A Great Leader Has Three Plans

04-21-2014Great leaders don’t need just one plan – they need three!

  • A strategic plan
  • A professional plan
  • A personal plan

The strategic plan is the core to any successful organization. Created through a process of evaluation of the current state, recognition and agreement of where we want to be at some time in the future and a plan to get us there. Without a strategic plan that we can revisit and measure ourselves against we run the risk of sailing off rudderless into the future.

Any student of business would not argue with this. In fact, the strategic plan is a base tool most good leaders will insist on. One element of this plan that I think is important in our organization today is the fact that any great organization won’t just have one strategic plan – but many. The corporate head office strategic plan should direct many others. The IT department should have its own plan as should the smaller department within IT. The creation of a strategic plan should be on the schedule for every group within the organization. It creates a process that is valuable to all.

The professional development plan outlines the professional development path for the current and future leader. It becomes an annual evaluation of skills and knowledge missing in the leader’s tool kit and a plan on how to fill the gaps. Remember that our leader could be a middle manager with 5-10 people reporting to him/her. Our leader is not just the CEO, CIO or COO. Regardless of the level within the organization, we all need a professional development plan.

And finally we need a personal plan – or a LIFE Plan. This one is just as important as the others. Every leader needs to be in control of more than the strategic plan and the professional development plan. She/he needs to be in control of him/her life. We put our organizations at risk with health, habits and family life issues that threaten our happiness. A true leader either this under control or is actively working on it.
Our life plan is quite like the other two plans. Where are we today, where do we want to be at some stage in the future and how will we get there?

It can cover any or all of:

  • Your physical health
  • Your spiritual life
  • Your relationship with family and friends
  • Your professional life
  • Your recreational life
  • And more

The process of developing a life plan can be very simple. Grab a part of your life that needs addressing and do a SWOT analysis on it: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Think about the future. Where do you want to be? 10 pounds lighter? Better connected to someone in our world? Better able to enjoy time off? Closer to a certain family member? Create a plan – a step by step guide as to how you are going to get there. And then, like any good plan, you have to follow it, revisit it, adjust it occasionally and measure yourself against it.

Yes the LIFE plan is important to a leader. Your team, your department and your organization wants this part of you under control and well managed just as much as they want to have the strategic plan and your professional development plan to be under control.

How many plans do you have in front of you?

Source: David Barrett | Inspiring Leaders

About David Barrett – Speaker on Professional and Personal Leadership:

David Barrett is a National Program Director at The Schulich Executive Education Centre, Schulich School of Business, York University.

David is also a professional speaker specializing in inspiring leaders at all levels in all industries. His key area of focus is the art and science of getting work done: execution leadership, project leadership and personal leadership.

He is the co-author of The Power of The Plan and co-compiler of The Keys to Our Success.

For more information on David Barrett, please visit: https://bit.ly/1m5LtzL

How Google Humanizes Technology In The Workplace and You Can, Too

04-10-2014Technology keeps us from interacting face-to-face more often, but Google is changing the way we adapt to this new era of communication.

The Internet turned 25-years-old a few weeks ago, a milepost that commemorates the day Tim Berners-Lee proposed the creation of a new kind of “information management system,” and forever changed how we live and work.

That the Internet has enabled profound personal and organizational productivity gains since its launch is patently irrefutable. But at the same time, the Internet, along with its ever-growing progeny of applications, has an often unacknowledged dark side: Many of us have become overwhelmed by it.

Believing it’s easier to communicate with people electronically, for example, we’ve stopped calling each other. According to MIT technology professor Sherry Turkle, we don’t even e-mail people anymore–“our communication of choice is texting.”

Perhaps because we’re uncertain of the expectation of our bosses, or simply we are seduced by the prospect of what may be awaiting us every time we go on line, many of us now check our cell phones 150 times a day. Trends like these not only suggest that we’re allowing technology to dehumanize us, our incessant connection distracts us from remaining present with other people, our work, and from sustaining any meaningful flow in our lives.

Using the occasion of the Internet’s silver anniversary as an inflection point, I reached out to Google Human Resources Director, Dr. Todd Carlisle, to see if his firm has learned to more successfully utilize and integrate technology and even re-humanize it in their workplace. Here are five of his most useful insights:

1. THOUGHTFULLY MIX IT UP
According to Carlisle, the Google employees who rely on one kind of communication–for example, texting or e-mailing–for everything and never meet with people in person tend to receive low engagement scores from their direct reports. Consequently, his guidance to managers is that they should be very thoughtful in determining the best way to communicate in every situation.

Carlisle says he does a calculation every time he needs to speak with someone: If the conversation is going to be a two-minute back and forth, then he’ll instant message them. If it’s going to be longer than that, he’ll instant message them to see if they have time to talk live. Then he must decide if it is better to speak on the phone or via a Google video-conferencing Hangout.

Carlisle insists that some messages are always best delivered in person, like sharing vision for the team, for example. Routinely being efficiency minded when communicating will inevitably backfire, he says. “So I think what we’re always talking about is, ‘What are you trying to get across–and what’s the best methodology?’”

One Google VP recently replaced his newsletter e-mail with a three-minute YouTube Video. According to Carlisle, “after surveying people afterwards, we saw employees had better recollection of it, and overall more positive feelings toward the organization.”

2. LET TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT EMPLOYEES IN THEIR PERSONAL LIVES
The day Carlisle and I met, he had an 8 p.m. meeting scheduled with a colleague in India; he told me directly that he had no intention of staying in the office until then. “I’ll go home, put my kids to bed, and then take the Hangout from my living room. And the person in India will be getting ready to go to work (8:30 a.m.), so he’s going to do the opposite. Before he takes his kids to school, he’ll go to a quiet place, and we’ll have our work meeting.”

Much has been written about Google’s penchant for workplace synchronicity–the notion that ideas get spread and enhanced via conversations employees have in the hallways and cafeterias. Nevertheless, the company makes no insistence that people are always in the office to take a meeting. “We care that people are happy and productive,” says Carlisle, “and we’re all trying to be flexible around the stuff that happens in life.”

3. LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO GIVE EMPLOYEES GREATER VOICE
Traditionally in business, an organization’s policies and procedures were crafted and communicated by people in a Human Resources department, a process that excluded much, if any, involvement with line employees. According to Carlisle, Google sees its workers as the true subject matter experts, and purposely makes great use of its shared document technology to eliminate all “top-downness from decision making.”

Recently, a group of individual contributors petitioned Carlisle to have their job titles revisited. Rather than take on the task himself, he challenged the team to brainstorm and produce the solution. Leveraging a suite of programs that enables people to collaboratively create documents and spreadsheets in real time, employees in Mountain View, India, and Dublin were able to post proposed titles, comment on what they liked and didn’t like, and evolve the discussion until the task was completed.

“I’m certain the team will feel much more empowered [and engaged] by the outcome,” says Carlisle, “because the new job titles weren’t just handed down from the management team. They did it bottom up.”

4. GO HIGH-TECH AND LOW-TECH
Almost every meeting held today at Google makes use of the Hangout program to accommodate employees unable to attend, or who work in other locations. Wherever they are, meeting attendees are able to use the camera on their phone or computer and talk face-to-face with every person participating.

Despite having technology that so powerfully and conveniently unites people–and that their own company created–Google’s founders and top executives have intentionally retained one old school element of leadership communication. Once a week, they make themselves available, live and in person, to Google headquarter employees (interactively beamed live to all other locations) in town hall meetings.

“This is not a high tech thing,” says Carlisle. “This is a leader prioritizing transparency thing.”

5. ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO DISCONNECT
If you’ve ever checked e-mail after waking up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom, or felt compelled to respond to a boss’s inquiry on a Saturday afternoon, it’s consoling to know that, at least at Google, people are giving thought to whether “always being on” is good for us or our organizations.

According to new research on work-life balance, most of us now approach our jobs in one of two ways–we’re either “Integrators” or “Segmentors.” And, one of these methods, it seems, has the clear leg up on sustaining long-term productivity and overall human effectiveness.

Segmentors come to work, do their job, and go after a demanding day. At that point they are done. They turn their work-brain off and turn on their personal-brain. And the work-brain goes back on at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

Integrators will come home at night, do some personal things, do a little work, check e-mail before going to bed, and then again first thing in the morning. Integrators have looser boundaries between work and life.

Internal research shows that some people say they prefer to segment and some say they prefer to integrate. But regardless of preference is on this, the data shows Google employees are happier with their overall well-being when they segment.

One senior Google executive, someone who manages thousands of people in the organization, appears to be setting a more disciplined example. He’s conveyed to his employees that he checks e-mail only three times a day (an hour in the morning, an hour after lunch, and an hour in the evening) making himself more available to be present in all of his human interactions.

Carlisle told me at the end of our conversation that Google is trying to “use technology in the most positive way.” I believe him.

Source: Fast Company

About Mark C. Crowley – Leadership and Management Author:

It’s simply irrefutable that traditional leadership practices no longer motivate and inspire people in their jobs; researchers tell us that employee engagement and job satisfaction have reached modern-day lows.

But even in the context of these dire statistics, the thesis that employee loyalty and productivity easily could be restored were leaders to become more caring and supportive, flies in the face of conventional wisdom. In fact, we’ve long been taught that leading with any degree of heart is an inherently weak approach – one entirely antithetical to driving profit.

But Mark C. Crowley has a particularly compelling voice to challenge these outdated assumptions, and to offer up a new, more informed leadership paradigm.

For more information on Mark C. Crowley, please visit: The Sweeney Agency

Could You Be a Stressaholic?

04-07-2014Stress, like love or beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder. In perhaps it’s most simple definition, stress is simply a stimulus for change. Positive opportunities such as a family vacation, getting married or even winning the lottery all come with their share of stress and stimulation. And while it’s easy to blame stress on what’s going on around us, a significant part of our relationship with stress is based on the hidden internal stress we deal with each day — eating too much of the wrong foods or too few of the right ones, living a sedentary lifestyle or overtraining at the gym, being a perfectionist or lacking motivation to get up in the morning.

So how do you know if you have an unhealthy dependence on stress? The following few questions may help you figure it out:

  • Do you thrive on tight deadlines?
  • Do you often leave things until the last minute?
  • Do you have a difficult time doing nothing at all?
  • Does it take you a few days off to feel like you’re on vacation?
  • Do you spend much of your vacation time thinking about work?
  • Do you constantly worry about what you might be missing?
  • Do you feel stressed when you’re disconnected from your cell phone or computer?
  • Do you find it difficult to turn your brain off at night to sleep?
  • Do you feel as though there is never enough time to get things done?
  • Do you ever feel as though the work you put in for the day is not enough?
  • Do you lack time to see your friends or participate in hobbies you used to enjoy?
  • Do you feel as though you’re constantly running from one thing to the next?
  • Do you find yourself finishing, or wanting to finish, other peoples’ statements?
  • Do you wish I’d stop asking questions so you can get on with the book already?

Chances are, you answered “yes” to a good amount of these questions. But, who cares? We all have stress, and it’s not going anywhere — so we might as well accept it, right? I even had a client tell me once, “I love my stress and I don’t want to manage it.” She spoke aloud the truth so many of us are living, whether we accept it or not: we thrive on stress. It makes us feel driven to succeed, boosts energy, and gives meaning to our life. Our conversations often seem to involve a competition of who’s more stressed. “How are you?” “Stressed.” “Me too.” And then each party goes on to explain why they’re so stressed, with the person who’s worse off winning in our backwards way of thinking. This twisted social story tells us that busier you are, the more stressed you are, the more important you are. Just take Seinfield’s George Costanza, who made it a point to look annoyed so that his boss would assume he was doing something important.

The problem is not that you can’t handle your stress. You’re likely doing a fabulous job getting the things done that need to get done, meeting deadlines, and even attending a social event every once in a while (especially if it’s work related). But what is your experience of your life? Are you taking time to appreciate what you’re working so hard to accomplish — or are you just speeding through in order to tackle the next item on your to-do list?

Perhaps more importantly, are you aware of the long-term impact that this stress-filled life has on you? Probably not. Or maybe like most addicts, you know the consequences of your behavior but you’re so hooked on it that coming down from stress feels uncomfortable — and with such a busy schedule it’s just easier to stay amped up than deal with the detox of letting go. Remember the advertisement “this is your brain on drugs”? It certainly made a lasting impression. Unfortunately, it’s not just drugs that can cause our brains to feel scrambled. Unmanaged stress might be just as dangerous.

Stress (and drugs) have been shown to have the following side effects: increased heart rate and blood pressure, an increase in blood sugar, breakdown of muscle tissue, decreased digestive functioning, ulcers, blood clotting, migraines, skin problems, premature aging, loss of brain cells, social isolation and loneliness, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, substance abuse, relationship problems, lack of focus, multitasking and disengagement. In fact, a 20-year study by the University of London completed in the early 1990s found that unmanaged reactions to stress were a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or high-cholesterol foods. And stress may even be as addictive as drugs. In addition to the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, stress also releases the “feel good” chemical dopamine, which encourages repeat behaviors by activating the reward center in our brains. This may be at the heart of many addictive behaviors and substance abuse issues.

While it may seem a bit extreme to consider stress an addictive substance, it turns out the just about anything can become addictive depending on the individual who is responding. Addiction expert Stanton Peele has suggested that there is no habit that cannot become excessive, compulsive, or life endangering. According to Peele, “Addiction… is not a label to be applied to specific things but to an involvement a person creates in time or space.” It’s all about the relationship that we build with our habits of behavior.

When we lose sight of our natural pulse, or worse — intentionally disrupt it in order to accomplish something — we trigger an adaptive response that becomes addictive. At its core, addiction is a dependence on some external or internal stimulus that causes either a feeling of pleasure or avoidance of pain. Early-stage stress addiction usually attracts us to sources of stress to get something positive — a neurochemical satisfaction such as dopamine release, an intrinsic (internal) reward such as feeling needed, or an extrinsic (external) benefit such as money, power, or success.

As our addiction progresses, however, it becomes less about what we might get and more about avoiding loss, which brings with it an even stronger tie to our basic survival mechanisms. Instead of intentionally turning to stress-providing stimulation for positive reinforcements we now require them to avoid the pain of its absence. We shift from triggering positive dopamine to avoiding negative cortisol, from seeking importance to avoiding insignificance, and from accomplishing success to merely remaining employed. This fear-based shift moves us from what appeared to be healthy striving to merely surviving.

We can reverse this process by neurochemically rebalancing our brain, nourishing our mind and body with love and support, and establishing training behaviors or habits that strengthen our ability to resist stress’s addictive nature. As we’ve already discovered, stress itself is not the problem. Depending on or accepting stress without recovery despite hazardous consequences–such as fatigue, dissatisfaction in life, loss of joy, anxiety, etc — is what destroys our health, energy, and engagement.

Stress in and of itself is neither good nor bad; it just is. Therefore it is not the existence of stress that causes an addictive dependence; rather, it’s our individual response to the stress in our lives over time. Each person has unique experiences with stress throughout the lifespan; certain situations cause severe disability, while others enhance learning and facilitate growth.

In fact, a life without stress would be stressful. It would push us out of our comfort zone in the opposite direction, with a lack of stimulation for growth. Research shows that one of the highest spikes in human mortality occurs within six months of retirement. It is quite dangerous to go from being always “on” to a screeching halt. The human system is not designed to function in a state of all or nothing; yet because of our hectic environment and constant connection, people tend to be pulled back to the extremes. To operate most effectively, we need to find the balance between stress and recovery that enables us to experience challenge and growth without constantly breaking down.

The Stressaholic Recovery Process – Recharge Your Energy and then Reprogram Your Life

Stress can be good for us: facilitating important learning and stimulating personal growth. However, like an old rubber band we crack and break down when force is applied to our weakened system because we lack flexibility. Our world today is filled with outside stimulation and stress inducing factors, with unrelenting demands on our time. But when we have the energy to be pliable and resilient, we are not only able to bounce back from challenges; we also become stronger as a result of the exercise.

Therefore, successful and sustainable stress management must start with a core foundation of energy to keep your brain and body functioning in a more optimal state. This allows the brain to facilitate opportunity-based processes for focus and attention, creativity and flexibility, and endurance over time. The messages that the body’s various hormones send the brain to regulate energy flow — and maintain things like glucose and oxygen supply — will provide us the stability we need for optimal functioning.

Consider your stress management strategies as building blocks of a pyramid.

The foundational techniques will be those we continue to go back to when we feel overwhelmed or out of balance. This rest process will serve as the supporting structure we need to continue moving up to the pinnacle of health, happiness, and performance. Key strategies to creating adequate rest go beyond just getting enough sleep. It’s critical that we also build in rest periods at least once every 90 minutes during the day to recharge our battery. Rituals such as listening to inspirational music, practicing deep breathing, doing some gentle stretching or going for a walk outside should be scheduled throughout the day and made a priority. Eliminating stimulating foods and other substances (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) also helps the body reduce inflammation.

Once we have adequate rest and recovery built into our routine, we can then look to nourishing nutrients that will strengthen our core practice and provide even more resilience and stability. We add nourishment through the foods we eat (such as healthy fats, lean proteins, and fresh fruits and vegetables, just to name a few), incorporating moderate physical activity throughout the day and boosting positive endorphins in the brain through positive thinking, meditation, and gratitude. By utilizing our repair techniques, we will create healthier cells and stronger neural pathways in the brain to keep our body and mind performing at their best.

We then rebuild these chemical and cellular processes in our final recharge step by incorporating strategic training challenges that temporarily break us down, a little bit at a time, in order to stimulate just enough stress to cause our system to adapt and become even stronger. We can strengthen both the body and mind by utilizing exercises such as interval training, balance and coordination activities, and mental stimulation through brain games, visualization, and neurofeedback. It’s important to always be cognizant of the rest and repair techniques we need to maintain so that the challenges we now seek out provide an opportunity for growth – rather than chronic break down.

In the final two steps of our stress management process, we will build upon our foundation of strategic energy management to create a more positive mindset – one that will allow us to perceive the stress in our life as healthy and beneficial. As we rethink stress we’ll be able to use it to our advantage. Mindfulness, journaling and visualization are just a few ways we can walk through the steps of changing our mind for the better. We’ll then continue to create support for our habits of thought and behavior as we redesign our daily routine to support our optimal performance pulse; periods of stress balanced with periods of recovery.

Two key shifts must happen in order to break free from stress addiction. First, we need to recalibrate our operating system by replenishing necessary energy at the most basic levels, chemical and cellular. We must then reprogram our lifestyle by rewiring our habits of thought and behavior. To learn more about the Stressaholic Recovery Process, you can watch this recent interview with Judy Martin of Work/Life Nation or check out Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship With Stress.

Source: https://bit.ly/1efL6ug

About Dr. Heidi Hanna – Speaker on Performance and Wellness:

As a performance coach and keynote speaker, Dr. Heidi Hanna has trained thousands of individuals on practical ways to incorporate nutrition, exercise, and positive psychology strategies to improve their health, productivity, and performance. Her vast coaching experience and passionate coaching style help motivate individuals and teams to develop sustainable success at both a personal and professional level. Heidi is CEO and founder of SYNERGY, a coaching and consulting company that specializes in customized health and wellness solutions for individuals and organizations. Heidi’s publications include SHARP: Simple Strategies to Boost Your Brainpower, and the NY Times best seller The SHARP Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance.

For more information on Dr. Heidi Hanna, please visit: https://bit.ly/1dYJgTQ