Work-life balance is really a bunch of bull. If something important is happening in one area, it affects the other. It’s just called life.
Dr. Stephen Covey famously demonstrated this for students by filling a bucket first with big rocks, then smaller rocks, then sand, then water – stopping at each step to ask people if the bucket was full. The lesson he shared was that no matter how busy your schedule is, there is always room for more, but handle your big rocks first. What are your big rocks? Family? Career? If you add all the little worries—the sand and water—first, there’s no room to deal with the big issues.
When you are not focused on your big rocks, stress tends to creep into your day-to-day. Be aware of the role stress plays in your life. When stress is present in the body, some non-essential systems start to shut down, including the immune system. If you get stressed, you get sick, and then getting anything done can be difficult.
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I’m a road warrior. I travel an average three days per week – all over the United States and sometimes to other parts of the world. Travel brings three benefits critical to leadership development: tolerance, perseverance and a broader sense of situational awareness and focus. Here are a few personal examples.
I was in the United Kingdom shortly after Brexit. Being in the U.K. at that momentous point in history gave me a great deal of perspective of politics on both sides of the Atlantic.
I also visited Ecuador in 2007 for work with financial institutions in the area. And in 2007, the specific institution we visited was already using text banking, making it more innovative at the than its American counterparts, contradicting its third-world status.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to visit China which was incredible but also completely different than visiting another English-speaking country or even another Hispanic culture. During my visit I had the chance to see the terra cotta warriors, which was a breathtaking experience. I did what any tourist would do and took a picture of the warriors with my phone and attempted to text it to dad. My phone shut down. At first, I thought my phone went haywire, but as it turned out, the Chinese government has so much control over the cell towers and the internet, they simply shut off my phone’s access to the network. I was unable to text for the duration of her visit, and the phone did not regain function until I returned to the U.S. I later learned two million people are employed in China just to sweep the internet. Definitely not something I was prepared for in the slightest.
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The millennials, those crazy kids, aren’t exactly young anymore. They were born somewhere between the late 1970s and the year 2000, with the vanguard approaching their 40th birthday. This generation has been the focus of scrutiny since they were tykes. We have been trying to figure them out for a very long time. There are a lot of stereotypes directed at millennials, like ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled,’ but they also are tech savvy and quick moving. Certainly, they are going to help with explaining technology to the generations that came before them.
Millennials are an important generation to get to know, especially the ins and outs of how they interact as leaders. In my work as a professor at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, I tell students it does not matter if they personally are lazy or entitled. What matters is what everyone in the business world thinks they are. Perception is reality, and it’s one that needs to be overcome.
Teenage millennials watch up to three hours of YouTube per day, which is a significant shift our society is making – how technology and social media affect people in their daily lives. Cell phones have gone from being a way to get ahold of someone to an integral part of our lives. Organizations have tried putting in place policies and procedures banning employees from having their phones on them while at work. In some cases, they are specifically banning people from going to Facebook when they are on the clock. What if, instead of trying to resist this evolution of leadership, we try to build on some of the strengths?
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Stop whining and let's get to work. And if you can’t let stuff go. Get over it! ‘Get over it’ has been my mantra for several years, since The Eagles released their “Hell Freezes Over” album in 1994.
It has become a family rule even for my two young boys. When they are crying and whining I tell them, “Crying helps nothing. Calm down, breathe and focus on the results you want to have.” Living in the emotion of the moment gets in your way. Whining in business demonstrates low emotional intelligence. We need to have emotional maturity so minor things do not become major speed bumps in our progress as leaders.
I turn on the tube and what do I see,
Ivan Pavlov, the Russian scientist who experimented with classical conditioning and most famous for the pairing of a ringing bell with feeding a dog. Eventually, when Pavlov would ring the bell and the dog would salivate thinking it would get fed, whether there was food available or not. Certain actions can cause base reactions in humans as well, but we do not have to react blindly.
As an example, if I leave for the day with a mutual understanding that Jimmy, my husband, will have the dishes done and when I get home, I expect the dishes will be done. If they are not, I have several options: I can get mad, I can become frustrated, I can break plates, I can throw things, or I can do the dishes myself. None of those options, however, result in the desired outcome – for Jimmy to do the dishes. It is in that moment you decide to make a choice, get over it and focus on the end result.
Victor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor concentration camp and went on become a psychiatrist. He wrote a book titled, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” talking about the power of choice. Frankl says human beings can project into the future what they want to accomplish. They have the ability to choose in the moment how to respond to certain actions that will lead them to different results. That is a powerful choice. Admittedly, sometimes it is difficult not to get caught up in the emotional drama of a moment and to focus on what we truly want out of it.
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In 2005, I began teaching at the College of Southern Nevada. On my first day, during my first presentation for a classroom full of students, I leaned on a table. The table toppled over and so did I. Colored markers flew everywhere, and the students gasped, wondering if I was okay. I stood up and could feel my face and neck burning red with embarrassment.
Walking to my car later, I felt very “woe is me,” and it struck me: What is the worst thing that could happen? That the students call their friends and share this hilarious mishap? Hell, I wanted to call my friends and tell them what happened myself. If I had let that feeling of self-pity take over, I would not be where I am today. We have to be able to move on and get over it, but, believe me, I do not lean on tables very often anymore.
In 2016, Jimmy and I decided to do a triathlon. Neither of us had competitive swimming experience, so we prepared by training as much as we could. On the day of the race there were strong winds on Lake Mead, which created some gnarly waves. When a nearby racer had a panic attack and had to be rescued, I began to have doubts, “Could I finish this?” I realized, the only way to get this done (and not drown) is to just keep swimming. Yes – I pulled a Dorie from Finding Nemo – but I got over it and finished the triathlon. That perseverance has served me well in the months since the race. If you are tired, know you are doing something for a purpose, so focus on the end and just swim
I could feel my face and neck burning red with embarrassment.
Ryan Stankovic is the Director of Quality Assurance at Hamilton Storage, and an analyst for Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates. He also happens to be my little brother! Ryan says the phrase “Get Over It” means, don’t dwell, on problems or your successes. “Move on with forward thinking rather than getting hung up on a problem,” he advised. “You have to always think about what is next. Instead of getting stuck on, ‘Look what I did,’ project your next course.”
In his job, the need for quality assurance is constant. Ryan does must take both corrective and preventative action, so he looks for root causes and accountability. He wants to see people owning their problems so issues can be fixed and everyone can move forward. Early in his career, Ryan worked in manufacturing. He recalls setting up a mold on a machine but failing to tie up the water hoses correctly. End result? He flooded the entire building! Ryan had to determine the problem, own the mistake and take action. And then, he moved on to the next mold.
Additionally, Ryan said, “The lesson learned in high-paced automation was you cannot dwell on anything. Every second the machine does not open and close is lost time and money. He continues to ask himself, ‘What are we doing now to make things right?’ and ‘What are you going to do to make up for the time that was lost?’”
Your personal brand is a relationship or experience somebody has with you; it’s what people say about you when you’re not around.
Personal brand is cultivated, and takes full-time management. It is the expectations others have. They know the level and quality of work you do, and thus that expectation becomes part of you.
We often communicate with others digitally, so if people do not have a ‘real’ relationship with you as a human being, they are going to have a relationship with your brand, and the impact of that is tremendous.
Your personal brand should represent who you want to be. When My Space first came out I frequently posted pictures from parties and softball games, and my friend would say, “You must not care about what you look like, because many of these pictures you put out there are madness.” It didn’t mean much at the time, but several years later I wanted to delete those photos.
It’s not about being inauthentic, but about presenting what I want people to know. If the primary place someone has a relationship with me is online, they need to know the whole me.
Influence is the ability to connect with other people to achieve a certain desired result. In the short term, someone can have an extraordinary impact, but how does that translate into long-term influence? Create raving fans “all day, every day” as gangsta rap advises.
Influence is constant work to be relevant and forward-thinking, and make things happen. Consider who you are working with, and what you’ve accomplished lately. People want to know where you are visible in the industry. I do a lot of things and go to a lot of conferences just to be engaged and involved, therefore, when someone decides their company needs a strategic planning facilitator, I am top of mind because I have been visible at trade shows. Visibility creates results. People want to see you in action.
Ask yourself this:
"HI. I HAVE TO GIVE A 45 MINUTE PRESENTATION AT A CONFERENCE IN THREE WEEKS. I'M SUDDENLY OVERWHELMED WITH ANXIETY OVER IT.I'VE ALWAYS ADMIRED YOUR CONFIDENCE AND PRESENCE IN FRONT OF A CROWD. ANY WORDS OF ADVICE?"
Awesome! First, congrats. And, thank you very much! Here are some thoughts... Some thoughts:
A proforma is a projection, commonly used in forecasting business or strategic plans. Why not create a proforma for your leadership? Career planning is strategic planning. Set your goals and commit to a full visualization. Project your leadership development!
In July 2011, Morolake Akinosun tweeted, “In 2016 I will be 22, graduated from a school I have not chosen yet, and going to the Olympics.” In July 2016, she retweeted the 2011 tweet with her ambitious plan and a follow-up note reading, “It’s 2016. I graduate from Texas in December. I’m going to the Olympics next week.” She represented the U.S. Track and Field Team in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Akinosun was rewarded with a gold medal as part of the winning 4X100-meter team.
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Morolake put it out there—that’s powerful. She said, ‘Boom! I’m going for this.’ I love that! Aim high, set goals, achieve goals. Make shit happen.
So, what does your leadership proforma look like? First, continually conduct a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Repeating your SWOT over and over is critical because we all get lazy. Keep focused on where it is that you want to be, and update frequently to shift the focus as you zig and zag.
Next, get your life together with a life plan for self-perspective. I had the honor of working with Marshall Goldsmith while writing my book, “The Strategic MVP.” Goldsmith espouses the importance of finding your mojo: The thing or things you are passionate about. You have to love your work. My co-author, Mark Thompson, and I had the opportunity to interview some incredible people, including Warren Buffet. His advice: “Putting off your passion is like saving up sex for old age. It’s just not a good idea.”
In other words, fine tune who you are early and often, and how that speaks to your leadership brand.
You have to know your limitations and understand them. There are ways to manage your limitations. You have to get people around you who are good in other areas.
People spend so much time on their phones and computers, our ability to express ourselves emotionally is on…well…a roller coaster. Technology changes quickly. Just 10 or 15 years ago not everyone had a mobile phone, and if they did, it was a Nokia flip phone.
This virtualization of friends and colleagues dehumanizes our interactions. Emotional intelligence is not only the ability for us to manage our emotions, but also to understand our impact on other people. When you don’t see their facial expression or body language in response to something you said, you don’t get the full communications experience that creates bonds and empathy. They become emojized.
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Emotional intelligence affects everything we do, starting with our social skills. It seems social skills primarily are practiced online anymore. With digital communication, the reality is the relationships we have with other human beings either start online or they end up online. You may meet somebody through LinkedIn or Tinder. When we meet someone in person, we stay in touch online.
My brother and his family live in Boston so our relationship is entirely through Facebook or Facetime. He’s my best friend, and I want to be in the lives of my nieces and my nephew. Many relationships we have are going to be digital. Our ability to communicate effectively in a digital environment, and be who we want to be, is essential.
Do your best to build in-person relationships when you have that opportunity, so avoid texting the person one cubicle over, or emailing someone in the same office when a face-to-face conversation is possible with only a small amount of effort. In-person relationships really are the basis for growing the relationship that may continue virtually.
The first step is to become more aware and emotionally intelligent. Identify, acknowledge and label your emotions. Be aware of the breadth of your emotions, and develop a more robust emotional vocabulary to better identify emotions. Then those emotions can be handled in different ways.
Certain triggers cause people to just snap. It happens rapidly, and once people go down a bad path they have a tough time coming back
Volunteering is something people should do for multiple reasons, including the actual giving to charity, and the internal realization that you cannot get paid for everything you do in life. Making money isn’t the only way to create value for yourself or others! Volunteering ties closely to leadership.
An entrepreneur is not an entrepreneur until that person has risked everything. You aren’t ready to be a leader until you’ve given yourself completely. Until you have volunteered–either your time, your energy, your money, or whatever it takes–then you really aren’t extending yourself. That becomes part of the leadership journey, and it certainly has been a big part of mine.
If someone asks you to do something for free, do it. Be the person who says ‘yes.’ Offer your services for free. Eventually you will have the reputation and clout to charge for it because people will know you are worth it.
Also volunteer for humility. When you volunteer for an organization, it teaches you how to get over yourself and be among people who need help. Give beyond what you do and who you are. Give back to communities that need it – whatever that means to you.
Inhale what you exhale is the idea behind the Strategic HotBox. You get what you give. Learn more about weekly virtual coaching today!