10 on the 10th: Focusing on Focus

Sadly, I’ve always been a better lesson learner after having been whacked by a cosmic two-by-four. A recent health scare prompted me to hit my personal “pause button” and rethink where I’m headed in this second act of mine.

It’s time to focus on getting focused! Want to join me?

In praise of downtime

in praise of downtimeA little after noon last Friday, I unplugged from technology (phone and PC) for the long holiday weekend. What bliss!

A refreshing and renewing interlude that would have been impossible in my first act of life where 24×7 connectivity and within-minutes response was expected.

One of my favorite dysfunctional stories that illustrates this zaniness:  I lived and worked on the West coast for a company whose headquarters were on the East coast. My normal Saturday morning routine involved getting up early, savoring coffee on my deck sans technology, and then meeting my personal trainer in the redwood state park for a workout.

Come Friday evening, I’d normally have clocked 60+ hours, so I really looked forward to those Saturday mornings doing push-ups on tree stumps, jumping across small babbling streams, and seeing the sun come up. Just us and nature. One exquisite morning a week I didn’t arise at 4 AM to do my “dastardly email” as I called it.

One Saturday morning I returned home at 8:45 AM. Hubby said I’d better check my email ASAP since my “crackberry” had been buzzing like mad.

In checking, I discovered that at 7 AM Eastern time (4 AM my time) the CEO had sent me an email. In it, he made a data request and demanded a response by noon ET.

At 8 AM his time, he forwarded his email to my matrix HQ boss, copying me, asking her to find out where I was. For the next two hours, she flooded my inbox with increasingly more frantic email messages about quickly getting the CEO what he wanted.

So at 8:51 AM my time (11:51 AM his) I answered the CEO’s email, giving him the data he wanted. Whew! Just nine minutes to spare! And all the good from my time in the redwoods wiped out.

In his message back, the CEO asked why it had taken so long for me to respond to his request. I politely reminded him of the time difference and told him about my Saturday morning exercise routine (he was a fitness nut). He had the grace to apologize for his impatience for information that he said was a curiosity not a crisis. Yikes.

My matrix boss (who had also forgotten about the time difference) told me later that afternoon the CEO had been ready to fire me at 8 AM his time for failing to comply with a work request! Double yikes.

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. ~Tim Kreider

3 questions for bosses about downtime

So, bosses everywhere:  if you recognize yourself in this story, this post is for you!

Ask yourself a few questions:

1.  Am I using weekend and late night email reading and response as an indicator of loyalty, dedication, and hard work?

If you are, why? What other data points are available to show an employee’s allegiance and quality of work? Why do you feel the need to test them? Are you aware of what this behavior does to trust levels?

2.  Am I being thoughtful about involving employees at all times of the day, night, and weekend?

Is what you are asking for really needed or simply satisfying a whim you have? Is the person you are asking the only source of the data, or are there other resources available? Why is it important that you know?

3.  Do you expect your employees to be on call 24×7?

Other than emergency or crisis situations that require immediate escalation and response regardless of the time, what drives this expectation? Is it realistic? Why do you believe 24×7 connection is necessary? Does your company have an escalation process for emergencies? If not, should it?

I pose these self-reflection questions directly to you. Why? Because your employees look to you for guidance and as an example for downtime. If you don’t take or value downtime, they won’t feel free to do so either.

Are you ready to take the leap and unplug…just a little?





Where do you stand on accountability?

While doing some leadership research, I ran across this observation in an article I was reading:  “Holding people accountable is fine and well, but it should only be used as a last resort.”

Fine and well? Last resort? What horrifying advice!

In teams that I’ve led or been a member of, accountability was an inescapable success factor for managing a function or responsibility and for leading people or one’s self—it was an expectation or parameter established and communicated upfront.

Are engaged people productive people?

engaged employees“That’s lovely, but in the end, it’s all about economics and the bottom line,” said the CEO of the $10M company.

The Power of Purposeful Discomfort™

For some, there’s a certain lure to consistency and continuity, knowing what to expect and when.

Others are addicted to the magic of uncertainty and perpetual newness.

Those standing firm in the control corner get surprised when their micromanagement leads to dissatisfaction, turnover, or stagnation.

Those who love to go with the flow can be disappointed by the lack of results, chaos, and total disorganization.

Too much of anything, be it stability or innovation, willfulness or humility, competition or collaboration, becomes a bad thing.

The trick for fulfillment and success in life, love, and leadership is accepting the purposeful discomfort™ that comes with learning to live with “both.”

Both stability and innovation. Both willfulness and humility. Both competition and collaboration. The list of “boths” goes on and on. Peter Drucker’s phrase of being “equally important but essentially different” is a perfect descriptor for how leaders need to think about these interdependent but contradictory elements.

That’s what I call purposeful discomfort.

I’m participating in Todd Nielsen’s 2014 International Leadership Blogathon. My post addresses how enlightened leaders make room for serendipity in managing the creative tension, the purposeful discomfort, between chaos and control.

Please take a look at the post and let me know what you think! And while you’re there, do check out all the other terrific posts in Todd’s leadership blogathon!

purposeful discomfort

 Image source before quote:  morgueFile.com




5 myths about kindness to retire

I’m on a mission to rehabilitate the connotations of several words—and kindness is one of them.

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution. ~Kahlil Gibran

Kindness, which is ever-renewable and costs nothing, is in short supply.

Frantic schedules, demanding bosses, too much to do with too little time for doing it, and the technology impacts of interacting with others via a device instead of person-to-person all play a role in the disappearance of kind acts.

How to Recognize Danger in the Workplace

Today’s guest contributor is Mohinder Goomar, a former doctor and personality disorder sufferer. After experiencing mood swings and a distortion of judgment, Mohinder was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) and lost his medical license during his two-year period of rehabilitation. Sadly, because of his DID experience, his medical license was not reinstated. His book, It’s Just My Opinion, details his experience and provides guidance to help others in recognizing danger signs in others in the workplace or schools.


do my bit to help othersAbout 2 million employees are affected by workplace violence every year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And shocking acts of public violence—a stabbing at a Pennsylvania high school, shootings at Fort Hood and the Washington Navy Yard—continue to dominate the news.

17 on the 17th: Quotes about Intention

intentionBecause of a unanticipated turn of financial fate, my friend has been forced to abandon her dream path and return to a full-time job.

Yesterday she asked me to help her not lose sight of her dream, to not let her get caught in the work-a-day business world vortex and disappear into a swirl of reports, bottom line analyses, and singular focus on climbing the corporate ladder. She wants me to help her remember that success carries many definitions.

Which got me to thinking about intentions.

Calling out or not calling out: what’s the right thing to do?

good behaviorHis good reputation preceded him.

At least half a dozen people told me I would enjoy hearing him speak since his “thing” was leadership. So when he was announced as a speaker for an association to which I belonged, I quickly signed up to attend.

His 45-minute talk was informative, full of tips and pointers for being an authentic leader who could build employee engagement. Audience participants scribbled notes and nodded affirmatively as he spoke.

Career and relationship: no need to choose

A small group of professional women were sharing life stories at a local networking event. One woman’s story, combined with her matter of fact delivery, brought the conversation to a stunned silence,

Managing a career, children, and marriage was much harder than I thought it would be. Putting my education to work and getting ahead was important to me, and I didn’t want to let go of that goal. Something had to go, so I let it be my marriage.