Successful Supervisor 46 Mastering Work Life Balance

October 1, 2017

One of the most vexing problems faced by supervisors is the issue of work-life balance. Dedication to job and career is a critical element for any supervisor, and since the number of issues that need attention is seemingly infinite, there is a tendency to work too hard and too many hours.

This article will share some ideas that may be helpful at creating a better balance.

Keep Things in Perspective

It is easy to lose perspective and let work issues become an overwhelming commitment of your time. Actually, I believe it is a form of addiction that sneaks up on you when you aren’t looking.

It is all very well intended at first, but if left unchecked, it can take you down a dangerous road that can rob you of a vital part of your life. Here are some tips that may be helpful to remember.

1. Pay attention to what is going on

We can get sucked into a life of continuous overwork without even realizing it.

Recently I found myself way overloaded and quit a job when my employer proposed to double my already oppressive workload without any additional form of compensation.

The shock of it made me realize that I had long ago crossed the line of the work I am prepared to do for the benefits received. If I had not been shocked into that realization, I might still be working there.

The lesson is simple, but difficult to do. Take stock every year of the amount of time you are devoting to work and ask if it is reasonable. If not, take steps to correct the problem.

2. Don’t let them nibble you to death

If you are working 55 hours a week, it is easy to get you to extend to 57 hours. If you are working 80 hours a week, then 82 hours seems not so much of an added burden.

The way to prevent this kind of “scope creep” is to put a Stop Loss on your situation.

A Stop Loss is a term used in the stock market where you put in an automatic sell order in if the stock reaches a specific level. This rule helps you avoid a catastrophic loss when your attention may be diverted.

The equivalent of a Stop Loss with time spent at work might sound like this, “I realize there will be peak times at work where I need to put in more time in a particular week, but if it ever reaches XX hours a week, I am going to refuse the work.”

3. Go offline

Easy access to the internet has made it difficult to get away from work. Set some boundaries for when you are not accessible (even by phone) and stick to them.

If you consciously manage time for your personal life, then you will find it much easier to have one. If you ignore the issue, then you will likely slip toward overload a little bit each year until work squeezes out the vitality of life.

It is not uncommon these days to see a family huddled around the dinner table where everyone is looking down at their PDAs. It is equally common to have some members of the family texting each other rather than speaking out loud.

Try to avoid using devices during family time and actually speak to each other verbally. Kids may have a hard time with this one, but you may be able to hold a rule.

4. Don’t work when you are resting

We all need good interrupted sleep each day to be able to perform at our best. Shut off your phone ringer when you are sleeping and just let it go.

Supervisors do understand the need to rest, but sometimes they feel the world will quit turning if they are not personally involved in every action. If you allow abuse of your rest time then people will have no compunction about calling you at all hours.

The other half of this equation is that you need to delegate and have faith in others in your group to carry on without you when you are unavailable.

If you insist on being involved in every decision, not only are you failing to develop and trust your people, but you are losing a lot of sleep.

Make Sure You have a Variety of Interests

It is easy to become so fixated on work that other parts of our life are squeezed out. The antidote to this problem is to maintain a variety of interests and intentionally carve out time to feed each of them.

Sometimes it feels like if you could just focus exclusively on work, then you could get it all done. Unfortunately, this is a trap. The work is infinite, if you let it be. Here are some tips to keep you well rounded.

1. Give family issues a high priority

At the end of your life, you will not be counting the number of 90 hour work weeks you put in, or even what you accomplished with all your dedication.

You will be thinking about the times you spent with family and friends, because those are the real meaning in our lives. Make sure you have at least one trip a year away from the hubbub of everyday life at work.

Make sure you participate in the activities of your kids and spouse. Sometimes you need to manage the time carefully, but it is important to participate.

2. Find ways to give back to your community

There are an infinite number of opportunities for you to help out other people. Find the equation that suits you and that you feel good about. I call this element your “give back ratio.”

You need to calculate how much time you are putting in exchanging your talent for money and how much time you are giving back to others.

There is no right or wrong answer to the calculation, but you have to ask yourself seriously if you are satisfied with your personal numbers. If the give back ratio is way too low, then you need to find ways to change it.

The same concept holds regarding money. You need to figure out whether you are giving back enough. It is a personal calculation that you don’t need to share with anyone else, but make sure you are in full agreement with your conscience.

3. Have a hobby that you really love

To fully get away from work, it is not enough to just turn off the phone. You need to find an activity that you enjoy so much that you become refreshed when you do it.

For me, mowing my lawn was always a great escape. (That may sound odd to some, but it is true.) Yard work for me has always been a way to get exercise while doing something that has an immediate payback.

It does not even need to be a physical release for you to benefit. Some people like to paint, or write, or sing. The idea is to have a few personal passions that you can indulge in to provide a balance from the constant grind of the job.

4. Make work into play

The old adage says, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I can mostly subscribe to that logic, although even if you love your work it can become a bit too much at times.

The basic idea is to find work that is intrinsically fun for you as well as challenging.

I know a CEO who calls this aspect her, “pants on fire – can’t wait to get to work” attitude. She works very long hours but has a ball doing it on most days. In fact, she has made “fun” one of the core values of her company. There is nothing wrong with that, because her company is incredibly successful.

Remember to Keep Yourself in Control

The bottom line of this article is that you need to be responsible for the balance in your own life. Don’t complain and grumble about the constant pressures of work crowding out the value from your life. Do something about it!

The world (and your boss) will gladly accept all of the “nose to the grindstone” work you are willing to put in. Just make sure you don’t grind your nose totally off!

Use the tips above to balance your life, and you will have many more fond memories when you are older. As a side benefit, you will likely live longer.

Recognize also that there are phases in life, and seek to manage your life for a good balance in each phase. You will likely ratchet up the percentage of time volunteering after you retire, for example, and that may present another challenge to get the right balance for your life.

In each phase of your life you need to test frequently if your various activities are in a healthy equilibrium.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


I AM RIGHT Button

November 6, 2016

I have developed a tool to help people build more trust with others. It consists of a 3” button with the words ‘I AM RIGHT’ on it.

When you first see the button, it looks like it is an invitation to quarrel more with other people. Once you understand the logic behind it, the button is a powerful way to reduce conflict, and it helps leaders create an environment where trust will grow faster.

This article describes the background of the button, how I use it, and how people react to it in my work when I give out a button to all the participants.

The first time I ever saw the ‘I AM RIGHT’ button, it was worn by a fraternity brother of mine who defiantly wanted to remind the rest of the world that his perspective was always the correct one. It was a comical reminder not to cross swords with him.

I forgot about the button for decades, then it struck me that if it was used properly, it could actually change the dynamic in many conflict situations and lead to higher rather than lower trust.

You own your parochial viewpoint and believe that your way of looking at things is right. If another person does not agree with your perspective, that person must be wrong simply because you are convinced that you are right.

This logic is pervasive for leaders, which is why trust is so low in many organizations.

Leaders make decisions, take actions, and make statements all the time. They speak and act based on their own opinions. If an employee expresses an alternate viewpoint, it is human nature to push back, especially since the leader has an implied power advantage over the employee.

So, in most situations when employees make assertions that are not congruent with the way the boss thinks, then they end up feeling put down or punished in some way.

This is where I use the power of the button to change the conversation. Most of the time I am working with leaders, or those people who aspire to become leaders. In describing the ‘I AM RIGHT’ theory, I actually put on the button so everyone in the seminar will know that is my perspective.

Then, I hand out the same button to every person in the room, (I purchase them by the hundreds). Now the dynamic is a bit different. When someone in the room has a divergent opinion from mine, I can clearly see that the person is also wearing the button. I can no longer easily ignore or belittle the other person’s opinion because he or she believes it is right.

It is common for individuals in my seminars to say, “Can I get two buttons? My wife will want one, and I need one for myself!” It is all very comical, and people love them, but beneath the fun there is a fundamental shift in thinking that is vital for leaders, and really all people, to learn.

ACTION

Look for the invisible button that every single person wears every day. Once you get the hang of it, you will see the button everywhere, and it shifts the conversation.

When people indicate a disagreement with something you have said or done, your first reaction will not be to show them the error of their ways.

You can say something much softer like this, “That is interesting to hear your point of view. I want to know more about your opinion because with the same set of information and circumstances, I came up with a different view. Tell me more, please.” Now you are in a position to make the person glad they brought up their opposing view.

This method does not rely on both parties eventually agreeing on each point. Clearly you can agree to disagree and move on, but you come across as a leader who is willing to consider the opinions of others rather than become adamant or defensive, as many leaders do.

That small change in dynamic can make a world of difference in the way people react to you as a leader.

The same benefit works well with peers, or really any other person who expresses a divergent view from your own.

Try to spot the invisible ‘I AM RIGHT’ button on people, and you will find less conflict in your life. If you are a leader, your ability to listen and empower will be significantly enhanced, because people reporting to you will not feel punished for speaking their truth.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Relationship Between Learning and Trust

September 14, 2013

PomeranianOne of my leadership students asked me a good question. She wanted to know the relationship between trust and learning. On the surface, the two words seem to have a tenuous relationship at best. However, after thinking about it, the question became much more interesting to me.

The analysis can go in many directions. In this brief article, I will describe three different perspectives and offer a few typical examples to illustrate them. The perspectives include:

1. Why learning from someone you trust is easier than from someone you do not trust.
2. What types of things you are likely to learn from someone you do not trust.
3. Why your retention of the learned material is much better if you have a trusting relationship with the teacher.

As a CPLP (Certified Professional in Learning and Performance) with the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), I do not recall any instruction in my certification training on the link between learning and trust, so I did some research of my own. If you Google the two words, you will find numerous pages on how we learn to trust, but not much information on how trust enables learning. It seems pretty obvious, but actually it is a little more tricky than it first appears.

For the first perspective, I should make a clear distinction that I am not stipulating whether you like the trainer or not, only whether you trust the person. For example, take the case of a drill sergeant who is abusive and likes to push people’s buttons. You may really hate this person, yet you trust him because he has the demonstrated knowledge based on his experience, and though abrasive, he does exhibit high integrity and equality for all. In this case you would probably learn well from the drill sergeant even though you cannot stand him. If you later get another trainer that you like as well as trust, the learning would come even easier.

The second perspective is a tricky one. Is it possible to learn something from someone you do not trust? Of course it is. For one thing you can learn how to avoid doing things that lower trust. By watching the mistakes of someone you do not trust, you can learn all kinds of lessons you can use to improve your life and your effectiveness. In this case, you are learning what not to do.

For example, I once worked for a duplicitous boss. He would tell people what he thought they wanted to hear, and shade the truth in order to make his life easier. I know this because I witnessed him telling two different versions of the same story to two different people on the same day. Word got around that this leader could not be trusted to tell the truth when confronted by a difficult situation. This leader obtained marginal compliance from people but not true loyalty. The concept I learned from that experience that it is important to have only one version of an event, whether it is popular or not.

Actually, it is fairly common for leaders to hide the real truth when faced with a difficult situation. Richard Edelman, in his 2013 Trust Barometer, determined that only about 20% of informed publics worldwide believe their leader will tell the truth when faced with a difficult question. The number in the USA is even lower than that (about 15%). Richard called this statistic a “crisis in leadership.”

For the third case, if you wish to learn a positive lesson or new skill, it is a big advantage if you trust the teacher. Reason: someone you trust has your best interest at heart and will stick with the teaching process until the full information has been transferred. Your faith in the instructor is what allows you to process the learning without hesitation, so the knowledge transfer and retention is much more efficient.

You do not need to worry about ulterior motives with someone you trust. You are not playing games, so that puts you in a much more receptive frame of mind, which also aids the learning process.

My conclusion is that most of the time it is easier to learn something from a person you trust, but you can learn something to avoid doing from a person whom you do not trust. It is easy to extrapolate that you can either learn to trust another individual or learn to not trust that person based on his or her demonstrated behaviors.


Hold Up a Quarter

April 23, 2011

This article is about perspective. No two people will see a phenomenon the same way. As our fingerprints are all unique, so is our perception of what is going on around us. A simple way to demonstrate this is for me to hold a quarter out in front of me while I am facing you. I will describe a round metal object with an embossed head on it with the word “Liberty” around the circumference. You will describe a round metal object with an embossed picture of an eagle sitting on a branch or some state-specific rendering. We are both describing the exact same object, yet we see it differently.

The same phenomenon happens when two people see any kind of situation at work or at home. They see the same thing, but it has a different appearance depending on their personal vantage point. This means they will draw different conclusions about what just happened and the significance of it. Taking the next step requires each individual to react to the stimulus in an appropriate way. Each person is free to react however he or she feels is appropriate for the situation. Even if both people perceived exactly the same thing, what would seem appropriate to one person might be the wrong thing to do for the other. All this discrepancy leads to squabbles about actions taken.

For example, let’s suppose a manager is discussing an employee with a severe attendance problem with her supervisor. The manager and supervisor may have different opinions about the problem itself. Perhaps the supervisor knows the lady has a child who has special needs, and this calls for more trips to the child’s doctor than would be normal. The supervisor wants to be lenient based on this knowledge. From the manager’s perception, this employee needs to be treated with the same set of rules as everyone else or it will be hard to maintain discipline. The manager sees an untenable situation that needs progressive counseling, while the supervisor sees the need for flexibility.

Differences of opinion about what is happening and what should be done in response to it create a great deal of conflict in any work place. Since what I see is obvious to me and the resulting call for action is a logical consequence of that perception, I will be pretty sure my way is right. The trouble is that another person will be just as sure his perception and remedy are right. If I know that I am right, and you see things differently, then by definition, you must be wrong. In most instances my reaction to this dichotomy is to try to educate you on why your perception is incorrect. You, of course, will try to get me to realize the error of my thinking. We are off to the races in conflict.

This genesis of conflict is going on in small and large ways within each and every day. Is it any wonder there is so much acrimony in the workplace and at home? This problem is ubiquitous. What are some antidotes so we can reduce the conflicts between people?

Seek to understand assumptions – In coming up with different perceptions of what has just occurred, the root cause is often based on differing assumptions. I might assume the bulb is burned out while you may be convinced the wall switch is off. A third person may think we are experiencing a power failure. We all observe a dark room, but we ascribe the cause to different assumptions. Each of us will come up with a course of action different from the others based on our assumptions.

Try reversing the roles – If you and I are at loggerheads over an issue, it is often helpful to call a temporary truce and ask you to verbalize my argument while I attempt to articulate yours. This process can create a kind of empathy that is helpful at seeing the other perspective or it can uncover flaws in the logic of either party. This method can backfire, though. I was once in disagreement with an individual and suggested a reverse role play. He said, “Fine, you start by stating my position.” I did my best to lay out his thesis. He looked at me and said, “You know, Bob, you’re right.”

Use Reflective Listening – Often perceptual arguments involve two people talking at each other, but neither party doing much effective listening. Reason: when each party is pretending to listen, he or she is actually spending nearly all mental energy preparing to speak. Reflective listening forces each individual to pay full attention to what the other person is actually saying. Once reflective listening is employed, it is not uncommon to have two people who were feuding suddenly realize they have been in violent agreement. They were expressing their opinions in words that sounded opposed but were really congruent.

Watch the language – Rather than say, “You are clueless, can’t you see that he has no intention of picking up the mess,” try, “I am seeing his actions somewhat differently than you do. Can you tell me why you’re assuming he will not pick up the mess?” Asking questions rather than making statements is a technique that can reduce the inflammation in perceptual disagreements. Aggression can make it difficult for a person to hear, let alone understand. As David Halberstam wrote, “…excessive amounts of testosterone leads to a loss of hearing.”

Agree to Disagree – Acrimony can easily be thwarted by simply agreeing to disagree. After arguing about an issue for a while, either party can say something like, “This issue is not worth arguing over, I am not going to convince you, and you are not going to convince me. Let’s not get hung up on it. Just because we see this issue differently is no reason we cannot respect each other and work well together.”

Do not blow things out of proportion – Much of the acrimony in personal disagreements can be avoided if people remember the petty squabbles from day to day mean very little in the long run. If an issue that seems worth fighting over today will be totally forgotten in a week, it is a good idea to relax and just let the other person win rather than duke it out for several days. Pick battles worth fighting and ignore the insignificant give and take issues.

Get a good mediator – Often a third person can step in and clarify the different opinions and help people sort out their differences quickly. Reason: The participants get emotionally involved in the fight and lose objectivity. A cool head that is respected by both parties can make some reasonable suggestions that at least soften the struggle.

Give in – Just letting the other person win is often a great strategy. Some people find this hard to do for reasons of pride or ego. Who cares who is right or wrong? In fact, in most arguments both people are a little bit right and a little bit wrong. The true winner of an argument is usually the one who quits the fight first.

Humans have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. This tendency is amplified by close proximity. It is the reason why you can appreciate and love members of your family until they come to visit for a week. At a distance, it is easy to manage disagreements most of the time, but when people are underfoot every day, the little things tend to become so irritating, the conflict begins to snowball.

I am reminded of the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond,” where the characters do nothing but fight through the whole show. I rarely watch that sitcom because I find it exhausting. As one person adroitly observed, “I don’t watch TV to get an ear full of fighting, pettiness, cruelty, lack of respect, and sarcasm. I can get all that at home.” Since we all see things through a slightly different lens, and we process assumptions about what is happening through our parochial brain, we are going to have conflict. Expect it and take some of the evasive steps above to keep the volume down on interpersonal differences. Life is too short to be habitually annoyed by fellow workers or family members.