Tag Archives: Work-Life


Career “Planning”=Career “Improvisation”

In “VUCA world,” described by the U.S. Army War College as volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environments, current career “planning” occurs under rapidly-shifting conditions more appropriate for an agile strategy.

As a result, it is increasingly difficult to  meaningfully respond to the frequently-asked interview question: “What are your career plans for the next five years?

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Planning is most suited to relatively certain circumstances when processes and decisions are linear, argued Stanford’s Kathleen Eisenhardt and Behnam Tabrizi in their analysis of global computer product innovation.

In contrast, frequently-changing or uncertain conditions with many iterative modifications require improvisation coupled with frequent testing.

Behnam Tabrizi

Iterative exploration, rapid prototyping/experimentation, and testing characteristic of agile development and design thinking are more suited for rapid changes in economic, political, and technology changes that affect known career paths.

Alison Maitland

University of London’s Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson forecast Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive In the New World of Work,
and related books by Deloitte’s Cathy BenkoMolly Anderson, with Anne Weisberg of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP consider The Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Work and Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce.

-*When have you found it more useful to “improvise” instead of “plan” your career?
-*What are the benefits and drawbacks of career “improvisation”?

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©Kathryn Welds


Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

Vicki Swisher

Lack of self-awareness among organizational leaders is pervasive and costly, according to Korn Ferry’s Vicky Swisher and Evelyn Orr.
They studied executives using the FYI: For Your Insight assessment tool, based on research from FYI for Insight: 21 Leadership Characteristics for Success and 5 That Will Get You Fired.

Evelyn Orr

Evelyn Orr

Executives’ most significant blind spots were:

• Making tough people calls,
• Demonstrating personal flexibility, adapting approaches to new circumstances.

Similarly,  the top leadership problems were:
• Not inspiring employees, not building talent,
• “Too narrow”, relying on deep expertise without broadening perspective.

Leaders vastly underestimated their effectiveness in “managing up”, suggesting that they focused more on their next promotion, rather than on developing their employees.

Joe Luft

Joe Luft

Lack of self-awareness can be reduced by using a “Reality Check” including:

o Feedback from others to provide “early warning” of difficulty.
However, this requires that evaluators are willing to provide candid observations, despite widespread discomfort in providing corrective feedback.

o Self-reflection concerning effective and ineffective behaviors, documented in a personal journal for review.

Harry Ingham

Harry Ingham

Executives learned most to enhance leadership skills and self-reflection from on-the-job experiences, distantly followed by learning from other people.
Structured trainings are least effective and most costly approaches to enhance leadership cognitive, emotional, motivational, self-awareness, and learning agility capabilities.

These leadership development processes reduce individual blind spots, portrayed by San Francisco State University’s Joe Luft and Harry Ingham of National Training Labs in The JoHari Windowjohari-window

Korn Ferry’s Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger provided additional executive development recommendations based on research in FYI: For your Improvement, A Development and Coaching Guide(3rd Edition).

-*How do you increase your self-awareness at work and reduce your “blind spots” about yourself and others?

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Conducting “Due Diligence” by Interviewing the Hiring Manager

Have you ever had the fleeting thought “Did I make a mistake in accepting this role?” after finding that the work, manager, team, culture, expectations were not “as advertised”?

Julie Jansen

Julie Jansen

If so, next time you interview for a new role, consider Julie Jansen’s suggested questions to evaluate “fit” with the prospective manager, outlined in her book, I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work

Questions to ask any (and every) Prospective Manager 

  •  What deliverables, accomplishments, behaviors do you expect of the person hired for this role during the first three months?
  • First six months?
  • First year?
  • How will you measure success in this role after a year?
  • What challenges the previous incumbent encounter in the role?
  • What do you see as the role’s current challenges?
  • What are the three top priorities for this role in the next year?
  • How do these priorities align with the organization’s strategy?
  • How can the person selected for this role help you manage your highest-concern challenges?
  • How do you mentor, coach, and develop your direct reports?
  • What was the next career move for the role’s previous incumbent?
  • What did the previous incumbent accomplish in the role?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with your direct reports?
  • How do you prefer to receive information from your direct reports?
  • In person, email, telephone, text message, other?
  • How frequently do team members work remotely?
  • How frequently do you want updates from your direct reports?
  • How do you and your team integrate work and life priorities toward “work-life balance”?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • Your management style?
  • Your leadership style?
  • Your decision style?
  • How do you manage conflict within the team?
  • With other organizations?
  • What are your three most important values?
  • How do your direct reports describe your management style?
  • What are the characteristics of the best manager you’ve worked with?
  • How are you and your team perceived in the organization?

Questions to ask the prospective manager’s direct reports (peers to target role)

  • What are the manager’s job priorities?
  • How does the manager develop, coach, and mentor direct reports?
  • How frequently does the manager provide feedback?
  • What work and person characteristics does the manager value?
  • How would you describe the manager’s work style?
  • What is the manager’s decision process?
  • How does the manager deal with conflict?
  • To what extent does the manager involve you and your peers in decisions?
  • To what extent does the manager support work-life balance?
  • What are the manager’s strengths?
  • What are the manager’s development areas?
  • What are the manager’s “hot buttons” or “pet peeves”?
  • How does the manager prefer to communicate with you and your team?
  • How does the manager prefer to receive information?
  • How is the manager viewed in the organization?
  • With what roles and organizations are manager allied?
  • Who are the manager’s mentors in the organization?
  • What advice would you give to the person selected for this role to ensure a positive working relationship with the manager?

These queries can’t guard against managers who leave the role a few days after you start, or re-organizations and restructurings that leave you reporting to a new manager in a new role in a new group, but they may provide additional guidance to potential “warning signs” of job mismatch or “misemployment.”

-*What questions have you found most effective in assessing work style “fit” and compatibility with a potential manager?

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2012 Top Companies for Work-Life Balance

Glassdoor.com synthesized employee ratings for the past 12 months to produce a list of companies in which is it possible to both make a living and live a life.

Silicon Valley companies include Agilent Technologies (#3), LinkedIn (#8), and Hitachi Data Systems (#20), but not Google, Facebook, Synopsis, or Intuit.

-*How do you assess a potential employer’s organizational culture for balancing work priorities with life priorities?

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10 Ways to Build Resilience

A key factor in “psychological resilience”, or the process of adapting to unexpected adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress, is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family, according to research by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Other factors include:

• Making realistic plans and executing them
• Positive view of self
• Confidence in your strengths and abilities
• Skills in communication and problem solving
• Managing strong feelings and impulses

APA outlines actions that increase personal resilience

• Make connections with family members, friends, or others to request and accept support. Civic groups, faith-based organizations, or volunteering to help others can make meaningful connections

• Consider crises as solvable problems. You can change how you interpret and respond to these events.

• Recognize that change occurs with increasing frequency. You can balance thoughtful acceptance of a situation with acting to change it.

• Move toward your goals, with regular small accomplishments

• Take decisive actions

• Look for opportunities for self-discovery and learning “life lessons” that may benefit others

• Develop confidence that you can address the issues. Others in the social support network may assist.

• Keep things in perspective, in relation to the great challenges faced by others

• Visualize your goals and aspirations

  • Cultivate an optimistic outlook, and consider hope as essential as oxygen

• Take care of yourself with exercise, relaxation, balanced diet and lifestyle, medical attention

Additional strategies may assist: the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress

-*What are your most effective strategies for building personal resilience in the face of challenges?

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©Kathryn Welds

How Gaming Can Help You Live Better and Longer

Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal

Game designer Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk that gaming fulfills the basic human wishes expressed by dying hospice patients:

• Work less hard
• Stay in touch with friends
• Let myself be happier
• Have the courage to express my true self
• Live a life true to my dreams

She discussed a practical game, Superbetter, she developed following her own experience of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which left her bedridden, in persistent pain, and suicidal for more than a year.

Based on her love of “Special Missions and Secret Objectives”, she developed four research-based challenges to increase her resilience and capabilities:

• Physical
• Mental
• Emotional
• Social

She asserts that these tasks help players strengthen abilities to remain motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulty challenge, and boost physical and emotional well-being.
McGonigal links these capabilities to strengthening social support, increasing stamina and willpower.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that McGonigal’s twin sister and fellow Ph.D., Kelly McGonigal, conducts research at Stanford University on methods to increase willpower and compassion, and to reduce stress and pain.

Her recent book is The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It

Jane McGonigal seems to triumph in this Jane vs. Colbert face-off …though he may have tried to distract her by mentioning that she is “a girl, and an attractive one at that…with that Big Hair…”

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert

Six-time Stephen Colbert guest, Hayden Planetarium astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s commented that “you’re lucky to come away with your skin when you appear on Colbert’s show.”  Jane seemed to come away with her skin intact.

-*How have you seen gaming improve lives?
-*To what extent do you concur with the hospice patients’ wishes – and implied advice to younger people?

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Finding Work You Love, Measuring Your Life

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor, acclaimed for his ground-breaking work on innovation.
His recent book, How Will You Measure Your Life links his years of research in business strategy and innovation, to identifying values and priorities in work-life.

Although this new focus may seem unexpected, Christensen may have pointed to a source of inspiration when he revealed in 2010 that he had been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and had suffered an ischemic stroke.
In addition, he has been highly visible in his decades of service to The Church of Latter Day Saints.

He reviews “powerful anomalies” in popular conceptions of workforce motivation and incentives designed to drive performance.

He notes that “some of the hardest working people on the planet are employed in charitable organizations. They work in the most difficult conditions imaginable; they earn a fraction of what they would if they were in the private sector. Yet it’s rare to hear of managers of nonprofits complaining about getting their staff motivated. The same goes for the military.”

He points out that incentives are not the same as motivation, and that true motivation involves moving people to do something because they want to.
Hertzberg’s classic article in the Harvard Business Review, introduced the distinction between hygiene factors (if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied) and motivation factors (challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth).

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg

Christensen concludes that Herzberg’sHerzberg theory of motivation suggests such questions as:

• Is this work meaningful to me?
• Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement?
• Am I going to learn new things?

Evaluating the place of personal motivation factors in relation to the priority of hygiene factors is the foundation of career and life satisfaction.

-*What elements of your “work contract” are motivating?-*What helps you determine value and meaning in your work life and personal life?

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Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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Kept Up at Night by Intrusive Thoughts of Work: Elusive Sleep

According to the US Center for Disease Control, about 70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder, and I noticed this when colleagues in three different meetings discussed their variations of disrupted sleep.
One person described waking up in the middle of the night with “brain whirlies,” whereas others reported waking up with anxiety about Excel spreadsheet accuracy.

William Dement

William Dement

Many people are familiar with William Dement’s ground-breaking studies of REM and NREM sleep, sleep “architecture”, sleep disorders as the Director of Stanford University Sleep Research Center, and many may know of his research on sleep deprivation’s impact on mood, immune system functioning, work productivity and even public safety.

In fact, he asserts that 33% of traffic accidents and most all major industrial accidents are related to human error based on sleep deprivation.
Dement also shows the relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease and stroke.

He outlined his research and advocacy in The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep 

Test your Sleep Savvy with his questionnaire by answering the following statements with “true” or “false”:

  1. Depriving people of dreams causes mental illness.
  2. Drowsiness, that feeling when the eyelids are trying to close and we cannot keep them open, is the first step and not the last step before we fall asleep.
  3. Generally, people need to sleep one hour for every two hours awake.
  4. Insomnia is a disease.
  5. The purpose of sleep is to rest the body, especially the muscles.
  6. Although sleep needs vary, people who sleep about eight hours, on average, tend to live longer.
  7. If you are well rested, it should take about five to ten minutes to fall asleep.
  8. The single symptom most frequently found in all severe sleep disorders is daytime fatigue.
  9. Sleep gets lighter and more fragmented as we age.
  10. We know what sleep is for, how it works, and how it affects us on a cellular level.

1,2,4,5,7,10 are false
3,6,8,9 are true

Rosalind Cartwright

Rosalind Cartwright

Fewer people may be aware of Dement’s mentor, Rosalind Cartwright, who founded the first accredited Sleep Disorder Service in Illinois in 1978 and wrote The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives 

She amplified Dement’s linkage of sleep hygiene with normal mood when she noted that sleep dampens negative emotions “so the next day begins with a calmer frame of mind with which to face the waking world.”

Cartwright recommends behavior modifications to “reclaim healthy sleep” and suggests a three-week “sleep camp” including:

  • Evaluating  risk of sleep disorders
  • Managing sleep “crises”
  • Keeping a sleep diary
  • Measuring  sleep debt

Echoing  the encouragement that “there’s an app for that,” technologists have summarized the most highly-rated Sleep Apps to measure sleep architecture , quality, and duration, and  recommend possible behavioral changes to improve sleep quality and related daily experience:

-*What helps you optimize your sleep experience?
-*Which “sleep myths” do you think are NOT myths?

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“Nudging” Compassion, Resilience to Reduce Conflict, Stress

David DeSteno

David DeSteno, directs Northeastern University’s Social Emotions Lab, where he investigates cognitive and neurological mechanism related to social behavior.
In Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us , and at his PopTech talk, he shared how he investigated whether evoked compassion and empathy is associated with reduced aggression.

He described experiments in which volunteers solve math problems for money.
In some conditions, one of DeSteno’s associates posed as another volunteer and noticeably cheated to earn more money than the real volunteer.
In other conditions, the confederate abided by the rules.

For some experiments, the cheating confederate, a professional actor, evoked empathy and compassion by saying that she was  worried about her brother, who was just diagnosed with a terminal illness.

In these situations, the volunteers were less likely to intentionally inflict discomfort on her in the following study of “taste perception,” a measure of aggression.

In this experimental trial, the volunteer measured a discretionary amount of extra-hot sauce into a cup for the cheating or non-cheating confederates to taste.

Volunteers poured five times more hot sauce for cheating confederates than non-cheating confederates, but they treated cheaters who evoked empathy the same as non-cheaters.

DeSteno noted most people are willing to help others who have some similarity to them, such as a shared identity of sharing a religious faith or hometown, or even are moving together as in conga lines, military drills.

He suggested that movement “synchrony causes separate identities to merge into one,” and demonstrated this trend in a music perception study, where volunteers in the same room tapped their hands on sensors when they heard tones.

In some conditions, the tones were synchronized so the volunteers were tapping at the same time as other volunteers, and in other conditions, the tones were independent.
De Steno found that 50% of volunteers who tapped at the same time were willing to help other volunteers, whereas 20% of those who tapped at different times helped others.
He concluded that volunteers felt more similar by tapping together, so felt more compassion, and were more likely to help others.

DeSteno is investigating social media like Facebook as a platform for sharing similarities to reduce aggression in conflict, cyber-bullying, victims of distant natural disasters.

He  said uses Cass Sunstein’s and Richard Thaler’s idea that small behavioral and organizational changes can “nudge” people to healthier, safer, more productive, and prosperous habits outlined in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness 

Their practical recommendations for designing effective “choice architecture” are consistent with DeSteno’s research-based findings:

* Align incentives with desired outcomes
* Identify possible alternative outcomes in familiar terms
* Provide default options that favor desired outcome behaviors
* Offer prompt, relevant feedback about choices and outcomes.
* Expect deviation from the targeted outcome, and build in ways to prevent, detect, and minimize this variance.
* Structure complex choices to reduce the difficulty of decisions-making

-*How have you seen “similarity” affect workplace collaboration and support?

-*Where have you seen organizations implement “choice architecture” to encourage employee behaviors toward positive goals?

BJ Fogg

Related Post
“Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes

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Working From Home: Calculating Cost, Time, Environmental Savings

Companies and individuals save money when employees work from home offices, and there’s an environmental impact of reducing traffic congestion and emissions.

Govloop and HP produced a calculator based on federal databases and studies that considers time and distance traveled each day, vehicle type, and number of telecommuting days to calculate cost savings and productivity gains.

Govloop estimates that the average employer spends about $10,000 in energy, real estate, and production costs per employee annually, while advocacy group American Telecommuting Association claims teleworkers show 10% to 15% improved productivity in nearly every related study over the past two decades.

One Stanford University study  in China found working from home increased performance by 13% and cut attrition by 50%.

Govloop Telework Calculator

Calculators from other organizations consider other costs like work clothes, shoes, and accessories, plus attending office social events.

NIHNational Institute of Health

Seattle’s commuter challenge

More information here and here

-*To what extent does your workplace enable employees to work remotely?

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