least a portion of your duties accomplished on any given day. However, if you don’t have children, of course you can expect more from yourself in regards to your job and your personal goals. In other words, your definition of success will likely change throughout various stages of your life, and that is okay.

 

Exercise on lunch break

According to John Ratey, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, exercise is the best thing you could do for you brain in regards to learning, memory and mood. Since exercising also leads to a fit body, incorporating it into your working day just makes sense. If you are not lucky enough to have a gym in your office building then fear not. Most fitness suites offer express classes during lunch times that are high intensity workouts lasting 30 minutes. If you would rather prefer a low impact workout, then try going for a swim.

Getting up and moving, somewhere away from your computer, will give you some fresh air during a hectic day, allowing you to concentrate, which will lead to a more productive workday.

 

Make sure your career choice fits your strengths

For whatever reason, many people end up in a career that is completely wrong for them. A person who hates numbers ends up working at a bank, or a person who doesn’t care for children has a career as a teacher. This career choice just doesn’t make sense. Therefore, if you have ever felt like your career choice just doesn’t match your strengths or personality, do something about it and find a career that fits you better.

If it is impossible due to financial reasons, consider utilizing your personality and skills taking part in volunteering activities outside of work. Helping others will allow you utilizing your gifts and give you a sense of greater purpose as you will be giving back to others.

By following the seven tips listed above, you will be on your way to a healthier work-life balance. Be careful not to set your goals too high, just half an hour to an hour a day can really make a difference.

 

Photo Credit

 

About the Author:  As a young entrepreneur and business blogger, Lucinda Smith has developed a passion for helping small and medium sized businesses grow. She likes to particularly focus on using technology and software solutions to save businesses time and money. She also contributes to the DNS managed print services blog.   

 


Vacation Strategies for Busy Working Women

Posted on September 2nd, by Amanda Andrade in Business and Workplace, Personal & Professional Effectiveness. No Comments

Most professional women I consult with feel guilty about taking time off work for a variety of reasons. Some of the ones I hear most often are:

“I have so many responsibilities in my job that if I take time off it just means that when I return I have to work a mass amount of hours to get caught up. It makes the time away seem like it’s not even worth it. I end up feeling punished for being away.”

“I don’t want time away from work to hurt my reputation, jeopardize my position or impair my promotional opportunities. I’ve worked too hard to be perceived as not entirely committed or reliable.”

“I love being productive and informed. It feels like when I’m away from work for more than a day or two, I lose out on knowing what’s going on and it makes me feel out of the loop and out of control.”

“I need to save all of my time for the ‘in case of emergency’ or ‘sick parent/kid’ situations.” (Note: most of us need a cushion of time on the books for unforeseen emergencies, but saving all of your time isn’t healthy.)

The problem with this rationale is that we short change ourselves, our careers, and in the long run even our employer. If we neglect to balance our time at work by taking time off, we risk diminishing returns for ourselves and our organization. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Stepping away from the day-to-day activities of the job gives your mind an opportunity to dream, create and innovate, providing fresh new ideas for how to tackle your responsibilities when you return.
  • Women need to view their jobs from multiple perspectives. Vacation and relaxation is a vantage point that can give a person a whole new sense of self (both professionally and personally).
  • Burnout occurs when there is too much of any one thing in a person’s life. All work and no real play contribute to an inability to see beyond the next task at hand. It creates an unhealthy cycle of reactionary behavior (too much work – not enough time – not enough energy – more backed up work, repeat).
  • A temporary hiatus from the job is not just a nice-to-have, it’s essential to take time away from work to give your brain and body a break:

-Research shows that being constantly under pressure floods the brain with stress hormones, wearing down the high performance brain function that needs to occur at work to maximize our jobs and performance.

- Recent studies have reaffirmed that leisure time, including vacations, contributed to higher positive emotional levels, better coping skills, less depression and lower blood pressure.

- Women who reported that they vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from significant episodes of stress than those who took vacations at least twice a year.

So what can a dedicated, hard-driving business woman do?

Simply put, start small. Work your way into taking your vacation time by:

  • Try 2 hour vacation slots in the early morning, extended lunches or late afternoons.
  • Take half days during lower volume times (e.g. Thursdays and Fridays).
  • Build up to extended weekends (Mondays and Fridays).
  • Use vacation around the holidays or slow work cycles, when others are out too and business processes slow down a bit.
  • Take time off to volunteer with charitable organizations (you likely won’t back out of the commitment and you’ll feel good about yourself for having helped others out).
  • If you’re afraid to go cold turkey, then limit yourself to staying connected to your email/phone for certain periods of time while you’re out. Check in every morning and afternoon if you need to, but give yourself the rest of the day to disconnect.
  • When you get back in the office, pause long enough to acknowledge that even though there may be additional short term stress, the office survived and so did you.

Set your sights to build up to big:

  • Reserve time on the books in advance. Do whatever you can to force yourself to take the time off – buy the plane/train ticket far in advance, book a non-refundable hotel stay, create commitments to friends and family so there is an expectation of follow through.
  • If you can’t disconnect on your own, consider visiting a place that has limited technology reception so you are forced to really take the time away, to power off and enjoy. It will reinforce for your body and mind that time away is actually advantageous to your mental health.
  • Invite friends and family to your home or city for visits in order to obligate yourself to spend time away from work with additional people you care about (yes, there are so many people at work that we care deeply about, the time off is often for the others that we unintentionally neglect spending quality time with).
  • During your time off do activities that really make you happy and excited, or peaceful and rested. This will make the time away seem worth it.
  • Anticipate the break from work and routine. Allow yourself to really look forward to the day(s) off. The anticipation will help your brain get accustomed to the idea that time away is fun and healthy.
  • Understand that it comes down to this: what you mentally project about your work and time away is a strong component of what becomes your reality. Your personal perception of what you deserve is part of what you will project to your employer. Keep in mind that it’s appropriate to use the time that your employer gave to you as a benefit. Take the time and use it as an investment in your overall health and an investment in your professional self.

The final, and maybe most important piece, is to remember to put it all into perspective. At the end of our lives while many will be satisfied to have had a successful career, our most important reflections will most likely be on the big ticket items: the way we lived, the people we touched, the adventures we had, the friends and family we loved. Spending all of our time at a desk or wired up to others won’t afford us the experiences we need to minimize regret and to feel great about the lives we’ve led.

 

Photo Credit

 

About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans – Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.


Making the ‘Pause’ Compelling

Posted on August 19th, by Kristin Kaufman in On My Mind. No Comments

Our cups, plates, and lives are spilling over! Every day I meet with individuals, at every level within an organization, from the CEO to individual contributors, and the one common denominator is their lamentation of being over-stimulated, over-saturated, over-spent, over-extended, and over-scheduled.

Most are over achievers and thus, more often than not they find themselves in this situation by their own doing. Contrary to their initial quest of becoming experts in their respective fields, better educated, and ‘armed with information’, they actually become bogged down with more data and information that they know what to do with. This leads to the tendency of analysis paralysis of their newly accumulated intelligence, continued over-extension to achieve the ‘next rung’ which leads to the next, and the next, and the next! They become overwhelmed and under fulfilled.

This always leads to the proverbial dilemma: For the sake of what am I on this emotional business hamster wheel – and how do I get off? Or in some cases, more appropriately the question becomes: how can I become more in touch with my situation so that I can change my frame on the realities and subsequently manage my responses to them?

The answers are often as simple as the space right in front of our faces…..and within us.  The basic premise is this: creating pause in our lives can reconnect us with us. By simply taking brief pauses throughout the day, can and will have a profound impact on your life and work. When we pause – we breathe, we become more aware of ourselves, we become STILL. Breath brings our bodies oxygen, which makes us stronger, clears the cobwebs, and helps us become more cognitively effective. Yet, for some reason, we have a hard time SLOWING DOWN and taking a long, deep breath. Yet, when we do, we become undeniably more centered, aligned, and powerful.

What are a few things we can do to facilitate this state of PAUSE and reflection so that we may change our frame and create a state of alignment or ‘re-alignment’ in our busy lives?

 

1.  In your car, put down the phone and turn off the radio!

We can create our own solitude and ‘spa’ time while we are barreling down the freeway. I am amazed at how we want to fill every last minute, even the coveted ‘dashboard time’ with calling someone or listening to NPR. I am as guilty as the next person! Yet, if we take that time to simply breathe, process the information we read before we left the office, ‘sit with’ the latest interaction we had with our spouse, our co-worker, or even a difficult client….we give ourselves time to regroup, revitalize, and reframe.

 

2.  Take it one step further…..when in transition (physically or figuratively)….stay present and awake.

Transitions are the bridge periods in life. Whether these are the paces to/from the elevator, to/from the restroom, going through airport security, or as we pack up our offices at the end of the day. During these times, we often are talking on our headset or texting – to get every single ounce of energy out of that moment.  My suggestion: STOP DOING THIS!!

Try simply being present. Look around. Engage. Breathe. Observe. BE. Listen to your own thoughts. Heed the callings within your heart and soul. Those are the ‘whispers’ which Oprah has coined as her phrase for your inner voice. By simply pausing and becoming present and awake, you tap into your power rather than spending it on time-wasting distractions.

 

3.  Make time for Pause by creating white space on your calendar.

Despite your best intentions, ‘stuff’ will happen. Road construction, accidents, delayed flights, missed flights…..this is life. We have all been guilty of booking ourselves back to back with little time to even stretch our legs; this creates the perfect storm for chaotic stress. One small mishap, and the house of cards collapses. Yet, if we can build a little ‘white space’ into our calendars – on a daily basis – we enable ourselves the enviable ‘hall pass’ to life’s inevitable travails. This fudge room will become your most prized possession…and the trick is this: we own the power to create that white space. Do it!

 

4. Finally, get to know YOU…and be willing to let that be enough in this moment.

What brought you to where you are today? Are there patterns and trends from which you can learn? Give yourself freedom to be who you are – and watch, learn, and grow – in this moment. BE and let all things flow from there. Observe yourself – and be curious about what drives your behaviors. This can be such a revealing process.  I have personally found my own leadership executive coach to be incredibly supportive, and in many ways indispensable, in holding the mirror for me.  Also, consider keeping a journal. This may be a stretch for some – that is okay. Even if you only write down only one or two thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind’s eye.  It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others and again provide meaningful pause. It is like living it ‘over’ in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.

The net point: Give yourself permission to PAUSE in life. This will provide time and space to ‘align’ with your core soul, which is your greatest source of power. Often, we must slow down to go fast…..so make that choice and then allow this new found energy to manifest into the world through your refreshed contributions.

 

Photo Credit

About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.

 


I Know They Said That Honesty Is The Best Policy, But…

Posted on July 1st, by Rowena Morais in On My Mind. 1 Comment

Honesty is best but there are times when you can and should choose to refrain. There’s always levels of complexity  involved and there is the risk of appearing hypocritical. Also, you have to choose what to be honest about. I don’t think that your goal of maintaining honesty should mean a complete and thorough application of the principle regardless… although I realize that the more exceptions there are to the rule, the more the rule gets a bit hazy.

 

But here’s what I do know.

 

I have, to the best of my ability, tried to live an honest life, in that I tried to be true to my goals, desires and emotion. I worked hard at ensuring a meeting of minds between my mental and emotional state and the actions resulting thereof.

 

I had to. I could not live any other way.

 

As far as I could, I wanted to be authentic in my communications and relationships. It was necessary for me to be truthful, to the point of pain, about what I saw, what I felt, what I believed, even if it was at odds or brought conflict to bear in a given situation.

 

Honesty, in this case, was therefore merely an alignment between my thoughts and my actions. Living a lie, where what I thought was distinct from my actions, would prove too difficult to endure or to sustain.

 

I have, in recent times, been privy to two sets of close relationships where I see that honesty is critical to the nature of the relationship. I have seen how inaction or uncertainty about how to respond in a given situation can be taken as acquiescence of the current status quo. I have seen how silence can be taken as tolerance or worse still, willingness.

 

These situations and relationships, and how people make sense of it all, take years to develop. Like an onion, it is built layer upon layer and the demarcation is blurred.

 

You owe it to yourself to be honest. So that you can move on, so that you can achieve the life and relationships you deserve to have. Yes, it is scary to realize the potential negative reactions that we could be called on to face, and sometimes, we will need to face this, all alone.

 

But in our quest for a life that is true and authentic, for relationships that are based on something meaningful and deep, for decisions that are anchored in something sturdy and substantial, we need to aim for honesty.

 

If only so that we can reconcile our desires and needs with our actions.

 

If only for us to live a life with minimal regret.

 

If only to make real impact on those around us.

 

Photo Credit

Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters  Magazine, a quarterly print publication aimed at Human Resource  professionals.  She is also the co-founder and Programme Director at Flipside, a business services company with offices in Malaysia and Singapore, providing professional  certification training. Here, she provides strategic direction as well as  oversight on client training and corporate functional  areas. Rowena blogs about developing habits, execution, growth and personal  development. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband, two  young kids and now, a newborn. Connect with Rowena at editor@hr-matters.info.

 


Integrity – What It Is and What It Isn’t

Posted on April 22nd, by Kristin Kaufman in On My Mind. 2 comments

Much has been written about integrity. In fact, in the hundreds of team meetings and board retreats I have facilitated, integrity is, seldom, NOT a team value. However, I intend not to focus on what we perceive integrity to be; yet, what integrity is not.

Let’s start with a common definition: Webster defines integrity as a firm adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Here are a few examples, from real life, which I believe shine a bright light on what integrity is not.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • A person hears a fabulous key note or presentation; and they believe it to be so fabulous, they take portions of it – change a few words – ‘just to be honest’ – and begin to tout this as their own brilliant idea.
  • A person asks someone for a treasured family recipe. They don’t really want to give it; yet rather than to say no, they give it to that person – less an ingredient. (Yes, that has happened to me, and yes, it does happen….often in the South)
  • A person/s are exposed to an idea, a word, a term or philosophy which rings true to them, on which someone else has built their methodology and often their company. They think that term is so unique and powerful; they take that term, a few key phrases, and build their approach around that same approach.
  • A person has the opportunity to speak the whole truth about an issue – personally, socially or professionally – and they opt to tell the truth. However, they don’t tell ‘everything.’ They just tell portions of the story – they omit key points; most often swaying the point, certainly to their favor. (You know the drill….think about a sales person’s sales participation and their quest for sales credit/quota commission, think about sales/consulting methodology aspects – the consulting world is full of intellectual property wars – even social and political issues…..just turn on the TV or log onto YouTube.)
  • A person says one thing to you, another version of what they have said to you to someone else, and yet, another version to another person of the same story. I wish I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me in my life!
  • A person is newly hired onto a team from outside the company and that person begins a quick study on how to usurp the person that hired them in a quest for fame, fortune, and power. Discrediting, sabotaging, back-stabbing, hording of ideas….the list is long.

I have had every single one of these happen to me in my career … some in the past few months.

Many in big business will say: this is why we have trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property infringement law; and this is learning to ‘play the game;’ survival of the fittest. If someone doesn’t ‘have it’ – then they are ‘fair game’. Sure, I ‘get it’ – remember, I lived in that world for over 25 years. It goes without saying that we must protect ourselves, our company, and our work product.

However, the issue I am raising is much more systemic in our culture. For I am quite certain there are many in business today who don’t share everything with their internal counterparts for fear of being ‘poached’ of the good ideas. I am also quite certain there are those in business who perhaps don’t lie by commission; yet lie by omission – just not sharing everything, just sharing ‘enough.’

Where do we think this behavior is taking us? To a constant shade of grey? To a moral stance that is our interpretation instead of one that is based on honesty and integrity?

So what, you may say? “That is life.” Well, I firmly believe that is wrong.

We have an obligation to own up to our responsibilities – and that means stopping this insanity of stealing and poaching and, not respecting one another as creators, individuals, contributors, and builders of our companies, our communities, our nation, and our world.

Two things to consider:

First: Be Impeccable with your Word. A fabulous book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book became a ‘book of the month’ for many of my teams over my career. If you not have read it yet  – read it. One of the agreements is to “be impeccable with your word.” This basically means telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Often in today’s world, the operative word is ‘whole.’ Many just simply omit key facts or nuances. This is an interesting observation – just listen to national news, politicians, Fortune executives, Oprah, even personal acquaintances. It is amazing to watch the ‘spin factor’ and the power of just ‘omitting a few key facts.’ What is the whole truth?!

I will offer one personal test case of integrating this philosophy into life. With one of our most successful teams in a publicly traded software company, we used this book as a gauge for how we could grow and learn together as a team; and this book and particularly this agreement of ‘being impeccable with our word’ became our mantra. We were in the fast paced world of dot com frenzy, software sales and mergers, and greed was rampant. This agreement saved our team and company in more ways than we will ever probably realize. We were not always the most popular at the time; yet I know from the CEO through the ranks, we were the most respected and valued at the end of the day.

Second: Stop stealing. A person’s original ideas will always be more authentic, rich, and potent than anything they ‘borrow’ or steal. Period. A person can rationalize due to complacency, laziness, or their perceived belief that they can ‘take this idea and really make it come to life’ (yes, I have heard that one of late, as well).

What I would suggest is simply this: If a person loves the idea, thinks it had merit, power, brilliance, cache, etc., then simply get permission, give credit or notice to that company, and source the source. It is truly that simple.

Again, this conjures up ‘legal jargon’ and it certainly gives many an attorney a steady annuity stream; and yes, there will always be a need for the law. Yet, it does not have to be that complicated. Just give notice to those that deserve it! Also, folks, please realize that YOUR ideas will be so much more powerful if they are truly YOURS. That is the beauty of pure authenticity and the power of telling your story… not plagiarizing someone else’s.

This philosophy and principle of integrity starts with each one of us. One person at a time. A germ of an idea at a time. It does not have to be on a soap box, on the national stage, or even in a national court of law. It is in the small acts, small companies, and small businesses which have often set the stage for many of our greatest achievements.

  • We are responsible for protecting it.
  • We foster all ideas – ours and others.
  • We blow on all the embers of ideas of our fellow workers, our colleagues, our friends, our clients, our coaches, our partners….we don’t steal them.
  • We give credit. We give public and private recognition.
  • We make referrals expecting nothing in return.
  • We are frightfully honest – in all arenas.
  • We ask the questions of which we are afraid of the answers.
  • We own the answers.

We are impeccable with our word – written, spoken, acted – regardless of the consequences. That is what integrity looks like.

 

Photo Credit 

About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.


The Real Deal About Ethics in Action

Posted on January 21st, by Kristin Kaufman in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. No Comments

There have been many books written on Ethics over the years – including The Good Life by Gomes, The Ethics of Leadership by Ciulla, and a personal favorite, Ethics 101 by John Maxwell.

Frankly, as rich as so many of these books are, we often have a tendency to read them, even have the best of intentions to integrate the principles into our personal and professional lives; yet particularly when we are under pressure, these values are put to the test and we may fall short. We all know full well that it is better to tell the truth than to tell a fib and to be loyal rather than to cave under pressure. Most of us also fully embrace The Golden Rule: ‘of doing unto others as we would have done unto us.’ We are certainly not ignorant of the virtues of the spiritual truths, Biblical principles, and even the many current writings on these values.

Yet, how many of us are really honest with ourselves with how and when we practice our beliefs and values pertaining to ethical behavior? How many of us hold ourselves and our team mates accountable for modeling ethical behavior? What can we do to help each other hold fast to these principles? So, in addition to our own spiritual practices and support groups, what are a few additional steps we can take to truly exercise our ethical muscles?

I read a wonderful article in Talent Management a few years ago which really stuck with me. I am integrating a few points I read in this article by Robert J. Thomas – as I believe he had an interesting and pragmatic perspective. One key point he made, which I thought was particularly ‘spot on,’ was that none of these observations or exercises will work unless we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves. So, keep that in mind – only read further if you are willing to look in the mirror of authentic self reflection and be ruthless about what we find.

Step 1: Honestly evaluate our commitments to others.

At the end of each day, (or if you are really strapped for time, do this on a Saturday morning), think about all the commitments, approvals, obligations, and promises you have made. There will be many – as so many of us say ‘yes’ or ‘I will get that to you’ or ‘I will read that and give you feedback’ without even really thinking about it. We are trying to be supportive, polite, or simply not thinking about it being a real commitment. What happens if we don’t come through? What is the cost to ourselves and to the others to whom we made these promises? Some may say that this has nothing to do with ethics. I disagree. Again, when we say we are going to do something – regardless of how small it may seem to us – it is our word to another. Sure, sometimes we forget, get busy, and it falls off the radar; that can happen. The difference is when it does – do we follow-up, admit our mistakes, make it right, and make a commitment to ourselves to do better the next time? This is how we learn and grow. We observe ourselves, put a practice in place to be aware of our behavior, and from here we can improve.

Step 2: Create a personal “Board of Directors” and career support system

Most of us have support systems of some sort: spouses, families, friends, Bible study groups, civic groups, etc. However, how many of us have a pseudo ‘board of directors’ for our professional growth? Just like a corporate board, our own personal board needs to be chosen for their experience, knowledge, skill set, and unrelenting commitment to the company’s success (in this case the company is YOU). These people will care enough to shoot straight with you – even when their observations may not be what you want to hear.

My suggestion is that these conversations need to be deliberate, not episodic or social in nature. They need to focus on you, your adherence to your values, your foibles, areas for improvement and honest observations. So, what’s in it for them we may ask? Well, in addition to the fulfilling nature of ‘paying it forward’ which they will undoubtedly experience when helping another; we can also offer to serve in that same capacity for someone they may want us to help. This is the cycle of leadership – and this is just one step we can each take as a matter of practice going forward.

Step 3: Establish values which will stand the tests of crisis, challenge, and temptation

Most organizations spend days (and often weeks) establishing their value system. Often, these values end up on the bulletin board or a plaque in clear view for everyone to see and read. I wonder if we would really know what the values were within these organizations without the plaque. Would the behaviors the individuals (and teams) exhibit in the organization represent those values? That is the truth serum, isn’t it? The same is true for us.

We may espouse a certain set of values – yet do we live them? What values would our co-workers say we live? Are they consistent with what our families and friends would say? Are our values the same in moments of stress, crisis and potential conflict?

Imagine all the whistle blowers in the news…..do we have the backbone to truly live our values when we are really tested? Think Sherron Watkins (Enron whistle blower). Then think about Eileen Foster – the Countrywide whistle blower who was ignored and then fired for calling suspicious actions into question.  Finally, consider Katsuaki Watanabe, the CEO of Toyota, and all the other companies who had to face the realities of product recalls in recent years. What values and strength of conviction were represented in each scenario? What will we do when our ‘Tylenol moment’ happens? Will our values and ethics remain intact when we have to face the music? Establish values, declare them, and hold ourselves accountable to them.

From my perspective, in life and leadership, exercising ethics is a non-negotiable. As Albert Schweitzer (Civilization and Ethics, 1949) offers: “Ethics are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives us the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life.”

What I also believe is that without putting ethics into action any success we may achieve will be fleeting, unstable, and unsustainable – like a house built of sand. And we all know what happens to sand castles when the tides come.

 

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About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.


The Trailing Spouse: To Be or Not To Be??

Posted on December 5th, by Tamkara Adun in Career Transitions, On My Mind. 2 comments

The Wikipedia describes a Trailing Spouse as “a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment.”

It goes further to explain that the life of The Trailing Spouse is fraught with many challenges that may impact on their personal and professional lives. Challenges such as:

Professional Sacrifice

Family issues

Barriers to mobility

Work/life issues

Loss of identity

These are all very real and pertinent issues that Trailing Spouses face as their new reality and I can identify to some degree with some of them. However, I have often wondered at the adjective “Trailing”.  I feel a certain degree of discomfort referring to an individual or a spouse as “Trailing.”

Synonyms for trailing include: rambling, lagging, tailing, dragging….all less than savory adjectives for the word spouse.  In my mind’s eye, “trailing” paints a picture of forced followership, reluctant relocation.

It reminds me of little people on a leash, compelled to follow their care givers whether they would like to or not.

It signifies to me a lack of choice or say in the matter and I do not think it adequately describes or does justice to the spouses who have boldly taken up the challenge to leave the comfort and security of the familiar and move to a new location, experience new cultures, and thrive in their new environment, all the while supporting their spouses and oftentimes children in order to make for a smooth transition to their new way of life. That to me looks a lot more like Trail Blazing and not just “Trailing”.

Moving to a new location with no security of a ready source of income can be a stressful time, and a time of uncertainty… but it can also be an exciting time, an opportunity to use this block of time and do that which you might otherwise not have done. The possibilities are endless.

This is a call for spouses who have chosen to accompany their partners to pursue their careers abroad to have greater expectations for their expatriate experience. As you plan your upcoming move, there are 4 tips that might help make the transition a little bit easier. Please feel free to add more in the comments below.

Plan: It’s advisable to have a plan before you leave your home country of what personal goals that you would like to achieve during your time in your new location. You are not on exile so you are allowed to have fun with the whole expatriation process. It could be to learn a new language, look for a job within your field of expertise  (or even in another field of expertise), further your education, write a book or start a blog, or even take a leave of absence to spend more time with your family. As I mentioned earlier,The possibilities are endless.

Position yourself: If you would like to work in your new location, start your job search as early as you can. Look for opportunities within your network, take a class, learn the local language, do some research, and get informed. Do whatever is necessary to get you one step closer to your goal.

Persist: maintain a positive outlook, don’t give up easily…even when things seem to be happening not as fast as you envisaged. Also stay open to change and be flexible to opportunities that at first glance may not seem to align with your core competencies.

Pay it forward: Help someone else succeed. Offer the support you wish you got. Share your experiences and your new knowledge with others who need your expertise.

The key is to exploit the situation that you find yourself in and use it to enrich your life’s story.  Moving to a new country with all the excitement is a great time to reinvent yourself because no one has any preconceived notions about you.  This means you have a chance to start afresh and try to be that which you always wished.

Who knows what you would have achieved at the end of your expatriation in terms of self development, new knowledge of different cultures, and new relationships built that you would otherwise not have been exposed to.

Besides, why be a trailing spouse when you could be a Blazing Spouse or better yet a Trail Blazer?

 

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About the Author: Tamkara currently lives in The Hague and is currently taking time off from her day job in Procurement and Sourcing to pursue an MBA. She will be spending the next few months studying, blogging and learning Dutch. You can connect with her on twitter @tamkara  or find out what she’s up to at www.naijaexpatinholland.com.


School Selection Compared to Job Selection

Posted on November 12th, by Donna Rogers, SPHR in Career Advice, Career Transitions. No Comments

Recently, my son transitioned to a different middle school than the one he had been attending since kindergarten and originally intended to graduate.  This transition got me thinking when it came time for me to write for Women in HR.  One can truly correlate the selection of a school to attend to accepting and starting a new job.  Overall, it’s a personal choice and the final decision not only has to be the student or jobseeker, but it has to fit with their overall plan in life.

Now you may think “isn’t middle school a bit too young to be thinking about how a school decision fits into your overall plan?”  Not really, I personally think kids are “groomed”, hopefully by their own choice and not their parents living their own goals through them, very early in life for things like sports, music, dance and more.  Where I live, it seems like the high school all-stars start their journey before they can even tie their shoes.  I’ve seen young baseball, soccer and football camps for kids who barely enter elementary school.  They wear the gear but they are so tiny it looks like they are going to fall over.  So if the focus on team sports can start so early then why can’t kids start making choices from an academic standpoint that affect their career?  I have always heard that you can trace your career choice back to what you did on the playground.  Me?  I used to sing on the porch in front of my audience from the neighborhood.  While my dreams of a singing career did not come true, I do have an audience now and again as a teacher, trainer, and speaker in the HR community.  So I guess at least from my experience what I hear is true, to an extent, of course.

Now let’s get back to the school choice and its relationship to jobs.  Once my son decided to change schools, which he had been contemplating for almost a year, we decided to set up a “shadow” day at two of the schools he had in mind.  In addition to hanging out with a fellow student all day to observe, he had to meet with the principal of each school, for which I joined him to listen and ask my own questions.  As a parent, I was very impressed at my son’s questions and his maturity while in these meetings.  He asked questions I had not even thought of, like: 1) what type of math and English program the school uses to teach the students; and 2) what specific extra-curricular activities did they have related to his personal interests.

One of the things his former school had that neither of the new choices had was Robotics, which was very important to him since he plans at this point to have a career in engineering, technology, or both.  However, he justified his decision to continue to pursue his move because the school he did finally decide on had an advanced math course and was willing to start a Robotics club as soon as possible.  While starting the club would not allow him to immediately join a Robotics team, allowing him to compete like he did the previous year, it was not a game changer.  He told me that since he would now be able to take high school math in 8th grade that would give him a jump start on his high school math credits.  That decision will allow him to take college level math while still in high school.  Did I mention he is 12 years old and he is telling me all of this?  The reason it is so important to him is because he has plans to go to a specific college one day (MIT) that will help him get into the career of his dreams.

Employees (typically disgruntled or disengaged employees) are constantly looking for a new job or opportunity, especially when the job they are in doesn’t satisfy their needs or holds them back from moving closer to the dream job they would like to have.  Recently, on Drive Thru HR I heard Jennifer Miller refer to people finding a job that deserves them.  How fitting of a philosophy that jobs don’t find people, people find jobs.  I remember getting out of the financial services field to move into manufacturing so I could round out my resume to experience the old white collar and blue collar workforce.  Someone had told me that my HR advice probably didn’t work in the blue collar world because I had only worked with people in offices.  I was not about to have that perception limit my future opportunities so I took care of it by getting the job I needed to work in the blue collar workplace.

Planning at any age, in school or in the world of work, can definitely help to shape your career.

 

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Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @DonnaRogersHR. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.


Modern Day Fatherhood – Finding Balance Between a Successful Career & Hands-On Parenting

Posted on October 24th, by a Guest Contributor in On My Mind. 1 Comment

 

Today’s dads are working hard to be “better” fathers than previous generations. No one is saying that that those generations of dads were not good fathers, times are simply changing and dads today are making it clear that they want to raise their children differently.

While dads are making family time a bigger priority than their fathers and grandfathers did, their dedication to a thriving professional career has not changed. Corporate culture, especially in larger companies, doesn’t always mesh with a dad’s desire for more family time. Because of this, many working dads are finding themselves struggling to juggle a work-life balance, as women have been doing for decades.

However, some companies are evolving with the times and improving their paternity leave programs as well as utilizing technology to allow for more work flexibility. This includes giving dads the ability to work from home, even if it’s only for a couple of hours a day so they can cut out of the office early to pick the kids up from school.

Of course another factor is that our wives are not the women their mothers were. With more women in the workforce, in fact 40% are now the family breadwinner, the home environment has changed and so must the delegation of household responsibilities. There is increased pressure on men to be more than just a paycheck and to play an equal parenting role.

But it’s also that our generation has wanted to change and be more present in our children’s lives. To really know them and to be closely involved with shaping who our children become.

According to a Pew study, fathers in 1965 spent only 2.5 hours a week on child care, where today that number has jumped to about 7 hours. While that may not seem like much, evolution is a process and I believe that the generations of boys we are raising will do even more.

I had a great childhood and have enormous admiration, love and respect for my dad but have still strived to be a more involved father in the raising of my three children. And I hope that my sons will do even more than I’ve done for their kids.

Men are evolving.  Each generation is told more and more that it’s okay to cry, to be vulnerable and to love. So when we hold our babies in our arms for the very first time – we do. All of those thoughts we had as kids “I wish my dad were here,” “I’ll do that when I’m a dad,” come flooding back and we make a conscious effort to be different. Some of those promises we keep and some falter under the pressures of careers and mortgages. But the point is that we get a little closer to being the dad that we wanted to be and hopefully, as we reflect on the dad we said we would be – and the dad we actually are – we continue to evolve.

 

 Chris Duchesne is the VP of Care.com’s Global Employer Program, Workplace Solutions. He brings more than 15 years of experience in HR technology to Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world with 8 million members spanning 16 countries. A key member of the leadership team, he oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families.  A father of three small children, Chris knows first-hand the challenges working parents face and brings that experience to his role. 


Daughter Dreams For Us All

I love to watch my little girls sleep.  They are calm, full of possibility, and not asking me to change them for the 4th time that hour into another fairy, princess, or pirate costume.  As I watch, I imagine what dramas, adventures, heartbreak, and careers (I am a career coach after all!) lie ahead for both of them and it’s hard to discern what my hopes are for them and what my actual expectations are.

My free-spirited head-strong 4. 5 year old has always had a mind of her own and her attitude taught me early on that she was her own girl, with a unique personality; wonderful,  and not at all a clone of her mom.  This helped me pull away the layers of hopes I had dreamt up when she was 20 weeks in utero and I found out a little girl was in our future.   As she took on the world through her independence, I worked hard to stop putting my aspirations or assumptions of who she would become onto her tiny little shoulders.  By the time my younger daughter was born I felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of embracing the individual personalities each girl would have.  That being said, I still do catch myself making offhand comments about “when Josie is CEO of a company” or “when she opens her own restaurant.”  After years of watching their personalities form, I come up with careers that I think they will definitely master.  Of course, these career predictions change as fast as the whims of precocious preschoolers change.  So what exactly do I hope for when it comes to the lives my girls create and why do I bother to write about it?

I hope they have choices.  I hope they never have to stay in situations that aren’t working for them, that aren’t helping them grow, and thrive, and laugh, and play.  I hope they work  (I do, I can’t help it) but I also hope they have the choice to create the work schedule and environment that brings out their best and matches the priorities they hold at any given moment.  So what does this mean for me, and how I mother them?  How do I help them achieve a life full of choice?  I’m not quite sure but I think it involves helping them develop a love of learning so they have the education to back up their goals.  I am also pretty sure it involves showing them what love is and how it never means giving up who you are, what you like, or who your friends are.  I want them to choose wisely if and when they do decide to marry.

I have read countless books geared towards us working mom set, and most of them are written from the perspective of a fairly privileged, educated woman who does have the choice to either work or not, be married or not, have more children or not,  schedule housecleaners, nannies, gardeners, date night etc. or not.   One of the themes that seems to come through is a hint of complaint about the fact that there just are too many choices.  As if moms are paralyzed by choice and opportunity, a burden the generation before us didn’t have.

Can I be candid? To me this is nonsense.   Instead of lamenting the various choices we have and the way it makes us feel afraid to move, how about buck up and spend some time figuring what you want and who you are, and have the courage to be that person and pursue that goal?  Take choice by the horns and run with it.  You want to work part-time to have more time with your family?  Figure out a way to make it work.  Talk to your employer, talk to other moms who do it, create a situation that makes it possible.  You want to start your own business?  There is no easier time then now.  Truly it will only get harder.   Trust me, I work with MBA students and I have heard every counter to this argument including “ I have a newborn” to which my response is, “Do you think it will be easier when you have a full schedule of t-ball and ballet classes to take your kids too?”  You want a meaningful career that involves decision making?  Pursue another degree, ask for management opportunities, apply for a new job, seek out a mentor that has that role.  Take proactive steps so you are creating a life that includes endless choices and a plethora of paths to venture down.

I hope this for my daughters, I seek this for myself, and I encourage it of you.

 

About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and  Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services.  She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.

 

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