Lessons in recovery

Sep 13, 2014 (San Diego)

            I apologize for being absent so long from my blog. Energy and surgery recovery both played a role in my procrastination.

Surgery recovery: August 1st I was hit by a car while bicycling in San Diego. I was fortunate to only need afreezing total left hip replacement. Knees, ankles, shattered femurs, shoulder replacements are all more daunting and potentially more painful. After two weeks of hospitalization and 3 weeks of home therapy I am moving around without a cane and no walker though I am totally aware that the left hip is not the one I was born with.Stronger

Though the recovery did not physically preclude my writing it did overwhelm my desire to write so today I am getting up from my writing-pratfall and moving forward.

I will get going this week.

You are the captain of your life – Invictus

Feb 02, 2014 (Houston)

There are times when I feel that Lilly Tomlin’s homily fits my life:

         Life is a rat race and even if you win you are still a rat”

To be effective with what gifts and talents I have I need to lift my self image above “rat-hood”.   I find the poem “Invictus” helps me see above the mess of life


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

I trust as you reflect upon Henley’s ode to life that it will help you take charge of your own being. Blessings.

More Managing my time: self discipline

Jan 26, 2014 (Moscow)

I am conducting a two day time management program. Ostensibly the focus is the business application of managing one’s time. In this tactical customer service team the grid segment in Covey’s view on time: the grid labeled “important and urgent” occupies clock80% of the day. Another 15% of the day goes to Covey’s grid segment labeled: not important but urgent” which includes conference calls and routine business matters. The segment of the day which occupies maybe 15% of the time of life yet only gets 5% of the available time is labeled: important and not urgent.

What are the important but not urgent matters of your life? In this program 90% of the participants noted it was family matters and personal issues like exercise, professional improvement, planning, holidays, and vacation time. Does that seem familiar to you?

The post of Jan 5, 2014 noted that Sue Shellenbarger had found that planning these important but not urgent items on the calendar and then working life to free up that time was very therapeutic. This process made up far more effective during the planning time for two reasons:

  1. People were more effective because they      wanted those important – not urgent things for them selves
  2. Once they had the “off time” they were      more rejuvenated when back in the world of “urgent”.


Wouldn’t you like to enjoy more important – not urgent segments in your lifeasking questions and simultaneously be more rejuvenated during the “urgent segments”?

Managing my time is a purposeful self discipline

Jan 5, 2014 (San Diego)

First posted on October 2, 2009

Take a few minutes to read the following article by Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal.  Not only is the “tip” powerful but her diagnosis of how the tip really makes the tip work is worth pondering.  A tip where the focus of integrity is for you and your Integritysignificant others: those few who often get the short end of available time.  You will notice that the key is to put the time you want for you on your calendar and fix it like any other client appointment. Do you have time on your calendar for the things you want to do for you and your family? Start now: give yourself 30 minutes / week to start with and expand from there.

It was 4 p.m. on a recent Friday—a time of the week when I usually relax and leave the rest of my to-do list to finish over the weekend. But as this recent weekend approached, I kept pushing myself, heart pumping, to get to the bottom of my list of planned tasks for the week.

After years of working on and off throughout most weekends, I was trying a new approach by taking off at least one entire day every weekend this month, away from reporting, writing and all other work. Early on, I hated pauseit. As simple as it seemed, sticking to a time-off plan stressed me out at first. What I didn’t see right away was that my little test was forcing me to improve the way I work.

Amid layoffs and burgeoning workloads, it seems, working any time, all the time, has become a habit. A survey of 605 U.S. workers last spring by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time and on weekends; more than half blame “self-imposed pressure.” Now, new research suggests some have reached the point where a paradoxical truth applies: To get more done, we need to stop working so much.

Sticking to a schedule of predictable time off can lead to improved productivity. Here are some steps to

get started:

  • Agree on future goals with your boss and coworkers.
  • Plan for deadlines far in advance
  • Set, and focus on, top hourly, daily or weekly priorities.
  • Cooperate with coworkers to back each other up.

A groundbreaking four-year study, set for publication in the October issue of Harvard Business Review, seems to confirm that getting away from work can yield unexpected on-the-job benefits. When members of 12 consulting teams at Boston Consulting Group were each required to take a block of “predictable time off” during every work week, “we had to practically force some professionals” to get away, says Leslie Perlow, the Harvard Business School leadership professor who headed the study.

But the results surprised Harvard researchers and Boston Consulting executives alike. Working together to make sure each consultant got some time off forced teams to communicate better, share more personal information and forge closer relationships. They also had to do a better job at planning ahead and streamlining work, which in some cases resulted in improved client service, based on interviews with clients. Boston Consulting is so pleased with the outcome that the firm is rolling out a similar teaming strategy over the coming year on many new U.S. and some overseas projects, says Grant Freeland, senior partner and managing director of the firm’s Boston office. “We have found real value in this,” he says. “It really changes how we do our work.”

Other companies are putting the brakes on work in other ways. At KPMG, a professional-services firm, managers use “wellness scorecards” to track whether employees are working too much overtime or skipping vacation, a spokesman says. At Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law firm, “workflow coordinators” review attorneys’ hours to avert overload.

And at Bobrick Washroom Equipment, North Hollywood, Calif., a 500-employee manufacturer, staffers are expected to leave in time for dinner. “If you walk around here at 5:30, there are going to be very few lights on, and that’s what we expect,” says Mark Louchheim, president. He sees family dinners together as important to the well-being of employees and their children, and he also believes setting limits on work motivates people to work smarter.

In the study, most of the four- or five-member teams were asked to guarantee each consultant one uninterrupted evening free each week after 6 p.m., away from Black Berry’s and all contact with work. Each team held weekly meetings to talk about the time-off plans, work processes and what consultants called “tummy rumbles”—gut worries or concerns about their project.

Requiring hard-driving consultants to take time off was “nerve-racking” and awkward at first, says Debbie Lovich, who headed one of the teams. Some fought the idea, claiming they would have to work more on weekends or draw poor performance ratings.

But the point of the experiment wasn’t to eliminate the “good intensity” in work—the “buzz” from constant learning and “being in the thick of things,” Harvard’s Dr. Perlow says. Instead, researchers targeted “bad intensity”—a feeling of having no time truly free from work, no control over work and no opportunity to ask questions to clarify foggy priorities, she says.

Ms. Lovich adds: “We wanted to teach people that you can tune out completely” for a while and still turn out good work. The work itself became the focus, “because if you know a night off is coming up, you’re not going to let things spike out of control,” she says.

After five months of predictable time off, internal surveys showed consultants were more satisfied with their jobs and work-life balance, and more likely to stay with the firm, compared with consultants who weren’t part of the experiment. As word spread, other consultants began asking to join the study, Ms. Lovich says. And some clients told researchers the teams’ work had improved, partly because improved communication among team members kept junior consultants better informed about the big picture.

Bobrick Washroom Equipment’s policy to get workers home for dinner came as a shock to Janice Blakely when she joined the company years ago after working “long, long hours” at an energy concern, she says. Seeing staffers at Bobrick leave by 6 p.m., “I thought, ‘Wow, this is not normal.”‘ But in time, the policy “made me look at my performance and tighten up on what I’m doing,” says Ms. Blakely, a marketing manager.

Mr. Louchheim, the Bobrick president, says that employees who habitually stay late may be revealing poor work habits. “We worry about whether they can delegate properly and prioritize their work,” he says. Adds Chris Von Der Ahe, a Korn/Ferry International recruiter who works with Bobrick: “People who do well there are well organized and able to plan their work well.”

Dr. Perlow says an individual worker can get similar results “by challenging oneself to say, ‘I’m going to cut off’ ” work at a certain time every day or every week. ” ‘Now, how am I going to get work done in the time I have?’ This is meant to open your eyes to the possibility” that the way you work can be changed.

In my own experiment, I have managed to keep at least one weekend day work-free so far this month. This has forced me to put proven time-management principles into practice: Plan blocks of work time and stick to the plan; set short-term deadlines to keep work from spiraling out of control; and keep up with email daily, to avoid backlogs.

The rewards have been surprising. On one recent Monday, after an invigorating weekend of working out, attending church and watching college football and hiking with friends, I quickly solved a work problem that had baffled me the previous week. Asked to assess my work this month, my editor, John Blanton, said my columns have been fine. “I’d say, from our perspective, start enjoying your weekends,” he wrote in an email.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

Go for the GoldGo for the gold that builds you the most:  

“Potential Releasing”

Sep 7, 2013 (Dammam

            For the next 3 weeks I get to work with managers who want to be more  effective with their employees. For managers this means among other activities: improving their communications effectiveness. Most of them have the effectiveness out of the boxalready in themselves. My job is to either give them the skills to release the potential or give them the assurance that certain conversations will be effective at certain times while other conversations will be less effective.

Perhaps at some point in their life “the dark side of release (blog Sep1, 2013) “bit” them and they have resolved to be overly cautious. What we do is carefully help the managers examine the caution or lack of skills to consider other behaviors that willOrange Man Detective with Magnifying Glass help them with their employees. Over the years I have seen managers experience the blessing of communications effectiveness with staff development, literal joy has happened (blog Aug 23, 2013) from that connection. Carney and Getz (blog Aug 15, 2013) take the blessing one step further and demonstrate the very positive business impact of positive engagements between co-workers. When I have worked over a prolonged period of time with clients I also have seen the positive impact on organization result of the released and aimed communications potential of a manager.

My blog of 8 August reminds me that communications effectiveness is not about “control” but “influence.” If a manager wants to improve their communications effectiveness in order to have more control over the employees their motive will under mind the otherwise excellent communication possibility. People do not want to be controlled, but they are open to influence.

“You are not in control”

Aug 8, 2013 (San Diego)

A spin off from my Aug 1st blog, below was brought to my attention this morning. I may have a great plan with the leadership forum and I may have done all the correct activities to promote it, but I am not in control of the other 9. That is a good reality for me to keep in the front of my mind. For me it is easy to wonder why people do not respond as any logical person would and then to make them wrong for not responding. After all I am a logical person and the idea is logical to me so those who do not respond must be “illogical”. Of course if they are illogical they are wrong way thinking. They really need more help and pressure to “get it.”

You know how that goes: amp up the pressure and one is most apt to get resistance or low level compliance. That does not move towards the outcome very successfully.

I have two other projects that I am working to move forward. They are inching along at best. I get to work on encouraging and listening rather than pressuring. I need to work on those skills.      Learning



Aug 1, 2013 (San Diego

            When I write on a topic the next thing the Lord often does is to “test” my theory. Last week, 25 July, I wrote on connecting with others. This week was practice.

I get to guide a leadership forum to help members be with integrity. The focus seems important to me, particularly when living in “Enron by the Sea.” Last night only 3 of 10 showed up. A first response by me could be written as “where is this going?” “What is the point of investing time and energy if others do not really want to play?”

I had to go back and remind myself of points 1 and 2 below. My mission is to present topics using my energy and creativity to overpower strongholds of mediocrity. Of course if we are only so, so with regard to integrity then the importance of a meeting on integrity will wax and wane with regard to importance. Secondly I am having the forum as a “gift” of creating strength in integrity. Some days people are just not ready for the gift.

Maybe I need to do some clarity checks on the relevance to the members and then trust the Lord for the outcomes.

For myself and maybe if you have experienced similar desires to stop giving is to stop an activity: reevaluate, talk it over those present, review your purpose, breathe, then make a decision. This helps me finish stronger. F1 checkered flag

Getting Along

July 12, 2013 (Moscow

            This week is my 3rd project in Moscow. Two were in the winter and now this one in the summer. Go to Moscow in the summer. The winters can be brutal. Working with 17 managers become proficient in their presentation skills was great. As I was working with them I reminded myself of how far I have come. When I was in the Navy in the 70’s and 80’s Russia was the scary enemy. Now we are working together in many ways. I wonder what it would take to get the leadership of countries to collaborate the way it is being done at the grassroots? Not all is sugar and spice at the grassroots, but it seems the relationships are much more functional than at the “state” level. I suppose common interest at the frontline level can be easier to come by as there is not a huge need to “jester” and impress people with bravado and hyperbole. Suppose I decided I Diverse Team 2would be influenced more by principles and less by bluster? Then more and more people started making the same decisions. I wonder what trajectory that would global politics on? Well, changing the global arena may not be on my
“to do” list for tomorrow, but making myself a more principled driven person is. Let’s all do it for the good of all.

Being Intentional about important but not urgent elements of one’s life

March 28, 2013 (San Diego)From my viewpoint as a time management consultant I have seen a growing trend towards “cloud calendaring.” There is nothing on the calendar except that absolutely fixed “in cement” items like a weekly required business meeting. All the rest of the calendar is wide open so that the person can be responsive the cloud of demands that come their way on a daily basis.

How are decisions made: personal priorities and proximity of the demand to the designated time. A business colleague has a monthly discretionary meeting. As the meeting time draws near the frequency of reminder email increases exponentially. It is very clear that the organizer is not expecting anyone to put the item on their calendar which would preclude the need for constant messaging and the event coordinator believes they are competing with 3 or 4 other viable alternatives.

Suppose though a person was intentional about what he/she was doing with their time and life? In the case of one meeting that puts out incessant reminders all that would be guy oneneeded is to make an entry in “Outlook” and mark it as reoccurring monthly: one email for an entire year.

Being totally flexible and thus not intentional about a single meeting is a miniscule issue. However when I teach time management and I look at people’s “Outlook” the entire month and the ensuing months only have a few entries.

This absence of calendar entries is often accompanied by comments about “no time” to do this or that. Of course what they mean is when they think about one of these “no time to” items there is no white space in their life to do it. Their life is full of the urgent “fire fighting” items.

How does one create time for the important but not urgent elements in one’s life when constantly surrounded 7 X 24 with firefighting? Things like the son’s soccer match or the daughter’s birthday party or time away with the one’s spouse.

  1. Be intentional about getting to these events. I am going to do it.
  2. Put it on the calendar. The time is occupied. It is not available.quill
  3. Be ready to say “no” or “let’s do it at another time” or “I am booked then” but I am open at…
  4. If it is a large time commitment that can be broken down into pieces then attend to it for ½ hour twice a week, or something like that. I do this very practice when I am working on several book research projects. Assign myself 30 minutes of time twice a week or what is necessary to meet my own deadline and away I go.

When I first started doing this for myself I found I was a bit clumsy in the conversation about saying “no.” I was not particularly elegant about saying it and sometimes I just could not get the words out of my mouth. Practice, practice, practice and sure enough I have become better at getting the important but not urgent items moving forward in my life.

An outcome of this process for me is

  1.  the important things in my life are being advanced.
  2. I am a person of integrity: when I say I will do something I am thereStronger
  3. I “forget” very few things because everything that there is to do is reliably on the calendar
  4. I am much more decisive

Leader Communication – partial advance

December 16, 2012 (San Diego

            Please read my story in the 29 Nov blog. I follow up phone call was made, a role was found that valued the person in question and the person is no longer on the cusp of quitting.

This is a partial resolution as the outcome was guided by the leader instead of self realized by the member. Unless I further the conversation it will only repeat itself at another time something like “Murphy’s Law”: at the worse time and with the highest negative outcome.

Leader dependent resolutions like this are not optimal. Optimal would be for the person to either initiate a conversation with the leader about what they can do to further their own growth or figure it out for themselves and present their ideas to the leader.

I have found that when I am in the role of being the leader I am very busy at advancing the organization. I am watching the conversations with individual but I am not totally capable of divining when things are not “well” with them. I need them to voice their concerns or worries or aspirations so that they are known to me. Speaking up does on always gain the desired results. In a relationship where I am not the leader, I did just what I proposed in the previous sentence. The response I received was not helpful at all.

I can also recall my first assignment as a brand new ensign in the Navy fresh out of the chemistry labs and into the role as the Chief Engineer on a gasoline tanker. The two jobs could not have been further apart. I regularly went to the Executive Officer lost and perplexed on how all that needed to be done could be done. That search for help cost me the world’s worst performance evaluation possible bar none. It was so bad the Navy Bureau sent it back for my signature. Talk about nipping a career in the bud at its inception: well there you go. By the way though the slaughtered me administratively the engineering plant never really did get together. Though they had expected me to get it all done, even all the king’s horses and all the king’s men never got it together My concerns were valid.

To help the leader you need to let the leader know of your concerns. Whether the leader will respond well or not is another story.