man holding phone and coffee outside

Productive work breaks — the dos and dont’s of managing energy

For the third time in a row, Bill used up most of his time in our coaching session to talk about how anxious and overwhelmed he was feeling. A senior executive in a large transportation company, Bill normally had a very calm demeanor, to the extent that others sometimes perceived him as remote or disengaged. But now, week after week, he was finding himself reactive and overwrought.

My first thought was, “Well, of course!” Almost everyone I’m talking to these days, both personally and professionally, is reactive and overwrought. By now we’re all exhausted from the uncertainty, sadness, fear, and relentless accommodations we are making as we try to navigate through the crisis. It seems endless. This is the world we’re living in.

woman standing in doorway

What to do when you get laid off: First mourn, then organize

Twice in my career, I’ve had to answer the question of what to do when you get laid off.

In 1980, the psychiatric hospital where I worked half-time eliminated all the part-time jobs. I was laid off. I had just had my first child and we had just bought our first house. It was awful.

In 2009, when the economy was tanking, the consulting firm where I was working laid off one-third of its consultants in one day. It took me one week to realize that there were no jobs for someone in my field — no one was hiring. It was awful.

But in both cases, it didn’t stay awful.

wendy on billions

Billions therapist Wendy Rhoades brings real coaching to fiction

I like writing about Wendy Rhoades, the high-flying performance coach on the Showtime show Billions. Having said that, I want to make two things clear. First, Wendy Rhoades is a fictional character. She is not real. This is important in a world where fact and fiction are often very muddled. Second, Wendy is not a moral exemplar. She lives and works in a world whose moral code is highly problematic. She has already gotten in trouble for a lapse in her professional ethics, and my guess is that she’ll continue to make some very shady choices.

So why do I keep writing about her? She is an intriguing character, she’s a powerful female figure, and she demonstrates some of the tactics of successful performance coaching. It’s the last point that keeps me watching the show and writing about what I see.

older man young woman at work

Bricolage in business: How to make the best of what’s around

I love it when I discover a great new word — a word I’ve never heard before that describes something in a useful and specific way. A few years ago my treasured new word was “sprezzatura,” an Italian word that means “the art of making things look easy.” What a great word — and what a great description of how to carry yourself in many difficult situations.

My newest word is “bricolage.” I came across it recently in an article about innovation. It’s a French word that means “the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available.”

two women in front of whiteboard

What’s Going to Get Businesses out of this Mess?

We’ve been talking about a VUCA world for a long time. VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Ha! We didn’t have a clue what VUCA looks like. The business environment we’re in right now – this is VUCA, this is the real thing.

What are the qualities that will enable a business to survive and thrive in this VUCA world? A recent article in Consulting Psychology Journal provided a very interesting framework to answer this question. 

man holding book at desk

JOMO: Time to embrace the joy of missing out

Move over FOMO, it’s a new age of JOMO.

A panel of economists recently presented their predictions for 2020 at The Executives’ Club of Chicago. This annual event is always thought-provoking, controversial, and occasionally funny. This year the major theme was the unusual level of economic uncertainty. Between the upcoming US presidential election, Brexit, the fraught US-China trade relationship, and on-going concerns about climate change, the experts were decidedly uneasy.

But the chief take-away for me was not some great tip about where to invest my fortune, such as it is. It was a toss-off comment by “Dr. Bob” Froehlich. In his usual witty manner, Dr. Bob proposed four important trends that would, in his opinion, affect the economy this year. One of them was “JOMO.”

group in office having meeting

Should I go to this? 9 guidelines for effective meetings

I worked hard over the holidays and was pleased with what I accomplished. What was the key to my productivity? Almost no meetings.

Now it’s January, and my schedule is full of meetings once again. Don’t get me wrong – many of the meetings I attend are very valuable. But like everyone else, all too often I find myself trapped in a meeting that’s a waste of my time.

decade resolutions

Resolutions for the new decade

I know, I know – New Year’s resolutions are supposedly a waste of time. Each year we start out with great intentions, but by February they’re usually forgotten. And yet, each year I think about the changes I would like to make in my life and I start again on my self-improvement journey.

Of course, this new year is especially momentous because it is also a start of a new decade. (Once again, I know – the new decade doesn’t technically start until January 2021. But I don’t care – it feels new when that third digit flips over.) A friend recently sent me a post from Steve McClatchy’s email campaign about making new decade resolutions.

work life balance

The Illusion of Work-Life Balance

It’s true – great minds think alike! As many of you know, I’ve been working on the concept of “curating your life,” the idea that instead of thinking about balance as if we’re circus acrobats, we need to think about our lives as if we’re museum curators. What’s my exhibit about? What goes in and what gets excluded? Is it time to update my exhibit? My book on this topic, cleverly titled Curating Your Life, will be coming out in April 2020.

So I was fascinated to read a recent post by James Clear, “The Four Burners Theory: The Downside of Work-Life Balance.” His theory proposes that your life is a stove with four burners: family, friends, health, and work. So far so good – most of us would agree with that. But here’s the kicker – the theory also says that to be outstanding you have to turn off one burner, and to become really great you have to turn off two. 

winning the war on talent

Winning the war for talent — a new strategy for a new decade

In my over 15 years as a leadership coach and consultant, concern about “winning the war for talent” has been a constant. Except in the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, business leaders have been concerned about how to identify, attract, and retain top talent.

Now at the beginning of a new decade, when employment figures are at a high, high-potential employees have plenty of options to choose from. The war for talent is a hot topic once again.

mentern

Ok, Mentern: How to mend the generational work divide

“OK, Boomer.” This sarcastic phrase recently blazed across the popular culture and then vanished just as quickly. It captured the annoyance and disrespect that some younger people feel towards members of the “Baby Boomer” generation – that massive cohort of people born between 1946 and 1964.  We really are a problem – and have been since we were young children.