Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's a Hard-Knock Life

As a student of human behavior and motivation I have researched one topic more than any other - How Leaders Motivate Themselves.  I'm am fascinated by what differentiates great leaders when they are faced with what seems like insurmountable odds and how they overcome them; often alone.  Let's face it, sometimes, many times, leadership is not a team sport.  There is no pow-wow, motivational rally or heart-to-heart for the leader when times get tough.  Instead most leaders are left alone, face in a mirror working their way through difficult situations on their own.  I know this both by observation and experience.

Why is that?

As a leader I believe we need to tread lightly when focusing on the 'why' of a situation.  It's useful to examine how a situation came about, what factors may have attributed to it, etc. but getting sucked into 'why' can be as deadly as walking into quicksand and just about as productive.  Yet in this instance I feel it is important to remind all of us that the one drawback of leadership is that most of the time others see leaders as so capable they don't need any help.  Let's bust that myth right now and make a mental note to keep an eye on our leader friends for signs of struggle and come alongside them in support when needed.  It's a lonely and dangerous place for even the most capable leaders when they are faced with personal and professional challenges alone so be aware that your leader friends are people too and in need of companionship and support and make an effort to be there for them in their times of need.


Ok Let's get Back on Track:

So how does it happen, this mystery of self motivation and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and moving forward?  I believe it happens the same way it happens when leaders motivate others, but this time the conversation is with yourself.  I love the proverbial picture of the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other because I believe that we have two voices that speak to us; one that speaks defeat and one that speaks encouragement.  The two things that leaders do best are to speak out encouraging and motivating words with conviction and strength and weed out and dispose of things that can bog you down in nonsense.  So when a leader finds herself in that dark place, alone, nose-to-nose with the mirror she says to herself all the things that she would say to anyone else she was trying to motivate.  Things like, "you can do this" or "you were made for this" or "if anyone can figure this thing out you can."  She also talks sense into herself by asking those how and why questions, stepping back and examining that problem from the perspective of a capable and qualified problem solver.  She may say, "this is not your forte, but you know what?  I know exactly whose forte it is - I'm going to sit down with that person soon and discuss this."  Essentially she steps outside herself and handles her own stuff just like she would handle like anyone elses.

Now at this point you may be saying to yourself - that's it????  I thought there was going to be something profound here!  Well folks that is it and yes it is quite profound.  How easy it is to have a pity party when you find yourself solo - who would even know?  How easy is it to get angry, blame others or quit when you are alone?  How many people do we see do that every day?!  How easy is it to run to something to mask our fear, bury ourselves in something that gives us comfort and hide from big scary problems?  People do that all the time!  But to stand companionless and wrestle with giants - to speak faith and encouragement, strength and wisdom to yourself when it's so much easier to run away scared is HUGE!  Sisters (and brothers) if you can lead yourself when it's just you, your demons and some big problems in a room - you can lead people, you can lead.

In The End

Think back with me and remember the times you have done just that and in the end you overcame.  There is no better place to be - no other times I have had more confidence in my abilities than when I have struggled alone and came out on top.  Those are the times that my inner little girl steps aside with a big sloppy grin on her face and says to herself  "WOW!  You SO rock lady!"  And those are the stones I bring with me when I face down new giants - that's my arsenal and some powerful stuff it is.

So yes it can be a hard knock life, especially when you run in front of the pack.  But to have survived blow after blow, time after time, makes us stronger and builds our confidence in ways circumstances can never hinder.

It's Your Turn:

What are your thoughts on my perspective here?  Is there something you do when you face your toughest challenges that you would like to share with others?  Today I want to offer you encouragement, Leader to Leader.  If you are struggling I believe you are the best person for the job to handle whatever it is you are facing and if you persevere in the end you will find your reward - even if it's nothing more than being tougher than you were when you started :)  Peace friends!

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Take Me to Your Leader

photo courtesy of

Well here we are again facing another Presidential election and the last few months have been filled with debates, speculation and Facebook posts about each candidate.  As a student of Leadership I'm amazed at the things that have been publicized that are most important to voters.  My biggest concern over this election is the obvious swing towards choosing a candidate that supports each voters personal agenda.  This is alarming because that isn't how we should elect our leaders - yet it does appear that this is how our society undertakes the privilege of voting.

The Purpose of Governance

In the last decade we have seen the fallout that happens when those in positions of leadership use their authority to achieve the goals of a select few.  Governance is not a process of order taking but is designed to promote leaders who can look at the big picture make decisions that do the most good for the majority of people.  Social responsibility is an area where the long view is key and good leaders attempt to leave things in a better state than when they arrived.

Corporate Leadership vs. National Leadership

What are the qualifications of an able leader?  Are they different for those in the corporate realm and the political arena?  As I've mentioned in previous posts many people elect leaders based on the Trait Approach to Leadership.  They see traits such as charisma, intelligence, persistence, self-confidence and sociability as the traits that determine able leadership.  But possessing those traits doesn't necessarily qualify a leader to effectively lead.  Traits don't ensure that a leader is capable of effectively and efficiently governing and most businesses would require more a more practical, defined set of qualifications when hiring for a position of leadership. As voters should we require anything different?

Societal worldview has a great influence in determining what the public deems important.  In this era of celebrity worship I think it is important to remind us that the office of President is a position of public service.  Public servants are obligated to pursue service to their constituents rather than working toward their own self-interests (or toward the agendas of lobbyists).  This requires humility and a willingness to become deeply accountable to the public for the results of their decisions.

Effective leadership also builds credibility when it develops the capacity to liberate leadership in others.  When analyzing political leadership let's be reminded that our American government is a government For the people and By the people.  This means leaders and constituents are mutually responsible for the same effects.  Leaders that encourage shared decision making and promote collaborative, team-oriented discussions build public confidence and corporate responsibility.  Leaders that empower that same ability in those they lead create a culture of strong, collaborative leaders capable of the same types of leadership for the next generation as well. 

Lastly, effective political leaders are qualified for the positions they hold by experience.  They should have a track record that speaks to their ability to effectively govern.  We should be looking at what governmental positions they held previously and how well they fared in those roles.  I'm not sure this in an area where transferable skills are plausible, at least they shouldn't be considered as valid as those true experiential qualifications.

Now What?

We are so fortunate to live in this great country and if you have the ability to vote I encourage you to do so.  The future of this country is entirely up to us so take a look at our candidates and vote for the one you feel is most qualified for the job.  Should you think that we have choices that don't meet those qualifications it's up to us to make sure that next time we have a more qualified selection. 

It's Your Turn:

What are your thoughts on this post? (Please no political endorsements) Was there something here that made you think?  Did you find that this perspective was different or similar to the position you have held regarding political leadership?  I look forward to reading your responses!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Seasonal Workaholics Disorder

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Well I'm back - should there be anyone still out there following my blog I sincerely thank you for your dedication and support!  Where have I been you ask?  The sad truth is I have been working around the clock for months either with work or projects I needed to accomplish this year.  The good news is I've reached a point where I can step back and rejoin the land of the living but it's made me realize the toll this season has taken on me physically and emotionally.

I know I'm not alone in this.  Work-Life balance is an archetype that eludes many of us; especially women today.  We live in a do everything, be everything era and 'seasonal workaholics disorder' is sometimes a necessary evil.  The truth is there are times in every professionals life where working day and night is just part of the job.  When do we know that what we are doing is just par for the course or becoming something much more dangerous?

Seasonal Workaholism

What I call Seasonal Workaholism is any regular or predefined period of time where workloads increase due to specific defined factors.  For instance Tax Time is a season where tax accountants are sure to be found working long hours, nights, and weekends to meet the demand of their clientele and hard and fast deadlines.  It is a way of life in a sense, but is not a daily/unending life style that dominates their life year round.

Honestly, for many of us these intervals are unavoidable.  They are a part of the job that we are well aware of and take steps to prepare for and recouperate from.  When our work-life is balanced we gear up for these periods and rest after we make it through in one piece.  Many times there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride in our work as a result of these seasons where we find out 'what we are made of' or come away with a new revelation of what we are capable of accomplishing.

What are the warning signs of a true workaholic?

According to health professionals true workaholism has its roots is narcissm and it bears warning that those great feelings of accomplishment we experience at the end of an intense run of digging deep and pulling out all the stops can mislead us into thinking that we should work that hard all the time. 

Professionals warn that the high standards component of perfectionism (or high expectations of self) are closely connected to workaholism.  Additionally the discrepancy dimension of perfectionism or the perceived gap between one's performance expectations and self-evaluation of their performance is a significant predictor of all components of workaholism.  Simplified this means that we should be cognizant of the forces that drive us to work longer and harder.  Regular, honest evaluation of what is influencing our work to become a more dominant part of our lives is necessary to avoid falling into the trap of true workaholism.

Lastly, negative affect (i.e. sadness, anger, fear, worry) is shown to be related to overall workaholism.  Conversely, positive affect (i.e. happiness, joy, confidence) is shown to be related to the polychronic control component (or the sense of accomplishment one receives from the ability to multitask at a high level) of workaholism.  Again, be warned about triggers that cause us respond in unhealthy ways.  Working hard is a good thing, but when used as a way to determine our value it can become addictive and deceptive and will almost always lead to a disappointing fall at some point.

How to ease out of Seasonal Workaholism and get back to normalcy

So we have determined that sometimes seasonal workaholism is a part of the expectations of our work-life, but when it's over how do we bring balance back into our life again?  Well, I think that depends on you.  I am one that prefers to work hard just a tad longer and push to at least get everything in order that has fallen to the wayside while I was focused on the one task that dominated my life for so long.  For me gaining a good sense of the big picture helps me to feel less overwhelmed. That said, I don't feel like I have to accomplish everything I missed, just get a clear picture of what is on my plate now and then I'll work at it one step at a time until I get caught up.  Others prefer to focus on one small project in bits and pieces until they gradually bring everything back into order.  The important thing is that you do what you need to do to both rest and function in a way that is slower paced, less stressful, and less demanding that you had been.

Make sure you take time to chill with your family, sleep, enjoy your hobbies and reconnect with your friends.  Slowly ease back into regular life and don't beat yourself up for being out of touch for a while.  Life goes on and it's not what you missed but what you choose to do with the rest of the time you have that matters.

It's Your Turn:

Does your job have seasons that require you to work like crazy?  How do you unwind and ease out of these stressful periods?

I'd love to hear from you!  Please share how you maintain your work-life balance amidst the occasional workaholic seasons.  Oh and thanks for sticking with me during mine!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Pro's of Professional Organizations

I'm wondering if my readers knew where I lived if they'd send someone over here to conduct a wellness check on me.  After months of continuous blogging I'm strangely silent lately.  No worries, these days I can be easily found under stacks of papers at my desk or tucked away in my studying chair at home desperately trying to retain the volumes of new information I'll need for my upcoming exams.

I really began cramming at the end of July for three tests I will need to complete prior to November.  Two of which are my Illinois Brokers exam and the CPM exams.  I only mention this so you know when I say I'm studying, you know I'm REALLY studying.  And to my credit (not!) I've managed to schedule these exams during the single busiest time of the year for me at work - budget season.  Boy can I time these things or what?!

This week I stepped away from my usual daytime duties and spent the week in a financials class with several of my peers via my local chapter of a professional organization I belong to.  It was only the second time I've taken in class courses this way as I have always been reluctant to take off work  and have instead opted to take the classes either online or via home study.  I realize after this grueling, but deeply satisfying week that this has been a mistake and it's my hope to encourage you to take the time to get involved in your local professional organization even if it takes you away from work for a short time.


Why get involved in a professional organization?

  1. I can say first hand that this week alone I not only met some fantastic people who work not only in my industry but also in the general vicinity.  This is networking 101 folks.  However, being a part of a group that is working together toward a common goal, (ie. passing a very difficult course) draws you closer to each other and creates a tighter network that you and they are more likely to draw upon in the future.  This could be for help with difficult or unusual projects or even lead to future employment opportunities.
  2. Creating and maintaining community adds value to your experience in your discipline and allows you to learn from others and add to your skill set.  Among my peers are people who specialize in different facets of my industry.  By getting to know them better I am gleaning information regarding their experiences and thereby increasing my own knowledge.  This makes me more valuable and allows me to have a broader scope of knowledge with which to draw from day to day.
  3. Expanding your professional network adds credibility to your experience.  After this week I now have more people who have gotten to know me much better in a professional capacity and even though we haven't directly worked together; we have worked together in some respects.  These are now people that can be called upon for recommendations or lend credibility to my resume and with whom I can reciprocate the favor.
  4. As your network grows so does those who are in your network.  I now know more people who I can refer to, call upon for services and who may be sources of opportunities for others within my professional network as well. 
  5. Let's not forget I learned a lot too!  There was quite a bit of information provided to me that would have taken me years to learn on the job.  In the course of a few short days (okay really long and difficult days) I gained years worth of knowledge and experience that I may never have had the opportunity to learn otherwise.

That's all well and good but I don't have the time!

I can hear it already, I've said it a million times myself - but if I can encourage you to make some time for yourself and join and regularly participate in a professional organization I think you will find it as rewarding as I have.  It's worth it! Trust me! If nothing else you will find others who feel your daily pain, but I can most certainly predict that you will leave feeling refreshed and renewed and ready get back to the stacks awaiting you at work.


For those of you who are wondering, I won't know for sure for the next month or so but I'm pretty confident I passed - and yes this is one of the three big tests I needed to do before November! Can I get a whoop-whoop? :)


It's Your Turn:

Do you participate in a local professional organization?  If so how do you like it?  How has it impacted your career development?  Would you recommend others seek out and join an organization too?

Images courtesy of

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Learning to Delegate

An amazing thing happened this week, I was blessed with the addition of support staff at work!  In my role I have had the good fortune to have engineering staff on my team to perform the technical and mechanical maintenance on my properties but those are not functions that I would really be able to do myself.  Now I have been given an assistant to help me with my workload and I'm faced with the challenge of delegating and distributing portions of my workload to her for completion.

This is an interesting challenge because although I spent many years as a high level assistant myself that doesn't automatically make me a good delegator.  As such I'm taking it upon myself to research the soft skill of delegation. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Your Mission, Should you choose to accept it ...

I am fortunate to have a wonderfully classy and intelligent mentor.  She is the kind of woman I aspire to emulate and she is kind enough to share her experiences with me and offer guidance through the challenges I face in my own leadership journey.  One evening over dinner I expressed that I was struggling to make a decision on how best to handle a difficult situation and asked her advice and to teach me how she approached similar circumstances.  Wise as she is, she didn't offer me a solution, but pointed to my organizations mission and vision statement.  She said that the best way to determine what direction to lead your team is to follow the corporate vision already laid out before you. (I told you she was wise!)