Next Level Blog

Simple, practical, applicable

Mindful Mondays: Don’t Burn Your Calendar at Both Ends July 21 2014 3 responses

burningagendaPerhaps you think I meant to use the word candle rather than calendar in the title of this post. Nope, calendar was what I meant but the idea came from a brain blip I had recently.

I was conducting interviews with about a dozen colleagues and friends of a new executive coaching client. One of my questions was, “What do you hope he gets out of this coaching engagement?” and someone answered, “I hope he’ll quit burning the candle at both ends.” When I went back to review my conversation notes to write the report, I saw that what I had actually written down was, “I hope he’ll quit burning the calendar at both ends.”

I laughed at my mistake and thought that there’s actually something to that. So many people today are burning the calendar at both ends. I see so many people who are trying to cram way more stuff than they can possibly fit into the 168 hours that each of us are given each week. In the category of true confessions, I’m sometimes one of those people myself.

But, based on personal experience, the best practices of my clients and what I learned writing my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, here are three sure-fire methods to keep you from burning your calendar at both ends. (Please share your own sure fire methods in the comments.)

ESPN’s Stuart Scott Brings You the Best 15 Minutes of Your Day July 17 2014 one response

Last night at the ESPY awards, SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott took up the mantle of Jim Valvano when he accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

Scott has battled multiple forms of cancer for seven years now. As recently as last week, he had four surgeries in seven days because of complications from his latest round of treatment. And yet, he stood on stage last night and delivered a speech on living and loving that you need to watch. It will be the best 15 minutes of your day – even if it makes you cry.

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Mindful Mondays: Six Things to Admire in LeBron James Letter to Cleveland July 14 2014 2 responses

lebron-jamesLong time readers of this blog may have noticed that I don’t write as often as I used to about leaders in the news. There are different reasons for that. One of the biggest is the great examples seem fewer and farther between. Another is that I’m skeptical about being spun.

You may have heard about the way NBA superstar LeBron James shared the news last week that he’s returning to his hometown to play again for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rather than staging a press conference or a media spectacle like the classless The Decision broadcast in which he announced four years ago that he was “taking his talents to South Beach,” he posted an open letter on the Sports Illustrated website.

So, yeah, I recognize that when someone as famous as LeBron James makes a big announcement that I am, to some degree, being spun. In this case, I don’t care. The points he made in the letter and the way he made them are, at their most basic level, ones that leaders can admire.

In reading through it, I identified six admirable traits that are worth reflecting on and aspiring to on a Mindful Monday or any other day of the week.

Three Executive Productivity Hacks That Any Leader Can Use July 10 2014 no responses

greenboardOne of the things I love about my work is getting to meet and learn from some very talented top executives. That happened again recently when a senior vice president in a Fortune 500 client company stopped by for a lunch conversation with participants in our Next Level Leadership® development program.

She was one of the clearest thinkers and communicators I’ve met recently. Her organization is responsible for billions of dollars in sales so, as you might imagine, she has a very full plate. Recognizing that her time and attention is a limited resource that she must deploy as effectively as possible, she’s come up with three productivity hacks that help her determine where she needs to focus.

They’re simple, effective and can be applied by leaders at any level in any organization. Here they are:

Mindful Mondays: Put the Phone Down and No One Gets Hurt July 7 2014 one response

beachphoneIf you’re reading this while you’re on vacation or getting ready to go on vacation, this post is for you.

Please, please, please, give yourself and your family a break.

As I wrote a couple of years ago, the Europeans have it right. They don’t go on vacation, they go on holiday. Here in the States, we don’t holiday, we vacate. As in vacate the office and take your work with you.

I hear way too many stories from clients who insist on checking in every day and keeping up with their email and conference calls while they’re gone. I hear too few from people who actually let their team and colleagues handle things while they’re away for a week.

Can’t image not taking your work with you? Consider this story.

Seven Ways to Keep Wizard of Oz Syndrome from Killing Your Organization July 2 2014 one response

wizard-ozEvery so often I come in contact with an organization where everyone is on pins and needles. They’re afraid of their own shadows. Everything is on an urgent deadline. The smallest mistakes or surprises are crises. Any sense of humor remaining is solely of the gallows variety.

Here’s what everyone of those organizations seems to have in common – the “little people” view the senior leaders as if they’re the great and powerful Oz (and by Oz, I mean the man behind the curtain, not the doctor on TV).

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her gang were petrified by the idea of meeting the Wizard. An entire mythology had been built up around him and the carnival huckster who played the role did everything he could to reinforce the myths.

The Oz Syndrome is playing out in a lot of organizations. Knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or not, the senior leaders have created an aura around themselves in which “the littles” are scared to approach. (For more on how that happens, revisit this post from last year, What Happens When Executives Freak Out.)

I get to see the impact of this and it’s not pretty. If you’ve created Oz Syndrome in your organization, productivity and engagement are leaking out like the helium from a two day old balloon.

The good news is you can stop the leak. Here are seven simple ways to start plugging it:

1. Get out of your office
2. Walk around and see what’s actually going on
3. Talk with people like they’re human beings and not functions of production
4. Don’t jump to conclusions
5. Keep your perspective
6. Be clear about what’s urgent and what’s not
7. Stop taking yourself so damn seriously

What about you? Have you seen a case of Oz Syndrome lately? What else can senior leaders do to stop it?

Mindful Mondays: Habit Hacks That Make a Difference June 30 2014 one response

couple4If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know that I’m into simple things that are easy to do and likely to make a difference. In my new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed, I call them Habit Hacks. The manuscript for the book is already done so it’s too late to include a fantastic Habit Hack I heard last week from a participant in our Next Level Leadership® development program. That doesn’t mean, though, that I can’t share it with you here.

In the development program, the participants are working on building their leadership presence by being more present. One of the ways we’re supporting the “being more present” part of the equation is by having everyone create their own. When this participant considered how she is at her best and the routines that support that she realized she had an easy to do opportunity that would make a big difference in the relational domain.

Both she and her husband have very demanding jobs and had gotten into a pattern of spending their evenings complaining to each other about all of the frustrating things that had happened over the course of their respective days. When she stepped back and thought about the impact of that on their moods, their outlooks and even their sleep, she realized that they needed to change that.

The Three Things You Can Control June 26 2014 no responses

cntl-buttonA good friend of mine, who I’ll refer to here as Rick, is a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He’s approaching the end of a 20 year career and just got married a few months ago to a wonderful woman. A couple of weeks ago, much to his surprise, he found out that he’s going to be deployed for six months to a base on the opposite coast and, possibly, to the Middle East.

That’s not what he expected when he got married and signed a lease on a really cool town house. He is not, however, freaking out about it. He’s not super excited about the deployment but is totally taking it in stride. He understands that a deployment at this stage in his career is not something he can control. And, as he learned from an interview with Pat Summitt, the head coach emeritus of the Tennessee women’s basketball program who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, there are only three things in life you can control.

They are:

  • Your attitude
  • How hard you work
  • How you take care of yourself

So, Rick is focusing on what he can control. He’s already identified the upsides of the deployment, is laying the personal and professional groundwork for the next six months and is sticking with the routines that keep him physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. He’d rather not be deployed at this point in his life but he and his wife are focusing on making the best of it by focusing on what they can control.

What’s your take? What are you doing to make the best of what you can control?

Mindful Mondays Video: Two Minutes That Will Make You Feel More Relaxed June 23 2014 5 responses

Chances are that sometime today or this week, you’ll find yourself spun up into a low grade version of fight or flight syndrome. As I explain in my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, to counteract fight or flight you want to develop little breaks of rest and digest into your day.

I was lucky enough to take an anniversary trip to Pebble Beach this past weekend and took a couple of minutes to film the waves lapping against the beach so I could share them with you.

Watching and listening to the waves for a couple of minutes is a terrific way to activate your rest and digest response. I will pretty much guarantee that after watching the last two minutes of this video you’ll be more relaxed, thinking more clearly and more energized for what’s next.

Give it a look and listen and let me know with a comment how you feel after watching it.

Dan Snyder and the First Rule of Holes June 19 2014 one response

daniel-snyder1The first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, quit digging. Apparently, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder didn’t get that memo. He’s in a deep hole and continues to dig.

Long time readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of Snyder. Back in 2009, I wrote a rant/takedown on his leadership style that, to my surprise, landed me on TV. I am sorry to report that not much has changed since then including his insistence on sticking with the offensive name of his team.

You may have seen the news that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the Redskins trademark registration because its disparaging to Native Americans. Of course it is, as this devastating television ad that the National Congress of American Indians ran during the NBA Finals makes clear.

It’s highly unlikely that Dan Snyder would ever call on me for advice but if he did, my counsel would be simple – “Dude, stop digging.”

If you’re a leader, you will sometimes find yourself on the wrong side of an argument. When you do, the best choice is to acknowledge your mistake and look for a graceful resolution.