Archive for January, 2008

Survey says: Balanced Workers Are More Engaged

January 22, 2008

The research is in. It’s been proven (yet again). Work-life balance is good for business…

 (Photo courtesy of rexanders on Flickr)

According to a survey released last month by Sirota Survey Intelligence, employees who experience reasonable balance between their personal and professional lives have positive views about their work, are more engaged and are more apt to feel pride in the companies they work at. They are also more likely to recommend thier employers to others.

The press release issued by the company highlighted the following:

* Of the 73% of employees that said they felt overall positive about their work-life balance, 89% rated a favorable satisfaction with their companies. This compares to only 58% satisfaction levels (with their companies) among those who had negative views about their work-life balance

* 88% of that same group (positive about work-life balance) would recommend their employers as a place to work vs. only 64% of those negative about work-life balance.

Interestingly, the survey also pointed out that not having enough work can be more of an issue than too much work.

* Only 44% of those who say they have too little work are satisfied with their jobs compared with 69% who said they have too much.

Douglas Klein, President of Sirota Survey Intelligence, says “Work-life balance is almost an afterthought to people who feel their employers are meeting their end of the deal by being fair, providing interesting and meaningful work, and recognition or rewards for a job well done.”

Well said….I say. The balance issue is definitely something that must be achieved with efforts and commitment from both employer and employee. Companies that take work-life balance seriously will be rewarded with more engaged people, a reputation that attracts talent and better retention.

Not a bad deal, eh? Attact the keepers and keep the keepers.

But ‘taking it seriously’ means walking the talk….so ensuring there are policies, programs and a supportive culture aligned with work-life balance and other related values.

 Do I hear flex time anyone? Opportunities for progressive career paths? Opportunities for career and work-life coaching (for high potentials/high performers)?

No doubt there are complexities on both sides of the ‘work-life balance bargain’ (employers/employees). But the most important thing is to set the intention – authentically.

Soooo, how are you navigating and keeping up your end of the ‘work-life balance bargain’? Would love to hear from you whether you are on the employee or employer side.

And if interested, I wrote an article on similar topic…you can find it here: “Keeping the Keepers“.

Till next time….and to a TGIM work-life:)

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Ask the Coach: Assertiveness at Work

January 21, 2008

Here’s one of my latest “Ask a Coach” columns published in CA Source – the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants  (CICA) online newsletter. It’s about a theme that I encounter a lot……the issue of assertiveness at work.  Perhaps this will resonate with you or someone you know. In any case, if you have a question of your own….bring it on (see “Coaches Corner” on this site).

Q. I just had my annual review and had hopes of being promoted. Unfortunately I was bypassed — yet again. My boss said I have a lot of potential but need to work on some leadership abilities. He said my functional skills were great but I should focus on becoming more assertive if I wanted to move into a leadership role. I’ve never been a particularly aggressive person and can’t envision changing my whole personality. But I don’t want to stand still in my career either. Any advice?

A. I’m sorry about your disappointment in not being promoted. The good news, however, is that assertiveness can actually be developed — with some practice, self awareness and a dose of courage. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Well, sometimes that’s true in life too. Those that assert themselves have a better chance of getting more of what they want at work and in life. The key, however, is to “squeak” appropriately. Assertiveness is not about being aggressive — nor does it require you to change your personality. Rather, it’s more about being authentic, self-expressed and standing up for yourself when it’s called for.

Defining assertiveness

Assertiveness is a core competency within the spectrum of emotional intelligence (EQ).  According to one definition,* assertiveness can be described as: the ability to express feelings, beliefs and thoughts and defend one’s rights in a non-destructive manner. It’s comprised of three elements: 1) the ability to accept and express feelings; 2) the ability to express beliefs and thoughts openly even when it is emotionally difficult to do so (I call those courageous conversations!); 3) the ability to stand up for personal rights without being aggressive or abusive.

To better understand how your own level of assertiveness might be factoring into your career experience, here are some questions to reflect on:

* Can you identify specific instances in your work where you felt held back because you haven’t asserted yourself? What was the cost of not asserting yourself in those situations?

* Generally, when you have an opinion and/or feelings that differ from others, do you tend to shy away from voicing these opinions or do you take a stand and articulate what is important?

* How do you feel about speaking up on issues that might involve some conflict?  Does that give you anxiety? Do you worry that others may think less of you?

* Are you able to set and enforce boundaries for yourself in terms of how you want to be treated and respected?

* When you need or want something that is important to you, do you proactively and directly make requests for it?

* Do you find yourself frequently saying yes — when you’d rather say no?

* How do you validate your own feelings and views? Do you acknowledge them or tend to dismiss them and instead defer to other people’s views?

Developing new habits of assertiveness involves courage, self awareness and various communication skills. For some people, these skills come naturally; others have to work at it. Here are some steps you can take to develop your own assertiveness.

1. Tune into your inner game by owning and acknowledging your feelings, ideas, beliefs One of the key elements of assertiveness is having the ability to acknowledge and accept your own feelings and beliefs. Without validating your own perspectives with yourself — how could you confidently express them to others? Start paying attention to those moments when you have an opportunity to assert yourself — perhaps you have an opinion, idea or challenge that either differs from others or isn’t yet on the radar. Take a few minutes to reflect on why this matters; what it’s about; what’s at stake if you don’t express it. The idea is to check in with yourself first to clarify and own your beliefs so that you can more confidently express them to others.

2. Identify any limiting beliefs that might be preventing you from being self-expressed
If in those moments of opportunity you find yourself hesitating, take a moment to explore what’s really holding you back. Often it’s our internal voices of self-doubt and limiting beliefs that keep us stuck.  Perhaps you have a belief that if you speak up something negative will happen. Do you have an inner critic that says:  “Don’t rock the boat!” or “Who are you to speak up?” or “You don’t have the credibility.” We all have our inner critics — the key is to acknowledge and manage them.If the voice of the inner critic is holding you back, try on a different perspective.  Instead, listen more closely to your own empowering voice of reason and wisdom. Remember, you just explored that in step #1.

3. Before speaking up, think about how you want to show up in the conversation.  Remember, being assertive might involve voicing your opinion — but in a way that doesn’t violate others.  This is where execution counts.

Here are a few tips:

* Choose your words wisely: Assertive communication involves being direct and open — but not brash. Choose your words carefully before you communicate.

* Tone is as important as words: Of course, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Pay attention to your tone which includes language, voice and body language if communicating face to face.

* Speak directly and with clarity: Don’t beat around the bush. Say what you need to say but do so sensitively and diplomatically. It’s important to speak with clarity. Being vague, hinting, or just implying — can be counterproductive.  It can also sometimes appear manipulative.

* Communicate empathetically: Even if your views differ from the other person(s), show understanding and compassion for their viewpoint and/or situation, e.g. “I know you worked hard on this and put a lot of thought into it and I appreciate that. But I have another perspective that I feel strongly about that I’d like to share.”

* Practise, Practise, Practise…Developing habits of assertiveness takes practice and ongoing reflection. Situation by situation, moment by moment — each will give you an opportunity to practise, learn, reflect and adapt accordingly.Developing assertiveness not only calls upon courage — it builds courage!  Stretching yourself to be a little more assertive will increase your self confidence over time.  

* Enlist support:
There are a lot of ways to enlist support to help you develop yourself in this area.  Hire a coach who is skilled to work with you; take a course or enrol in groups such as Toastmasters; actively get involved in pursuits that will stretch and challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and/or provide you with leadership opportunities (e.g., perhaps within a volunteer endeavour).It’s an ongoing journey, but it’s worth the effort. Remember, appropriately assertive people get more of what they want in work and life; it helps them to feel more authentic and self-expressed.

*Assertiveness as defined by the BarON EQi system and Connective Intelligence.


There goes my TGIM worklife – I just got a Blackberry

January 16, 2008

Okay so I succumbed. I said I wouldn’t but I did. It’s only been a few days and I’m wondering how I ever lived without it.

Am I addicted already? Blackberry, crackberry…so they call it.

I have to say I really like the freedom of being in touch where ever I am without having to be near my computer (or beg/borrow another one while out). No more worries about the gazillions of emails piling up while I’m at meetings ….I can either handle as I go…or at least know what I need to handle when I’m back. 

Email overload….definitely an issue these days for folks (myself included) who are inundated with too much email. And when you’re out and about, it piles up. This in itself is a huge contributor to the stress and overwhelm of work-life. So in the spirit of the TGIM philosophy, I say anything one can do to manage that piece….well is worth a look, right?

But freedom is a funny thing. It can be fleeting. Especially if I become a slave to my Blackberry. What if it stops serving me? What if I become a servant to it? I’ve heard the horror stories. It’s ugly. Last night I saw someone check their Blackberry in a movie theatre…right in the middle of the movie. Worse, I started thinking about mine and missed an important part (it was just a second….but still!)

So I’ve been thinking…..before I get too deep into this obsessive attachment, maybe I should come up with some ‘rules’… know, like set some Blackberry boundaries.

So here’s my starting list….. “Eileen’s Blackberry Boundaries”:

1) I shall not check my Blackberry (BB) while driving (oops….already did…but it was at a light…Does that count?).

2) I shall not check my BB while at meetings or at lunch with clients (oops….already did….but they did too! Does that count?)

3) I shall not take my BB to bed (oops….already did…but it was on the first day that I got it and  was learning the system and needed to ‘study’ the new gadget! Does that count?)

4) I shall not exhibit Pavlovian behaviour when I see the flashindicating email (oops….well, I guess I’m a lost cause on that one…..Does that one have to count?)

5) I shall not……………..s’cuse me for second….I’ll be right back….

…….uhhhh……sorry ’bout that…my BB just vibrated so it must’ve been a really, really important message and so I’m sure you understand I just had to get it…… where was I?

5) TAKE-TWO…. I will not check my BB while in the middle of writing a blog post (oops….just did that…but I hadn’t yet written the rule so does that count?)

 I can see this is going to be MUCH harder than I thought.

Well, here’s a call to recovering Blackberry-aholics out there….if you have any tips and lessons learned from your own experience, send them along! You can post them here….or better yet, also email me……It’ll be quicker cuz I now have a Blackberry!!!!

Sigh. Maybe I should take up smoking — and then quit. It would be so much simpler 🙂

To a TGIM worklife!

Back to home page at TGIMworklife

Ahhh…white space. Getting any?

January 13, 2008

One of the things I love about weekends and holidays (especially the seasonal break just past) is that I get to carve out some “white space” for myself….some time that is unscheduled and simply there for me to chill, reflect, relax….or whatever else comes up that I choose.  In Dec/early January I had two weeks of it! And while I don’t always get to have those large chunks of time off, I do I try to carve bits of white space throughout my week  (albeit not always easy to do) …i.e. my morning coffee ritual is a ‘white space moment’ for me…I simply sit and enjoy my coffee and let my mind unfold….wake up….slowly. No papers, work, nada. Just me and my coffee.  To some extent, my morning runs also provide some ‘white space’…just me, the road and my mind.

It’s these moments that I often get my most creative, ‘out of the blue’, ideas….and often my best solutions to challenges that I’ve been dealing with. It’s when I’m not ‘working’ in a traditional sense that the ‘gems’ of insight come to me. It’s also these moments that I get to reflect and remember who I am and what it’s (the work) all about. Those bits of time ground me which is essential given the hectic pace of my worklife.

Most of us find ourselves on a treadmill of work that keeps us in busy mode…doing, doing with very little little time for reflection. I often hear people complain that they have no time to think. Even their work suffers because they don’t have the luxury of time to truly reflect and be as creative and innovative as they can. They are expected to generate breakthrough ideas/solutions/etc….but with no time to really think…..sigh.

Sound familiar??? Rush, rush….do, do….race from one meeting/task/assignment…to the next. White space? Nice idea…but too busy?  And for some of us…some feelings of guilt associated with ‘chilling out’. 

White space.

It’s good for you.

And it’s good for your work (and your employers, and  your clients…and any one else you interact with).

In an earlier post, I referenced a quote from Malcolm Gladwell who said in a Globe and Mail article that the mental demands of the workplace are steadily growing — and we’re all going to have to smarten up if we want to succeed: “I’m quite prepared for the possibility that the next revolution is not going to come from a machine…’s going to come from creating a more thoughtful work force and giving people the opportunity to be thoughtful.”

Opportunity to be thoughtful….hmmm…..white space gives that opportunity to be more thoughtful.

Ya think? Well, others do as well….

Debbie Weil wrote on her blog (called “Blogwrite for CEOs“) a post “Where is your white space for getting real work done” (real work as in creative thinking, reflecting, etc.)?

She points to an interesting article in the New York Times titled: You Won’t Find Me in My Office, I’m Working


What does white space look like to you?

How much of it are you getting these days?

What can you do to carve out some for yourself…not just ‘now’ but on a regular basis?

If big chunks of time aren’t feasible right now, what can you do with small bits (white space can be powerful even in small doses)?

If you manage others or employ others – how are you doing in terms of supporting their need for white space — in service of inspiring their creativity?

What assumptions are you holding that you might want to challenge about being ‘busy’?

Now….I’d write some more but it’s Sunday and I feel a white space moment beckoning me.

Till next time,


Back to TGIMworklife  home page


Back to Work Blues?

January 2, 2008

Ahhh….Jan 2….time to go back to work for many. How’s that feel? Even when you love your job (or at least like it) returning after work after the seasonal holidays (or any break – including weekends) can be difficult for many. I recently heard on a TV news report that about a third of Canadians feel some sort of ‘blues’ heading back to work after the  holidays. I don’t know what the real stats are but I do know that a  lot of people have been landing on my blog as a result of doing online searches for ‘back to work blues’.

If this is you, you might find these articles helpful if you haven’t already read them (they have been previously been posted here on this site).

1) Beat the Back to Work Blues — Tips

2) Thank G-d It’s Monday – a Globe and Mail article prompted and supported by yours truly with a client of mine profiled.

3) You may also want to take time to do your New Year reflections — see the list of questions below from a post a couple days ago for some prompts. When I did mine I got very energized for the new year…and I had just been finishing off the flu so wasn’t really my energetic self. Reminding yourself of your accomplishments and what worked — well it’s very inspiring.  And if you’re into New Years resolutions and goal-setting — all good to energize you… you might want to read this article as well (also referenced again in yesterday’s post). 

 As for me, I’m easing back into work mode – I don’t go full out yet till next Monday but I am dipping my toe into the work waters this week ….(writing, planning, etc.) — luckily it’s stuff that I truly do enjoy and choose to do. 

Chin up — good things are to come! To a TGIM worklife!


A Brand New Year…Welcome 2008! Goal-Setting Anyone?

January 1, 2008

Wow… 2008! A brand new year and where I’m at right now is waking up to a snow-blanketed morning. Nice metaphor….everything is fresh, white, anew…just like the brand new year.

(Photo courtesy of Borderfilms Doug on Flickr

It’s been exactly a whole year since I’ve launched this blog. Thank you WordPress for making this blog stuff so accessible! It’s been fun…and I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you Joe Thornley, who encouraged me to start blogging in the first place. Joe is  a pioneer in this kind of social media stuff and was right when he said this would be a rewarding experience. And thank you to all of you who have in some way connected with me and/or this blog this past year. Some of you have subscribed (to the blog and/or even my newsletter….yay!) — and some have  even shared a comment or two here. Thousands of people have in someway connected to this blog. I look forward to more in 2008!

These past few days I’ve been doing a lot of reflection (see post below for Qs to inspire your own reflection). After doing my 2007 ‘completion’ I’m so energized and inspired and ready for the year ahead. Building on my past year, I’ve got new goals, hopes, ambitions…..

How about you?

If you’re into goal-setting or New Year’s resolutions – you might be interested in this article that I’ve written and posted last year at this time. I’ve changed the dates – but the content is still relevant. In essence, it’s a bit of a guide to goal setting for the year ahead.

The gist is as follows: goals are great as they can energize us and move us forward. But goals for goals sake don’t work. They have to be meaningful, relevant, tangible…and some say time-specific (on that last point, I say that’s important for some goals – but others are more ongoing and unfolding in nature. Still, it is important to be regularly checking in on progress and milestones). Also – goals without proper planning and support can end being simply wishful thinking. So make sure your intentions line up well with those goals that are most important to you.

Aristotle was quoted as saying: “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he reaching out and striving for goals.”

May you have the heart, wisdom and fortitude to reach out and succeed towards your most meaningful goals this year. And if you need any help…..well, I know a coach or two who’s standing by:)

Happy New Year and to a TGIM worklife for the year ahead!