Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Ray Rice: Defective NFL Product?

Janay Palmer & Ray Rice

Now wife, Janay Palmer and Raven’s suspended footlball player, Ray Rice

I’m on my home from the latest workshop by my coach Steve Harrison. Had a chance to meet Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Wow, what an amazing experience.

It was an interesting experience learning how better to serve people through writing and coaching against the backdrop of the Ray Rice story. My understanding is that abusive people were themselves abused. It is my hope that this incident can help Mr. Rice break the cycle of abuse, both for himself and for others.

I watched the video. It was very disturbing. If you haven’t seen it, I think you should watch it Ray Rice Knocked Out Fiancee – FULL VIDEO. It will change your understanding of domestic violence forever. It won’t be theoretical, and it won’t be Hollywood. It is brutal. Watching the video could help you change someone’s life some day. You might hear a whisper, or notice something in someone you know, and instead of brushing it off, you’ll remember that image of Jinay getting knocked unconscious.

As for why the NFL and the Ravens gave Rice a slap on the wrist before the video came to light? I am befuddled by the handwringing. The NFL is a business. Ray Rice is the product. The domestic violence wasn’t seen as a human issue, it was a business issue.  Rice was a product with some characteristics that would make some customers mad.

I’ve been in those discussions. The product isn’t working quite right. Should we ship?

“No product is ever done.”

“There is a work around.”

“We need the revenue now, and will pick up the pieces later.”

Right or wrong does not come into play when it comes to these product shipment decisions. They are business decisions. In the case of the NFL, the products are people. We need to remember to put people first, always.

As I write this post on the plane, I watched an inspirational speech from James Brown, football host on CBS. Brown explained that domestic violence is not a football issue, and is not a woman’s issue. He pointed out that 3 women die every day from domestic violence, and called on men to step up and take responsibility. “You need to either get help [for yourself] or give help [to end domestic violence.]

Bravo James Brown. Real men do not hurt women, and we’ll take your challenge to become part of the solution.

How To Avoid Burnout in 2014

businessman bending spoon by mind force

If you are fortunate enough to work in a healthy and collaborative environment, there still may be an imperative to work more hours.

In fact, when things are going well, and everyone is having a great time, there is a powerful wave of positive reinforcement for putting in more hours. The trill of accomplishment and the halo of success are the sugar buzz of the corporate world. While it lasts, nothing feels better. But what are you giving up outside of work to keep it going? Balance requires that we learn to say no, even if it feels good to say yes to more work.

If you work in a more typical environment, or one that shades towards the toxic and chaotic, you are at the mercy of changing deadlines and priorities that can be hard to resist. As much as we’d like to get away from the day-to-day firefighting, the inferno seems to be constantly raging around us. The key once again is learning to say no, in this case combined with a recognition that it is ok to let the fires burn.

In the 1970 movie Beneath Planet of the Apes, mutant humans have mental powers, and at one point project the illusion of fire to prevent the ape army from invading their territory. But one ape, the nefarious Dr. Zaius sees through the illusion, overcomes his fear, and rides right through the flames, at which point they disappear.

In a similar way, the intensity of the fires at work are an illusion, in that they project a fear that catastrophe awaits if we do not attend them. And how do we overcome an illusion? It takes a clear head, and the willingness to take a leap of faith. Give it a try – let a small one burn. Don’t check email one evening, and see what happens. If you keep trying to fight every fire, you’ll be the one who burns. And that is the truth.

Change Management and the Golden Calf

Dans_om_het_gouden_kalf_Fri_Heil_Koningsplein_Arnhem

By Brbbl (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Golden Calf is a story about the peril of a leader pushing change too quickly.  As you may recall from the book of Exodus (or from the movie The Ten Commandments), Moses leads the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt in dramatic fashion.  God has brought Ten Plagues on Egypt, and parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape from the pursuing army of Egypt. Yet, the people quickly lost faith when Moses was away for too long.

When Moses was absent from the Israelites for 40 days and 40 nights, the people grew afraid and asked his brother Aaron to construct a Golden Calf to give them an object of worship.  This is one of the most infamous cases of fair weather friendship in the history of the world.  After all, the power of God was just demonstrated through dramatic miracles that delivered a people from 400 years of slavery.  But these miracles, which everyone must of seen with their own eyes, were insufficient to overcome the strong cultural bias towards idol worship.

If we set aside the questions of divinity, this story says something powerful about culture: an entrenched culture cannot change overnight, even if an overwhelming set of evidence is presented that is should. During their time in Egypt, the Israelites had fallen into idol worship. And after hundreds of years statue worship, it was too big a jump to start worshipping an abstract God that no one could see.

The solution in the Bible is to create a Tabernacle  an intermediary structure that was kind of like the Egyptian temples, yet worshipped God. This same principle applies today.

If you are trying to change the culture of a company, or to change yourself, a dramatic change is exceedingly difficult to pull off. It is better to create an intermediary goal, something similar to what you are doing today, but a significant distance towards what you are trying to achieve.

And if you are hoping the culture of your company will change, even a great leader like Moses may not be able to pull it off.

Don’t Let Perception Overshadow Your Productivity

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 12

My last company had a thing about slackers.  In a performance review, I was told that my career could be slowed because I was perceived as a 9 to 5er.  Five minutes earlier, my manager told me that I got more done than anyone he had ever met.

This was a cultural issue – there was a regular review process that evaluated people in two dimensions – the quality of work and suitability for promotion.  In practice, the second dimension was a proxy for who showed up the most. Yes, I left at 5:30, but why did that matter when I was getting so much done?

In hindsight, I made too big a deal out of my life outside of work.  For example, I always told my manager whatever kid activity I had done the previous weekend, and let him know that I would be leaving work early once a week to coach soccer at 3:30.  He told me that I had trained him not to expect an answer to his Saturday emails until Monday morning; he admitted that he was surprised that he was ok with that.  Yet in spite of my productivity, the company had me in the “not committed” column.

My only regret is what I said, not what I did. My highest priority was time outside of work, and I had as much as I needed.  But, I should have talked less about the kids and more about what interested my manager – how hard I was working to make the numbers.

As we saw in the last post about ROWE, revenue at Suntell went up 185% in the two years after employees were given the freedom to decide when to come to the office.  And while my company was very unROWE, the flexibility that I took for myself helped make me the most productive person there.

In the next post, I’ll tell you how to do it.

<<Previous  Next>>

You might also like Why Work More Than 50 Hours Per Week?

Should Success Be Based On Results or Politics?

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 11

It really isn’t the same everywhere.
For example, some company cultures tend to drive people towards unethical decisions[i] (More here).  In an analogous way, some company cultures drive people more towards corporate idolatry. Employees are expected to “do what it takes” to meet deadlines, and to sacrifice their personal time if the boss asks. I believe that a company with a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) has a lower risk for corporate idolatry.

The philosophy behind ROWE is simple. Employees are responsible for results. How they get there is up to them, completely.  Employees are given the freedom to decide when to come into the office, and how best to meet their objectives.  Daniel Pink argues that ROWE is effective because it provides employees autonomy, i.e. control over their environment, which is intrinsically motivating.[ii] This testimonial from an employee at the GAP, a ROWE company, seems to support that notion.

ROWE has been such a huge support and peace of mind. It allows me to not feel guilty when I need to take care of personal issues. I always meet my deadlines and find alternate time to complete my work.”[iii]

ROWE was developed by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson when they were in the HR department at Best Buy.  Now, they are consultants and speakers, helping to bring change to hundreds of companies.  I am skeptical about an individual’s ability to change a company culture.  But Ressler and Thompson present a way to make it possible, with a website filled with business cases and slide decks to help you justify a radical change to the way your company operates.

In one example, Suntell, a company that sells loan risk management software adopted a ROWE strategy.  They implemented a VOIP system that allows employees to work from anywhere, which saved the company 7% in phone expenses.  Many employees decided to work from home, which allowed the company to save 30% on rent by moving a smaller office .[iv]

ROWE is generally structured for departments or companies to adopt, but there are principles that can help individuals regain control of their time as well.

[i] Bad Apples, Bad Cases, and Bad Barrels: Meta-Analytic Evidence About Sources of Unethical Decisions at Work.  Kish-Gephart JJ, Harrison DA, Treviño LK. . J Appl Psychol. 2010 Jan;95(1):21

[ii] Drive by Daniel Pink.  Riverhead Book (2009) P 84-85.

[iii] Results Only Work Environment Case Study: GAP

[iv] Results Only Work Environment Case Study: Suntell