Archive for April, 2010

Only YOU Are in Control of the Quality of Your Life

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Have you ever been faced with a situation in which you are so fearful of something that it prevents you from enjoying life? Yesterday on a flight from New York to Long Beach, I sat next to someone who was very fearful about flying. The concept of a huge piece of metal filled with people and their belongings moving hundreds of miles an hour in the sky just didn’t seem natural to her. Throw in some turbulence, and she was a basket case. In talking with her about the basis for her fear, I learned it all came down to the fact that she had no control over the aircraft. As a result, she experienced flying as a nightmare.

The April edition of my newsletter, Alignment Solutions, contains a series of articles that may help people who find themselves in similar situations – i.e., those in which they believe they have no control over what is happening around them. Although it often is true that there are people and things in the environment over which we have no control, there is something we always retain: our ability to choose how we experience those situations. As a result, we have more control than we might imagine. In fact, making a few changes in our perspective enables us to recognize and focus on what we CAN control, thereby increasing our quality of life significantly. If you are interested in finding out how you can exercise your ability to transform your life experiences in a positive way, I invite you to take a look at these articles. And let me know what you think!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Removing Personal Barriers to Success

Friday, April 9th, 2010

What obstacles prevent you from being successful in your life? I have observed two related barriers that result in misalignment between people’s abilities and their desired outcomes; both are self-imposed. Could one or both of these be holding you back?

Obstacle #1 comes in the form of conscious or unconscious beliefs that limit our expectations about what we can or cannot do. In addition to the boundaries that others impose on us, we often create our own artificial barriers to pursuing our dreams. For example, when I was in my late 20s I convinced myself that I could never achieve my dream of going to law school because I would be 30 years old by the time I finished. My belief that 30 was much too old to be starting a new career caused me to discard this “impossible” goal.

Obstacle #2 occurs when we accept others’ untested assumptions about our abilities. For example, as a university professor I continuously met people of all ages who had no idea that they could succeed – however they defined success – simply because no one had ever set high expectations for them or told them they were capable of much more than they suspected.

The misalignment that results from these two obstacles blocks our path to success and results in high personal costs. By settling for less, we short-change ourselves and others. Here are two suggestions for removing these obstacles to personal success:

Suggestion #1: Identify one self-imposed barrier, something that is holding you back from achieving a desired outcome that seems beyond your reach, such as writing a poem, running or walking a marathon, or putting your needs ahead of your family’s needs. Test the limits of this boundary – e.g., write a poem for yourself, sign up to train for a marathon, skip a family gathering in favor of doing something for yourself. See what happens. I would be willing to bet that you find you are able to go a lot further than you had imagined – i.e., there is a lot more “stretch” to that boundary than you had thought!

Suggestion #2: Test others’ assumptions of your abilities. Give others the gift of seeing their abilities through your eyes. When you run across someone who appears to be held back by erroneous beliefs about his/her abilities, encourage that person to test those limits. Help others raise their expectations by challenging them to identify higher level outcomes than they had imagined possible. The reward is likely to be a richer, more joy-filled life.

What will you do today to ensure you are not standing in the way of your dreams?

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Unintentional Mismanagement

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The economic downturn in the U.S. has turned up the heat on organizational leaders to wring as much productivity as possible out of their employees and equipment. As resources dwindle, organizational survival often is at stake. Unfortunately, even well-meaning leaders end up engaging in practices that I describe as “unintentional mismanagement” – i.e., those that are not in employees’ short- or long-term interests. Here are four examples of unintentional mismanagement of people and resources:

    1. Insisting that employees who survive furloughs and layoffs do “more with less”

    I’ve written quite a bit about the fatal flaw of this concept – i.e., it’s not sustainable in the long-run. While most organizations have inefficiencies that can be addressed by cutting back or down, after a certain point they reach the physical and mental limits of people and equipment. The fact is that, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, doing LESS with less actually is more productive – not to mention that it’s better for employees’ well-being.

    2. Burning out employees and volunteers in the name of the “cause”

    Time and time again, I have seen non-profit organizations experience high turnover of both staff and volunteers because their leaders are working them into the ground. Even when the “cause” is a noble one – e.g., eradicating disease, providing safe environments for children, providing disaster relief – how well is it really being served when people and resources regularly are stretched well beyond the breaking point?

    3. Substituting cost-cutting for achievement of the organization’s mission as the #1 priority

    Particularly in times of financial crisis, people turn first to cost-cutting measures as a way of surviving. The problem arises when leaders lose sight of the organization’s mission, and the cutbacks don’t support it. For example, if a school board justifies its decision to cut four instructional days from the school year by saying it needs to save teachers’ jobs, one might question whether the mission of the school system is to provide students with a quality education or to provide jobs for teachers.

    4. Focusing on the short-term to the exclusion of the long-term.

    Sometimes we have to accept a short-term “hit” to achieve a long-term result that supports the organization’s mission. One example that comes to mind is leaders who must make financial decisions for the long-term good of the company and its stakeholders, yet are evaluated on the basis of the current quarter’s results.

What are some solutions to unintentional mismanagement? Here are three suggestions to get you started:

    1. Be clear about the mission and goals of the organization, and focus relentlessly on them. Especially in challenging times, they should be the criteria against which decisions are made.

    2. Balance long-term and short-term outcomes keeping #1 above in mind.

    3. Focus on creating employee-centered workplaces™ – i.e., environments in which every person, program, system, and policy is focused on helping employees become fully successful in achieving the organization’s mission and goals.

I invite you to share your plausible solutions for examples of unintentional mismanagement.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Coming to Your Workplace Soon: The New World of Labor-Management Relations

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Last week, President Obama used his authority to make recess appointments when he appointed two new members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). By virtue of this action, the NLRB now has a pro-union majority. One of the two new appointees is on record as advocating changes as radical as removing employers as one of the parties in the labor-management relationship.

What can we expect? Nothing short of a transformation in workplaces across the U.S. Here are just two of the actions the Board is likely to order:

    • Replacement of current secret ballot elections for union representation with a “card check” process. This action would make passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) by Congress a moot point with respect to this issue.

    • A narrower definition of the term “supervisor” that would enable more employees to be covered by current labor laws. Thus passage of the currently proposed RESPECT Act would become a moot point for this issue.

If you are wondering how three people single-handedly can have a transformative impact on the employee-employer relationship, I invite you to get up to speed by reading two articles I wrote last fall. (Although there are five positions on the Board, the three Democrats have long records of taking pro-union positions. Similarly, Republicans appointed to the Board traditionally have records of taking pro-management positions. Note that “pro-union” is not necessarily the same as “pro-employee.”)

What You Don’t Know about the NLRB Can Hurt You lists seven facts about the Board that employers and employees need to know. For those who don’t think they need to pay attention to what’s happening, the first two facts might change your mind:

    The NRLB consists of five people whose decisions have the effect of federal law. These decisions change how existing labor laws are interpreted and administered. They do NOT need Congressional approval to become the law of the land.

    Board decisions affect ALL covered employees, not just those who belong to unions. With some exceptions (e.g., government workers, railway and airline workers), Board rulings affect the rights of non-unionized employees and employers.

The second article, Seven Tips to Prepare for the New NLRB, lists six legal and ethical contingent actions you can take to reduce the likelihood that anticipated NLRB rulings will have a negative impact on the employer-employee relationship in your organization.

In short order, employers and employees will have to learn how to interact with each other in what promises to be a new world of labor-management relations. Do you have the facts you need? For more information on this topic, contact us.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.