A Labor of Love

Photo source:  NY Times, September 6, 1882

My daughter, a junior in high school, signed up to take AP US History this year.  Since I admittedly skipped out on history in high school (and have regretted it ever since), I committed to learn something this year along with her!  What better place to start than the true meaning of Labor Day?

For most people, Labor Day marks the end of summer and the start of the school year and includes such “traditions” as shopping and barbecuing.  However, the holiday’s founders in the late 1800s envisioned something very different from what it has become. Their goals were:  a means of unifying union workers and a reduction in work time.  The first Labor Day, New York City in 1882, was hardly a national holiday.  Workers had to strike, under the direction of that city’s Central Labor Union, to celebrate it.

Labor Day came about because workers felt they were spending too many hours and days on the job.  In the 1830s, manufacturing workers were putting in 70-hour work weeks on average.  Union organizers focused on getting a shorter eight-hour work day, a six-day workweek, and getting workers more days off, such as the Labor Day holiday.  Politicians and business owners were in favor of giving workers more time off to turn them from the working class into the consuming class.  If they had no free time, they were not able to spend their wages on traveling, entertaining or dining out. It became a national holiday in June 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day bill into law.

Flash forward nearly 125 years later and ask yourself, have we lost the spirit of Labor Day?  Recall we were to have been solving the problem of long working hours and no time off.  We may have won the battle over those issues for manufacturing workers long ago but we’ve definitely lost the war when it comes to highly skilled white-collar workers who are constantly connected to work.

Since I’ve started my own business, my mantra has been find your work-life blend!  On the eve of Labor Day, this couldn’t be more timely.  I talked to at least two people in the past week that are still in corporate America and one of them is actually working 60-70 hours/week and the other one complained because he wasn’t getting a standard 50 hour work week any longer.  Really?  Take it from someone who feels like she missed out on far too many precious moments by working all the time.  It’s never too late to change your labor to love.  Give yourself a day off.  Shut off your phone, computer and other electronic devices that connect you to the daily grind.  Enjoy the holiday with family and friends and celebrate its true meaning.  Gotta go, have a family barbecue to plan!

 

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To Everything There is a Season

End of summer. Bears beat the Broncos. First day of school. Upcoming milestone birthday.  Not sure which one of these phenomena prompted my writing this morning but this song by the Byrds has been playing over in my head.  Turn, turn, turn.

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the last few weeks, as I prepared my kids for their first day of school, thinking of what comes next.  The house will be quiet again and it will be back to the grind for me after my cast comes off today! What I know for sure is that every season from here on out will include self-care.  What do I mean by self-care and why is it important?  Here’s the part where most people say, “I don’t have time for that” and stop reading.

For those of you who pressed on, you’ve come to the realization as I have, that you can’t afford to not make time for it.  It can take many forms:  physical, social, emotional or spiritual and to everything there is a season. Maybe you commit to maintaining a daily meditation or mindfulness practice.  Do yoga, or run with your dog.  Reach out to people you haven’t seen or heard from in years. Whatever form it takes, find something you genuinely enjoy that fits with your life and values and just.do.it.

Why?  The benefits are exhilarating!

  • More productive. When you learn how to start making time for things that matter more, you realize that you are so worth slowing down for. This brings your goals into clarity and helps you focus more, which will in turn, make you successful in meeting your commitments.
  • Take risks. The lesson of figuring out what makes you feel passionate and inspired can help you understand yourself a lot better. Sometimes, this can even spark a change in career, as it did for me late last year.  Be open-minded and know that life is all about balancing risk — the biggest risk is not taking one.
  • More to give. My morning affirmation today was “Peace is within me.” What a calming realization. Finding peace within helps you to break through to your best self and therefore, someone that others want to be around. Spending quality time this summer with my family and friends was such a joy.  You can’t pour from a cup if it’s empty.

Wherever you find yourself today, know that there is a time to every purpose under heaven.  “A time to plant, a time to reap.  A time to laugh, a time to weep…. A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.”  Find your work-life blend today.

 

Be a Super Trouper!

If any of you have teenage kids or follow social media, you know they are all out there trying to “live their best life”.  Whenever I tell my kids they can’t do something, they reply quite sarcastically, “Mom, why won’t you let me live my best life?”  Sounds like great advice to me, so why aren’t we all doing it??

I am fresh off a family vacation in Cabo where I was hoping to live my best life until on my son’s 15th birthday, I took a spill (while Salsa dancing, that’s my story and I”m sticking with it) and fractured my ankle. Good news is the cast will be off before my 50th birthday, so I can live to dance another day 💃🏼 Since that day last week, and before I knew it was broke, I continued to enjoy vacation going on a snorkeling cruise with my family, floating up to the swim up bar and partaking in one of the best Italian meals I’ve had in a long time (yes in Mexico).  As a result, I have earned the affectionate title from family and friends of “trouper”.  Which of course, got me singing… 🎵 (you too, admit it)

“Super Trouper lights are gonna find me
Shining like the sun
Smiling, having fun
Feeling like a number one”

I’ll be honest, there was a moment in time when I started to feel down while sitting in the  orthopaedic office watching the woman put on my red cast.  But I made a conscious choice to live up to my name, and persist through the pain without complaining.  This setback has given me a week to catch up on administrative duties that I would have otherwise procrastinated on.  Also, I read an article on LinkedIn yesterday that said if you aren’t spending at least 5 hours a week learning, you are being irresponsible.  Well call me responsible, because not being able to drive to appointments has given me more time to read and listen to podcasts.  Last, but certainly not least, there is great satisfaction in having your teenage children wait on you hand and foot (for a change) and be your personal Uber driver.  If life has taught me anything, it’s that self-pity and playing the victim is a complete waste of time.  It also cramps your style while trying to live your best life which we all should do.  Thus, be a super trouper and turn your setback, whatever it may be, into a comeback where you find yourself smiling, having fun and feeling like a number one.

Can I get a generational group hug?

Entrepreneurial, transparent, team-oriented blogger who wants to find meaning in her work and aspires to achieve work-life blend.  Tag line for a millennial?  Actually, it’s me, from generation X! Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks if given the proper mindset. So let’s stop focusing on our differences and allow the diversity of our generations to lead to innovation.  How do we accomplish that?

  • Reverse mentoring: young people aren’t the only ones who need training.  The term “reverse mentoring” refers to pairing older workers with younger ones to educate one another on how new ways of thinking can improve them. The key is to change the culture from an “us versus them” mentality to a two-way street.  If done properly, it can close the knowledge gap on both sides.
  • Build a culture of mutual respect:  regardless of whether you are a seasoned veteran or just out of college, the key to your success is on-the-job performance. You can’t necessarily rely alone on your own experience and expertise. Be inclusive and accepting of ideas, especially if you don’t initially agree with them. Allowing others to be heard can go a long way toward building mutual respect.
  • Be cognizant of bias and stereotypes: we all know they exist but don’t let them break down open, honest communication among your team.  The opportunity (notice I didn’t say challenge) in a multi-generational workforce centers around motivation and retention.  Most people leave a supervisor before they leave a job so embracing our diversity rather than highlighting our differences can help ensure we keep the lines of communication open.

Why should you care? In 2015, at approximately 80 million, the millennials have become the largest share of the American workforce according to the Pew Research Center.  They will lead our companies, political parties and the nation in the future. It’s the responsibility of the generations that preceded them to resist focusing on what makes us different.  Why not share what we know and let them teach us in return?  If we are being honest, the very things we criticize about another generation are those we actually envy.  TOGETHER we are stronger and can build the foundation for an innovative high performing team. So, what do you say, can I get a generational group hug?

Take your monkey back… Coaching is the answer

58CDFB9C-3A5A-41CE-B04C-FF75B19333BAYou arrive for your first personal training lesson and the very fit, sculpted trainer takes one look at you and says “you aren’t in very good shape”, maybe I should do the workout for you?  You look at her and think “sweet…I’ll just sit back, drink my latte and watch” but then it dawns on you, that would defeat the whole purpose of hiring a personal trainer.  I know this example is ludicrous, but then again, so is hiring a business coach if you have no intention of putting forth effort and doing any work.

I read several articles on LinkedIn last week that were on “coaching the uncoachable”.  Here’s my view on that one. You don’t need advice on HOW to, just say NO. You can’t coach someone against their will and expect to be successful. Period.

As leaders, we are hard wired to solve problems. In the corporate world where I came from, employees would come into my office all the time bringing their problems and wanting me to fix them. I was thrilled that they trusted me enough to ask and honestly, solving problems and helping others definitely gives you a sense of satisfaction. At first, anyway. Then as days and weeks go by, you find yourself caring and feeding for more and more monkeys and feeling over-burdened. The answer for them to take their monkey back is — coaching. However, it will only work, if the employee buys-in. People will learn far more and be committed if they come up with the answers. They have to “own it”.  I’ve found that business leaders and owners almost always have the answers within them; its my job to ask the right questions to bring them to the surface.

A client that I have been working with for the past few months just recently gave me some feedback. She wrote, “the ideas and accountability that [Sandy] provides have been a significant blessing to my business.” One of the biggest reasons she wanted me to be her coach, was so that I could hold her accountable to reach her goals NOT do the work for her. Every week since our relationship began, she has been prepared for our sessions,  done her homework in advance and followed up on her action items. That is my ideal client, not a business owner who wants me to do all the work for them or an employee whose boss insisted that they needed coaching because they were having “performance problems”. Coaching sometimes gets a bad wrap for that reason, when in fact, the high performers benefit the most because they are committed and take action to grow and improve themselves and their business.

Ralph Nader said, the job of a leader is to create more leaders. We can’t do that by doing the work FOR them. However, we can teach them how to do it for themselves, thus creating a more sustainable future for business.

Lead yourself first…then seek to inspire others

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Lead yourself first…sounds lonely, doesn’t it?  I’m not necessarily referring to the book by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin that talks about inspiring leadership through solitude.  I’m simply saying, that just like you can’t love others until you love yourself, you can’t lead them either without leading yourself first.  As a new business owner and certified business coach, I am always thinking about my value proposition and the why that led me down the path to pursuing my passion.  How do you think my clients would feel about me coaching them, without having defined my own vision, value and purpose in life?  The word hypocrite comes to mind.

In the past month, I have discovered the importance of mindfulness and learned to embrace meditation as a part of my daily routine.  Just ten minutes in the morning has been enlightening.  There is something about quiet time in your day that allows you to really listen to your mind and your body and renew your spirit.  You have to listen to yourself to lead yourself.  Listening creates clarity and I can’t think of anyone who has ever claimed to suffer from too much clarity.  Understanding what drives and motivates us enables us to invest in the things that help us live our vision, value and purpose.  Purpose can be your guide to inspired action. The key, then, is taking that action.

Before you endeavor to lead others, make sure you lead yourself first.  One of the lessons I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from [slaying] your goals.  Be confident in your intentions and once you’ve mastered that, by all means, work to inspire others to do the same.

Square pegs don’t fit in round holes — Culture Matters

I had the pleasure last week of attending my first international conference with ~100 “rock star” FocalPoint coaches and speakers. To say it was awe-inspiring and motivating, would be an understatement. But what amazed me the most was the reassuring feeling that I was in a room full of people that shared a common purpose and culture in spite of our geographic diversity.  Coincidence?  I think not.  For we all know that square pegs don’t fit in round holes.

As I sat in the conference center of the Douglas hotel in downtown Vancouver, I had a flashback to September 2017 and my very first phone call with the President and CEO of FocalPoint. When I’m talking to people now about my business, I always say that FocalPoint found me rather than me finding them. Why?  Because culture REALLY matters and when you find the RIGHT fit, you know it.  Looking back now, Steve had me at “hello!”  It was a great conversation filled with lots of laughter and phrases like being the “pebble on the pond” positively impacting the world through integrity, passion, team and balance or blend as I refer to it.  All of which was music to my ears.  For if I was going to make this bold move and step out of my comfort zone, it had to be the RIGHT fit for me and my family.

Company culture starts at the top.  From that very first phone call, I knew that I was speaking with an authentic man full of integrity.  You bet that mattered to me and I’m not alone.  Employees today are paying more and more attention to company culture when applying for positions.  Good cultural fit creates employees who contribute more, stay longer with the company, and build better relationships with coworkers.  As was reinforced for me last week by one of our guest speakers (thank you Brian Butler) relationships really matter too.  They can motivate or de-motivate and almost always lead to loyalty and trust, which are essential for a diverse and inclusive team.

There are several definitions of company culture out there but the one I like the most is simply that it includes all of the values and beliefs that guide your organization.  If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there?  That’s where your vision, mission and purpose come in.  Think of those as your goal or destination and the culture as your journey.  The key is that the commitment from every level in the organization must be unwavering.  The culture needs to drive the behaviors and the actions or steps that you take every day on your journey.

It is one thing to achieve a strong company culture in corporate America and yet another to achieve it in a franchise organization like FocalPoint that I am so proud to be a part of. Whether its franchisees, partners, or employees, make your purpose and culture completely transparent from day one and don’t settle for a square peg.