Happy New Year, L’Shana Tova

Tonight begins the Days of Awe in the Jewish religion. Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the New Year in the Hebrew calendar, marks this period’s start; Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, marks the end. It’s a time for reflection, which I enjoy, even though I do not consider myself religious.

The prayer we read at the opening of the service goes something like this, ” On Rosh Hashanah, it is written, and on Yom Kippur, it will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea that everything is pre-ordained, yet the Stoics remind us of the same thing, Amori Fatal, Momento Mori. The message of the ancient rabbis and the ancient Stoics is the same, make today matter, it may be all you have.

For me, this reminder causes me to pause, reflect, ask and affirm that what I am doing today, and each day, in the words of Steve Jobs, is what I would be doing if I knew today was my last. L’Shana Tova, Happy New Year.

Play, Playful, or Have Fun?

Last week I was talking with a woman friend who said, “My husband keeps telling me I need to spend more time playing.”

Her comment resonated with me, as my husband and some of my male friends have said the same to me.

We agreed that while neither of us considers ourselves “playful,” we both like to have fun. While our definition of fun doesn’t include going to the playground or even adult playgrounds like golf courses, we agreed that our time together in conversation is something we both describe as fun. 

We decided to look up the definition of the two words and found the Oxford dictionary defines them similarly.

Play – activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation

Fun – enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure

So if they mean the same, here’s our wondering:

  • Do men and women define the words play and fun differently to themselves?
  • Or is play an extrovert term rather than a gendered term? 
  • Is one person’s play, or fun, another’s work? e.g., an introverted detail-oriented person might find it fun to analyze spreadsheets, while an extrovert would describe this as work.

What Is Your Personal Strategic Plan?

September is the time of the year most companies begin their strategic planning process. But what about your personal strategic plan?

As part of my You Pivot™ Program, I suggest that my clients write a personal strategic plan. And I further recommend that they apply the techniques they have learned from business planning to this personal plan; frankly, most find it challenging. 

Business people are comfortable with and adept at business planning but rarely do these same executives choose to define their mission, vision, and strategic plan for their lives.

If you want to give it a try this year, here is a suggested approach:

  • Begin with your mission, your personal Why? Listen to Simon Sinek discuss finding your Why here
  • Then spend some time getting clear on What Matters to You, what really matters. 
  • As you reflect on your personal Why and your What Matters together, you should be able to craft your life vision. 
  • Finally, begin to draft your strategic plan, the actions you want to start, stop or continue so that you can achieve your life vision. 

Same, same, but different from your business plan. 

How Is This Labor Day Different?

The first nationally recognized Labor Day celebration was in 1894. The AFL claimed this day with a street parade sending a message of “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

Yet, before the pandemic and what we perceive as the consequent labor shortages, except in specific industries like construction, unions had declined. Today unionization is growing in companies like Apple, with a reputation for being employee-centric. 

While unions certainly have always had their place, especially in the safety arena, I wonder what else is driving the change we see today?

Economists say inflation is the cause; prices are going up faster than wages, and people are organizing because they can’t keep up. People often feel that being part of something gives them agency. Human resource professionals say that a lack of effective two-way communication leads to a lack of trust, leading to organizing.

Whatever the reasons for the change, as we celebrate this first post-pandemic (yes, I know it’s still with us) Labor Day, that marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, might we also view it as a beginning for how we show up at work and ask ourselves:

  • As a leader, what can I do tomorrow to learn what drives each person on my team and create an environment where each person can pursue their individual passion while contributing to the success of the team?
  • As a follower, what can I do tomorrow to add additional value to the success of our company while being true to what matters to me?

These Are The Best of Times…

Charles Dickens said, “these are the best of times; these are the worst of times.”  

How can it be both?

One way to interpret this is to say that it depends on who you are and what your life experiences are.  For some, the past held the best of times, and the present holds the worst. 

And for the pragmatists amongst us, admittedly, I am one, the present is where we live. Therefore, by definition, regardless of who we are, the present is both the best and the worst of times. 

At this point, if you haven’t already quit reading, you are probably asking yourself, “what is she even talking about?”

Earlier this week, I was in conversation with a friend and fellow coach about the attraction many people have toward attending their high school reunions. These reunions allow the attendees to revisit the past, thus providing perspective on both the past and the present. Yet, some of us have never attended, or if we have, we didn’t find it to be the magical experience that it was for others.

As we discussed this more, I remembered my mother’s choice when my father died. He was the love of her life, yet she put away all her photos of him. If my sister hadn’t rescued the albums, they would be gone. 

One reaction to this story is, OMG, how could she? Another is perhaps it was too painful for her to look at him. And a third is she was someone who chose to live in the present; the past was, well, the past. 

  • What is the difference between these perspectives? 
  • Does the question of whether these are the best of times or the worst factor into the difference?
  • Is it a function of our life experience, or is it a function of our philosophical view of the world? 

Who Gets to Decide?

Just about every leadership book and every leadership speaker talks about the importance of allowing people to fail. The concept is delegation does not occur unless and until I enable people to make their own decisions, take their own risks, and succeed or fail on their own.

Easy to say, hard to do, on so many levels. Some of the common questions are:

  • How much risk should I allow them to take?
  • What if I am certain they are making the wrong decision, a decision that will cost me money, put the company at risk, put the person at risk? How can I look away and allow the failure to occur?
  • How many failures are okay?

Lately, I have come to realize this question, who gets to decide, also applies to our personal lives. The following stories brought this realization home to me.

A friend’s teenage son is more focused on sports than on his homework, a familiar story. Mom says, “we have to make him do his homework.” Thus ensues a fight between mom and son. Dad says, “let him suffer the consequences if he chooses not to do his homework.” 

Who gets to decide? Who is “right”?

The 89-year-old father of a friend has cancer. His actions indicate he is confused about what he wants. He says he is willing to get treatment but misses his treatment appointments. He lives alone and refuses a live-in caregiver or even a visiting caregiver. Before the cancer diagnosis, he was cognitively in fine shape. Son says, “we have to make him go for his treatments.” Daughter says, “if he wants to be alone, doesn’t attend his appointments, doesn’t return the doctor’s phone calls, it’s his decision to make, not ours.”

Who gets to decide? Who is “right”?

Back to the three questions from the leadership story:

  • How much risk should I allow them to take?
  • What if I am certain they are making the wrong decision, a decision that will cost me money? How can I simply look away and allow the failure to occur?
  • How many failures are okay?

Which choice is the more courageous one? Who gets to decide?

Who Is Right?

A few days ago, I was in conversation with a few like-minded friends about each person’s desire to make a difference in the societal challenges that matter to each of us.

One of our members asked, “what do you find is the common theme amongst people in leadership roles in the not-for-profit world?” My observation is these leaders are willing to accept that their impact may be small.

Another member expressed frustration, saying this is a defeatist attitude, “can’t we strive to do more?”

And another said, “for me, it’s most important not to be a bystander.”

This conversation reminded me of the following classic story.

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

Who is right?