Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Doing What You Love Outside of Work

March 31st, 2016

“Do what you love in your life outside work.” It’s an idea that Roger W. Ferguson Jr. proposes in a recent Time article. He elaborates that “it’s helpful to see life-work not so much as separate spheres that must be ‘balanced,’ but as a continuum, each falling into and influencing the other.”

As someone who struggles with life-work balance, I find this idea comforting. It’s hard to remove your professional life from your personal life, especially when you enjoy seeing work colleagues and friends outside of work.

Ferguson offers some specific advice on what to love outside of work:


Work life Balance



Physically: “My exercise regimen gives me the energy and stamina to tackle whatever comes my way during the workweek.” Although, unlike the author, I do not exercise for an hour each morning, I have started to do push ups and sit-ups with the help of a handy app.

Intellectually: “My reading habits keep me on top of what’s happening in my industry, the economy, the markets, and the world at large — helping to inform my decision-making at the office.” I too love reading magazines, an online newspaper and scrolling through social media to catch the latest things that others in my circle are reading. Some of you probably have received forwarded articles from me.

Emotionally: “My involvement with outside organizations enables me to connect with all sorts of fascinating people— demographers, educators, social scientists, healthcare leaders — who have invaluable insights about trends with important business implications.” My best days are spent casually catching up with people. I truly believe that face-to-face time with others can be inspiring, motivating and fun. As much as my schedule allows, I try to meet up for lunch or coffee with people, because I know that this is the best way to build relationships.

The restorative power of doing what you love is invaluable. In an ideal world, you love your work and that is what makes you happy; but if not, find creative ways to stay stimulated and healthy outside of your work environment. Perhaps a yoga class, regular walks in local parks and trails, going out with friends for dinner where you are intentional about not bringing up work related stressors.

Try it! You’ll see that it will fill you with energy and positivity. And we all could use some of that throughout our week.

How Good Is Your Boss’ Emotional Intelligence?

May 1st, 2015

Emotional intelligence is about being able to understand your and others’ interior lives and how your actions and environments affect them.  Believe it or not, those above the middle management level don’t always score so high on their emotional intelligence. Travis Bradbury, author and co-founder of TalentSmart, analyzed the score profiles of more than a million people, working across industries on six continents. Middle managers stand out with the highest emotional intelligence (EQ) scores in the workplace.

Companies have a clear tendency to promote people into front-line supervisory and then middle management positions because they’re good with people. They assume that a manager with high EQ is someone that people will want to work for.  Interestingly, emotional intelligence scores decline precipitously as you move above middle management, with CEOs having the lowest EQs in the workplace, on average.

Here, Bradbury writes for Forbes and offers up some of his favorite EQ-boosting strategies below.

These tips apply to anyone, even if you’re not a leader.
Acknowledge Other People’s Feelings
Assertive, action-oriented executives don’t exactly ignore other people’s feelings. What they tend to do instead is to marginalize them or “fix” them so that they don’t get in the way of action. While some have suggested that this is a predominantly male problem, it can more accurately be described as a “power problem.” People who fail to acknowledge other people’s feelings fail to realize that lingering emotions inhibit effective action. So the next time you notice someone on your team expressing a strong emotion, ask him or her about it. Then listen intently and play back what you have just heard in summary form. By validating their emotions, you’ll help them feel understood so that they can move forward without hindrance.

When You Care, Show It
Good leaders always notice when people on their teams are doing good work, but they don’t often show it. When you appreciate something that another person does, let him or her know about it. Even a quick email or pat on the back goes a long way in this regard. There are people who do great work around you every day. Don’t put off letting them know how you feel about it. Your praise will build fierce loyalty and inspire your people to work even harder.

Watch Your Emotions Like A Hawk
You may think you have a world-class poker face, but if you’re like the average executive, your weakest self-awareness skills are “understanding how your emotions impact others” and “recognizing the role you have played in creating difficult circumstances.” In other words, you would become a much more effective leader if you obtained a better understanding of what you feel, when you feel it. Practice this by taking notice of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors just as a situation unfolds. The goal is to slow yourself down and take in all that is in front of you, so that you can understand how your emotions influence your behavior and alter your perception of reality.

I can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and improving your relationships. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. The pressure that leaders are under often makes them feel as if they don’t have time to sleep, but not taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

Quash Negative Self-Talk
A big step in developing emotional intelligence involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity. When it feels like something “always” or “never” happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

Now, somewhat contrary to what the article says, I know many CEO’s with high emotional intelligence.  I guess that is because they know enough to bring us in to help with the development of their people and themselves.

For those of you who’d like to check out your own EQ levels, we offer you a free Emotional Quotient™ 3 from Target Training International. (Please limit one per person.) This is of course just one example of the many developmental assessments RCG offers.


How to Reclaim Your Focused Attention

February 20th, 2015

Waste my time?  I am my biggest time waster, which I admit can be enjoyable.  Being productive all the time might make me a dull guy.  And, yes, there is more to life than “being productive.”  That being said, there are tricks that we have all learned to focus better on the task at hand.  My favorite is having turned off that little notice on the bottom of my screen that announces every email I get. I did that years ago and it really helped me.
What is your favorite distractor eliminator? And how well do you manage your time? (Yes, I know, we can’t manage time…we can only manage our activities).

If you’re like many people, your answer may not be completely positive. Perhaps you feel overloaded, and you often have to work late to hit your deadlines. Or maybe your days seem to go from one crisis to another, and that is stressful and demoralizing. While some people are able to easily get through the day with many achievements ticked off their list, others seem to accomplish very little. With so many tasks and distractions pulling us in so many directions, it takes focus to…well, focus!
Below are some helpful tips from Harvard Business Review on how to harness your attention span:


  1. Build Capacity.
    We can expand our attentive capacity through a commitment to practices such as meditation, journaling, time in nature, regular physical activity, and good sleep hygiene. All of these activities support our ability to direct our focus, filter out distractions, and manage our emotions, and we can often realize their benefits with a modest investment of time.While these activities are often enjoyable in themselves, they aren’t indulgences–they’re investments in our ability to operate at peak effectiveness. High-performing professionals often enjoy success early in their careers by virtue of their ability to forego activities like this–they cut back on sleep or go without exercise for extended periods of time. But while those sacrifices temporarily expand our capacity for throughput, they actually diminish our capacity for focused attention.2. Plug Leaks.
    Attention is finite, and our ability to focus in the moment is severely limited. Because distractions can fatally undermine effective leadership, it’s critical to avoid “attention leaks.” The functions on our phones and other devices that beep, blink and thrust red numbers in our faces are designed to capture our attention and create a sense of urgency… But how often are any of these interruptions truly urgent? Almost never. Turn them off.3. Limit Multi-tasking.
    Another attention-destroying practice is what we’ve come to call “multi-tasking,” an utterly misnamed concept. While insignificant tasks requiring minimal cognitive effort can be performed in parallel, the truly meaningful work through which most leaders add value–one-on-one conversations, facilitation or decision-making in meetings, and creative thought and ideation–require a much more intense level of focus. Multi-tasking in those environments inevitably results in significant inefficiencies as we switch contexts and lose focus before returning to a deeper level of thought.4. Create Space.
    Leaders typically face intense demands on their time (in part because everyone wants their attention), and if they’re not careful they can find themselves booked nonstop for days on end. It’s important to maintain some open space in the calendar, on a weekly or even daily basis, which allows for more creative thinking and helps replenish our stores of attention. This inevitably involves disappointing people, all of whom believe their issue is worthy of the leader’s time, but productive leaders realize that they can’t meet all of these requests and must ignore many of them. Here leaders require help from their senior team, family, and friends, and–perhaps most importantly–their executive assistants. People in these roles are uniquely positioned to help leaders protect open space on their calendars, and they’re uniquely positioned to undermine that process if they don’t understand this responsibility.

    A final thought:
    If you’re a leader sitting in a meeting that’s not worth your focused attention, then you’re serving a theatrical function. Sometimes this makes sense. There’s a place for organizational theater. But more often the whole organization is suffering because your most precious resource is being wasted. Let the people who organized the meeting know that you’ll attend in the future when you’re needed, excuse yourself, and get on with your day. And if it’s your meeting, then you may well be wasting everyone’s time and attention–they may all be there in a theatrical function because they’re deferring to your authority. Have a candid conversation with a trusted ally, and get some feedback on the utility of your meetings.

-George Alwon