Monday, July 14, 2008

Hearing or Truly Listening?

Most leaders ask for information but not necessarily for advice. Many will listen to advice and then end up tossing it and doing their own thing. Is it a pride issue do you think? Or in some cases, do you think leaders hesitate to ask for and implement advice because they think in some people’s eyes it shows a sign of weakness?

I often work with leaders who listen intently to what’s unfolding before them and even though some of the issues are critical, respond by saying “I would have done it this way” or “Yes, I see what you mean but you should do this instead”, totally discounting all advice. They are downloading information, perhaps using bits and pieces of it to validate what they already know or feel, but they’re not doing anything with the advice they were given. Most of the time it’s unsolicited and they let you know they didn’t ask for it either, making that one of the main reasons for not taking it into account.

People will stop suggesting or giving well based advice because they know it’s falling on deaf ears. Is that leadership or dictatorship? And we all know what that kind of dynamic does to self-worth.

Is it power, politics and self-preservation?

It doesn’t matter how secure we are, don’t we all want to be on top, the kingpins, to dominate those who we feel might just know more than we do?

Ego at play; no matter how much we want the best for the organization and its people, we all need to have our egos stroked now and then, don’t you think?

Even if we think we know all there is to know, mastery comes from practicing from a position of what I call grad basic or going back to the basics from a position of having been there, done that. There is always something more to learn. You might be starting from a higher plane but just think of how much you’re going to pick up that you missed the first time ‘round.

Whose responsibility is it to encourage advisors to speak up, to bring ideas, thoughts and concepts to the table by actively engaging others with the intention of listening and learning? The leader’s or the staff, or both?

Donna Karlin

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Work Life Balance

You might be wondering why I haven’t been posting for a while. I, as many other do, blog to reach out and have a conversation with people from all parts of the globe and do so to learn, to hone my writing skills and to share a perspective or message. I am honoured when others think my post is important enough to quote it in their blog or publication with a link back to the original. What I have a fundamental problem with is when others take my posts in their entirety and publish them as their own. This has been happening way too frequently so I paused in publishing until I could deal with this in a systematic and legal manner. I must thank Google and Wordpress for acting so quickly on this. They don’t like copyright violation any more than I do! Now that it seems there’s a handle on this, I’m back and raring to write! Time to tackle the subject of “Work Life Balance”…

Recently I was at a Coaching Best Practices Conference at INSEAD Global Leadership Centre in Fontainebleau. To say the conference itself blew me away is an understatement.

For now however, I’d love to delve into the world of “Work / Life Balance” which seems to be on the minds of people in the private and public sectors alike. I’ve had many a conversation about this with clients over the years. Most of the time it was them turning the tables on me asking if I had a private life, if I ever slept and “Where’s YOUR work / life balance?” I always answered in the same way: “It’s personal. It’s up to an individual to determine what that balance looks like and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another”

One of the amazing people I met at the conference was Kavitha Iyer from Singapore; Director, Human Resources, JAPA at American Express International and Adjunct Faculty Coach at INSEAD. She had a very unique way of looking at work / life balance that immediately resonated with me. With her permission I would like to share it with you. She talks about ‘Work / Life Values’, or a psychological balance. To me that made a great deal of sense. If I am living within my personal values, then the balance happens. For some with young children, they might come home from work early to spend time and have dinner with their families, but once their young children go to sleep, they put in another couple of hours work to stay on track. No one said we have to work consecutive hours. This way we work within our family or personal dynamics.

Last year when I took a few days off (and yes, I do that once in a while) my friend challenged me to disconnect from my BlackBerry and was adamant that I not check my emails. I disconnected the email feature of my BlackBerry and only left the phone on as that was my connection with my family. I was able to mentally disconnect from the 'CrackBerry' however when I got home I had over 2000 emails waiting for me. I had to take time off to process them all, figure out how to jump back into the intensity of my work and all in all, just being faced with that volume of correspondence was overwhelming enough to negate most of the benefits of taking the time off.

For me in future, I plan to log on twice a day for a short while to process what I need to so I never come back to that level of overwhelm again. That for me is a balance. Over time and as life’s circumstances and dynamics change I will continue to redefine and design just what ‘balance’ means, but as long as it’s within my personal values, I know I’ll stay on an even keel.

Kavitha, thank you for illuminating this very important distinction for me and our readers.

Donna Karlin

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