I’ve recently begun to make token visits back to the office over the last couple of weeks. Not because I wanted or really needed to, but rather it’s just one of those things expected of management. What immediately struck me, and still continues to, is it now feels completely foreign and uncomfortable to be sitting in my office office rather than my home office.
My, how times have changed!
I feel very unproductive when I’m there. That particular and unique muscle memory is gone, and it’s going to take some time to get it back. I share this as a warning to all leaders/managers......
Your employees are going to feel the same way.
Just because folks are now returning to the office in some form, that doesn’t mean they will immediately be able to fall back into that routine. Just like the struggles that surfaced when work from home began, so too will surface with return to office.
So, be patient and understanding. You handled a cat walking in frame on a video call - you can handle this too!
Every so often someone will ask me to recommend something good to read, watch or listen to. This was particularly true in 2020 - 2021 when we were either shut out from the majority of the world, or simply looking for a diversion from the current hardships.
Truth be told though, I’m always a little hesitant to respond to questions like that.
While I feel I have some pretty poignant thoughts on leadership, customer experience or process improvement, my binge watching of “Beat Bobby Flay” might not exactly offer the same level of insights. Be that as it may, the following is my current status and thoughts around what I’m reading, watching and listening to.
I’ll be honest. I’ve gone an embarrassingly long time without picking up a book (and that includes the digital kind) for just the sheer enjoyment of it. It’s not that I stopped enjoying reading, or didn’t have the time. It was just that I was filling up that time with something else. Work, kids, house/yard chores all have a way of sneaking in and demanding more attention. Having recently decided to become a bit more intentional about picking up the habit again, I’m currently reading:
“Greenlights” was a gift from my wife and probably not one that would have hit my radar on its own. That being said, I do enjoy hearing McConaughey’s perspective on life and how to live it. Hygge (Danish sense of coziness and well being) has long been a topic of interest for me, and I thought it was finally time I read this well known book on the subject.
Since I’ve already confessed to not having read for a long time, it won’t surprise you to learn I don’t have any current recommendations. However, there are a couple of older books that still jump out to me as excellent reads.
Being a World War II buff “Unbroken” was a must read for me. It’s the amazing true life story of Louie Zamperini written by Hillenbrand who also authored “Seabiscuit” (another great book). If you’ve ever pondered Heaven or God, “The Shack” does an excellent job of addressing the how’s and why’s that inevitabley surface with that kind of exploration. The book moved me like none other.
Unlike what my reading track record produced, my what to watch list is top rate! While most of these are pretty common and won’t necessarily surprise you, they all are definitely binge-worthy (a skill I honed over the last 2 years).
Two series that I loved and recently rewatched are:
I was surprised to learned that rewatching was at least AS enjoyable as the first time, and perhaps even MORE so. There were some subtleties that I just missed the first time around, and discovering them later on was so much fun! I imagine the same is true for books.
In no particular order, you can’t go wrong watching the following series. Some were specific to the pandemic lockdown, and others more recent.
Like so many others, since 2020 I’ve been working from home and that looks to remain for the foreseeable future. As a result, my Spotify subscription gets a heavy workout.
During the day, you’ll find me listening to low-fi chill music. The “Workday Lounge” playlist curated by Spotify is usually my go too. Others like “Chill Tracks” and “Chillhop” are in the rotation as well. During the previous two summers my wife and I would grab a bottle of wine and sit on our back deck for some Parisian cafe vibes. Playlists like “French Cafe Lounge” would help set the mood.
All other times I’m usually listening to my personal “Liked” playlist. Unfortunately, it’s not natively shareable.
Truman Miller: December 17, 1924 - August 4, 2021
I’ve spent my entire life visiting my Uncle Truman and Aunt Roxie in southern Missouri. As a kid, my Dad and I would come down every year to quail hunt, and Truman would walk with us (as chores allowed!) over this good creation. Later, I would bring my own family down to share in the love and warmth offered by Truman and Roxie. I’ve always felt the Ozarks were in my blood – Truman is a big reason why.
Faith and Family. That’s what Truman lived every single day, and that’s what he has inspired in me.
All my love,
Have you ever noticed a lot of the productivity experts who say "it’s ok to say no", and "you need to create margin in your work day", are self-employed?
Um….I’m playing catch up here, but with no boss (or bosses) isn't that a whole lot easier to do? What about the rest of us who have senior management asking us to chase after a variety of shiny objects, and personnel we are trying to support through the latest flu outbreak?
The fact is, it’s really hard to say no (or even career limiting) even though the benefits it would bring are undeniable. We can’t control when a boss, or customer, will come to us with a problem or request. The good news though, is we can control what we do from that moment on. The chaos and disruption that occurs around us doesn’t have to influence how we respond to it. As a matter of fact, it can’t. Our health and welfare depends upon it.
To be our best selves doesn’t mean to drop everything and jump on the latest emergency that has been tossed into our lap. It does mean to focus on what matters at that moment, and have a system by which you can capture and process new items in an effective and efficient manner. There are many ways to do this, and even more people offering advice. Here is the routine that works for me:
Here is when I take a bit of a break and recharge a little. I almost always have brought my lunch in so I’ll eat in my office, and wrap up any loose ends from the morning work. After that, I’ll go outside, or somewhere nearby, to walk and clear my mind.
Before I walk out the door I take another look at my email, voicemail etc. to ensure nothing has slipped through the cracks. It is at this time I make a list of the top 3 issues I want to address in the morning. This allows me to not waste time tomorrow determining where to begin.
So let's be honest. This routine doesn’t prevent the shiny object chase or any of the other thousands of interruptions which could and will occur. Things happen which require changes to be made, and new priorities to be established. What I have found though, is while this system doesn’t prevent the craziness it prevents me from becoming crazy right along with it. There is a sense of calm and order knowing I’ve got a game plan and general structure to see me through the day.
One last piece of advise. Coffee. Always coffee.
Side notes that make the system work:
We love lists...Christmas lists, bucket lists, task lists. Even Arya Stark* had a list.
*Game of Thrones confession: I actually liked season 8.
Lists are tricky though. They try to convince us life and success can be wrapped up in a few simple steps. If we can just accomplish what's on the list all will be good. Happiness and contentment are just a few checkboxes away.
Of course, it’s never that easy. The reality is lists represent a beginning. An initial structure of clarity and focus to begin the pursuit we are targeting, rather than a final roadmap to our destination. That’s because every moment is fluid. If we stay so locked into the lists, we lessen our ability to pivot and consider other variables as they present themselves. However, if we consistently vet and groom our lists, we can then make intentional and purposeful decisions throughout as new information, problems, and opportunities arise.
With all that being said, I was asked recently what would be my top 5 career tips for someone starting out. A career tip list if you will. I think the following is a good place to start.
I've developed a book club styled course based on "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni. We talk about the ideas around team and teamwork, and how that's meaningful in our lives. Response has been fantastic! If interested in exploring how this conversation can be impactful to your group, reach out to me here.
The presentation you put together for the Consumer Loyalty and Channel Residential leadership groups was done so well, if you had come from outside the organization, I would have thought it was a high-level leadership workshop. It gave the leadership team, including me, great insight in how to lead when faced with challenge. I hear them refer to your course often to tackle issues
- Juaquin Orosco, Human Resources
We’ve all heard that expression before. When we want to take that super cool trip, or stay out a little bit longer, or buy that really expense piece of tech…...but we don’t.
Because life gets in the way. Other responsibilities, priorities, duties, obligations….all the boring stuff calls out to us. And because we want to be good, decent, upstanding people we listen and comply.
A pretty grim picture, huh?
But maybe life isn’t getting in the way. Maybe it’s just THE way. It’s life - neither good or bad in and of itself, but rather the result of what we make of it. The culmination of our actions is a big ingredient of life yes, but also it’s the sum of our principles and values.
Is flying to the caribbean, listening to the last band’s curtain call, and filming it all on your iPhone X fun? You bet it is. Does it make for a good life? Maybe...less so if the sacrifice to do so means it negatively impacts those who rely on the boring stuff - kids, spouses, etc.
My point is, don’t worry if it feels like your life isn’t living up to those captured in your instagram and twitter feeds. The exciting, fun stuff is easy to capture...that’s why it’s on social media. The boring, real….and meaningful stuff is hard, and not much glory in it. But the joy can be found in showing up and gutting through it then realizing something was made better because of it.
Hey, grab the fun when and where you can and enjoy it. But that’s not your whole life, and if we can tweak our definition of joy just a bit, there’s a whole lot more of it to be found.
It is remarkable easy to be depressed these days. We have to look no further than our own neighborhoods to witness violence, hate, destruction, just the lack of human decency. It seems like every other day there is a story of a mass shooting or terrorist attack.
It can be overwhelming really.
The thing is, it doesn’t even take these type of global or large scale events to make us feel like the world is crashing down around us. Just the trials and tribulations that come along with everyday life take their toll as well. There is no lack of things to be worried about.
A while back I was talking with a friend of mine who was dealing with all this kind of stuff. Worrying about problems of his own...problems of others….problems with life in general. I shared something with him that had been bouncing around in my head for awhile. Something that had helped me get through the dark times.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
I’ve been going to church my whole life. I still remember laying my head on my mother’s lap when I was little right about when the sermon started. I’m the first to admit - there’s a lot of stuff that’s hard to understand, or flat out doesn’t seem to make sense. One of those things was the concept of not worrying, and handing over your problems to God. One of those sounds great things, but impossible to do.
But one day it hit me. Why am I trying to do God’s job?
All the time I spent worrying, or condemning, or judging others it finally hit me; God has got this. I’m off the hook. It’s not my job. Sure I need to help, love, support others, but bear the burden and weight of all the other problems? I felt like I was being told “You worry about you, I’ve got the rest”.
The resulting calm lasted about 60 seconds.
It took only that long for me to remember I’m a mess. I’ve got about a million of my own problems. Work, family, commitments...the list goes on and on. What am I supposed to do now?
I was sitting in church a little while ago (not napping) and mentioned throughout the sermon was the idea of seeing God through us. This wasn’t a new idea. In fact, the idea of God working in the world through people was a theme throughout many discussions. I get it, it makes sense. It was one of those “puppies are cute” phrases to me. Sure it was true, but it left you with the feeling of “so?”
But as I continued to think about how to deal with all my problems, and the feeling of not gaining any traction with any of it, I started to put some things together. Maybe I don’t really have as many concerns as I think I do. Maybe instead of trying to figure out the million of issues I felt was in front of me, I really had only one thing to think about?
Wait, what? Instead of trying to juggle problem after problem after problem, I really only had one thing to focus on? Sign me up.
Maybe my only real concern was being able to answer the question of “Can others experience God through me?” I felt I was starting to get it. I don’t have to find a million answers to a million questions. I can start trusting in the promise of we are not alone, and God wants happiness for us. In fact, could it be God is even showing me how to be happy?
Hold on a second. Did I just say there is now only one question and I already have the answer for it?
The secret to happiness is living my life in such a way so others can see the grace and glory of God.
Ok, I get it. That may not sound like much of an answer. Doing that can still be really hard. But here is how I view it.
I think my job is remember that. To keep it in mind as I make decisions, as I talk with people, as I live my life. Does it mean I always know what to do? No. Does it mean I won’t make mistakes? No. But it does mean I keep trying, and when I fail I try again.
In the movie “Megan Leavy” (which is awesome by the way, especially if you love dogs) I think her Dad said it best.
“Dad - ...I want you to be a person who shows up. For work, for friend’s funerals, for life.
Megan - I’ve tried, I’ve failed
Dad - So fail again, and just keep failing until they’re tossing dirt on your corpse."
This isn’t about doing it because we’re so good at it. It’s about always trying to do it because we aren’t
I shared this story with my friend. It seemed to make him feel better.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about work / life balance. Now, I know what you are thinking. Usually when someone brings up that topic it’s because they think they have none, or somehow it's become tilted too far one way or the other.
That sort of thinking though implies the optimum state is one of equilibrium. A horizontal plane where equal time and effort is spent between the two. It’s as if there are two versions of our own self, constantly struggling between work and personal life demands looking for the perfect balance. Some people take the concept of two versions even further and say the actions of one are independent of the other.
"It’s ok to walk over others at work and climb up the ladder of success at any cost in order to provide for your family". Sort of a “Breaking Bad” ain’t so bad mentality.
What I have found to be true is there is no separate work life and personal life. There’s just life. Mine and yours. A life filled with decisions and outcomes; choices and consequences. And the idea of maintaining some sort of equal balance between the two is nothing more than a myth. In fact, if you only give 50% to each, or guide your actions based upon that, the only thing that will be equal is the degree of failure with each.
What each require, deserve….even demand is full commitment. Not a simultaneous split, but full attention. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying sacrifice one for the other. What I am saying though is when it’s time to focus on work, do so full throttle and without regret or hesitation. When it’s time to focus on self, family, etc., do so with the same level of conviction and lack of guilt. When you and I do that, I believe we can become better at each.
In the movie “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young” Lt. Colonel Hal Moore was asked how he could balance being a solider with being a father.
“Colonel, may I ask you a question?
What do you think about being a soldier and a father? -
I hope that being good at the one makes me better at the other”
You can’t separate the one whole into two halves. Applying your energy and efforts at the appropriate time, to the appropriate cause, can bring remarkable results. It’s hard though. I many times still find myself trying to listen to my daughter tell me about her day while responding to that last email. And you know what? Each suffers because of it. An executive at my firm once described it as work / life integration. I bristled at the idea initially thinking it was just another way of telling me my 50 hour work weeks weren’t enough. I was wrong. It’s that integration that makes up life. My life. And I only have the one so I better act thoughtfully and purposefully.