During a year-end coaching call, I was thrilled to celebrate one particular client’s 2015 victories: a long-awaited promotion, carving out more quality time on weekends to spend with his family, and a new exercise habit.
“Mazel tov!” I said to my client.
“And how do you think you did on your goal of making time for planning in your new role?”
He replied: “Yeah…that one didn’t happen.”
“Any chance,” I offered with a smile, “you mean that you didn’t do what it takes to make it happen?”
He smiled back, somewhat sheepishly. “Yes. I guess I mean that.”
“And what do you want for 2016?” I asked.
“To do what it takes rather than waiting for it to happen.” He responded.
And so we began…
Of course, as we all know, doing what it takes to set aside time for something that feels important (rather than urgent) is easier said than done. Somehow, I can always find the time to read the new Entertainment Weekly and binge-watch “Making a Murderer” and yet, finding the time I need to write my new book or get my office organized seems not to “happen”. Why? Because “hoping it will happen” won’t get it done. Making the time to do it AND setting four types of boundaries to honor that time will.
In her research paper, “Positive Psychology and Work-Life Integration: The Mutually Satisfying Relationship”, The University of Pennsylvania’s Katharine E. Comtois suggests that we need to set the following boundaries in our work and lives in order to focus on what matters most:
- Temporal – Being clear about what you will do and won’t do, and when.
- Physical – Setting a specific place and space for certain tasks and activities.
- Behavioral – Acting consistently in ways that are designed to get you what you want.
- Communicative – Letting people know your priorities and expectations, and sharing how they can help or might hinder the process.
In January 2015, I decided that I was no longer going to travel more than 25% of the time, which would effectively cut my travel schedule in half. It was something that I wanted, but wasn’t “happening”. Of course it wasn’t happening – I hadn’t set any boundaries to support it. With that aha! top of mind, here are the boundaries that I created:
- Temporal – I will be from home no more than 7 nights a month, period.
- Physical – Any activity that I could do virtually rather than in-person, I did (like webinars for teams and organizations when on-site facilitation wasn’t needed).
- Behavioral – I actively sought out work opportunities that kept me sleeping in my own bed, which lead to a great teaching gig at Wharton Business School.
- Communicative – I told my clients, “I’ve used up all of my business travel for March and April, but I can travel to you in May. Would that work for you?” (And if it didn’t, I was happy to refer someone else!)
I couldn’t be prouder of how the boundaries I set – and continue to honor. I also found that setting these boundaries felt scary (what will happen to my business? Who will I be disappointing?) and living by them feels exceptionally safe and satisfying.
Here are some questions to help you strategize how you can use boundaries to stay focused on shifting what you “hope” will happen to actually and practically making it happen:
- How can you leverage other people to support you in honoring your boundaries?
- What technology can you rely on to help you set and keep boundaries?
- What decisions do you need to make that honor your values? (These can include decisions about what to do and what to stop doing).
- What habits can you implement that make honoring your boundaries automatic?
- Where can you create a physical boundary to separate the different roles you have?
- How can you use tangible items (like different phones or email addresses) to separate your work, life, self and community domains?
- What do you need to communicate to your stakeholders to establish boundary expectations?
- What can you plan (like a massage or vacation) so that you can take a short-term break from managing boundaries?
- Where will you allow for “fuzzy” boundaries?
- How will you handle boundary violations when they occur (because they will)?
Feel free to share any responses with me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear them!
Are you committed to make Work-Life Integration a priority for 2016? Get a head start by downloading our insightful, informative and inspirational one-hour webinar here.
By all accounts, 2015 has been a satisfying year for me, personally and professionally. In addition to taking a wonderful family vacation to Israel, getting two kids off to high school, and cutting my work-related travel in half, I accomplished three goals that, as part of our family tradition, warranted a Carvel ice cream cake:
- I began teaching Management Communication at Wharton Business School.
- I was published in Harvard Business Review.
- I lost 25 lbs. (Trust me: I get the irony of celebrating this goal with cake).
What do all three have in common? Yes, they’re all impressive – but that’s not what I mean. And yes, they’re all the result of hard work – and that’s not what I mean either. What these three things have in common for me is that within 24 hours of reaching each of these goals, I thought to myself, “Now what?”
I gave myself a day (and probably only a few hours, if I’m being honest) to enjoy the achievement, and then had a sudden dip in interest, motivation and satisfaction as my mind began to scramble for what new goal I was supposed to be setting next. What could I do to get the next buzz? How could I top myself? What would make me happy next?
And all of a sudden, it hit me: The only thing that would “make me happy next” was slowing down my goal-driven behavior long enough to actually experience being happy. I knew what yearning felt like, and what accomplishing felt like, and what adrenaline felt like, but I had very little experience living with what just being satisfied felt like. For a professional coach who helps clients discover and lean into what’s already working well in their lives, and for a seasoned mom who teaches her kids to be grateful for what they have rather than always wanting more, I realized that I was out of alignment with my own integrity.
Eleanor Roosevelt said,
Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well lived.
My goal for 2016 (scratch goal, replace with plan) isn’t to want more, do more or have more.
It’s simply to be happy with what I already, blessedly have.
“I can’t wait to hear what I did wrong!”
“You’re frustrated with my performance? Do tell.”
“I’m failing to meet expectations plus I have a work habit that drives you crazy? Details, please!”
-Said nobody ever
Let’s face it: Getting feedback is hard. And so is giving it. But what’s even trickier is giving feedback to someone who is defensive, in denial or determined NOT to hear it.
So what do you do?
Send them a signing telegram?
None of the above — but you DO have to deal with it, and I’m thrilled to share my tactics and strategies for doing exactly that, published in Harvard Business Review “When Your Employee Doesn’t Take Feedback”.
One of my favorite rituals when my twins were babies was to give them their nightly bath. I loved the one-on-one (-on-one) time with them, playing and splashing and just being together. Over time, they advanced from baths to showers, and from needing my help to wanting complete privacy, thank you very much!
But one bath-time ritual that my daughter Sophie didn’t seem to outgrow during her tween years was keeping me company in the bathroom when I took a shower. Each evening after work, I would hop in the shower and pull the curtain closed, and then hear Sophie sneak into the bathroom, close the lid of the toilet, sit down and say, “So let’s talk.”
I was torn: I missed the privacy of being alone with my thoughts and my loofah, and I also appreciated the opportunity to have some deep conversations with my growing girl. But one day, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked her,
“Sophie, why do you always want to talk to me when I’m in the shower?”
Her answer caught me with my pants down:
“Because it’s the only time I know you won’t check your phone while you’re talking to me. It’s the only time I have your complete attention.”
There was no shower long enough or hot enough to wash off the sting of that pointed and painful observation.
Ever since then, I’ve started:
Paying a lot more attention to paying attention!
I realized that I did it consistently with my clients (who pay for my complete attention), but I didn’t do it consistently for my family, who are, in fact, the reason that I even have clients. And it’s still hard – every day. There are a million things competing for my attention, between emails, calls, dinner, errands, the expected and the unexpected interruptions. But I am well aware that because of how hard it is to give someone your complete attention these days, it is a more precious gift to give and to receive than ever before.
In a recent New York Times article, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” the author cites that the costs of dividing your attention with people you care about include empathy, connection, and trust. And while technology is surely a factor in what makes this challenging, what is also a factor is our willingness to settle for less than someone’s complete and undivided attention. We need to learn to ask for what we need from others in our personal and workplace relationships to feel heard, connected and respected and we need to stop making excuses for ourselves for why it’s ok to not be fully present for another human being with real and immediate needs and challenges.
In the 7th and 8th cohorts of the Jewish Coaching Academy that I facilitated last week (email me for 2016 dates), we discussed 10 behaviors that let someone know that you were committed to being fully present for them. They include:
- Close the door.
- Turn off all electronic distractions.
- Put your cell phone completely outside of your line of vision.
- Let other people know that you’re going to be occupied, and for how long.
- Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign up and honor it.
- Create a time buffer before your conversation so you can clear your head from your previous work or interaction.
- Make a list of what you need to do after this conversation so that you can be fully present now.
- Notice when distracting thoughts come into your head, and then send them away without judgment.
- Let the other person know if something is interfering with your ability to be fully present, and then do your best anyway.
- Tell the other person “You have my complete attention”.
How do I know these work? Because I use them with my clients, my friends and my family and they thank me for not just being there for them, but for really, fully being there for them. And I also know these work because I now, blissfully, shower alone.
As you may know, I didn’t grow up with either a formal or informal Jewish education. I didn’t go to Hebrew school or celebrate the High Holidays. Until I was a teenager, I thought that Snow White ate the forbidden fruit. I am largely self-taught – a living version of “Everything I Wanted to Know About Jewish Living I Learned after Age 18.” And I am still constantly learning, evolving and growing.
This year, on Yom Kippur, I learned that:
- I am fine without caffeine until about 3 pm, and then I start to lose my mind.
- I am inclined to replace the three meals I skipped with ten meals worth of noodle pudding, bagels and ice cream.
- I am guilty of a sin that I never realized was one, until I read the prayer book closely: the sin of clever cynicism.
What does it mean to be cynical? First of all, it’s not the same as skepticism. Where skeptics are open to having their thinking changed with new and compelling evidence, cynics aren’t. Cynics are distrusting or disparaging of others’ motives; they are contemptuous or pessimistic. The clever part? Thinking they’re being funny about it – especially if most people around them are cynical too. (Tweet this!)
How many of you have seen the famous New Yorker magazine cartoon of a businessman on the phone with the caption: “No, Thursday’s out. How about never—is never good for you?” It’s clever. It’s cynical. And it’s the kind of language and attitude that now permeates far too many of our conversations, whether we’re talking about our community-based organizations (“ ‘They’ know how to find me, especially if I haven’t made my annual pledge yet”), to our colleagues (“Looks like no good deed goes unpunished around here”), family (“I’d agree with you but then we’d both be wrong.”) or politics (too many examples to name!).
I’m cleverly cynical far too often to pretend that the prayer book was written just for other people. I also know that I am not alone in making snarky remarks that demonstrate a mistrust of others’ motives, and then wait for the nods and smiles of my peers that make me feel like what I said was smart and socially acceptable. The sad part is that it IS socially acceptable to be cleverly cynical. (Tweet this!) And whether you are cleverly cynical yourself or just tolerating it by suffering in silence, you’re in it with me.
I don’t know if I can change the clever cynicism of the political landscape or even the organizations that I consult with. But I can change my own outlook. Here are three things I am committed to doing:
- Be more compassionate. When I operate under the assumption that people are doing the best they can with what they have, I cut people more slack, and feel empathetic about their challenges. Lord knows, that’s what I would want people to do for me.
- Be more “pronoid.” Paranoia is when we believe that people are out to harm us, whereas pronoia is when we believe that people are conspiring to make good things happen for us. (Tweet this!) If I have to make something up, I’m choosing that perspective!
- Call people on their clever cynicism – gently but directly. When I hear a remark, I’ll ask, “What did you mean by that?” and see if I can help coach someone to get to the heart of their message AND to put a little more heart into their message.
Will it work? The clever cynic in me would surely have SOME quip to make about it. But the kinder, gentler, less cynical me would just smile and say, “I hope so. I have faith.”
To Your Success without the Tsuris,
p.s. Despite a late start, I am clearly now an “ambassador” for Jewish living, learning and life – the same kind of ambassador you want your staff and volunteers to be for your organization! Want to learn more about how to do that? Join us for our upcoming webinar “How to Be an Ambassador for Your Organization” on Thursday October 8th at 1 pm Eastern – and bring everyone on your team to learn with us!
Having a positive workplace doesn’t mean waking up to your alarm clock playing Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” song every morning, nor does it mean greeting your colleagues with a “welcome to Disneyworld!” smile every day. This is not always perceived positive, and in fact, it can be downright annoying. However, when your work culture isn’t positive, it has a direct affect on your physical and emotional life. Cultivating a positive workplace requires first understanding that without it, work becomes meaningless, motivation drops and engagement disappears.
Positivity allows for creativity, big picture thinking and openness to new ideas, which leads to a successful organization.
I first learned about positive thinking as a child from my father who created a very special bedtime ritual (which I’ve adopted with my girls years later). Every night, my father would ask me “Noa, what kind of dream would you like to have tonight?” In most cases, my answer was to live in a candy store! At that point, my dad would pretend that there was an invisible zipper on my forehead which he would slowly unzip, and whisper my dream to my subconscious. Then he would hurry to zip up the invisible zipper so the dream wouldn’t escape and I would close my eyes and immediately immerse myself in thoughts of my candy store and everything that I get to do there and then I would fall into a sweet sleep.
So what do dreams of endless candy have to do with having a positive mindset at work? I learned that being able to “choose” my dreams as a child developed into having the ability to choose my thoughts as well as my moods as an adult. Positivity is, in fact, both a mindset and a skillset. We can all cultivate positivity through the choices we make, the perspectives we choose, the behaviors we engage in, the conversations we have, as well as those who choose not to engage in.
While it is much easier to have a positive outlook when times are good, it’s even more important to focus on positive thinking when things go wrong. Many of us have serious and urgent problems. We experience disappointments, heartaches, rejections, and stress on a daily basis. While we don’t want to pretend that our problems aren’t real , “sugar coat” them or withdraw into denial, we can still approach solutions in a positive manner.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness explains that stress is an inevitable part of work. It can be obstacle to growth but it can also be the fuel for it.
His suggestion to working stress in a positive manner is to make a list of all the stresses you’re under and place them in two groups – the ones you can control (unfinished tasks, inbox) and those you can’t control (the stock market, politics in Iran). You then are being asked to choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it. This is what signals your brain to shift to a positive, productive mind-set.
Most people believe that success preceded happiness. “Once we reach our campaign target, then I’ll be happy”, or “Once I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”. However success is a moving target – as soon as we hit our target, we raise it again and the happiness that results from success is gone.
Similarly to training our muscles at the gym, recent research on neuroplasticity, shows that it is not so different than training our brain to be more positive.
Here are a few things that we all can do each day to help our brain cultivate more positivity in our work and life:
- Writing down three things we are grateful for.
- Acknowledging someone else for doing/being good.
- Exercise for 10-30 minutes.
- Meditate anywhere for two minutes.
- Describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours in a journal.
Even by choosing one of the above as a new habit and repeat it for three weeks, will show improvement in your levels of positive and engagement.
Growing up in the 1970s, neither my dad or I knew anything about “positive psychology” and the “happiness factor”, but somehow, we knew how to apply these principles.
As you are gearing up for a new day at work, remember that you can’t have a positive work environment with a negative mind. Training your brain to look for the positive outcomes in each situation and your positive contribution to taking one step towards solution will help you enormously in cultivating a positive day.
I must admit that, while most of my work is cool, last week provided me with an opportunity that was cooler than cool: I was invited to facilitate a delegation workshop at 20th Century Fox’s animation studios, with the teams that are making the new Peanuts movie (in theatres November 6th, by the way). Between the production teams, and the story teams, and the animation teams, and the talent teams – they’ve got a lot to do and not a lot of time left to do it.
So how will they get it all done? By delegating. Which is, of course, easier said than done.
Most of us are well aware of the benefits of delegating, which include lightening your workload, developing your staff, providing opportunities for collaboration, offering your team members a sense of ownership and empowerment, giving you an emergency back-up, retaining talent, as well as growing and challenging yourself (both to take on new tasks and to learn how to “let it go”). And yet, despite the myriad benefits, many managers don’t delegate well – but when they do, their style is either too Lucy” or “too Charlie Brown. (tweet this)
What’s your delegation style?
You may be a Lucy if:
- You joke about being a “control freak” (but you know it’s not a joke).
- Everything feels urgent to you.
- You are addicted to adrenaline.
- You need to be in charge.
- You tell people not just what to do but how to do it, and don’t welcome others’ input and approaches.
- You’re deeply concerned about credit and blame.
- Your style is command and control.
You may be a Charlie Brown if:
- You find yourself mired in minutiae.
- Most of your tasks feel comfortable to you.
- You hoard work.
- You realize someone else could do it but so could you.
- You worry about being seen as dispensable.
- You don’t want to overload your team.
- You want to protect your staff from stress or failure.
- You’re worried about messing things up.
- Your style is just to do it yourself.
You may be either a Lucy OR a Charlie Brown if thinking about delegating gives you hives, sweats or stomach pains (or makes you want to cling to Linus’ blanket.) Either way, delegation is a critical competency for anyone who has too much to do and not enough time to do it (tweet this), for anyone who is charged with developing and empowering others (tweet this), and for anyone who realizes that in order to move up in the organization, they need to make sure that their current work can be done by others so that they’re not stuck doing this (whatever your “this” is) for the rest of your career (tweet this).
If you’re a Lucy, it’s time to show your team that you believe in their talents, that you can be flexible, and that you’re as committed to their development and growth as you are to getting it right. If you’re a Charlie Brown, it’s time to show your team that you value and trust them, that you’re resilient in the face of setbacks, and that you’re ready for all of you to play a bigger game – even if you need to hold on to your security blanket for a while longer.
If you or anyone on your team is wrestling with delegation, you can instantly download our online 60 minute course “Delegate without Drama” and learn the eight steps to help you start giving up a little bit of control and gaining a few more hours each week without giving up your commitment to quality
My daughter Sophie reported that climbing Masada (she ran up the Snake Path in 25 minutes!) was one of her favorite experiences of our recent family trip to Israel.
For my son Jacob, it was the Ayalon Institute, a secret bullet factory built underneath a kibbutz.
My husband Michael and I told the kids that we adored visiting Yad Lakashish, a non-profit organization that empowers nearly 300 elderly Jerusalem residents on a daily basis by putting them to work as artisans. (Our real favorite part of the trip was how well the kids got along with one another, but we’re keeping that to ourselves.)
But one experience made it to the top of everyone’s list: our dinner at Nalagaat Blackout Restaurant. So awe-inspiring, in fact, that the lessons we learned there keep growing – and yes, this is my second article about it.
If you recall, our family had the opportunity to experience a totally dark dinner served by blind and visually-impaired waitstaff. What surprised all of us the most was that our eyes never adjusted. Not even a little bit. It was pitch black, all the time, with no relief.
When I finally came to terms with the fact that I was going to be completely in the dark until I left, I realized how many of us work with or know people whose behavior leaves us in the dark – and that far too often, we sit there waiting for something to shed light on their behavior. And that light never comes.
What do you do when you work with someone you don’t trust? Whose intentions you can’t see or whose behaviors blindside you?
Working with someone you don’t trust is like sitting in total darkness. You are desperate to see something – anything – that can help you figure out what to do next, say now, or even believe about yourself and your situation. You realize that you need to trade vulnerability for vigilance. You realize that you need to shrink your expectations from thriving to surviving. And all of that can impair the quality of your work as well as your confidence.
There’s no easy fix for working with someone you don’t trust, where you can’t see how to proceed next. But here’s what I did at Nalagaat to adjust my expectations and behaviors in the dark, once I realized that my situation wasn’t going to adjust.
I stopped blaming myself (and my eyes) for not being able to see in this situation.
I acknowledged that I had two options: 1) stay and figure out how to make this work to the best of my abilities or 2) get up and leave.
I adjusted my expectations of what I would be able to accomplish in the dark (from “enjoying a lovely meal” to “emerging without cutting myself or wearing my meal.”)
I asked for help from my team (family) for things with which, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t need to ask for help.
I offered help, unsolicited.
I recognized that each of us was struggling – both together and individually – with the circumstances.
I made small movements and sought frequent feedback from my team and from the environment as to how I was doing.
I offered positive, reinforcing feedback to the team.
I gave myself positive self-talk throughout the meal.
I took all advice from the waitstaff, who were experts in how to manage this situation.
And probably most importantly, I reminded myself that the darkness wasn’t being dark to make me angry, endangered or frustrated. It wasn’t personal. The darkness was just being what it was, and I just happened to be there for it.
Could you use a little more light shed on how to create a culture that instills a sense of trust? Join us for our webinar on Creating a Culture of Trust.
Shalom from Israel!
True confession: the last time I was in Israel, I was with my old boyfriend. Considering that I’ve been with my husband Michael for 18 years, it’s been a long time since I’ve been back “home”.
Of course, when I came to Israel with an old beau, I never anticipated that the next time I’d be here would be with a (different) husband and my teenage twins. And considering the inspiring and moving sites and experiences we’re having on this trip – from camel rides and rafting in the Jordan River to Havdalah at the Western Wall and a walk through Yad Vashem’s Garden of the Righteous — I never could have anticipated I’d learn the biggest life lesson at the bottom of a dessert dish.
Now, it wasn’t just any dessert dish. It was a dish of crème brulee that my son Jacob was eating at Tel Aviv’s Nalaga’at BlackOut, where diners eat their meals, served by blind waitstaff, in total darkness. The experience was startling, humbling and like nothing any of us had ever experienced. Some of us (ok, me) resorted to eating with our hands when utensils proved too tricky without a stitch of light. And by the time dessert came, we had been so taxed by the lack of visual context that we had stopped talking in order to concentrate so that we wouldn’t be wearing our dinners.
And then, Jacob broke the silence: “I’m so sad about this dessert!” he said. “Don’t you like it?” I asked him, to which he replied, “I love it. It’s the best dessert I’ve ever had. But since I can’t see it, I don’t know when it will be over!”
“Jacob,” I said, “you have just summed up one of life’s great lessons and challenges: how to truly enjoy what you have because you have no idea when it will end.”
As we thanked our blind waitress for her excellent service, we thanked God for the gift of our sight, and felt truly thankful for this incredible family trip to Israel. And while it’s the first for the four of us, I hope it isn’t our last – but no matter what, we are truly enjoying what we have because we have no idea what the future will bring to any of us.
Shalom from Israel.
For the past two years, if you were looking for me on weekday mornings between 8 and 9 am, you would have found me at my local CrossFit – that workout regimen that combines Olympic gymnastic and weightlifting moves and high-intensity aerobic training with weeping, grunting and collapsing. This was going to be the habit that upgraded my physique! This was going to be the new activity that changed my life for the better!
Guess what? It didn’t work – and not for the reasons you might think. It didn’t work because I misplaced my halo.
For two years, I believed that if I exercised the way that professional athletes do, I could also eat the way professional athletes do. 50 pull-ups? 100 squats? 200 sit-ups? Surely that’s a recipe for carte blanche dining, right? As it turned out, it wasn’t. I had fallen prey to a behavioral halo effect bias that was hurting me both physically (100 squats!) and emotionally (feeling stuck at the same weight).
The “halo effect” is defined as the tendency for a person’s positive or negative traits to “spill over” from one personality area to another in others’ perceptions of them. My halo effect was behavioral – I was expecting the benefits of one overwhelming positive action (intensive exercise) to spill over into another area of my life (my eating habits). I thought that if I behaved beautifully in the gym, I could misbehave at the table. So maybe I could have gotten away with it a little bit, but I couldn’t get away with it nearly as much as I told myself. And as much as I tried to right-size my portions, I couldn’t shake that “halo” feeling that I shouldn’t have to work out so hard to still eat so little.
I am not alone. Have you ever worked for a manager who believed that her intelligence and talent gave her the right to explode at her direct reports? Behavioral halo effect. Do you know a major donor who thinks that the size of his gift permits him to boss other volunteers (as well as professionals) around? Behavioral halo effect.
And how about you? Do you:
- Treat your members and customers with incredible patience at work…and then come home and blow up at your kid for leaving his shoes in the hall?
- Give your undivided personal attention to your boss but keep one eye on your cell phone when a direct report wants to talk with you?
- Attend every board meeting but cancel your supervision meetings?
- Make sure your babysitter or nanny never wants for anything, while brushing aside your spouse’s needs?
- Take care of everyone else while ignoring your own health and happiness?
If you answered yes to any of these, your halo is hollow. You’re allowing one set of positive behaviors to cast an artificial glow on others that clearly don’t deserve a spotlight. How do you fix it? Stop granting yourself permission and excuses to behave carelessly, and start giving yourself credit for the fact that you clearly have what it takes to act responsibly, considerately, and like a mensch. If you can do it somewhere, sometimes, and with some people, you can do it (almost) everywhere, every time, and with most people. Especially with and for yourself.
So how did I drop the halo and its blinding effects? I quit exercising and eating like a linebacker and started working out like someone who needed to 1) have better balance and 2) be careful about what she ate. I no longer allowed one overwhelmingly positive action to grant me permission for excess or carelessness. By dropping the halo, I raised the bar for my behavior and dropped the excuses — along with almost 25 pounds — along the way!