Today I was prepping for some Strengths Finders training that I will be attending during the week of July 6 in Princeton. In reviewing my strengths that I took back in 2013, I was reminded that discipline is my top strength, closely followed by focus, achiever, responsibility, and learner. Thus, it is probably not a surprise that I am prepping 2-3 weeks in advance, being someone with those discipline, focus, and responsibility strengths.
Before turning 50 in August 2014, my partner and I made the pledge to look good in our photos during our trips to Italy, Chicago, and the lake in the summer of 2014. That pledge really leveraged my strengths of achiever, but also discipline and focus. As we traveled last summer, our snaps turned out great and we felt good in the process of hitting the big 50. We had energy, we enjoyed friends and family, and felt great.
After I turned 50, I quickly became a bit lazy and quit leveraging my discipline strength. I gained weight back, even though we were working out and ran a half marathon in the Fall 2014. But in January 2015, I wrote down: “get in the 150’s (pounds) and stay there.” By writing that down and embracing my strengths, I have found it easy and focused to eat less this year. And I weigh 8-10 pounds less than I did while on our trips last summer.
I want to be role model of wellness at 50, and so my strength of responsibility is really kicking in right now. The self esteem burst of “look good, feel great” is worth the effort to the daily rejection of sweets, desserts, extra helpings, and that extra drink. My focus on wellness is delivering on this: Be happy. Be healthy. Be connected. Be grateful. Be well. Be encouraged. Be a role model.
What are your strengths? I bet you are using them at work. But how about in your personal life and with your own well being? My hope for you is that you deploy your strengths routinely in your blended life of home, play, family, friends, faith, and yes, at work.
Why do I love the NFL? It is a great mixture of world class athletes, intense and emotional competition, vision and strategy, precise execution, fan interaction, and big business. For example:
It’s emotional. Only one team wins the big prize annually. The Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy is adorned; grown men have tears in their eyes while they embrace that trophy like their own child, after winning the Super Bowl. For teams who don’t follow the rules, they get penalized. Teams lose players to short and long term injuries, which can be devastating to the player, the entire team, the fans and the owner’s bottom line. Players are locked out. Referees are too. Owners balk, and then agree. Egos abound!
It’s consistent. During the fall and early winter, the games are all day every Sunday and Monday evening. And now every Thursday. Although lifestyles are very busy, millions of fans routinely make time to watch this #1 sport in America.
It embraces strategy. The owners are willing to invest a lot of money into players, coaches, fans, and facilities, to get a higher return on their investment. During the games, the teams have gameplans (strategies) on how to prepare, compete, and win. Countless hours are spent in the film rooms AND on the field prepping for the competition as well as honing the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s about leadership. Each small group on every NFL team has a coach. Sure, there is a head coach. But there are also running back and linebacker coaches. There are owners and general managers. If all of these leaders are executing with precision to the strategy, it can be magical.
It’s all about execution. The team that executes with precision, wins. Execution is difficult to do, but easy to identify when it is done right. Whether it is scoring with 12 seconds to go in the first half to take a lead in to halftime or defending a goal line stance during the last two minutes, you know execution when you see it.
It’s about change. It is interesting how quickly a team can come together, even though EVERY team roster changes annually. Audibles are utilized and implemented within seconds after the offense reviews the defense stance. Each player has to perform and adjust as the game develops.
It’s about role clarity. It is fascinating to see how each player clearly knows his role on each play. A wide receiver runs his route, with timing and yardage completely in sync with his quarterback’s release of a throw. The offensive lineman block to protect the quarterback and to help gain yardage for the running back. The special teams help block for the punt returner. The athletic trainer and doctors know when to administer what treatment for injuries and pain.
It’s hi-tech. The stadiums are electric with big screen replays of nearly every play. Fantasy football allows the fan to build and manage his own team, anytime, anywhere. Nearly every game can be viewed ubiquitously, whether on a mobile device, laptop, via the internet or satellite TV. Games can be watched later in either full or 30 minute versions.
It gets people together. In the fall of 2011, 23 of the top 25 shows viewed were NFL games. And in many cases, these NFL games are watched in groups of fans who are eating, talking, and drinking together. Tailgating starts on early Sunday mornings in the stadium parking lots and goes well beyond the end of the game. Camping in the woods and parks has now moved to asphalt parking lots near stadiums.
It’s about patience. The teams who consistently perform at the highest levels are the teams with lack of turnover. For example, the NY Giants have remained committed to Tom Coughlin even though the NY press wants to fire him annually. Coughlin’s answer? Two Super Bowls in five years. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been in the hunt for decades, with the same family leading the franchise and purposefully selecting coaches who embrace their values. The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers were truly dominating in the 1970s’s and 1980’s, respectively, with steady ownership, coaches, and quarterbacks. The New England Patriots have an owner in Robert Kraft and coach in Bill Belichick that trust one another and demonstrate excellence year after year. The Green Bay Packers fans are the most loyal in the business, as they own the team. That is not going to change.
It’s BIG business. Billions of dollars in television rights across five networks (NBC, FOX, CBS, ESPN, and NFL Network) and stadiums worth hundreds of million dollars grab the attention of fans, hopes and dreams of children, and other businesses who want to be a part of the NFL picture to broaden their brand.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that high-performing teams on the court/field and in business have the ability to perform at a very high level because each and every person on the team clearly knows the vision and their role, and executes it with precision. In today’s business world, role clarity and execution are becoming more and more important, as the room for error is so slim due to increased governance, regulations, shareholder and customer expectations. Is your team operating at a level that meets your vision? If not, identifying your vision and further clarifying roles might be the first steps to address. The NFL demonstrates this every week, on five different TV networks, with 32 teams owned by 32 different men in 32 different locations, with 53 players, who all know their role. Complexity in business can be overcome by a clear vision and role clarity. The NFL is a living and successful example.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings held hands during the National Anthem Wednesday (8/8/2010) evening. They held hands during their late night interview with NBC’s Bob Costas and early morning interview on NBC’s Today Show. This duo is a great partnership of complete excellence.
As three-time gold medal champions in Olympic beach volleyball, Misty and Kerri don’t struggle with nor complain about work life balance. They flipped work life balance on its head. Instead, they completely embraced a purposeful life with goals, and did it. How did they do it?
They are friends, who trust each other immensely. As a great partnership over a 12 year period, they went 21-0 in Olympic competition. They lost just one set in the Athens, Beijing, and London Olympics.
They are wives, with children (Kerri) or kids in the future (Misty). Their husbands completely supported them with this purposeful goal. Yes, these two are loved by their husbands and families, but now adored by the global community.
They are coached. Yes, as good as they are, they have coaches who helped guide them to their third gold medal. Although they won their third gold medal, they still only gave themselves a B plus.
They are confident. How many 33 and 35 year old women would want to play beach volleyball in a two piece swim suit? Who would be comfortable doing that in front of an audience of 15,000?
They are competitive. They weren’t afraid to state that they expected to win the gold medal in London 2012. They set the bar high, and cleared it.
They visualized success. They saw themselves on the gold medal podium, throughout their training and matches. And they celebrated after each winning point, set, and match. Regular and energetic high-fives and fist pumps were a part of their matches.
They are resilient. Misty recovered from a torn Achilles heel, one of the most damaging injuries a world class athlete can face. After having two children, Kerri rebounded to be a stronger and wiser athlete. They adapted and changed their training and communication through the 12 year journey.
They are appreciative. They thanked the 2nd place/silver medal team of Jen Kelly and April Ross for pushing them. They thanked the ‘army of support’ behind them through this journey.
They are inclusive. After every match in London, Misty spoke in to the TV camera and thanked a variety of people and teams (the American troops and the Dodgers); Kerri always recognized and gave high fives to the ball girls and boys; and Misty jogged around the stadium after each win, engaging and thanking the fans. Before one match, they warmed up with a few members of the USA men’s basketball team. Who does that? That makes them so likeable and marketable.
As a business coach, I frequently hear the phrases, “I don’t have time, I struggle with balance, I can’t delegate, I can’t find time to exercise, our team isn’t accountable.” Recommend embracing what this duo did:
1) set purposeful goals (to win their 3rd gold medal, establish a legacy, and change the face of beach volleyball globally),
2) partner with friends or colleagues that you completely trust,
3) gain support of those closest to you,
4) visualize success,
5) celebrate every step along the way,
6) expect a few hurdles along the way but don’t let them stop you, and
7) enjoy the journey.
Since I have been coaching women and emerging leaders, I am hearing a common concern: “Jen, I am overwhelmed. I just can’t say ‘no.’ Sometimes I don’t know where to start.”
When a coach hears her client truly open up, we are encouraged because we know the client is becoming introspective. As coach, it is my role to help the client reach a comfort level where she is able to open up and pull from her what is causing her to be overwhelmed. Once that difficult first step is clarified and we both have a common understanding of the current state, then we move to step two. We brainstorm and identify what the client can do to become more able to own the cause and get organized. Nearly every time, the client has great ideas and answers.
It is the third step that is most difficult: which idea(s) will the client implement to help reduce this overwhelming feeling? For example, recently, a woman leader that I am coaching implemented and owned her plan by making a handful of adjustments. She had an open conversation with her husband and they both agreed to outsource a few low priority areas of their lives that were frustrating them both. She also began saying “no” to trivial requests. With more time available to work on higher priority opportunities, she noticed her business began to thrive and she was starting to achieve the audacious goals she had set in Jan. 2012.
My client no longer feels guilty about saying “no.” At the beginning of her work day, she implements a daily task lists. She even prioritizes her early mornings, with a wellness/fitness/nutrition plan to get her rolling.
The upshot? If you are overwhelmed, open up, own the situation, get organized, utilize outsourcing, and get orderly. You’ll soon become less overwhelmed and ready to face whatever challenges and opportunities that come your way.
The only way we really learn how to swim is by jumping in (the swimming pool or off the dock into the lake). The fear we overcome quickly is turned in to courage. This courage quickly translates into new skills and talents. Let’s take a couple recent examples in the sports world that have transformed careers.
Cool hand Luke. As an average George Mason basketball player, Luke Hancock decided to transfer when his George Mason coach ‘jumped’ to take on the head coaching job at University of Miami. Courageously, after considering multiple schools and two of them were in his home state, Hancock agreed that the University of Louisville was his next step. Within just a few months, his teammates named him captain even though he sat out as a ‘redshirt’ during the 2011-2012 season. Within less than two years of his transfer (change), he was deep in the NCAA tournament assuming a key role after a teammate fell due to a broken leg. And who was the one who calmed Kevin Ware as he laid on the sideline with a broken leg? Luke Hancock was there, fully present during the ‘breaking point’, looking directly in to his teammate’s eyes. Just a week later, Hancock came off the bench and led the Louisville Cardinals in not one, but two comebacks to win the NCAA title. Hancock’s ability to be courageous, calm, and lead are truly unique. The NCAA voters agreed, and awarded him the NCAA Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player award.
Come On Aussies. In July 2011, the #1 golfer in the world released his caddie, Steve Williams. And a younger but highly talented golfer from Australia, Adam Scott, had the amazing courage to quickly hire the best caddie in golf, Williams. At that point, Scott hadn’t won a major championship on the PGA Tour. But most in the sport quickly realized that the elusive major was now within reach. Although Scott was close (he gave up a four-stroke lead in the 2012 British Open), he came back stronger and won the 2013 Masters in fabulous style (sinking a birdie putt in the second playoff hole against a previous Masters winner). Again, in less than two years, Scott has reached the pinnacle of his career in winning The Masters, all because he had the courage to change and transform.
Both of these examples remind us of how some people get ‘stuck’ due to fear of making a change, while others embrace courageous change and achieve heights that appeared to be untouchable. How are you embracing change and your future opportunities? A first few steps might be to identify where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and then identify who can help you reach your pinnacle.
Recently my parents called me and I answered the phone to the scary comment, “there’s been an accident.” They had been in a farm accident!Mom broke her arm, has two bum knees and a busted lip. Dad’s ankle was horribly bruised after a truck loaded with hay ran over it. Thank goodness for the neighbor who called 9-1-1 and got help to them quickly. I share this story about my parents’ accident as an example of how one person who was stressed and didn’t take time to communicate, ended up causing both of them to be injured.
Many of my clients say, “I am so stressed…” Stress comes in lots of forms. Some stress is good and helps us perform better—like meeting a deadline on time. Other types of stress have the opposite effect on us and we perform poorly. When clients bring up stress, questions I typically ask include: What are you doing to reduce the stress? How will you do that? Who will you communicate to? This last question is critical to successfully reducing stress. I’m finding a common pattern among clients when they admit they are stressed. If the client identifies a game plan and communicates the plan with a trusted person, the client typically a) implements the changes to help reduce the stress, and b) has a powerful conversation that helps both people.
When you are stressed, what gets in your way of stopping and communicating to someone you trust? Maybe it’s because you think those closest to you understand what you are thinking and know you better than anyone else. Maybe it’s because you think someone else has it worse than you do, so you aren’t willing to share your concerns about what is stressful. Whatever the reasons, I want to share a few tips to help you when you are stressed.
Stressed? Feel and Stop. If you are feeling stressed, stop and become aware. A good practice is to write or journal what is causing the stress. Where is it coming from? Have you ever experienced this cause of stress before? If so, what makes it different this time? How do you think it can it be reduced? For example, one of my clients was very stressed about her work and the amount of time she was spending at work well into the evenings. After journaling for just one week, she quickly noticed that her stress was actually coming from her children. Because she stopped and journaled, she was able to notice what was causing the stress and increased her one-on-one time with her kids.
Stressed? Share with care. When you do feel stress, it’s a good step to not only stop, but also think about who you might talk to that deeply listens and cares. It amazes me that when I ask clients who they might share their stress with, most of my clients say, “I hadn’t really thought about that.” Together with the client, we put together a plan that helps identify who he/she wants to share with and when; what he/she wants to share; and how he/she might put the plan into action. In fact, I’ve helped my clients practice and dry run these conversations/plans. This practice provides a lot of confidence to the client.
Stressed? Communicate calmly. When stress strikes, some cultures and individuals actually reinforce cocooning and isolation to mask the situation. What I’ve found with clients that “Feel and Stop, Share with care,” and “Communicate calmly,” is that the conversation is not just needed by the client but also by the other person and is helpful to more than both of them, and typically is replicated because it was successful, thoughtful, and rational. One client realized that her stress was impacting the entire family. However by opening communication with her husband, they established a plan and helped one another—and their kids.
Could my parents have avoided their horrific farm accident? Yes. My father was stressed about getting ready for a two-day trip and needed to feed 14 hungry horses on the coldest day of winter. Instead of feeling the stress, stopping, and figuring out a plan to feed the horses before entering their pasture, he proceeded quickly and asked my mother to help him drive a truck and keep the horses from coming through the gate. Because he didn’t share, nor communicate a well understood game plan, a drastic error was made when the horses moved toward the truck. My mother ran over my father’s leg while turning the truck to miss a horse. As she got out of the truck to run to his aid, she fell and broke her arm. As with most clients, the time it would have taken my father to Feel and Stop, Share with Care, and Communicate Calmly would have taken a few minutes. Instead, both of my parents will be recovering from their injuries for weeks.
The next time you are stressed, how will you communicate to help ensure you have positive results instead of stressful consequences?
Recently, a colleague wrote about the common phrase of “work life balance”. And then another colleague added that this common phrase should be changed to “work life integration.” This concerned me, as it prompted me to wonder what’s behind society and leaders allowing the move from “work life balance” to “work life integration”. In my practice, clients are teaching me a lot: if clients allow their work to integrate their life by not setting boundaries, not making purposeful & prioritized decisions, then the client is more apt to struggle with meeting their personal goals. If a client embraces and communicates their priorities and purpose, I find that the client can begin to establish new practices & habits, balance their life better, and achieve personal goals that previously seemed unachievable. Whether it is work life balance or work life integration, aren’t we better served by embracing life first?
I now am completely questioning this common phrase: “work life balance.” Throughout a person’s life, one spends approximately 15-25% of his/her time at work. Most of one’s time is spent sleeping, eating, relaxing, and enjoying life’s pleasures and treasures. Even though the globe is more connected than ever and working 24 hours/day 5 to 7 days/week, that still doesn’t give reason for work to integrate your personal life.
I recommend we change it up. How about we talk about balancing life into work and integrating life with work? Let’s rename it from work life balance or work life integration to Your Life’s Work. To make this shift, try answering these questions: What are your most important life goals? What are your goals for 2012 and 2013? What are your goals for the remainder of this year? What do you want employees at work to truly know about you? Does your boss understand your personal goals and how important they are to you?
As you answered those questions, what did you notice? Are your work goals just one piece of your overall personal or life goals? If they are, then you are well on your way to Your Life’s Work. If you noticed that your goals are more work focused, are you ready to be introspective and define who you want to be, what steps you need to take to develop your plan, and how you want to be remembered?
So, how can you change it up and move from struggling with work life balance to developing Your Life’s Work?
Talk & Ask. Who can you talk to about your life’s goals, priorities, and purpose? Who will support you along your journey in accomplishing Your Life’s Work? Pick someone who truly listens to your plan, asks insightful questions, and will support you. A good first step is to talk about and plan your personal time as rigorously as your work schedule.
Write. Numerous studies have indicated that individuals, sports teams, and companies who write down their goals are much more apt to achieve them than those who don’t write them. Keep in mind that not all goals are met, so be ready to expect that. In baseball, an excellent batting average is above .350. In football, a quarterback is superb when he connects on 75% of his passing attempts. In basketball, the best free throw shooters hit more than 85% of their free throws. Teams who win 75% of their games position themselves to win championships. Expect progress, not perfection.
Share. Let others know about your plans, your priorities, and Your Life’s Work. When others know a bit more about what’s behind your actions and decisions, they might be more apt to support you. For example, let your boss know that you want to take your children’s birthdays off annually, because you want the kids to know that one day a year, they are #1. That decision and action may also send a signal to your boss that you can prioritize highly important things in Your Life’s Work.
Display. If a company can post their strategy on their website and on employee bulletin boards, then where can you post your personal goals that will support Your Life’s Work? I post mine annual goals by our personal calendar in the kitchen and also carry it in my wallet. It is always present, to help keep me focused on My Life’s Work.
Go. Take the first step toward Your Life’s Plan. Progress begins with that first step, embracing the plan, & doing it.
Let Your Life’s Work begin. Talk to someone today, so you can display and start Your Life’s Work tomorrow.