Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Timely Thought

I heard this quote at a meeting and had to share it:

"Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."

Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby (1826-93), British statesman. The Conduct of Life, address at Liverpool College, 20 Dec 1873.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting Passed the Garbage

At 7:15am this morning, jogging the tired six block loop around my neighborhood paled against the thought of jumping into the car and heading off to the boardwalk on Miami Beach. Jogging became a renewed endeavor after training for four months and then this September 19th completing my first triathlon. So I grabbed my iPod and made off in my car, crossing the Julia Tuttle Causeway to Indian Creek Drive, parking on 37th Street, one block from the beach.

As I learned to do while training, I set my timer for a 5 minute warm up walk. My timing stunk. Pun intended. For most of those 5 minutes I was practically neck and neck with the trash collector. He seemed to be riding along side me on the boardwalk in his little motorized vehicle and each time he stopped to empty a trash can on the boardwalk, I had to hold my breath and manage my growing annoyance.

Why me and why did I have such lousy timing. My picture perfect plan was ruined. Ten minutes earlier or later and this would have been a nonevent. I considered reversing my walk, to walk in the opposite directions. A reasonable enough solution I figured. And then I remembered why I was there. To run, not to walk. And so I ran. Right passed the problem.

Motto of the story: instead of complaining about the garbage in your life, refocus yourself and remember your goals. Be sure to rest your mind on the bigger picture. When garbage-like thoughts and negativity creep in, remember what's important to you and run with it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Feeling Stressed? Kindness Cures

One of my favorite print and online magazines, ODE Magazine, promotes "Intelligent Optimism" and regularly delivers on that promise. Here is a smart path for feeling better.

Four ways that kindness promotes a healthy lifestyle

We may feel this instant rush of gratitude when someone does something nice for us without asking, or even a feeling of pride when we ourselves “pay it forward,” but do we truly know the effect kindness has on us? After doing some research I came to realize that many are unaware that kindness isn’t just good for the soul, its good for the body and mind too. I’ve narrowed down the top four reasons why it feels good to give.

Kindness reduces stress

After performing an act of kindness you may feel a rush of euphoria also know as a “helpers high.” This happens when your body releases endorphins followed by a period of calm, reducing depression, chest pain and the feeling of isolation.

Kindness is a pain killer

If you’re in pain you may be constantly craving Tylenol in hopes of erasing the annoyance, but with by a simple good deed, you brain increases its serotonin level (a neurotransmitter that improves mood) helping those who suffer from chronic conditions.

Kindness is free joy

According to Allan Luks, former executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of Health, volunteering on a rapid basis produces the same kind of joy as doubling your income or gaining a college degree. I guess it is true that money can’t buy you as much happiness as social interactions can.

Kindness is an immunity booster

Forget using Airborne to combat seasonal flu before it starts, creating new relationships with strangers and helping those with troubles can boost your immune system as well as the recipients. Researchers say that a steady release of endorphins strengthens the immune system. Your body will be thanking you and so will your wallet.

Today’s world can be so hectic that we often forget to take time to think about ourselves let alone others. Being kind to others takes less time than you may think and produces an even greater feeling of appreciation then you may expect.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Feeling Inside Out?

Yesterday I attended a very worthwhile coaching training seminar delivered masterfully by Bob Parsons of InsideOut Development. Now, I've been coaching a long time but as a lifelong learner I check out those experiences I think will enrich me and my clients. And I hit pay dirt here. As an executive coach I often work with managers and leaders who report challenges having "difficult conversations" or developing their staff to become more proactive. This program teaches a simple solution for both.

The major distinction I learned is that before having that "difficult conversation" - whether it be with your direct report, boss, domestic partner, children - a preliminary conversation must take place first. This is called an "engagement" conversation. It's like you can't plan a wedding before someone actually "pops" the question.

"Coaching for Engagement" removes the obstacles - or "interferences" that make a difficult conversation more likely to be productive. This is an elegant step-by-step process that almost anyone can learn.

The flip side (literally! There is a laminated 2-sided "script card") teaches you how to coach for breakthroughs. This 15 minute conversation transforms what could be an "I'll tell you what to do" conversation into a conversation that "grows" the person to discover the best solution he or she can, and then take action on it.

For more information contact me or InsideOut. By the way, I have no affiliation with this organization. I just like what they are doing!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Workers more stressed than ever

By Cindy Krischer Goodman for The Miami Herald
Like most of us, Nancy Topolski found herself with more work piled on after her law firm laid off 11 legal secretaries. Topolski soon began stressing over work, losing sleep and making mistakes. One day, the stress turned into a full blown panic attack in the office.

Like most of us, Nancy Topolski found herself with more work piled on after her law firm laid off 11 legal secretaries. Topolski soon began stressing over work, losing sleep and making mistakes. One day, the stress turned into a full blown panic attack in the office.

Trying to keep your cool in workplaces these days has become more difficult. The recession has brought a new set of issues, driving stress to a new level, with three out of every four American workers on the brink of a meltdown, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University report.

``Workers are being pushed and pushed and they lack the energy to deal with it,'' says Joyce Gioia of The Herman Group, whose specialty is employee retention. She believes that high workloads, fear of job loss, and 24/7 connectivity has created the recipe for the highest levels of stress in history.

Companies could end up paying the cost through more workers calling in sick, more job-related mistakes and higher turnover.

For years, experts have said a little bit of stress is good, referring to the short-term jolt that comes before making a presentation, not the extreme kind prevalent in workplaces today. ``We're way beyond the level of it being motivating,'' says Helen Darling, president of the Washington-based National Business group on Health. ``It will be hard to recover economically if we don't find better ways to help employees address stress.''

Walid Wahab, owner of Wahab Construction, a high-end Miami homebuilder, comes to work each day and confronts the stress from keeping his staff employed and luring new business.

``As a business owner my responsibility is not to panic or panic privately. I have to put on a positive face in front of my employees.''

Surprisingly, while his type of stress is echoed by most corporate executives, studies show head honchos are less at risk for health issues than one would expect. It turns out, it's not really the high-powered fast-paced executives succumbing to stress, but rather those in lower-level jobs with little control over their schedules or their work culture and those with unsupportive bosses who suffer most, according to studies by the famed neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky.

Sure, staying late at the office night after night can be exhausting, but it's not going to kill you. The person most at risk for stress-induced heart disease isn't the executive with an endless to-do list -- it's the frustrated janitor, legal secretary or single mother who has no flexibility in her work hours, worries about job security and is fraught with hopelessness.

At Wahab Construction, project manager Meg Florian finds her stressors are completely different from those of her boss, Walid. ``I deal with a lot of subcontractors, and I find people just don't pay attention. You have to repeat yourself. There's a lack of care and focus.''

Trying to fix mistakes, she says, causes her stress. Florian says she hasn't found a release -- yet. She is considering yoga.

Wahab sets the example for his employees, fitting yoga into his routine for 20 years.

He says it makes him a better boss and person. ``I leave the company after a day with anxiety, about maybe something that went wrong. Yoga is a filter I go through before I get home -- all the negative energy, I leave it there.''

By now, most employers know they have a stressed-out workforce, not all of it business related. ``On top of the stress in the workplace, they are stressed about their finances, their kids, their parents. There is so much to worry about right now,'' Darling says.

``That won't change until the economy turns around.''

Still, most employers haven't figured out what to do about it, and some have no interest in trying. In Topolski's case, she was fired the day after her panic attack. She has since sued her former law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, for $1 million.

Those employers who are attempting to address stress mostly are encouraging workers to use employee assistance programs, which provide mental health counselors.

Employee-assistance programs and HR consultants report a notable uptick in calls about job stress in the past two years.

Darling says any size business with a health plan should be able to make counseling available to workers. Any additional cost to the employer, she says, is worth it.

Meanwhile, there are many different opinions regarding what a stress management programs should include. Some stressed-out workers have turned to medication; others have gone the route of meditation.

``I don't see evidence that a majority of the small and mid-sized businesses are in a position to help stressed workers, even if they want to,'' says Joel H. Neuman, associate professor of management at State University of New York at New Paltz. ``Most are struggling just to get by.''

Which is why, he feels, employers are seeing stress manifesting as workplace conflict and short tempers.

Regardless, consultant Barry Hall, who analyzed workplace stress in a report published in July, insists businesses do realize they need to address the rising tide of employee stress.

``Those who ignore stress will take a hit to their bottom line in higher costs and lower productivity,'' he says.