Search This Blog for Past Topics

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Loneliness at Work?

While most of us probably do not expect to have our most significant relationships at work, we have to recognize that many of us spend at least a third, if not half, of our waking hours connected to work. At our core we are social beings, and if we do not have some sort of steady relational "spark" with colleagues (c'mon, you know what I mean!), we start drying up inside.

I had one client who refused to connect on a deeper level at work. She kept two separate phones for work and life, never brought her partner to work events (and barely attended any of those events herself), and did not divulge any details about her personal life with co-workers beyond some stories about her pets. When I asked her why she maintained such rigid boundaries, she said she did not trust anyone where she worked. She was not seen as warm or approachable (shocking, I know!), and struggled to break down even the slightest barriers as we tried to work through the roadblocks that interfered with her success.

I recently watched to a 7-minute videocast that articulated many of the things I talked about with this woman, along with other clients. It comes from Harvard Business Review, and is presented by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general of the US.

While not a "ooh-that-sounds-so-FUN!" topic, I really recommend it. It is done in a very engaging way (it's part of HBR's "Whiteboard Sessions") and breaks it all down in simple, visual ways. He makes it clear that the "loneliness epidemic" impacts all levels of leadership and is thus worthy of consideration.

He touches on key issues that are should spur further learning:

  • the impacts of chronic stress;
  • the need for deeper connection at work (part of what is needed for employee engagement);
  • the crucial role of leaders in modeling healthy work boundaries.
Should you connect with this in any way, you may be thinking, "OK, now what?!"

Here are three things that can get you started:
  1. How to Become More Self-Aware. This is a great podcast interview of an organizational psychologist who discusses what she describes at the "meta-skill" of the 21st century.
  2. "I Have a Best Friend at Work." The researchers at Gallup are doing some excellent work around employee engagement, built around a new tool they call the Q12. As I think about the past client who had so many walls built up, I wish I could have passed along these words from this article: "The evolution of quality relationships is very normal and an important part of a healthy workplace." This article does a good job describing why we need interesting, safe, supportive friendships at work.
  3. Consider whether you might need to seek out support. I have touched on this before on this blog and recommend this past post again for further resources related to therapy, grief, loss, and depression.
Last but not least, feel free to contact me if you have questions related to today's post at Have a great week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Though I dread to say it, my professional career started in 1983, and buckle your seatbelts, I didn't have a computer, a cell phone, or even ready access to a copy machine. (Shout out to ditto machines!)

As you pick your jaw up off the floor, rest assured we were still quite effective back then - we just relied more on landline phone calls, answering machines, driving to a lot of in-person meetings, and word processors.

Fast forward to 2018 and MyOhMy how things have changed. Today's articles are all about some of the questions we face now in the 21st Century workplace. Let me know if any (or all!) of this speak to your situation.

7 Skills That Aren't About to be Automated. This beauty comes from our trusty friends at Harvard Business Review and I think it's a winner. This sentence in the first paragraph drew me in: "...we’ll share seven skills that cannot only make you unable to be automated, but will make you employable no matter what the future holds." What I deeply appreciate about the seven that are listed is that they are all soft skills, which is the work I'm all about these days. Take some time with this one - it will be worth it.

The World Cup in What Language? I don't know about you, but I was personally addicted to the World Cup this year. I jumped up and down for Mexico (¡Viva el Tri!) until they were eliminated, then pulled for Croatia as the underdogs. ANYWAY, this article proves to be a great reminder as to the importance in this era of globalization and hyperconnectivity that we all need to learn the pronunciations, customs, and cultures of those we work with and meet. I have clients all over the US, but also in Thailand, Bosnia, Philippines and the UK. Sure is different from my early days! Let's do the extra work to get it right because it truly matters.

Is Striving for Inbox Zero Worth It? This link takes you to a 24-minute podcast that I found to be a fruitful discussion regarding this question. Personally, my goal is to keep my inbox under 100, so don't look to me as an example! Good stuff here about email management and organization too.

Work at Home or Not? Given that I've worked at home since 1994, you can guess where I fall on this discussion. But I recently read persuasive PRO and CON arguments on this topic that I want to share. Of the "pro" reasons, this one is my main reason for preferring to work remotely: Your Schedule Can Be Your Own. But the "con" list includes this compelling reason to prefer office work - I cannot argue with it: I Can Disconnect More Easily. Read the two articles and let me know what you prefer.

This just scrapes the surface of what are workplace dynamics these days, but hopefully gets the conversation started. Meanwhile, as I reflect on how much has changed in my working life since I first started, I also think more deeply about what I've learned. This quote from Aldous Huxley is especially poignant in that regard:

Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.

Ciao for now!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Fast Podcast Blast 7-8-18

In a recent conversation someone asked me what shows I was watching. Honestly, I drew a blank. I mean, I do watch TV, but it's mostly food shows or sports (NBA Playoffs and World Cup fo sho!). Admittedly, I did just watch Wild, Wild Country on Netflix last weekend and it was a major WOW (as in, don't miss it).

But I don't claim any shows as mine... I don't have the stomach for Game of Thrones, I could care less about The Bachelor, I'm sure I'd like The Crown but people, how do you have time?? I'm not being judgey here. But between work, exercise, groceries, cooking, bills, friends, feeding my brain and soul with some reading, and still trying to get plenty of sleep, I just can't manage it.

But PODCASTS. Now you're talking!! I listen to podcasts when I'm cooking, exercising, brushing my teeth, cleaning my house, heck even when I'm doing my back exercises! (When did I become my parents?) Even though the options can be overwhelming, I am also stoked by the variety. And if I try one out and it stinks, I hit the ol' garbage can button and cruise on to another one.

Here are my latest favorites, though if you ask me at any point during the year, I could list an entirely different selection. FEEL FREE to share your faves with me!

Here goes:

  1. Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me. This one will often cause me to audibly laugh out loud, which has been a tiny bit embarrassing if I'm in public. NPR calls it its "weekly current events quiz." It's just FUNNY. And when Paula Poundstone rants about how ridiculous scientific research can be.... HILARIOUS.
  2. The Axe Files with David Axelrod. I love love LOVE good interviewers and this one is often so fascinating. He interviews folks from both sides of the aisle (recent guests include Marco Rubio and Rachel Maddow). Axelrod often gets his guests to talk about how they grew up and that mesmerizes me. (Favorite episode so far was his interview with Steve Kerr. I think I have a crush...) Equally good at this (and perhaps the gold standard) is Terry Gross and Fresh Air.
  3. How It Is. This one is new for me. I like it. It's produced by Reese Witherspoon. It's got some major girl-power energy and a few episodes have pumped me up.
  4. Left, Right and Center. If you only have time for a one-hour summary of the week's news and want to hear all the main viewpoints, this one checks all the boxes. Sometimes I argue out loud with certain perspectives, but it is all done in an interesting and civil way. An even shorter summary of the week's news from both sides is also PBS NewsHour with Shields and Brooks.
  5. All Songs Considered. If you want to keep up with what the kids are listening to, I especially check out their New Music Fridays episodes. And they have a new series called American Anthems that sounds promising.
  6. WorkLife with Adam Grant. I will probably post another time soon about all the podcasts I listen to related to my consulting work, but this one is at the top. I've written about it before, but I do find it consistently interesting and enlightening.
  7. Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air. My brother told me about this one. Larry covers all kinds of topics and the dude is smart AND funny!
  8. OnBeing with Krista Tippett. I get all kinds o' feels when I listen to this one. I definitely save this for long walks; it's not something to listen to when you're multi-tasking. As her website says, it deals with questions like "What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? And who will we be to each other?" SO GOOD! If you're having some existential angst about the church, another good one is the Nomad Podcast. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for British accents...
That's enough for now. Feel free to let me know of ones you like, or give me feedback on this list. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

June 2018 Adventures: Lessons Learned

As I zoomed along on my scooter at 40 miles an hour on Foothill Road in Santa Barbara this past Thursday, I reflected on a month where I flew three out of the four weeks:

  • I spoke to Free Methodist pastors and leaders from seven states in the northern section of the Midwest at an annual conference that met in Wisconsin;
  • I worked for three days in Boise with a great client, assisting them in developing their managers;
  • I attended my niece's high school graduation near New York City (see photo of the proud auntie with her favorite niece), spent a few days being a tourist, then took a detour to Chicago on the way home to work with another client for two days on team-building and communication.

These are all activities I have done many times over. Nevertheless, I still have plenty to learn and want to pass a few things along:

What do you have to do become a "great communicator?  After sitting through yet another graduation ceremony, I can safely say that they are still astoundingly boring affairs! Why in the world do they allow school principals and superintendents to drone on and on about dreams and diligence, when absolutely NO ONE is there to hear them speak?? All we want to do is yell and clap when the name of our beloved child/niece/friend is said, and yet that is tacked on to the end, almost as an afterthought, to be plowed through as quickly as possible. In light of this ordeal, I was very attentive to the question addressed in this article.  Though geared for academic administrators, it contains excellent advice for EVERY leader. Key points touch on understanding your audience, power of listening, and good follow up are rock solid.

Strong cultures make it safe to make a mistake. Regardless of the millions of dollars at stake in any given enterprise, I still find that people‘s needs are pretty basic: they want to feel accepted and welcomed wherever they are, and they want to know how to get along with people that they may not agree with. In other words, relationships are central to the workplace. Though only a 20-minute podcast interview, this was packed with some great nuggets to ponder. Statements like, "Good teams work when people have permission to tell each other the truth," and "Groups are built exactly the same way. You can’t just wait for trust to descend from the heavens. You have to build it by being purposefully open with each other," have really stayed with me and have landed when I shared them with clients. Download this one onto your smartphone and take notes.

Five Signs You're Ready to be a Manager. Whether I was speaking to several hundred pastors and leaders on leadership development, coaching new managers as they build their first teams, or training a  team of twenty-five to communicate and collaborate more effectively within a nationally distributed organization, I found the basic principles in this article to hold true. This is a refreshing take on the soft skills required of a leader. After you read it, pass it along to a colleague.

Final thoughts...

A proud heart can survive general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.

Chinua Achebe, writer and professor


Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eter...