As I was working my way through my Ph.D. program, I didn’t know that the skills I learned from waitressing would prove their own education. For several years I waited tables at La Trattoria in Bloomington, Indiana, a fairly high-end restaurant where most of the employees were university students. It was a great job at the time. It paid better than most office or retail jobs, it had flexible hours, and I was on my feet so much that I didn’t have to watch my weight. Nonetheless, I wasn’t sad when I graduated and moved on to professional work.
You may have heard the Texas slang, “big hat, no cattle” — referring to a person who makes him or herself look important, without the substance to back it up.
Stable scheduling is the first step to work-life balance. Imagine life without it. You wouldn’t know what your work schedule will be next week — or even tomorrow. You couldn’t plan doctor’s appointments, childcare, or social activities because you never know when you’ll be called in to work.
Even in the U.S. — where we’re notoriously reluctant to take time off — many of us take at least a little time around the summer and winter holidays. I always look forward to my time off. It’s going back to work after a vacation that leaves me with regret. That’s when I get clobbered by the backlog. It usually takes less than 24 hours before I feel as if I’ve never been away.
We may argue about the differences between men and women at work, but there is one truth no one can deny. There continues to be a gender gap at almost every company — both a gap in promotion to senior leadership roles and a gap in salaries for comparable roles.
We’ve all met business leaders who always want to be seen as “the smartest person in the room.” Sometimes they really are highly intelligent. Other times they are empty suits. But it’s always wildly irritating to watch them swagger about. They are terrible listeners, they don’t contribute well to team goals, and often their communication is dripping with condescension.
Martin Radvan, Global President of Mars Wrigley, said some shocking things at the Executives’ Club of Chicago recently, starting with the five principles of Mars. He started normally enough by listing the Mars Five Principles: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, and Freedom.
What a disappointment! For the last three years I have been following the adventures of Wendy Rhoades, performance coach extraordinaire, on Showtime’s Billions. I was fascinated by this portrayal of my profession and impressed by how often the show got it right — I even wrote an article about what a great representation it was.
Everywhere you look, people are feeling stressed, overworked, and inadequate. In our hyper-stimulating environment, we’re trying to do it all and we end up feeling exhausted and empty. We talk about finding work/life balance, but nobody is balanced and the concept just makes us feel worse. As I work with my executive coaching clients to help them be the best leaders they can be, this issue of how to manage yourself for peak productivity is very often on the agenda.
I’m lucky enough to have the work-from-home vs. office productivity debate every morning. I work out of two offices: one in downtown Chicago and the other in my condo. I like working in both spaces for different reasons, and I am glad I get to move between them. But I have sometimes wondered where I do my best work, downtown or at home.
Everyone’s favorite fictional performance coach, Wendy Rhoades, is back at it in the first episode of Showtime’s Billions, now in its third season. She has her work cut out for her — her boss, Bobby Axelrod, is banned from trading, and his employees at Axe Capital are struggling to find their way forward. For inspiration, she turns to another fictional character. Wendy offers to help Bobby deal with his dilemma by taking him through a technique created by real-life coach Tony Robbins called the Dickens Process.
As business leaders confront the #MeToo crisis, many turn to sexual harassment training. It seems like such a great idea. Let’s train people not to be harassers. Let’s train people not to be victims. Let’s train everyone how to respect boundaries and respond to reports of sexual harassment. If we train every single person, eventually we’ll get this problem under control.
Sadly, the facts about sexual harassment training are not so great.
“Plans are great until you get punched in the face.” Although Mike Tyson is not a role model for business leadership, this quote of his points to the necessity of being agile — willing to change or even abandon your plans in extreme situations. It reminded me of an old Jewish proverb, “Man plans and God laughs.”