Getting things done

The Surprising New Role For Humility in Leadership

 

“If virtues were animals, humility would be the Saola”

In the mountainous rainforest of Vietnam and Laos lives the Saola.

Sometimes called the “Asian Unicorn”, it’s one of the rarest animals in the world. This forest-dwelling species was discovered in 1992 based on finding three skulls with unusual, long, straight horns.

Researchers searched for 20 years but never saw the animal in the wild. It was only after a motion-sensitive camera captured its image on film that scientists caught a glimpse of one alive in nature.

Little is known about the enigmatic Saola (pronounced sow-la) in the two and a half decades since its discovery. None exist in captivity and this rarely-seen mammal is already critically endangered. Scientists have categorically documented Saola in the wild on only four occasions to date.

Humility Like the Saola is rarely found in nature—and nearly impossible to catch by searching for it directly.

In their 2017 book, Humility is the New Smart! Rethinking Human Excellence, authors Edward Hess and Katharine Ludwig work the premise that we are on the threshold of a Smart Machine Age (SMA) led by artificial intelligence.

This change will be as transformative for us as the Industrial Revolution was for our ancestors. The insurgence of Artificial Intelligence will take over many jobs and functions that people now do.

There’s no doubt that AI is already helping/disrupting/raising hard questions in challenging new ways.

Artificial Intelligence now helps us make appointments, drive, gather food, diagnose illnesses and maybe even helps with some other popular human activities.

I sometimes wonder if Siri and Alexa hang out together. If so, what do they talk about? Bixby? Cortana? You? Me?

In the face of all of this Artificial Intelligence uncertainty, Hess and Ludwig offer the following game plan:

We humans need to excel at critical, creative, and innovative thinking and at genuinely engaging with others—things machines can’t do well. We need to reframe our perceptions and assumptions of what constitutes intelligence and begin concentrating on the development of our soft skills.

They even coined the phrase for this: “NewSmart”.

The NewSmart creators go on to offer up a chart to show what it should look like.

 

Old smart NewSmart
I know I’m good at not knowing
I tell I ask
Defend my views Improve my views
Seek confirmation Seek truth
Close mind Open mind
Insecure if beliefs are challenged Insecure if beliefs are NOT challenged
Mistakes are bad Mistakes are learning opportunities
Perfectionism Learning

The crucial underlying mindset for NewSmart is… (tabletop drumroll please) Humility!

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” Confucius

In 2001, researcher and business writer Jim Collins introduced the concept of Level 5 Leadership as an effective style of Leadership that blends humility with competence and grit.

Ever since then I’ve been both a fan and an ever-learning student of this concept. That’s why the perspective in this book about Humble=Smart piqued my interest.

Back then, Collins’ research had already shown that leadership rooted in humility
could unleash tremendous scale-able results.

Like its close cousin authenticity, humility is that elusive trait at the epicenter of so many good things for leaders, individuals and entire enterprises.

Here’s the thing.

One unfortunate expectation of our modern age is that everything needs some kind of hack.
There’s unrelenting pressure to save time and optimize.

The other wild card factor is human nature. We relentlessly resist voluntary change until the cost of not changing becomes too great. I can’t see people waking up one day and saying. Uh-oh. AI is threatening my job so I better get humble. It just doesn’t work that way.

Sorry, Lifehacker. I don’t think humility is hackable.

What I can offer from decades of lived experience is that humility, like the Saola, needs a supportive ecosystem and a mindset of fierce resolve in order to survive.

It’s a quality that is earned in the journey of life. The journey includes hard knocks, kicks in the pants, failures, disappointments, and loss. There’s no one size fits all formula.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”. C.S Lewis

In 2016, New York Times writer and author David Brooks released a thought-provoking book called “The Road to Character.” This is an account of Brooks’s effort to find his way out of shallow punditry—or, as he puts it, to “cultivate character.”

He too espouses humility as the prime ingredient in the bumpy path.

Towards the end, he summarizes what he calls a “ Humility Code”

Any one of this 15 point summary could be the subject of an entire blog post. Here are some of my favs from David Brooks.

The road to character begins with an accurate understanding of our nature and recognizing we are flawed creatures. We have a tendency to be self-centered and overconfident. However, we are not the center of the universe.

It doesn’t matter whether we work for a hedge fund or charity; there are heroes and schmucks in both worlds. The most important thing is our willingness to engage in the struggle for virtue. After attending to the basic necessities of living, this is our central purpose.

Pride blinds us to our weaknesses and makes us think we are better than we are. Pride drives us to prove that we are better than others and makes it hard to be vulnerable before those whose love we need.

Life for all of us is “U” shaped. We advance, retreat and so on. The redemption always comes in the form of “grace.” When admitting our failure, help comes in many different forms. When we recognize that you and I are unconditionally accepted and we accept what is, the path forward and accompanying gratitude usually arrives.

“When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom”. Proverb of Solomon

Another macro viewfinder that informs this whole topic is Robert Greenleaf’s  Servant Leadership. His Ten Principles have formed the basis of some remarkable 21st-century enterprises including Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and the Marriott Hotel chain.

Back to our question. Is humility really the new smart way to combat and mitigate the encroachment of the Smart Machine Age?

Maybe. Depends.

It can’t hurt to give it a try.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

On “Banes and Biases”. Fears large and small that hold us back

First the Banes

Once upon a time, there was a king of great fortune and power.

He ruled his empire with tyrannical zeal.

History has it that he wasn’t particularly gifted in either administration or military prowess. He made a futile attempt at rebranding himself as a “philosopher-king”. He even hired Plato as an executive coach for a while. Like most tyrants, he wasn’t very coachable, so that whole thing didn’t pan out.

One day one of his pandering courtiers commented. “Gee. It must be really cool being King with all that luxury and power and stuff!”

His reply: “Oh yeah? You just try it and see if you can last a whole day!”

Note to reader: I’m paraphrasing liberally. 

So arrangements were made for this up-sucker to be King for a day. Unbeknown to him, the King arranged to have a heavy sword suspended directly over the throne by a single hair from a horse’s tail. He wanted to convey the imminent and ever-present threat of fear and peril faced by those in positions of great power.

Of course, when the dude became aware of the hanging sword, he started pleading with the King to get out of the deal. He departed in shame and disgrace.

This anecdote, known as “Sword of Damocles” originated in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse around the 4th Century BC. This story has survived 25 centuries and surfaces frequently in popular culture, including novels, feature films, television series, video games, and music.

It’s one of the better examples of a “bane”.

Bane -A cause of harm, ruin, or death or thing or situation which causes a prolonged state of impending doom or misfortune. IE Superman and kryptonite, Green Lantern and Sinestro, etc.

A bane has a fear-enhancing, debilitating, and paralyzing effect.

Example 1 
As a kid in the days of the cold war nuclear threat, I remember drills at school where we’d have to curl up tightly under our desks whenever the siren wailed. It occurred to me that if I was to be vaporized by a Russian nuke, I’d at least like the dignity of being seated upright. My friend, weird Freddy, reasoned that the “curl-up-tight” instruction was so that we could kiss our collective rear ends good-bye. He may have been right

To this day, when I hear that certain siren noise, my heart rate goes for sprint and I’m instinctively looking around for a desk to crawl under.

Example 2
In an address before the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, 1961, JFK said:

Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
– John F. Kennedy 

Eventually, Kennedy’s message took hold. The threat of mutually assured mass destruction via a superpower grudge match subsided. Corrective steps were taken through detente and nuclear nonproliferation agreements.

Example 3
It wasn’t that long ago we were all about to be fried to a crisp by that massive hole in the ozone layer caused by aerosol overuse and bovine methane emissions. That was about the same time the world was about to be thrown into complete mayhem by the Y2K bug.

These days, the new “bane of our existence” is more about rapid global warming, being awash in a sea of our own garbage and the specter of rogue AI.

It’s worth noting that the true fear factor of the sword and the siren represent possible harm.

“We are more often frightened than hurt, and we suffer more from imagination than reality.
— Seneca

Nothing close to the extreme outcomes that were portrayed actually happened. The mere prospect raises primal fears.

Politicians, news outlets, home alarm salesmen and others understand this well. All too often this foible of human nature gets exploited by playing to our deepest fears.

There are times when the danger is very clear and present. In these instances, swift appropriate action needs to be taken.

If it’s something that only appears to be potentially dangerous, that’s a different story.

The key here is to distinguish between what’s “possible” and what’s “probable”.

Many scary things are possible. Most of them aren’t probable.

Now on to the Biases 

These are much more common garden variety type fears.

“Bias” is a geometry term referring to a slanted line. These days it’s better known as a reference to a slanted viewpoint based on emotions
or misplaced beliefs that misinform our decisions and actions.

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

My crack at the explanation:

Because we’re inundated with tens of thousand bits of data and we can only process about 40 concepts at a time, our brain goes into “hack mode” and automatically starts spitting out answers from our caveman software memory bank.

•           We all have firmly held beliefs that aren’t necessarily factual
•           We all don’t know everything.
•           Therefore, some of those beliefs are incomplete, misguided, or wrong.

This applies to everyone, including me. Admitting I’m wrong about something I firmly believe means admitting I haven’t fully thought things through. Herein lies the ultimate stuck-ness.
Fully aware that I’m wrong about something, but unable to admit being wrong about anything. Huh!

Biases cause great ideas to get stymied, resolve to evaporate and produce unreasonable anxiety over one’s capabilities.

Our friends at Wikipedia have listed approximately 200 plus biases.  Workwise, I run into some of these all the time. The Ostrich bias and Information bias come up a lot.

Most of these biases adversely affect belief formation, business and economic decisions, and human behavior in general.

The  “Knowing-Doing Gap” was one of the first leadership books that explained at a granular level how individual and group biases actually prevail in preventing knowledge to be turned into action.

Sometimes it’s a bias for the plain old status quo can derail ideas and thwart progress.
Does “but we’ve never done it that way before” sound familiar?
Ok if the status quo is working well. Not ok if it’s not.

Admittedly, I have a few personal biases that may not be listed anywhere that I believe are useful.

For example, I have a firm bias against standing in a long line up for coffee at you know where. (starts with S)
It’s my Life’s- just- plain- too short- to -stand in line bias.

Another useful one is my Anti – BS bias.

I can usually dial my BS detector down around teachers, nurses, farmers and pilots because their personal incentive to deceive is near zero.
Then again, there are otherwise good, honest people who spout nonsense and promote wild ideas based on beliefs that are shaped by the power of fears, paychecks or social status.

In conclusion, – banes and biases. We all have them. Once you know exactly what they are, you can name them, face them and develop some workaround strategies that move you forward.

Until next time.

Lorne

Got any cool or unusual biases you care to share? 

Shoot me a note or leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

If you’re enjoying this monthly article and the Winning Habits Challenge, feel free to forward it to a friend.

You might just win a referral Taco on me. It’s been known to happen.

“WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING IN 2020?”

I’ve always had this love-hate relationship with motorcycles,

I love the steady feel of the throbbing engine. The rush of wind that pushes on my face. The freedom of the open road that stretches endlessly into the horizon.

I hate it when mishaps happen. Something inevitably goes wrong. An unaware motorist suddenly pulls out. They don’t see you. A random patch of gravel suddenly becomes ball-bearings beneath the wheels. An eighteen-wheel trucker decides to have a bit of fun at the bike boy’s expense and starts crowding my lane. Yeah, it happens.

I get it that there’s something primal and thrilling about testing your mortality in different ways. (I never totally got why people actually enjoy sky diving or scuba diving)

My biking friends admit their wheels represent a suppressed alter ego. Often the bike sits dormant, gathering dust for months or years.

Just having that stylin’ ride sit there represents the ultimate freedom and adventure (Motorcycle Diaries).https://youtu.be/u6jz_b80V5g

It may reinforce a latent rebellious streak. (Easy Rider/Born to be Wild) https://youtu.be/egMWlD3fLJ8

Maybe a bit of both.

One fateful day, I had three very close calls riding my bike around town.
All of them were other drivers doing something incredibly stupid. The cosmos was trying to tell me something. I wanted to see my kid graduate. The bike got sold shortly thereafter

Years later, a bit older and wiser, I got re-inspired by reading the Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Promising myself and my wife I’d be as safe as I could be, I signed up for a hardcore Motorcycle Survival Course. Recommend!

I got gutsy little dual-sport and explored a lot of high country in the wilds of Northern British Columbia.

WHAT’S ALL THIS GOT TO DO WITH THE START OF 2020?

Life lessons learned on the bike have served me well. The lessons are readily transferrable. They’ll carry me into 2020 and beyond.

Number One 

“YOU ALWAYS GO WHERE YOU LOOK!”

This holds true literally, figuratively, and metaphorically. If you’re cruising a bike or cruising through your daily life, (or a decade), exactly where set your sight is critically important. In biking, this is an immutable law. It means the difference between life and death. At very least, a massive fail video and a whole lot of hurt.

This rider was admiring an oncoming Corvette. Fortunately, both parties were OK. See https://youtu.be/-2R4D1vBOM8

Having your sights set on things that are important and meaningful for you personally, at work, and in the community has a drawing effect. Setting waypoints and having a personal GPS system helps get you there.

See this month’s Winning Habits Challenge.

Number Two 

“COUNTER INTUITION IS YOUR FRIEND!”

Once you hit a certain speed, the laws of science and physics dictate that you push left to turn right. This is another immutable law of successful riding.

Every human instinct screams “wrong” but it’s actually “right”. If you ignore the science of this and attempt to swerve to avoid an obstacle at speed, you’ll actually be steering right into it.

This has happened to more than one newbie rider. See https://youtu.be/VVE79XT8-Mg
The silver lining here? He hit a fire truck full of trained paramedics.

Countersteering varies by speed, size of bike and geometry of the turn, etc. but if you ignore it, seriously bad things happen.

Navigating life in the 20th century at speed can be perilous.

Going with only your feelings and gut instinct when a preponderance of data dictates otherwise, leads to schmuck-ups.

Knowledge is a great equalizer. We have more knowledge available to us than ever before. In exchange for effort, the person with insight has an extraordinary advantage over the one who doesn’t.

Learn to read, research and interpret the road signs of life and respond with your head and your heart.

Number Three

“GOING FAST IS OVER-RATED!”

Yup, it’s a thrill. Gaining top speed is easy to measure and a lot of fun.
Getting there first and fast has an allure for a lot of folks.

I had an early brush with the effects of high speed. It left an indelible impression. I wrote about it here.https://lorneepp.com/whats-in-your-backpack/

There are times when celerity is exactly what’s needed.

Here’s the thing.

In today’s hyper-fast world, I’m convinced that “slow down to go fast” is the only way to go.
It may sound counterintuitive, but when every instinct is telling us to run faster, it’s time to slow down and check to see if we’re running in the right direction.

You’ll always need time to master the basics and context of any endeavor. Then and only then can you scale up and gain momentum.

The other new 21st-century wrinkle?

With all this new knowledge coming at us, we need to regularly call a “time out” to stop and evaluate.
You see, there’s hard data based on solid tangible facts and soft data that only appears that way.
Soft data leads to making assumptions that may or may not be true. Hard data leads to asking the right questions.

Unlike Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we can’t just click our heels and magically return to a simpler, slower time. However, we can pause, look at the data, and assess what the latest change means to our personal or corporate world.

For most people I work with, there are dozens of factors that matter way more than functioning at break-neck speed.

We usually look at culture, systems, and processes first. Beyond that, there’s trust, accountability, teamwork, bravery, empathy and a whole lot of other skills that matter way more than horsepower.

Yours truly exploring on Vancouver island

 

I don’t ride much these days.

That said, it wouldn’t take much if the right opportunity presented itself.

You see, a part of my brain got stuck at 18.

I still have trouble acting my age.

Until next time.


Where are you looking in 2020?
Got your three words figured out?
I’d love to hear about it.

Drop me a line.
I personally read and respond to all my emails.

Lorne                       
                                      SHARE WITH A FRIEND

If you’re enjoying this monthly article and the Winning Habits Challenge, feel free to forward it to a friend.

You might just win a referral Taco on me. It’s been known to happen.

January Winning Habit Challenge:

Three Words For The Year?

Simple But Never Easy!

My challenge every January is to come up with three words that represent the strategic directions for the year. Two isn’t enough and four’s too many so three’s about right.

There’s nothing magic or weird here. It’s just a way to incorporate a small success habit by bringing consistent intent, focus, and clarity to my decisions and actions in 2020.

That’s why I’ve been taking the time to thoughtfully select three words that will serve as keys to my year. If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, business writer and consultant Chris Brogan started this in 2006.

A lot of other folks are doing this. Just check out #my3words.

My Process

I spend time reflecting on the past year, what’s worked, what has not, what was unclear and what was missing. More importantly, I try to gain a clear picture of what I want my next year to look like.

Sometimes the words come out of the goals I have set, other times I will jot down words that capture my attention and accurately reflect my intention.

I usually take time to talk through my goals and my three words with my wife Margaret and several close friends. That’s always helpful.

It shaped my ideas into something more tangible. It also reaffirmed that we’re in this together and no matter what goals I have or words I choose, they are meaningless without mutual support.

My Approach

I try to interact with my three words each day. For example, I’ll jot them at the top of my planner page or on top of my workout calendar. Doing this keeps them front and center, not only pointing me in the direction of my goals but grounding me in the interim work that needs to be done to achieve them.

Here Goes 

I’ve come to think of my words as three keys that unlock potential in the coming year.

So far I’ve settled on  1. NETWORK  2. ENHANCE 3. SIMPLIFY 

Stay tuned. I’ll expand on this more next month.

BTW    

It’s WAY more fun if you actually share your three words once you’ve got them figured out. 

I love hearing people’s three words every year. It’s truly one of the best parts of every year for me.

Use the hashtag #my3words so that others (like me) can find what you’ve got to share.
 

 

 

September is always a reality check time for me. Time to park my liminal “summer brain” and get back at things.

If you’re part of my community, I can only assume you love doing meaningful work that benefits others. You’ve been working hard, so it’s check-in time to see if you need to make adjustments down the home stretch.

Remember back in January? We started out with a brand-new year. It was a clean slate with some fresh goals and aspirations. You may have even joined me in the three-word challenge.

Well, now we’re at the nine-month mark and it’s time to hard evaluate.

What are you going to do with your next 4 months?

Do you have a clear plan in place?

Last year at this time I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with some of the personal and professional goals I had set for the end of the year. I worked with a coach to create a plan of attack to achieve what I had in mind. 

We focused on having a simple plan and taking consistent daily action. It was amazing how empowering and exciting it was to see the plan on paper. Once I had someone guide me through what to do, it demystified the process and made it extremely doable. 

Oh, and besides just FEELING good about my goal. I actually hit it.

It’s crazy what a simple plan can do.

If this sounds like a plug for coaching, it absolutely is! (I can’t help it. It’s what I do)

But plans of action aren’t just for personal goals like finances, fitness, personal development, etc.

They are extremely effective in business too.

Some Relevant Questions

So, how have things gone so far this year? Did you execute your game plan well?

What does your scorecard say? More specifically, are you getting the results you wanted to achieve? If so, how do you know? 

How you choose to keep score is up to you. Look, this is your game. You set the rules. But you must have some way to track the results of your efforts. Otherwise, how will you know what’s working and what’s not?

So, let’s break it down. 

What do your results to date tell you?

What’s working well?

What’s not working? 

What’s confusing? 

What’s missing?

Your Four Options

The way I see it, you’ve got four basic work options for the rest of the year.

Stick to the Plan

Adjust the Plan

Get Back to the Plan

Make a new Plan

Yeah, I get it. Every situation is different,

The “make a new plan” option is only for extreme circumstances at this stage. A big rock has dropped into your pond and changed everything. Some compelling data has come to light and you’ve got to change course or go back to the drawing board.

The other three options are far more probable. We get distracted and veer off, we need to make adjustments, and sometimes we just need to keep working the plan.

It’s also true that we experience setbacks, negative change or crisis points in our personal and professional lives.

Whatever your circumstance, lean in with your strengths. Don’t waste energy, trying to compensate for your weaknesses. Don’t beat yourself up for not getting everything done on your lengthy to-do list. 

Maybe some of those things didn’t belong on the plan in the first place. That’s not excusing -making. You instinctively know when something doesn’t quite fit and when you’re making rationalizing noises. 

We can’t direct the wind, but we can always adjust our sails.

So, take a wee break. Look at everything you’ve done so far.

 Choose your approach. 

And then get back out there and let’s bring this thing home. 

Until next time,

Lorne 

p.s. If you’d like a personalized strategy chat about where you’re currently at your business or professional career and where you’d like to go, let’s find a time and schedule a friendly, no obligation call. https://lorneepp.com 

 

Burnout.

Not only is it a career-killer, it’s seriously bad for your health.

Earlier this year, burnout was recognized by the World Health Organization as a significant workplace health hazard. That officially makes it “a thing“.

https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

The term “burnout” was first coined in the mid-’70’s by American psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, who used it to describe symptoms he had experienced: “exhaustion, disillusionment, and withdrawal resulting from an intense devotion to a cause that failed to produce what he expected. In earlier times it was generally termed “nervous breakdown” or emotional exhaustion”

Burnout today refers to a collection of different physical, emotional, and mental reactions that occur in response to prolonged stress and overworking. Surprisingly, experts can’t agree on an exact definition.

While I sort of knew about burnout, I never thought it would happen to me. Even-keeled and rarely stressed out, I thought I was Iron Man in this department and nothing could break me. Burnout carries a stigma as a sign of weakness and since I am not weak, I couldn’t reconcile how burnout could come knocking at my door.

My energetic “Type A” approach to building a career I that I loved, led to deep down fatigue – the kind that doesn’t go away with a good night’s sleep. I was getting snappish and reactionary around trivial things and feeling increasingly grim about the future.

The Car Crash You Don’t See Coming

Burnout is an insidious condition that sneaks up on you. It happens slowly, over a lengthy time frame. The consequences can be life-altering.

That’s why it’s so important to spot the hazard signs and symptoms early.

Symptoms could include:
– Chronic fatigue and a sense of dread about what lies ahead on any given day.
-Insomnia. In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week.
– Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can’t get your work done and everything begins to pile up.
-Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).
-Getting sick easily and often
– Vague anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes with your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.
-Depression. In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad and occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel trapped and severely depressed and think the world would be better off without you. (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately.)
– Unreasonable anger. At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or coworkers, seek immediate professional assistance.

Could you be burning out?

“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” Michael Gungor

Understanding Three Varieties of Burnout

I didn’t realize there are different types of burnout but thanks to the American Association of Psychological Science, here they are:

  1. Overload burnout

With overload burnout, the tendency is to work too long and too hard work in an amped-up search for success. Sleep, personal health, and overall well-being are sacrificed in hot pursuit of ambition. Business is worn like a badge of honor even though it’s stressogenic.

2. Under-challenge burnout

Less understood, the “under-challenge” can cause burnout. Feelings include feeling unappreciated, boredom, and a lack of learning opportunities. When there’s no passion or enjoyment in work. Coping mechanisms include distancing, indifference, cynicism, avoidance of responsibility, and overall disengagement.

3. Neglect burnout

This subtype of burnout stems from chronic feelings of helplessness at work. There are feelings of incompetence or falling behind on the demands of the job. This results in stasis, passivity, and low motivation.

The Causes

In a 2018 research piece, researchers at Gallup identified 5 leading causes of workplace burnout.

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx

5 Causal Factors Leaders Should Be Aware of
These five factors were most highly correlated with burnout syndrome in the study:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workloads
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from the management
  5. Unreasonable time pressures

De-Risking Burnout

Burnout is not inevitable.
You can prevent — and reverse — burnout by changing how you manage and lead yourself and those who rely on you. If you don’t address the root causes of employee burnout in your organization, you won’t have a healthy environment that empowers your people to be and do their best.

What to Do

As a leader, it’s particularly important to spot the signs and symptoms of burnout early, because it’s associated with numerous health problems. The human and corporate toll can accumulate fairly rapidly.

Also, as a leader, you can set an understanding and respectful tone on how this gets addressed. This is a human problem not a “personnel issue.” Here are some practical steps to take.

  1. Create a “psychological safe space” to talk about it.
    Encourage discussion of specific concerns. Work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Be realistic about setting goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  2. Don’t do this alone.
    Encourage those impacted to reach out to their co-workers, friends, loved ones, or even you as their manager, for the support and collaboration that will help them cope. Recommend to your team that they utilize an employee assistance program if they feel stuck and unable to approach you. These and other relevant services can help with employee burnout.
  3. Engage in relaxation activities
    Either suggest or help involve your employee or co-worker in exercise programs that can help alleviate stress. This can include group runs or cycling, or more gym-related activities such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
  4. Get some exercise and sleep
    Carving time for physical exercise is known to help relieve stress. Regular physical activity can take your mind off work and help restore broken sleep patterns.
  5. Mindfulness.
    This may not be for everyone, but mindfulness is a great way to alleviate stress and stave off burnout. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

Conclusion
Burnout is a real thing. It happens when you least expect it.

In my instance, I caught it early and was able to turn it around. This came with the help and support of my wife, friends and a very smart family doctor.

Others aren’t so lucky.

You may toil for years at the same pace and suddenly found yourself in the middle of burnout without even seeing it coming. It’s good to love your work. But you have to love it in moderation. If you don’t, burnout will make you hate it, and that’s harder — much harder — to bounce back from that.

Let’s have a great month of August!

Lorne

Is This You?

Your day has barely begun and already you are off track. Suddenly it’s nearly noon and the things you intended to do are totally sidelined. This wasn’t how the day was supposed to go. An urgent email came in, a client called and left you a cryptic voicemail, a panicked co-worker with a deadline is asking for your immediate assistance.

These are real life scenarios that people face every day. It can be stressful and overwhelming.

Whatever you’re doing right now there’s a good chance you’d rather be somewhere else or doing something else, even if it’s your dream job.

Maybe you work from home and are getting sidetracked by picking up around the house. There’s something that needs to get finished, but procrastination set in and you haven’t even started. You’ve got homework for a course you’re taking, a critical presentation to prepare for, or a difficult conversation with your significant other. 

This is the stuff life is made of. It’s really tempting to blow these things off. But you can’t.

Your approach to anything is your clue to how you do everything. 

My recent read through Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work:Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted Worldinspired some of my own thinking about my approach to work. I love it when someone writes about what I’ve been thing about and absolutely nails it.

His premise is that we’ve entered an era of unprecedented distractions. We’ve lost our ability to focus deeply and immerse ourselves in complex tasks.

He makes the point that this is a highly valuable lost skill and presents three concepts that help us focus more than ever before.

We’ll save those for later, o.k.?

I found it helpful to Identify, quantify, and put some healthy boundaries around these three types of work in my years as a CEO.

It creates mental accountability and peace of mind knowing I’m spending appropriate amounts of time doing the right things.

Now Onward to the Three Types of Work 

First off, it’s all work, and there’s inherent value and nobility in work that is well done.

Sometimes on the road to where we want to be, we wind up doing things not because we want to, but because circumstances dictate that we have to. Often starting out in our first jobs, we’re introduced to the shovel, the broom or other mundane chores.

“There’s nothing shameful about sweeping. It’s just another opportunity to excel- and learn.”- Andrew Carnegie 

1. The first is what I call “Sustaining Work”.  

It’s that tedious, soul-sucking, mind-numbing, eye-blear-ing, part of your job that comes with the territory. Every job description I’ve ever seen has a “not-fun” factor. In earlier times this was referred to as “toil”. The stuff that simply has to get done or there will be consequences – usually negative.

Whether you’re a parent, an entrepreneur, or a CEO, diapers need to be changed, reports need to be filed, data needs to be entered and someone else’s messes need to be cleaned up. It’s one of those self-existing facts of life that just “is”. Much like coping with weather, gravity or taxes, you don’t particularly have to like it, but having a healthy attitude with the bigger picture in mind certainly makes necessary, non-productive work more acceptable

2. Next up, there’s “Good Work”. 

This is where we should be spending the bulk of our time. Ideally, Good Work should marry your purpose with your job description. It aligns your soul with your goal. After all, this is what you signed up for, right?

“Good Work should marry your purpose with your job description, and your soul with your goal.”

It’s surprising how many people, glance at a Job Description, sign an Employment Agreement and promptly forget about it.

Lack of role clarity on the JD leads to squishy, unrealistic expectations and a lot of angst.

Fuzzy Job Descriptions are the third leading cause of employee burnout according to Gallup research. See http://bit.ly/2Y8fowY

Having a well-crafted Job Description brings focus, clarity and direction on a day-to day basis. This is where you’ll be spending the majority of your work time. This is your Good Work.

3. Thirdly, there’s “Great Work”. 

If you’re progress-oriented and visionary, like me, this is the type of work that really floats the boat. It’s where the magic happens. It’s the leading edge of moving things forward.

Great work is hard.

It requires periods of concentrated focus and extra effort with no immediate dollars attached. Just ask anyone who has ever stayed up late banging out a thesis, promoted a new idea, or helped an organization move through a crisis.

As a coach and consultant to visionaries, I spend a great amount of time assisting them in executing their aspirations. Visionaries are big thinkers, risk takers, and trailblazers who exhibit great amounts of faith. They seem to live and think in the future. These qualities make them admirable. Often they are the driving force behind societal changes. I personally draw inspiration from these leaders because of their courage and resilience.

The shadow side of visionary leaders, particularly those with a driven, pace-setting, or autocratic leadership style, is that they tend to burn out or blow up the people around them. The job gets done, but there’s a good chance that there’s a trail of bodies left in the wake.

How It Breaks Down Time-wise 

Being somewhat (ahem) analytical, I tracked these three categories in my own work life over a period of years.

In my setting, with some fluctuation, it usually balanced out to abou20% Sustaining Work, 70% Good Work and 10% Great Work.

Great visionary work is critical to any meaningful enterprise. A small dollop of big a vision, rolled out in a consistent way, goes a really long way to keeping your team and the organization motivated and inspired. As exhilarating as it may be to spend time with shiny new ideas and our head in the future, it can be very tempting to overdo it in this zone. It can be mentally exhausting

Often in the past, I’d catch myself getting away out ahead of my team or my board as I focused too much on the future. Not good.

Enter Mr. Newport and his “deep work” concepts.

“In almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits.”
–Cal Newport  

He wisely recommends allowing 5 hours a week for this type of work.

Here’s the How-To-Get Started Part

  1. Train your brain to be better at focusing (example: put your phone away after dinner)
  2. Set aside time for deep work (example: dedicate five hours a week for deep work)
  3. Adopt a tiny habit that signals to yourself that you take the ability to focus seriously (example: quitting a social media service)

Once you get some traction on getting started, it gets easier and you can keep it going.

A related article you may find interesting: http://bit.ly/2YqveU5
(Dealing With My Monkey Brain)

Got ideas or a different experience around this?
Shoot me a note. I read all my emails.
I’d love to hear from you.

Lorne 

 I saved this Times article, not really knowing why.
Maybe it’s because I’m a total leadership geek and try to absorb everything I can on this topic.

Ambitiously named “Project Oxygen”, the mission, as reported in the New York Times, was to build better leaders. After combing through internal performance reviews, feedback surveys, and other data-rich metrics, they distilled what makes good leadership down to 8 bullet points.
Read about it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/business/13hire.html


Given the massive, high profile unrest of Google employees over the last year, it raises the question “How’s that Oxygen Leadership thing going over there in Google-ville?”  Resignations and protest walkouts have taken place over a range of frustrations from particular ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in drone warfare to broader worries about Google’s political decisions—and the erosion of user trust that could result from these actions. A $90m payout to a top exec. under murky circumstances didn’t help matters.


I don’t need Google. My wife (or husband) knows everything!
– Anonymous 


Historically, Google has promoted an open culture that encourages employees to challenge and debate product decisions. But some employees feel that their leadership is no longer attentive to their concerns, leaving them to face the fallout. “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been less and less impressed with the response and the way people’s concerns are being treated and listened to,” one employee who resigned said.

Below, is the comprehensive list of what Google came up with as recipe ingredients for effective leadership and management back in ’09 

1. Be a good coach
Provide specific, constructive feedback, balancing the negative and the positive.Have regular one-on-ones, presenting solutions to problems tailored to your employees’ specific strengths.

2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage
Balance giving freedom to your employees, while still being available for advice. Make “stretch” assignments to help the team tackle big problems.

3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being
Get to know your employees as people, with lives outside of work.Make new members of your team feel welcome and help ease their transition

4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented
Focus on what employees want the team to achieve and how they can help achieve it.Help the team prioritize work and use seniority to remove roadblocks.

5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team
Communication is two-way: you both listen and share information.
Hold all-hands meetings and be straightforward about the messages and goals of the team. Help the team connect the dots.
Encourage open dialogue and listen to the issues and concerns of your employees.

6. Help your employees with career development

7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team

Even in the midst of turmoil, keep the team focused on goals and strategy.
Involve the team in setting and evolving the team’s vision and making progress toward it.

8. Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team
Roll up your sleeves and conduct work side by side with the team, when needed.
Understand the specific challenges of the work.

Really? That’s it? 
I’m having flashbacks of Steve Carell and The Office.

You’ve probably seen variations of this list before. Best-selling business tomes have been writing on these topics for years.
While I agree with all 8 points, it’s still kind of Leadership 101–ish. You know, the kind of info you can find in Leadership for Dummies. (which actually is pretty good)

Perhaps Google has reached such dizzying heights that the oxygen is running a bit thin. 
I get it that no one is asking my advice, however I can’t help but dive in with a few leadership pointers of my own. 

What about delivering on the bedrock of character? 
Deep respect, honesty, humility, being fair-minded, kind-hearted with a serving others mindset are all essential.

What about delivering on trust?
Trust is to an organization what oil is to a car engine. It keeps the moving parts from seizing up and stopping forward motion.
But trust is not something you can take for granted. It takes months—sometimes years—to build. Unfortunately, you can lose it overnight.

What about soft skills? 
There’s still a lot of buy-in on the prevailing stereotypical Type -A hard-chargers in today’s get stuff done business environment.  leadership is actually about soft skills such as empathy, listening, understanding motivation, communicating, and the like. 
Even St. Brene’, the reigning queen of touchy-feely, is weighing in on leadership with her latest offering, Dare to Lead.

What about deep listening? 
Richard Branson purportedly makes this a priority in his personal leadership style. You’d think he’d be front and center at each executive team meeting, but no, he prefers to listen quietly, making notes and contribute only when he has something to say. 

What about aspiring and inspiring?
It’s not just about getting things done. It’s about making things happen.  A great leader makes things happen by inspiring, encouraging, and enabling others to act toward a compelling common vision.
One of my most trusted resources on leadership wisdom is the business classic, the Leadership Challenge. Authors Kouzes and Posner make the point that the content of great leadership doesn’t change, however the context of leadership is constantly changing.  The increased pace of change of the 21st century with all the complexities it brings, is the new normal.

That’s one of the reasons I dubbed my monthly memo “Hey, What’s Next?”
Figuring out what needs to happen next and navigating the new normal is a deeply personal leadership challenge for myself and those I serve.

One comforting takeaway from all this?  It’s good to know that the biggest and the best wrestle with the leadership issues that you and I face on a daily basis.

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” 
― Neil Gaiman



Rock- on Google! We all use your services every day. Don’t take us for granted.


I’d be delighted if you drop me a text or a note to let me know how things are going and what’s happening for you these days.

Here to help.

Lorne  (604 617 4707)

lorne@lorneepp.com

P.S. Do you know a friend, a colleague, or family member who would enjoy this article? If so please click on this link.

June Habit Challenge:

Start Your Morning With Intention


 
Change is hard. You’ve probably noticed that.

We all want to become better people and do better at life — live stronger and healthier, be more creative and more skilled, be a better friend or family member.

Even if we get totally inspired and start doing things better, it’s tough to actually stick to new behaviors. Odds are that this time next year you’ll be doing the same thing rather than performing a new habit with ease.

Habits are our personal travel companions in the journey of life. They can be our friend or our foe. Make us or break us.

It’s a well-document fact that people who are highly effective, do some things differently than most others. 

This month’s habit challenge. Start each day with an intentional morning and habits that inspire you. 

Me, I like to start each day early with quiet time and a gratitude meditation accompanied with some good strong coffee. I review my three words for the year and think through how to apply them to this day’s activities. Often I’ll read from sources that are personally thought-provoking, encouraging or inspiring. Finally, I’ll jot down the main things I want to accomplish this day. 

I refuse to open a device or check emails etc. until I’ve done my routine and feel good about the possibilities of each new day. That’s when I feel ready.

This is a lot of habit all rolled into one, an intentional morning.

Some people roll out of bed and start their day with a jog or a workout. Others like to spend a bit of time with their kids. There’s no “one size fits all” here.Drop me a not

For the month of June, I challenge you to design your morning. Start small, but start with intention.

How about you?
Have you ever managed to gain an inspiring morning habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?
Drop me a note – I’d love to hear about it.

 

Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow
(The sequence that moves everything)

Dead Lawnmower for Sale.

I was mentally preparing a Craigslist ad as I repeatedly yanked the starter rope and muttered things that best remain unwritten.

My usually reliable grass cutter just wouldn’t fire up. My precious Saturday morning was slipping away.

Finally, I right –sized my ego and called for help.

My friend Russ is a total gearhead.
He owns an equipment rental shop and knows all things mechanical.

“It’s easy Lorne” he laughed.
“Just think about suck, squeeze, bang, blow!
”Huh?” I replied.
“Yeah”
He pronounced the words again more slowly as if that would help me understand.

“It’s the sequence that generates power in all internal combustion engines. From chainsaws to choo-choos, they’re all basically the same.”

The fuel gets sucked into the carb and mixed with just the right amount of air.
From there it gets squeezed through small openings to the cylinder.
The spark plug lights it up and that’s your bang.
Exploded gasses push the piston and that’s the blow.
If any one part of that four-part action sequence isn’t working right, it just won’t go.

Armed with a fresh perspective and bit more knowledge, I went back at it.

The problem was a small speck of dirt in the in the “squeeze” part of things. A few drops of carb cleaner and a small blast of compressed air had the thing fired up and running tickety-boo.

I’m familiar with breaking problems down into sequences, but it hadn’t dawned on me to apply a lesson in mower repair to life’s little stall-outs.

Problem is, we all get stuck or stalled out from time to time and we know when we’re not functioning well.

That four-step action sequence for re-booting the engine stuck with me and I’ve applied it in many situations since then.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”- Albert Schweitzer

You may well have your own process for getting re-motivated.

Here’s my personal version of “Suck Squeeze, Bang, Blow”. It helps me generate energy and maintain personal momentum.

1. Dig Deep on Desire.

It’s impossible to stay motivated as a leader if you don’t understand your core desire.

What did you sign up for? and why? Find ways to feed that desire.

Motivation without desire is hollow.

You might think you’re motivated, but you’re faking it.

Once you discover your desire, you won’t have any trouble moving forward – even during rough patches.

“My food,” said Jesus,” is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” John 3:34

He understood the true nourishment and motivation of life is to do God’s will and to accomplish what we are here for.

Even in the natural realm, nothing stimulates, keeps alive, or builds courage or satisfaction more than seeing success in the mission one is dedicated to bringing about.


2. Blend Desire With Intended Outcomes.

Make sure your intended outcomes (goals) have some specificity and time frames attached.

In recent years I’ve begun to include one or two “game changer” goals – ones that if achieved, would see a bunch of other goals fall into place.

I’m happiest when I’m reaching a bit beyond what I know I can do on my own.

It helps to write things down. Then review them daily (along with your three words).
Include your goals in your meditation times.

3. Apply A Spark of Faith

Trust, confidence, boldness, maybe a touch of bravado.

Call it what you will, but this is what ignites, combusts, and unleashes palpable energy in the unseen realm.

“Faith is kind of like calories. You can’t really see them, but you can sure see the results!” – Unknown


Perseverance counts.

Just get started and take some steps toward your outcome. Even if they’re small steps, take ’em and keep going.

Over-analyzing or second-guessing a course of action at this point can really paralyze progress.

Overthinking kills momentum faster than anything.

4. Follow Through. Celebrate Wins. Let It Go.

Recognition and reward plays a huge part in staying motivated, so always make take time to celebrate.

Reward yourself or your team each and every time you achieve a win.

It could be anything from buying some new shoes to taking a personal weekend away or going out for Tacos.

Just don’t overlook it. Celebrating wins does build confidence.

Something to think about.

The next time you get stalled out or feeling stuck, make sure you have an “unstuck” or “re-firing” plan of action for yourself.

Sometimes it helps to talk things through with a trusted friend.
Maybe it’s time to refocus on what fills your bucket.
Maybe it’s meditation or prayer that centres and re-energizes you
You know yourself best,

It helps to have that ready-made sequence of action steps that works just for you.

Have a great month !
Until next time.
Lorne