Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Most Productive Day...and a Fail

Recently I was at a surprise retirement party for a colleague. After we all yelled "surprise!" and the battle to keep the tears from falling was well underway, I settled into a conversation with a new member of our organization about the nature of work.

Our talk ran the gamut of shared experiences in cities we had both worked and/or lived in. But then quickly moved to how we get work done, and how the world of work has changed in such a way that being at work actually limits our ability to accomplish our work.

We both realized that the physical act of being in our workplace, more often than not, limits our ability to truly be productive. This got me thinking about all sorts of issues: 

- Why I spend so much time at work if I know I could use some of that time differently and be much more productive?;

- Why corporate culture equates long hours sitting in a room in a building (my office), with being a great leader and dedicated employee?

- Why I haven't been more assertive in taking charge of this (despite encouraging my team to spend time away from the office getting their work done!)?

Coffee, Wifi, and Solitude
As our conversation went a bit deeper I tried to remember what I would consider my most productive day ever. It didn't take long. I was in Baltimore on business, but my schedule was a bit odd. I had a Tuesday evening meeting, and then no formal commitments until Thursday.

Oh the guilt! I certainly couldn't fly back to Florida for one day, so I realized I needed to get myself organized to try to make the most out of an "open" day in between my scheduled meetings.

...and it was the most productive day of my life...

Enter The Daily Grind along Baltimore's waterfront. A terrific coffee shop that has good wifi and plenty of seating. I know what you're thinking..."Jay, have you ever heard of Starbucks?"  

The real issue here is that during my six hours of uninterrupted, focused time I accomplished more than I have on any other day in my work history. 

The real issue here is that I didn't seize the moment and build a completely different approach to my work, despite knowing this made sense for me.

The real issue here is that I quickly fell back into the trap that long hours in a room filled with interruptions equals  good leadership.

How About You
Do you know something makes perfect sense but the pressure around you in the workplace is holding you back from taking action? Why do we continue to do that to ourselves and our teams? Maybe we're the generation of leaders that will finally break the pre-technology notion that sitting in meeting rooms all day is the best way to get things done?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Friday, September 26, 2014

What Were You Expecting?

The world of work is changing so rapidly I almost feel out of breath trying to stay current. My love/hate relationship with my task list (love the tool...hate how many items are on it!), seems to have me chasing my tail every day of the week. What about other parts of my world? I don't think I'm trying to balance any more issues than the next person, but it does make me wonder if I'm doing something wrong.

What was I expecting?

The Way It Should Be
This issue has been weighing heavily on my mind lately...the notion of my expectations and others expectations of me. Should I conform to a particular view of how I should work, behave, or interact with them? Has the culture of my world shifted in such a way that I've missed something and I am out of step with the cadence of those around me?

Difficult questions to answer as I look at the world through my biased lens. (By the way, we all have our own lenses, which makes this an even more complex set of dynamics to work through.)

Sometimes what I've come to rely on turns out to be very different as I understand more about the new reality around me.

Time Out
In those moments we have to challenge ourselves and ask about our own expectations. What do we believe is in our future? 

Can we rely on what we've grown accustomed to; or, have we allowed ourselves to fall into a false sense of security based on what we "want to be true" vs "the reality of our situation?"

Difficult questions to answer.

How About You
What are your expectations for your world? What about those connected to you? Have you found the proper alignment and balance between the two; or, are you working to bridge a gap that has "suddenly" appeared?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stop Being Realistic

"One of the saddest lines in the world is, 'Oh come now - be realistic.' The best parts of this world were not fashioned by those who were realistic. They were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and gave them horses to ride."

- Richard Nelson Bolles 

As you think about the work you need to accomplish today...this week...this year...spend some time distancing yourself from what is realistic. There is a phrase in sports that "safe is death" which means that simply doing what is expected and avoiding risk will guarantee defeat. The same principle applies to your legacy as a leader.
How About You
What about your legacy? Will it be one of transactional work that "kept the lights on?" Or, will you leave a different impression on your team, your organization, and your profession?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 


Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'm Starving...Pass the Humble Pie

I've been thinking about how I work lately. Thinking about doing a good job...about making a difference...and then making mistakes that bring me back down to earth. It's an odd series of experiences that seem to happen in rapid succession: great work, bold leadership, progressive strategies...and big stumbles that feel awkward at the least, and are downright embarrassing at the worst.

On A Roll
I've been on a bit of a professional roll lately. My leadership team in HR is fully staffed and doing a terrific job. The energy around the work we're doing to support our organization is spreading; and, the early results indicate we're on to something special.

What sometimes happens (to me) in these moments is that I allow myself to get caught up in the daily action of HR. Yes, action in HR! Who do the leaders in our organizations turn to when the employee relations environment gets too complicated to handle? HR, that's who. We jump in to support our colleagues, provide solutions, and help facilitate very difficult communications on a routine basis.

But sometimes things slip by us when we're caught up in the moment. I don't like it when I let things slip.

Eat That Roll
When those failings happen, which I guess (read here --> hope) happens to us all, what should we do next? 

We've all seen people in our careers who try to place blame on someone else, or at the very least attempt to deflect the full accountability for the mistake away from themselves.

I think that's a lame strategy. If I've stumbled, I should say so, and shift my thinking from being "on a roll" to eating a big 'ol slice of humble pie.

Today, I'm feasting. 

How About You
When you stumble do you run and hide? Or, do you hold yourself accountable and make things right? It's not easy, or comfortable, or appetizing. But sometimes it's the best thing on the leadership menu.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Friday, September 12, 2014

The One Thing I Missed

The pace of my life, both personally and professionally, seems to be moving faster than ever. You probably feel the same way too. With technology keeping us connected 24/7 to our work, and perhaps more significantly, the expectation that we will be available non-stop, has us scrambling.

Too Much?

I see a growing number of posts that discuss the need to "unplug" or be "disconnected" for periods of time. 

The rationale being that we will feel better about ourselves and life in general if we "take a break" from the digital world.


But my work gets done in the digital world. My responsibilities, my timely communications with the team, and my ability to coordinate complex issues from long distances requires me to be connected. 

So, when exactly am I supposed to stop doing those things? Too much...for me...feels just right.

Says Who?

Rayanne Thorn and Me
I know there are those who have allowed their devices to take up a disproportionate amount of their time. With so many terrific ways to stay connected, some people end up replacing their real life connections with virtual ones. 

But that's not me. One of the most powerful benefits of connecting in the digital world is when the IRL (in real life) meetings finally happen! Those moments are fantastic, and reinforce the personal connections that the digital world can not replace.

It's unfortunate that the "experts" among us don't take the dialogue further to illustrate the power of the IRL benefits of working in a digital world.

How About You
It turns out the one thing I missed was listening to myself. The well-intended (presumably) messages from the "experts" telling me what I should or shouldn't do don't make much sense. Next time, I won't miss my own gut instinct telling me to stay on track.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Campfires and Bonfires

I love new ideas that push me and my team. Sometimes the ideas don't work out so well; and other times they are more successful than expected. What is exciting for me though is that we're taking the risks

It's as if we have our own little campfires that sometimes grow a little bigger, and sometimes they don't have enough fuel and they die out.

Your Campfires
What new ideas, approaches, or strategies have you been thinking about? You and I may share the same vision. In the world of work we will each end up building our own little campfire and hope they start to burn. 

The problem with campfires is they are small, are a combination of luck, good weather, plenty of kindling, and hopefully a patient fire-starter. There are many factors that can put our campfires out before they have a chance to grow.

Our Bonfires
Imagine an environment where our small campfires are joined together? 

Suddenly the level of energy jumps, and the blaze is roaring. Imagine that same level of energy in our work? 

One of the most powerful ways to build our collective bonfires is to connect with each other. 

That may sound obvious, but consider how effective you've been in the past when you worked with someone else on a problem, team, or project.

Stepping outside your comfort zone to ask for help, get others opinions, and share your knowledge and expertise (yes, you have expertise) can create a  powerful result.

How About You
What are you going to do to move past your little campfire and build your ideas into a blazing success? Isn't it time to reach out, be humble, and add your insight to make a difference? You can do it.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

I'm Always Right

"...and above all, stay humble because just when you think you have all the answers, is the moment when some bitter twist of fate in the universe will remind you that you very much don't...” 
- Tom Hiddleston 

Have you figured it all out? Have you convinced yourself that your view of the world is the "right" one?

Have you ever considered that what you believe to be true and right; may, in fact, be off-base?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014


As you look at your task list or calendar each day, what goes through your mind? What emotion hits first? Does your competitive side see a challenge; or, does your heart race as you realize it will be nearly impossible to accomplish all of those items in one day? 


Lately I've been wondering how that first rush of emotion impacts our mindset at work. Is it possible that our style leaves us susceptible to a first impression that will be a derailer on our outlook for two, six, or even twelve hours?

If so, what strategies do you use to counter this load of negativity? Banging your head against the wall may be tempting at this point, but I recommend head-banging for something very different. 


I have three approaches for dealing with work, personal, and often times in-my-head stress that can derail me and put me into a bit of a tailspin. These won't work for everyone, but in my world they have made all the difference.

1. Reach out to my network

This may feel a bit awkward, particularly if you're not calling to "talk shop." We can all slip into the "work is stressful can you believe what she said in the office" discussion. I'm talking about opening up...being vulnerable...and letting your network actually offer some perspective.

It's powerful. It's important. It works for me.

2. Workout like a beast

Okay, I realize not everyone is into getting fit. That's okay...life is about choices. For me I need to workout to stay sane. I'm not embellishing here. Exercise has become such an important part of my mental health that I can not go more than a day without it.

It's powerful. It's important. It works for me.

3. Find the music that brings me peace of mind and play it every day 

I don't know too many folks who do not enjoy music. Check out the #HRMusicshare hashtag and you'll find all sorts of people sharing the music that is helping them get through the day. My personal tastes are at the fast and heavy end of the musical spectrum. So what?

It's powerful. It's important. It works for me. 


How do you react when the day ahead looks like a train coming straight for you? Do you give up before you even get started...accepting failure as part of the routine? Or, do you make an intentional decision to do something that works for you?

Rock on friends!

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.