Have You Earned Your Work/Life Balance?

Work life balance concept, 3d render, white backgroundThis past week I had the privilege of hearing a CEO address his workforce before I delivered one of my Lunch and Learn performance management talks.  He talked about the next year and what would be required of each of them to be successful.

Then he talked about work/life balance.

That’s a hot topic isn’t it?  It all started back during the Great Recession when those who were fortunate enough to HAVE a job pulled the weight of what used to be a fully staffed company.  It meant long hours and the sacrifice of family time.  As the economy improved, people still felt this imbalance and the outcry for more balance is deafening today.  Good performers continue to put in long hours and stay connected to the office in the evenings, on weekends, and even on vacation.

But not EVERY employee does this do they?

I heard an interesting stat claiming that American workers only put out about 67% of their full effort at work and yet 97% of them see themselves as top performers.  Admit it, you’ve seen your coworkers slack off and not “play until the whistle.”  Maybe you’ve taken more than a “rounds” off in your workweek.  Work/life balance then isn’t an entitlement, it’s earned.

Which is the point the CEO made to the group.  He had no trouble with people taking off early for appointments and other important events.  He DID have a problem with people not making up that time or not putting in effort when they were working.  I found that refreshing and important for all of us to think about.

Work/life balance is nice but it’s not free.  As a small-business owner, I know that any time I take away from work costs me something.  On the rare weeks I’m in town, I love to attend workouts at the Title Boxing Club in Clarksville, TN.  This means however that I need to leave at my house at 2:30 to make that 3:30 class which lasts an hour.  Then I drive that hour back home arriving around 5:30. My workout (Life Balance) eats up 3 hours of my work day.  That time needs to get made up sometime or I won’t adequately service my clients or gain new ones.  Thus my habit of waking up at 4:00 AM most mornings.  Work/life balance comes at a cost but I’ll pay it.

So what about you?  Are you lamenting a work/life balance-less life?  If so, make your request known to your boss.  If you have that work/life balance, are you “playing until the whistle” each day?  You’re paid for a full 40 hours.  Be sure you’re doing your part before asking for balance.

Get Off the Dead-End Road

deadendA few weeks ago I was flying home through the Orlando airport and noticed some major renovations to the food court.  An old favorite of mine, the Kafe Kalik restaurant looked like it was being replace by something else.  It was kind of sad, for that place was a solace for me at one dark period of time in my business career.

For a two –year period, I did some subcontract work for a client in Orlando.  The client was great.  The contractor I worked with was an absolute pain in my ass.  It didn’t take long for me to realize the project wasn’t a good fit, yet it paid really well and I got no sympathy from my family or friends for my misery.

Aside from a couple of people on the project, nearly everyone I worked with managed to rub me the wrong way.  For the first time in my life, I doubted my ability to lead a workshop.   Each time I left for one of these gigs, I was tense, stressed and one time actually became physically sick.  When the two-day workshop ended, I’d limp into the airport and park myself at the Kafe Kalik to de-stress with several beers and prepare myself to get home and recover.  It was a very unpleasant experience.

Finally I agreed (with myself) to do one last project with this group.  When finished (and after I got my check), I was planning to drop out of the project.  The contractor beat me to the punch, dropping me and a bunch of the other instructors from the project.  I was sad, only because I didn’t get the satisfaction of quitting, but elated that I was now free.  I vowed then never to take on any work that would stress me out that way.

What’s the lesson?  If you’re in a no-win, dead-end situation, get off that path and do something else.  I can’t tell you what I did with the large sum of money I earned on that project, but I do remember every stressful moment:  every incidence of wanting to smack one of my co-trainers over the head.  Each time where the contractor went out of their way to make me feel small and incompetent.  The sick feeling I felt on Sundays, waiting to board that flight on a Monday.  The fact that arriving in the Orlando airport didn’t have fond memories like it did when we brought our kids through there to Disney.

Life’s too short to tolerate misery.  I can tell you that now with 20-20 hindsight.  Why experience it for yourself when you can take my qualified word for it?



The Proactive Approach to Time Management

sign at the hospital points towards the emergency room entrance.When we lived in Maryland, we seemed to make regular trips to the ER at Walter Reed National Capitol Medical Center (formerly, and properly named Naval Hospital Bethesda!).  All of managed to get ill or injured outside of normal clinic hours so we’d often head to the ER out of necessity.

The ER was the last place I wanted to be.  Normally it’s packed and the wait time to get seen is at least 2-3 hours.  Then you wait another 30 minutes or so to get your drugs from the pharmacy.  I always packed my Kindle, iPad, and MacBook and prepared myself for a long wait.

Occassionaly though, we got seen right away.  Depending on the patient load, we were triaged in quickly.  Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.  So if I go in with a sinus infection, I’ll be bumped down the priority list by someone having chest pain (I guess that’s fair) but it also means that it’s pretty hard to ever plan out your evening if you’re an ER staff.

One of the most requested classes I get is anything related to time management.  I’ve long advocated that you can’t manage time, only your reaction to it.  There is no magic solution for time management either since different personalities seem to all approach it in a unique fashion.  Maybe the best way you do it is by apply the principle of proactivity.

The ER is by definition a reactive entity.  There’s no predicting what comes through the door.  You can’t plan, only react.  When multiple patients come in, the triage process helps you sort out what’s most important, then of course that lineup changes if something more urgent comes in.

Proactivity can best be likened to a wellness clinic.  Wellness clinics work to treat proactively by encouraging healthy diet, lifestyle, and preemptive medical examinations.  By scheduling appointments at regular intervals, a person could possibly prevent conditions that would send them into an ER.  This would then allow ERs to care for only the most urgent illnesses (not my little sinus infection) and victims of trauma.

So how does this apply to time management?  Be proactive!  At the beginning of each day, visualize the outcome you’d like at the end of the day.  Some folks use a “to-do” list and put the steps down.  Others tend to follow a looser structure.  Regardless, by determining what’s most important early in the day, you can take deliberate steps throughout the day to get it done.  The alternative is to live out of your In-Box and by whoever calls you first.  Your day will be filled with emergent matters followed by down time trying to recover.  At the end of the day, you’ll still have those unfinished priorities but be completely exhausted by the reactionary approach you took to the day.

Outcomes in an ER aren’t always successful and they always cost – time, money, and sometimes more.  Proactive care may take time on the front end, but it’s possible you’ll gain much more later on.

This week, think of some steps you can take to be more proactive.  It might be more effective than how you manage yourself towards time now.  Who knows, it might even save you a trip to the ER!

A (Perfect) Day in the Life of a Manager

Smiling warehouse managers talking together in a large warehouseWhenever I talk with managers, I get the sense that their day consists of putting out fires, mediating problems with employees, sitting in endless meetings, and answering email.  Oh yes, and most of the time they’re still involved in the very technical tasks they were promoted to management from.

I often see them with that “1,000 Yard Stare” and sense their mental and physical exhaustion.  Sadly, in spite of that, most of them aren’t particularly clear on what their actual job in “management” really is.  That lack of clear focus and purpose wears on them.  It’s a whole lot of activity with no real sense of accomplishment.

What if that could be turned around?

One of my clients has a very elaborate labor-tracking system they use.  When I met with them recently, one of the managers mentioned that for managers, there is an actually time code that represents what a manager is supposed to do.  They refer to it as Management Oversight.  It’s the only time I’ve actually seen a company designate time to “management.”

Identifying WHAT to call the time is a good start.  What needs to get DONE in that time is important.  I have three suggestions.

  1. Develop Your People.  This is job #1.  When you focus time on building rapport, assigning goals and tasks, giving feedback and coaching on those tasks, and engaging an employee in planning their career both inside and out of your organization, it’s a safe bet to say that work will get done!  I know it sounds counter-intuitive when you’re used to running around like your ass is on fire, but take the time to develop your people and you’ll find that work will get done much more efficiently.
  2. Stabilize Systems and Processes.  Most managers will feel comfortable with this task.  It’s the closest thing to their previous technical job.  It doesn’t mean working in those jobs though.  A manager has to ensure processes are stable and efficient.  Systems need to be aligned with corporate goals and those metrics and targets met.  Finally, any flaws, impediments, and breakdowns in the systems need to be fixed.  The manager has to identify those and assign staff to repair.  Yes, this gets done WHILE developing people.
  3. Protect the House.  Managers also need to ensure their department, people, products, and services are in compliance with all regulations.  This requires them to be HR experts, lawyers, auditors, and inspectors (but of course they aren’t so they need to know where to get that expertise).  This means taking and not sleeping through those HR briefings on FMLA, ADA, OSHA, and other acronym-laden areas.  Legal experts have already determined that a manager should or should-have-known where there are violations.  Better that you actually know and address these!  Yes, this also gets done while developing people.

I know it sounds like a lot but really, if you get your people developed and trained, much of protecting the house will happen automatically.  You’ll also have fewer systems and processes to stabilize because your people will know how to do things right.

Management Oversight is one of the most valuable gifts you give to your organization.  Be sure to identify these as tangible tasks and let your superiors know exactly what your roles and goals are as a manager.  Managing with a purpose will give you that specific, rewarding credibility that you seek!

How to Develop a Success Strategic Performance Management System
Presented by Mack Munro, Founder/CEO, MACK Worldwide

If you are looking to bring a strategic edge to your organization, a robust performance management system is a key component. This presentation will show the importance of balancing performance management, strategic goals and initiatives, wants and needs of employees and managers, and tight budgets while working to implement a culture of performance improvement.

In this session, participants will learn to proactively initiate (or adeptly respond to a request for) a “performance management system or initiative” Specifically, they will learn techniques to identify need, gather relevant data, leverage performance management, and communicate findings to senior management. They will learn key areas to consider and standard traps to avoid falling into. Finally, they will learn how to keep a program energized and permanently ingrain it into the organization’s culture, all the while communicating its success in the language of business.


Date: October 20, 2016
Time: 7:00 - 9:00 a.m.
Event: Wilson County SHRM - How to Develop a Successful Strategic Performance Management System
Topic: How to Develop a Successful Strategic Performance Management System
Venue: Holiday Inn Express & Suites
Location: 565 S Mt Juliet Rd
Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.

For Managers: How to Have Your Best Day Ever

Desperate unhappy young business womanIn my work as an organizational repairman, I find the most common cause of problems in a company is the quality of the management.  Much of my work revolves around training managers to be more effective.

If I could nail down the one time a day that sets a manager up for success or failure, it would have to be the first contact with employees in the morning or at the beginning of a shift.  That contact sets the tone for the shift and allows the manager and employee to communicate so that the entire shift runs well.  It’s a crucial moment…

…that usually doesn’t happen.  Most managers get into their office, grab some coffee, and immediately start browsing email.  They may watch as employees file in but often trust this function to a line supervisor.  Soon the calls start coming in and the crises grow.  By lunchtime, that manager has sat in at least one useless meeting and put out several fires.  The afternoon runs much the same and at 5PM or later, the manager leaves work exhausted.  The next day brings more of the same, as does the next and the next and the next.

If you’re a manager, how can you stop this madness and set yourself up for success?  Be deliberate in how you handle that first contact of the morning.

Let’s be honest.  The main reason managers hide in their offices is because they’re afraid to talk to the staff.  They hide this fear with the “I’m so busy” excuse.  After all, if they walk the floors, they may be made aware of problems that they’ll have to fix.  It seems they’d rather avoid those problems now so they can read an email about them or hear about them in a meeting a day or two later.  How about quit being such a big wuss and get more proactive!

Here’s my suggestion.  In the morning, greet your employees with the following questions: (Be sure to bring a pad of paper and a pencil with you.)

  • How are you doing?
  • What are you working on today?
  • What updates do you have?
  • What problems need my attention?

Four quick questions.  Sometimes nothing needs to be said.  Other times, major problems can be headed off early.  Either way, if you get your team used to it, this can go pretty fast.  Now, here are some things to be careful of:

  1. Build rapport first.  Don’t expect your employees to open up to you if they don’t trust you.  Work now on building a better relationship (not buddy-buddy) with them now.
  2. Don’t fall into the trap of doing a meeting each day for this.  That’s a time waster.  If you HAVE to do it thjs way, use the model I learned in the Navy of morning quarters.  That was a 10 minute max meeting, where everyone stood (to avoid getting comfortable and letting the meeting drag on) and heard the plan of the day.  There was a few minutes for questions and then off to work we went.

Finally, if you’re an employee reading this, forward a copy of it to your boss.  This technique not only makes the boss’s day a whole lot better, it does the same for you to too!

A Message to Millennials

warningDear Millennial:

For some time, you’ve been much maligned by people of my generation.  They’ve called you lazy, entitled, arrogant, unwilling to wait, wanting gratification now, and expecting everything handed to you.  Books have been written on how to motivate you and some consultants base their entire practice on helping older generations understand you and connect better with you.  In some ways, you’re seen as more of a disease than a part of the human race.  You’re something to be tolerated, dealt with, and especially, put in your proper place.

I think that’s a bunch of crap.

As the father of four millennials, I think I understand you.  I don’t see you as part of a stereotypical grouping, I see you as what you are:  young people.  What old-timers like me forget is that we were young like you and said and did exactly what you’re doing now.

Still, it leaves you in a tough place, having to prove yourself and operate in environments that put you face to face with seasoned workers.  In order to help you survive and thrive, I’d like to offer you a few pieces of advice.

  1. Set your career goals now and begin your journey in a focused way.  Having a career goal (i.e. become CEO of my startup) and articulating it lets everyone around you know that you’re being deliberate in what you do.  The knock on your generation is that you don’t know what you want to do and that you got a meaningless degree, now work at Applebees, and are content to live with your parents.  I know that’s not what you want.  Figure out what you want and let us know you have a plan.
  2. Understand why people think you are disrespectful.  I’m pretty sure you want to be taken seriously, to have your ideas listened to, and get that elusive “seat at the table.”  That’s normal.  All of us wanted the same thing.  Unfortunately, those privileges are awarded slowly and it’s because wisdom comes through experience.  Your challenge is that those who can give you the respect and award you the credibility are only now themselves being taken seriously.  Because it took us so long, we think it should take YOU that long too.  It’s neither right or wrong, it simply is.  HOWEVER, you can shorten the wait and GET the respect from those older than you by asking for help.  Rather than treat us as adversaries, leverage our experience and let us shorten your learning curve.  We would be happy to mentor you.  Communicate your career goals and ask us for help.  Those older folks who turn you down SHOULD be feared and don’t deserve your respect.  Do what you need to do to succeed around them, within the boundaries of the organization, and move on.  Oh yes, and HOW you ask questions of us is pretty important too.  Here’s an example: (You) “Why do we have to do it this way?” (seen as challenging and disrespectful.  Try (You) “I’m not sure I understand.  Can you tell me why we have to do it this way?”  Watch the tone of voice.  Even this, in a demanding tone, can come off as disrespectful.  Yeah I know it sounds like we’re a bunch of babies.  Just humor us ok?
  3. Realize that you’ll be in our position sooner than you think.  The script on that graphic above is the truth.  Where you are now, we once were.  We were young, excited, and fearless.  We wanted it all, sooner rather than later, and were willing to kick and scratch to get it.  And we finally did.  But that works the other way too.  Where we are now, someday you will be.  One day you’ll look in the mirror and see the wrinkles and gray hair.  The songs you listen to now on your cool Spotify playlist will be spun on the “oldies” station.  You and your colleagues will start noticing how the newer workers seem to want it all now, are unmotivated, and entitled.  You’ll complain how they need to “pay their dues” just like you did.  More than one of you will brand themselves as ______ generation “experts” and write a book and give talks about it.  And then hopefully you’ll get over yourselves and make it your mission to grow and develop that new generation.

The circle of life affects more than Simba and Mufasa.  It’s part of all of us.  You can fight it or leverage it.  Just know that the circle always completes, with or without you.

Those *&%$ Millennials Are At It Again!

Social but not socialMike, a 19-year-old has been in the Navy for nearly a year.  In that short period of time, one thing has become glaringly clear:  people in the Navy do a lot of dumb things, there are a lot of dumb rules, and Mike is feeling like he’s ready to explode.  When he asks why the Navy does dumb things, like fill out endless log books to record mundane events, he’s told that “this is the way we do things, don’t ask, just do them.”

One hot Saturday afternoon, Mike and his friends Jeff and Roger venture out to the base swimming pool.  The petty officer on duty there has stepped away and sitting on the desk is that ever-present green log book.  A plastic sign warns them to sign in before entering the locker room.  Mike and his friends sign in as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy.   Approximately 30 minutes later the petty officer on duty asks which one of them is Mickey.  All three get a butt-chewing and are kicked out of the pool. The petty officer shakes her head and whispers under her breath, “These young sailors have no respect, can’t take orders, question authority, and the Navy is going to hell in a handbasket.”

Yep, those millennials are at it again.

Or are they?

Actually, Mike is me.  The year is 1984 and the buzz around the Navy and workplaces in general centers around this new and frightening group of young people known as Generation X.  We’re accused of being entitled, spoiled, wanting instant gratification, and generally disdaining hard work and effort.  Books are written on how to deal with us and more than a few “experts” are putting together strategies on how to protect the workforce and the future of the United States against our upstart generation.

And yet we managed to grow up and do just fine.  As did our long-haired hippy radical Baby Boomer parents and our moonshining and wild-partying grandparents, and their parents and grandparents before them.

I recently worked with a young (early 20s) group of retail managers and supervisors.  They were inquisitive and motivated to do well.  They didn’t fit any stereotype put out by millennial “experts” nor did they treat a geezer like me with disrespect.  They asked good questions, lots of them in fact.  They will need coaching and guiding and honest feedback, but they’ll do well,  as will most of this over-hyped generation.

But left without guidance, why would you expect they would turn out any different than some of the lazy, unmotivated Baby Boomers, and gently graying and balding GenX’rs you work with?  Without someone taking the time to guide and mentor them, they won’t succeed.

This week, when you’re tempted to stereotype one of 81 million young people of the millennial generation, ask yourself what YOU’RE doing to guide them?  Don’t outsource this to a consultant.  YOU take care of it.

After all, you’re where you are, regardless of your age or generation, because someone did or didn’t do that same thing for you.

Are You INJURED or Just HURT?

hurt or injuredYears ago, when my son played youth football, I remember the coach constantly asking the kids after they complained of injuries this standard question:

Are you hurt or are you injured?

Now in case you don’t know, there is a BIG difference.

Hurt means you feel pain.  Injured means you have a condition that means you can’t continue.

Since so much of football is a mental game, the choice pushes a player past what they THINK they can’t do and gets them back in the game.  It’s probably why there is a whole generation of football players now with CTE, but that’s not my point here.

For those of us whose days of competitive athletics are long over, the choice between hurt and injured are not quite as distinct, yet they are more than ever most important to sort between.

All of us experience rejection, disappointment, and failure in our professional lives.  The question is:

Do these rejections, disappointments, and failures hurt us or injure us?

If I’m “hurt”, I then have the choice to get my mind and emotions back together and give it another shot.  If I’m “injured” then I might have some serious retooling to do in order to get back in the professional game.  When I was first turned down for the Navy Medical Service Corps Inservice Procurement Program back in 1994, I was hurt.  Then I heard that every single candidate selected had a Masters degree.  That meant I had two years of retooling to get over that career “injury”.  If I had quit because I was hurt, I would have never grown professionally.  The Masters degree never did get me in the program (hurt) but it’s lead me to the rewarding career I have today (overcoming injury)

This week, take stock of your most recent failures.  Are you allowing “hurt” to prevent you from trying again?  If you’re “injured” are you doing everything you can to rehab yourself back to success?

In many ways, professional life is a game.  If that’s true, you have to play hard to win.  Separate hurt from injured.  Get your mind right, Go full speed.  Never quit.  Those football colloquialisms are just as relevant in the workplace as they are on the field.  I’m still in the game.  Are you?

Lessons in Humility…From Dan Rather

Me...and Dan Rather signing books behind me!

Me…and Dan Rather signing books behind me!

This week I attended the HR Florida conference in Orlando.  I applied for and was granted a breakout session where I spoke about performance management.  These conferences are a great chance to network and fertile ground for getting clients.

Since this is one of the largest SHRM chapters in the country, I felt very honored to get a session.  They even asked if I wanted some of my books to be sold in the SHRM bookstore AND if I’d like to do a book signing after my 10:15 AM talk.  Of course I agreed.

I started feeling pretty important.

I could tell my colleagues I was going to speak to one of the largest SHRM chapters.  And have a book signing.

Things went well!  I had my book on display.  They even put up a big schedule and I was right up top, just underneath the keynote speaker who was non-other than Dan Rather, the legendary journalist.

Dan Rather did the keynote.  I was busy setting up my room as my session started immediately after his. By 10:00, my room was packed.  People were even turned away.  I was feeling more and more important.  When my session ended, I raced up to the book signing table and sure enough there was already a line of people waiting for a signed copy…of Dan Rather’s book.  I worked my way around the crowd and sat just a few feet from Dan Rather.

Nobody asked for my signature.  Nobody bought my book.  My perceived celebrity was upstaged by the real deal.  I stayed for about 10 minutes, had Vince, the book store manager shoot my photo, and slinked away from the table.

Now I’m not bitter or angry about it.  I was at the conference to meet people, build a network, and grow my business.  All three of those happened.  It was a very worthwhile trip and I know those who took my breakout left with valuable information that will help them.  Some will reach out to me for help.  It’s a win-win-win.

But then there’s my deflated ego.

And here’s the lesson:  No matter how big you think you are or how big people tell you that you are, there will always be someone bigger and better than you.  You can allow that to paralyze you or you can use it to motivate you.  I choose the latter.  I’ll write twice as often, market twice as hard, and talk to twice as many people now.  I’ll answer twice as many Calls for Speakers for conferences and work to reach out to twice as many groups.  I could complain and blame Dan Rather for stealing my thunder, but the bottom line is that Dan Rather has no clue who I am and so blaming him wouldn’t really fix anything.

What will you do with your setbacks and disappointments?  Your choice is to blame and back down or buckle down and power full speed ahead.  I hope you’ll join me and choose the latter.

I’m sure Dan Rather would encourage you to do the same!