Stepping Up!

Upward Wide spread staircase at Great Wall leading to building

You have a choice of staying where you are or stepping up.
Many avoid stepping up for the added stress that it brings.

However, by stepping up you can:

– focus on what you are best at doing

-get better results with lesser effort

-become an effective delegator

-say “No” to things that do not add value

– be less stressed!

Challenges & Balance!

Seven pebbles pyramid in staggered rows, with a white flower, over black

All of us, at some point, face the daunting reality of unexpected challenges; enormous change, and/or pressing deadlines. The secret to surviving them, or rather thriving in them, is not to get ruffled, but to stay centered and maintain your equilibrium and enthusiasm. By relaxing and staying calm, you’ll be able to handle things more effectively.

Whenever possible, involve your family and your colleagues in these challenges as they can help you overcome them. It will also help you feel less alienated.

How do you not get ruffled when put to the test?

1. By making choices in the moment of integrity. The more you exercise wise choices at crunch time, the longer your sustainability.

2. Respond to your temporary defeat by affirming that although this week did not go as planned, you still felt centered and balanced, all the while keeping your principles and core values of family, health, and spirituality at the forefront.

3. If you allow every failure to teach you a lesson, each failure will make room for future success. In a particular week, you may miss your deadlines or have an argument with your spouse. This may make you fearful and lose hope. Respond with faith and persistence, and you will undoubtedly find a peaceful place of resolution. So don’t worry about temporary defeats. They’re part and parcel of success.

4. Your choices at every step of the way may require you to choose between success and Life Balance. Choose Life Balance.  Success is empty without it.

5. “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,” said the Dalai Lama, quoting an old Zen saying.  Life inevitably brings pain and temporary defeats, even on the road to success. Develop a good sense of humor – nothing is better for softening blows. Learn to laugh at yourself. When you see the humor in embarrassing situations, they cease to be stressful. The person who can laugh often can keep going when others fail.

Positive Change

composite of various views of a monarch emerging from a chrysalis.

In stable times, habitual patterns work for you. They become your preferred patterns of reacting. It gives you a sense of control.

A customer delays payment. You then send in the standard follow-up letter. You take the same route to work every day. You don’t have to map it out in your mind every morning. It’s almost as if every turn were programmed into your car’s steering. Taking that route is an involuntary choice.

Your life seems to be on auto-pilot and your story seems uneventful enough. The plot thickens when certain things around you begin to change.

A new thoroughfare opens up and makes it easier and more convenient to take another route. But you still find yourself habitually going the old way until you consciously establish a new pattern. For a while, you have to map out the new route mentally and force yourself to take it instead of the old route.

Change stops the process of involuntary actions and forces us to reconsider. It disrupts the pattern and demands that we respond appropriately. So our focus is invariably on adjusting to the change or fighting it. But change is not always about adaptation, it can also signal an opportunity for creating something better. Uber did not disrupt the average taxi service because it used technology for online booking. It succeeded because it created a better experience for the customer. In the same way, the invention of 3D printing could very well disrupt the way we approach manufacturing. These changes ended up creating a better experience.

Next time, instead of fighting change or surrendering to it, find out how it can help you to create a better outcome for you and others.

How to work with change:

1. Believe it holds promise for you – Every change usually holds a potential for improvement. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t exist. Therefore, however unpleasant it may seem, look for the lesson contained in it; know that you can learn to work with it, use it to learn something valuable, or better still, help it propel you in an altogether new direction.

2. Write a journal – Writing is probably the best way to make sense of life. We are often sleepwalking through important experiences in life and writing forces us to pay attention to unconscious patterns or repetitive ways of thinking. It gives voice to our intuition, fears, and insights, providing greater clarity and understanding about the situation at hand.

3. Commit to learning one new activity every week – Get out of your comfort zone. Make it a point to try one new experience or activity every week. Even trying a new dish for a start is good enough. The goal is not monumental change, but daily progress.

4. Change one habit every month – Make a list of behaviors and habits that become the cause for discomfort or regret in your life. Write down how much time you are wasting on them daily; how do you feel before and after indulging in them and what will you gain by letting go of them?

5. Use your principles as an anchor during change – Principles are not a casualty of change, rather they are revealed through change. They form the foundation of any great endeavor. They reveal the bigger picture behind the change and deepen your understanding of it.

6. Eliminate the blame game – As long as we play the victim, we become part of the problem. Once we stop the blame game, we free our energy to focus it on taking the next step.

7. Build a Solid Belief System – “Be a servant of your conscience and a master of your will,” wrote Dr. Marcus Bach. That’s good advice. To follow it, you’ll need a solid belief system based on your principles.

Your belief system will provide you with a set of core values that mature with your experiences and knowledge. You may adjust your systems as you grow, holding onto precious values that retain meaning.

Occasionally, you must reassess values to see if those rules of old still fit your current situation. Old values keep you safe and get you started on the next leg of the journey. They also allow you to process information and categorize and file it away in your head. Such values keep you emotionally, mentally and physically strong. As you grow and mature, you can handle more of life. Then you have to assess old unnecessary rules and put new ones in place that allow you to move forward.

During the change, you feel a fear of the unknown, because you’re venturing outside safe and known limits. Your values and belief systems will keep you from feeling lost or unbalanced. You can overcome the fear of change by accepting the fact that your beliefs might change over time, but that you can control the change so that it occurs at your pace.

8. Practice is the key – You can learn and hone any new skill only through practice. And that is true for anything you want to accomplish in life. Over and above raw talent, it is sheer commitment and practice that separates a world-class tennis player from a rookie.

High Potential Employee

Businesspeople Around Boardroom Table Applaud Presentation

The war for talent is heating up globally. Talent, especially in emerging economies, is scarce, expensive, and hard to retain. It is no surprise then that high potential employees are in high demand.

High potential employees constitute approx. 3-5% of the top level in every organization and receive special training and developmental opportunities. Plus they form an inevitable part of succession planning. So what is it that makes these employees so sought after?

1. A well-etched personal mission statement – High potential individuals possess remarkable clarity about their life purpose and goals. For example, Oprah Winfrey’s mission statement is “To be a teacher and to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”

2. Thrive on change – Uncertainty and ambiguity remain the number one challenge of our times. High potential individuals are highly adaptable to this and prepare both themselves and the organization for future roles. This is because they see the world in terms of possibilities. And change often presents the biggest opportunities for growth.

3. Avid learners – They are adept at quickly assembling and interpreting information and drawing insights to create innovative work ideas. They focus on constantly acquiring or upgrading their skills, and are keen to go beyond their immediate roles to create value that helps the entire organization.

4. Powerful communicators – High potential individuals have both strong written and spoken communication skills. They are adept at articulating their observations, needs, suggestions and have the ability to persuade and inspire different groups of people. They also pay close attention to their thoughts, choosing to ignore disempowering or negative thoughts and focusing on what strengthens and supports them.

5. Inclusive – High potential leaders make people a part of their success. As a result, they are generally liked and respected. They are usually good at drawing out talent and developing talent in the organization. Being high-performance workers themselves, they believe in their ability and usually expect the same in others. Hence they are good at coaching others as well.

6. Deep expertise and business acumen – Being curious and open to learning, they gain a deep understanding of how the business works and the technical issues that are fundamental to success.

7. Role models – They usually display a high level of integrity and inspire the team with their positive approach and consistent performance.

8. Willingness to innovate and take risks – They are usually led by their passion for the subject, including a desire to learn and excel, rather than pure financial incentives. Hence they are not scared to take risks and try out new ideas.

9.  High degree of self-awareness – High-performance employees are usually more inner-directed. They spend considerable time in identifying and honing their skills as well as working on their weaknesses. They view themselves as a work in progress and as such welcome feedback on how they can improve. They are also sensitive to the environment around them and know how best to deal with others in challenging situations.

10. Good at developing key relationships and networking – They know how to engage and network with diverse groups of people with a focus on collaboration rather than manipulation. They seek out ideas, opinions, and support from people and publicly acknowledge their contribution.

11. Confident yet humble – While they are confident about their skills, they are not arrogant or dismissive of others. They look at the larger picture and focus on the greater purpose rather than on short-term posturing or manipulation tactics to pull down others.

Disruption is the Norm

Little girl is reading her book while wearing glasses, isolated over white

Life has a way of disrupting the best-laid plans, and sooner or later you are flung into the whirlwind of change. More so in the current context, where disruption and uncertainty are the norms.

Our age is marked by accelerated human evolution. New patterns are very rapidly replacing old ones. Today, no one remains immune to change. According to a recent Forbes article on ‘Is Strategy dead’ by Rick Smith, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company has dropped from more than 80 years to fewer than 15 in the last century. Consumer behaviour has undergone unprecedented change. Babies today leave the hospital with a blanket, an iPhone, a Facebook page, and a Twitter handle.

While the industrial revolution was all about the business-to-people narrative, the dawn of the social media era has now shifted the focus to people-to-people – with communities, collaboration, and co-creation being the new buzzwords.

According to a report on the evolution of technology and the human race by Karl Fisch, Scott Mcleod and Jeff Brenman, the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not even exist in 2004.

Today you have to continuously learn and relearn in order to remain relevant. The long-term strategy has given way to “just-in-time” decision-making.

On the other hand, this change has also created a whole new platform for the human capability to flourish. For confident and resourceful people, change spells opportunity. They’re willing to venture out of their comfort zones to embrace change and use it to their advantage.

Change is always exciting when you choose it yourself. As a choice, it’s not an unwelcome threat, but a welcome adventure. In this way, every new minute becomes an opportunity to work; to get closer to our purpose, or to learn from the experience.

Chosen change bolsters your resilience. It enables you to adjust to new circumstances and bounce back from adverse developments.

Change, if viewed as a positive step toward growth and opportunity, can invite balance and infuse vitality, aliveness, and zest in your life. But change, if mishandled, can result in an imbalance.

So how do we leverage all this movement, and use this change to our advantage rather than allowing it to sweep away all that is valuable to us?

Here are some things you can do to respond constructively to change:

• Become adaptable. Develop and put in practice an ever-ready and continually evolving repository of life and work skills to adapt and thrive in change

• Embrace change.  View it as an opportunity for growth.

• Be willing to take risks.

• Anticipate change and prepare for it. For example, keep a lookout for upcoming market trends and take courses or attend classes to prepare for the forthcoming developments.

• Use major crises to create breakthroughs.

• Engage in lifelong learning to stay abreast of change.

• Keep your principles intact despite the change. They are your anchor.

• Use change to break bad patterns or unproductive habits.

• Grow from your experiences of changing circumstances. Write about your experiences to ingrain and track your learning.

• Realize the rewards that come with change and celebrate them.

• Connect with your spirituality. Meditate daily to remain centered and grounded amidst the chaos of change.

This is the time to plunge into the vortex of change that we anticipate, create, leverage and thrive on.

Interrupted success!

Female restaurant manager working at counter

Most people encounter frequent interruptions, most of which adversely affect productivity.

Basex (an IT research & consulting firm) found in their research sometime back that an estimated 28 billion man-hours are lost per annum in the US, costing an estimated $588 billion USD a year in losses for the US Government.

In a study from the University of California Irvine, researchers shadowed workers on the job, studying their productivity. Here’s what study lead Gloria Mark told Fast Company of the findings: You have to completely shift your thinking, it takes you a while to get into it and it takes you a while to get back and remember where you were…We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.

Interruptions are detrimental, not only to productivity but also to job satisfaction, employee morale, and life balance. They lead to a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and loss of momentum.

Interruptions fall into the following three categories:

– External Interruptions: include phone calls, emails, meeting people in hallways.

– Internal Interruptions: where you interrupt yourself by checking sports scores, celebrity gossip, daydreaming or thinking about the past or future.

– Interrupting Others: when you interrupt others.

Some interruptions, albeit few, are positive – these are ones which help you achieve your goals faster.

Given such high costs of interruptions, one may ask how we control them?

Here are a dozen ways to better manage interruptions:

1. Understand what these interruptions are and whether they are really necessary. Keeping a log recording different types of interruptions helps you understand and course correct.

2. Schedule routine meetings and tell your team in advance to prepare a running list of things to cover. This way you can attend to all the respective individual needs in one scheduled interruption, instead of several interruptions. Scheduling routine meetings prevents people from interrupting because they know they will be meeting you soon. They will only interrupt if something cannot wait until the scheduled meeting time.

3. Communicate your schedule to your workgroup so everyone knows when they can interrupt you.

4. Block out periods of time during the day for interruptions so to get uninterrupted time to complete your own priorities. Create available and unavailable time to balance your day. Master your own mind to avoid daydreaming and thinking of the past/future or getting diverted to read gossip or sports reviews.

5. Incorporating flex time and accepting/expecting interruptions allows you to plan for them and be better prepared to deal with them effectively and efficiently.

6. Voicemail lets people leave messages for you, thus avoiding phone call interruptions.

7. Taking time to reflect before firefighting minimizes long interruptions as most things are not as urgent as they appear.

8. Informing the disturber that you have a tight deadline to meet prevents the interruption. Alternatively, give only specific time (example 5 minutes) while standing with a stopwatch to make people get to the point quickly.

9. Work away from the office for some period of the day to avoid interruption and enhance your productivity.

10. Delegate or postpone interruption requests that are not a priority.

11. Personalize the cost – how much is it costing you personally to be interrupted?

12. Enhance positive interruptions by design – positive interruptions are those which help you reach your goals faster. Devote any surplus time saved from interruptions to key priorities that have the highest impact.

Succumbing to an interruption in itself is not the culprit. Moreso, it is what you get interrupted for, as well as how and when you get interrupted.

However, no matter what, do not panic. Instead, start fresh to avoid interrupting your own success!

Better Perspective

South Corsica. Coastal landscape. Gulf of Porto, view from Capo Rosso

If you find yourself suffocated with too much work and activity, step away for a short time and take a 35K ft view of what’s going on. You will get far better clarity when you are away from the clutter. Sometimes, if you get too close to your work, it becomes difficult to see the forest from the trees.

Next, break the big items on your plate into small actionable items. No matter how big the task, it becomes simpler when you break it down into many small pieces.

With a birds-eye view and the tasks broken down, you will now have a much better perspective on the tasks at hand, and a lot more energy to execute!