Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Google Lost Its CFO to Poor Work Life Balance

Back from a wonderful four day weekend in Hawaii, the annual maintenance trip my wife and I take to Kona to look after our condo. We hadn’t been in over a year, and wanted to see the new tile that replaced the awful carpet. The tile looked great, and other than some missing vertical blinds, the place was in really nice shape! We shopped for art, and did a few things here and there. Oh yah, we snorkeled a lot, including a romp with dolphins. What is interesting is that because we didn’t need to work much on the condo, we had an opportunity to work on our marriage.
We have a really good marriage, yet we have very little time to just be together and talk. We covered all kinds of ground, about things big and small. We discussed whether we wanted to sell the condo too, which was a foil to discuss what is really important to us. Do we want to recover the time it takes to manage the rentals every week, and save money, or would we prefer to have this special getaway? If we didn’t have the condo, I doubt we would have as many weekends away together.
Patrick Pichette Google CFO The topic is timely: This week Patrick Pachette, CFO of Google announced that he would be retiring to spend more time with his wife. He shared that after 25 years of non-stop work that took away from his family life, it was time to stop and really live. Pachette was candid that while he loved his job, it was being an Insecure Overachiever that drove him to work so much.
I so very much applaud his decision to step back and enjoy the time with his wife. (His kids have already left home.) But it didn’t need to be this way. He could have enjoyed his job and success for so many years without sacrificing so much on the home front. He felt that Google needed him to be on all the time. Yet now Google has lost a fantastic CFO. Maybe if he was off some of the time over the last 25 years, he would be spending another ten years as CFO. For a company like Google that doesn’t give short term guidance to Wall Street so they can plan on a long time horizon, it seems like they fell short when it came to their people.
I think Google lost its CFO to poor work life balance. What do you think?
If you’d like to learn more about insecure overachievers, here is a post I wrote a few years ago.

White Collar Workers More Dishonest On Survivor

Survivor Worlds ApartAre White Collar Workers Inherently Dishonest?

The new season of Survivor says Yes

This season a new gimmick – there are three tribes – white collar, blue collar, and no-collar. I’ve done all three, although mostly white and no-collar. I can relate to the business process types who make the rules, and the artsy types who break the rules. I was fascinated at how the tribes functioned differently. Right off the bat, 2 people from each tribe were given a choice between getting a big bag of food for the tribe, or a small bag of food and a personal advantage. Blue and no collar took the big bag, but the white collar took the small bag of food to get the personal advantage. In other words, the white collar workers were more dishonest.
It turned out to be a disaster to make the selfish decision. Everyone back at camp white collar knew they were lying, which hurt team unity going into the challenges against the other groups. One of the two ended up being the first person voted off, in large part because she was such an obvious lier.
Fascinating turn, to offer a choice like that to the contestants right away. The pairs from all three groups talked about it, but it wasn’t particularly close for the other two. We all have these choice points every day, where we can do what is best for ourselves or for the group. For example:
  • Do I let another driver merge ahead of me, or do I pull up so they can’t get in? Small personal advantage vs slightly better traffic flow for everyone else.
  • Do I smile at the person I’m walking past, or do I remain wrapped up in my own thoughts?
  • Do I take the time to write a Yelp review for the local business that gave exemplary service, to do I get on Facebook?
Few of these tests will have the type of dramatic consequences we saw on Survivor. However, they are part of our spiritual curriculum. There are always small consequences to our inner world, and if we don’t pass a test we will get it again and again until we pass it. I feel grateful that Mussar has taught me how to recognize these tests, and given me a means to get better spiritual grades.
Are you a Survivor fan? Let me know what you thought of this weeks episode.
PS – you can listen to an exit interview with So, voted off this week here.

Why Getting an Agent is Like Losing the Superbowl

164-pack13-021514-tmI now have an agent to represent my forthcoming book about Mussar, the 1000-year-old Jewish Spiritual practice of personal ethics. As I write, he is pitching it to publishers. Should I celebrate now?
On the one hand, it is an important milestone. I was unable to find an agent for my first book, and having an agent makes it possible that a traditional publisher will purchase the rights to the book. On the flip side, having an agent in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. What counts is having a publisher. So perhaps I should save the celebration until a publisher makes an offer. Then again, having a publisher is but a step in the book publishing process. Perhaps I should wait until the book is published? Or perhaps I should wait until the first sale, or appearing on the best seller lists, Fresh Air…
It is so easy to get caught up in what hasn’t happened yet. If only we have a promotion,  a managerial position, a raise, a new house… The list of things that we don’t have is infinite, and if we need something to happen in order to celebrate, we are missing out. As an alternative, we can cultivate Gratitude as a means to appreciate what we have right now. In that spirit, it is super cool to have an agent. I am grateful to have such a seasoned professional see something in my work. What happens next is out of my hands.
I fear that Seattle fans were celebrating a little too early in the Superbowl. Amazed that the vitriol that is going towards Pete Carol, the Seattle head coach for the last call. Second guessing is one thing, but calling for his job? Really? Even if he made the wrong call, do we really want to make it so that no one can make a mistake without getting fired? He has an amazing track record of success, and the fans would do well to cultivate Gratitude for making it to the Superbowl. The hard part is finding a way for being Grateful about losing in such a painful fashion. Maybe the loss has humanized Seattle fans, and prevented them from becoming arrogant jerks. I admit it – I don’t like Seattle. Now however, I can relate to the Seattle fan. I still feel the pain from the loss Syracuse basketball suffered at the hands of Keith Smart in the the 1987 basketball championship.
The Gratitude practice I suggest is hard, and we can’t start the day we suffer a loss. We need to start practicing Gratitude now. A gratitude journal is a great way to start. Every night, write down three things that you are grateful for. Be sure to include being grateful for the bad and the ordinary.  Then, when life takes a turn for the worse, we’ll have a healthy practice to help us get through.

Sales Training and Spiritual Transformation

On Wednesday night, I saw my Mussar* teacher, Alan Morinis, give a talk. He was amazing as always. He said something that really hit me – Learning is not transformational. Experience is transformational. His latest book explores the 48 ways of internalizing Jewish Values. What strikes me is that one way is book learning, and the other 47 are behaviors, like serving a master, carrying the burden of another, and Joy. Alan argues that we need to book learning to know what our predecessors discovered, but it not until we put it into practice that it really counts.
I am reminded of feedback I used to get after giving a sales training. I would share the benefits and features of the products, objection handling etc. Sales people would say that is ok, but it doesn’t really tell me how to act and what to say when I’m in front of the decision maker. Training needs to incorporate the real life, and should provide models on how to act.
By analogy, it doesn’t help to have the ten commandments memorized when we’ve made a terrible mistake. “How am I supposed to tell the truth when I’ve messed up so badly?” We need to know how to act! Mussar teaches us that often we are untruthful because of fear, and the antidote to fear if Faith. It can be Faith in something greater, or faith in ourselves that we will be able to handle and manage whatever situation comes up. Often, the fear magnified the mistake into something far bigger than it really is.
That act of coming clean, the experience of coming clean, is transformational. However it comes out, we will be changed. Similarly, a training that only gives book knowledge leaves the hard work, of making it happen, to the student.
What is the best training you have every experienced? Is it even fair to put a training in the same essay as spiritual transformation?

Report Says Women Should Speak Less to Get Ahead at Work

Marissa Meyer: Powerful Woman

Marissa Meyer: Powerful Woman via Flickr CC

Did you see the blockbuster article in the NY Times by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant discussing why women don’t speak out at work? Women who present ideas in meetings are often ignored, or are talked over by men, who run with their idea. When I told my daughter about the story she sat up straight and said “That happens to me!” She is 14, a freshman in high school.

In addition, they quote research from Dr. Victoria Briscol at Yale, which found that

“Male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings.”

While anecdotally I believe the talking over women story, I find the research shocking. Surely this is not happening on a conscious level. I went and read the original research paper, and there was an interesting nugget that did not make the times article: Women in positions of authority who spoke less were perceived as more powerful than women who spoke more, and men in positions of authority who spoke more were perceived as more powerful than men who spoke less. In fact, the women who spoke less has similar scores to the men who spoke more, and vice versa. They speculate that men and women may want to have different strategies for how they use their power at work. (See page 14.)

What does this mean for someone looking to find the proper Humility balance? As a reminder, Humility balance is defined as “Not more than my place, not less than my space.” When talking more is counter productive is is better to stay Silent? On the flip side, maybe remaining quiet is perpetuating an unjust social hierarchy, and it is better to trail-blaze, in the hopes that over time both men and women will become more comfortable with women asserting their power.

I don’t know the right answer, other than to reaffirm that this research shows that women are right to be concerned that speaking out can be held against them. Now that we know, we have an opportunity to check our reactions to people in power.

What do you think? Do you buy it?

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