Labor Day in a Pandemic – Year 2

When the first nationally recognized Labor Day was celebrated in 1894, the day consisted of a street parade sending up a message of "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" (in the words of the AFL).  We have come a long way since then. Today, especially in this war for talent, most employers focus on offering opportunities and benefits to attract and retain talent. Yet, the disruption from the pandemic continues. Help wanted signs everywhere, a labor shortage stretching from unskilled workers to high-level professionals and executives.  Pundits of all types are offering commentary on this topic. Some say it's a permanent shift only to be resolved by wage and price inflation. Others say we have a move away from work and that automation will resolve the issue.   The Economist recently published a report entitled Will the Rich World's Worker Deficit Last?  The authors estimate the current employment deficit to be 3% below the pre-pandemic level. While acknowledging demand shortages, their research...
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What Is Vulnerability?

I find that the topic of vulnerability comes up frequently in discussions amongst leaders with varying descriptions of what it means to "show vulnerability." Here are some questions to expand the dialogue: Does vulnerability have to mean showing emotion? It's OK for a woman to have tears and talk about feelings, but still not OK for men? What's the difference between showing vulnerability and showing weakness? How do we, as leaders, coach the leaders we work with on how to show up both confident and vulnerable? And here are some stories from leaders I've worked with: "I was a relatively new leader of a high growth business. We missed our numbers one year, and up in the front of the room, I teared up when I shared the news with my team. I felt shame that I didn't control my emotions. Yet, the team rallied, each leader coming up to me to commit to what they would do to make sure it didn't...
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There is as much fun in getting there…

Occasionally there are small moments in life that leave a lasting impact. Years ago, I was sitting on a bench at the old Union Station. An old man sat down next to me, and we engaged in conversation. I asked him where he was headed, and he replied with glee, "San Francisco!" "Wow," I said, "that is a long way to go on the train." His reply: "There is as much fun in getting there as there is in being there." This man's answer has stayed with me, and I often think of him in these situations: When I am too focused on getting to the outcome When it's time to pause When it's time to remember to be in the moment In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama, these two extraordinary seers inspire us with their tales of being in the moment and experiencing joy, even in the face of adversity. I wonder...
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The Secret of Life…

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of timeThere ain't nothing to itAny fool can do itNobody knows how we got toThe top of the hillBut since we're on our way downWe might as well enjoy the rideJames Taylor As I reflect on James' words, I am reminded of an equally important corollary, the power of the pause.  Pause and notice what is around usPause and consider before respondingPause and reframe what we hearPause and consider an alternate point of viewPause for perspective, Nobody Died. ...
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How Do You Know When It Is Time To Go?

Whether you are a business owner, a professional manager, an advisor, or anyone engaged in an enterprise for an extended time - how do you know when it is time to go? "Nothing is forever," the saying goes, and yet sometimes, perhaps even frequently, we stay too long. We watch professional athletes stay past their prime, and we participate in the debate about term limits for our congress. Yet, when it comes to our own engagements, how often do we look inward and debate our own need for term limits? When I was negotiating my exit from the corporate world years ago, I remember a conversation I had with a friend. My friend asked, "What are you going to do if you don't get the deal you want?" My answer was, "I guess I will stay one more year." Her response, "How many more years are you going to say, one more year?" At that moment, I realized it was time for me...
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Who Knows What Is Good and What is Bad

A few months ago, I began a Mental Fitness Coach training program with Shirzad Chamine, founder of Positive Intelligence. I have found this program to have profound results, and I have integrated it into my YOU PIVOT™ coaching practice. A key tenet of the program is the concept of The Sage Perspective.   The Sage Perspective encourages us to look for the gift in everything that happens and is grounded in an old Chinese Proverb that goes something like this. A farmer has a stallion as his most prized possession. One day he enters his stallion in competition, and his stallion wins first prize.  His neighbors bring their congratulations—the farmer replies, who knows what is good and what is bad.  The neighbors go away, puzzled by this strange reply. A week or so passes, and the thieves in the area, having discovered the stallion has won first prize, come and steal the stallion.  The neighbors bring their condolences—the farmer once again replies, who knows what is good...
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Are You An Unreliable Narrator?

Last week I wrote about the importance of telling your today story before answering the question, What is Your Tomorrow Story? One of the challenges I observe in my work as an executive life coach is we are often an unreliable narrator of our own story. Successful people tend to focus on what is next. They become accustomed to asking themselves, "what could I do better?" "What could my company do better?"   While this approach is perceived to drive results, it also leads to negative feelings and perceptions, judging ourselves, others, and our circumstances. This judgment then shows up when we tell our story. I recently began work with a CEO who had spent the last seven years transforming a founder-led, founder-dependent company into a steady, stable, independent profitable growth company—the result: a company that couldn't find a buyer, sold for multiples of EBITDA. Yet, when I asked him to tell me his story as he prepares for his next gig, I heard a story...
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Nobody Died

I have a new CEO client who used to be a trauma surgeon. We've had many conversations about the differences between leading an ER surgery team and leading a business. The other day, he said something that has stayed with me since, so I decided to write about it. Here's what he said, " while I certainly see the leadership differences between the two roles, the most profound difference is with very few exceptions, in business, nobody died." In business, no matter how serious the challenge, it is a rare situation where we can't gain perspective from his words. Sure it matters, and sure we need to give every business challenge our full attention and full effort. And, if we can simply remind ourselves that nobody died, I wonder how that might enhance our ability to resolve issues and address our challenges. My client told me that one of his last patients was a little girl he could not save. He shared...
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Happy New Year, L’Shana Tova

This past Friday night began 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 a religious person. 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, and 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,...
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Labor Day In A Pandemic

Labor Day has taken on new meaning in these times. In the early months of the pandemic, we celebrated the labor of our essential workers: food production and food service workers who make it possible for the rest of us to eathealth-care workers who care for the sicksanitation workers who keep our communities cleanpublic safety workers who keep us safe manufacturers that produce the good we needenergy workers, and others I am likely leaving off this list Labor Day historically marks the beginning of the school year. And once again, it is different this time. Different because the definition of school is both unclear and variable. Different because the clear division between parental responsibility and teacher responsibility has become blurred.  The impact of the lack of clarity is reaching into businesses in unexpected ways. Employees with children struggle to meet their work responsibilities while caring for their children and tackling e-learning.    The economic impact from this, both short and long term, remains...
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