Coming Clean October 8 2014 17 responses
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re undoubtedly aware that I have a new book coming out, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. I hope you’ll read it and get a lot of value from it. But before you do, there’s something that I want to share with you, as a regular reader of this blog, that has, for the past five years, been a private issue between me, my family and a few friends. That private issue is now public. Because you’re a regular reader here, I want you to hear about it from me in this setting before you read about it in the new book.
In the summer of 2009, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. That came as a shock because I was pretty healthy up to that point, had run a couple of marathons and thought I was pretty much bulletproof. Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, I could barely walk around the block and had to pull myself up the stairs by the banister to get to bed. I had bad days and somewhat better days the rest of that year and through the end of 2010. I tried some of the MS drugs but they didn’t agree with my liver and I had to stop taking them. In October of 2010, my wife, Diane, encouraged me to go to a yoga class because she had read that it helps people with MS function better.
I nervously went to a class and when I got there I took the instructor aside to tell her about my condition and to please keep an eye on me in case I passed out or something. She told me not to worry, that they regularly had people with chronic illnesses in class and that she would take care of me. She also told me if I came to yoga three times a week it would change my body and if I came more than three times a week it would change my life. She was right. I chose the more than three times a week option and it changed both my body and my life.
Today, I’ve written my second book, completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program, been to Paris with Diane for our 25th anniversary and travel all over the place coaching and giving presentations. (I’m writing this post on a plane from Washington, DC to New York). I’ve gone from not being able to walk without support from Diane for balance to doing head stands, hand stands and arm balances most every day of the week. In short, I’m living at my best.
Managing stress is very important in managing MS. Yoga has been a big component of a system that along with intentional breathing, vibrant relationships and regular routines of reflection helps me do that. None of that is to say that I don’t get overworked and overwhelmed. I do just like everyone else does. The difference for me is that I recognize that feeling more quickly now and have learned how to respond to that feeling to get back to a more productive and healthier state.
That’s one of the big reasons I wrote the new book. I wanted to share the system based on mindful routines that keep me at my best physically, mentally, relationally and spiritually. The other big reason I wrote the book is that see a need among so many of my clients and audiences to an alternative to the overworked and overwhelmed state they often find themselves in. At this point, I’m passionate about sharing what I learned through interviews with successful executives and thought leaders, reviewing the latest research and my own experience. It feels like a mission for me.
I’m confident that I would not have written the new book if I had not had MS. Because my experience with not just surviving but thriving with the disease was so pivotal in writing Overworked and Overwhelmed, I felt like I had to make the private story of my illness public and write about it in the book. So, that’s what I mean by the title of this post, “Coming Clean.” Because you’ve been a regular reader here, I wanted to share the backstory with you before you read the rest of the story in the book
And, like I said earlier, I hope you’ll read it and that you take insights and action steps away that will strengthen your leadership and improve your life. Please share your stories and thoughts with me if you do.
Mindful Mondays: Travel Tips for the Mindful Road Warrior September 15 2014 2 responses
My work requires a lot of travel to meet with and present to clients. As the recent news stories about high altitude disputes over reclining seats on airplanes suggest, business travel can be stressful. That stress can eat you alive if you let it. Over the years, I’ve adopted some routines that have helped me stay healthy and sane when I travel for business. I thought I’d start to share some of them with you today. Let’s call them travel tips for the mindful road warrior.
As I discuss in my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, I think being intentional about your routines in four big domains – physical, mental, relational and spiritual – can help you show up at your best most often than not. What I try to do when I travel is keep up my routines as much as possible. It requires some preparation and flexibility to do that but I’ve found the pay off to be worth it.
Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned about the physical routines that work for me when I travel. In the weeks to come, I’ll share the mental, relational and spiritual routines that help me stay more mindful on the road. Of course, I don’t think I have a monopoly on good ideas. Please share any tips you have to share for the mindful road warrior in the comments section at the end of the post.
Tired of the Fire Drills? Appoint a Fire Marshal August 20 2014 no responses
One of the things I talk a lot about with my executive coaching clients is the highest and best use of their time and attention. When they think about what they really need to accomplish and how they should be spending their time to do that they often see a gap. The gap is between what they should be spending their time and attention on and what they actually are spending it on.
When they itemize the lists on both sides of the equation they usually recognize that a lot of what sucks up their time and attention each week is fire drills. If you’re an executive or manager, you know what fire drills are. They’re the unexpected customer crises, data calls from the top or systems breakdowns that draw you into a vortex of email chains, impromptu meetings and circular conversations. Before you know it, you’ve turned over ten or twenty hours of your week to stuff you had no idea was going to even come up on Monday morning. Fire drills make it really hard to stick with and follow through on all of those more strategic and value added uses of your time and attention.
How do you get out of the fire drill time suck? Appoint a fire marshal to handle them. If you think back on your own development, you’ve likely had fire drill experiences in your career that forged you into the leader you are today. You learned a lot from those fire drills.
Give the people on your leadership team the same opportunity. Every week or two, designate one of them as the fire marshal for the team. When a fire drill sounds, the fire marshal is the first responder. If it’s a brush fire, it’s their job to get it put out and maybe not even get you involved until they tell you it’s over. If it’s a raging forest fire, they should bring you in earlier but you should give them the space to coordinate the response. If half the state is on fire, then you should probably take the lead. The good news, though, is that most fire drills don’t require water drops from big huge planes. Most are smaller than that and probably don’t require your hands on attention.
So, if you’re tired of the fire drills, try appointing some fire marshals. They’ll get some valuable experience and knowledge and you’ll have more time to do the things you know you need to but never seem to have the time for.
What’s your take? What conditions would need to be in place for you to appoint some fire marshals?
What Leaders Can Learn About Trust from Vladimir Putin August 13 2014 2 responses
Given his track record in Crimea and Ukraine over the past several months, you wouldn’t think there is much that leaders could learn about trust from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The shoot down of the Malaysian Air flight, the Russian-backed rebels, the troops massed on the Ukrainian border, the government-stoked propaganda in Russian media and the current “humanitarian” convoy that the Russian army is driving into Ukraine have blown the international community’s trust in Putin out of the water.
So, what in the heck could a leader learn about trust from Putin? It’s one of those what-not-to-do kind of lessons. An article in the New York Times about Germany’s changing relationship with Putin sets the table for the lesson. A longtime German politician named Gernot Erler is quoted in the article. Erler has been working on establishing a stronger relationship between Germany and Russia for decades. He’s done with that. As he said in the article:
“The policy of Vladimir Putin is destroying reserves of trust with breathtaking speed. Russia is not naming its goals and has suddenly become unpredictable. And being unpredictable is the greatest enemy of partnership. Restoring trust will take time.”
And in that quote is the lesson about trust. People won’t trust you if you’re unpredictable.
As I’ve written here before, my favorite explanation of trust comes from Fernando Flores. He believes trust is dependent on three factors: Sincerity, Credibility and Competence. You could argue that when it comes to at least the first two of those three factors, Putin has proven to be predictably unpredictable.
Of course, most leaders aren’t in a position to disrupt the world order in the way that Putin has, but, within their own domain, they can either do a lot of good or damage in the way they build or break trust.
If you’re a leader (or parent or friend or co-worker), it might be really useful to ask yourself on a regular basis, “What am I doing to build or break trust?” Taking a look at your sincerity, credibility and competence are a good place to start the self-exam. For good measure, you might want to throw predictability into the mix.
What’s your take? What are the most impactful ways to either build trust or break it?
Weird Al Takes Business Buzz Word Abusers to School July 31 2014 one response
Years ago, someone introduced me to a game called BS Bingo. (They actually spelled it out but I’m keeping things PG here.) If you were playing, you had a bingo type card where each square contained a common business buzzword. You could take the card to a meeting and check off the boxes as you heard the words used. When you got five in a row in any direction, you yelled out, “BS!” and you were the winner.
God bless Weird Al Yankovic for bringing BS Bingo into the 21st Century. He’s recently released the video for “Mission Statement,” the last song on his new album (which hit number one on the Billboard chart last week!).
Making world class use of a whiteboard, Weird Al makes the case that “We must all efficiently operationalize our strategies,” and “leverage our core competencies.” Because, of course, at the end of the day it’s all about the synergy.
If it just doesn’t feel appropriate to yell out, “BS!” in your next management meeting, watch this video instead. It’s hilarious and at least it proves you’re not the only one being driven out of your mind.
What was your favorite line in the song? Any buzzwords that drive you crazy that Al missed and should include in the sequel?
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.
Seven Ways to Keep Wizard of Oz Syndrome from Killing Your Organization July 2 2014 one response
Every 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?
The Three Things You Can Control June 26 2014 no responses
A 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.
- 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?
Healthy Food Options On The Road June 6 2014 3 responses
Are you someone who travels a lot for business or is headed out on a vacation and you don’t want to abandon your healthy eating habits? Or maybe you’re thinking the life of fast food in the airport or at highway exits is your only option and it’s all bad.
Here are a few quick tips for our road warriors readers. They’re all really simple and will help you to feel great on the road.
1. Drink water instead of soda, juices, beer, wine or liquor. Yeah I know you’ve heard it before and it sounds boring. So make it more exciting and grab a club soda or sparkling water for some bubbles. If you can squeeze in lemon or lime, even better. If you’re buying a flavored water, read the label to see what that flavoring is made from and how much sugar it contains. Drinking water is especially important if you are flying as the humidity level on a plane is at least half of what is typical. That means alcohol and caffeine will dehydrate you even more than usual. So if you don’t want to end up like a dried prune, choose water. And, if you’re going to imbibe, do so in mindful moderation.
2. Eat Whole Fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth and stay away from the processed stuff and juices. Convenience stores almost always carry some reasonably fresh fruits so choose those instead of fruit power bar with tons of sugar and a list of ingredients that is longer than your arm. If you’re flying, grab some fruit in the airport before you get on the plane (or throw an apple or banana in your bag before you leave home). Skip those cookies and muffins and grab the fruit!
3. Salads Over Burgers If you’re only option is a fast food joint and they offer salads don’t just pick the first one you see. Find out what’s in it and what the calorie count is. Some salads have as many calories as a burger. Also investigate the dressing. Do you recognize the ingredients? Are you good with the calories and grams of sugar in there? No? Then, try a squeeze of lemon on your salad.
4. Go Nuts! When given the choice between nuts and potato chips, pick nuts. They have more protein and less carbs that will tire you out. Most convenience stores carry nuts. When buying, look for dry roasted options not ones with extra oil. Also if you’re checking out that bag of trail mix because it has more than just nuts and more could be better, it’s most likely not. Grab some whole fruit to go with those nuts and you’ll be better off. Go slow when you’re eating them. They’ll fill you up more and you’ll spread out the calorie intake if you don’t down them by the handful.
5. Pack it yourself. Yes I just said it. Plan ahead and take some things with you that you already know you like and that are within your range of options. You can make them yourself or buy them, but pack your own bag. I never travel on a plane without my own meal and snacks. This way I have more control over my options.
So happy trails this Summer. Safe travels and happy and healthy eating!
What are your favorite snack hacks for Summer travel? Please leave a comment so we can all learn from each other.
Why You Should Be Brief and How to Do It June 4 2014 10 responses
There’s a famous quote that’s often attributed to Mark Twain but actually originated with the French mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal – “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”
That Pascal was one smart guy. A full five hundred years before the information flood that all of us face today, he understood that brevity is important and that it takes work to be brief.
If you want to learn more about why you should be brief and how to do it, check out a new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less by marketing expert Joe McCormack.
In a recent conversation I had with Joe, he pointed out that your audience is drowning in the information flood that you don’t want to be the one to push them under for the count. Preparing your message is the best way to avoid doing that. Joe shared with me a communications planning framework he’s developed around the word BRIEF. First you get clear on the topic and then you provide the:
Background on the topic, and then the
Relevance to the audience, followed by the key bullet points of
Information about the topic. That sets you up for the
Ending and outlining the
Follow-up that needs to happen next.
In the accompanying recording of our brief conversation (how appropriate), Joe gives some guidance on how to apply the BRIEF model, how to write e-mails that actually get read and acted upon and his three best tips for being effectively brief in your communications.
Give it a listen. It’s an action-packed nine minutes.
Would you like to win your own copy of Brief? Joe has graciously offered to send a signed copy to one of our listeners. Want to be that person? Here’s all you need to do:
1. Make sure you are signed up to receive updates via our blog. If you’re not click here. If you’re already signed up then you’re almost done. (yes we’ll check). Or…
2. Leave a comment here letting us know you signed up and why you would like to win the book.
Bonus entry if you follow @scotteblin on Twitter and then comment here to let us know. The drawing is Tuesday, June 10th at noon PT. Enter now and check back on Tuesday to see if you won!
That’s it. Very simple. You’ll get a chance to win the book and you won’t miss out on updates. Updates come in two flavors, instantly when a blog is posted or in a digest form weekly (replacing monthly newsletter). Your choice. We will choose a winner using a random number generator.
UPDATE: The book contest is now closed, and we have a winner: Mary K. Parker. Congratulations and thanks for playing!