a piece of metal in the shape of the number 7

7 Habits of a Positive Work Life Balance (Part 1)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People had such a great impact on me and the Franklin-Covey training I received years ago shaped me as a leader and a person.  In honor of Covey,  the next few blogs will show how his 7 Habits can be used as a cornerstone for positive work-life balance.  This week deals with the first 3 Habits or the Habits that deal with going from Dependence to Independence.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Aint this the truth.  Work-life policies and opportunities often do not fall into place.  We have to work at them.  Proactivity in this area means educating, advocating, and negotiating your way to a better work-life situation.  Proactivity carries the mindset of “I impact the world” vs “the world impact me.”  Being proactive means looking for alternatives and positive outcomes and by doing so we grow our circle of influence.  Remember, most family-friendly and positive work-life policies come from employees taking the initiative to ask and create these opportunities.  They also come from managers who go to bat for their staff because they want to keep them on as happy and effective members of their team.  In either case, the improved situation did not magically appear; someone made it happen.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind.  Simply put, what’s your end game?  What is it you want to achieve on your work-life balance journey?     Are you interested in a compressed workweek as a short term or long term goal?  Is telecommuting something you want to do for a year or two so you can spend time with your young children or do you want it to be the standard norm?  When you know what you want, you will be in a better position to clearly communicate that supervisors, policymakers, and coworkers.  This will lead to less conflict or at the very least, misunderstandings about expectations.

Habit 3: Put first things first.  Amen!  Not all jobs are created equal in terms of work-life balance so you have to sit down and prioritize what is most important to you.  Are you a work-centered person?  A family-centered person?  Are you trying to be balanced between the two domains?  Add to the mix your hobbies, side jobs, ambitions, etc and things can get sticky in a hurry unless you rank and prioritize what is most important to you.  Doing this not only gives you a better sense of who you are (and who you want to be) but allows you to put forth a constant effort towards achieving those goals.  This habit also focuses on committing your time to activities that progress you goals.  Spending your time on tasks that are not urgent and not important becomes an illogical choice, especially when compared to working on tasks that are not urgent but extremely important (this is where the good long term planning is done).

Final Thought….

What is awesome about the first three Habits is their ability to help us define what we want and lay a foundation to go out and get those things.  Mastery of these steps takes us from dependence on a system, a boss, or life circumstances and moves us towards independence.  Independence gives us much more control over our lives and our situations and in the case of this blog, work-life balance.  As a leader moving from dependence towards independence means you are someone who makes things happen and does not use company policy or culture as the framework for all decisions.  Authentic leadership makes you a rockstar!   As great as independence is the next three steps move us even further along towards interdependence.  We” touch on that next week.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker who specializes in Labor and Industrial Relations.  He is also a keynote speaker and facilitator.  Please visit http://www.paulartale.com for more information.

a piece of metal in the shape of the number 7

7 Habits of a Positive Work Life Balance (Part 2)

The first 3 habits discussed steps we need to take to be independent; in other words, personal (private) mastery.  The next 3 Habits add the team (Public) dynamic into the equation.  Positive work-life policies and practices are largely dependent on the ability of different parties to communicate and cooperate effectively.  Let’s dive into it.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win.   Many of my blogs on this topic mention negotiation and discussions with other coworkers in some form.  The research shows that many organizations are not open to the work-life policies even when they offer them!  The bottom line is that when we are discussing different work arrangements, setting boundaries, or justifying actions to our family or boss, we have to do so from a point of view where all sides benefit.  Positive work-life policies help every body involved.  Let’s dissect this briefly:

Management/“The Company”: Positive practices and policies (say that fast 3 times) have been shown to strengthen output and more importantly decrease employee stress and health problems.  Not only is this more humane, but the company benefits by having less health claims which in turn contributes to keeping insurance premiums low.  Plus, work-life policies have been shown to increase employee loyalty and decrease intent-to-leave and we all know how costly rehiring is!

The Employee: This one is pretty obvious but employees benefit by having a senses of control and enjoyment over the various domains in their lives.  This increases their satisfaction, performance, and quality of overall life.

The Family: Those not directly involved in the business relationship also benefits as rates of work-to-family and family-to-work spillover tend to decrease.  Spending more time with loved ones is what life is really about (sorry if I am getting sappy here).   Having to listen to a family member groan or vent their angry on a constant basis because of work is just not pleasant.

Enacting positive work-life policies means thatthe company gets the same (or improved) output, increased loyalty, and fewer health costs while the employees are happier due to less conflict in their lives which is greatly appreciated by the family.  This appreciation increases employee satisfaction, decreases family-to-work conflict and benefits the company.  Now that’s WIN-WIN!

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  With all my pleas for self-advocacy this habit may seem counter-intuitive at first.  Before we can start asking for changes or accommodations we need to understand where the other side is coming from.  For employees there may be reasons as to why you may get that call or home or have to pull in extra hours beyond your boss being a controlling jerk.    There may be legal reasons or company policies that prohibit certain work arrangements as well for whatever reason.  Employers should listen to why their staff want changes in their current situation.  At its most base level, an employee coming to a supervisor asking for a change in the routine/practice/policy is a sign of some form of discontentment and should be listened to.  That discord could be as simple as a misunderstanding about job functions/expectations and as serious major problems at home or within the office.  In any case, understand the entire situation before conclusions or arguments are made.

Habit 6: Synergize.  Synergy says 1+1=5.  When people are working together, listening to each other, and looking out for everybody’s best interests then a powerful and addictive positive synergy is created.  What I love about synergy as a work-life concept is that it embraces multiple alternatives and truly is focused on the end goal (see Habit 2).  That’s what success and leadership is about.  Finding what works in any situation is at the heart of effective work-life balance implementation as well.

Final Thought…

As we move from independence to INTER-dependence we see a shift from me to we.  When work-life balance becomes a team effort then we come up with the most effective and fair ways for all parties to be successful.  Moving towards interdependence also means we are focused on long term success rather than trying to put out short-term, immediate fires.  Next week….the 7th Habit and the one that is all encompassing of work-life balance: Sharpening the Saw.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker who specializes in Labor and Industrial Relations.  He is also a keynote speaker and facilitator.  Please visit http://www.paulartale.com for more information. Posted

the words success go get it

Motivating Employees for Success

here is no better feeling in the world than achieving a goal.   Imagine this: you plan something, put in the hard work, and at the end of the journey you achieve success.  Sweet, isn’t it?  Of course things do not always go so smoothly but when they do…BOOYA!  You feel like you a rockstar.

Success is a whole other beast, however, when we are managing others.  Sure we can still apply that same 3 step formula described above but the addition of another element (a human element) means that we are responsible for managing more than just our own attitudes, actions, and emotions.

There are several managerial styles and perspectives but quite often, it feels like there are two dominant philosophies: cut them down or build them up.   Quickly, the cut them down philosophy says “let’s throw “Sandy” into the fire and see how she does.  If Sandy is strong and capable the she will prove herself worthy of my praise, promotion, and better compensation.”  Going through misery will make them stronger and thus a better employee in the long-run.  There are times when this perspective is unavoidable but generally I do not subscribe to it and this is about all I have to say on this perspective.

The “build them up” philosophy focuses on developing the employee and putting them in positions to win.  It focuses on building upon strengths, improving weaknesses, and developing a win-win strategy.  When I coached football I did not always have the biggest, fastest, or most talented players.  My challenge as a coach was always to maximize and improve the talent I had.  I could have easily said “my nosetackle is only 5 foot 1, if he’s any good he’ll find a way to make plays”  but that would have been counterproductive.  Instead I worked on strategies and drills to utilize his talents (low center of gravity, aggression, and feet that kept on moving) to turn him into an All-Star player.

Beyond organizational success we need to remember that as managers we hold the keys to much of our employees happiness (read my previous BLOG for more on this topic).  Have you ever come home from a rough day at work or negative encounter with a supervisor and had those events ruin your personal/family time?  Of course you have, we all have.  It’s called work-family conflict and managers are often a key component of that.  Although managers can’t control everything (employees  think we do!) one thing that we can control is whether we have done all we can to make someone successful.  Here are some managerial considerations when trying to lead your employee and team to glory:

Dumping vs Delegating: When delegating tasks to others are you just taking work off one plate and plopping it onto another?  Are you assigning tasks without thinking about employee strengths, mindset, or current projects?  Do employees have input into what new duties come their way or do you just hand out extra tasks because you are the boss and you know best?

Skills training: There are times when that unsexy task needs to be given to someone because of circumstances outside of your control.  In other cases, employees will be asked to perform tasks that are new and possibly strange to them.  As a manager are you giving them the skills training and tools they need to be successful in these new roles?  Although there may not be time for a lengthy training or skills session, some effort towards ensuring that the employee has the right tools to succeed must be ensured.  Sometimes this skills training can be as simple as a discussion about time management or how previous priorities and deadlines may shift with this added workload.

Context matters.  What is the current company climate?  If you’re working with “Bob” then what prior experiences and backgrounds shape Bob’s thinking and actions?  What have Bob’s performance and interactions been like in the past week, month, or quarter?   I am not suggesting
having weekly counseling sessions with workers but having a basic understanding of organizational and personal contexts can assist managers in understanding behaviors and performance.  Bob will likely act and operate very differently if he came from a regimented and highly regulated company before working for you as opposed to a creative “come when you want, just get the job done” environment.  Factors such as layoffs, departmental shuffling, or that fabulous staff retreat may also impact how Bob acts.  No matter what the specific details are, context cannot be ignored.  Plugging into personal and professional context will also fill a lot of gaps regarding your staff on several levels.

Different workers have different styles.  This is where you get to apply all of those fun and fancy personality tests that inevitably become part of staff development sessions.  All organizations have their fair share of introverts and extroverts; of highly organized individuals and free spirits.  No one style or personality type is better than the other and a balanced staff is needed for optimal performance.  Working with an employee’s style quickens goal achievement and will have a positive impact on morale.  It also opens the doorway of communication and makes it easier to foster employee growth in areas of weakness.  Just demanding that a quieter, more introverted worker be more outgoing and social is not as effective (it’s actually quite stupid) as discussing ways that the employee could take baby steps towards involvement in the company community as a whole.   Scientifically speaking, job demands that are starkly different to ones personality type will freak an employee out.  Why cause that undue stress?  Managers should also consider aligning tasks that play towards worker strengths and comfort whenever possible.  Remember: there is a fine line between pushing the comfort zone in the name of development and eroding an employees sense of self and worth.

Just because you went through it…: One of my mentors when coaching football was brought up “old school.”   As a poor grad assistant he slept many nights in the film office, as an assistant coach he was brought up under tough men who would rip into their staff in front of players and the public.  He prided himself on this experience (and rightfully so) but his old school approach was not always relevant to new age staff.  As an aside, I liked the old school approach but I saw how other staff members hated it.  We are often proud of what we have accomplished and gone through.  That being said, trying to simulate your experience for other employees is usually not very effective.  As a manager you are likely in a different time, a different context (see how that works?), and too many variables are different.  Be proud of the path you took but do not let that path cloud your judgment.  Even when situations are eerily similar to your past do not assume that your employees will or should react in the same manner you did.   Let go of the past and work towards finding methods that fit your current situation.

Final thought….

Being a leader is more than just giving rah-rah speeches and powering through.  Like a good quarterback, you have to have a good feel for the team and what their limits are.  Push them too hard and you lose their trust.  Don’t push them and you will get dismal results.  Finding that balance can be difficult but as managers we have to have an open mind.  We have to think of employee success as a vehicle to our own personal and organizational goals.  Covey’s Habit “Think Win-Win” is the ultimate metaphor for this week’s message.   All parties should come out of a situation energized and proud of their success.  The bulldozer mentality can only get you so far.  Likewise, relying on your favorites or workhorses really does little to improve team strength.  Anybody can manage a team of all-stars- there is no skill in it.  More importantly, working with employees to improve their skills and abilities will make them feel valued and energize them to come to work.  They will also feel content when they clock out at the end of the day paving the way for them to spend their family time in a positive and life-giving way.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 
For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #motivation

people working together by a sunset

The Pros/Cons of Community Involvement and Work-Life Balance.

The last few weeks have been pretty theoretical and a lot of focus has been on work in some form.  This week I want to focus on the balance part of work-life balance.  Specifically let’s talk about the part of the equation that deals with giving one more purpose, relieves stress, and adds another dimension beyond both work and family.  Let’s talk about community involvement.

As a bit of a disclaimer, there are many activities one can do outside of work to restore balance to the force such as exercise, cooking for fun, and gardening.  Community involvement is an interesting aspect however as it has the power to enrich or deplete one’s sense of happiness in life.  Let’s get started with the pros.Pros:Being committed to something outside of work can be a great experience and here are some reasons why you should consider it:

1) It gets your mind off of work:  If you’re like me then you probably have trouble shutting off your “work brain.”  Involvement in community groups of any kind allows you to forget about the daily grind and actually enjoy life a little more.

2) Form friendships and contacts.  As Spock would say, “it is logical” that when you are around people with similar interests you are bound to make a few friends.   Work friends are great, but sometimes its nice to interact with others who share common interests and passions.

3) Stress relief.  Involvement in other groups can typically reduce your stress.  Since you want to be in that environment you will naturally become more relaxed and open to having fun.  If all goes right, you will become excited about attending meetings, events, and functions.

4) Giving back!  Do I really need to explain this one?Cons:As great as  involvement is, there are a few drawbacks.  Beware if:

1)  Involvement drains too much time!   Having a hobby or group you connect with is great but make sure it does not take significant time away from your work or your family.  This can be very challenging for eager beavers and workaholics alike.  Have fun but know your limits.

2) Involvement turns into more work!  Giving back to the community should not feel like another job.  This should not be confused with doing any work since that is often part of the process.   If filling out paperwork, meeting deadlines, recruitment, meeting organizational performance standards, and committee meetings no longer energize you then consider scaling back your commitment.  This should be a life giving endeavor!

3) Involvement turns into more involvement.  This is not necessarily a bad thing but being involved in one group can lead to involvement in other groups or different branches/chapters/clubs of the same organization.  By all means maximize your experience as long as you don’t fall into the traps sprung during points 1 and 2 in this section.

Final Thought
….

As a Higher Education professional I have many conversations with students who are over-involved with clubs, associations, and other groups on campus.   “You don’t have to be a part of 15 things….try being a major force in 2 or 3.”  Hopefully that sticks with them past their college days.I am great supporter of community involvement as it has helped me overcome some tough times in professional and personal life.  That being said, we must make sure that involvement doesn’t take away from professional and family growth.  The good news is in most cases community involvement enhances both of those aspects; as long as we know our limits and stay true to our priorities.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #virtualwork

a paper with the word time burning

What’s the Deal with Comp Time?

ave you ever had that crazy workweek where your contracted 40 hours turns into 60?  Have you ever been comforted by the fact that the extra time you put in can be banked as comp time/bonus time somewhere in the near future?   Weeks later you find a great deal on a 4 day weekend getaway to Vegas and you decide “I am going to cash in my comp time and take a long weekend” only to have your boss or an HR manager tell you that you can’t do that.   They utter the words that I so often hate to hear “Comp time does not officially exist at our company.”

*cough* bullcrap *cough*

I think the idea of comp time has its origins in an innocent and simple truth: people were willing to trade hours that were supposed to be worked at a later date in order to complete a task that requires an immediate effort.  It’s a fair trade off.  Most businesses have a slow time and trying to fit everything into the 9 to 5 bubble doesn’t always work.  Fair enough.

So why then can comp time be such a difficult thing to peg down?  Does being a salaried employee automatically mean we should accept working longer hours with no reward except for  a company tshirt or smoked meat at the holidays?

I don’t think so.

If the same person was an hourly employee they would be paid for those extra hours.  Comp time is not illegal is it?   No, it isn’t.  According to the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) time off can be substituted for extra pay when an employee exceeds working the standard eight hour day.  The parameters of this policy are subject to state and/or county law, institutional policy and contracts with unions or other labor groups.

Companies: what’s the big deal about making it official policy?   I know why an organization may keep the rules grey but that does not mean that I agree.  We know that stress and overwork (a topic of future blogs) leads to poor employee health and higher turnover.  If companies don’t want to run their employees into the ground (and according to most official policies…that is not an objective) then I would like them to ponder these points of consideration:

1) If comp time is arranged between a manager and employee then keep it that way.  Whether it is official policy or not I am always frustrated to hear about a comp time arrangement being interfered with by a superior.  For tho who manage managers, trust that those directors/deans/vice-president’s etc will make the right decisions regarding their staffs.  They do know them better than anyone else in the company.

2) Have a policy.  I know that the “P” word can be a dirty word to some but some policy is better than no policy.  Although I don’t personally like the “no comp time, some weeks you work more, live with it” mentality at least I can respect the honesty.  Keeping things grey is shady in my opinion….and we all know how many shades of grey there are.

3) Give employees choice.  I love it when comp time is an open policy in a company.  That being said, I am not a fan of the “hey you worked hard this week, take Friday off if you want comp time” approach.  Don’t get me wrong, some comp time is better than no comp time but I recommend giving employees the ability to choose when they can use those hours.  Maybe this Friday or a two-week window doesn’t work.   As long as it does not conflict with essential duties then what’s the harm?

4) Don’t rob the bank.  Managers often ask employees to record extra hours to keep tabs on how many comp hours are in the bank.  If  this is the system then respect the hours recorded.  A colleague’s supervisor once asked him to record all his extra hours which he gladly did.  During their weekly one-on-one session, the boss looked at the hours and declared: “that’s too many.”  In the end, my colleague lost some hours.   As a manager, if you’re going to ask someone to officially document the extra time they put in then be prepared for the reality that the results could be very high.

*The above example is based on HONESTLY recording hours.  Inflating the hours you work can get you fired and it is just bad practice.  Likewise, use some common sense when recording hours.  If you worked an extra hour one day but breaks went a little longer than expected then you may be best off not claiming that time.

5) Ebb and flow approach.  If counting hours is not your thing then consider the ebb and flow approach.  Hours aren’t counted or stored but if an employee needs to take half a day here or there or work extra hours earlier in the week in order to get another day off then go for it.  This may actually cause less conflict than haggling over hours or over an unofficial policy.  Beware, it is more art than science but in healthy working relationships may be a strong tool.

Unless you work in a highly unionized or systematized environment comp time will be an issue in some form.  Addressing the issue up front and clearly will help define expectations and avoid conflict.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #virtualwork #comptime

For more information visit www.paulartale.com