A Shift to Self-Employment

A Shift to Self-Employment

Is self-employment right for you? Is now the best time to start your own business? Questions like these are common right now. And the answer is: definitely, maybe. Regardless of the type of business, self-employment isn’t for everyone. It requires passion, know how, and opportunity. It requires strategy and great timing. And it takes resources. To be sure, there are many pros and cons to consider: With unemployment claims at 30MM in the U.S. and unemployment dropping to 10.2% (16.5% factoring in part-time employees), there is still a lot of volatility in the market. In the months of March and April the US economy lost more than 21MM jobs, and in May, June, and July, regained 9.3MM (about half of jobs lost). While this upward trend is good news, the question remains, what happens next? A lot depends on three things: The virus: While scientists are making great progress toward a vaccine, the number of new cases continues to grow. Consumer confidence and behavior: Some experts speculate that many people used the $1200 US stimulus check to pay-down debt, rather than stimulate the economy with new purchases. The government’s response: At the time of this writing, the U.S. government has not reached a consensus on a second stimulus bill. Of course, this is really only a piece of the puzzle in response to a global pandemic. For the unemployed, with no indication of a work return date, now is a great time to explore possibilities. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, when people have a greater amount of time to find the right position (with the security... read more
A Call for Interdependence

A Call for Interdependence

Today’s business leaders face incredible pressure to anticipate, adapt, and produce. Unfortunately, ongoing uncertainty and increasing demands cause many to fall into the trap of over-management. And it’s not uncommon: when a system crumbles and a new one is not yet fixed in place, we get a lot of chaos and confusion. Figuring out what’s next is not easy for business and organizational leaders. What are the questions they need to be asking in order to find clarity? How do they find a new vision, when there is ongoing uncertainty about any return to former norms? What leaders need is a balance of independence and interdependence. They need to focus on economics and management issues, as well as how they respond to social, technological, cultural, political, environmental, and religious issues. Childcare, education, and working remotely have a tremendous impact on how they do business. Meeting after meeting leaves workers with very little time to actually do the work and complete assignments as agreed. We need to rethink our previous assumptions about how we do business, and where we are going. What we have known about the past and assumed about the present is no longer sufficient to prepare for the future. Effective leadership requires a balance of interdependence and independence. Interdependence versus Independence Is your attitude about individualism based on your social class? According to research published in 2017 by the Harvard Business Review, yes. But, it may also be shaped by your geography. Colin Woodward, author of American Nations (Penguin Group, 2011), writes that our attitudes about interdependence and independence stem from eleven distinct regional cultures in North... read more
Confrontations that Create a Win-Win-Win

Confrontations that Create a Win-Win-Win

What has been your experience with confrontations? When did you last initiate one? Confronting someone for their behavior today is no easy feat, especially when emotions are easily triggered and opinions vary. When expectations are left unmet—including protocol infractions, civil disobedience, illegal behavior and everything in between—frustration, lack of accountability, and broken relationships become the norm. But those who foster positive confrontations can create win-win-win solutions. If you’re like many of the people I speak with, you likely avoid confrontations. And I don’t blame you: we don’t want to make matters worse. But, when we say nothing, we perpetuate the problem (and in some cases, become co-conspirators.) What if we could make a positive difference? Most of us are not highly skilled in win-win-win confrontation. We feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Instead, we can learn and practice positive confrontations: address the issue in a way that supports the wellbeing of self, others, and the relationship between the two. Calculating Risks and Rewards in Confrontations Conflicts can range from disappointments (i.e. someone not meeting our expectations) to micro aggressions, to outright dangerous and/or illegal behavior. And yet, we are often hesitant to say anything. Why is that? Our willingness to speak up changes based on what’s at stake.  In general, most of our daily conflicts boil down to: Priority or value differences Behavior or communication style differences Inequality (or perceived inequality) In Crucial Accountability (McGraw-Hill Education, 2013), authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler share their 30+ years study on confrontations.  When they asked people why they remained (or became) silent in the... read more
How is Your Organization Fighting Racism?

How is Your Organization Fighting Racism?

How is your organization fighting racism? A 2017 analysis of racial discrimination revealed no improvement in hiring over time. With all the diversity training and education we have received, how can this be? To understand the collective dimensions of racism, and how different groups of colors get set-up differently, is a life-long process. Different groups have different experiences, and it’s important to learn those histories. All people who are not perceived as white continue to experience racism. They experience it in shared ways, and in ways that are unique to their group, and their position to whiteness. However, there is something profoundly anti-black in our culture. It cuts across all groups, and is a form of state sanctioned discrimination. You see, racism isn’t just about being racist. And it’s not something that just bad people do. Racism is a system of oppression—intentionally or not. And it hurts everyone. Today, most organizations offer diversity training. But we need to move beyond this. We need to learn how to listen better, learn better, and take better action to correct the systems that support racism. Ultimately, this will strengthen our businesses, those we serve, and our entire society. But most importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Black lives matter.  Key Terms for Open Discussions In her book, White Fragility, (Beacon Press, 2018), Dr. Robin DiAngelo shares her research and experiences regarding racism, and how white people often inadvertently maintain racial inequality. You see, often times, when our assumptions about race are challenged, our reactions are counterproductive. Instead, we can learn to identify these responses and engage in open discussions where we... read more
Finding a New Pace

Finding a New Pace

How has the pandemic affected your pace? Even the best of the best have experienced challenges in finding their new pace at work. Focus and concentration have been more of a challenge for leaders, managers, and employees. And it’s no surprise: our sense of time has been distorted. Two factors explain this phenomenon: Feeling stuck in a holding pattern Loss of flow Feeling stuck is not unusual for those who remain at home, or have yet to return to their previous work environment. Research in anthropology and psychology has found that when we are unable to structure or manipulate our experience of time—when our temporal agency is deprived—we feel stuck in the present. Dr. Felix Ringel, an anthropologist of time at Durham University in England, refers to this as enforced presentism, a term first defined by fellow anthropologist Jane Guyer. And for those who do not know when (or if) they can return to work, enforced presentism continues to alter their perception of time. Fear also alters our perception of time. According to Dr. Sylvie Droit-Volet, PsyD, who has conducted extensive research on emotions and time, threatening stimuli can distort our internal sense of the passage of time. In Subjective Time (The MIT Press 2014), Droit-Volet points to two significant contributors that distort our internal clock: Changes in internal states in response to the effects of drugs or external stimuli (such as a crisis) Attentional processes: when we pay less attention to time, we experience a temporal shortening effect Leaders, executives, and managers in situations of great pressure work with qualified coaches on self-management strategies. They focus on four psychological... read more
The New Face of Change Management

The New Face of Change Management

Leaders and managers are testing their assumptions and abilities in change management as organizations, lines of business, and teams are asked to quickly pivot in their roles and responsibilities. Many employees are being asked to take on additional work, perform new tasks, work in new environments, or under increasing pressure. Everyone is affected. Even in times of crisis, a swift, top down approach to manage change simply doesn’t work. Two theories explain this: People are hard-wired for homeostasis: we have a natural tendency to resist change, especially change that is imposed. You don’t have to look far to see examples of this today. Change is occurring all the time. Every person, and every process, is undergoing change. Leaders and managers often fail to recognize and tap in to this. But when all employees are engaged through-out the process of change, meaningful change can occur. Employees who understand the obstacles and principles, have their concerns and questions answered, and can contribute with their experience and knowledge engage in meaningful change. This is no easy task, especially in times of crisis. Managing meaningful change begins by engaging in, and managing conversations. The Basis for Meaningful Change Have you noticed how leaders who speak louder, cajole, argue, and push incur greater resistance? In their attempt to influence how people behave—their purpose or process—they fail to address the needs, desires, and agendas of those they want to persuade. This approach only serves to foster a closed, or fixed mindset. For example, leaders and managers of offices that were closed need to examine what changes are needed to ensure employee and client safety. Many... read more
The Best Business Strategy for Crisis Recovery

The Best Business Strategy for Crisis Recovery

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.~ John Quincy Adams As a leader, what strategy are you using for crisis recovery? Strategy has become top of mind for business leaders. Too be sure, we are faced with incredible hurdles, many of which are outside of our control. As a result, many leaders have taken drastic measures.   On May 8, 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported their findings from two monthly surveys: households (measuring labor force status, including unemployment) and establishment (measuring non-farm employment, including hours and earnings by industry). According to the report, unemployment increased to 14.7% in April, and temporary layoffs increased ten-fold to 18.1 million. Conversely, some industries (including call centers and IT, warehousing and distribution centers, manufacturing and sales, healthcare and finance) are seeing a labor shortage, including management and specialty roles. Facing a serious shortage of employees, leaders struggle to recruit and retain qualified candidates. Whether you’ve had to cut hours, furlough employees, or fill positions, a speedy business recovery requires the right strategy. Smart leaders focus on productivity. They engage their employees in the development and refinement of processes and systems to improve output. Productivity Versus Efficiency Productivity and efficiency are frequently used interchangeably. However, when it comes to business strategy there is a difference. Put simply, productivity is the quantity of work produced. Efficiency, on the other hand, refers to the resources used to produce that work. Our recent generation of business leaders has focused on efficiency to reduce input and maintain output: doing the same with less. But a speedy... read more
Tough Times, Wise Decisions May 2020, Content for Coaches and Consultants

Tough Times, Wise Decisions May 2020, Content for Coaches and Consultants

In a time when “flattening the curve” requires universal participation, when, how, and who to re-open requires tough decisions. Wise business leadership is needed more than ever before. There’s no shortage of talks, posts, or tweets on our need for wise, capable leaders who pursue the common good; who balance big-picture thinking with next-step management. But predicting outcomes becomes much more complex as systems and people interact in unexpected ways. We need our leaders to do the right things, in the right way, against the right time frame. The real stand outs can navigate intrinsically complex circumstances, make smart decisions, and inspire others to do the same. Two challenges commonly surface in complex circumstances: unintended consequences and difficulties in making sense of a situation. Unfortunately, many leaders tend to overestimate the amount of information they can process: humans have cognitive limits. More than ever, leaders need input from others to grasp complexities and determine how they affect other parts of the system. A leader must be able to keep the big picture in clear view, while attending to all of the small executions that will lead to the right outcomes. They need wisdom. Wise Leadership Defined Socrates believed that wisdom is a virtue, acquired by hard work: experience, error, intuition, detachment and critical thinking; and that the truly wise recognize their own limits of knowledge. Wisdom is also a paradox: based partly on knowledge, shaped by uncertainty; action and inaction; emotion and detachment. Wise leadership reconciles seeming contradictions as part of the process of wisdom, for wisdom is a process. “Wisdom is not just about maximizing one’s own or... read more
How to Cultivate Realistic Hope

How to Cultivate Realistic Hope

In times of uncertainty, we often turn to the news media, leaders, and experts for answers. Conflicting reports weaken our trust, creating more uncertainty. As more bad news continues to stream in, we turn away. To distract ourselves from intrusive ruminations, nagging guilt, loss, and trauma, we seek relief. Many of us use distraction techniques: we focus our attention for two minutes on a pleasant memory, image, or even a focus on our breath. However, some of our distraction behaviors do more harm than good. Often impulsive (and sometimes compulsive) we develop binging behaviors to numb us from our thoughts and feelings. Such behaviors include activities like binge-watching series, compulsive-eating/drinking, or worse. These behaviors further separate us from others, and any real sense of hope. Instead, we need to ease our emotional pain and prevent the problem from becoming worse. We need to cultivate realistic hope. Realistic Hope Realistic hope is not based on the perspective that everything was, is, or will be fine. To the contrary, hope is about a breadth of perspective with real, specific possibilities that call us to action.   In Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Haymarket Books, 2020), Rebecca Solnit writes: “Hope is not a sunny, everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.” Unrealistic Optimism Unrealistic optimism, or false hope, is not based on critical thinking. To be sure, there are benefits of being optimistic, but optimism without any real basis or plan to support it is a hollow promise; it is not the... read more
Great Leadership in Times of Crisis

Great Leadership in Times of Crisis

The men and women in charge of our organizations are now faced with unchartered challenges: leading their organization through a global pandemic. In this time of crisis, most leaders are doing their best to step up and inspire people to do their best. And they’re doing a great job. One of the challenges is the evolving new normal. Rapidly changing guidelines, mandates, and infrastructure require continual monitoring and adjustments. Leaders are in a constant state of discovery, decision making, designing, and implementation. This requires resilience, collaboration, and great communication. Those who are able to adapt quickly and wisely are best positioned to lead their organization, and in many cases, their entire nation, in novel ways. Great leadership in a time of crisis will see us through to the other side. Business continuity management is more important than ever. Based on the conversations I’ve had with leaders, developing, refining, and implementing contingency plans is well underway. With careful attention to employee safety and preparedness, leaders can minimize risk, and in some cases, position themselves for post-crisis growth. Below are a few leadership best practices. Are you taking these steps?   Legal Obligations First, and foremost, focus on employee safety. Review policies, and then identify actual practices. (What happens in the field may not be the actual procedures management recommends.) Ensure you have adequate communicable-illness plans and practices in place. Credible Authorities and Resources Depending on the size and reach of your organization, these may need to be local, regional, national, and global, and could include CDC, WHO, EUCDPC, Singapore and UK. Contingency Plans If you haven’t mapped out or developed... read more

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