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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

November 2021: The Great Reassessment


I am sure you have heard that pundits have named these recent months "The Great Resignation" thanks to the massive shifts happening in the workplace due to the pandemic. Based on the large number of conversations I am having with clients, I would verify that this topic is front and center in the minds of both employees and employers.

Yet I heard something yesterday that resonated with me: a commentator stated that they wish we could rename this current situation The Great Reassessment. Below are some resources I have leaned into personally and with clients as we all use the massive upheaval of last 20+ months to reassess... EVERYTHING.

REFLECTION. 

I find that most people have strong opinions (positive or negative) about journaling... I'll make it clear from the start that I am lifelong journal keeper and have found the practice invaluable to my emotional, mental and spiritual health. I'm still doing that every morning, but recently I've started writing a one-sentence summary at the end of my day, and have found the habit quite refreshing. In part, I got the idea from Gretchen Rubin here. Not sure you need to spend $24.99 on her One-Sentence Journal - you can easily just buy a blank notebook at CVS or open a free online account at Evernote (which is what I do). I also invite you to access my ever-growing folder of Journal Prompts to jumpstart your effort.

34 Mistakes on the Way to 34 Years Old. Yet another way to reflect on your life, yet with a wider lens. I appreciated Ryan Holiday's transparency here. I will also admit that I have not yet managed to harness the energy to do this same exercise because... perhaps I have to add just few more years to 34? 😡‍πŸ’«

3 Changes I'm Making to Find BalanceA good podcast for "women of a certain age" on health, hormones and heart.


LEADERSHIP.

Yes, I am endlessly interested in this topic, and while I have read to a surprising number of books on the topic, and listened to a massive (not kidding) podcast episodes about it as well, I remain pleasantly surprised that there are still new insights to be gained on the subject. Here are two really good resources:

The Dave Chang Show: A Training Session with the World's Best Executive Coach. I absolutely LOVED this interview. Lots of good challenges to be found. You may want to listen to it more than once. P.S. I read Dave Chang's memoir, Eat a Peach, on vacation this summer and couldn't put it down. It has a surprising amount of leadership insights in it. Granted, I was also fascinated by his experience in the restaurant industry and his own story regarding mental health, his Korean-American upbringing, his negative experience with Christianity, among other things. 

Coaching Real Leaders with Muriel Wilkins. Admittedly, I've recommended this podcast before, but her second season has been outstanding, so I want to recommend it again. This is a master class in executive coaching, and the topics being covered are SO pertinent. Please check it out.


WORKPLACE HACKS.

I don't quite know what else to name this section. But these are resources that just might help you sharpen your game at work.

8 Tips for Conducting an Excellent Remote Interview. I liked this article because it didn't just give lame, obvious advice -- it was so practical and clearly rooted in experience. And honestly, the questions would be helpful for an in-person interview as well. Pay special attention to the questions on #emotionalintelligence. 

How Emotionally Intelligent People Use the 'Golden Question'. I could have easily posted this article under the "Reflection" section, but we certainly need to keep learning how to be more mindful at work, so here it is. It offers good insights on how to keep learning how to manage our emotions in these intense days. We all need to learn how to slow down, be more self-aware and reflective. If you only have time to read one article from my post, this is the one.

The 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers (and anyone who wants to keep theirs in tip-top shape!). I recommend to all of my clients to keep your resume up-to-date and that includes maintaining (creating?) a substantive LinkedIn profile. This helps in several ways, but here are two motivators, if you need it: if and when a great job opportunity comes along, you will be ready to apply, and not pass it up because you don't have the time or energy to update your resume that is woefully out of date; secondly, headhunters will be able to find you if you have a current profile. Snap to it! P.S. LinkedIn may be the only sane social media platform left out there... if you don't already, I highly recommend that you put a reminder in your calendar to post content at least once a week on LinkedIn and bring some energy to your networking skills. C'mon... it can't hurt!

DOING GOOD.

Final thoughts for this post... I read this lovely quote yesterday from Bishop Michael Curry:

In the United States and in the world, we have different cultures, different politics, different experiences that have shaped our beliefs. But if we can establish that we’re working toward some common good, whether we like each other or not, then we can be brothers and sisters. . . . Let’s all stop worrying about whether we like each other and choose to believe instead that we’re capable of doing good together. . . 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share it with others. Reach out to me with questions or feedback at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Cheers! 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Oct 2021: Hiring, Quitting, and Retention


I am having many conversations with clients across the board as to how many employees they are losing, and how many openings they have. I see it in the headlines and I also see it in real life. We are still figuring out how and why this is happening, but the reasons in this article resonate with many of the conversations I am having with both sides of the equation: employers and employees

So rather than post my best resources for the month, I'm sticking with one very good article, and deconstructing it based on the many, many conversations I am having in the past few months. The article is titled, "I spoke to 5,000 people and these are the real reasons they’re quitting," from Fast Company magazine.

Before I begin with my own conclusions: to give you an idea of my sample size, I average 4-6 client calls and presentations each day, Monday through Friday, and speak with about 60 individuals regularly (at least once a month). In September I met with people located in Pasadena, Boise, San Jose, Bangkok, Sarajevo, Chicago, DC suburbs, Santa Barbara, Austin, Glasgow, Wichita, Boston, Detroit, Portland, San Antonio, plus group calls with people distributed throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. SO fascinating!

The Fast Company article starts with this:

There have been reams of information written about employee motivation and performance over the last 100 years. But we’ve found there are nine key factors that impact these metrics—and they are much more important than pay and benefits. I call these nine factors the Currencies of Choice. 

Below I quote each of the nine currencies ("FC"), followed by my reflections ("KSLD"):

☮️ FC: 1. People want to work for a company whose values align with their own. This means a company that has a compelling purpose and values that resonate with the employee’s closely held beliefs. 

KSLD: This is, in part, a generational thing. Younger generations have been asking for the ESG rating of the companies they work for, and look for employers who have it. Do you have an ESG task force in place? Do you even know what "ESG" is? (Here is a great definition). How are you communicating the processes, projects, metrics and values around those standards? Good quote: Today’s workforce not only wants but often demands a role in shaping the organization’s purpose... Social capital has become just as important as human, financial, and physical capital. (Steve Graves). 

My advice: To hang on to newer college graduates, and to engage employees on a deeper level, I strongly suggest you pay attention to ESG.

πŸ€›πŸΎ FC: 2. People want to work for someone they trust and respect. That person is you, their direct manager. No pressure! The Gallup organization’s research shows that managers can impact employee engagement by up to 70%.

KSLD: In other words, the majority of people do not quit their job per se; they quit their manager (ouch!). Much of my work in the past year have revolved around management training, because in fact, most companies do not have dedicated, comprehensive management training! Ask the managers you know what sort of training they received to be managers. I can bet that most of them will shrug and say they were basically thrown into the deep end of the pool and had to learn through trial and error. I counsel ALL executives to get serious NOW about developing up-to-the-minute, relevant, competency-based management training. Let me know if I can help!

πŸ‘―‍♀️ FC: 3. People want to work with people they like. That’s hardly surprising since humans are tribal beings at heart. Even the most introverted among us want to belong to a group of people we like working with—especially since we spend such a significant amount of time interacting with our coworkers.

KSLD: I frequently rely on the "Q12" questions employed by Gallup that are designed to optimize employee engagement. They are asked to rate these on a Likert scale. Everyone cringes at statement #10: "I have a best friend at work." I suppose it feels sort of lame and junior high to ask that question, but Gallup says it well: "Human beings are social animals, and work is a social institution. Long-term relationships are often formed at work -- networking relationships, friendships, even marriages." I am finding that younger employees truly count on making friends at work. How does your workplace facilitate that?



πŸ† 
FC: 4. People want to be appreciated in a way that’s appropriate to them. Some studies show that praise and appreciation are the top engagement factors among employees. Appreciation doesn’t have to include a grand gesture. A simple “job well done” or “thank you” can be enough. But it must be authentic, and it must be meaningful to them.

KSLD: "shout-outs" on Slack or Teams threads are all well and good, as well as "Employee of the Month" awards. But my strongest advice to managers is to ask people individually how they prefer to be appreciated. There are many options: gift cards, awards in front of peers, PTO hours, points toward pay increases, etc. Some people like attention and praise, many do not. It's important to pay attention to how people are best motivated.

πŸ“£ FC: 5. People want to have a voice. They want to be listened to and heard. They want to know that if they tell you something that’s not working, that it will be fixed—or that you’ll give them a good reason why it can’t be. They also want to be able to share ideas about how to make things better.

KSLD: Not to over-generalize, but this currency may be somewhat generational (like #1). Younger generations are more used to immediate feedback and dialogue. Remember, they are digital natives who have known nothing else other than the immediacy of the internet, social media comments, and text messaging. They do not want to work within the constraints of annual reviews or generic town hall meetings. They prefer minimally hierarchical systems and input into decision-making.

πŸ“Š FC: 6. They want to know what they need to do to succeed and how that success will be measured. Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism makes a strong case that having clarity around roles and goals helps teams perform better; it encourages better behavior. 

πŸ“Š FC: 7. People want to learn, grow, and develop in their careers. Not everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder, but they do want to develop and grow in some way through training, additional responsibilities, special projects, or simply having variety in their role.

KSLD: I'm combining these two because I feel like they revolve around the same theme. What is crucial is that each organization needs to have a robust "talent lifecycle." Significantly, recent college graduates have lived through not one, but two cataclysmic economic crises. In light of the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the current pandemic, employees' highest priorities are advancement opportunities and economic stability. These six stages need to be addressed in most companies.

πŸ“Ά FC: 8. People want to be inspired to go the extra mile. People come to work to add value—we need to let them. Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us makes a compelling case that people will go the extra mile if they have autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose in their role (refer to the first Currency of Choice).

KSLD: This is BIG. As FC mentions, this is tied in to the first currency related to alignment of values. In this time of so many unknowns, it really helps if we are given a sense of purpose and the big picture for WHY we are doing what we are doing.

❤️ FC: 9. People want to spend most of their day doing work they love. They want to spend time doing things they’re not only good at but also enjoy doing. 

KSLD: this captures the bulk of what I work on with clients... helping to build a strengths-based culture, where people are set up to succeed and freed up to be self-motivated to do quality work.

 


In summary, here are my suggestions for beating
the Great Resignation of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

1. ESG!
2. Commit to solid management training
3. Pay attention to trust-building and culture creation
4. Provide genuine affirmation and appreciation
5. Cultivate consistent dialogue and feedback loops
6. Deepen your talent lifecycle
7. (Ditto!)
8. Cast a compelling vision
9. Establish a strengths-based performance approach

✪ BONUS content: I have mentioned that some of these dynamics are generational. I thought this article did a good job succinctly describing them: This is how each generation is feeling about returning to the office.

Let me know if you need ideas or more resources. Reach out to me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me. Thanks for reading.



Monday, September 13, 2021

Sept 2021: Try to Have More Good Days

Most of my conversations with clients these days are something like this: "These past 18+ months have felt like running a marathon... yet when we approach the finish line, someone pops out and says, "KIDDING! You have 15 more miles to go! Dig deep, tiger." And then our natural response is to the effect of, "But I've already given it everything I've got -- I've got nothing left." 😩

Sadly, we are all figuring out ways to dig deeper and work out of reserves we didn't think we necessarily had. This month's resources are all related to those reserves. I hope you find them helpful.

πŸ€” Rethinking Our Relationship with Work (Back to Work, Better).  This quote from the podcast could be on a t-shirt regarding the pandemic:“This has been a big reset moment for each of us.” It provides an excellent discussion on purpose and fulfillment and also on mental health. I also greatly appreciated the exploration of the difference between “meaning” and “happiness.” I suggest that business leaders use this podcast with their teams to keep thinking through strategies for team-building and strategies for resilience as we press on through the pandemic.

☕️ The one habit you need to have more good days. I can't say I knew what a "keystone habit" was before I read this article, but I am happy to say I have one: I dedicate 30-45 minutes each morning to reading and journaling (with a requisite large cup of coffee, of course!) to get centered for my day. The article sparks some ideas as to what your keystone habit could be.

🀯 We Need to Talk More About Mental Health at Work. This is a MUST READ for every employer. (Note that it was written 18 months before the pandemic.) I am having more and more conversations with clients on this topic, and have given several workshops to groups on stress management and resilience. I appreciate these words from the article: "Mental illness is a challenge, but it is not a weakness... Research has found that feeling authentic and open at work leads to better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall wellbeing." Continuing on this theme, I also strongly recommend this article, When Your Employee Discloses a Mental Health Condition. It feels like the rules of the road for employee and performance management are changing day to day... here are some pertinent pieces of advice for leaders.

🎧 BrenΓ© on Day 2. I'm preparing this month's edition of "Podcast Club" (as opposed to Book Club) for one of my clients, and we landed on this podcast episode from exactly one year ago from BrenΓ© Brown on -- get this -- making it through the HALFWAY POINT of the pandemic! How ironic (and tragic!) is that?! This is how she describes it: "[This is] a conversation on one of my favorite subjects (and least favorite experiences): Day 2! It sounds easy enough, but Day 2 is no joke. It’s the messy middle – the point of no return. Join us as we talk about navigating what’s next and why it’s always best to stumble through the darkness together." I've developed a worksheet to use for discussions on this episode ~ or you can just bring me in to lead it. Contact me if you want more info.

❝❞ Quote for the month. I recently finished the book Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United by Alex Ferguson and Michael Moritz. I was drawn to it by this endorsement from Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University: "Short, but nonetheless one of the very best books on leadership and also talent search.  You also don’t have to know anything about soccer, or care about soccer.  Recommended, and this one supports my view that the best management books are about sports and music, not 'business management' in the mainstream sense of that term." I believe Ferguson perfectly summarizes the difference between management and leadership:

“I slowly came to understand that my job was different. It was to set very high standards. It was to help everyone else believe they could do things that they didn’t think they were capable of. It was to chart a course that had not been pursued before. It was to make everyone understand that the impossible was possible. That’s the difference between leadership and management.” P239


Hope you are able to have more good days this month. Please feel free to pass this post along to others, and contact me with feedback or questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

August 2021: Adapt or Die!

My goal is to get these new posts out by the start of a new month. Given that it is August 11, apparently that didn't work out this month! The "return to work" (or not) has kept me busy as teams and workplaces keep having to adjust and cope and manage crises day by day. To quote the Billy Beane character in Moneyball, "Adapt or die." 

So here I am with lots of new resources that I have already tested with clients. I hope you find them useful!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

🧰 Tools for communication, collaboration, creativity and connection as you continue to figure out work during a pandemic. New ones are emerging daily as we keep adapting. Check these out.

  • πŸ–₯  5 Types Of Meetings That Should Always Be Async (And 5 That Shouldn’t). If we were in person, my voice would slowly raise in volume and intensity as I talked about this because I am NOT seeing most workplaces adapting wisely when it comes to remote work. Take 7 minutes to read this article and then spend some time evaluating whether you have effective collaborative software in place. Teams need to shift much more work to shared docs (Google Drive, SharePoint, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc) and commit to doing work asynchronously (ahem, read the article if that isn't a familiar word to you). If you and your team make this change, you will find meetings need to be LESS FREQUENT and MORE EFFECTIVE. Who doesn't want that?! If you need further info to be convinced, read this article too: When Do We Actually Need to Meet in Person.
  • 🀝 Work friends make life happier. Here’s how to make them when you’re remoteWhen coaching clients in trust-building on their teams, I talk about making sure that each person commits to having non-transactional conversations with co-workers on a regular basis. More often than not, the person I'm talking to squinches their nose and resists that idea. Invariably, it turns out that they don't really know how to jumpstart those sorts of conversations. This article gives some fresh ideas. In case you want and need more ideas, I liked this one too.
  • ⁉️ Need even more questions for those meetings where you're trying to get to know others better at work?
    I have created two different worksheets for this need. Check out Team-Building Exercises and 25 Questions. PLEASE let me know what you think and whether they were effective.
  • ⏳ The three-or-four-hours rule for getting creative work done. I would say one of the more challenging things to do in this time of increasing virtual engagement at work and 24-hour availability via technology is to simply be able to F-O-C-U-S on deep work when you need to be creative. This article isn't a roadmap on precisely how to do it, but it does validate your need for it and provide some resources for further exploration of the subject.
  • πŸ”¬Micro Habit Stacking: 25 Small Changes To Improve Your Life. I do #12 almost every day, without fail.

🎧 πŸ“Ί What I'm watching and listening to. As we struggle with still having to stay home more than we expected at this point in the pandemic, at least there are many good choices out there...

  1. Tim Ferriss' interview of the writer Anne LamottAs a permanently recovering English major, I have loved Anne Lamott's writing, which is hilarious, poignant, challenging, and very real. She puts things into words that completely capture what I'm feeling and that has been deeply helpful on many occasions. I've gone to several of her book readings over the years and she has several stories she's told multiple times, but in this interview I got to hear some things I've never heard her share or read about in her books. It is long and meandering at times, but if you want to learn about writing, or how to recover from difficulty, manage a complicated family history, or remain in recovery, this one is for you.
  2. Summer of Soul. This film is so moving on so many levels. I don't want to say much about it. The music alone is sublime. Just watch it.
  3. The Knowledge Project podcast. This is a new addiction. It's a deep dive on the nuances and challenges of leadership in 2021. Jeff Immelt's description of leadership in a crisis should not be missed. Dig it.
  4. The Vanishing of Harry Pace on Radiolab. Wow, this one captivated me. It took some cool left turns too. I couldn't stop listening.

Phew! Enough for now. Keep these words in front of you as you persevere...

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. (John Muir)

Feel free to reach out with feedback or questions at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me Thanks for reading!

 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Coaching Conversations, July 2021: How to Keep Your Employees Engaged

First of all, an update: I floated a new series of posts here last month that I titled "The WAIT List," using the acronym "WAIT" to stand for "What Am I Talking" about with clients. The content appears to have been well-received... but the title? Not so much. So I'm going for the most basic, but perhaps most descriptive, title. So here's my next "Coaching Conversation." Thanks for reading.

* * * * *

In light of this summer becoming titled "The Great Resignation" by many, I met with two different
groups of managers this past week to talk about some of the many challenges they are encountering as their employees start returning to the office. The list is long: 

  • employers are experiencing remarkable levels of turnover;
  • many workers resent the return to commuting;
  • some feel they have not had any margin between persevering through the pandemic and now facing the return to the office;
  • a lot of parents are not finding reliable childcare;
  • there are several expressing a desire to continue to work remotely - as one manager described it, while working remotely even one day a week was not an option for most at the end of 2019, many employees in 2021 now cannot believe they are "only" being allowed two days a week to work from home; 
  • let's be honest -- some people just want a change.

As managers and leaders, how can we make the return a healthy and positive one? It will require all of us to adjust some of our approaches to leadership. The workplace in 2021 is changing rapidly, and we need to remain agile in order to stay ahead of it all.

Harvard Business Review recently published a very good article titled "The Real Value of Middle Managers." I heartily recommend it. This quote really stayed with me:
Especially as remote and hybrid work takes over — and the distance between employees increases — middle managers are more important than ever... It is time to reunite leadership and management in one concept, and recognize middle managers as CONNECTING LEADERS. (emphasis mine)

I appreciate how the author seeks to reunite the concepts of "manager" and "leader" into one concept, but I want to emphasize what I focused on with the two teams of managers I met with last week: middle managers will need to double-down on relational investment as we move forward. 

Every workplace newsletter and blog and podcast is stating some variation of this reality: employers and managers cannot just focus on project management and operations. Given the incredible tumult of these past eighteen months, and the vulnerability we experienced with one another on a variety of levels, leaders are going to be relied upon to provide coaching, cultivate emotional intelligence, and even offer psychological support at times.

I know, I know... perhaps this is not what you signed up for. But the workplace plays a significant role in most people's lives. Research has shown that employees who feel connected to their organization work harder, stay longer, and motivate others to do the same. People want purpose and meaning from their work. They want to be known for what makes them unique. This is what drives employee engagement. And they want relationships, particularly with a manager who can coach them to the next level: this is who drives employee engagement.

So if you want your employees to remain committed, and not just survive, but thrive, employers will need to devote consistent effort on a few key things:

  • FEEDBACK. Employees will stay if they know they will be recognized for their contributions.
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. Team members will be energized if they see opportunities for professional growth and career development.
  • TRANSPARENCY. Colleagues will band together if they understand when organizational change happens and why.

On top of all of your other responsibilities, how do you find the time to do this?? Great question. I recommend these 4 steps:
  1. Commit to monthly meetings for your team that are dedicated to professional development.
  2. Embed that time in your schedule: First Fridays? Last Thursdays?
  3. Try to build some fun around that: include coffee and donuts, or a unique location where you will be uninterrupted and able to collaborate in a creative way.
  4. The KEY: make a plan NOW for the coming year!

Professional development can and should come in a variety of forms: special speakers, webinars, articles, podcasts, book clubs, mentor programs, coaching, case studies, off sites...

Last but not least... I believe this plan is most effective if it is also paired with monthly 1:1’s with each team member. This is where you can customize the approach and focus on unique needs and issues. Transactional leadership simply does not work anymore. We have to be committed to building trust over time, and setting up our employees for success.

I have a TON of resources, so feel free to reach out to me if this feels overwhelming. I can't emphasize this enough: Set the schedule and make sure you prepare adequately. Carve out time each month to prepare, and bring variety to your training strategies. And let me know if I can help! Email me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

July 2021: Reflections on Returning


I don't know about you, but I am finding this a rather disorienting time. I am certainly thankful we're not quite as fraught as this time last year (escalating COVID numbers in the US, protests sparked by George Floyd's murder, and a contentious presidential campaign), but things are still complicated and scary. Just checking the news this morning sent chills: a presidential assassination in Haiti, chaos in Afghanistan as the US withdraws troops, rising numbers of bodies found in the condo collapse in Florida. I can chalk up some of the anxiety to the endless 24-hour news cycle, but these are tragedies regardless.

Fun blog post opening, right?! But I cannot try to happy talk my way around what I am hearing. At the same time, I am finding that it all becomes somewhat more manageable if I talk about it with those I trust. This is one of the things I have experienced out of the pandemic -- people are more willing to talk about difficult things more readily. The resources I am listing this month are borne from those conversations and reflections. I hope they prove useful to you too.

The Age of Reopening AnxietySure, there are a TON of articles out there about life post-pandemic. I felt like this one actually had something to say. [Hint: note the new term "cave syndrome."] I especially liked it because it put words to some of the hazy feelings and thoughts I was having. Even better, it's not all gloom and doom. As stated at one point in the piece, "Some individuals’ private lives had benefitted from the slowdown. 'Some people have let themselves discover empty time, and actually inhabit it, and not be pulled into the ever-present temptation to fill it,' he said."

You Can’t Cure Your Employee’s Existential Crisis. But You Can Help. While the previous article addresses more of our personal life challenges as we slowly return from the pandemic, this article is more geared toward the role of leaders and managers in the workplace.

How Do You Ask Good Questions? I suppose this post emerges from a discussion around how to be a good podcast interviewer. But in the spirit of the "I have forgotten how to socialize" dilemma that many are feeling as we return to in-person gatherings, I think this has some good ideas to try out.

What I Am Reading And Listening To. So many different things are occupying my attention right now as I try to process all the crazy going on:


  • Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted. I’m semi-obsessed with this book by Suleika Jaouad. My friend Nancy Rust, a writer, recommended this to me. I read it in about 5 days. You know that feeling, where you are reading it when you brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, make breakfast. The experience got extended when she was interviewed on several of my go-to podcasts and I learned even more. She provides profound insights on mortality, purpose in life, writing, suffering, etc. That has prompted great opportunities for reflection. My favorite interview of her was this one with Tim Ferriss. Fun extra: go to Jaouad's website, theisolationjournals.com, and sign up for their free weekly journaling prompts if you are already a journal keeper or want to get started.
  • Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. Anne Helen Peterson provides fascinating (and sometimes cranky) insights on the struggles for Millennials and Gen Z as their early education and work experiences bridge the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the recent pandemic. These younger generations have gotten a bad rap and clears that up real quick. Wow. She also has a newsletter on Substack that is pretty darn interesting.
  • Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet. This was a re-read for me to provide renewed motivation for good "food hygiene" in terms of eating seasonally, organically, and locally.  I first read this book 10 years ago or so, when I first decided to try eating seasonally and organically. "Locally" is mostly possible, but I have some dietary restrictions that sometimes makes that less possible. But Michael Pollan, in "In Defense of Food," taught me how to shop around the edges of a grocery store.
  • The "Sunday Read from the NYTimes." This is a part of The Daily podcast but it's become a regular Sunday habit for me to hear long-form journalism audibly. I recommend this recent episode about the woman who insured we would learn about Van Gogh. Amazing!
  • PBS News Hour. Feels less panicked and less dramatic that standard cable news, who feel like they are trying to stir me up hourly into a frenzy. I listen to the podcast while I'm making dinner and get caught up the latest without getting heartburn. I also occasionally listen to BBC World News to make sure my perspective is not too US-centric.
  • Smartless. 100% silly, guilty pleasure. Few podcasts make me laugh out loud, but this is one of them. A fun way to unwind. Favorite episode so far: the interview with Maya Rudolph.


  • Last but not least: Read about a 70 year old woman who was the first woman to thru-hike the
    Appalachian Trail alone -- and she did it in tennis shoes.
    Wow. Who knew? Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, I can think about Emma Gatewood. Sheesh.





Thanks for reading... stay tuned for updates on more recent podcast interviews (I just recorded two this morning!) and coaching conversations. Reach out to me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me with questions or feedback.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

WAIT List, June 2021: Project Management


I have been committed to providing content for clients on this site monthly, and the feedback I'm receiving is positive. With that in mind, I want to try adding another component to this site: a monthly coaching conversation related to "What Am I Talking about with clients." In other words, a "WAIT" list. [Too corny? Let me know. Seriously] So here goes -- a topic that has come up multiple times in the last few weeks, so perhaps it's coming up for you as well?

Certainly, most (if not all) of us are currently navigating the unknown waters of post-pandemic return. We had some workable routines that emerged during these many months, and it is honestly a little jarring to have to adjust again. Offices are trying to figure out hybrid schedules, some people are timidly re-entering commutes (some for the first time, since they took the position during the pandemic), others are feeling the challenges of back-to-the-office requirements just as school is ending. YIKES.

More than ever, we need help with our calendars as we juggle multiple priorities. As one client told me bluntly today, "we need training on prioritization and time management." This is certainly a longer conversation, and each of us has our own unique circumstances, but I want to share three key elements that I use, and have shared, with many people.

  1. πŸ” THE SUMMIT. This HAS to be your starting point. For the first time you do this, you may need to set aside three hours to really dig in -- but trust me, It. Is. Worth. It. I call this step the "summit" because I am asking you to climb a proverbial hill and get the 30,000' perspective on your life. 

    The best place to start is to select your main five priorities in your life.
    That might be family, health, faith, work, hobbies. Or it could be friends, exercise, community service, career, cooking. You get the picture. Slow down and take the time to really drill down and decide the 5 areas you want and need to spend most of your time on. PS Notice how work or career is only ONE of the five.

    Then I strongly recommend that you start a mind map. Please try doing this digitally, since digital mind maps are easier to edit and refine, and go with you everywhere.  My two favorite sites are mind42.com (free!) and MindMeister ($50-$100/year, but more bells and whistles - ask about the academic discount). Put yourself in the first, main bubble. Then create 5 separate branch bubbles off of your central bubble for your main five priorities. Once that is done, go to town! Start downloading all the hamster wheels spinning in around in your head, creating further bubbles on the mind map. Nothing is too small! Put it ALL there. PRO TIP: sync your computer with your big screen TV or if you have it, a video projector, and cast the whole crazy mess onto a large space so you can see everything. You truly need to get the big picture.


  2. πŸ“‹ PROJECTS. Once you lay everything out on the mind map, start identifying the projects you are responsible for, especially when it comes to work, but for everything else too. For me, I start with each of my clients. Then I break down the various projects I have going with each client. Then I also note the projects in my personal life: my meal plans for the week, home projects, travel, exercise, books I want to read, etc.

    Then this is a crucial step: identify a project management software (PMS) to use. Personally, I use Trello. But there are a BUNCH out there: Asana, Basecamp, MS Projects and Planner, etc. Here's the deal: most of my clients get stuck here. They focus too much on TASKS, and not where they should be, on PROJECTS. We tend to get lost in the weeds when we focus on individual tasks, rather than clustering and organizing tasks together into projects. (The latter step is especially crucial when you're collaborating with others.) If you don't pick up what I'm laying down, read this brief article: it's an ad for ClickUp, another PMS option, but it does a good job 'splaining things.

    I have collected a bunch of resources on how to set up Trello here: I like it because it is visually stimulating (thus keeping my attention better than lots of bullet lists), and it has a GREAT phone app. 

    Take the time to load up your projects onto the project management software, delineating all the tasks you can think of. If you're really feeling it, try to put due dates on those tasks.


  3. ✍🏾 SCHEDULING. NOW is the fun part. Every Sunday afternoon or evening, I take 60-90 minutes and map out my week. I basically hike part way up the Summit and see where things are. I look over my mind map to note any changes or make updates, then I review my projects to figure out what I am doing for that week, and then I put those responsibilities in my calendar. If I am giving a presentation (usually already on my calendar), I set aside two hours to create it. If I am part of book club, I schedule an hour to read the darn book. If I have a review scheduled with someone, I set aside an hour on my calendar to prepare for it. Get the picture?
There you have it. It's a bit of a heavy lift on the front end, but creates a structure that is relatively easy to maintain. I could and perhaps should add a 4th element: I review my work at the end of each day, making sure I completed all the tasks I scheduled myself to do. If not, I find a new place for them on my calendar!

Hope this got your wheels turning and perhaps even motivated to try it. Contact me at kelly.soifer@ksleadershipdevelop.me with your questions, or to set up an appointment to get some assistance. Cheers! πŸ₯‚

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