“Work-life balance” is a running theme in this hectic world, but also an elusive goal. The phrase is plastered everywhere as people aspire to achieve ideal harmony between family life and professional career.
The demands of both, however, make it difficult to pull off, especially for anyone in a leadership position – and maybe there’s a good reason for that.
Balance is bull—-. A perfect work-life balance is not possible for those in leadership positions. It’s more useful to strive for work-life integration, where you not only bring your work home, but also bring your home to work.
In debunking the balance theme, here are three tips for leaders to help them accept and maximize an imbalanced schedule:
1. Stop and breathe.
Balance is an illusion in our external lives, but it can be created internally as a mechanism that gives busy people the ability to cope better with challenges. This emotional equilibrium is a measured thought choice that gives us more control of our responses to situations.
When I catch myself reacting, I stop and ask, ‘What am I telling myself? Is it true or head trash?’ This helps me unravel what’s factual from a kneejerk emotional response based in fear. I stop and breathe until I find my internal balance again.
2. Learn to say no.
Many people have difficulty saying no, and many who do say no are consumed by guilt. Saying yes before fully analyzing the commitment can lead to being over-committed and overwhelmed, so it’s a matter of prioritizing what you say yes and no to.
Every time you say yes to something, you’re also saying yes to much more. Tell them you’ll consider, but first sit down with a pad and pencil and list all those additional things you’re taking on by saying yes. Finding balance is a matter of saying yes and no to what fulfills you and your life without overcommitting.
3. Don’t be afraid to follow.
When we’re over-committed and feeling imbalanced, we have to take a hard look at what’s ahead and stop doing things that aren’t working. A leader empowers others by giving them space to lead or take a larger role, thus lightening the leader’s load.
You can’t always make things happen, and you can’t do it all. At times you have to let go and let others take the lead.
There will never be a 50-50 balance. but you are still able to fit in all of the things that are important to you by slowing down, choosing what to say yes and no to and accepting help.
Written by Sue Hawkes, bestselling author, award-winning leader, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized award-winning seminar leader. She is CEO of YESS! and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people.
Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.
Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?
We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.
Awesome concept, right? Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.
First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant. Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.
One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.
In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.
His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.
This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.
Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.
We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time, let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.
Here is an excises to try:
- Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
- Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
- Write down what you said.
- Read it aloud.
- Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
- Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
- Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.
You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.
Results May Vary in Delight
Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.
They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?
Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself
Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept. When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.
Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.
Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.
We all want the real thing.
Nowhere is that more important than in communication. Whether you are in front of an audience or in an interview, the people you are trying to connect with want the real you. The quickest way to lose an audience is being inauthentic, fake or disingenuous.
The master communicators are able to bring much, if not all, of their real selves to their audiences. How do they do it? One way is to use feedback to draw and change the lines separating different versions of themselves. This empowers them to bring more of their unique personality to what an audience perceives. They are able to be real.
No, It’s Not About You
A speaker without an audience is like that tree falling in the forest with no one around. Pretty much nothing. Everything depends on the version of you the audience perceives and leaves with.
You can’t just stride up to the podium and say, “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” That’s not going to work too well. You have to bring something to the audience first. The connection between a speaker and audience must begin with the speaker. Audiences pay attention to get a return of interest.
Yes it is: The Real You
When you meet someone one, the most interesting thing you have to offer is yourself. Yes, I am sure you have great ideas, advice and insight. When you are face-to-face with someone those take a back seat to you as a unique human being.
Audiences want you to be real, to be yourself. They enjoy being around someone who doesn’t worry about what everyone thinks. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You care a lot about what the audience thinks. So it’s hard to act like you don’t care.
Well, let me tell you a little secret: They don’t know you. No one does. Not the “real” you.
An audience only ever sees a sliver of the “real” you. An important sliver. There’s enormous power in this.
No it’s not You: It’s the Audience You
Putting some distance between you and what the audience perceives gives you valuable space. That allows you to use feedback to shift your perspective. That shift is from the “real” you to what you could call the Audience You.
Your reflection in a mirror is an accurate representation of what you look like, right? It’s like there’s this other person looking back at you. Meeting that other person can be hard sometimes, but it’s what most people see–for better or for worse. Meeting this other person in the mirror shifts your perspective to the people looking at you. Feedback on performance introduces you to the Audience You.
And yet, the reflection in the mirror doesn’t define you. Neither does feedback. This is the critical last step to incorporating feedback: the Audience You doesn’t define real you. If everyone says that you bomb your speech, you haven’t bombed life. That kind of feedback tells you there’s a disconnect between the real you and the Audience You. If you’re going to speak again, work to close that gap.
Ask people what they think of the Audience You. Their feedback will shift your perspective. Encourage them to be specific and honest so you can get a good look at this reflection of you. Don’t forget to thank them and put it to work to make the audience you a more accurate reflection of the real you.
It will make a difference. Really.
Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.
Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. Junita has learned the value of “waiting” during her years as an entrepreneur and business owner and shares her experiences with us each second Tuesday of the month.
This week is Twin Cities Startup Week and we are in full swing with all things entrepreneurship. If you have made the decision to launch your startup, I’m pretty sure you have a well drafted business plan which details everything about your product or service, the daily operations, managing business finances and startup capital, and you are ready to begin.
When I started my business, it was very important for me to know everything there was to know about building a sustainable and thriving business. I enlisted the assistance of a business coach to help draft my business plan. I spent countless hours researching success and failure stories. I obtained memberships in various networking associations with a goal of creating new business relationships. I felt good about my marketing efforts and connection to my target customer base. I was armed with a plethora of case studies and research. I was convinced I would avoid the typical business pitfalls of entrepreneurs before me and that I would successfully make it past the critical first three years.
One of the major things I did not uncover in all of my planning and research was the reality that the main ingredient fueling my entrepreneurial drive might be the same ingredient creating my potential failure. Tucked neatly inside my drive to succeed, my push toward excellence and a good work ethic was the ever-so-positive-sounding, yet very destructive concept of – perfectionism.
We live in a world that idolizes perfectionism and it is presented as the standard of performance for success as an entrepreneur. Perfectionism sounds like a good business practice. It sounds like the description of a high achiever, and I fell into the trap of waiting for perfection in many areas within my business.
But here’s what I learned…perfectionism is a fancy word for fear. Striving for perfection felt like a safe, yet lofty business goal. Perfection sounded as though I was operating at my best. Many times, I prolonged a potential business decision or sabotaged an opportunity by failing to move forward because perfection guided me toward stagnation and/or forfeiture.
Striving for excellence in business and waiting for perfection can seem very similar, but I had to quickly decipher the difference between the two. For me, striving for excellence comes from a place of gratitude and contentment. I am grateful for the highs and lows peppered throughout my business journey. Perfection can often come from a place of lack and insecurity. Perfection creates the mindset of not having enough, never having enough and it sucks the life out.
Perfectionism can be overcome, but just like anything else worth achieving: you have to recognize it and then have a plan to overcome it. So as you prepare to launch your first business or scale your current business, ask yourself are you moving forward in excellence or perfectionism.
You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website at favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram. In addition we are pleased to have Junita join us at the James J. Hill Center on October 26th from 9AM to 10AM as she moderates our TAKING THE LEAD panel discussion focusing on the complex and rewarding ecosystem of women entrepreneurs. This month’s topic will be on the “Growth Strategies and Plateau Pains ” This program is free and open to the public.
Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.
A Breath Away
There is so much in the world we have no control of. That’s why it’s always nice for me to remember that the greatest gift I can give myself, and others, is to just… breathe.
The practice of deep breathing is at the core of connecting with yourself in front of an audience. By the end of this post, you’ll be in on the greatest secret of successful performers and yogis alike.
The Pains in the…
By now, most of you know that I’m a speech coach. So it won’t come as a surprise if I trot out the fear of public speaking as a pain point (by the way, the latest poll has public speaking second to snakes).
In a bit I will cover the direct benefit deep breathing has on public speaking. First, I want to add some other pretty horrible pains most of us have faced in our life:
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- attention deficit disorder
Deep breathing has been shown to help with ALL of these.
Ancient Benefits We’re Catching Onto…
The primary benefit of deep breathing is its calming effect on the body.
People from cultures all over the world have practiced deep breathing for a millennia. How this works is only recently becoming clear to scientists according to an article in New York Times on Why Deep Breathing May Keep Us Calm. Isn’t it nice when science recognizing the benefit of something we’ve been doing all along?
The point is: breathing from your diaphragm calms your body down. And a calm body calms your mind.
The Nuts and Bolts
The key to deep breathing lies in understanding how we breathe. When I give workshops, I often ask everyone to take a deep breath in. I watch as chests heave and shoulders go up.
Many people assume since air goes into our lungs, that’s also what drives breathe. Close, but no cigar.
The diaphragm is a parachute-shaped muscle that sits under your lungs. That’s the muscle chiefly responsible for drawing in your breathe. Despite what my workshop attendees show me, it’s not the muscles around your chest.
The crazy thing is, you already “know” this. Everyone of us breathes quite efficiently when we don’t think about it. Watch someone who is extremely relaxed and you’ll see their belly move up and down more than their chest.
That’s because the diaphragm is contracting to pull in breath. The stomach and surrounding muscles get out of the way and expand outward. This is another reason most people don’t breath efficiently–people are vain. They are concerned about keeping their bellies tucked in.
Speakers, Listen Up…
Deep breathing does two important things for speakers. First, it calms them. Everyone gets nervous to some degree. Deep breathing stems the fight or flight reaction we get when we step in front of a crowd.
Second, deep breathing strengthens and supports a speaker’s voice. With adequate breath, a speaker can speak longer, louder and with greater range. You don’t have to be a performer or singer to benefit from more volume or a fuller voice.
You Can Do It!
Whether you’re a speaker or a stressed-out blog reader, you can start deep breathing now. There is nothing fancy or complicated about deep breathing. The process begins with an awareness of your breath.
- Put one hand on your stomach
- Put the other on your chest
- Take a deep breath in
Since you’re doing this, I will assume you are not familiar with deep breathing technique. This means that, probably, you felt your chest move as much or more than your stomach.
Here’s a cool trick I just found out while writing this: Google “deep breathing”. You should get a one-minute guided breathing exercise. I shouldn’t be too surprised since I read that Google teaches breathing to its employees.
Don’t believe me, though. Go Google it! And breathe…
Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.