Personal Growth

Return on Anger

It is not an over exaggeration to say that our current times might later be classified as the age of rage. As divisions over almost everything mount, we are becoming a more angry society. 

Like most posts I write, the idea of this post came to me because of something I was experiencing. While I do not think of myself as a naturally angry person, I have to confess that I have seen it bubble up more frequently in the last year. 

Am I alone? Or, does any of the following get your blood boiling? 

COVID-19 restrictions 

Lack of COVID-19 restrictions 

People that preach the vaccine 

People that preach the vaccine is a Government take-over 

Politics: Right, Left, or anywhere in-between 

The lack of anywhere “in-between” politically 

Politics coming into every aspect of life 

Your pro baseball team’s lousy hitting

Okay, maybe the last one is not something you get worked up about, but I would imagine you have feelings, perhaps even strong feelings, about all the rest. Perhaps these feelings even lead to anger. 

Notice, I purposely did not take a side on any of the issues listed above. I suspect that even mentioning them gets people a little agitated these days.

I do not know a single leader in any position of authority that does not do a return on investment (ROI) for a capital expenditure. So, here is my question for today’s post, when was the last time you did an ROI on anger? 

This is the question I posed to myself last week when I felt angry after reading the latest Wall Street Journal article on another political divide. My answer was that I never get an acceptable return on my anger. 

Let me repeat for impact. 

I never get an acceptable return on my anger. 

What about you? 

The more I thought about it, the more anger costs me. 

For example, 

When I am angry, I do not serve my spouse, or my kids, well. 

When I am angry, I come to work with a demeanor that can be off putting to others. 

When I am angry, I can make bad decisions. 

When I am angry, I can say hurtful things. 

When I am angry, I am sinful. 

You might not like the word sinful. As a follower of Jesus, however, I want to be clear that I am not judging you, or anyone else. Rather, I am just confessing that anger separates me from God, which is what sin does. When I am angry in the ways described above, I am not righteous. Rather, I am separated from God and sinful. In effect, I am saying to God that my way is better and my thoughts on a particular issue are supreme. 

None of this is true. Regardless of what I am angry about, I am not fully in the right and my way is not entirely right. 

I am simply not God. 

Coming back to leading others, it is important to turn away from this kind of anger. I say this with conviction because leadership is about serving others. To be someone worth following, then, a leader needs to set aside their preferences for the greater good of those they lead.

To this end, can’t we all take a collective sigh, and for the good of our organizations—the area where we actually have influence—lead with humility? Perhaps, even lead in a way that is welcoming of diverse thought and diverse views? 

I believe that is the way the One I follow would want me to lead. Note, this does not mean I do not have convictions, or even strong points of view. It simply means that I can hold those, while simultaneously being open to the view of others. This open-mindedness opens the door to a reality that is less about anger and more about love. 

I know this is counter-cultural, but this is why I pray for those I do not agree with. Please note that these prayers are NOT about God somehow changing the people I disagree with, but rather about God changing ME. 

I pray: 

“Lord, I do not agree with so and so about the particular issue of X. That said, I pray that you bless them. That you give me eyes to love them. Help me discern where they are right, and where I am wrong. Most importantly, lead me to your Truth in this situation. Help me also to be humble. Help me to live according to your Word only, and not to anything less than your Word. Help me to love others as you love me.” 

You see I have come to discover a truth shared long ago: love has an acceptable ROI, whereas anger does not. 

Therefore, the more love I bring to my spouse, kids, and work, the better off I am in the long run. 

To do this, I admittedly have to monitor what I am turning my mind to. This may mean signing off social media or ignoring the latest Wall Street Journal article, but my life is better for it. 

Please understand that this is a constant struggle. The constant bombardment of messages sometimes gets the best of me. It is at these times when I return back to some kind of the aforementioned prayer I wrote above. 

Leaders, I will ask the question one last time that I started with post with. When was the last time you did an ROI on your anger? 

My suspicion is that any type of ROI on anger is going to teach you that it does not give you the return you need to be an effective leader. 

On the other hand, love has an unlimited return to the leader focused on serving other human beings. 

Choose which return you want. 

But, as for me and my house, I am serving the Lord and building my life on irrational love. 

Especially for those I disagree with. 

Processing Bad News

Yesterday, I received some bad news about someone on our team. It has nothing to do with health, or any other external circumstance, thank goodness. Rather, the news is that their role, and the hours worked, need to change because of some external factors. 

This post will explain the things I did the last twenty-four hours to deal with the change. My preferred course would be for this person to stay in their position as is. This transition is not preferable for me, but out of care for them, I have to find a mutual path forward. 

Isn’t that what leaders do?  

First lesson: I have been taught that anger can be an emotion that covers up either fear or sadness. In fact, I have frequently written this blog about how I find it helpful to ask myself what am I afraid about, or sad about, when I feel angry. In this situation I feel both fear and sadness. I fear losing a top performer in the position they are in and I am saddened to lose them as well. Acknowledging this has been helpful because I am not really angry about the situation. What I am feeling is a little fear and probably more than a little sadness. Yet, I was acting angry yesterday afternoon when I learned about it, so this clarification helped. 

Second, something I heard Colin Powell advise in a talk that I attended years ago helped me yesterday when I learned about the situation. The line was this: “Things will look different in the morning.” I think what Colin was pointing out was that our minds can think more clearly after a good night’s sleep. So, after thinking about this news for several hours, I put it in the “Do Not Disturb” part of my brain and went home. Confession: this part of my brain has a VERY WEAK door, meaning things usually do not stay in there long! This is why I could not stop here.

Three, I shared all of the above, especially my emotions, with my wife, Sarah. I am a verbal processor, so Sarah hears it all! I am the complete opposite of most guys that I know in that I have to talk things out. Otherwise, my thinking will go into over-drive (and the door of the “Do Not Disturb” portion of my brain will be blown off its hinges). Had I been on the road yesterday, I would have had to journal about the situation to get it out of my mind. The point here is that until I talk about it, or write about it, I will think about it. This may be the one thing you take from this post: get whatever is in your mind onto a piece of paper, or talk about it with a trustworthy person. This will help settle your brain and will help you think clearly about an issue. 

Fourth, I prayed about the situation. This is not a token gesture, I pray multiple times a day. So, with Sarah, I prayed through the acronym I use (C – confess, H – honor God, A – ask God for help, T – Thanksgiving). I confessed my fear, and even my lack of faith. I also confessed my selfishness, meaning I had only been thinking about the situation from MY perspective, not this person’s needs. I asked for wisdom. I also asked God to bless this person and give them wisdom to handle the troubling external situation they were in. Finally, I thanked God that this was the problem I was dealing with. What I mean by that is that this person is a great person on our team, and the problem is not a health problem, or something really dire. So while it is still a problem, it is one that can be dealt with. 

Fifth, after prayer, I drank a glass of good wine with Sarah and watched a light-hearted T.V. show to wind down. Do not miss this step, especially the wine! 

Sixth, I got up bright and early the following day, did my Bible reading, prayed again, and then went to the gym. I worked out hard, which allowed me to further get out of my mind. I had music blaring and got in a good sweat. An hour later, I was ready to tackle the day. 

Finally, I went to work. 

You know what? Things DID look different than the day before. 

I do not know how this whole scenario will play out, but I wanted to use this week’s post to share what I have done the last twenty-four hours to process this “bad” news. I use quotation marks because after doing all the things listed above, I have gained some perspective. While I do not prefer this news, it is not the worst kind. In fact, I think there is a mutual path forward where everyone will win. 

Thank God for his wisdom.  

I will eventually talk to the person I am keeping confidential. I will close by saying this process has allowed me to get back to a place where I am FOR them and not against them. Yesterday, I was in a place of fear and sadness that would have shown up in anger had we talked then. That would not have ended well. I am praying I can lead myself through the fear and sadness, with the Power of God, and build this person up as we, together, figure out what the next steps are.

What Is Success?

WHAT is success?

If it is a list external accomplishments set by the collective “we,” will it be worth the toil?

If it is some desire in the soul, perhaps recognition or title, will it ever satisfy?

And if it is a set of uncontrollable circumstances, like a healthy family, it may be grasped but never fully attained.

For, we are never in control.

What IS success?

Is it the next breath?

Is it the next leap?

Is it the next conversation?

Does it have anything to do with the next?

Is it a person?

A moment?

An event?

Or, even an accomplishment?

What is SUCCESS?

Perhaps, it just is.

Perhaps, it is now.

Alive.

Breath.

Present.

Today.

Success is now.

It is not yesterday.

Nor, is it something in the future.

Success is the moment in front of you.

This road.

This moment.

These people.

Stop striving for somewhere else, and start living.

Welcome home.

How To Counter Anxiety: 3 Helpful Disciplines

Anxiety. 

Am I the only leader that struggles with saying the word anxiety? It is as if by saying that you are anxious you are automatically “less than.” But this is a boldface lie. In the last year it has been hard to not be at least a little anxious. So, before going further, I want to speak directly to the type-A leader. Lean in and listen. 

It is okay to admit that you are anxious. 

What I am going to do with the rest of today’s post is share ideas that I have found to be helpful when I am anxious. To be sure, there is a plethora of things I do. For example, I start each day in God’s word because I need to get my mind right. I also pray a LOT. I emphasize “LOT” not to show you how spiritual I am, but to show you how DESPERATE I am. Desperate people pray. I wear my desperation with a badge of honor because I need help. 

I have also found that listening to classical music, especially while I write, calms anxiety. And if all else fails, drinking a good glass of red wine can also help calm my body, mind, and soul. 

See, I am not “holier than thou!” 

I am human. 

And here is today’s starting point…

So are you. 

I am not going to dwell on all the reasons you probably are, to some degree, anxious. Rather, I want to spend time in today’s post outlining three helpful disciplines I have turned to this year. By adopting them, you will find help battling anxiety as well.

Silence

A few years ago, my Executive Coach challenged me to take inventory of all the “inputs” in my life. By “inputs,” he meant things like text messages, emails, podcasts, books, news, social media, etc. In short, anything that created noise inside my brain. What I discovered was that my entire day revolved around information. All this information, as good as it might have been, was overwhelming me. 

I then discovered all the noise was my attempt to cover up the insecurity inside my soul. I thought if I answered every email in 2 minutes, read all the latest leadership books, and kept a cool Instagram, I would be “enough.” By “enough,” I mean that people would like, respect, and appreciate me. I even expected to feel good 24/7! 

I learned that this was a fool’s errand. But I could only see so in hindsight, when I could see the impacts leading to large dips in energy, and even sickness. Since then, I have become more cognizant of the number of inputs in my life. 

What does this have to do with anxiety? 

Everything. 

Living in the information world, where more is always shared, tweeted, and expected (especially of leaders), your anxiety could just be a result of too much “inputs.” The antidote to this is, you guessed it, silence.

Silence requires stopping. You cannot be silent on the “go.” Further, silence requires a belief that you can stop doing whatever it is that you are doing. You can put down the book, turn off the podcast, and just be.

Being allows your self to catch up to your life.

Don’t believe me that silence helps? Over the next twenty-four hours, take inventory of all your “inputs.” Pay special attention to your phone, what you do in the car, and at night. How much time are you in complete silence? 

In case you struggle with English (don’t worry I did, which is why I am being blunt here), complete silence means complete silence. 

I am inviting you to turn your phone off, turn your computer off, to pull over if you are in your car, and to just be. 

That’s right. Just. Be.

As I am writing this post, I have done some form of this for 27 days straight. I am using the timer app on my iPhone and timing myself in complete silence. I aim for somewhere between 2 to 10 minutes per session. I share what I am doing because if you are like me, your brain is telling you right now that you do not have time to do what I am suggesting above. You might even be thinking that I am some kind of weird monk, or hippy. I do not think I am, but that is probably up for debate.

The truth, however, is that you have time to do this 2 to 10 minutes per day, especially at the office, where the benefits on the other side of silence are staggering. For example, I have discovered that after being silent for five minutes I can re-engage positively with just about any kind of problem.

That’s right, silence leads to better on-the-job-decision making.

There is so much to share about silence that I will devote a future post to it. For now, start small, but be consistent (consistency trumps duration in almost any discipline). And most of all, be graceful to yourself. 

Take ONE day OFF per week

For many, this is called the Sabbath. But, do not let that word freak you out. What I am referring to is not a day of extended solitude and silence, although that would be really beneficial! Rather, I am referring to ONE day per week that looks COMPLETELY different than the other six. 

As you probably can guess, I have read a lot of Christian books about the Sabbath. Most make me feel like a failure for blowing past God’s limits for life. But lately, I have read more helpful advice about taking one day a week off. Here are some notes I have jotted down while reading those books: 

  • The Sabbath is a gift. It is a no obligation day! 
  • Four words to think about in relation to the Sabbath: Stop, Rest, Contemplate, and Delight (have fun!) 
  • Useful ideas for me: Grill a good dinner for the family, play golf and do not keep score (no measuring your worth in performance this day), and exercise outdoors.
  • Take a nap!

I am sharing the above because I used to think that taking a day off was torturous. I have discovered, however, that it should be fun and something I look forward to. 

Notice: I did not list “check my email” in the above list. I am not going to lie and say that I don’t (especially talking about the Sabbath!), but I do try to limit it as much as possible. 

One last bit of advice that I found extremely helpful is that your “day off” does not have to coincide with a normal 24-hour period. What I mean is that I sometimes take my Sabbath from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday (or something like that). The reason being is that it allows me to get my chores done Saturday morning, and then also allows me to get prepared for the work week to come on Sunday night. The point here is that you (your body, mind, and soul) need ONE day off in a week. 

Prioritize it.  

Journal

When all else fails journal. At least that is what I tell myself. I say it this way because journaling does not come natural to me, yet I see its profound impact every time I do it. 

I have shared multiple times in these posts that I have often used Pete Scazzero’s “iceberg exercise” when journaling. By this, I answer the following questions: What am I mad about? What am I said about? What I am anxious about? What am I glad about? Writing the answers to these questions often uncover the root cause of my anxiety (and anger). To that end, I encourage you to get your thoughts down on paper. Or, as I mentioned in last week’s post, share them with a trusted friend.

The three disciplines shared above are obviously not an exhaustive list. So, I challenge you to experiment and find what works best for you. 

I have allotted the last two weeks to anger and anxiety because I struggle with them. By sharing some of the disciplines I have used to battle them, I hope you have gained a couple tools to help you in the process. I also hope that you follow my lead by owning your struggles.

Remember, you cannot treat what you do not think is a problem.  

I hope and pray these two posts have been helpful. My goal in writing these posts remains to encourage leaders to become the kinds of people others want to follow. To that end, we (you and I) need to own what is going on inside us for that to happen. 

Please feel free to send me an email at alex@alexhoffer.me if there is any way I can help you, or pray for you, in that pursuit. 

Keeping it Real

Who would have thought a year ago that COVID-19 would last a year? We now know that it could last years and even become a part of our life indefinitely. I must confess this makes me both angry, and anxious. 

Can you relate to these feelings? Just in the past two days I have encountered people who are mad about the politicization of everything, anxious about various aspects of their life, and flat-out exhausted. Worse, people in all walks of life are biting at each other’s heals. 

We were never meant to carry all of this for 52 weeks, let alone indefinitely. So, in the next two posts I am going to address two topics that leaders often shy away from discussing: Anger and Anxiety. 

I must confess a few things before getting started however. First, I am writing as someone that has struggled with both anger and anxiety, this year. I suppose, as the author of this blog, I should present the “Instagram filter” equivalent of my life, but that is not me. As the below will indicate, I have honestly struggled at times this year. 

Admittedly, this post will be somewhat therapeutic for me to write. So, thank you for being my virtual therapist. My hope is that by exposing my feelings, you will feel free to do the same. Whether you do so privately in your journal, or to a trusted friend, is up to you. I have chosen the latter, and would encourage you to just get it out in some way or fashion. 

Second, the two questions that follow are directly from Pete Scazzero. His writing, and weekly podcast, have been extremely helpful to me in this season of change and loss. I am not nearly smart enough to come up with the two questions that follow, so all credit is his. So, without further ado here they are: 

When you feel angry, ask yourself two questions: 

  1. What am I sad about? 
  2. What am I afraid of?   

Let’s tackle these in order. 

Sad? Here is a quick list of things I am sad about: Disunity over a disease, the politicization of every aspect of life, racism, church infighting, loss of two Hoffer team members to unrelated health issues, the transition of a team member, the division over the election, plastic resin availability, the loss of my friend’s daughter to cancer. 

And that is just the start, but I will stop there.

When this sadness bubbles up, I can feel myself begin to get angry. I can raise my voice on my kids, or even in a meeting. I can “power-up” to show people who is boss (and simultaneously become someone others do NOT want to follow). I can be cold and distant to those I love the most. Yet, I can rationalize that I am just “angry” and with a little sleep, and possibly some good coffee, I will be relaxed again. 

At least, that is what I tell myself. 

But, here is the (real) deal. 

Most of the time, I am not angry, I am sad. This clarification is vitally important because it identifies the potential root cause. 

Then again, it could also be that I am afraid… 

Afraid? Here is a quick list of things I am afraid of: COVID-19 never going (entirely) away, sharing political beliefs, sharing vaccine viewpoints publicly, the vaccine in general, further supply chain disruptions to our business, my kids getting seriously sick, not measuring up, political divisions fundamentally destroying our country, and the Chicago Bears drafting yet another Quarterback (just trying to lighten the mood!). 

Here again, I can exhibit anger publicly even though what I am actually feeling is fear. In fact, I can power up, demonstrate whose opinion matters most, and come across in a, let’s be blunt, very insecure way when I am fearful. 

Yet, let’s be honest one last time, others perceive this fear as anger, and anger is the more socially acceptable “sin” of a leader. 

When was the last time you admitted you were scared in a conference room full of people you lead? 

I never have either.  

I am owning it here however……. it is in writing. 

Sometimes, my “fear” is dressed up in a Marvel costume that tries to disguise it as “anger.” 

So, where does that leave us for this post? 

First, I challenge you to do some inventory of your thoughts and feelings the next time you feel “angry.” Ask yourself what you are sad about? Also ask yourself what you are afraid of? Then, as I said at the outset, I challenge you to either write the answers down, or share them with someone you trust. 

Second, and here is the legal mumbo-jumbo, if after journaling on what you are either sad about, or afraid about, you still feel angry, you could actually be angry. If so, “proceed with extreme caution.” In fact, a good idea is to go back to my idea mentioned above (sleep!). 

In short, do not burn down an entire forest when you want to get rid of one weed. 

Be gentle. 

And speaking of being gentle, be gentle on yourself when you are journaling about what you are sad and/or scared about. 

You are not any less of a human by realizing that you have feelings and emotions. But, you become someone worth following by discovering what those feelings and emotions really are. This happens because introspection is rare these days and people crave being around those individuals who are real.

There is a chance that even after taking a deep dive into the questions above you still feel an overwhelming dread, or an unsettling feeling of anxiety inside you. Next week, I will share some things I am doing to counter these feelings of anxiety. 

In the interim, take a deep breath. 

People follow those who are real, not fake. To that end, I challenge you to get real about your sadness and fear. 

You, and those closest to you, will be better for it. 

scrabble pieces spelling rest

Spring BREAK

Growing up in the 1980s, I played a lot of “The Oregon Trail” video game. For those not familiar, “The Oregon Trail” was a simple game where the player assumes the role of a wagon leader and tries to guide settlers from Missouri to Oregon. Being able to play the game was usually an award for finishing some homework assignment in grade school. My buddies and I always raced to see who could make it first to Oregon. Unfortunately, I do not think I ever made it.

My character always died because I pushed him too hard and ignored the warnings about disease and malnourishment. In fact, as I was retelling this to my wife, not only could she not stop laughing, but I found out her character (supposedly) always made it to Oregon. She claims her character was probably an hour or two late in leaving Missouri, but I digress.

The reason she was laughing is because “little Alex” (as she likes to refer to the 1980s me) already had that get-up-and-go mentality. “Video game me” would push onward, even when my character had a snakebite or dysentery. Predictably, death would soon follow. Thank God it was only a video game!

Pivot to the present. One gift COVID-19 has given me is perspective. Being forced to slow down has showed me how much my life has been built on adrenaline. While this realization did not sit well with me at first, I came to appreciate it for the gift it is. And as a Christ-follower, I came to treasure the Sabbath for the gift it is as well.

Taking a break is often the hardest thing for a leader, like myself, to do. Tell me to hit the gym harder, read more books, or fly to the next sales meeting in Europe and I am on it! These things are actually easy for me to do. But, tell me to rest and do nothing, I immediately start to have heart palpitations.

Nothing?

I actually have a coach in real life because I am such a mess. He once told me NOT to read any books for a month. I laughed at him. He smiled back, but before he could say it again, I did it.

My self-worth is built on achievement, and achievement necessitates a never-ending “go-go” mindset.

Can you relate?

The reality, however, is that rest is needed to maintain health. It is needed for me, and it is needed for you.

So, here is the obvious formula for today’s post. Pay attention to it, so you do not miss it………

The only way to get rest is by taking a break.

That’s it. Take a break this week and rest.

If you are like me, you might need a few pointers. So, here are a few ideas I think about each week during my Sabbath. The list is not exhaustive, and meant to start priming your pump on what might work for you:

-Have fun by doing the “I get to” things, not the “I have to” things.

-Do not think about work, do work, or even mention work, for 24 hours.

-For the golfers, play an afternoon 9 without keeping score (or don’t keep track of whatever hobby it is that you enjoy. Do it only for the love of it!)

-Read fiction

-Get outside, look around, and explore

-Take a long walk without headphones or other distractions

-Nap

-Drink the “I am saving this bottle for a special occasion” wine

-Hug your spouse and kids

-Grill some good food

Your list can be entirely different. Just make sure your break is different from every other day or time in your normal day-to-day life.

And be sure to give yourself one before your real-life self begins to develop health problems.

sign that says be optimistic

Quit Sheltering in Place From Your Positive Attitude

Deep inside all of us is a belief that things can be better. Regardless of how our life has played out so far, it is there. I say this confidently because each of us learned to walk as a baby. We were encouraged by our parents, or whomever was taking care of us, and through practice and effort we learned to walk.

Walking demonstrated to our forming minds that more was possible. A little seedling sprouted inside us the day we took our first steps. If we could walk, we had to wonder, what else was possible?

Life is not easy however. Everyone falls down, some more than others. Over the course of time, the seedling can disappear altogether. We can even be tempted to think that more is no longer possible.

Because of this, a temptation is born. The temptation is to shelter in place from our positive attitude. We can rationalize giving into this temptation by saying that we are being realists. Experience, after all, teaches us that not everything is possible. Or is this too just another temptation? Is it something we tell ourselves to soften the blow of unbelief in ourselves?

The opposite of this is returning to the belief that more things are possible than we can see, or even believe, today. This is true because as John Maxwell reminds, we can grow in matters of choice. Having a positive attitude is, after all, a choice. This is different than matters of skill, where only so much growth is possible.

To that end, I concede that not everything is possible. I am, after all, still chasing the golf round where I make 18 consecutive birdies. Golf, after all, is a mostly a matter of skill. Too often, however, I shelter from the belief that I can even shoot par, a reasonable goal for a single-digit handicap, let alone make a couple birdies when I need to. To this end, my negative mindset holds me back from my skill’s fullest potential. The good news is that mindset is, to John Maxwell’s point, a matter of choice. By believing more is possible, more becomes possible, especially in golf!

Coming full circle, leadership is a lot like the role our parents played when we learned to walk. Leaders need to be the kind of people that encourage others when they fall down. Further, when they question whether or not they will ever be able to take the next step, we need to be there telling them they absolutely can! And when they do, we need to celebrate as our parents did when we took those first steps.

Doing this starts with positivity in our mind. We cannot give what we don’t possess. My guess is your best moments, and mine, were birthed from the seedlings of positivity.

So, never underestimate its power. Quit sheltering from it, and bring it with you wherever you go. It will not only light up your path, but also the path of those you lead.

anxious woman gnawing on pencil

One Action To Save Time and Lessen Stress

Here is something I am working on to save time and lessen stress: Rather than having a conversation with someone in my mind, I am working on having it with them directly and in person.

That’s it.

Maybe you can relate to my issue, which is the issue of stewing over potential conversations with others. There was one conversation last year that I stewed on for weeks. I had the conversation more times than I could count in my head. I even practiced getting worked up over the conversation. I sacrificed sleep to practice the conversation at odd hours of the night. Unfortunately, all this stewing did not help me resolve the issue, nor did it help when the conversation finally occurred.

I would have saved time, and stress, having the conversation earlier. Hence, this week I am spotlighting my lesson learned.

Besides saving time and lessening stress, having a conversation directly is the kind of thing that people worth following do. To be classified as a leader, one has to be moving from point A to point B. To this end, leaders are those that put into action what they know. If the action needed is a conversation, a conversation is what they have.

So, what about you? Is there a conversation you need to have right now?

Today’s post is shorter than normal on purpose. Why not take the time you normally would use to read the rest of the post and identify the conversation that you need to have?

Gather your thoughts, find your courage, and go. Be gentle, but direct. With love, or the desire to put another’s interest above your own, go and have the conversation you have been avoiding.

You will save time and lessen stress by doing so.

plan your year on tablet

Going Out With A Bang – The Annual Quit List

The New Year always brings endless possibilities for more. As a go-getter, I am always fired up to set new goals and take new ground. But, one can only take on so much. To that end, as a leader I want to always evaluate the tasks I am asking team members to do because I cannot continually add to that “to-do” list. So, clarifying what they can “quit” is not only humane, but also gives them renewed energy to pursue what is important now. Similarly, I have found that I need to do the same for myself. What follows are three things I am quitting for 2021. The purpose of this short post is for you to begin thinking about the things you need to quit as well. Then, I would challenge you to write them down prior to deciding when you are going to let them go in 2021.

Here is my list:

Social Media: No judgment to anyone else with what I am about to share. But, while social media has never been a complete time-suck for me, it has been a continual temptation for me to project a better version of myself than what is reality. Specifically, this is true on Instagram, where I have failed to share pictures of myself in anything other than positive light. (C’mon! You know we ALL do it!) Couple this with my tendency to compare my life to others, I realized this year that social media is, in many ways, unhealthy for me. So, to that end, I have decided to get off Facebook/Instagram/Twitter and not sign up for anything new – I will continue to post this blog on LinkedIn however, so, if you are reading this on LinkedIn, know that I am not going anywhere.

Multi-tasking: If the first item was not aspirational enough, here is one that is extremely so. Having said that, I have come to realize that this is another huge problem for me. A few years ago, I received feedback in a 360 review that I often checked email when I had a person sitting in front of me in my office. This crushed me because my intent was never to tune anyone out. As a “doer,” however, I often find myself moving almost automatically from one thing to the next, but, I do not want to be that person! Rather, I want to be a single-tasker. I want to give the person in my office my FULL attention. Unlike social media, this is something virtually impossible to quit all the time. So, my plan going forward is to notice when I am multi-tasking, remember my intention to quit it, and stop. In most cases, this will probably mean putting the phone down or turning the computer screen off (something I’ve learned and highly recommend when someone else is present in your office).

Putting off going to the doctor: Going to the doctor for a yearly checkup has not been a challenge for me. But, going to the doctor for an injury has been. This year I learned that playing through pain does not work like it used to. So, I am committed to going to the doctor and addressing problems when they come up. While this is truly one of my chosen items to quit next year, I am also including it to encourage other leaders to go to the doctor for yearly check-ups. I have had too many conversations with leaders this year who have been putting this off. The reality is that you are no good to your family, or your workplace, when you are not healthy. So, please take your health seriously in 2021.

There is nothing magical about what I have shared above. But, notice how my selections came from reflecting on the past. Similarly, I encourage you to reflect on the past year and decide what you need to quit going forward. This will help you recalibrate for the year ahead.

small boy with mouth open astounded on black background

20 Minutes of Learning

Various studies have been done the last several years on how much time employees waste on social media in the workplace. One recently from a “staffing firm” found that workers waste an average of 56 minutes per day using their mobile devices for non-work activities. I am sure that you and I do not have this problem, but what about our organizations? (Note the sarcasm intended in the previous statement).

I question all kinds of waste – plastic parts on the floor, time spent on social media, and extended periods on screens (now called “binging,” which points out how unhealthy it is!). But, I also cannot stand excuse making, and excuses are what I often hear from leaders when I ask them how much they are reading.

“I don’t have time,” they tell me, or, “I am not a reader” or, “reading was boring in high school” (despite the fact that high school was probably three plus decades ago!). All of these are weak excuses.

You might be wondering what social media and time wasted at the workplace has to do with reading as a leader. If it is not already obvious, why don’t you get off your smartphone, your email, and even silence your calls, so that you can learn from spending 20 minutes a day at the office? This is the office place equivalent of “don’t eat that, eat this,” leadership development, because 20 minutes of learning will provide the nourishment you need to become smarter, wiser, and possibly worth following.

Still unconvinced? Do you have that nagging urge to check to see if your last post received more likes? Here are 3 reasons to spend 20 minutes each day learning at the office….

Learning: Duh, that is what this is all about, but hang with me here. Instead of catching up on the latest sporting news, or what your uncle’s cousin thinks about the President, why not dig into a leadership or history book? Notice that I am not suggesting that you read the secret book your grandmother used to read about the estranged lovers. Rather, I am suggesting you read the kind of book that will help you get better at your job or gain perspective about the world. Imagine for a second if everyone in your company read 5 leadership and 5 history books per year. Would your company be better than it is today? I’d wager that it would be.

Slowing: 20 minutes of learning forces you to slow down and stop reacting to the constant bombardment of activity present in the modern workplace. Who among us has made poor decisions because you were reacting through the day and firing off email after email, stopping to fire a few texts, and even reacting harshly to an annoyed customer? 20 minutes of learning is like an adult “time-out” of sorts. Or, if you prefer, call it “halftime.” Like professional athletes, we need to take a break to think. The gift of 20 minutes of learning is that it not only gives us a much needed break, but also replenishes our mind with useful information and perspective, the kind that will propel us to better performance for the remainder of the day.

Subconscious Power: I always spend 20 minutes of learning with an open notepad beside me because when my conscious brain is freed to rest, the subconscious often kicks in with good ideas or answers to problems in the workplace. I am not smart enough to tell you how this happens, but it is why some people say that their best ideas come in the shower or in other areas where they are not thinking about a specific problem. Reading is another activity that turns off the problem-solving portion of our brain and allows the subconscious to go to work. To that end, do not be surprised if 20 minutes of learning leads to better ideas.

These are only three reasons to spend 20 minutes learning at the office each day – there are surely more! But, what happens if the boss catches you blowing off work to read the latest John Maxwell leadership book?

I’ll bet she walks away thinking, “I should promote so and so. I caught Alex checking Facebook the other day. He’s an employee who should really spend more time learning through substantiative reading.”

The fact of the matter is that we all should.

My challenge to you is to start spending at least 20 minutes learning through reading and let me know how it goes.

You have the time – stop making excuses!