An exciting article from Your Workplace, welcome your comments
For years, Your Workplace has touted the importance of work-life balance. We even made it part of our corporate values statement. If balancing work on the one hand with life on the other was a cause to uphold, then I was the champion in our workplace — and one of its biggest proponents beyond our walls as well.
But like all movements toward change, we usually have to endorse an extreme version of it first, ensuring momentum is created to make that change occur. Eventually, the extreme version gives way to a more moderate stance and ultimately settles somewhere in the middle. And a movement away from the concept of work-life balance is no exception.
If it is better for you to attend a parent’s appointment at 1pm and finish a report at 6am, then do it.
The notion that we each have two separate lives — one work and one life — requiring different treatment is unreasonable. The long-held notion of ensuring your personal life does not suffer at the expense of your work responsibilities, by compartmentalizing each to ensure carefully walking the fine line between the two, is obsolete. In order to find the right balance, the proper amount of time must be given to allow things to settle to a more “natural” stage. By pitting work against life there is an implication that work is the negative experience and life is the positive one. Why should work be perceived as negative? We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, earning a living to support ourselves and our family. The experience should be enriching, and if not that, at least a reality within our lives.
We have to let go of the unachievable idea of work-life balance and start looking at things with a more individualistic lens. We are singular whole people, and every effort or action we take should be rooted in approaching each other holistically.
Whether you are grocery shopping, preparing a presentation, chairing a meeting, taking an elderly parent to an appointment, dealing with being short-staffed, going for a brisk walk at lunch or cheering on your child’s soccer game, it should be understood that it all makes up the threads of the tapestry of our very existence.
Isolating work from life is not only impossible but it places enormous strain, anxiety and tension on an unachievable goal.
Life is fluid and organic. We no longer have to compartmentalize the difference aspects of our selves. We no longer have to balance one against the other. We can have it all. Breaking down time to do work between 8am to 4pm, dinner from 5pm to 6pm, kids homework (or sport) from 6pm to 8pm or whatever your formula is, needs to stop. If it works for you, fine. But if it is better for you to attend a parent’s appointment at 1pm and finish a report at 6am, then do it. We are responsible adults after all.
Think about what is important to you. Make a list and prioritize.
The needs of individuals are constantly shifting. Allowing the whole person to show up at work (and at home) requires an investment in understanding mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.
Who you are is who you are everywhere. No matter where you go, there you are, so it’s important to integrate work and life together rather than separating the different aspects of self in order to fit some pre-determined label of how work and life are supposed to exist.
Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1997, have become the focus of many demographic studies. Because they range in age from 18-34, millennials are studied for their impact on spending habits, shopping experiences, and business and employment (Pew, 2015). They’re a huge part of the workforce but are also the generation most likely to eschew the traditional workplace in favor of starting their own businesses, investing in startups, and working from home rather than in a traditional office setting.
They’re also amazingly tech savvy and can help older companies and corporation integrate into society’s existing tech environment. Not like older generations such as the baby boomers, millennials never knew a time period without computers, cell phones or the internet, technology was always present in their lives, it’s in their DNA (Marston, 2007).
1. Integrate Flexibility
Most millennials view strict adherence to a 9-5, in-office work schedule as outdated. Just as they thrive in casual work environments, they often prefer work hours and work locations that are less rigid than in previous generations. Consider allowing millennial employees to telecommute, freelance, trade shifts, and shorten work weeks. The goal, after all, is to get the job done, and allowing these employees to exercise flexibility might produce surprisingly consistent productivity.
2. Integrate Coaching & Collaboration
Millennials typically prefer not to work in a setting where they’re micromanaged. When employers guide and direct, yet leave room for personal development and self-management, millennials respond more favorably. Like 9-5 corporations of past generations, today’s companies want to reap the greatest productivity from their employees. Encouraging creativity, input, and team building will reap mutually beneficial results and allow millennials to feel valued.
3. Integrate Their Lifestyle
While devoted to their jobs and careers, Millennials hold a firm belief in a work-life balance. They thrive in companies that offer flexibility, paid time off, personal days, family leave, and emergency leave. Involvement in family activities and lifestyle and community events is important to them. They look for companies that allow employees to foster a well-rounded life and have time for friends, family and social events.
4. Integrate Growth Practices
Millennials appreciate opportunities to advance their careers – they may even look for opportunities to buy into the companies that employ them. They prefer careers with an upward trajectory to ones that remain stagnant with little to no possibility of growth or advancement. Instead, they have a greater interest in a company they can grow with or grow into.
5. Integrate Company Culture
The millennial generation isn’t always as matter-of-fact about accepting the existing climate of their workplace as previous generations. They look for clearly defined company cultures and principles. When those principles are clearly integrated into their work environment and into the products and services they offer, this generation will thrive. Rather than a faceless, personality-less corporation, this generation of employees prefers a business with a social conscience that has an impact on its community and on society.
Successfully incorporating millennials into your business means preparing them for today and for tomorrow. When they learn to lift as they climb, your company gets the best Generation Y (Millennials) have to offer, while simultaneously preparing Generation Z for the future. At the same time, they’re learning best practices from Baby Boomers and creating a generationally diverse workforce. That constitutes a win-win for everyone.
Attitude is a game-changer. It can determine whether you advance to the next level or stay at your current one. As John Maxwell said, attitude is not everything, but it is the difference-maker in life. For example, let’s say you have two people seeking employment for the same job and they qualify equally across the board in terms of experience, education, background, etc. However, one has a great attitude and one has a bad attitude. Who will you hire? The one with the great attitude, of course. Why? Attitude. It was the difference-maker.
When do you define attitude? Some may say that attitudes are systems comprised of many evaluations made over a period of time during experiences that have an attached emotion. That emotion gets tagged along with the evaluation of that experience throughout the person’s life, unless it changes. Attitude is the way I feel about a person, an object or event. So, if I love sports, I have a positive evaluation of whatever sport I enjoy. On the other hand, if I dislike a certain person or I hate life in general, then I have a negative emotional evaluation of that person or life in general. In essence, your attitude determines what color lens we see things through and how we handle them.
To quote Zig Ziglar: “Our attitude determines our altitude.”
Our attitude is the primary focus that determines whether we succeed or fail. This applies in every area of life.
However, in leadership, it determines whether or not we can make an impact to motivate our employees to maintain productivity, or produce a decline in morale, and therefore productivity.
There is no two ways about it: attitude is everything in leadership.
The attitude of a leader is contagious. It sends positive or negative vibes throughout the workplace. Studies have shown that when leaders exemplify negative behaviors, their employees distance themselves from their responsibilities. In essence, they distance themselves from what they were hired to do. They disengage from the overall vision and mission of the organization. The studies also indicate that they display a lack of care.
A good leader has the attitude of “serving his troops” at all times. The leader is a servant to the people whom they lead, not the other way around.
“A leader leads by example, not by force.”– Sun Tzu
We’ve all heard the phrase: “Lead by example.” In battle, the troops must see the Army Officer in front of them, leading them boldly towards their objective. The leader exemplifies a positive attitude, courage, selfless service, and inspires trust in his followers.
Example-setting is the only way a leader will get his followers to buy into his plan. Albert Schweitzer said: “Example isn’t the main thing in leadership – it is the only thing.”
Steps in getting the right attitude for leaders
As a leader, the higher you go, the more you have to make sacrifices for the good of your employees. As John Maxwell would say, “Leaders have to give up going up.” It’s not about you: it’s about your organization and your people. So you must have the right attitude. My mentors always told me that when you become a leader, it’s not about you any more. You lose the right to think about yourself; it’s all about the people you lead. You have examples such as Dr. Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement. He sacrificed not only his family, but his life, to give blacks equality in a society that refused to acknowledge it. Dr. King experienced many hardships – he was stabbed, stoned, physically and verbally attacked by humans and animals, and his house was bombed – and eventually he paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Steps to acquire the attitudes of leaders
As a leader, I follow six key steps to show the right attitude to my employees or team members:
1. Show Empathy. The Leader must show and have the capacity of understanding what the other individual is going through or experiencing. Even though personally they may not have experienced that event, they need to place themselves in the employee’s shoes.
2. Demonstrate trust. Remember that each employee has talents and abilities, and when joined together with those of other talented individuals, you have collective abilities and knowledge that can accomplish results. Give them the autonomy to take charge of the situation or task. Have faith in your people.
3. Provide the necessary tools for success. Give your people the latitude to connect with others within and outside the company such as vendors, customers, and potential future customers. Teach your employees everything you know. In every position of leadership I had, my philosophy was to work my way out of a job by teaching the employees everything I knew. Many leadership positions worked out very well for me, and the operation ran like a well-oiled machine.
4. Acknowledge achievements. Show appreciation and gratitude for the hard work your employees out in over the course of the week, month, or year. Most of my organizations had monthly gatherings to acknowledge new employees, say farewell to others, and to recognize those who achieved and desired high recognition and praise in front of their peers.
5. Encourage collaboration. Leaders need to demonstrate that the workplace is a collective and cooperative environment. And that we are one united organization trying to achieve the same mission and objectives. Never put up dividers between departments or divisions with the organization. Remember, one does not succeed alone.
6. Bring the team together. As a leader, refuse to let dissension and negative rumors poison the organization and your team. Rumor mongering will divide the team or your employees. This adds unnecessary stress and strain.
At some point, a person feels the need to evolve, to enter a new dimension of life. Maybe they want to improve a skill, a behavior, or an action. Perhaps they want to advance in their career, in their relationships with others, or change their mindset or grow their spiritual knowledge. But for growth to happen, the person’s environment must change.
We all know how growth happens in plants. It starts with a seed that must be implanted into fertile soil full of nutrients to form roots. It also needs sunlight, air, and water, which, through the process of photosynthesis, helps the growing seed produce its own food source. In the right conditions, the seed begins to grow into a plant, and that plant grows to its full potential. If one of these elements are absent, the seed my never take root or achieve full growth. If you plant a seed in an environment where one of these elements is absent, growth is inhibited and the seed’s full potential is never realized. The seed remains dormant.
That principle works the same in your life and mine. For growth to happen, your environment must be conducive to growth. It must have the right nutrients to stimulate growth. If you want to change your current situation or circumstances, you must change your present environment. John Maxwell writes that “Growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow is going to get better.” If you don’t have the resources and the know-how, start from where you are.
I realized at an early age that growth only happens in its proper environment. I remembered when I was 12 years old, I was sitting on my mother’s hardwood floor and watching an interview with my favorite television personality, Mr. T. “I was born in the ghetto, but the ghetto was not in me,” he said.
His words changed my life. They taught me that if circumstances are not what you want, then change them.
My circumstances at that time were poverty, crime, and a drug-infested neighborhood. I had no role models to look up to. The adults around me had the look of hopelessness and despair. They may have had dreams and ambitions, but when you looked into their eyes, the flames of ambition had gone out. The adults in my neighborhood accepted the destinies that the environment had given them. I refused to accept defeatism, cynicism, discouragement, and hopelessness. I had dreams, hopes, and a desire to succeed. I did not accept the status quo.
Music was my way out. I had developed a talent for the trumpet, and my mother scraped up enough money for me to take music lessons at a performing arts academy in the city I was living in. Taking music lessons allowed me to escape the impoverished and dangerous neighborhood for a few hours each week. I was taught by excellent music instructors who not only cared about the instrument, but the person. They demonstrated to me to the quality of life I was seeking. They became my role models. Upon graduating from high school, I received a two-year music scholarship to college. That was my ticket out of the ghetto. Later I joined the military and played the trumpet in the Army band for several years.
What happened? I wanted out of my environment, I did not accept my circumstances, and I did not give up on hope, even at a young age. I got the opportunity to be in a different environment that nourished my growth – not only in developing my skill as a musician, but as an individual. I flourished in that environment and that led to my growth journey. I never looked back.
What does a growth environment look like?
In order for a seed to grow, it needs the right soil, sunlight, air and water.
My mentor, John Maxwell, always taught that your environment is helping you, not holding you back. This one statement helped me examine my own workplace environment. John asked us questions that helped us examine our present environment, such as:
Are you in a place where others are ahead of you, or are you the go-to person? Are you the smartest one in the room? Then what and who is pouring into you? You are not getting the necessary nutrients for growth. If you are pouring everything you have into others, who is pouring into you?
Are you challenged on a constant basis?
In the military, on every assignment I went to, something was always wrong. Logistical processes were not in place so customers were not getting their supplies and materials on time, which upset them. Or a morale problem amongst the workers compounded the unhappy-customers problem. Sometimes I complained to my peers that I always got the most challenging assignments. It was then that I recognized another of John’s principles: you must get out of your comfort zone to grow. When I finished the assignment, the logistical processes were far better than the previous ones, the morale within my area of responsibility was very high, and my customers were giving my operation rave reviews.
At first, I didn’t understand why I always got the hard and challenging jobs. Later I realized that the military was giving me a new growth environment with each new assignment. As the saying goes, with each promotion comes more responsibility. I must have made a lasting impact on my senior officers, because they expected my performance to be top level. My performance in my military career lead me to exponential growth, higher compensation, and bonuses.
If I embraced challenges, you need to also.
Another statement that helped me evaluate my present environment was: Are others growing around you? The answer to this question reveals the state of workplace or organization, or your peers. Are others getting promoted? Are they recognizing their workers’ abilities and strengths? Is this recognition due to workers doing extraordinary in workplace assignments and exceeding performance standards?
Military organization inspired and motivated me to take on challenging assignments and be not concerned about getting my hands dirty. Adding value to the organization is important to me. Complacency is not an option, nor is just earning a paycheck. This motivated me during my journey of growth. The environment had to be nourishing, challenging, and motivating. If your workplace is toxic, or complacency is the norm, find something else that will help you develop and grow.
Even life after the military, I never changed my mindset. This framework is forever embedded in my mind. Always seek the best environment for continual growth.
In my last job in California, even after working for 10 years within the organization, promotions came very slowly, even though I used the same approach discussed above. Morale there was at an all-time low. Nepotism, jealousy of the bosses’ favorites, and a toxic work environment inhibited growth. Through several turn of events within the organization, a shuffling from the top down gave me the opportunity to accept a temporary developmental assignment 1700 miles away. The assignment was challenging but rewarding. It gave me insights into my field that I never knew existed. In fact, the work was so advanced that my 10 years on the job in California had not prepared for it. It was so advanced that my old notes and files from previous work were too elementary for the assignment. Boy, did I feel outside of my comfort zone.
However, the staff was supportive, and there were plenty of opportunities for me to get up to speed. After several months the developmental assignment ended. I wanted to remain at the new workplace, and I made my request known to the higher-ups. After a lot of convincing of senior management, my potential was recognized, along with my work ethic, and an agreement was made to keep me on. I never looked back.
Just as my military experience had taught me, I took on the hard assignment. This has encouraged and fostered my growth. I’ve had a few failures, but these were not my enemy. Many in the office are more advanced than me, but I am quickly catching up.
Lastly, leaders must create a growth environment within their organization or areas of influence. I came to realize that as my ranking became more senior that I had a responsibility to help others that worked directly for me to grow. I had to create a growth environment. I used the same framework and list that I was taught, I applied it to help others.
For people to grow you must set the bar high. Provide them with a challenging environment.
Give them challenging work, nothing beneath them. And if they do not know how to do it, train them the right way first, then expect them to maintain the standard.
Cultivate an affirming atmosphere. Nurture and nourish your people for growth.
Model growth in front of them. Lead from the front, not the rear. I always say: “The most valuable gift I can give to other is a good example.” There is nothing more confusing than a person who gives good advice but sets a bad example. To quote (again) John Maxwell: “A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.”
Remember, growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow will get better. If you don’t know whether your present environment is a growth environment, do an assessment.
Are others more advanced than you?
Are your assignments challenging?
Is your environment affirming or toxic?
Are you excited every morning about embracing challenge?
Are others growing around you?
The bottom line is that a growth environment aids in growth. It doesn’t hold you back. Lastly, if you are a leader, you are responsible for helping others grow and creating an atmosphere of growth. Grow leaders, don’t just tell them what to do.