Archive for Blog

5 Strategies for Managing Attention

Do you live in a 200-emails-a-day world? Do you delete emails based solely on the subject line? Or merely skim the contents of most emails? Or automatically discard email from certain senders? Maybe you hit ‘5’ on your mobile phone to skip through long voicemails. More and more information gets ignored these days—and this sometimes results in critical matters not receiving the attention necessary.

Our workplaces have become increasingly leaner, with fewer people handling ever-growing amounts of work. Managers are working more hours than before. Many employees devote considerable time to work after hours, checking email and voicemail. With 24/7 Internet access, we need a strategy to process the sheer volume of information we receive to ensure we allocate our attention effectively.

Here are five strategies you can use to better manage your attention—and that of your employees.

  1. Control your gray mail—email generated from newsletters, coupons, discounted airfare, social media and more—with a productivity app like Unroll.me or SaneBox. These apps bundle the gray mail into a single summary email so you just need to scan one message instead of dozens of individual ones. Some productivity apps even handle the unsubscribe process for you on request.
  2. Use the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) principle when composing email. State the purpose of the email at the beginning, without all the details. End the email with your request for action. If the email is informational, your readers can opt to read it later. And if it requires action, they will be more likely to give it attention.
  3. Get less email by sending less email. Sometimes a quick walk down the hall or phone call will accomplish something in far less time than sending emails back and forth.
  4. Be judicious. If an email goes out companywide to remind everyone of a deadline and you reply all to say you’ve met the deadline, you’ve just generated dozens of unnecessary emails for others. Become more mindful of who needs to receive an email and who needs to see the reply.
  5. Remove heated conversations from the kitchen. Email can easily be misinterpreted, resulting in unintended consequences. Save the controversial topics for a face-to-face meeting or phone call.

What will you do with the time these strategies free up? Hmm . . . why not build, create, innovate, dream. . . . Focus on the things that truly make a difference for you, your organization and the world!

What strategies help you manage your attention? Please share.

Stop Working So Much!

Let’s start with a short quiz.

True or false: US businesses owe $224 billion in unused vacation time.1

True or false: Working 11-hour days or longer increases your chances of developing heart disease by 67% over those who work 7- or 8-hour days.2

True or false: Individuals who work more than 55 hours a week have lower productivity levels.3

If you answered true for all three questions, you’re right! In today’s economy, most of us find ourselves overworked as organizations reduce benefits and put the kibosh on raises.

Others, however, work for companies that value employee health and wellness. The December 15, 2015, issue of Fortune Magazine highlights a few standout organizations where work-life balance is serious business.

Denver-based software company FullContact specializes in contact management software. In addition to company stock options, employees enjoy 100% paid health, dental and vision care for the employee and family; free bus and light rail passes; parking stipends (for those who don’t live near bus or rail lines); one month a year to work remotely from any location in the world—with lodging and travel paid by the company; and paid holidays and vacation.

About that vacation. FullContact requires employees to take at least three weeks off every year. “There is a catch. You must be off the grid, no emails, no calling work, absolutely no work.”

Lindon, Utah–based BambooHR has a philosophy: “Do great work. Then go home. Work stays at work.” Their “no workaholics” policy requires that every employee leave the office by 5 pm. And no employee may work more than 40 hours a week. Benefits include three weeks off, 11 paid holidays, health insurance and more.

Many of us will never work for a company that provides free lunch and dinner (Google); on-site gyms and free Taylor Swift concerts (Yahoo); on-site massage services and pet insurance (Scripps Health); concierge services to pick up your groceries or change the oil in your car (SC Johnson and Son); three to six months of partially paid time to do volunteer work (Deloitte); or professional dress clothing advances (Umpqua Bank).

You might, though, work for an organization that offers benefits promoting employee work-life balance. If so, the benefits are probably quite evident to you!

If you are a leader, consider how you might implement new goals for 2016:

  1. Help your employees take advantage of accrued vacation time.
  2. Reduce employee risks of developing heart disease by keeping their workdays to eight hours.
  3. Ensure maximum productivity of employees by reducing demands beyond a 40-hour week.

Your employees will thank you. Their families will thank you. And your company will retain employees who are engaged, productive, creative and healthy. Gee—wouldn’t that help you meet your strategic goals!

References

  1. Oxford Economics analysis based on SEC filings for 114 companies (2015).
  2. University College London study (2011).
  3. Study conducted by Stanford University’s John Pencavel (2014).

What’s Your Theme for 2016?

Here’s how to set yourself up for success in the new year.

Guess what? You get to choose the way you show up in 2016. Barring certain life circumstances, you can set the tone for personal and professional experiences. Whether you are conscious of this or not, you DO set the tone for your experiences.

Think about this as you look back on last year.

  • Was it a good year?
  • What tone did I set for the year, and how did it play out?
  • What am I grateful for, and what do I appreciate about last year?
  • What is there for me to acknowledge about myself in 2015?
  • How would I rate 2015 on a scale of 1 to 10—personally and professionally?
  • What would have made 2015 an 11 out of 10?

As you think about 2016, what tone do you want to set? How do you want to experience 2016? How do you want people to experience YOU in 2016? (Think of it as creating your personal brand.)

  • As you look ahead to 2016, what excites you?
  • What are your key goals and objectives for 2016?
  • What state of being will best serve you in 2016?
  • Where and how do you want to stretch yourself in 2016?
  • What will make 2016 an 11 out of 10 year for you, both personally and professionally?
Climb ev’ry mountain,
Ford ev’ry stream,
Follow ev’ry rainbow,
’Til you find your dream.

Finally, what is a possible theme for the year that could serve as a structure to lock in a SUCCESSFUL 2016? Think about a song, movie, book, or TV show.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve picked a song with rich meaning and memories—Climb Ev’ry Mountain by Rodgers and Hammerstein. How well I remember going to the theater with my mom to see The Sound of Music and leaving the movie singing at the top of my lungs.

Want some help focusing in on your theme for 2016? Call 541.601.0114 or email me for a complimentary coaching session. Now’s the time to get clarity for a great new year. Cheers!

Is Your Work a Test of Endurance or a Labor of Love? Find out with a Simple Survey.

What makes you happy at work? Benefits? Bonuses? Vacations?

Well none of these, actually. The top factors determining a person’s happiness at work are whether they a) enjoy the actual tasks required, b) are able to focus on the things they do best and c) are proud of their employer. Other factors that can impact happiness include relationships at work; the job’s social impact; feeling in control of your work and of workplace decisions; and sensing that you’re progressing and learning.

Statistics show your happiness at work is also a result of skill levels, providing service, supervising others and working at a small company, according to the Happiness at Work Survey jointly developed by Delivering Happiness at Work (DH@W) and Nic Marks.

DH@W is the consultancy firm Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh founded on the heels of his 2010 bestseller, Delivering Happiness.

Nic is one of the founding directors of Happiness Works as well as a fellow of the new economics foundation (nef) and a board member of Action for Happiness. He is best known for creating the award-winning Happy Planet Index—the first global measure of sustainable well-being. Nic spoke at the prestigious TEDGlobal conference in 2010 and authored one the first TEDbooks: A Happiness Manifesto.

More than 11,000 people in 90+ countries have taken the 47-question Happiness at Work Survey, which asks simple questions regarding work-life balance, use of time on the job and overall feelings while at work.

The results confirm that highly skilled workers are 50% more likely to be happy at work than their unskilled counterparts. People whose work involves caregiving or direct service are 75% happier than, for example, those in sales. Supervisors are 27% more likely to be happy than those who are supervised. And you are 25% more likely to be happy working for a company of fewer than 100 employees than for a business with 1,000 or more employees. Age matters, too. Workers age 40 and above tend to be happier than younger employees.

The 47-question survey takes about 10 minutes to complete. It asks questions such as, “How satisfied are you with the balance between the time you spend on your work and the time you spend on other aspects of your life?” and “How much of the time you spend at work do you feel bored?” The assessment also includes questions about colleagues and managers, workspace environment and your individual demeanor. After completion, survey respondents receive personalized reports intended to help navigate the way forward—particularly if, like many workers, they feel work is a test of endurance instead of a labor of love.

Some consider happiness in the workplace a fluffy subject. There’s an extensive body of research, however, demonstrating that a happy workforce can make a big difference. One large meta-analysis found happy employees have on average 31% higher productivity, their sales are 37% higher and their creativity is some three times higher than less-happy workers.

Recent research from the University of Warwick, UK, and IZA, Bonn, Germany, showed that randomly selected individuals who were made happier exhibited approximately 12% greater productivity, as measured by a standardized task of correctly adding combinations of numbers for 10 minutes. In one experiment, a comedy movie clip was played to a group of subjects. Their subsequent productivity was found to be substantially greater (approximately 13%) than the control group that had not viewed the clip (December 15, 2015, HBR The Daily Stat).

Take the happiness survey to find out how happy you are at work. We’ll be curious to hear the results!

Want to make a happy workplace? Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook at Capiche. She will help you assess what’s happening now and make positive moves to increase happiness (and productivity) at work. Your work really can be a labor of love!

Rewire Your Brain for Happiness: Why What You Think About Is What You Think About

This time of year, I’m reminded of the connection between gratitude and happiness and the need to get more of both. I’ve noticed people tend to spend more time focusing on what is wrong and not enough about what is right in their lives.

For some people, it’s their job. People in professions like tax accounting, auditing, and law may be even more focused on the wrong—the mistakes—because that’s what they are trained and paid to do: to find the wrong and fix it.

What happens when we focus on what’s wrong more than what’s right? Harvard researcher Shawn Achor calls it the Tetris Effect. I call it “What You Think About Is What You Think About.” Granted, Shawn’s title is catchier, but mine is more descriptive.

Four years ago, a Google search for gratitude + happiness yielded 14.6 million results. This month, the same search yielded 25.8 million results. That’s 11.2 million more instances of gratitude + happiness online. Now that in itself is something I’m grateful for, and it makes me happy. That means more people discussing, researching, writing about and considering the combination of gratitude and happiness at reputable institutions such as The New York Times, Harvard, Psychology Today and Forbes.

In a research study, 27 Harvard students were paid to play the videogame Tetris for multiple hours a day, three days in a row. In the following days, the students reported they couldn’t stop seeing the Tetris shapes everywhere they looked. Their brains kept trying to rearrange everything—from buildings and trees on the landscape to cereal boxes on the shelf in the grocery store—to form a solid line so as to advance to the next level of the videogame. They couldn’t stop seeing the world as sequences of Tetris blocks!

This is caused by a natural physical process that actually changes the wiring of the brain. These new neural pathways warped the way these students viewed real-life situations. When people are focused on something—anything—their brains adapt and hone in on those circumstances and events.

A tax accountant may be terrific at her job, but when she brings her way of looking at the world home, she will miss seeing all the good in her life and may be on the road to depression. The same goes for the great attorney, who may be terrific in court but not so much at home, where family members feel like they are participants in a deposition.

Think about what you think about. When you notice something good happening, really notice it. Relish it. The more you can take notice, the more you will begin to see. Revisit my blog post What Went Well to learn a great technique for boosting your awareness and gratitude for the happy moments in life.

References

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principals of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.

That’s Not How Thanksgiving Is Supposed to Be! Or How You Can Make the Most of Team Differences.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And that means spicy Bloody Marys, roasted turkey with orange cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, roasted potatoes, gravy, green beans, scalloped oysters and too many desserts. Two hours later, out come the rye bread, mayo, lettuce and dill pickles to make turkey sandwiches. Perfect.

What?! That doesn’t sound like Thanksgiving at your house? Why not? What’s wrong with you?

Funny how we think the way we do things is the right way. Maybe even the only way. “Of course everyone does it like this. That’s how it’s done.”

Imagine my surprise years ago while celebrating Thanksgiving at my college boyfriend’s house. I remember it well. His mother brought out the cranberry sauce—still in the shape of the can she’d extracted it from. It wasn’t even mashed up to appear homemade! (Big judgment on my part.)

Consider this. If someone can be thrown off-kilter by something as simple as a different style of cranberry sauce, just imagine the chaos that different work and management styles can create.

We figure we are doing things the right way. The way it’s done. But no, all of a sudden, one of our colleagues does something contrary. What’s wrong with him? It’s like we’re from different planets.

How can we recognize that our differences are an asset? That they create stronger teams? How can we become open to new ideas without judgment?

When teams are struggling with their differences, it can be helpful to use the metaphor of traveling to other lands. We invite them to consider that each person lives in their own “land,” which is informed by their traditions, upbringing, education and other influences. We emphasize that we are asking them to share what it’s like in their lands and then to travel to others’ lands. Travel allows us to experience the world from another’s perspective.

What does it take to be a good traveler? Lack of judgment, open-mindedness, willingness to try new things and curiosity. Good travelers leave judgment at the border.

As you visit your colleagues’ lands, ask questions like:

  1. What is unique, interesting or edgy about your land?
  2. What are some of the personal biases and prejudices that show up in your land?
  3. Who/what is not welcome in your land?
  4. What is your favorite thing about your land?

Take time to visit each person’s land and learn more about it. Doing this, your team should have developed some empathy, curiosity and appreciation for each others’ lands. They will be able to chart a new geography, bringing the best from each land to most benefit the organization.

To create your new land together, ask questions like:

  1. What do you appreciate about your colleagues’ lands?
  2. What would be helpful to you?
  3. What would you like to import to the land you create together?
  4. How will your new land serve the organization’s goals?

We tend to think of our own values and beliefs as the “correct ones.” Yet every person on your team has a different narrative and perspective, all equally valid. There is no one truth. Organizations flourish when differences exist because it allows for even greater learning and innovating possibilities.

Perhaps it is time for your team to do some traveling. Let Chris Cook be your travel guide and take your organization to its peak. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris to start making travel plans today!

Note: Lands work is based on a tool from CRR Global.

Looking for an Edge? Use Disruptive Innovation.

What do strengths-based leadership, emotional intelligence, appreciative inquiry and courageous conversations have in common? Together, they form a model of coaching that creates more innovative and higher-performing organizations—organizations that use disruptive innovation to become big, juicy and successful rather than withering on the vine.

This holistic coaching model enables people to generate creative solutions to challenges within their workplaces—through disruptive innovation. Capiche uses this model with great success when working with individuals, teams and organizations.

Three scholars from Chicago’s Concordia University are studying this model and its effect on emerging leaders: Kathryn Hollywood, Donna Blaess and Claudia Santin. I saw them present the concept while I was at the University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute’s Eighth Annual Conference last week. I left the presentation with a huge smile on my face. They were speaking my language!

I share their belief that for today’s and tomorrow’s organizations to thrive, they must rely on the innovations of their people. For people to freely innovate, they need a positive mindset. This mindset can be fostered through a holistic coaching model that blends strengths-based leadership, emotional intelligence, appreciative inquiry and courageous conversations.

Let’s Look at Each Component

Strengths-Based Leadership

Strengths-based leadership asserts that people are at their best when maximizing their strengths vs. struggling to be mediocre at everything. As Gallup has discovered over nearly 20 years of researching individuals, teams and organizations, leaders who encourage people to develop their strengths can create a powerful organization comprising teams with complementary strengths. A holistic coach can stimulate the development of strengths, inspire the use of strengths in new ways and illuminate accomplishments while nurturing continued growth and development.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI), first introduced in 1998 by Daniel Goleman, is a combination of awareness of self and others—and the ability to manage one’s self and interactions with others for positive outcomes. Some of the benefits of higher EI include greater self-awareness and self-confidence, deeper empathy and a richer capacity to lead and manage change. Other benefits include better health, relationships and overall quality of life. The beauty of EI is that—unlike IQ—it can be increased. Doing so starts with self-awareness, and a coach can be instrumental in a person’s endeavors to increase his EI.

Workplace HipsterAppreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry (AI) focuses on what an individual or organization does well. It shifts the focus from solving problems to multiplying successes. Originally introduced by David Cooperrider in 1986 as a strategy for organizational change, it also is a powerful tool for individual change. As Drs. Hollywood, Blaess and Santin write, “Using AI, the holistic coach will invite the coachee to reflect on specific events or experiences to: a) identify her most outstanding personal accomplishments, b) discuss the learning from these accomplishments, c) identify her values, d) describe five adjectives that describe her ‘at my best’ engagement and e) dream about her contribution to the organization and the world.”

Courageous Conversations

Courageous conversations can only occur in a fearless environment—a place where people are free to try new things as well as to fail. This becomes possible when emotionally intelligent people—working from their strengths—come together to achieve good things and build upon that which is already working. In a trusting and respectful environment, people can share, listen, explore and engage. This is a space where new ideas are born, fresh ways of thinking are embraced and innovation is possible.

The Role of Coaching

We know coaching works. The ICF 2012 Global Coaching Client Study shows most clients reported improved work performance, better business management, more efficient time management, increased team effectiveness and more growth and opportunities. The same study found coaching clients noted greater self-confidence, enhanced relationships, more effective communications skills, better work-and-life balance and an improvement in wellness. The median suggests a client who achieved financial benefit from coaching can typically expect a ROI of more than three times the amount spent.

It’s clear coaching supports and sustains the individual growth needed for high-performing organizations. Holistic coaching focuses on appreciating strengths, developing greater emotional intelligence, opening communication and getting more of what’s already good. This contributes to the organization’s success by maximizing performance, productivity and ability to innovate and change—while developing individuals’ potential and connection to their life’s work.

The ICF study reports that 86 percent of companies say they made their investment back. In fact, 19 percent saw a ROI of 50 times their investment, while another 28 percent saw a ROI of 10 to 49 times the investment.

Get Started Now

Are you ready to go to the next level? Is your organization ready? Let the disruptive innovation begin! Capiche specializes in holistic coaching for individuals, teams and organizations. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris Cook to see what coaching can do for your organization.

5 Leadership Capacities That Will Make Your Organization Shine

Want to be energetic? Enthusiastic? Hopeful?

Who doesn’t?!

Are people in your organization energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful?

Here’s the secret. I got it from education writer Michael Fullan, who lays out five leadership capacities in a simple way while weaving in knowledge and research from yesterday’s and today’s thought leaders.

The five critical leadership capacities Fullan describes in his book Leading in a Culture of Change are:

  1. Moral purpose

  2. Understanding change

  3. Relationships, relationships, relationships

  4. Knowledge-building

  5. Coherence-making

If you want an organization filled with people who are energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful, you’ve got to make sure your leadership team embodies these capacities in all they do—and that the entire organization is on board with the culture these capacities make up. This is essentially your organization’s brand.

The challenge for each individual is to live the brand and to let it inform every single decision made for the organization.

Moral Purpose

Moral purpose relates to three key elements necessary for a successful organization: vision, values and purpose. Successful organizations are clear on these, and their employees embody them in every action. For example, if sustainability is one of your organization’s values, you wouldn’t send out countless direct mail pieces printed on glossy unrecycled paper. If you were a public school system with a purpose to educate all students in your district, you wouldn’t discriminate against a student with disabilities or low income. Tony Hsieh used vision, value and purpose as the foundation for his world-renowned start-up Zappos. We all know how that worked out!

Understanding Change

To understand change and get others on board is tricky, and 70 percent of change initiatives fail. This is according to John Kotter, who spent 40 years researching change efforts in thousands of contexts. Do you want to know what works? In his book Leading Change, Kotter outlines the eight change accelerators. Get the book. Read it. It’s great. Why reinvent the wheel?

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

When talking about building relationships, the first thing that comes to my mind is emotional intelligence. It’s different from IQ in that you can develop it. People with average IQ and high EQ outperform people with high IQ 70 percent of the time. In a nutshell, EQ is understanding yourself and others—combined with having personal motivation and regulation to communicate effectively and navigate relationships. It will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58 percent more effective at your job and rank you with 90 percent of top performers.

I’ve taught classes on leading with emotional intelligence and written lots of blogs on the topic. You can read some of them here:

Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula Equals EI Plus Coaching

What Tops the List of Lessons Learned by a Recent Master in Management Grad?

Hughesisms: Work Ethic Trumps Talent

Knowledge-Building

Knowledge-building and knowledge-sharing are critical for the growth of any person or organization. The challenge is that individuals will not engage in sharing unless they find it motivating to do so. You can encourage their motivation by making them feel valued and connecting it to your organization’s moral purpose.


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
—John F. Kennedy


Coherence-Making

Finally, to build coherence, a leader must be relentless in the first four capacities—that means having moral purpose, understanding change, developing relationships, and building and sharing knowledge. “The Coherence Framework has four components: focusing direction, cultivating collaborative cultures, deepening learning and securing accountability,” says Fullan in Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts and Systems.

Over time, you will find the most powerful coherence will come from having worked through the ambiguities and complexities of hard-to-solve problems. You will learn as you go. Coherence binds the brand to the culture and creates the culture necessary for the organization—and its people—to flourish.

Develop Your Leadership Capacities

Capiche works with leaders and leadership teams. Let me work with you to develop the five leadership capacities to forge a strong brand and culture. Call 541.601.0114 or email me to get started today.

What’s Stopping You from Reaching Your Potential?

You Can Make Meaningful Change Before the End of 2015—If You Start Now

Do you have a goal you want to reach by the end of the year—either career-related or personal? Is there something you want to improve or change between now and then?

What’s holding you back? Where are you stuck? Why haven’t you been successful in the past?

Have you ever considered working with a coach?

You may wonder who exactly seeks out a coach … it’s winners who want even more out of life.

Finding the right coach may not be as momentous a decision as choosing your life partner, but it’s not far off.

As with any close relationship, there has to be harmony. Kindred spirits inspire, but they can also hold you back. You’re not looking for a friend. Or a superior. You want an equal whom you respect and who respects you.

Lion in the MirrorThe right coach will connect with you at a profound level while also applying gentle pressure, like the grit that polishes the pearl. Without challenge and accountability, you’re just having a conversation.

Recommendations from colleagues are helpful, but one person may like Uggs while another prefers tap shoes. You have to find the best fit for you. Who’s going to help you reach your goals?

Are your aspirations professional, personal or both? Do your research and find out what kind of a coach you want. An executive coach? Business coach? Life coach? Career coach? Or could your team be more effective?

Explore the websites of coaches in your area and see whose philosophy, personality, and attitude resonate with you. Narrow your list down to a few finalists and schedule a free consultation.

When you meet with a prospective coach, pay attention to how you behave and feel. You may find yourself sharing things you’d never expected to tell a stranger during a first meeting. You need someone you can be completely honest with. If you quickly develop a rapport, there’s a good likelihood you’ll be able to establish a relationship of mutual trust.

The coach’s questions may elicit new realizations about your career or life trajectory. Did you come away from that first meeting feeling inspired, with a clearer vision of what to aim for and how to get there? A coach should help you clarify your goals while also equipping you with the tools to reach them.

In Your Executive Coaching Solution, Joan Kofodimos says a good coach will do the following:

  1. Strike a balance between supporting and challenging you
  2. Help create feedback loops with colleagues
  3. Assist with clarifying your true strengths, values and purpose
  4. Provide structure in the development process
  5. Broaden your perspectives
  6. Teach concepts and skills
  7. Maintain confidentiality
  8. Influence how others view you

Keep these tips in mind as you evaluate coaches and try to listen equally to your heart and your head. Ultimately, you’re looking for the person who’s going to push you to greater heights—and depths.

Chris Cook Head ShotAs you seek a coach who is right for you, give me a chance to interview for the position.

Not sure if coaching is for you? Check out my coaching services for free. In your 30-minute sample session, I guarantee you will design action toward the change you desire. I will help you become clearer on what you want, develop action plans, stay committed to your goals and live intentionally.

As your coach, I will hold you accountable—and that’s a good thing because statistics show people who are coached are seven times more likely to follow through on their plans.

Call 541.601.0114 or email me today to schedule your free sample session and get started on making those changes you’ve been thinking about for … [fill in the blank].

Don’t Let Stress Kill Your Dreams—and Other Lessons from a Shipbuilder

Orcas Island

Photo by Chris Cook

This is a story about Robert—and all of us. Robert moved to the West Coast without a dime in his pocket. Over the next 30 years, he became mayor of a major city and owner of a successful shipbuilding business.

At only 48 years of age, Robert was told the stress of his work had taken a toll on his health—and he had 1 year to live. Robert gave up politics and sold his shipbuilding business for what would be $60 million today. He moved to Orcas Island with his family and retired. More about Robert later …

The Trouble with Stress

Many workplaces have unconsciously developed a culture of stress. The most common cause of stress in the workplace is extensive overtime—too much work. This results from cuts in staffing, a fear of being laid off and pressure to meet ever-rising job expectations without a corresponding increase in compensation, recognition or job satisfaction.

If you are a business owner or manage a team of employees, do you know the negative impacts of a stressed-out employee or work team? According to the US Bureau of Labor, stress costs US business more than $400 billion annually. This manifests in a high rate of employee turnover, overuse of sick time, lower productivity, less creativity and poor customer service. So you’d better be on the lookout for stressed-out employees.

Rick Hughes, a lead advisor for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy lists these 10 warning signs.

Stressed-out employees:

  1. Take more time off work than usual—sick leave or vacation.
  2. Have increased use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs (prescription and illegal).
  3. Exhibit greater irritability, poor concentration and reduced productivity.
  4. Have deteriorating personal or work relationships, including bullying behaviors.
  5. Are more emotional, moody or over-reactive to what others say.
  6. Start to behave differently—in a way that’s out of the norm.
  7. Have a change in eating and sleep patterns.
  8. Exhibit physical reactions such as sweating, palpitations and increased blood pressure.
  9. Feel negative, depressed and anxious most of the time.
  10. Feel trapped or frustrated … and believe there’s no solution.

Cascade Campground SignIf you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to take action. That means shifting from a culture of stress to a culture of engagement and productivity. Talk to the employee and get to the root cause. Then make changes to counteract the stressors. It may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s not nearly as expensive as doing nothing.

What if you are an employee and you think you might be experiencing a level of stress beyond that which is healthy?

Here are five ways you can combat stress:

  1. Get moving! Start with a basic exercise program—even if it’s just a short walk during a morning break. You’ll feel better and have a clearer head.
  2. Kiss your kids. Kiss your partner. (No, not your business partner—your life partner!) Creating a sense of connectedness releases endorphins—the counter-agent to stress.
  3. Get to know your fellow workers. Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace makes for a happier, more supportive environment.
  4. Have a cup of tea. Scientists at University College London noted that people who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks had lower levels of cortisol after a stressful task than those who drank a caffeinated fruit beverage.
  5. Reflect on what you value. By getting in touch with what’s really important to you, you are better able to make decisions that resonate—in other words, make yourself feel good instead of bad. You’ll find the “small stuff” doesn’t stress you out as much.

Lesson from Robert

KayakingBack to Robert, the man given just a year to live because of the toll stress had taken on his body. He is a real person. His name was Robert Moran. In 1875, at age 18, the penniless Robert moved from New York to Seattle. Over the next three decades, he created a successful shipbuilding business, became mayor of Seattle, rebuilt it after the Great Seattle Fire and also rebuilt his shipbuilding business. (That would cause a bit of stress, huh?)

After being given a year to live, he and his family moved to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington. He lived there another 38 years! Grateful for a new lease on life, he donated 2,700 acres of land to the state of Washington for preservation—one of the country’s first state parks. He wanted others to enjoy the health benefits of spending time in nature. Today we know the land as Moran State Park, the largest public forestland in the San Juan Islands and home to old-growth forest.

Do you have important things you still want to accomplish in this life? Don’t let stress kill your dreams. Capiche can help you implement the changes necessary to do away with stress—both in your life and your company culture. Let me know what is stressing you out, and let’s fix it. Just call 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us to get started.